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You Are What You Eat – Body & Mind – Part Two: Mind

It’s pretty easy to understand the relationship between food and our bodies but what about how we are feeding our minds?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we become who we are, how we live and how we think. There’s been many studies on how the stimulus young children receive establishes who they are.  Though I think this is really interesting, I think overall it’s a little shortsighted. We frequently hear, you can’t change someone or people don’t change… but I don’t believe that to be entirely true. People can change but only if they really want to… or are forced to change.

First, I want to talk about the mind food we don’t ask for… the stimulus we receive from others and from our environment.

I think we can all agree that how we behave is closely related to how we think. Take education for instance. Because we think differently, we also learn differently. Most schools are not equipped to accommodate different learning styles. They have one set way of teaching and you either learn it (temporary memorization, in most cases) or you don’t. This has a direct relationship with our behavior. Some students seem to absorb information easily and others require hours and hours of studying. The third group are those that don’t even seem to try. This third group is made up of students that either don’t want to learn or more likely, are unable to learn in the style they are being taught and just give up. I can’t even being to tell you how many students I’ve met that have brilliant minds but are labeled ADHD or special needs because they can’t be forced into the strict mold our education system requires of them. Their brains just work differently.

Words, actions and events have a huge affect on us. Our interactions with others, intentional or not, mold who we are, or at least how we behave throughout our lifetime. I wrote a little about this in a past blog post. Negative input tends to cause stress, a lack of self confidence or self worth or even cause people to shut down. Harsh words from a teacher… the boss who tells you, you can’t do anything right… the experience of a tragic event… all are stimuli that can have a profound impact on us. Unfortunately, we can’t control these types of experiences from affecting our brains and they can have life changing results.

What about what we choose to put in our minds? We are able to make choices of what we do, who our friends are and what we read or watch for the most part. We can also choose to experience positive activities that will have a major effect on us. Our attitudes are shaped by what our mind consume. This, in turn, can change us.

I believe our spirituality is the essence of who we are. It is our inner path. Our spirituality is the most important part of our character. Religious beliefs can be an important part of our spirituality but it should not be misconstrued as the only part of it. Many people wear their religion on their sleeve like a badge, yet when it comes to who they really are, it may not be quite as visible. Our histories can cause us to put up walls blocking the world from seeing our true selves. When I hear someone referred to as an old soul, I think of someone that has moved beyond those barricades and is unafraid of revealing their inner self. It’s a gift to be able to live without fear and to look beyond the facade of others and see the true person that might be hidden behind layers of hurt, anger and betrayal.

Feeding the Mind

We are surrounded daily by negative mind food. Especially in this political year, the news is bursting with negativity. It’s important to at least balance the negative content we absorb with positive thoughts and behavior. We can’t find positive solutions when we focus on the negative. Unfortunately, our society loves to complain about all the problems that surround us but seldom take action to find solutions. If we’d focus on the solutions, we might actually be able to make some progress.

I see too often that people say they don’t like negative people, and then they surround themselves with them. Some people like to wallow in negativity. It feels good to vent frustrations but we all have to be willing to take the next step towards resolving our issues.

Our survival relies heavily on the strength of our body, mind and spirit. We tend to overlook the latter and that have serious implications on our overall health. Focusing on diet and exercise is only the beginning. We also have to feed and exercise our minds. Having a victim mindset is unhealthy. We must strive daily to look for the good and conquer our problems. With a positive outlook– reconnecting with our spirituality– we can overcome any obstacles and live healthy, meaningful lives.

You Are What You Eat – Body & Mind – Part One: Body

Fat, fat, FAT! How do we get there? Poor eating choices and overeating, of course. Fast food is so much easier than cooking– and if you are going to eat fast food, who wants to order a salad? If you go to a restaurant, they often start you out with bread or rolls and the sides that come with your entree aren’t always what’s best for you.

When we’re under a lot of stress, we tend to justify lots of comfort food. Nearly every diet out there tells you over consumption of bread and potatoes is just plain bad for you. Add to that, a sugar addiction, if you have one, and we’re on our way to an early grave. Most comfort foods and eating ourselves into oblivion, are just another nail in the coffin. What kind of comfort does that give us?

Michael and I started dieting… wait, make that we completely overhauled our eating habits, a little over two months ago.  We had just finished booking our travel for my 5oth birthday celebration in December: Five days in New York, leading to a seven day cruise to the Bahamas. (We want to be thin, right?) When we started, we had six months to drop the weight we wanted to lose (now three months left) if we wanted to feel more comfortable sunning by the pool.

