I grew up in a culture where at some point every effort one makes to improve her health is considered a diet trend. It is a culture where thick and big-boned women are [were] cherished. Similar to some of the African countries, Haiti’s culture appreciates the type of women people overlook here in America and in other parts of the world. I remember from growing up there, women were being chased because of their beauty and size. At that time, women of smaller sizes were considered sick and not wealthy ( body size was considered a sign of wealth) enough to marry. Growing up, I was not a thick girl. As far as I can remember, I have always been short and small. However, my parents and other family members expected me to grew up and become a thick woman ( like them). Needless to say, that did not happen. Instead, I became very interested in my health and developed into a health nut in training. I love my body the way it is, I am consistently looking for ways to improve my physique and health. My family does not understand that very well. There is not a time my mother or grandmother sees me that they don’t complain about me being smaller than the last time they saw me and that I need to stop “hurting” myself. They always tease me about which diet am I on this time. I gave up trying to explain to them that everyone has a diet; your diet consist of the kind of foods you choose to eat on a regular basis. Similar to popular beliefs, my family seems to think that a diet is something you go on simply to lose weight. That is not always the case. My diet consists of healthy food to help keep my body healthy and strong. On my defense, I am not small by choice -not necessarily. Actually, it took me some time to completely become ok with height and size. I keep in mind these women also grew up in that same culture that appreciated women of bigger sizes, so they retain the mindset from the old days. They believe the bigger you are the richer you are, not knowing that the bigger you are the more health risks you will encounter. Therefore, I forgive them for their lack of knowledge on the subject. Personally, I don’t ever go on any diets because I know apart from exercising and eating healthy, any other diet is just temporary. I am more interested in the permanent dietary changes. When it comes to my body, I look into long-term effects, not short terms.
What is my diet?
I try my best to consume the daily recommended amount of each food group in the food pyramid ( now called my plate). I keep in mind that variety and moderation are key. I strategically plan my meals so that with each meal I am eating all the necessary nutrients my body needs and tried to reach my goal by the time I am done with dinner. I have not mastered it all yet, but I am getting better with practice.
- Most of the protein I eat comes from meat. Meat protein is essential and it is the easiest way to get a good amount at one time. I get a little more from bread, plant-based food, soy/almond milk, nuts, eggs, beans/peas, and fish. I enjoy a cup of Greek yogurt (when I can find one that does not have too much sugar), oats, and some other food as well.
- Although I have learned some things that made me question my intake of dairy products, I have yet to completely let go. I decided to let go of dairy milk, but I still eat yogurt, 2% milk cheese, as my main source of diary.
- A lot of people are afraid of carbs and fats. If you know how to properly eat them, your fear will disappear. Your body needs fats and carbs to maintain itself. Carbs are a good source of energy. The problem comes in when the wrong kinds of carbs and fats are consumed excessively with little to no exercise. Also, be careful of the types of fat you are eating. Personally, I stay from saturated fats, trans fat, and hydrogenated oils ( those are bad for you). I go for unsaturated, mono/poly unsaturated (these good fats are needed and helpful to have). For oil, I use olive oil and a blend of soybean/sunflower/canola oil to cook. It is all a matter of learning about the nutrients your body needs, the purpose they serve, and controlling your serving intakes along with staying active.
- For more information on fats, click here http://www.helpguide.org/life/healthy_diet_fats.htm
Fruit and Vegetables
- I eat fruit and vegetables with every meal. I am falling in love with green smoothies, which gives me another loop-hole to eat ( drink) veggies with my breakfast. A cup of fruit/vegetable with every meal is recommended. So, now each time I make smoothies, I put spinach, tomatoes, and broccoli in them. I am looking for other veggies to add. My refrigerator is filled with large topperwear of cut out fruit to keep me going for the week. I also buy bags of frozen fruit for smoothies.
- Most of the grains I eat come from whole and multi-grain breads, cornmeal, brown rice, and oats. I became a big fan quinoa and bulgur wheat, so I get some of my grains from them when I am tired of eating breads. I know you probably think I am crazy for eating bread ( and the carbs in them) on the regular ( I love bread, I love food!), but I have learned that they are not the enemy. Plus, breads are a triple threat- they give you fiber, protein, and carbohydrates among other things.
- During the summer months that I was off of work, I was in the gym up to six days a week most weeks working out different parts of my body for different amounts of times every morning. I set up a routine that developed into a habit that now is hard to break. On days where I really cannot make it to the gym, my body craves it and know that I need to get there. Now that I am back to working full-time, I can make it there 3 days a week. Some weeks are a day less or a day more. In order to keep my weight from fluctuating, on weeks where I don’t make it to the gym much, I also plan my meals accordingly so that I am not consuming more calories than I am burning. Of course, on weeks where I do make it to the gym more, I eat more calories.
- I am not very big on using the machines so I attend the group fitness classes, run around my neighborhood and do workout videos at home. My goal is to keep my body active, so I do as many classes as I can during the week in order to work out all parts of my body.
*** Does your dietary plan have to look like this? No! This is to give you an idea or a starting point ( if you need it). Being healthy is one of the biggest blessings that we have and besides genetics playing its role, it is up to us to keep our bodies healthy. I want to reiterate that I have not mastered the perfection of my diet. I am only in the beginning of that road. Every single day does not look like the list above. I am human too, I get lazy to cook at times and don’t follow my dietary plans. The point is to have a plan and try your best to stick with it. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.