Lifestyle & Work Life Balance

The struggle between loving food and loving your body

Written by Natalie Aicken

‘Treat yourself’ is probably something that will dance around your mind when you stare at the dessert menu or after being offered that slice of birthday cake. If you appreciate and love food as much as me, you will understand how hard it can be to pass up on wonderful but naughty treats. It can all be too easy to decide ‘treating yourself’ is the right decision but shortly after ending up with a bloated and guilty tummy.

Looking good and feeling confident in your own skin is a basic human want. Humans have shown interest in their appearance since we knew how to hold a mirror. In today’s society body positivity is becoming more prevalent than ever. This makes me very happy. For me, it’s so important to take care of your health and fitness and as a result, your appearance should reward you. Unfortunately, there is still a large proportion of mass media representations of body image that depict an unrealistically slim and lean physique. It is no surprise that a large percentage of people still aren’t satisfied with their body. Appearance aside, the real winner of healthy eating is how it makes you feel on the inside. Putting healthy, nutritious food into your body reaps benefits for your energy levels, mood, skin, hair, the list goes on.

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” - sorry Kate, but this just isn’t true.

However (and it’s a big however), there is also so much happiness in chocolate, cheese and chips. A lot of tasty food out there is sugary, fatty and contains high calories which don’t particularly provide benefits for your body. It is surprising how many foods and meal combos are high in calories and shouldn’t be eaten often. Many of the best meals from around the world don’t exactly comply with ‘clean eating rules’, but if life really is short, then do I really want to be passing up on these great foods? Living a lifestyle of clean eating and exercising 24/7 can prove especially difficult when maintaining a steady social life when eating out and fast food can easily disrupt your routine.

Many nutritionists, health bloggers, fitness gurus etc. will say the key is moderation. To eat healthy, exercise and allow yourself a treat now and again when you feel like it. This is when you decide nearly every other day that you deserve a treat. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but moderation can sometimes pledge more difficult than at first thought! After all, sugar is apparently more addictive than cocaine!

I think a lot of girls will agree with me when I say that once you’ve had that one Krispy Kreme, there’s no going back. In an ideal (and fairly unrealistic) world we would be able to eat one cookie, one slice of cheese on toast or one bag of popcorn and that would be it. Alas, that never seems like the right decision until your 18 cookies deep, trekked to the corner shop for snacks and ordered pizza. You might be thinking ‘I’m never that bad’, but admittedly or not, we all have those days.

I’m a strong believer in listening to your body and allowing yourself to have something if you really want it – we shouldn’t feel guilty about it but unfortunately a lot of the time we do. Exercising, of course, is a great counteract to the not-so-healthy foods and will almost every time leave you feeling fab. During my time at university, finding time to go to the gym was never a problem. Having next to nothing compulsory working hours, I could wake up every day, stroll to the gym, get it done and rarely felt pushed for time or tired throughout the day. Now, working a full-time job, finding the time to work-out or be active will usually be at the expense of relaxing. The struggle to stay fit and healthy deepens!

The answer?

There is no real answer to how you can find a happy balance between being a full-time foodie and a fitness/health enthusiast. Everyone is different and so finding something that works for you is really the key. From my own experience, I have given some of my top tips for overcoming the battle!

Keep treats for the weekend

I found that the only way I can stick to a healthy regime and lifestyle is by avoiding all sugary treats during the week. Sugar is my weakness! This way I cannot be tricked into thinking I will only have one square of chocolate but then ending up eating the whole bar. Consistency throughout the week makes you feel less guilty about that chocolate cake or cheeseburger on the weekend. And then it feels like more of a special treat too.

Find healthy alternatives

There is an abundance of natural, superfood powders out there now which allow you to get experimental with cooking and baking. I’m a huge chocolate lover and my friend introduced me to raw cacao which is a plant-based powder. It has so many health benefits such as being super high in magnesium and full of antioxidants. The most simple and quick way to get a chocolate fix from raw cacao powder is too mix it with melted coconut oil and honey over the hob. When everything is combined leave it to set in the fridge for 15 minutes and then you can enjoy a completely natural, unprocessed sweet treat without the guilt.

Drink water, and lots of it!

There is still a lot of people who don’t realise how important drinking enough water is. Growing up, I never drank water due to purely not liking the taste. I started drinking it during a year I spent living in sunny, hot South Africa, and I never looked back. It did wonders for my energy levels, hair and weight loss - it had such a noticeable effect on me. I can’t stress enough how important water is for a healthy diet. I bought my self a sippy bottle and take it literally everywhere with me. It really helps ensure you are constantly drinking throughout the day. Drinking water with your meals will keep you feeling fuller for longer too.

Eat your treats around exercise

The time of day at which you eat something can have a differing effect on your body. If you are really craving that chocolate bar then have it, just try to follow it with some form of exercise. Eating carbohydrates are recommended either before or after a workout as you are either going to burn it off, or need it for recovery. Eating treats before bed is not a good idea, they will sit in your tummy whilst you sleep, giving your body no time to burn them off.

About the author

Natalie Aicken

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