I have gotten into the habit of making homemade protein bars in the last few months (They are AMAZEing!). A few weeks ago, I knew I only had one left and I was due to make more. But I had ZERO desire to go searching the Internet for the next hour before I found “the perfect recipe.” (I have a reputation for never wanting to try the same recipe twice. A direct cause of obsessive recipe searching).
But this time, for whatever reason, I just decided to wing it. I looked at what I had, I put in what I like, and I made sure not to add ingredients high in sugar (the very thing I avoid by not buying pre-packaged bars). And you know what? They were my best bars yet. But most important, I enjoyed the process so much more when I just relied on my taste to make them.
The more I learn about nutrition, the more I recognize that what works for somebody else may not work for me. I have flashbacks of my diet-crazed days when I would throw myself into a diet book and follow it to a “T,” convinced that if this nutritionist/doctor/health guru says so, it must be so. From the Abs Diet that promised me that 6 meals a day was the answer to a 6 pack, to Oprah’s personal trainer that told me low fat was the way to go, to Skinny Bitch that told me to completely eliminate meat, eggs and dairy from my life forever – I’ve done them all. And boy was I a good student (i.e. obsessive).
But none of them stuck. None of them made me lose weight (in a healthy way). And none of them made me feel good for a sustained period of time. Because for every single one of them, I was following what somebody else told me was good for my body instead of just listening to it myself. Until one day I FINALLY realized…
Taking bread out of my diet completely just makes me want it more. If I’m not hungry, I shouldn’t eat just because it’s “time” to eat. Low fat foods give me a stomachache and do NOT satisfy me. My schedule doesn’t allow for me to eat by 6; if I’m hungry at 9:15, then I am going to eat at 9:15. I LOVE coffee and I LOVE wine – two controversial beverages that go back and forth between cancer-reducing to cancer-causing almost daily. If I catch the news on a cancer-causing day, I am still going to drink them. And as much as I love vegetables to death, I need meat in my life. It makes me a stronger, more energized, happier person.
I wish I knew then what I know now. But I honestly think that it takes time for a reason. I’ve never felt as good as I do now and it’s because, over time, I have established certain rules that work for me. I have learned how to listen to my body. The list below has taken me years to perfect – and it will never be complete because I am constantly changing and learning new things. But as of now, I know that if I do the following, I will wake up happy, work productively, digest properly, and sleep soundly.
My Top 10 Rules for a Healthy, Happy Body
- Eat real food as much as possible (you know what I mean by real food) and avoid packaged food as much as possible.
- Always pack a bag of real food to go (Almonds, Cashews, Homemade Bars, Banana, Apples) in case of emergency (i.e. being hungry when the only option is packaged food).
- Don’t be afraid to add fat to meals (butter, ghee, olive oil); it not only makes food taste better and satiates me longer, but it’s good for me.
- Avoid drinking with meals as much as possible. Wait half an hour before and at least half an hour (if not an hour) after. This trick has done wonders for my digestion.
- Try to get all of my nutrients from food instead of supplements. This includes fermented foods instead of probiotics (another thing that has done wonders for my digestion).
- Work out. Move around. Play! I am so much happier when I do – no matter what I tell myself when I’m being lazy.
- But don’t push too hard. It can be equally bad for my health if I overdo my workout and don’t give myself breaks.
- Sweets and desserts (especially packaged ones) will make me feel sick. So I just don’t eat them.
- To completely contradict number 4, there are times when I am craving something sweet. In this case, I’ll indulge in a good quality dessert (dark chocolate, a homemade cookie, nut butter on toast with cinnamon). Which leads me to my final rule…
- Listen to my body. I trust it enough that if I am truly craving a certain food, that I should eat it. Restriction has never, ever benefited me.
Have you read the list? Good. Now what I want you to do is FORGET IT. I am asking you not to follow my rules, my diet, or my guidelines.
I realize that this request makes my job as a health blogger irrelevant. But I’m okay with that. Instead, I challenge you to question my rules, look into my claims, and make your own. I promise you’ll be so much happier if you figure it out for yourself. And if I get one person to do that, then I know I have helped.
Do you have any rules that work for you? Do you agree or disagree with any of mine? Bring it on! I want to hear what you have to say. Please comment below.