Beware of Orthorexia

Orthorexia – a proposed distinct eating disorder characterized by extreme or excessive preoccupation / obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy.
The term is derived utilizing the Greek “orthos,” which means “right,” or “correct,” and is intended as a parallel with anorexia. It literally means “fixation on righteous eating.”

Even though it is not currently recognized as a clinical diagnosis, I have come across several people who fit the profile. I would like to bring awareness to it, because anything which interferes with your happiness, is not worth it. Yes, I strongly believe we should strive to eat as healthily as we can, but not obsess over it. Once it becomes an obsession, I believe it stops being healthy. Taking a holistic perspective: sure, your body is well nourished, but how about your mind? Are you happy and at peace or are you stressed about food?
Personally, I’m all for equilibrium!

I hope this post is useful for someone.

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Eating habits – how I lost 46kg

Most people assume I did some hardcore crash diet to lose as much weight as I did (46kg / 101lbs last time I checked).
People come up to me “oohh you’ve must have sacrificed 9e5f8eccc4c631a3eccdc51a504b9d4aa lot”, “I’m sure you had to keep your mouth shut”, “which weight loss supplement did you take?” (this last one is just plain offensive to me, tbh). Again, and again, I need to explain that I’m not, nor have I ever been, on a diet, I did not take ANY supplements. Instead, I corrected my eating habits for the long run. It was a painstakingly slow process, and I’m not done yet (and perhaps I’ll never be), but I “simply” made fundamental changes to what I eat, and started exercising.

Information / knowledge has been the driving force behind all the changes I’ve implemented. Learning and understandi11816300_1011699612203355_3103311428349738562_ong what certain “foods” do to your body and brain is, to me, one of the most empowering things. Once I started learning about nutrition I stopped falling prey, for example, to processed food claims of healthiness. I did not feel deprived because I didn’t eat that frozen pizza, I felt proud for making that choice for myself, but not because it “would make me fat”, rather because it would fuel inflammation, mess with my metabolism, drive blood sugar spikes, etc.

So, as many people have asked me, which were the major changes?
Keep in mind that I’m going on 2 years of this process, I did NOT introduce all these changes at once, nor quickly. I did it baby-step by baby-step, over several months, one change at a time. I changed with health rather than aesthetics in mind.

Major things I’ve removed:

  • Soft-drinks. It took me about 6 months to completely remove this from my life. You can read why on my post Soft drinks = ☠   I avoid fruit juices too, because they keep the sugar and lose the fibre of the fruit.
  • Pasta, white bread, and anything with refined flour in it. You can read why on my post Refined flour isn’t cool
  • Added sugar. To be totally honest I haven’t been able to completely remove it, but at this point the only thing I eat is dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa, which nevertheless has added sugar. You can read why on my Sugar = Drug of abuse Part 1 and Part 2
  • Pretty much all processed food: cookies, frozen meals, fast food, ice cream, pre-cooked meals, breakfast cereals, flavoured yoghurts, sausages and deli meats, chips, gelatins, salad dressings, etc. As a general rule of thumb, if it has an ingredient list I’m not eating it.

And then people look at me with that “what the hell do you eat??” face.

No, I don’t eat depressing salads and other preconceived ideas about healthy eating, I love food and cooking, and I create some pretty awesome tasting meals with the help of my bff: the Internet, which holds a humongous collective knowledge of recipes. Examples here, here, and here.

I eat real food, my friends 🙂
Protein, complex carbohydrates, real fat, fruits and vegetables.
5d849cf59097cdc1dab48dfe1192a3b3Eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, salmon, tofu, green peas, lentils, quinoa, all types of beans, chickpeas, oats, almost all types of nuts (some of them I don’t like the taste, meh, I’m picky), olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, mushrooms, cocoa powder (100%), several seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, chia, sesame; eggplant, collard, tomatoes, kale, sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, spinach, carrots, and pretty much all vegetables I can get my hands on; bananas, kiwis, oranges, pears, grapes, berries and pretty much all fruit I can get my hands on.
As for drinking: plenty of water, freshly brewed herbal tea and unsugared coffee.

Please take into account that at 1st… it was blergh, and there were a lot of setbacks, and that this doesn’t mean I don’t slip every now and then to some white chocolate covered almonds, or to a glistening orange pudding… Sugar is a hell of a drug, and I’m just human.
Correcting my eating habits was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life, but it was beyond worth it and I’ll never go back. The overall way you feel everyday when you put proper nutrition together with exercise is one amazing loop, believe me.

Sorry for the long post, here’s a final thought:

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Planning Fitness NY’s Resolutions?

Are you planning on making a fitness New Year’s Resolution? Then I have some advice for you.

Personally I’m anti sudden resolutions. But if that’s your thing, and you are looking forward to changing your life into a fitness lifestyle, here’s what my experience has taught me. I hope it helps you!

