Nutrition, Wellness

Back to Basics

Good, wholesome foods are the building blocks of a healthy body. Fresh fruit and vegetables provide the needed vitamins and minerals (or micronutrients, also called “micros”) without overloading the body with carbohydrates, fats, and proteins (or macronutrients, also called “macros”). Clean meats – skinless chicken breast, turkey, lean cuts of beef, fish – provide the body with the macros for building/maintaining muscle: fats, proteins, and a few carbs (depending on the meat.)

Over the past decades, society as a whole has veered away from home-cooked whole foods in favor of convenience foods – microwavable meals, tv dinners, meal bars/shakes, etc. In the days of my grandparents’ youth, each meal consisted of fresh fruits and/or vegetables and a meat/protein source that, in most cases, were gathered that morning or slaughtered the day before. By the time my parents came along, advances were being made in food science that made convenience foods available – a revolutionary thing in its day. (Keep in mind that this was the age of the Space Race. I’m pretty sure things were being marketed in such a way to make the general public feel as though they were eating just like an astronaut.) Also during this time, the number of women entering the workforce was increasing.

***Let me insert here that I have worked outside the home for many years and have used convenience foods to feed my family. Now, I’m more of a traditionalist in that I stay home and prepare from-scratch meals. I am not saying that convenience foods are “of the devil” or anything like that because there are days when I prepare convenience foods because life can still be pretty hectic for me.***

Most – if not all – convenience foods have a lot of added fats and sugars to compensate for the amount of processing that they have gone through. Because of the large amounts of processed foods present in the average person’s diet (or the SAD – Standard American Diet) – in addition to a decrease in the amount of daily exercise – society has seen an upward trend in weight gain/obesity. (I do realize that medication and other factors influence weight gain or loss.)

Now the current societal trend is weight loss. Diet programs and diet supplements abound. You can barely turn around in the store without being bombarded with pills/shakes/meal replacements promising quick and easy weight loss. And watching your favorite tv program is all but impossible for the number of commercials being aired – and a majority of those are pushing a “miracle supplement” or “special meal plan” to help you shed fat fast without exercise. While these claims may be true, you need to ask yourself these questions: “What happens when I stop taking XYZ supplement or stop eating ABC company’s food?” “Is this a sustainable way of living?” I bet you’ll find that the answer is a big fat NO.

The best way to provide a sustainable healthy lifestyle for weight loss is to get back to the basics: daily exercise – cardio and strength training – and more home-cooked meals that incorporate more whole foods.

And the switch doesn’t have to be drastic, either.

If you’ve not exercised a day in your life since childhood – or it’s been a super long time since you’ve stepped foot in a gym – begin by exercising 2-3 days per week whether you go to a gym or do it at home. If you can afford one, I highly suggest hiring a personal trainer to help you get started. If you can’t afford to hire a personal trainer, there are a lot of places online that provide solid information. (One such website is bodybuilding.com.) YouTube is home to a ton of fitness people. A couple of my favorites are Amanda Bucci and Christine Hronec. They both teach about healthy ways of living, which includes sample workout routines. (Amanda holds a BS in Nursing, and Christine is a chemical engineer.)

Cooking from scratch can be time-consuming and hard to fit into a busy schedule. I can totally relate. If your schedule is so slammed among “adult things” and “children things” (ball, dance, etc.), you simply do not have the time to dedicate to cooking. And that’s OK. Work to incorporate 1 home-cooked, from-scratch meal per week and go from there. One tool that I have in my kitchen “arsenal” is my slow cooker. Soups, roasts, home bbq, beans and the like can be assembled in the morning before running out the door and will be ready when you get home, and your home will smell as though you’d been at the stove all day.

Take your health back into your own hands by getting back to the basics of exercise and nutrition. The changes need to be easy enough to be a sustainable way of life for you. Incorporate more fresh and whole foods into your meal plan. Start an exercise program at home. Learn all you can and apply what you learn to your life.

What are some of your favorite tips for getting back to the basics?

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