Happy Vernal Equinox, all! Spring is in the air, and winter is slowly loosening its grip upon NYC, allowing for a little warmer weather! (WAHOO!)
There isn't much I love more than a sunny day that is not solely aesthetic, days where I don't have to be bundled up for the 20 or 30 degree temps. As I was thinking about how easily I am affected by the climate about me, I began to correlate how the seasons of weather are not so far removed from the seasons in our lives as well. We have seasons of eating a certain way, seasons of style, seasons of extreme fitness, seasons of education/school; really the list goes on and on. I pondered this for a while, and came to the conclusion that these seasons aren't necessarily in our control, as much as we would like to think they are...because, life happens. We have seasons where we are so on point with every food item that enters our mouth, or seasons where we don't injure ourselves, and then something happens that forces our season to shift. Our schedule may get clogged with too many commitments and the thought of juggling classes, family, AND food prep just becomes too much, or something could go awry with our body or someone we love. Whatever the reason, we are changed, and though the situation at hand may not be permanent, what we learn and how we respond to this new phase will never leave us.
When was the last time you were doing your workout and nothing hurt or made you wince? Probably hasn't happened for a while, because in order to see change, we have to push ourselves and it's not always comfortable. Oftentimes, valuable, long lasting changes take time and valiant effort, right? What's more, how we behave and how we respond to painful moments during the growth and after, defines who we really are--in the same way our food and exercise routines either define our bodies, or not. We can either allow a hard season to set us up for continued failure, by allowing ourselves to wallow in the tough times, or we can utilize those trying hours, days, & weeks and learn to avoid future slip-ups. We are not going to be perfect every day, all day, 100% of the time, but, hey, we can continue to strive towards bettering ourselves!
Because diet is equally, if not more, important than our exercise habits, I've comprised a few tips that may be helpful for anyone trying to improve their physique, mental or physical health, or heal their bodies with a plant-based diet and activity. We all know we need to eat our greens and fruit (food), rest, drink water, and follow our workout plan, but when we are busy it can be hard to be consistent. Hopefully, this is helpful!
The #1 way for me to keep myself on point with veggies is by buying those huge tubs of pre-cut, pre-washed, organic kale from Whole Foods. Once that's in my fridge, I have no excuse. I can grab a handful, throw it in the pan, add a tiny bit of water, seasoning and — boom! — sautÃ©ed greens. The same goes for food prep. Grab a few handfuls, shove into a to-go container, snap the lid down, and you're done. A) those containers last quite a few days B) did I mention this is EASY? C) it may cost 0.33 cents more to buy the kale this way, but I also just saved myself at least 15 minutes of prep because it's already in bite sized portions.
The #2 way to stay on top of food prep, is to buy containers that are the same size, make sure you have two days' worth of them, and wash (or at least rinse) them out at night. When all my containers are different sizes I find myself spending way too much time trying to find the right lid, or being bummed that one isn't big enough for my kale AND my sweet potato. Consistency in all things. 10-12 containers that are the same size sets you up for success.
#3 Fruit gets beat up in your bag, even if you have a food cooler you're taking with you to work. There are these crazy things called knives and you can cut your fruit up and put it into containers and never have a mushed banana again! Also, I recently discovered banana travel cases. There are also cases with accordion centers so you can adjust the length. Problem solved? I'd like to think so.
#4 If you just don't like the food you're preparing and you find yourself wanting to cheat, you've gotta change it up!!! Maybe it's bland, so add seasoning! Maybe you just don't like the texture, then find another food that fits the macros but which you WANT to eat that feels different/better to you. The problem with the typical "bodybuilder' diet is that there is no variation. People get bored, then they cheat, then they feel bad, then they starve themselves, then they have eating disorders and body-dysmorphia. Don't do that to yourself. If your meal plan is not working for you, change it. We only have one body and one life to live, so don't be miserable the entire time! Add more garlic or onion, or hot sauce, or if you don't like kale eat collard greens. There are SO many options in the plant world, it is just silly to not enjoy fueling our bodies!
#5 Rest. This one can be tough, because no one else can do it for you. You have to learn what makes you want to sleep, how you can turn your brain off, what will keep you asleep, and so forth. For me, some nights I need my sleeping mask, or my eyes are going to be wide open as I mull over the stresses I'm facing in my life. Other times, I'm so exhausted I can sleep anywhere, at anytime, for any amount of time. It's about finding that balance. Maybe you need curtains, maybe you need a night light. Someone else might need tea, or to read a book to fall asleep. Whatever it is, figure it out and make it count. You can never, ever, ever "catch up" on lost sleep. That's not how it works. If you have a sleep deficit, take extra care of your body by drinking water, avoiding caffeine, and eating your fruits and veggies. And, sometimes, sleep deprivation means you need to skip the gym. I know that probably made you really uncomfortable to read, and it made me twitch to type it, but it's true! We cannot expect our bodies to recuperate from a tough workout when we didn't even adequately prepare ourselves for normal daily activities. SLEEP!
#6 The last, but certainly not least, topic is that of water. Personally, I love to drink water, but I won't drink it from a water fountain if I can avoid it; I don't want to buy plastic/disposable water bottles while I'm out; and if I'm dining, I don't drink more than a glass or two during and after, so if I expect to drink my water, I've got to be smart about it. The best thing to do: invest in a water bottle, not just reusing that SmartWater plastic bottle you bought last week at Whole Foods either. I mean, actually buy a bottle you KNOW you will carry around with you wherever you go. I've bought a few over the past couple of years and have found some to be better than others. For a while I was using the Bobble, because I'm a princess and I prefer filtered water, but then I decided I really want glass or metal instead of plastic. Note: even if a plastic bottle states it is BPA free, this does NOT guarantee it is BPB, BPC, BPD free... do you follow? The attention has only been brought to one of the many chains of the hazardous chemical, so I'd rather not risk it! Recently, I was using an awesome glass bottle, but I dropped it, and even though it had a silicone case, it broke. So, now I'm using a stainless steel bottle, which is still not the ideal option for consistent use, because metal is still porous and can retain germs/bacteria, but I have a bottle with me every day. I encourage you to really research your bottle. Find one that doesn't weigh too much pre-filling, especially if you walk a lot and will be carrying this long distances. Read up on the quality of the mouth piece: Does it leak? Is it plastic? Is it safe for your health? Once you figure out what works for you, buy it, use it every day, and never leave home without it. Our bodies are primarily made up of water, right? So, a good rule of thumb is to drink at least half of our body weight in ounces. For example: if you weigh 180 lbs., you should drink at least 90oz of water daily.
These steps aren't the cure to all that ails you, but they are powerful tools that will help prepare you to be your best, help you recover and heal, and will benefit you for years and years to come!
Here are a few meal ideas that may be helpful for you as well:
Salads: kale, carrots, avocado, broccoli, tomato, garbanzo beans, beets, and fresh squeezed orange as a dressing with black pepper!
1) hummus, carrots, broccoli
2) nut butter and fruit
3) smoothie of fruits and/or veggies
1) oats, nut butter, cinnamon fruit
2) rice with pistachios, spices (like curry powder and cinnamon) with pineapple
3) lentils, mushrooms, onion, garlic, cauliflower, Swiss chard, with salsa and nutritional yeast
Being healthy can be difficult, but giving ourselves various flavors and textures, planning ahead, and investing in powerful (simple) tools (like containers!) can eliminate the stresses and make being healthy a habit like brushing our teeth.
Make it fun, make it feasible, and make it yours!