How I Got Healthy–For Me: Four Foodies Talk Diet, Lifestyle, and Good Food

The New Year is always full of good intentions. No more fast food! Only grapefruit for breakfast! I am off coffee! I will run every single day of the week and not eat chocolate cake all year long! By two weeks in—aka right now—sometimes resolutions dwingle down to a mere memory.

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Sure, we want to make a change. But when your food resolution is a diet, it can be hard to stand firm. We yo-yo, cut one ingredient out for a week and it’s back the next.

But what if this year, the commitment wasn’t to a certain diet but instead a lifestyle change?

Consider that eating well is a process of finding the balance between indulgence and everyday meals, and determining what works well for your body. It’s about developing a healthy relationship to food. The good news: that has nothing to do with dieting.

Whereas a diet is about limiting and avoiding, a lifestyle change is about thinking about all the amazing things you can eat, about fine-tuning your eating habits so that you can maintain them through the long run.

We caught up with four popular food bloggers who’ve changed from dieting to eating healthfully for the long term, to learn more about their transitions. Here’s how they made new years’ resolutions into lifestyles.

Kath from Kath Eats

After gaining 20 pounds during her college years, Kath Younger took ahold of her health and developed a love for cooking with healthy ingredients. The blog about her health journey eventually became the full-blown site Kath Eats. Beyond blogging, Younger is also a registered dietician.

For you, what does “healthy eating” mean?

Since my weight loss, my goals have been on eating real food. I don’t follow any kind of strict diet, but I like to focus more on what I do eat than what I don’t. That can be challenging because it’s always easy to add another superfood to your plate! Nutrient-dense foods like avocados, goat cheese or walnuts can add up to weight gain if you aren’t careful. Portion control has always been a problem of mine. When I originally gained weight in college it was because I just let my portions get out of control. I was still eating relatively healthy food.

I also think it’s easy to think of every day as a day to celebrate with food. It would be a boring life to eat the same bland meals and not enjoy tastes of red wine or buttercream frosting. So I am always striving for a balance between health and the enjoyment of food and life. I have written about what I call the “Squiggly Line Effect” – if you want to keep your weight on a straight line your peaks have to match your valleys. Thus, if you’re going to celebrate on Friday night, Tuesday needs to be a bit on the lighter side. This mentality is key to weight maintenance for me, but it makes for some boring Tuesdays.

For you what is the difference between a diet and a healthy lifestyle?
A diet is a quick fix to get to a goal – usually involving restricting certain food groups – and a lifestyle change is permanent.

Give us 3 tips for people looking to live a healthier lifestyle.

  1. Keep a journal, at least until you get an idea of what parts of your diet might need changing.
  2. Include fruits and vegetables in every meal. Make them the foundation and the meats, cheeses, sauces and grains the complements.
  3. Get active in any way that makes you happy whether that’s at the gym or walking to work.

What is the best benefit that you feel you get from eating real food?
Feeling fresh, energized and happy from the inside to the out

Tiffany from The Gracious Pantry

Tiffany was living an unhealthy lifestyle, and it was starting to take its toll. Then she had her son, and in that moment decided that she would do everything to be the healthiest mom that she could be. After researching healthy eating, she found her way to clean eating, started creating recipes and The Gracious Pantry was born.

For you, what does “healthy eating” mean?
For me, healthy eating means eating whole food ingredients. Ingredients I actually recognize and could grow myself. Real food with real nutrients.

For you, what is the difference between a diet and a healthy lifestyle?
A diet is a temporary fix. Something that is prewritten for the masses. Something that may get a few pounds off the scale, but won’t give you any real, long-lasting results. Something that fails you because it wasn’t designed for you or your body.

A healthy lifestyle is doing all of those things that work best for your own body. Eating those foods your body responds to positively, and avoiding the ones that don’t.

Give us 3 tips for people looking to live a healthier lifestyle.

  1. Cut the processed foods. This is easier said than done, but it’s the only way to truly get on the road to better health. Our bodies are 100% natural. We can’t expect them to run at their best without 100% natural fuel.
  2. Take just an hour or two on your weekend to prepare healthy options for the week. Chop veggies, bag up cut fruits, make a few meals for the freezer. Do whatever you can to make your week go a little smoother. Having healthy foods available to you at all times is half the battle.
  3. Get enough sleep. This may sound like odd advice in regards to food, but the truth is, if you’re tired, you eat more. And usually the wrong things.

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What is the best benefit that you feel you get from eating clean food?
There are many benefits to eating clean food. Your skin glows, you feel alive and you have the energy to get through your day. Your body responds to getting the nutrition it needs. You can’t beat it!

Andrew of Eating Rules

At the age of 15, Andrew Wilder went vegetarian, but when he hit college, the fresh vegetables in his meals turned to lots of fries, pasta and bread. Around 2005 he noticed that he was having trouble with his short-term memory, and he was battling acne. This started a long process of cutting some foods out and adding other foods in, as well as working hard to be more active, focusing on incorporating yoga into his daily routine.  After his “ah-ha!” moment in 2009, he decided to devote his career to healthy eating, and nowadays Andrew runs the site Eating Rules and was the instigator behind October Unprocessed, encouraging people to give up processed foods for an entire month.

