Growing up in Azerbaijan I only ate home cooked meals. When my family and I moved to America at the age of 8, my view on food somewhat shifted. I instantly became obsessed with burgers, fries, burritos, pizza, chips, and most other junk food. What’s there not to like? It was absolutely delicious and obviously different than what I was used to eating.
As with most immigrant parents, my family worked very hard to provide our basic needs: food, shelter, clothes. It was the “American Dream” that brought us here and what we were chasing after. Both of my parents worked the typical 8-5 shift and sometimes after school I indulged in “fast food” to fill my hunger. I am not saying we did not have home cooked meals, but understandably sometimes the fast food option was more convenient. Plus, I was pretty infatuated with t.v. dinners, microwavable pizza, and carne asada fries (if you’re from soCal you would know ;)).
Looking back on my past eating habits I cringe at the thought of the junk I filled my body with. However, I am so excited that our society has begun to take a more nutritious approach to eating, by keeping the public more well informed and offering healthier options at the grocery store and restaurants.
The older I grew, the more I took an interest in the food that I was eating. At first I ate healthier to lose weight. Then it turned to, “I want to eat healthy to live a longer life.” Then, “I feel so much better physically when I eat healthier.” Soon after, “Wow my skin looks so much better.” Now it’s basically a combination of every thing. I eat healthier to lose or maintain my weight goal, lead a disease free life, have more energy, more vibrant clear skin, and reduce feelings of bloat, and all around heaviness.
Eating better looks different for everyone. For me it means listening to my body and what it craves, avoiding chicken and beef, eating seafood once every week or every two weeks, limiting eggs to once a month, enjoying cheese once a month, and no other dairy (I am lactose intolerant anyways), drinking plenty of water, and avoiding processed foods and too much sugar. I am obviously not perfect and therefore have had cheating moments, but that is okay. This is what balance means for me.
All the research and reading I have done on well being highlight 5 pillars that help promote a healthier lifestyle and slow down the aging process. These include nutrition, fitness, skin care, sleep, and managing stress. As far as nutrition goes a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, grains, and beans promote life longevity, and lessen the chance of developing diseases. Where as a diet that consists primarily of animal protein and dairy increases the chance of terminal illnesses and speeds up the aging process. The diet’s that really promote well-being consist of the Vegan, Mediterranean, and Okinawan diets. I will definitely have to write a separate blog on this as this topic is huge and would take an entire blog post. So stay tuned for that!
About 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, so it is no wonder that our diet plays a crucial role in not just maintaining our gut activity but also in helping guide our emotions via the gut-brain connection. Eating fermented foods consisting of probiotics changes intestinal microbiota in the gut, which can positively influence our mood. Also, diets high in fruits and vegetables have actually been shown to decrease levels of depression and anxiety and increase feelings of happiness due to their high levels of antioxidants, nutrients, and minerals.
The big take away here is to ask ourselves the big question: What does eating healthy mean to you? Why do you do it? Answering these questions can help make the appropriate changes in your diet, and actually stick to it. For me eating healthy means listening to my body, and treating it with the kindness it deserves. I do it to have more energy, clearer skin, prevent diseases, reduce bloating and heaviness, slow down the aging process, and help the environment.
I would love to hear your answers! 🙂