Knowledge is power. Look for reliable information online and always cross-check references. Don’t take any article/news piece at face value, research its contents.  Learn how your body deals with different foods. Learn what exercise does to your body and mind. In my experience, for example, knowing in greater detail what a cookie does to your body and brain will take you half way away from it.

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Take baby steps. Some people go for that “all or nothing approach”, but that doesn’t work for most of us. Humans are creatures of habit, and trying to change everything in one go can easily be overwhelming. For me it worked to focus on one small change at a time. Many tiny victories instead of one gigantic defeat.

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Be patient. Changes don’t happen quickly, they just don’t. Successfully introducing alterations to your behaviour takes time, and consequently so do changes to your body. If you are overweight, I’m sure you didn’t put the weight on overnight, so don’t expect it come off overnight either. It’s a process, and processes take time. Focus on the changes themselves, rather than on the results.

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Focus on health and progress. If you choose to focus on being healthy and on achieving a little bit more on each workout, the weight will kinda take care of itself. Spend your energy trying to achieve optimum nutrition to properly fuel your body, and on getting out of your comfort zone during your exercise routine, rather that on losing X pounds.Your body and mind will reward you: you will feel amazing. Trust me.

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Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand. As you may have heard: “you can’t outrun your fork”. If you are looking for a sustainable, long term lifestyle change take into account that nutrition and exercise are BFFs not to be separated. You can work your heart out, but if you go home and don’t mind what you put on your plate you won’t make much progress, fat loss wise. I started exercising first, but I noticed a great boom in my body volume loss once I started eating better, baby-step by baby-step.

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Be prepared for setbacks. The road from obese to healthy is a hard one. You can clearly see some obstacles coming, others not so much. You will make mistakes, believe me you will! Accept them as a part of the path, and most importantly learn from them so you won’t do them again, or at least you will see them coming next time.

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Look for a support group. I was fortunate enough to not have to look for it. The right people sort of gathered around me. I firmly believe I would never have come this far without them. Positive, encouraging, challenging, empathetic voices were, and still are, crucial to me. I feel like I owe them a great part of my progress for they believed in me even when I, myself, didn’t. They were understanding without being condescending, so they kept (and keep) challenging me to do more, to be more. So my advice would be to look for people like this in your life, they will help you a great deal.

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Do the work. It’s your body and yours alone. No one can do the work for you. Even the best personal trainer in the world won’t be able to help you if you don’t do the work. Correcting your eating habits, giving your all during your workouts, that’s your work to do. Others can only guide and motivate you. It will be hard, very hard, but brace yourself for it.

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And that’s about it for this post. If you browse through this blog you will find several posts in which I talk about the several pieces of advice I have shared above.

One final thought:

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Now, why should you listen to me?
Well, I started changing my life in April 2014 and the last time I weighed myself – in October 2015- I had lost 46kg. Most importantly, the last time I measured – in July 2015 – I had lost 24% body fat ( I will measure everything again in February or March).
So I consider myself successful in my – forever ongoing- journey towards health. That’s why 😉

Yes, I eat fat

Following the principle that “a calorie is not a calorie”, I include healthy fats in my eating habits. Contrary to what the media, the food industry and even several doctors advocate, fat is good for you on so many levels. Just not the saturated/chemically processed kind. When I say “fat” I mean the real, the natural, kind: avocados, nuts, olive oil…

Since I started this process I have aimed for optimum nutrition. Unfortunately, aiming at something, doesn’t mean achieving it, but I strive for it and constantly look for new information with that in mind.

Of the several articles I have read this is probably my favourite one because it includes a lot of information (yes, it’s quite long, but worth reading):

Choosing Healthy Fats – Good Fats, Bad Fats, and the Power of Omega-3s

If you prefer something shorter, here’s this quick overview:

Five Reasons a Healthy Fat Diet is Good for You

And ever shorter, these 6 bullet points:

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I still strongly believe that information is key in changing anyone’s mindset. Information is power, use it.

Recipe x3 (part 3)

So, I’ve come across another couple of recipes which really come in handy. They are super quick to make, not too complicated on the ingredients and taste amazingly. I’ve done them over, and over, and over

035b8dc2a8b084d9e97359fdf236cc43Baked Eggs on a Bed of Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
This feels fresh, but it’s still super comforting. I cook 2 eggs per person, and have tried adding spinach with great results! For me, toasted bread is a must with this recipe, that liquid at the bottom of the tray just begs for it.

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One Pan Mexican Quinoa
It’s a one pan dish so you know it’s super practical. Since I don’t like spicy food, instead of the jalapeño, I use red bell pepper. It still adds that “something”, but without burning in your mouth.

