Healthy Living

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Nutrition and healthy living have become popular and occasionally controversial topics in today's culture.  Weight Watcher's ads decorate our internet browsers, guides to healthy living cover our cereal boxes, the city of New York banned soft drinks larger than 16 ounces to help residents fight obesity (though the ban was later ruled unconstitutional), and the USDA regularly provides us with food pyramids (The First Lady's new design is MyPlate).  As if this were not enough, the ongoing debate on the perfect foods and the perfect weight fills our news feeds and magazines.  And just to make sure we never forget about healthy eating, a faithful friend or relative is there to give us a gentle reminder.

With so many warnings about the unfavorable effects of unwholesome foods and so much dietary information at our fingertips, why do many people still suffer from myriad of nutritional problems?

The United States' obesity rate is over 30%, and many of those not effected by obesity suffer from other dietary-related ailments such as diabetes and osteoporosis. Additionally, there are many who, although they do not have any serious problems, live unhealthy lifestyles which may lead to difficulties later in life.  

The answer is not a simple one.  However, in many cases (though not all), problems can be traced to a lack of time, money, and/or willpower.  These, perhaps three of the most common impediments, will be discussed here, leaving other, more serious, problems to other writers.

Time & Money
President Bill Clinton, now a vegan, was once famous for his predilection for junk food.  During his White House years, the White House cooking staff was given orders to lighten up his meals.  One day, the First Lady noticed a dish of fettuccine alfredo on the table and called in the chef because cream and cheese were not allowed for the President.  The chef explained that the "cream" was actually pureed rice, and the "Parmesan cheese" was nut or rice-milk cheese. Another favorite was cheesecake--made with tofu.

Unfortunately, not many of us can afford a cooking staff, and in our hectic world it is often hard to find time to experiment with healthy recipes.  The fastest way for city-dwellers to get a meal is to pull into the local McDonalds, and the least expensive foods at grocery stores are light white bread--as opposed to its whole grain cousin--and potato chips and packaged junk food instead of fresh fruits and vegetables, let alone any special "health foods."

One economical solution is growing a garden.  Country-dwellers can do this on a large scale, growing tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, carrots, cabbage, sweet corn, onions, strawberries, watermelons and much more in their own backyard.  City dwellers have more limited options, but still a couple large pots with flowing, beautiful sweet potato plants on the front steps, a few tomato plants, an arbour of grape vines, a lettuce window-box, and lavender and other aromatic herbs planted near the walkway can go far in providing more healthful foods for the family.

One trick for those pressed for time is to make meals ahead of time.  If you know that you will be facing a particularly busy week, choose one day (perhaps on a weekend) to cook.  You can make pies and place them in the freezer to be baked and eaten on another day, refrigerate dishes such as overnight coffee cake to be baked the next morning, and fill a large pot or slow-cooker with vegetable soup made from freshly peeled potatoes, carrots, and whatever else is on hand; to be reheated later for quick wholesome meals.

You can also save yourself the trouble of looking through recipe books for healthy recipes by using a customized search such as the one at where you can easily find recipes with or without particular ingredients.

Willpower is a very important factor in a healthy diet and active lifestyle. For many of us, eating unwholesome foods is a habit; unless we really want to break the habit, we won't.  And unless we have a reason for exercising, other projects or plans will get in our way.

One of the most effective ways of breaking habits is to set goals and make new, better habits.  Write your goals for the long term on a piece of paper, then calculate what you will have to do each month to make your goals a reality.  Break this down to weekly goals, and then write your daily goals on a planner where you can check them off at the end of each day.  Keeping track of your progress should give you satisfaction and motivation.

A purpose (and reward) for each of your goals is also essential.  For me, it is very hard to wake up on freezing cold mornings.  If I wrote on my planner "Wake up at 6:00," I still wouldn't have much motivation to get up the next morning; however, deciding to wake up early to play in the morning blitz chess tournament on FICS gives me a lot more motivation.

Don't be frustrated if at first you don't succeed with your goals.  If Thomas Edison had given up after his first failure at trying to make an incandescent light bulb, we still might be using gas lamps and candles today.  Keep trying, don't give up, and don't worry--worrying has been proven to be detrimental to health.

Finally, the Bible says, "Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."  Ask the Lord to help give you motivation and willpower to meet your goals.  God will give you strength.  The most important thing in life is living for Him; He cares about us and our every need.

"Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are numbered.  Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."  --Matthew 10:29-31