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13-05-2024 | Hadassah Groenewold

Eating healthy #2: What's healthy food?

In my previous blog, I discussed my two-year quest to achieve my athletic goals. In this blog, we will explore the link between lifestyle and nutrition. Healthy nutrition is crucial for a fit body and a clear mind. A diet that aligns with your lifestyle is essential for reaching those goals. No matter how much you exercise, you won't achieve your goals with a diet that doesn't suit your lifestyle and personal identity.

Healthy food selection on a table

Lifestyle and healthy eating

Why has healthy lifestyle become such a major topic in recent decades? Why is there so much conflicting information about nutrition and sports?

Our modern lifestyle and the widespread consumption of junk food are leading more people to struggle with obesity. This has spurred a multitude of diets and eating patterns claiming health benefits and ideal weight outcomes. Clever, since there's substantial profit in this. Everyone in our fast-paced society seeks the quick fix. Unfortunately, there's no single diet that guarantees health and perfect weight for everyone.

Sports dietitian Patrick van der Duin states:

"What is healthy varies from person to person and depends heavily on your lifestyle and personal goals: male/female, height, fitness level. Whether you do physical labor daily or sit at a computer for eight hours, engage in sports frequently or watch TV often, are generally healthy—all these factors influence what you should eat to maintain health, not to mention the differences in personal athletic goals. Moreover, your personal circumstances affect what diet works for you. A young family might have less time for healthy meals compared to singles living at home. Financial resources also play a role in how people can afford to eat. Additionally, there are vast global differences in dietary habits; it's highly culture-specific."

It makes sense, then, that standard weekly menus from certain diets don't work for everyone. We all need something different. Besides, with my young family, I prefer meals that the kids will also enjoy. I'm no culinary expert and don't have the time or inclination to spend hours in the kitchen. For me, a diet must be simple and affordable. I aim to eat mostly the same products as the rest of my household, avoiding forbidden foods, set weekly menus, calorie counting, or complex recipes.

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But how?

Gradually, I altered my old lifestyle and diet, discovering what works and what doesn't. A significant game changer was my month-long challenge of eating sugar-free. I was surprised by how hard it was, but it fundamentally altered my diet. I no longer eat sugar-free because it didn't align with my long-term athletic goals. Now, I consume sugar daily, but I'm not addicted. The cravings and restlessness when I skipped sugar are gone. This challenge permanently shifted my eating habits towards healthier choices, as my palate itself transformed.

Display of sugar-free foods

Stress and sleep

A healthy lifestyle encompasses more than just diet. Stress and sleep are crucial components. I've noticed that during periods of poor sleep or high stress, I crave sugar more and exercise less. Additionally, these conditions affect my body fat percentage and negatively impact my recovery from workouts, diminishing my capacity to train.

In the past, failing to meet my weight or training goals could lead to significant stress, which only compounded issues like poor sleep, increased eating, and reduced exercise, creating a vicious cycle. These factors can spiral negatively, impacting both nutrition and exercise, even if your diet is otherwise sound. Recognizing the reasons behind my weight gain—not related to my diet—helps maintain my composure and prevents me from making rash changes to my eating habits.

In my next blog, I will delve deeper into distinguishing between nourishment and mere filling, and how to identify what you truly need. If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

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