Eat Right Keep Fit

Our diet and our overall fitness levels go hand-in-hand. Before I elaborate more, let me ask you this question: Keeping fit – What does it mean?

The dictionary meaning for this adjective is “in good health, especially because of regular physical exercise.” For example: “my family keep fit by walking and cycling” And, under “Similar words” listed are healthy, well, in good shape, in shape, fit as a fiddle and so on

When you think of the word fit, what picture comes to your mind? 

To me, an image of a gym-goer, with a muscular body is the first thing that appears, surely not a 70 or an 80-year-old who is generally “still fit as a fiddle”.

And this is predominantly the issue with most of us defining fitness, seeing it as a largely physical aspect. We assume fitness is a word related to those who are into a stringent exercise regimen. 

But, if you think of the words listed under similar words category, especially “healthy” and “well” you will quickly notice, it is not at all about going to the gym and sweating it out, but about being healthy. This perspective will help define our idea of fitness if it is something you strive to achieve.  

Think of being fit as being healthy and well. 

When will you be fully well? 

Only when you are physically and mentally healthy!

What does it mean?

Being physically well/healthy/fit would mean, at the very basic level you are disease-free, at the next level you are able to carry on with your day-to-day activities comfortably, you have generally a good immune system, and being resilient even if you end up catching a bug. 

Being mentally well/healthy/fit means at the very basic level, you don’t feel stressed and anxious throughout the day, and at the next level means you are generally calm, able to take on day to day stressors without much difficulty and able to feel happiness and joy as and when something you like happens. There is a misconception about being feeling well mentally, most people relate it to being happy, but no one can be happy all the time, feeling calm and composed is more like it. 

And more importantly, even it is possible to be mentally well even while being physically unwell. Say one has a chronic condition, does it mean they need to feel miserable all the time? Not necessarily, by managing their physical condition well, it is possible to feel well. And vice versa, if one is not feeling well mentally, say being depressed, managing the mental condition well is the key to make sure it does not affect their physical wellbeing. This is to show how both physical and mental fitness is closely related.

With this kind of perspective on fitness, now if you see a hearty 80-year-old who is going about his/her daily activities with ease, greets when they see you, have a laugh or two with their friend, would you agree he/she is “fit”?

How do you get fit?

As per the definition of the word, fit noted earlier, there is an emphasis on the word “physical exercise”, meaning exercise is the key to achieving fitness. But is that the only aspect? 

What would enable you to exercise well? (Note, that exercise would also include all the physically demanding chores we do on a daily basis)

Right diet of course!

And again, diet is yet another word that has not got a negative connotation because of the highly restrictive “dieting” practices that have come about in recent days mainly to promote weight loss.

But what it actually means is, “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats”. 

Do you feel “well” with your current food habits, which might be a combination of what your family/community were always having for ages and those you have adopted over the years due to your personal lifestyle (for example, when we migrate to a different place, we will have to accommodate to what is available locally and hence our food habit changes)?

If so, you are already on the right track. If not, revisit your dietary habits to get fit.

Some of the areas that are common for most of us include,

Portion sizes

When it comes to portion sizes, there is no one size fit all plan. Each individual is unique and would need a certain amount of food. 

Make sure you always eat in moderation and avoid binge eating. More importantly, enjoy your meals to avoid cravings that could possibly make you overeat on your next meal.

Frequency of our meals

How many times we consume food in a day also matters a lot and this includes any drinks such as coffee and other beverages as well. This aspect will also help determine if you are eating too much or too little in a day. 

But eating healthy snacks in between meals will enable better portion control, so snacking wisely is the key. Healthy snacks can be foods such as fruits or nuts and beverages such as herbal teas.

Component of our diet

What goes into your meal is yet another important aspect, do you fill it with empty calories or nourishing foods?

When it comes to components of a diet, check if your plate comprises of whole grains, quality protein, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and such healthy wholes some foods along with plenty of water or a lot of fast food, junk food, canned foods, carbonated beverages, etc., 

To change your dietary habits, try experimenting with portion sizes, how many times you eat, and what you eat. With a few iterations, you will be able to find a sweet spot where you feel good for the most part of the day, you will be surprised you are able to function so well, have a good night sleep, and be generally happy.

Of course, you need not go at it on your own, you can always seek professional help. Consulting a nutritionist can help determine the right food habits for your lifestyle. A nutritionist will also help identify any gaps and prescribe appropriate supplements to compensate for the deficiency. Going for professional help will help you avoid fad diets and opt for scientifically proven methods to eat right to achieve your fitness goals. Moreover, trained dieticians can also help with any eating disorders one might suffer from that prevents them from eating properly which in turn has an impact on their overall fitness. 

Similarly, many of the traditional medicine systems place much emphasis on eating right. In fact, they take it one step further and state “Food is medicine”. Hence, consulting someone on these lines such as an Ayurveda expert will also be helpful to identify the gaps in your dietary habits and formulate a healthier and more sustainable plan.

Here is an insight into Ayurveda recommended way of eating:

  • Eat three meals a day, do not skip any meal
  • Eat a light warm breakfast, a wholesome lunch, and a small portion of light dinner
  • Be aware of what you eat, sit down, and enjoy your food without any distractions 
  • Do not gobble up your food, eat slowly and chew well for optimal digestion
  • Ayurveda recommends eating fruits separately, hence a makes a perfect mid-morning snack and some nuts for mid-afternoon.
  • Drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated
  • A cup of warm spiced milk to help you sleep like a baby

As you can see, these tips are quite intuitive. All that we need to do is, listen to our body and give it the nourishment it needs to stay healthy.

Most importantly, remember to not stress yourself out trying to eat right, it can be counterproductive as stress can dethrone all your efforts and have a negative impact. So, have a positive attitude towards food, enjoy it, nourish your body with it to stay fit.