2Oats, banana and cocoa cake (flourless, sugarless)
Ok, this one is from a Portuguese website, so here’s the recipe:
Ingredients for 1 small cake: 1 banana; 1 egg;  2 soup spoons of old school oats; 1 tea spoon 100% cocoa powder; 1 pinch of cinnamon; 1 pinch of baking powder. Instructions: break the banana into medium pieces into a bowl and heat it in the microwave for 1 minute. Remove. Add the remaining ingredients and with a food processor (any processor will do) mix everything. Into the microwave it goes again for 1 1/2 minute. Tah dah! It will be spongy and moist and awesome.

Enjoy!

Recipes Part 1 here
Recipes Part 2 here

Guy gives up added sugar for 1 month

Dutch TV producer LifeHunters recently created a short film (6m35s) with the highlights of an experiment where a man completely gives up added sugar,  artificial additives, and alcohol for a month.

I believe this crash approach is too extreme and completely unsustainable, but since it was just an experiment, sure, why not?

I have heard the expression “toxic environment” several times, and one of the things I like about this film is that it showcases how difficult it can be to “stay the course” when everything around you is set up to lead you into consuming food-like products, and that includes your friends. Saying one “just needs will power” is a gross understatement, and this video sort of touches that subject.
You also get a glimpse into the emotional hardship everyone should expect when first giving up sugar (even me, who took the baby-steps approach felt it). But it wears off, and afterwards you realize how much better you feel, and how the struggle was worth it.

Here’s the video, it’s short, enjoy:

Less sugar = better everything

I came across this article and even though I haven’t been able to completely give up added sugar yet (chocolate… my Achilles heel) I have SIGNIFICANTLY reduced its intake. Even without entirely removing added sugar, I can tell you I have experienced all 5 things, and there are many, many, more which aren’t listed here. Click on the link to read the article.

5 Things That Happen When You Quit Eating Sugar

Ps: Number 4 has become powerfully true for me: “Fruits will taste plenty sweet, and if you do take a bite of a cake or pie, you’ll be shocked at how overpowering and overly sweet it seems.”

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Why I opted out of rice

First of all: allow me to restate that I’m on a journey towards health, not towards any weight loss goal. In this process, via baby-steps, I have introduced many – MANY – changes in my eating habits.

At about the same time I started withdrawing pasta from my eating habits (you can read about that in my Refined Flour Isn’t Cool post), I also began removing rice consumption. Why?
The more information I collect, the more sure I am that I want to eat food that has been as little tampered with as possible. And now you say “heelloooo? Rice is a cereal! It’s natural food.” And you are not entirely wrong. However, the rice that we get at the supermarket has been refined and, often, bleached.

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“It’s refined, so what?” Well, the bran is usually where most nutrients and fibre are located, and we are removing it. Also white rice has a higher glycemic index (if you haven’t yet, I suggest you do some research on glycemic index, blood glucose levels and how our bodies respond to it). Also, in 2010, Harvard researchers associated white rice with a higher risk of diabetes. Here’s that article:

White Rice, Brown Rice, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women

I found a lot of contradicting stances about rice. A lot of people stand by white rice as perfectly healthy, others look at it as a health hazard. The exact same bipolarism applies to brown rice, as many people defend that the bran layer contains more phytic acid – which prevents nutrient absorption – , can contain arsenic, and can be harder to digest. To be fair, here’s also a post in favour of white rice:

Why I started to eat white rice

Personally, I am more prone to stand for brown rice. BUT it takes a lot longer to cook than white rice, so I have ended up pretty much removing rice from my eating habits. Obviously if I’m at a restaurant or at someone’s home, I’ll gladly eat rice, but on my daily routine I’m perfectly happy with my beans, collard, sweet potatoes, broccoli, chickpeas, carrots, pumpkin, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc etc etc. as side dish.

Lastly, I want to say that I’m a firm believer that everyone should come to their own decisions about which nutritional habits are best for them.

Best drink EVAH

Several studies have shown that most of us simply do not drink enough water to stay hydrated. Water is the best drink you can have and when our body doesn’t get enough of it, it has to manage what is available and impair certain functions to make the supply go round. This means chronic dehydration affects us in a multitude of ways.

After looking for information on the subject, I realized I clearly (used to) fit the symptoms of chronic dehydration, but before I read about it I had no idea that what I felt were consequences of the lack of water in my body. As I’ve already shared, giving up soft drinks was a real struggle, but a successful one, and I’m not a fan of alcohol either so (for a couple of months now) the only thing I drink is water, plenty of it, and sometimes freshly brewed herbal tea. I am happy to share that this was quite possibly the change which had the strongest impact on my overall well-being.

I won’t say much more because there’s plenty to read on the article below about the body’s many cries for water. Trust me: you’ll be surprised. And no, your body doesn’t deed fluids, it needs water.

12 Symptoms of Chronic Dehydration

And you should also check out the complete version of the infographic below.

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