The Connection Between Nutrition and Self-Love
“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me"
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
An important step on the way to attaining your desired state of self-love and sustained happiness is learning to develop, control and transmit that developing happiness through eating the right things. This is not merely about losing weight, it’s about eating the things you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you do want to lose weight, the following few blogs will put you well on your way to your coveted physical state.
Nutrition and healthy eating have not always been a subject close to my heart. In fact, before learning to love myself, I happily ate anything and everything that came into my path. They say the body is a temple, which most certainly was not the case for me, unless, of course there are temples dedicated to kebabs, chips and copious amounts of cheap booze.
I didn’t like being tubby but the allure of a pasty and a pint of cider far outweighed my drive to stay in shape. When I tell people now that I used to be fairly overweight, it is often met with sheer disbelief, now that I have an entirely godlike physique...well, okay, it might not be quite that good, but then that’s never been what I was aiming for. I am now fit and healthy and no longer feel ashamed of my body. I’m 6’2” and I think I now weigh about 13 stone, depending on my mood. Back at university, however, in my chunky days, I remember hitting 17.5 stone, which gave me a BMI around the 31 mark, up in the obese range. I was fat and I hated myself. I thought I hated myself because I was fat but I now know that the eating and drinking were just ways for me to forget about deeper underlying problems. I’ll tell you more about these later and how they had elevated my weight to catastrophic (in my eyes) proportions. I was living in a vicious circle of self-hate and eating.
As you can read in the Addiction: Understanding Its Variety and Roots blog that I wrote (focusing on addictions), certain ‘enjoyable’ activities release the naturally occurring neurotransmitter, dopamine, into your brain, which in turn makes you feel calm and good about yourself. I certainly wasn’t addicted, but I came to trust in the feel-good sensations I received from eating too much food, to cover up my awareness of all the other things I felt were wrong with my life. The simple result was that I put on an unnecessary amount of weight, which only made me more unhappy.
I did find a way to temporarily lose the flab every so often, by taking part in endurance races like marathons and quadrathlons (swimming, running, cycling and kayaking). I would get myself into a routine of hardcore training, which had the bonus effect of suppressing my appetite for kebabs and burgers, allowing me to slim down to a normal weight. As soon as whichever event had passed, though, I always regained my former weight and reverted back to my slovenly ways.
If there wasn’t an impending endurance race to take part in, I occasionally fought the bulge with a variety of fad diets. The majority worked in the short term; I lost weight fast but as soon as I got bored of eating paper and feeling pretty shit about myself due to lack of nutrition, I always found my way back to the greasy kebabs.
The media likes to stress that you can only achieve your desired weight through healthy eating and exercise. It’s true that staying fit is a way of not only keeping your body healthy but your mind, as well. Exercise is another generator of dopamine and serotonin, the latter of which reduces depressive tendencies. But I could write a whole other book on exercise and its positive effects. What I am interested in here is this. Delve into that media proclamation a little more closely and you will find that your weight is controlled by what you put into your mouth, and when. Exercise helps to speed things up when it comes to weight loss but only if you’re eating the correct foods. What I didn’t know back in my heavy eating and heavy exercise days (and what I have discovered through researching for this blog), is that the food you decide to eat is of fundamental importance to your general wellbeing. So I urge you to emphatically take control of what you eat.
As was discussed in the blog on self love, if you wouldn’t treat a child the way you treat yourself, then you’re doing something wrong. I am fairly certain that I would be had up for child cruelty if I fed my kids kebabs, chips, pizzas and beer every night, so I needed to stop doing it to myself.
Many years ago, my older sister, Bex, married a charming Australian chap called Greg. I don’t want to praise him too much (he is an Aussie, after all) but he is an incredible asset to our family and much loved. Although he is fanatical about watching inane sports on the television, he is also an incredible cook and passionate about nutrition and the scientific evidence that promotes wellness through food. I can remember one particular evening many years ago, having supper at Bex and Greg’s, cooked by his own fair hand. It was only something very simple, chicken thighs with sweet potato, carrots and spinach, but it was lovely. I did what I always did and removed the delicious crunchy, brown, crackled chicken skin from the flesh, placing it at the side of my plate. Nothing wrong with that. Lots of people do it. Greg, however, after devouring his, questioned why I had done such an absurd thing. I instantly told him that I didn’t actually want to be fat and that he should be careful of what he eats. The ensuing conversation was the impetus for my now very, and rightfully so, strong views on nutrition and wellness. I always eat the skin now, it's the best bit. Anyway, I developed a massive interest in this topic. Coupled with my burgeoning desire to love myself, I discovered that the two – what you eat and how you feel about yourself – run hand in hand with each other.
Back when I lived in London, the year that I was introduced to meditation, mindfulness and everything that accompanies it, although I may not have been willing to risk cycling the streets of London for fitness, I had another trick up my sleeve: my newly found desire to cultivate, nurture, love and care for myself. I could have joined a gym and carried on my cycling on a static bike but I was cash-strapped and I have never been able to get any enjoyment from sitting in a gym with lots of other sweaty, groaning, panting people. I was learning to love myself, not spectate and compete against a bunch of fitness fanatics. I was doing it for me and I was actually starting to enjoy being around myself, all alone, for the first time in many years.
To keep fit, I walked everywhere – and I mean everywhere. Not only was it a good way to fight the bulge, it also saved a lot of money and cultivated my geographical awareness of my new city. I may have turned up to the odd dinner party in a muck sweat (I walk hard and fast) but that was a small price to pay for being lean and clear-headed.
Although I could (and they can offer temporary results for some people), I’m not going to suggest a fad diet for you to follow, because they don’t work. None of them do. I tried many in my fatty days and although some of them shed the excess weight in short spaces of time, they were quite frankly unhealthy things to frequent and impossible to continue for more than a few months. Every single fad diet I have come across either limits certain foods or prompts you to ingest unhealthy amounts of one particular fruit or vegetable or grain or whatever substance over which the media is going berserk at the time. But none of them work for life; they’re not designed for that. Have you ever met anybody who used to be fat but has managed to keep the weight off by following the same fad diet they started twenty-odd years ago? I know you haven’t, because no one ever has. If they had, it would have made the headline in every country and there would no longer be any fat people in the world. Sadly, there are hundreds of millions of overweight people and they, like the population, keep growing. The current inhabitants of the planet (minus a few tribes and countries that are at war or fighting famine) are the unhealthiest and fattest we have ever been and if we continue to grow at this current rate, who knows – the Earth might implode under our weight.
There are many people who have, at some point, been clinically obese but have since managed to lose the excess weight and live long, happy lives. They didn’t do this through following some fad diet. They did it through perseverance, will power and, most importantly, observing the right things to eat at the right times.
Now that I have given you a small introduction to how I got into nutrition and wellness, the remainder of my blogs on this subject will be devoted to teaching you the most fundamental approach to a healthy lifestyle, wellness and exceptional nutrition.
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