“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art” François de La Rochefoucauld
Summer 2018 is around the corner, and for many us it’s kind of a tradition that around this time of the year we start crash dieting.
Not so long ago, this was the story of my life. Nearly every single summer was the same. When I saw a little bit of sun I went into straight diet mode, I rejoined the gym, starve myself, fail, and then the cycle continued. It was not until last year, when I embarked on the cycle once again but this time it was for a different reason. I was not looking for an easy fix because I knew that this matter was not going to be fixed with a 30-day carb free diet. I was looking to get fit and healthy for good. I first realised how unfit I was, when one morning a 5-minute walk from the Jubilee line to the Northern line at London Bridge station had me gasping for air.
It really bothered me that at my young age, I was so out breath climbing stairs! I knew I had to change and of course I rejoined the gym (lol) but this time I had the help of a personal trainer. Who was a God-sent and she so happened to be a vegan body builder, who specialises in nutrition and fitness. Fitness wise she totally pushed me out of my comfort zone and surprisingly I was loving it. After a few weeks training three times a week I felt like I could conquer every single stair at any London station yet my diet was still poor. You know the saying “you can’t outrun a bad diet” well in my case it was true, I was smashing targets at the gym but I was overeating or some days going into starvation mode.
I’ve always had a turbulent relationship with food but I saw myself as’ healthy-ish’ as I did eat my recommended five a day – occasionally. However, having a food diary for a week and reflecting on what I consumed. I realised that I was rarely eating fruits and veg, my portions were far too big or too small and I snacked on a lot of processed foods.
I was shocked at how bad my eating habits were and it was at no surprise that every time I went into crash diet mode. And ate only broccoli and dry chicken breast, or do a juice fast or limit carbs that I will go straight back into my usual diet of big portions of food and sweets for snacks. I had such unhealthy eating habit as I was jumping from one extreme to the other. After, realising the damage I was doing to my health, I knew things had to change and I had to change my perception of food and become more mindful of what I ate. I didn’t want a summer body, I wanted every season body. I wanted to be healthy and look and feel my age.
I slowly started changing my eating habits but it didn’t happen overnight and it was difficult because you are essentially reprogramming your mind. I spent months of calorie counting, checking the labels, avoiding foods and making myself miserable. The hardest thing I had to accept and I think most of us who struggle with yo-yo dieting struggle with this too. Is the fact that one salad will not make me skinny and one or two chocolate bars will not make me fat. I had to teach my self-new eating habits and grasp the idea of a balance diet. As silly as it sounds I had to learn that rice and stew is ok to eat but it was my portion sizes that were unhealthy. I also learned that carbs are not the enemy and there is no such thing as a “cheat meal” because everything should be eaten in moderation.
We often reduce food to just calories but its more than that, as food gives us essential nutrients for our bodies to develop, grow and we need it to survive. Most importantly, food is healing, not the “I broke up with my boyfriend, let me an eat a tub of ice cream” healing. But healing in the sense that by eating a balanced diet with moderate activity can help manage illness such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, which are prevalent in the Afro-Caribbean community.
Hence, this summer I urge you to ditch the diets and start making a lifestyle change. Let’s focus on eating a more balanced diet and eating a more colourful plate of food. Let’s just enjoy ourselves and take better care of our health one meal at a time.