If you are reading this column, I assume that you would like to eat in a healthier way. Perhaps you would like to lose some weight. I was talking to someone recently who said she lost over 20 pounds four years ago. When I asked her why, she said that she turned 55 and did not like how she looked. Now four years later she has gained all of that weight back and then some more. She is not unique. Studies show that between one-third and two-thirds of people who diet regain most of the lost weight within five years. But many keep off the weight they have lost.
There are other people, including myself, who improve eating habits for reasons other than weight loss. When I found out I was sensitive to gluten nine years ago, I gladly gave it up in order to feel better. But I did not stop there. I began investigating food and nutrition and found out about the power of the foods to hurt or to heal.
So I began to eat more of the foods that are healing and to teach others about healthy foods, too.
But it is hard
Everything in our society is set up for us to fail at healthy eating. Fast, easy, unhealthy food is everywhere. We are encouraged to be busy and cooking takes time. Most of the “healthy” food really isn’t, such as Lean Cuisine or Weight Watchers frozen meals. With all of this negative pressure, how can you change your habits permanently?
Find your “bigger why”
What are the reasons that you want to change? These reasons almost always need to be bigger and more important than just looking good or fitting into a smaller size dress. Try and identify your driving purpose and write it down in a concise statement.
As a Christian, the Westminster Shorter Catechism gives me a summary of my major life purpose, which is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” The body God has given me houses the Holy Spirit and is the temple through which I worship and glorify God. If I am knowingly doing things that are unhealthy for my body, then it is as if I am purposely dishonoring God. I want to be able to live a long, productive life and continue to be of service to my family and community.
Find a positive role model
My grandmother, Mary Usher, gave me the model of how I want to live my life. “Nano” was one of 10 children born on a farm near Durham, North Carolina. She lived a productive and happy life until she was 96. At the time of her death she did not have to take any regular prescription medications, had very clear mental functioning and her only physical problem was macular degeneration, which began in her late 80s. She spent her life eating healthy whole foods and moving regularly. Nano especially enjoyed working in her garden growing roses and tomatoes. She served her family, church and community throughout her life and was driving until the age of 89.
Genetic propensities and health
When a baby is born, people try to determine whom the baby looks like. One person will see similarities to the mother and her family and others will see the father and his family. We also inherit genetic tendencies for heath status from our families. Nine of the ten children in my grandmother’s generation lived until their 70’s or older. At one point my grandmother and her four closest siblings were all in their 80’s or 90’s. My father lived until he was 89 and my mother is currently 88.
I have a genetic propensity for long life. I also have some other genetic propensities for poor health. My paternal grandfather had diabetes, as did both my father and mother. I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with my son, so I know that I need to be careful about my blood sugar as I get older.
The good news is that our genes are not our destiny
I do not have to have the negative health consequences that both my mother and father faced. But I do have to be proactive about my health. I have a positive role model for healthy lifestyle practices from my grandmother. On the other hand, my mother gives me a picture of what happens when a healthy lifestyle is not adopted.
The majority of people living 100 years ago ate mostly organic whole foods. They also were physically active and – with no TV or other media – they generally also stayed more mentally active than today’s generation. As we commit to eating a whole foods diet, exercising on a daily basis and remaining mentally active, we all can mitigate any negative genetic tendencies.
Identify your “bigger why” and your role models
To reach your maximum health potential, I encourage you to find your “bigger why”. These reasons can help you keep going when the road is hard. In addition to having compelling reasons, it is also helpful to have role models for our actions. These may be members of your family, but they do not have to be. Anyone with positive characteristics can be chosen for your role model. Just keep in mind your genetic tendencies because if you have the body frame of a muscular athlete, you will be destined for failure if your role model looks like Twiggy!
If you need expert help to determine the diet and other lifestyle practices that you need to reach your maximum health, please give me a call. I offer a complimentary, 20-minute phone consultation to see if we would be a good fit.
Ginger Hudock is a holistic nutrition consultant in Aiken, SC. Her business, Nutrition with Ginger, helps clients discover the power of personalized, whole foods nutrition to prevent and heal from many chronic health concerns, especially food allergies and sensitivities. She is a graduate of the Nutrition Consultant Program at Hawthorn University and is also a Certified Gluten Practitioner. Prior to beginning her career in nutrition, Ginger was an educator and college administrator for thirty years, most recently as the Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance at USC Aiken. To sign up for nutrition consultation sessions or her newsletter and blog where she gives more nutrition news and recipes, visit Ginger’s website at www.NutritionwithGinger.net, or call 803-640-4381.