As much as I have touted the benefits of eating well and moving, the past year has given me needed insight that it's not always easy to make those choices if you don't feel well or you're in pain. That's now been my experience.
Chocolate over broccoli?
Starbucks over turmeric tea?
I get it.
Now into my seventh decade, I had begun to slow down. I figured it went with the territory. But then my joints and muscles ached constantly and I began to live in a pretty gloomy mental landscape. I worked diligently through physical therapy exercises but, unfortunately, found little relief. I then began to slide down the slippery slope of poor food choices.
The thing was, I hadn't felt like cutting and dicing vegetables and planning meals. During most of that year, I looked to convenience; and though I hate to admit it, sugar.
It was my good fortune to discover that my condition, which mimics rheumatoid arthritis, is a temporary one thanks to medication that has finally put me on the road back to strength and better health. But the symptoms indicated inflammation, and so I knew that those results wouldn't last unless I began to seriously reinvest in eating well. Put simply: avoiding sugar and salt and eating mostly whole foods — like a variety of vegetables and fruits.
As a health and wellness coach, I began to think of how easily I had recommended improved diet and more exercise to people who moved slowly as they came in the door and then sat hurting in my office. I understand now that it's not at all easy for them.
But if you don't feel like it, how do you start?
Well, as I had to remind myself, you have to eat more of the good stuff and avoid the not-so-good stuff.
Most people know which foods fit under each of those two categories.
However, the challenge is making the choice.
When you're depressed and don't feel well, you're drawn to "comfort foods" like potatoes, pasta, maybe pie or brownies. Or maybe it's a bag of Cheetos or corn chips. But all of those foods break down into sugar, which ultimately fan inflammation and only makes you feel worse.
To feel better, your body needs nutrients. The best way to get those is through plant-based foods.
The one area of our lives we can control is what we eat.
And it doesn't have to be expensive.
Apples are a great source of fiber and beneficial enzymes. They can help lower cholesterol, improve regularity and reduce cravings for not-so-healthy foods. If you get an apple slicer you can quickly have your slices minus the core for a quick and nutritious snack. Dip them in peanut butter (a low-sugar brand) and you've just added protein.
Breakfast can be as simple as a slice of whole grain toast with mashed avocado spread, or with peanut butter or almond butter on top.
I fixed a salad of quinoa and vegetables that was an excellent main dish for lunch and also worked as a filling side dish for dinner. I realized I had forgotten how good I feel when I eat this way.
Here's how to prepare it:
To a small amount of chilled, cooked quinoa, I added shredded carrots, chopped red and yellow peppers, a finely-chopped red onion, some curry powder and cilantro, squeezed lime juice, cranberry raisins and toasted almond slivers. Then just put it in the fridge. (Cranberry raisins and almonds are pricey, but not when you consider how far one bag of each will last. If you don't want to buy both, just pick one to use in other recipes or salads. If you don't have curry powder, or you don't like it, skip it.)
The time and money saver is to have those chopped carrots, peppers and onion already in the refrigerator because they can also later go into a garden salad, a vegetable soup, or sautéed to spoon over a baked potato or a small amount of spaghetti.
It's a simple formula: Just eat more of the good stuff. It's affordable health care.
Paula M. Anderson is a certified Health & Wellness Coach who has written numerous articles and columns on behavior change or improved health. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org