Obviously that’s not the only reason. Realizing, as we get older, that we really need to focus more on our health, it was time for a change. We both had entered the textbook classification of obesity and were putting ourselves at a higher risk for a heart attack and diabetes, among other things. It had to stop.

We started following the original Adkin’s diet with minimal carbs (which we did successfully about six or seven years ago) and have altered it from there. Back then, we both easily dropped 30 or 40 pounds but then started eating haphazardly again and gained back the weight over the course of about two years. Next, we followed the Gillian McKeith plan (minimal fat), again dropped the weight and kept it off for a couple years. I think I was down to 191, at my lowest weight, two summers ago.

It’s always easy to blame something rather than take responsibility for our decisions. I blamed the endless hours I spent at my computer working on my degree, combined with my unconventional work schedule, for the reasons I ate the way I did, leading to my weight gain. I couldn’t be bothered with shopping for food, cooking it and cleaning up the kitchen afterwards. I was living on primarily pizza, burgers and yes, ice cream… not that any of those are really bad for you… but not every day and not in the quantities I was consuming them.

Neither of the diets I mentioned rely on small food portions, although smaller portions are recommended. They rely on science. The combination of fat and carbs has a huge affect on our weight and overall health. Our bodies process foods differently. Carbs aren’t processed the same way as fats. Filling our bodies with both confuses our digestive systems and asks it to to perform multiple processes at once. This contributes to the body converting foods and storing fat– and in some cases, eliminating the good nutritional elements we consume.

I think we also have to look at weight and health as two different concerns. We’ve all seen people that appear to be in perfect healthy. Thin, toned, perhaps muscular– but are they healthy? How many ‘perfect people’ have you heard of, suddenly having a heart attack? They are thin, so they appear to eat right, exercise daily– and yet their bodies fail them. Bad cholesterol, high cholesterol are often the culprits. People that seem to us to be able to eat anything they want– really can’t. Simply eating in moderation isn’t the answer. You have to pay attention to the nutritional value of the foods as well.

One of the downfalls of many diets is that there is always someone there to tell you it’s not healthy for one reason or another. Low carb diets are blamed for flooding the body with cholesterol– but it’s good cholesterol. Other diets that rely strictly on portion control are hard for people to stick with because they always feel they are hungry. It’s hard to stick with a diet when your body is always craving food.

Probably the biggest contributing factor to unhealthy eating is convenience. Are boxed or pre-prepared meals good for you? Look at the nutritional content. While you’re doing so, make sure to check out all the chemicals that are added to preserve it.

Are you one of the people that buy in to the whole Low-Fat marketing? You might not know it but most low fat foods that are sold are higher in calories and loaded with sugar. (Yes, even milk!) The fat content is reduced but sugar is often added for flavor. What does your body do with sugar? It turns it to fat.

Change takes time. Cooking again has been a big adjustment for me but it really doesn’t take that much time. What is time when we’re talking about our health, right? Once I’ve lost the weight I want to lose, my ultimate goal is to change my eating habits to eating primarily fresh foods– lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and cut back severely on meats, starches and grains.

I don’t want to slight exercise. I’ve started going back to the gym but at this point, my workouts have been minimal. I’m slowly increasing the time, frequency and intensity. Exercise is an important element many of us are missing from our lives. It doesn’t have to consume us. Walking alone has great health benefits.

Avoid the triggers that cause you to fail.

I’ve found that my weight loss journey isn’t always about pounds. I’ve gone two weeks without losing anything but noticed the weight shifting during that period. I’ve reached plateaus and just had to work through them. Your body needs time to adjust. It’s important to ask yourself, “How do I look?” and more importantly, “How do I feel?”

You have to be committed to any lifestyle change or it’s just not going to work. I set a goal and a time frame I intend to stick with. If I don’t lose all the weight I want, that doesn’t mean I’ve failed or give me a good reason to give up. Instead of looking at the negatives, I look at the positives and try different ways to better my chances of reaching my goals.

So what are my results so far? Here’s my goal and progress so far:

Started: End of June

Goal Date: Mid-December

Starting Weight: 245

Goal Weight: 185  (which I haven’t been since my 20’s)

Current Weight (after 10 weeks): 210

Total Weight Loss So Far: 35

Weight Left To Lose: 25

I’m on my way.

Wishing you all a healthier life!