Clean living, diet, healthy lifestyle, and exercise…
So these are the ongoing topics of constant discussion I hear in my work environment (as a master PE teacher) or when I’m training my clients, I come across these buzzwords in every magazine and paper I read, and I see them play over and over during both day time and night time TV viewing.
Obviously there is an obsession about how we look, or is it really about being healthy? You can look skinny and still be unhealthy!
If they're not trying to sell you the "newest" Ab machine or the latest and easier way to blend your fruit and vegetables for "food" (oops… I mean, "drinks on the GO"), they are telling you new ways to replace eating with drinking or sell you the next best thing like using body images to define how we all should look! No wonder so many people are confused…
As an experienced trainer and having pushed my body to its extreme both physically and mentally, I know what my body does and doesn’t need and let me tell you it needs FOOD, all types of food, and oh gosh should I say it? Yes even FATS…. OMG YES I SAID IT…
We all need fats in out diet – It is important to remember that cutting out fats altogether is not good for us because our body depends on fats to function properly (especially our brain). However, we should all understand there are good fats (like those found in fish and avocados) and there are bad fats (detailed later in this post) and knowing the difference is not only easy but very necessary if you're serious about being healthy.
Firstly, let’s get back to the basics because we can all get lost in the over load of "stuff" we hear, read, and see in our day to day life about exercise and diet.
What exercise should we be doing for our goals and what food should (or shouldn't) we be eating to aid in achieving our goals?
In this article, I'm going to mainly talk about the food side and I'll write more about exercise in future posts. What's interesting about eating for good health and body image is how the same old wonder diets continue to get recycled (under different names and fads) when in fact fad diets have never worked EVER for anyone to acheive long term health and fitness goals.
Do you desire:
Weight Loss – Weight Gain – Muscular Definition – Improved Cardiovascular Fitness – Improved Strength – Improved Speed – Improved Muscular Endurance – Improved Flexibility – Improved Nutritional Intake – Improved Stress Management – Improved Sleep Patterns – Improved Overall Health…………
As we look at the above options some of us will have different desires, therefore, we should all then have different dietary and exercise routines to fit our goals because just like Cinderella’s slipper it only fits one person and it's not a good idea to preach a token ‘what is good for me is good for you’ ideology. Some people depending on their goals and the amount of training or type of activity they do will need very different dietary requirements compared to others. However, there are still many common values and food "rules" we can all share to help keep us healthy.
So let’s discuss food in more depth and let me tell you a little secret about food (don’t tell anyone as some people may go out of business) we must eat food to live, we must eat food to be able to exercise, we must eat food to function, and we just must eat food……
Eating food is not the reason why many people around the world are obese, it's really because ‘Western Lifestyle’ has changed the way we all see and eat food, thanks to the introduction of human-manipulated man made foods, society as a whole has been gaining weight at a rapid rate. Nevertheless, there's no law to say we must eat these man made foods (processed foods) and in truth it's quite easy to avoid them or limit our intake.
Clean living just doesn't mean to use soap, it's actually another term similar to "healthy lifestyle," basically, it means ‘eating foods which are free from bad fats, that are not high in sugars, or are processed/refined,’ (stress and exercise are also factors) but to live clean is by far the best and healthiest way to keep our body healthy on the inside, which in return rewards us by keeping us looking good on the outside.
Keeping our foods raw as much as possible means eating them fresh and limiting cooking or over processing. We should include as many root based vegetables into our diet as possible because they are nutrient rich and wholesome, eat a variety of fresh fruits, don’t peel the skin of foods where possible, don’t throw away the pulp from your favourite juice/green smoothie rather eat it instead – because that’s where much of the nutrients live.
Kale (above) is a known superfood and it's easy to grow at home plus it tastes great cooked, raw in salads, or added to healthy smoothies!
