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why wellness?

We live in a culture where everyone wants to know about the newest diet trends. What’s hot, what’s new, who’s eating what; which diet they should be on. “Should I be on Keto, become vegan, only eat Paleo?” And so on, and on.  We get lost in a bubble of trends, and in our own desire to make changes that will make us “healthier.” We constantly need to find a new box to put ourselves in. Sound familiar?

I often wonder if our need to label our way of eating has anything to do with our lack of direction to our ultimate goal of wellness, often confused with health. Could it be that we are so focused on being healthy, we are unaware of what the difference between health and wellness is?

It’s not uncommon to hear the words health and wellness used interchangeably. Although they are related, there are significant differences between them. While health focuses more on diseases, genetics, and illness (and, hopefully, the lack of health problems!), the concept of wellness is focused on digging into all areas of your life to continuously seek balance. 

Wellness is an active concept – a journey. There is no set destination, rather a limitless journey related to living a healthy lifestyle and achieving your full potential everyday. This, I believe will ultimately reveal itself in fitness AND nutrition.

Additionally, wellness looks at an entire person. In my nutrition practice, I incorporate the external, internal and the other significant layers of a person. I recognize that all the layers will not be in perfect balance. Supporting my clients to better understand their bodies and their environment- while creating a space- to help them get to the root cause of their challenges is the journey.  In order to support someone wholly I cannot just look at one piece of them. Much like not being able to look at someone’s weight and the food they eat while not also looking at their environment, over all body function and underlying conditions, for example. 

So what does this all have to do with nutrition and our choice of diet? First, since wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy fulfilling life, it is wellness that we all seek, not health. Subsequently, since it’s a  dynamic process of change and growth, and because what and how we eat feeds so many core values of how we feel about ourselves, our constant need to find a box to fit ourselves in is a natural desire.

I’ve been there. There was a time I was driven by the goal of what I believed to be healthy. I ran marathons, ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted (jumping from one trend to another) and for the most part managed to shy away from sickness. Until, I didn’t. I suppose you could say I wasn’t ever really “healthy” – always dealing with underlying digestion and immune issues. It wasn’t until I really started to focus on my body, and how it pertained to nutrition- how and what I ate, that I managed to feel well. Our well being directly affects our actions and emotions – in this case how we eat and fuel our bodies, and vice versa, it’s an on going cycle.

So, how do we get wellness to be the lifeline of our existence through nutrition?

It all starts with awareness. It starts with setting goals. It starts with shifting your thinking. It starts with YOU. And I am here to help you get there.

Let me offer: we are what we eat. Literally. But that doesn’t mean we can all eat the same way and get the same result. Our bodies are not all the same. Genetics play a significant role. Know thy self.  Maintaining an optimal level of awareness and educating oneself is absolutely crucial in optimizing wellness through nutrition.

I know it’s easy to get confused when it comes to nutrition. Even qualified experts often hold opposing opinions. Yet, despite disagreements, a number of wellness tips are well supported by research.

In the simplest of terms: Wellness by way of Nutrition looks like this:

1. Eliminate sugar

    Refined sugar is EVIL. It is one of the worst ingredients in the modern diet. High sugar intake is linked to numerous ailments, including obesity. Additionally, don’t drink your calories in sugar. Drinks loaded with sugar are among the most inflammatory items you can put into your body.   Notice to self: Some “fruit juices” contain same or more sugar than their evil counterparts.

    2. Eat nuts

      Despite their fat content, nuts are incredibly nutritious. They’re loaded with magnesium, vitamin E, fibre, and various other nutrients. Studies show that nuts can help you lose weight, reduce inflammation, regulate blood sugar, and keep you full for longer periods of time all while boosting your metabolism.

      3. Eat real food

      Avoid processed food; It is incredibly inflammatory. These foods have been engineered to trigger your pleasure centers by simulating your taste buds. Tricking your brain into overeating and initiating those dreadful cravings. Additionally, they’re usually low in fiber, protein, and micronutrients. Not to mention being high in unhealthy ingredients like added sugar and refined grains – providing mostly empty calories.

      4. Get enough sleep

      The importance of getting enough quality sleep cannot be overstated. Poor sleep can drive insulin resistance, disrupt your appetite hormones, and reduce your physical and mental performance. Moreover, poor sleep is one of the strongest individual risk factors for weight gain, or lack of weight loss.

      5. Take care of your gut health – consume probiotics!

      The bacteria in your gut, collectively called the gut microbiom are incredibly important for digestion and overall health. The lack of good gut bacteria is linked to some of the world’s most serious chronic diseases. Improve your gut health by eating probiotic foods like yogurt and sauerkraut and taking a good quality probiotic supplement.

      6. Drink water, and lots of it

      Keeping hydrated is crucial for our well-being - our digestive system depends on it. The bowel needs water to function effectively. Dehydration can lead to digestive problems including constipation, and an overly acidic stomach. Whats more, it flushes out toxins and body waste. Additionally, some scientists have stated that consuming more water might enhance performance during strenuous activity. Going further to state that dehydration reduces performance in activities longer than 30 minutes.

      7. Eat more fruits and vegetables

      Fruits and vegetables are loaded with minerals, fibre and vitamins. They also contain many magical antioxidants, some of which have potent biological effects.

      8. Consume enough protein.

      Eating enough protein is vital for optimizing our wellbeing. This nutrient is particularly important for weight loss. Increased protein intake can boost metabolism significantly while keeping you satiated. Noteworthy: reducing cravings and your desire to snack!

      9. Incorporate fitness and lift heavy things

      Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical wellbeing, period. Lifting weights will help build strength and improve your overall body composition. Significantly, also leading to massive improvements in metabolic health and sleep.

      10. Limit refined carbs

      Not all carbs are created equal. Refined carbs such as: white breads, pastas and pastries have been highly processed to remove their fibre, making them relatively low in nutrients.With little to no nutritional value.

      11. Avoid artificial trans fats

      Artificial trans fats are harmful, man-made fats that can be directly linked to inflammation in the body. Stay away from those potato chips, fried foods and the margarine.

      12. Use herbs and spices

      Many incredibly powerful herbs and spices exist. Turmeric for example has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, while cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels.

      13. Nourish your relationships

      Social relationships are incredibly important not only for your mental well-being but also physical.

      14. Eat eggs with yolks

      Eggs are one of the planets most nutritious foods. Its a myth that eggs are bad because of their cholesterol content. Studies show they have no effect on blood cholesterol in the majority of people. Notably, the yolk contains almost all of the healthy compounds.

      15. Track your food intake

      The only way to know exactly how many calories you eat is to weigh your food and use a nutrition tracker. Its also essential to make sure that youre getting enough macro and micronutrients. Studies reveal that people who track their food intake tend to be more successful at losing weight and sticking to a healthy diet.

      In conclusion, you don’t need to fit yourself in any box to find direction, meet your goals or ultimately to be on your wellness journey. Diets and trends are notoriously ineffective and rarely work long term.  Instead, try adopting the tips above. Focus on nourishing your body instead of depriving it. Taking simple steps with your nutrition can go a long way toward improving your journey to wellness.

      Sabrina Virdee CPT, RHN 
      @sabrinavirdee