Thursday, 8 August 2013

A Healthy Life is a Happy Life

I've made a promise to myself recently that I will endeavor to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I'm lucky in the fact I actually enjoy healthy food and can honestly say I would prefer a nice salad over a McDonalds quarter pounder; honestly!

I've been well educated on food throughout my life thanks to my parents and have never been a fussy eater because of this. I remember finding it really weird going to school friends houses and being given chicken nuggets, chips and beans and wondering what on earth I was being fed! Yes, food snob from an early age! So junk food and being unhealthy has never really been something I've enjoyed. 

During my time at university I was partial to the odd Domino's, a Chinese, subway etc. but I still ate fairly healthy - my first year flatmates stuck to the typical student pasta, sauce and cheese while I stocked up on cinnamon and raisin bagels, goats cheese and olives. After my second year of university, I moved in with my now-ex and realised I wasn't completely happy with how I looked; I was never fat, but I realised I couldn't eat everything I wanted and go out drinking four or five times a week - so I made some changes. If I had a takeaway one night, I'd eat well the next day or if I'd made plans to have a cheeky chinese, I'd eat well for the day. I made sure I went to the gym at least 4 times a week - and in my first year as a graduate, I was going 6 or 7 days a week, sometimes even twice a day. I started to worry at some points - my need for all things sweet felt a little uncontrollable; I'd eat half a tub of Ben & Jerry's and automatically feel absolutely disgusted with myself. I lost a lot of weight and I got down to a weight I felt happy with but it was really hard to maintain that; I'm 5 foot 7 and my body does not want to be under 9 stone. I realised a lot of my obsession with weight loss was due to feeling out of control with the rest of my life; I was unhappy and I felt my weight, exercising and what I ate were the only things I could control. My family were worrying I was going too far and losing too much; and I just want to make clear here, I never had nor claim to have had an eating disorder, but I had gone from somebody that enjoyed food to somebody that saw eating something I really enjoyed as a negative if it wasn't low calorie or if I couldn't burn it off before the day was done and there were little things that even made me worry I was getting a little too obsessed with losing weight and being 'thin'. This went on throughout my final year and until early this year. 

I'm now about 4 or 5 months past thinking like that and have since realised being 'thin' does is not the be all and end all in life - I'm actually having a better time now I've stopped worrying about it so much. I even wonder why I'm so happy at times, which in itself isn't normal - why shouldn't I be happy?! I still have my 'fat' days just like everybody else and stress out when I have one too many cookies but I'm slowly coming to terms with the fact I'm not an overweight slob. My point is - you have to be healthy to be happy and healthy isn't about calorie counting, completely restricting your eating, fad diets or spending hours in the gym - it's about knowing what foods are good for you, what foods aren't, having treats in moderation and exercising; this is all part of a happy and healthy lifestyle. And I'm pleased I can now see this, even if it has taken me a very long time. I might have put a fair bit of the weight on I'd lost but I'm much healthier now.

I've tried diets and cleanses in the past few months (here and here) but honestly, they're just not sustainable day to day. People tell me the 5:2 works but, in my opinion, if you're eating healthy and exercising regularly, why do you need to go on a diet? Like I say, this is just my opinion and I think this is more of a realisation to myself than me passing judgement on others. In an effort to maintain healthy = happy, I've spent the last 6 or 7 weeks eating well since moving back in with my parents. Here's what I've been doing:

I start every day with a mug or two of hot water with a slice of lemon in - this kick starts your metabolism and is a really refreshing first drink of the day. I'll also have another mug of this with my breakfast. Another nice drink is weak, black tea (I'm a little intolerant to dairy to avoid it where possible - shame I love cheese and yoghurt though!)

For breakfast (during the week) - I take a little pot of mixed berries with my to work with a tablespoon of natural yoghurt (soya or normal low fat) with either 1/2 a tablespoon of porridge oats or 25g Jordan's Granola

For breakfast (at the weekend) - I tend to have a bagel with nutella or a bowl of crunchy nut - this is post gym. I'll get up early and head to the gym around 8/8.3o if I'm at home.


For lunch (during the week) - I'll either have soup (if it's cold) but usually I will take a mixed leaf salad. At the moment I'm obsessed with Greek Quinoa salad and have been having that with some mixed leaves, extra tomato and beetroot. If I don't have this, I'll have mixed leaves with chickpeas, cottage cheese and pumpkin seeds, with a little balsamic glaze drizzled over.

For dinner - it's a bit of a mixed bag really; as I've been eating well during the day with minimal snacking, I am a little less concerned with what I have for dinner. With the recent heatwave, it's left me wanting light meals in the evenings. Recently, I've been eating a lot of salmon, salads, Greek and Mexican food.  Things like these: Salmon with Orzo, Stuffed Courgette Tacos, Salmon Sunday dinner, Cod, Chorizo and Butterbean Stew, Courgette and Ricotta Tart, Monkfish and Chorizo Skewers, Spinach, Ricotta and Pine Nut Pie and Homemade Falafel Pittas with Salad.

As far as snacks go, I've mainly been having fruit like apples, grapes or pears. If I've fancied something a little more substantial I've gone for some mixed, unsalted nuts. Another thing I do now, I have a big glass of water when I start to feel hungry - sometimes dehydration masks itself as hunger, I also do this just before I eat my dinner too. The worst thing you can do is overeat; not only does it make you feel pretty rubbish but you don't want to get dehydrated - dehydration causes a whole lot of problems!

It probably sounds simple but everybody has their rough days where they crave some chocolate, a packet of crisps or a dirty fry up (if you do, try this my healthy fry up). You just have to make sure you have a balance; you can have those treats, but just make sure they remain treats not regular occurrences.

Since living this way and exercising at least 3-4 times a week, I've managed to lose a few pounds, cut down on my snacking and I feel so much happier. Weirdly so actually - I've had a case of the giggles for about four days now.

This isn't a pep talk, a 'how to lose weight' guide - this is just my experience, the ups and downs I've gone through over the past few years and how I'm getting off my bum, keeping fit, eating well and still keeping my sweet tooth satisfied. 

It's nice to be able to feel a little more at peace with things like this after years of cutting this and that out and feeling pretty rubbish about my body and fitness. It just shows a healthy lifestyle contributes to a happy one!

N xo

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