I’ve been slacking on the Motivational Monday posts. I’d like to give some meaningful excuse, but really I’ve just been in quite the funk lately and have really turned inward over the past few weeks to reconnect with my intuition. I’m really happy to say that the past few days have brought ease and a bit more clarity and focus back into my life.
In any case, today’s Motivational Monday post is basic. As you know, the purpose of Motivational Monday series is to offer tips and tools for your healthy, balanced lifestyle. Although this tip is fundamentally simple and straight-forward, so many people struggle with it every single day, which makes me realize how important a topic it is to cover. By eating real food, you could lose weight, increase energy, even become a more efficient worker, parent, or spouse.
Yeah, you read that right. I said it. And I believe it, 100%.
“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” – Thomas Edison.
You know that old saying, “you are what you eat”? I believe there could be no truer statement. How can you expect to eat like crap and be anything other than crap? In the same sense, if you fill yourself with great nutrients and energy, you’ll exude great energy. So, what exactly do I mean by “real” food? Isn’t all food real? I mean, it exists, which technically makes it real, right? Wrong. Not everything in the market classifies as real food.
To define real food, I turn to one of my favorite authors for assistance:
“Don’t eat anything your great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. There are a great many food-like items in the supermarket your ancestors wouldn’t recognize as food (Go-Gurt? Breakfast-cereal bars? Nondairy creamer?); stay away from these.”– Michael Pollan.
I once heard a holistic pediatrician say, “there’s no such thing as junk food. There’s just junk and there’s food.” As consumers in our busy, modern society, it’s way too easy to grab junk rather than food – and by junk I mean anything with ingredients you aren’t capable of pronouncing, or anything that has a list of ingredients that is longer than a couple lines – for many reasons (it’s cheaper/quicker/takes less energy). But here’s the thing: if you don’t commit the time and energy to fueling your life, you will see negative consequences in the form of obesity, disease, and low/negative energy. Living a healthy and balanced life takes time and energy, but part of the process is recognizing that you deserve to take time to create a healthy life for yourself. Your health – and your life – should be your main priority.
Eating real food entails literally eating your fruits, veggies, and whole grains in solid form (gasp!). I’ve heard the argument from so many people that they can eat like crap because they take a multivitamin, have a nutrition bar, or will be drinking a Shakeology later. While all of those are great occasional supplements to a balanced diet (and I often have protein smoothies to account for the lack of meat I eat) they are just that – supplements. You are meant to be eating a variety of fruits, veggies, and whole foods as a foundation. You also really need to be conscious about what’s in those bars and shakes – many of them are filled with artificial ingredients (cancer?) and ridiculous amounts of sugar.
Your fuel should also not come in liquid form via energy drinks like Monster or Red Bull or whatever the newest, latest fad is. Have you checked the labels on those things, or better yet, done the research on what it does to your insides? Eek. You can get adequate fuel from natural sources.
“Virtually no one in the field of health and nutrition speaks about the concept of food having energy, but if you stop and think about it, it intuitively makes sense. Vegetables have a lighter energy than proteins. Animal meat from tortured animals has a different energy than meat from animals that lived a peaceful existence.”
– Joshua Rosenthal, founder/director of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition
I’m not telling you to become a vegetarian or anything of the sort, but I am asking you to make a conscious effort to recognize what you put into your body and the ways in which it fuel your life (are you more sluggish or irritable the day after eating dairy? do you feel more energetic after upping your veggies?). If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything… so you need to place your health – meaning your nutrition and fitness – at the top of your priority list!
[Real food often comes with real bugs!]
I have friends and family who poke fun at the amount of veggies I take in every day (more than average, for sure ) because I find extraordinary ways to incorporate them into everything I eat [which doesn’t always end up working out the way I planned]. But here’s the thing: the real reason I eat so many veggies is because I’m trying to make up for lost time.
We always joke that my Mom grew up with my brother and I because she had us so young. By the time she was 21, she was on a plane leaving everything she knew so that she could create a better life for the three of us. But being a young, single mother wasn’t easy, and we definitely couldn’t afford much growing up. The developmental days of my life were fueled mostly by canned goods, tortillas with cheese, white rice, and of course, sugary cereals (just thinking about those cereals gives me a sugar high). We were supported by family and friends once we moved back to the islands, but we continued to eat unhealthy, processed foods for years (most of our “plain” veggies came from cans). We all know how this story unfolds, but the main point is that I spent the majority of my life treating my body horribly and now that I have control over the ways in which I fuel my mind, body and spirit, I choose only greatness.
My journey of finding what works for me continues on, even after 8+ years, and still one of the most difficult hurdles for me in my nutrition journey has been reducing my dependence on sugar (not an easy task!!). You may notice in my recipes that I use little or no sugar when I bake, and that’s because I’ve learned that I have an allergic reaction to it (it turns out many people do, they just don’t realize it because they never go off of it for long enough to cleanse it from their system). Luckily for me, I’ve found some alternatives to sugar that have become essential in our kitchen:
[100% fruit jam (check the label to make sure!), maple syrup, molasses, honey, dried fruit (papayas have the least amount of natural sugar; dates, pineapple, etc.), brown rice syrup.]
Of course, the amount of sugar in these products is still high, so I still use them minimally, but they are all excellent alternatives and have been my savior because I love to bake! Why not artificial sweeteners like Splenda? Because (1) I’ve done my research about the potential side-effects and (2) I still can’t figure out exactly how those artificial sweeteners are made. I’d rather stick to yummy natural alternatives!
All in all, eating real food is the single best thing I’ve ever done for myself. It has changed my life and given me the energy to live an active, healthy lifestyle. I’ll be honest: I still get nostalgia for an egg mcmuffin or a big bowl of Fruity Pebbles, but I am ultimately responsible for every single decision I make, so I take those moments of uncertainty to compare the way I feel when I eat clean versus the way I felt when I ate processed junk. That always makes the decision really simple .
Do you eat real food? What are some of your tips for anyone wanting to clean up their diet?
If you are catching up on the Motivational Monday series, here’s what you’ve missed:
[Disclaimer: Although I am passionate about many things, I am not an expert in nutrition. I speak through personal experience and opinion only.]
Motivational Mondays are meant to offer you tips and tools to help you live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. What would you like to see for Motivational Mondays? Would you like to be a contributor? Comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your motivational story, who motivates you, and/or your tips.
Aloha Pumehana. Whether you’re here to find balance, wholesome recipes or inspiration, I hope you enjoy the posts. Please subscribe to Green Plate Dinners to receive automatic updates and be the first to read new posts for free!