There’s no two ways around the fact that in order to live well, we must take heed of what we put into our mouths. Sounds simple enough. But is it really? Pierre Louw, owner of online business My Health and Fitness, has some noteworthy insights on the matter.
Let’s start from the top
Are we really what we eat? “To my mind, there’s two chief deciding factors that come into play when one wants to answer this question,” says Pierre. “Firstly, what do you eat and, secondly, how does it sync with your lifestyle and levels of physical activity.”
Let’s break the two down.
Are you really eating what you think?
“Supermarkets and manufacturers have devised ingenious ways of making consumers believe that certain foods on their shelves are healthy when the truth is an altogether different matter,” says Louw. “The question, then, is how can we ensure that we truly are what we eat?”
- Stick to fresh, whole foods
“Be wary of pre-packaged meals. If you can’t recognize a product to be as close as possible to its natural form, – think cuts of meat and fish, fruit and vegetables, especially – you should probably be wary of it,” Louw says. “Anything that has been processed, modified or comes with sauces and flavouring is likely not good for you, despite what the packaging says. And, yes, free range chicken is much better for you.”
- Know how to read labels
Assuming that you live a busy life, you won’t have the time to make each and every ingredient you use from scratch. This is especially true for condiments, spices and canned foods.
“Many of these actually aren’t bad for you, assuming you know what to look out for,” says Louw. “Clue yourself up about additives and preservatives that should be avoided. The internet is a good source of information and new developments in this regards.”
- Fall in love with food
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that whole foods are boring. The irony is that, when you incorporate them for tasty, healthy meals, they are much tastier than pre-packaged or convenience meals! Find pleasure in cooking and eating, rather than seeing it as a chore.
Another plus is that fresh ingredients are usually cheaper than pre-packaged meals too.
You are the life you live
“Another equally crucial factor to take into regard is modern sedentary lifestyles,” Louw says.
- What does this mean?
“Before humans made the transition from a nomadic to societal lifestyle, they spent their days hunting for animals, and eating small amounts of plant foods for energy in between. At night, they’d feast upon the hunt and any vegetables or roots that were collected throughout the day,” says Louw. “Nowadays, people only have about one or two hours a day to spend on physical activity, bar for weekends.”
- The implication
Since you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume that you’re not a hunter-gatherer. Therefore, you do not spend the most of your day burning calories.
“What it comes down to is that you can’t expect to eat healthy foods at the wrong times of day, or in unsuitable portions. Your diet needs to be tailored according to your lifestyle,” Louw says. “For this purpose, enlisting the help of a qualified dietician and personal trainer really is worth the investment.”
Bringing it all together
For a healthy lifestyle, diet is only one part of the equation, with the other being physical activity. If you really want to be what you eat, (we’re not talking about junk food here) figure out how food and exercise can be optimally incorporated into your routine to yield maximum results.
“There is one more way in which your eating habits can define you: happiness,” says Louw. “Eating affects more than just your waistline.”