Avoid boiling vegetables as most of the nutrients leach into the water but if you do boil them try to at least use the water from the pot in drinks or sauces. Eat fewer foods high in saturated fat, sugar, processed food, or food high in salt. All these foods in large amounts eaten every day will be a recipe for disaster!
Below I have provided examples of the types of food discussed, so you can recognise if you are guilty of eating too much of the bad stuff and not enough of the good stuff….
- Saturate Fats: Chocolate, Cakes, Deep Fired Food, Take Away Food.
- Sugar: Lollies, Fruit Juices (some), Soft Drink.
- Processed Food: Deli Sandwich Meats.
- Salt: Adding it into your food.
Yes we can include these types of food into our diet but in ‘MODERATION’ and certainly not every day! Perhaps save yourself for maybe one day a week to indulge and believe me when you do the food tastes SO MUCH BETTER….. I promise. Routinely eating bad food is not only unhealthy but it conditions your body to need more and store fat whereas using them as a treat once a week or on a special occasion is better for us and more enjoyable.
The chart below shows just some of the common health related problems a poor diet and lack of activity can/will produce.
What Could Happen
Coronary Heart Disease and high blood pressure (hypertension)
Too much salt and saturated fat, combined with not enough physical activity.
Heart attack, congested arteries, reduced blood supply to the heart, blood pressure higher than normal.
|All the above, plus smoking and too much alcohol
|Blood clot to the brain causing paralysis or death.
|All the above, plus a diet lacking variation in high quality nutritious foods
|Memory loss, poor brain function
Type 2 Diabetes
Consumption of processed food and high fat & sugar intake combined with not enough physical activity.
Abnormal blood sugar level fluctuations, blindness, skin sores/ulcers, nerve deterioration, organ problems such as kidney and heart disease.
Energy intake (the amount of food and drink a person consumes) exceeds energy output (physical activity they actually do).
Cardiovascular diseases/heart attack, cancer, type 2 diabetes, injuries due to excess load, poor mobility, depression, unfair opportunities (employment).
For most of the above issues (and other poor lifestyle diseases) it's total kilojoule reduction, rather than just fat reduction, that is important for long term success in weight loss. In other words, eating less overall and limiting over indulgence is the key to maintaining a healthy weight range. Also, staying well clear of other dangerous lifestyle practices which affect the body adversely like smoking and drugs.
Getting back to basics and eating whole foods which have not been processed is an easy way to feel full whilst getting the correct amount of calories we need. On the other hand, high density processed foods are full of energy, lack the special vitamins our body needs, and damages our chances of living long and happy.
Exercise & stress
Although the term clean living mainly concerns food, it also refers to how much sleep we are, or are not getting, how much stress we are putting our body and mind through on a regular basis, and if we smoke, drink, or take drugs. Also, clean living refers to how we care for our body by giving it the exercise it needs to stay healthy – the human body needs to be at least moderately active to ensure it functions correctly.
Therefore, along with healthy eating, let’s not forget to ensure we are all getting at least 6-8 hours of quality sleep per night and finding ways to deal with our stress levels as this will also holistically improve our overall health. Luckily, activity and exercise helps improve sleep in several ways so the two go hand in hand. I'll write more about exercise in further articles.
The combination of un-healthy eating, insufficient sleep and constant stress and allowing bad chemicals such as cigarettes, alcohol and drugs into the body will make a person a ticking time bomb waiting to go off and going off can result in major health risk factors, which can come in many forms!
Clean living may be the latest buzzword but it should be what we all strive to do most of the time if we want a long and productive life. Yes, sure, we can all partake in the odd alcoholic beverage, processed food, or sweets, but only as an exception and not part of our daily diet. And those of us who do this, enjoy the amazing benefits of a healthy body inside and out.
I would love to know your thoughts so feel free to leave a comment below (no email is required) or join our forum and discuss this subject more in our health and fitness section.
Shelly, Health and Fitness Writer & SME for SSM – Read more about Shelly – Bio
Respect your body and keep it healthy…