Our generation is on an ongoing quest to find the answer to the big question what true ‘health’ is. We assume you have heard a lot of health claims over the years: “Always eat breakfast!”, “Skip breakfast!”, “Work out on an empty stomach!”, “Avoid meat!”. And it’s hard to say if and to what degree these claims to fine tune your lifestyle are true. So let’s stick with the basics for now. We know with high certainty that to be healthy, you should eat a variety of fruit and vegetables, a little meat if you want, nuts, whole grains and seeds. You should also move your body daily. 30 minutes a day in the form of walking or cycling and activities that require a higher heart rate, like running, walking stairs or playing team sports, another 2-3 times a week. And mental health plays a role too. You should balance your work and private life, switch between rest and active periods, do social activities but also take time for yourself.
We were asking ourselves to what degree each of these these components influence health. When you ask a personal trainer, he or she will tell you that for sure exercise is the most important one. “You can get away with eating more unhealthy as long as you get your movement in”, is what they will say. Ask a nutritionist or dietician and they will tell you that food always comes first: “You can’t outrun a bad diet!” And when you ask a psychologist or mental health coach, they will say that all the healthy food and exercise in the world means nothing when your mind is not in the right place. Confusing to you and all of us we decided to look a little bit closer at each of the components to decide which one of them determines health in the strongest way.
To lose weight they say, having your diet on point will determine to a degree of 70% your weight loss success. And it’s true! But losing weight does not equal health. Of course eating a healthy diet helps with losing weight, but mostly, weight loss is a question of eating less calories. And by the time you have lost the weight you wanted, eating in a calorie deficit should stop because it is hard to consistently get all your nutrients in otherwise. Weight loss therefore should always be a temporary state. Most of us strive to reach a point where their weight and health is stable anyways. So, if we manage to do so, how important is nutrition then?
Eating right is still very important. Not to lose weight, but to give your cells all the nutrition they need. A nutrient filled diet will not only make you slimmer but also healthier. It will help prevent diseases and fast aging. It also makes exercise and recovery easier and the right food choices can even work mood uplifting. Our advice therefore: eat healthy and balanced with a lot of variety. And if you do not want to cook, you can always visit us ;-)
Whilst exercise is important, the claim that you can eat whatever you want if you just work out, is not true. And the claim that you can’t outrun a bad diet, is. During a marathon you will ‘only’ burn 2500 calories. Having a large breakfast, a slice of cake and pizza, dessert and wine for dinner and you will have “outeaten” your entire marathon. And unfortunately that will take you less than 4 hours and will be much more pleasurable and therefore much easier to do so. So, if exercise does not have that much of an impact, why should you still work out?
During exercise, your heart starts to pump faster and more blood flow will go through your body. This brings more nutrients to all cells. Exercise actually means fast food for your cells, but then in a healthy way. Regular exercise also lets you crave healthy food and puts you in a positive mood, which is great for your mental health. Pick a type of exercise you like and do it as often as you want. Don’t like exercise at all? Then remind you that gardening, going swimming with your kids and walking your dog, are all exercises too :-)
No matter how fit you are, when your mind is not in a good place, it will not make you happy. This actually happens a lot with people who lose weight or become fit while they are unhappy. Many think that once they have reached that weight goal or that look they will be happy. Finding out that your problems do not go away, no matter your looks, can be a hard dream to wake up from. Being happy within yourself and your life is a absolutely necessary first before you should focus on appearance. There is nothing wrong with striving for a healthy and fit body though! Actually did you know that nutrition can help prevent mental health diseases like depression? Exercise on the other hand has been proven to cure it since it helps you experience bodily feelings a different way and releases hormones that will lift your mood up.
So, after we looked at the components of health above, can we conclude which one is the most important? We can. They all are! Not one is more important than the others. And since they are all intertwined or affecting each other too, it all boils down to finding balance. Balance between eating healthy and working out, but still doing the things that you love to stay in a positive mindspace. Balance between getting up and moving when you do not feel like it and resting when you feel you need to. It is why the three components together are also called ‘the holy triangle of health’ to those that work with health in a more holistic way. It is never just one thing that determines the way you feel and look. With this in mind, continue to build on your very own personal balance of nutrition, exercise and mental health and see yourself become healthier and happier over time.
And of course let us be part of your journey sometime when you are close to our bar! We would love to contribute by serving you one of our deliciously taste-balanced salads ;-)
Written by Maritza Kolenbrander, Food Psychologist at Plantifulplan