For many of us, making healthier food choices is a way of life. We read labels, we’re mindful of our portions, we limit the amount of junk and processed foods we eat, we limit our alcohol intake and we make a concerted effort to eat “clean” and healthy. We put in the time and effort to exercise and create a fit body.
So with this kind of effort, why aren’t many of us looking, feeling and living our best?
While healthy eating and exercise are huge steps in the right direction, they’re only a piece of the wellness puzzle. Let’s take a look at some other important pieces.
Eating When Hungry
Take a look at “why” you eat. Are you eating when your body is hungry or do you eat based on the time, the size of the plate or the event around you?
There’s a big difference between hunger and appetite. The body thrives when eating because of hunger, but stores fat when eating because of appetite. Here’s how to tell the difference.
Hunger is a physiological response to the body needing food. Your stomach may rumble, you may feel lightheaded and you want food quickly. Often, it doesn’t really matter what you eat as long as you get something into your system quickly.
Appetite is triggered by emotions, by something you’ve just seen, thought about or even by a delicious smell. With appetite, you feel an immediate urge to eat something and typically, it’s something specific. Different textures are indicative of certain emotions when driven by appetite. For example, you may want something crunchy when you’re angry and something smooth and creamy when you’re sad.
Reacting to appetite is a recipe for weight gain because your body doesn’t need the food. When that’s the case, your body’s only option is to convert it to fat and store it for you.
With mindless eating, you’re taking in much more than you need because you’re distracted while eating. Are you eating while cooking, passing food to others, or taking in too much because you’re reading or watching TV during a meal? You can take in thousands of excess calories through “mindless munching.”
Emotional eating may also be a factor when you eat to soothe, calm, numb and relax from our problems or pain. It’s a self-soothing technique where you medicate using food as your drug of choice. Mindless or emotional eating not only cause weight gain, but can waste years as you struggle to maintain a healthy weight.
Shaking It Up
If your body isn’t challenged it gets bored. Are you doing the same routine consistently and has it gotten easier over time? If so, it’s time to shake things up and create some “muscle confusion.”
This could mean varying your pace or throwing in some intervals or bursts of intense plyometric movements to dramatically increase the intensity for a short period of time. It could also mean using weights, resistance bands, machines, trying an organized sport, a new fitness class, DVD or different route to run.
In addition to cardio routines, building muscle is critical to any fitness plan. This fires up our metabolism, gives us a fit, toned body as well as improving our quality of life by simply making every day tasks easier to perform.
Look at your day and add some activity and muscle building in addition to your workouts. Are you sitting behind a desk for the rest of the day? While workouts are important, they can’t make up for an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.
Adequate sleep gives you more clarity, ability to focus, greater concentration, and more energy to get you through the day. Without enough sleep, you’ll look for energy through sugar and caffeine; the perfect recipe for weight gain.
The empty calories coming from sugar gives you a temporary energy surge and inevitable crash, which leaves you craving more sugar to pick you up again. This short-lived fuel doesn’t sustain or nurture your body and the calories add up quickly.
Also, without enough sleep, certain hormones and chemicals don’t have an opportunity to rebalance and replenish themselves. Unfortunately, these chemicals also promote fat storage and increased appetite.
Managing Immunity Suppressing Stress
You can be eating well and exercising but if you’re living with chronic, unmanaged stress, you’re suppressing your immune system as well as causing physical, mental and emotional wear and tear.
If you’re under constant stress and you’re an emotional eater, the stress you feel will trigger a binge. You also won’t be interested in healthy meal planning, label reading and portion control because you’re consumed by your stress. In addition, you may look for comfort foods, which are loaded in fat, sugar and calories.
When stress suppresses your immune system, you’re not as able to fight off bacterial and viral invasion so you’re more susceptible to illness. Under stress, you’re also keeping your bodies tight which leads to muscle aches, pulls, tears, headaches and more.
Chronic stress also affects your digestive, nervous and even reproductive system. Digestive disturbances such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, Chrohn’s disease and acid reflux have all been shown to be connected to stress.
Your relationships are either good or bad for your health.
Supportive, loving, positive and nurturing relationships improve the immune system, flood your body with “feel good” hormones and chemicals while giving you a sense of connectedness.
Negative, critical, judgmental and pessimistic people suppress your immune systems, flood your body with stress hormones and discourage you from being, doing and having more.
Take a look at your relationships and how they are contributing to or undermining your health.
A lack of confidence, low self esteem, poor self image and a belief system that doesn’t serve you will prevent you from living the life you want…no matter how well you eat and how much you exercise.
If you feel worthy and deserving of love, health, wellness and success, then your thoughts, behaviors and actions will support those goals. If you feel unworthy of love, health, wellness and success, unfortunately your actions and behaviors will support those beliefs too. True health is being healthy from the inside, out.
Which of these pieces of the health puzzle are you missing?
Begin to put them in place to form a healthy body that thrives from a healthy lifestyle, a healthy mind and a healthy spirit.