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Smart, Healthy, Motivated: Overcoming Southern Stigmas

Cashan McCoy, Managing Editor

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With spring break, prom, and summer approaching, students are scrambling looking for ways to get in the best shape possible. Many people think when they transition into a healthy lifestyle they have to give up their favorite foods and eat salad for every meal. Thoughts of broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower turn people away from changing their diet. However, there’s more to a healthy diet than eating boring vegetables and lettuce.

So many aspects depend on what you’re eating: your weight, skin, energy levels, thinking, and overall health. If you’re eating greasy, processed foods, you won’t only struggle trying to accomplish your “dream body” you’ll also prevent your health from being superb.

Fad Diets

In recent years, as health and fitness has come into the spotlight, people have hopped onto unhealthy trends and misleading fad diets, thinking that these were the ways to look like the health stars they see on tv and in magazines. Calorie-counting, high-protein, keto, low-fat/low-carb, detoxing, and dairy free diets have taken over the minds of people who want to be healthier and are leading them deeper down the unhealthy path.

Fad-diets make claims like “LOSE WEIGHT FAST,” “GET IN THE BEST SHAPE OF YOUR LIFE IN 10 DAYS,” or “LOSE 10 POUNDS IN 10 DAYS.” People see these claims and believe these crazy diets are an easy fix to all their weight-loss wishes. Although you may lose those “10 pounds,” you won’t lose it without gaining it back. According to Wikipedia, a fad is “a trend, developed within a culture, that achieves short-lived popularity but fades away.” If you want to stay in shape, you have to make changes that don’t “fade away.”

So, if these don’t work, what will?

You Are What You Eat

A lot of the popular fad diets cut down calories quickly and cut out certain food groups. No bread, no fats, and barely any calories seem to be the holy grail of weight loss, due to the false advertisement of what works for your body.

Carbohydrates, fats, protein, and the correct number of calories, are necessary for the body to properly function. Cutting out foods with high content of these components can be detrimental to a person’s long-term health.

It is important to eat the healthiest sources of these macronutrients instead of just cutting them out of your diet completely. For example, a popular belief is that bread is bad for you, and you shouldn’t eat it. However, what is more significant is the type of bread that you eat. Instead of refined white bread, you can choose whole grain or wheat options, which are much better for your body because it’s easier for your body to break it down.

The kinds of food you put on your plate should reflect how you want your body to look. Including fibrous carbs to aid in digestion, natural sources of protein to support growth, and nutrient-dense fats to store energy in your meals assures a healthy body.

Not a Diet

Eating healthy, as in eating macronutrients and micronutrients that your body needs, isn’t a “diet,” it’s a lifestyle.

However, eating nutritious food 100% of the time isn’t necessary to be healthy, and sometimes only eating these foods 24/7 can eventually deter mental health. When transitioning into, and living a healthier lifestyle, balance is extremely important. Those comfort foods that you don’t want to give up don’t have to disappear out of your diet.

For example, a healthy technique of balance is an 80/20 diet. In other words, 80% of the day, week, or month, you eat those nutritious foods, and the remaining 20% you allow yourself to have the treats you love. This eating pattern keeps your favorite foods in your diet, without splurging on them, which is actually scientifically proven to aid in weight loss, keep you motivated, and assure you that being healthy is something you can maintain for life.

Unhealthy “Health” Foods

The food industry has taken advantage of people who want to improve their health and label foods as “healthy,” when in reality, they’ll eventually take your healthy journey two steps back. The food industry feeds off “no fat,” “low carb,” and “gluten free” fad diets and recreates people’s guilty pleasures with man-made chemicals, just to knock the calories down.

The way to get healthy is to eat REAL foods that have little to no process. These chemical-made foods eliminate food groups your body needs and put additives in your body that deplete nutrients your body has.

Transitioning into a Healthy Diet

Transitioning into a healthy diet doesn’t mean you have to eat whole foods 100% of the time for the rest of your life. Here are some tips to help:

  1. Slowly remove processed parts of your meals with whole foods (Take out Kraft macaroni and cheese and replace it with red potatoes.)
  2. Treat yourself – have a cheat meal once or twice a week and indulge in your favorite foods.
  3. Don’t just pay attention to calories. Foods like avocados and almonds contain a lot of calories, but they contain healthy fats and are key to being healthier. Whereas a low-calorie cereal or salad dressings is all processed and contain a lot of chemicals.
  4. Find an eating pattern that makes you happy. If you hate salad and broccoli, don’t eat it just to be healthier! Find ways to make foods you love in a healthier way, such as cauliflower pizza or lentil pasta. Add spices to make boring food tastier.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Remember a quick fix, like a fad diet, is only temporary. Getting healthier is a lifestyle change, not a diet. Once you change what you’re putting into your body, you’ll see a change in the mirror, a change in your energy, and a change in your mindset. Allow yourself to mess up sometimes and forgive yourself when you do. A healthy relationship with food helps you keep a healthy mind, allowing you to make the best choices for a healthier body.

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Smart, Healthy, Motivated: Overcoming Southern Stigmas