So now you finally got yourself motivated to get in the gym. Be proud of your accomplishment no matter if your motivation is to lose weight, a quest for healthy lifestyle, outright vanity, or your desire to take the ever-so-popular “#gymflow selfie” at your nearest gym facility. An active lifestyle is important because you can control your weight, tone your body, fight off health conditions, boost your energy level and work out the most important muscle of all—your heart. Working out is a very important element to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and looking your best, but it should not end there. I am sure we all know, or are, that person that works out several times a week, loses some weight, but cannot seem to get rid of those extra “vanity pounds” that, most commonly, hide in places like the stomach, back and thighs. If this is you, it may not be because your workout is not intense enough. It may be because of your diet, more specifically, the ingredients that you put into your body. I am not the one to recommend fad diets or “get-slim-quick” schemes because they usually deprive your body of all the nutrients it needs nor is it a sustainable lifestyle and eventually the weight will return. It is common knowledge that we should eat smaller portions of good food, more frequently throughout the day, but we have to focus on what foods. Our ultimate goal should be to eat raw foods because they have a cleansing effect on the body and increase metabolism. Eating only raw foods is extremely difficult and if you are not ready, or willing, to make that change, there are other ways to eat healthy without giving up on all of your favorite foods. Eating right is a lifestyle change and eating good food is just as habitual as eating bad food. This lifestyle change must involve you paying greater attention to the ingredients in the foods that you eat. The most important types of foods to pay greater attention to are the sugars and sweeteners, oils and carbohydrates within your diet.
Sugars. So many of the foods we eat and love contain refined or artificial sugars such as high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar and white sugar. These types of sugars are responsible for our higher-than-normal obesity rate, lower immune systems and vitamin deficiencies within the body. High fructose corn syrup and other artificial sweeteners can be found in almost everything from breads, sodas, juices, cookies and even something as simple as spaghetti sauce. Try replacing these sweeteners, and the foods that contain them, for natural sweeteners such as honey, maple sugar or sucanat. Not only do these types of sweeteners taste good, they are a lot healthier as they contain essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. Please remember that sugar substitutes such as Splenda or Sweet’N Low are recommended to help you lose weight, but they are toxic, do not really help with weight loss, and should be avoided.
Oils. Oils and fats have a bad reputation. The fact is, fats are essential to the body, just as long as they are good fats and consumed in moderation. Good fats produce energy, maintain a healthy immune system and balance hormonal systems. More importantly, consuming good fats make us less likely to overeat and it enhances the use of proteins within the body. The bad fats that we all should avoid are partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, processed vegetable oils (e.g., corn and cottonseed oil) and trans fats. If you are at the store and you see these ingredients on the food label, put it back on the shelf and look for something that won’t give you a muffin top. We can get our good fats in the oils that we consume. Try cooking in good oils such as grape seed, palm, peanut, coconut, and extra virgin olive oil. You will not notice the difference in taste by replacing your processed vegetable oils and margarines with these oils. The only difference you will notice will be in your overall good health and waistline.
Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide the fuel and energy for our body so we can live productive lives. There are two different types of carbohydrates—simple and complex. Unrefined or complex carbohydrates are good for you while simple or refined carbohydrates are not good at all. If carbohydrates are eaten in the unrefined form, they have tremendous health benefits. Unrefined carbohydrates are full of enzymes, vitamins, minerals and fiber. These complex carbohydrates include whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Some carbohydrates to avoid are white breads, white-flour based cookies, cakes and crackers, pancake mixes and canned fruits and vegetables. Try replacing these items with whole wheat or grain bread, whole wheat flour for baking and cake mixes, and of course, fresh or frozen vegetables. A quick tip to determine if your food is refined or unrefined—if there is no expiration date…it’s refined and should not be trusted. There is something weird and unnatural about eating foods that will never rot.
Living a healthy life is not easy. All the label reading will tack on an extra 20 minutes to your trip to the supermarket, your healthier foods may cost a little more, and it even may require you to drive a few extra miles to get to your nearest organic market. All the time, money and effort is worth it, because the effort you put forth now will decrease the amount of time and effort you dedicate to illness later. So do something today that you will thank yourself for tomorrow. Take care of your body inside and out the right way and your boo will love the results, but more importantly YOU will love it too.