For you, what does “healthy eating” mean?
Anything that promotes good health. It’s a somewhat circular definition, I know, but I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with foods that are “less bad” for us. 100-calorie cookie packs are still 100 calories of food that’s bad for you – it hurts your health.  Foods can promote good healthy, or they cannot. The particular foods may be a little different for each person, but overall it’s actually not that complicated when you look at it with such a straightforward perspective.

For you, what is the difference between a diet and a healthy lifestyle?
None! I don’t think of “diet” as “going on a diet” – I think of “diet” as “how and what you eat.” That should be a part of your healthy lifestyle. Exercise, rest, play, spirituality…all of those things can factor into a healthy lifestyle, and diet is one component of that.

Give us 3 tips for people looking to live a healthier lifestyle.
Everyone starts out at a different place – but I’ve come up with three basic “rules” that, if everyone in America followed, we’d be off to a great start.

  1. When you eat grains, eat whole grains.
  2. Don’t eat high fructose corn syrup.
  3. Don’t eat hydrogenated oils, trans fats, or anything that’s been deep-fried.

I have a corollary to these rules, too: Once a week, cheat! Have anything you want – and make sure it’s the best, most enjoyable version of that food. (For me, that’s usually French fries…so I seek out the tastiest fries I can find!)

What is the best benefit that you feel you get from eating clean food?
I simply feel better – with more energy and a better ability to focus. Moreover, now that I’m much more in tune with my body, I realize just how bad I feel when I eat poorly. That’s the best motivator there is to keep eating clean.

Lia from Nourish Network

Lia Huber has been a food writer and recipe developer for nearly 15 years. In the beginning she was mostly focused on low-fat and low-cal. But then came a cancer scare and a lupus diagnosis, and after some research, she determined that to truly nourish her body she needed lots of vegetables and whole grains cooked with healthy fats. As she puts it, “Now, I’m healthier than ever, with more energy than ever, and the way I eat nourishes not just my body, but my whole being.” Lia now runs the Nourish Network where she helps many people do the same.

For you, what does “healthy eating” mean?
I have a negative reaction to that phrase because it’s been so co-opted by the concept of deprivation and dieting. I’ve come to think of “healthy eating” as much more holistic than that. It’s really more about being aware and engaged in the whole picture, making food choices that align with your values and being aware of their impact on your body, your state of mind, your family and even the earth. It’s about eating foods that naturally nourish your body, prepared in a way that gives you great joy.

For you, what is the difference between a diet and a healthy lifestyle?
Technically, diet refers to our food lifestyle. But, again, that word today is inextricably linked to deprivation–to what you shouldn’t be eating. A healthy lifestyle is the opposite of that. It’s where you’re so focused on the joys and pleasures of the foods that are naturally good for you that you don’t even want to eat junk food. It’s the difference between always feeling guilty when you’re not eating what you “should” be eating and deprived when you’re eating what you “want,” and having the two come together so that you’re always eating what you want, and what you want is exactly what you should be eating anyway. For me, personally, aside from the physical changes that happened in me when I made a shift to a healthy lifestyle, I was struck by the profound peace of mind that came from the absence of that see-saw guilt-deprivation battle.

Give us 3 tips for people looking to live a healthier lifestyle.

  1. Treat yourself with compassion while you’re making the change, and give yourself time for it to stick. Lasting change doesn’t happen over night, it’s what I call a NOURISH Evolution, and it has very distinct stages. Trying a new vegetable or going to the farmers market for the first time are HUGE steps on that evolution and should be celebrated.
  2. Bring a sense of curiosity to your evolution. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “I don’t like carrots,” or “I don’t eat beets.” And I was one of them! But to truly make a change, you have to admit that you may not know all there is to know about carrots and beets. In my case, I grew up eating mushy carrots and canned beets–both of which I still dislike–and lived with the assumption that I just didn’t like carrots and beets all the way into my 20s when I began my own NOURISH Evolution. One of the keys to my changing, though, was the moment when I said, “hey, wait a second, those roasted heirloom beets in that cookbook look really good … maybe I’ll try them.” That opening up to try new things and see old things in a new light is absolutely key to making a change. Keep trying new things with vegetables until you find ways you really like them.
  3. Eating seasonally really is key. Vegetables and fruits that are in season and, ideally, grown locally and organically simply have much more flavor to them, which means they require fewer ingredients and are easier to cook, and motivate you because they taste really, really good. It comes back to that ‘want to’ versus ‘should’. Eating an iceberg lettuce salad with carrots and December tomatoes would feel very much like a ‘should’ to me. But eating an arugula salad with shaved fennel, avocado and grapefruit would get me really excited (mmmm, in fact, I think I’m going to make that tonight ;-)).

What is the best benefit that you feel you get from eating clean food?
I think it goes back to that peace of mind. I want to eat what I’m eating because it tastes fabulous. And I feel great about what I’m eating because it’s good for me and has a positive impact on others and the earth, and makes my body feel great too. There’s no struggle, no angst. Just a deep down sense of contentment and ease.

This post was written by Anna Brones, a food and travel writer based in Paris, France who has a love for bikes, coffee and all things organic.

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