Managing general health is a topic I am very passionate about, it often ends up being the dominant conversation in my day to day chats with people. Looking after yourself first is the ultimate form of self love, yet so many of us are completely unaware of how to do so. Too often I hear about people who hate exercise, can’t find the time to take care of themselves, can’t find healthy options, and try fad diets or exercise in the hopes that it will work. The reality is that long term health is not a quick fix, it takes years of mistakes and learning curves until we find what works for us and some balance and ease.
FOOD AND BALANCE
Let us first take a look at an eating rule that can drastically change the way you interact with your food. The rule is called 80:20, this means aiming to get your diet to look like 80% whole foods (vegetables, fruit, low processed foods, grains, beans, proteins etc), and 20% fun foods such as donuts, sweets, granola bars, candy, chips or anything that essentially comes in a packet or box. What this rule encourages us to do is fill ourselves up with nutritious foods that fuel the body, and leave some room to fill the cravings and psychologically build a healthier relationship to our meals. Take away labels such as “good” and “bad”, anything can be a bad food if you eat too much of it, so the term is irrelevant anyway. Instead, try filling your shopping trolley with foods that contain 1-3 ingredients, this is usually a good way to get more “whole” foods in your diet, and take away the more processed ones.
Whilst on the topic of food, it is important for us to develop not only a healthy relationship with it, but to understand what foods work well for our bodies. Not all bodies like the same foods, and usually our bodies are pretty fantastic at telling us when they’re not enjoying something. If you experience any of the following: Diarrhea, nausea, bloating, excessive gas, vomiting, headaches, fatigue or change in bowel habits after consuming a certain food, this is often a good sign your body A) doesn’t like this food at all or B) just wants to enjoy it in smaller quantities. Before making any quick decisions, make sure you take note of any changed habits and see if the pattern is reoccurring at all. There are of course, some exceptions to this such as coffee or other caffeinated beverages, these should be consumed in moderation. Whilst I do not promote to adhering to any form of “Diet” I do use this as a rough guideline to keep myself accountable when I have days/weeks a bit off par. At the end of the day, you need to find what is sustainable long term and that you can easily adjust for any goals you may have of fat loss or muscle gain.
To put things in perspective, I haven’t tracked or “dieted” for almost 2 years now, and I am more comfortable with my food control, physique and psychological relationship with food. I just try my best to hit a 70-80% target of non processed foods and adequate protein. My relaxed relationship means I am experiencing less stress flares, I know my trigger foods well and therefore my bowels are mostly happy, and I have the energy to support my lifestyle.
MOVEMENT AND BODY KNOWLEDGE
Movement is the simplest form of connecting to the body, this is why I enjoy blending mindfulness and breath into my classes and practice. When you move, you can see and feel muscles contracting, relaxing and extending. This sensation allows us to connect to these muscles and have greater control over them. Four years ago, if asked me to flex my Rear (Posterior) Deltoid (highlighted in red), I would have looked at you like a crazy person. Now, it is a natural reaction and I can actively communicate to that muscle to contract at will. Being more connected to the body allows anyone to self identify and remedy small injuries. When you know the origin and insertion point of a muscle, it is relatively easy to figure out it’s function and how we can stretch/ manipulate it. The Rear Deltoid originates at the Scapular (closer to the spine) and inserts at the Humerus (top of the arm) as seen on either end of the red highlight in Fig 1.
The Rear Deltoids function (in simple terms) is to bring the arm backwards (known as transverse extension). So to contract this muscle, we need to shorten it, therefore spreading the arms out to your sides (like the right arm in fig 1) in line with the shoulder, and pulling them backwards. Of course other muscles play a function in this movement (as will all movements) but this will connect you mostly to the Rear Deltoid. This motion shortens the distance between the origin and insertion points, the muscle has to contract for this to happen. To then extend the muscle, we use the opposite action – bringing the arms in front of your until the fingertips touch. Pushing the hands together and reaching forward with the arms will deepen the stretch.
If you just completed the actions described above, take a moment to appreciate the detail in which you connected to the upper body. You were likely extremely present, and mostly focused on the connection you were making to the Rear Deltoid. If you are interested in exploring muscles in the body, this website has some useful pictures and descriptions to help you familiarize yourself. I believe it is a basic right to be connected with the body, you should absolutely not need a Physiotherapist to solve basic aches and pains (such as sore upper back from poor posture) which could be addressed with simple movement and exercise. It is a misuse of your own money and places strain on Physios to see people who need professional rehabilitative help. People like me can help you address smaller problems like poor posture, poor movement habits and small/very light strains with body and mobility education. My classes are designed to teach the muscles you are working, how to strengthen, stretch and mobilize them in a healthy way with longevity in mind.
BALANCE AND LONGEVITY
The absolute best way to find consistency in your nutrition, diet, exercise or in any habit in life, is to make it enjoyable and sustainable. This way you’re much more likely to complete these things on days when motivation is low. Motivation can be both excellent and dangerous – this is why we often see people drastically lose weight (because they are motivated by a physique goal) and then fall off the wagon and regain the weight. The behaviours they used to obtain the goal were restrictive, unsustainable and were fueled by motivation. Long term, healthy, sustainable behaviours may take longer to form and longer to see results, but, they will also stick for long term, if not for life.
A great example is the current pandemic, I have barely touched a weights set, let alone a gym over the last 12 months. However, my 6+ years of dancing and weightlifting coupled with good eating and movement behaviours mean that my physique has suffered very little loss. Sure, I’m not holding as much muscle as I usually would, but by no means am I upset or disappointed with the way my body is coping. The long journey to learning a sustainable lifestyle means my body is happy to stay in a very stable state and I can still enjoy the foods and indulgences I want to.
I hope this small blog provided you with some value. If you enjoyed this read, please hit the subscribe button to be notified when more blog content is released. If you are interested in Mindful Movement classes or any Mobility training, please contact me or check out the rest of my webiste.
Hernandez M (2017) 80/20 Diet Efficacy in Regard to Physiology and Psycho-social Factors. J Obesity Weight Loss Therapy 7: 357. doi: 10.4172/2165-7904.1000357