Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Road to Healthy Living

A Road to Healthy Living

“Thou shouldst eat to live; not live to eat.” – Socrates

I am not fat nor I can call myself skinny either. I was never blessed with Scarlett Johanson’s curves nor Adriana Lima’s skinny figure. I am one of those girls who have their own body insecurities. I usually complain about my broad shoulders, my not-so-flat tummy and my chubby cheeks. And hell yeah! I am not physically fit for I was never a fan of any sports. A simple 5-minute run would give me dizzy spells and would cause me shortness of breathing. Honestly speaking, I’ve been dreading to ask my college professors on how I manage to pass  my Physical Education classes – swimming, volleyball, basketball, badminton. Ugggh. It’s crazy but I can’t even do a decent dive and backstroke.

Now you see, recalling where I was years ago when it comes to my lifestyle, I can say that healthy living was really a far cry. I care less about what I put into my mouth. As long as it looks and tastes good, then nothing in the world could stop me. Frequent booze night, sleep deprivation, overindulging to sweets, binge eating, pigging out and skipping meals are my sinful routines. I did crash diets and drag myself to the gym with an empty stomach. After a few months, not a pound went off since I tend to go back to my old routines and cheat myself most of the time. Then I realized that it’s about time that I settle to a more stable and realistic goal– having a balanced diet and staying physically active.

Today, the tides turned and I can slowly see myself living a healthier and guilt-free lifestyle. It’s not a piece of cake and not a day went by where I have not craved for my blueberry cheesecake and strawberry-banana ice cream. And please don’t get me started on how I resisted drinking that cold chocolate-cream chip frappe from Starbucks (*Sigh*). Though I still reward myself for some hard work and indulge into my cravings once a week, I ensure that I never go out of hand and do not waste an entire week’s sweat session.

I stay physically active and engage into more activities that I have a great interest in – boxing, running, hiking/ trekking. I stopped counting the numbers (e.g. calories, carbohydrates, fats, minutes I run and exercise a day) and just feel good about staying fit and improving my stamina and endurance. I really don’t know if it’s just me but there’s something about working out in the morning and feeling a spike of energy. Studies show that when you exercise, your body releases a neurotransmitter called serotonin which in turn gives you a feeling of well-being and happiness.

Staying focused and determined takes a lot of effort on anyone’s part. As I said before, it’s a struggle as you start but will turn out to be a fulfilling journey in the long run. There are times that you just wanted to go back and live it like you used to – not caring about your food intake and just merely slacking off. There’ll be tough times that you just want to crawl into your bed and grab that calorie-packed muffin on the kitchen counter. But before you turn your head back, just think of all the added benefits you’ll miss out on, from improved mood, to better sleep, to disease prevention. As Jim White, a registered dietitian and personal trainer by the American College of Sports Medicine, puts it – “The exercise has to be there.”

Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way that I think would also be helpful on your road to a Healthy Living:

1. Come up with a specific and realistic goal. Do not just say “I’ll eat less so I could lose weight” instead say something like “In 3 months time, I’ll lose 15 pounds by doing a 30-minute run thrice a week”. Coming up with a realistic goal and a specific action item would give you visible results. You’ll see the progress and you would know that all of your hard work was paid off.

2. Work out while learning a new skill. Exercising sounds like a simple task but something that’s so hard to religiously commit yourself doing. I tried paying for a month of gym membership but ended up quitting on my third week since I don’t find it fun and exciting at all. I feel dragged and tortured lifting weights and doing simultaneous machine exercises. I tried enrolling for a boxing class and I ended up loving it. Aside from sweating my ass off, I was able to learn a new skill and I don’t feel bummed out due to variations with the exercise.

3.      Stop obsessing over the weighing scale. Myth Buster: Muscle and Fat weighs just the same as a pound of cotton and a pound of meat does. Sad but true. You may not see yourself losing a few pounds but you can feel your used-to-be-tight clothes slowly fitting your now toned and fit body. It’s not a crime to weigh yourself once in a while, but if you use this to track your progress, then I say that you’re just up for some disappointment.

4.      Stay motivated by looking at how far you’ve gone through. Your motivation is at its peak at the beginning but slowly diminishes over time. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but there’ll be a point in your life where you hit a weight-loss plateau and lose your motivation to continue. I experienced that and I felt cheated by my own body. This is why you needed to work toward a permanent behavior change – changes in what you eat and how much you eat. Always remind yourself that you’ve gone a long way and all your efforts will go down the drain if you go back to your old eating habits. A year of dieting and working out is nothing to a month of sinful eating.

5.      Influence more people to living a healthy lifestyle. Social scientists found that good habits can be contagious. If you encourage more people and be an inspiration to them, you don’t just help them achieve their goal but it also help you to be the best in what you do. Information alone does not create lifestyle changes. A change in actions or behaviors along with role models can better influence changes to create a healthy lifestyle.

One thing I learned through this life-changing decision is that self-determination is always the key. No one can be of a better influence than your own drive to a healthier path. Someday, you’d realize that the personal rewards are so incredibly satisfying and worth all the hard work it requires. ;)


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