The foods that we eat are important, but why and how we eat them is even more important.
The pictures above couldn't be more different to the eye: the photo on the left was taken in Philadelphia, PA on a rainy day. It was past noon, I was wearing sweatpants, and my boyfriend, Mark, and I were enjoying soy lattes and giant cinnamon buns on wet benches at my favorite local coffee shop, Elixr. The photo on the right was taken in St. Petersburg, Florida on a very sunny, very warm day. We were on holiday, and it was early in the afternoon. I was wearing a new dress made out of Tencel (so soft and made from wood pulp!), and Mark and I were enjoying a completely raw, super healthy lunch at The Cider Press Cafe.
When you hear "health coach" or "wellness blog," you probably expect to see that photo on the right. Here's this girl, on holiday, eating a perfectly beautiful and crazy-healthy raw lunch, and oh yeah, she's wearing sustainable clothing. That can't be real. But, the thing is, wellness is all about intention, mindset, and love. I love eating nourishing foods that allow me to thrive and feel incredible. I also love cinnamon buns and lattes on a lazy morning. Ask yourself why you are eating the foods that you choose to eat, and how they make you feel before, during, and after eating them. If you feel confident in and happy with your choices after asking yourself those questions, you can bet you're making a good choice.
Wellness is about both of those photos. It's about tuning into the foods and the moments that bring us true joy. It's about eating mindfully and in a way that comes from a place of love. It's knowing when to say yes, and knowing when to say no.
A general "balance" benchmark to consider when choosing your food:
- 80-85% of the foods that you eat should be "healthy." These foods are your fuel. They should nourish you. They should be filled with goodness that fosters your "glow" from the inside out. These are the foods that make you feel amazing, energized, alert, light, and proud.
- 15-20% of the foods that you eat can be "not so healthy." We all have our vices (mine are chocolate, burritos, and mac & cheese), and quitting them forever would make us miserable. Why be miserable? That doesn't sound healthy. If you eat "healthy" most of the time, a treat now and then isn't going to set you off track. In fact, little treats here and there keep us on track because we don't feel deprived. Plus, when you eat healthy most of the time, those treats really become special moments that are worth enjoying, not feeling ashamed about.
Keep in mind, "healthy" and "not-so-healthy" foods will vary dependent upon what your goals are (are you looking to maintain, gain, or lose weight?) and who you are as an individual (male/female, activity level, age). How can you find your personal, perfect balance? Experiment. Eat with love: for yourself (mind, body, and soul), for others, and for the planet. Know that nobody can be their best self if he/she only eats kale salad and drinks green juices every day, just as nobody can be their best self choosing only to consume fried food and sugary drinks. You should love the food choices you make, every single time, whether for physical, emotional, and/or mental reasons.
Go back to the photos above: I smile every time I see that photo on the left. My dog, Harriet, was so funny the entire time that we were eating those cinnamon buns: she was dancing, jumping, and smiling as big as possible hoping to get a nice, big, gooey bite. Mark and I were laughing so hard we had tears running down our cheeks, and the time that we spent sitting there chatting in the rain was a sweet memory that I'll never forget. We talked about the day's plans and how soggy our sweatpants would be when we stood up. We sat there, slowly enjoying our treats, washing them down with the most perfect lattes (and a little rain water), and really savored every moment. We ate with joy. Now, imagine this all-too-real scenario: after a long, stressful day, it's raining. I'm tired, exhausted, and a little down on myself. Walking home I see that my favorite coffee shop is still open, so I stop in to warm up. I notice the cinnamon buns. I'm not even hungry, but I decide to "treat myself." As I order one, I jokingly make conversation about "being so bad." I decide to eat it on the way home, in the rain, so as to not receive judgement from onlookers in the coffeeshop. I take huge bites, essentially inhaling it, barely enjoying any of it. Then, before I get home, I ditch the bag "so it never happened," and feel bad about myself for giving into sugar for the rest of the night.
Jump to the photo on the right. When that photo was taken, Mark told me that he was "only taking a photo of the food", and made a funny joke so I would laugh. That is a real smile! That day was so much fun: we happened upon this restaurant before going to the Dali Museum and after getting iced coffees. The restaurant serves completely raw, vegan meals that fill you up with the freshest, most amazing local foods. While we could have eaten anywhere, we chose to go to a "healthy" restaurant to fuel us for the day. We planned on exploring the museum for a few hours, so we wanted to eat something that would fill us up, keep us full, and not weigh us down. Raw food is perfect for that. And, bonus, it ended up being one of my favorite meals of all time! We reminisce about that cafe often. Hey, Cider Press Cafe: open a location in Philadelphia, please! Now, imagine this different scenario: I'm on holiday in Florida, and don't love how I look in my bathing suit. I worry about "beach days" every day. I completed a juice cleanse in anticipation before the trip, but now I'm just exhausted and hungry. When looking for restaurants, I only seek out raw, vegan restaurants solely because they sound healthy to me. When ordering, I choose the lightest option available, opt to eat half, and even though they offer raw desserts (one of which happens to be my favorite, affogato [in the real scenario, I totally got one]), I stick with the half serving of food and a glass of water. I leave, still exhausted and hungry, which only depresses my mood more.
We've all been victims of stress eating, whether it be with "healthy" or "not so healthy" foods. I can think of countless times in my life when I binged on junk food or counted calories while on some new fad diet. Neither made me happy. What has made me truly happy has been in finding my personal balance of healthy and not-so-healthy foods, and in making food decisions that make me happy every single time. I love to drink green juices and I love to eat pizza. I know that drinking a green juice will nourish and energize me for the day ahead, which makes me happy. I know that having a slice or two of pizza with a few friends after a killer sweat session at Flywheel isn't going to kill me. Tune into your happiness and own it.
The photos above are all real and from my personal Instagram, and I couldn't love any of them more, from L to R:
- Garlicky Kale Salad & Minted Pea Soup from a new cookbook, Clean Green Eats, gifted to me by the author,
- Vegan Double Chocolate Cupcakes that one of my amazing riders (Emily!) made for another incredible rider (Marissa!) on her birthday! Not only did she make them vegan so everyone could have one, she made enough for the entire class! #FlyFam
- Greens & Grains Detox Salad for the day-after-Thanksgiving,
- My award-winning Po' Boy Sandwich with Deep Fried Avocados using Field Roast products.