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My secrets to keeping a healthy body.

Updated on November 11, 2012
MindbodyandFood4u profile image

I have a B.S. in Natural Health and am certified in Pilates, Yoga, and Rossiter. I also teach healthy cooking classes.

Have you tried every diet known to man? Have you had pills, powders, gadgets, and food delivered to your door? Do you count every calorie you consume including breath mints? Do you lose weight as long as you are on the diet but then as soon as you go off on your own to the regular world of eating do you find you are right back where you started before the diet? If this is you, in my opinion you are looking at dieting and health from the wrong angle. In this blog, I want to share with you strategies that I have been using to maintain optimal health and fitness---my secrets to health and fitness.

Optimal health starts with food choices. Food is what makes every process in the body possible. It creates your skin, hair, brain, heart and hormone function, your eye sight , your energy, your mobility, your sleep patterns, etc., etc. It is the energy to create who you are. If all of a sudden you were in the possession of the car of your dreams, you would wash it and maintain it with the greatest of care. It would be ridiculous to put in bad gasoline or used oil. It would totally affect the performance of the beautiful machine. Let's apply this analogy to your body. It's the vehicle you have to take you through your whole life. Making poor food choices means you are not taking care of your "car". You must realize that eating high fat, high sodium foods is the same as simply putting bad gas in the tank of your car. When you shop for food, you have to plan meals that use as much high quality, fresh, natural ingredients as possible and resist the urge to buy the "easy" prepackaged, pre-cooked boxes and packages of food that fill most grocery stores, It may cost you a bit more money and time to prepare, but not bringing quality food into your home, is the same as putting bad gas in the tank of your car and eventually, it (your body) will break down.

To maintain a healthy body requires a strong commitment to regular exercise. I remember not long ago a family member grumbled to me that if they didn't work a full-time job they too could be in spectacular health. After taking time to contemplate the comment, I realized it was nothing more than a cop-out on their part. Years ago (it seems like a previous life) I was a sales representative for a scientific company. It was a high stress, 60-70 hour a week job. I also had a young daughter to raise and a house to maintain. Extra time was a luxury to me. Even with all these constraints on my time as I look back, I NEVER missed a work-out. Even if I was traveling on business, I would hit the gym. The mindset even then was "I have to do this". It was the only thing that kept stress from killing me and also I was determined to stay in good shape. Looking back, It was an appointment I never allowed to get in the way of anything else. To this day, this is still how I view exercise--the appointment that can NOT be canceled.That is one of my secrets, making my work-out time sacred. Whether you play sports, bike, lift weights, or even simply take regular walks, you MUST stick with it!

Most of the overweight, out of shape people I encounter go out to eat way too much. Learning to prepare your own meals may be the most important thing you can do. I love to cook and I admit not everyone shares this zeal. After a hard day of work, I understand that cooking may be the last thing you want to think about when you get home. It is way easier to order a pizza or pick up something on the way home. This attitude may be the main reason you are not in optimal health! Prepackaged dinners and the typical restaurant fare are full of fat and calories and you know it! Not to mention, the food industry's portion sizes are WAY too large. But if simply planned ahead, you can have a tasty, healthy, dinner on the table in no time. It may take more effort than you are used to, but isn't staying trim and healthy worth the time and effort? Also, If you have children and are not involving the kids in the meal preparation process, you are likely doing them a disservice. Someday they will have to go out on their own and learn to feed themselves. If they can't cook a healthy meal, I guarantee you they will pack on the pounds left to their own eating choices---McDonald's is getting rich feeding a generation of people who don't like to cook. As a parent you have the perfect opportunity to teach and instill in them a great gift: the knowledge of what is good food and how to prepare it. It is also a great opportunity for everyone to develop what chef's call an "educated palate". It means that you learn to appreciate the taste of a food for what it is and to be bold and try it all. If you haven't tried something since you were a kid give yourself the green light to start all over again and try foods you may have disliked in the past. I am going to start adding recipes to my blog that are super high quality in flavor and low in fat, salt and calories and oh, so good for your body and soul. So that's another secret, you will have to commit to doing some cooking or you are doomed to eat prepared foods with tons of calories but not tons of nutrition.

I'll digress for a minute to give you some insight on my cooking background and why this is so important for optimal health. My influences in cooking have been many. I was fortunate to have Italians, Croats and Scots in my family heritage. Family gatherings centered around home cooked meals. Each one gave me inspiration when I started cooking. My mother went to work when I was just starting high school. The family meals fell to me to prepare in order to help my mom who worked all day( hint. hint working mom's). I never once thought it was a penance. I really felt empowered. When my dad had days off he would cook with me and these are memories to last a lifetime. He had more influence on my eating choices then I bet he even knows. In fact he was the one who set me on the path to find a healthy way to eat and maintain my weight since I was once an overweight teenager. One night we were sitting at the dinner table and my dad looked a me and said " I am going to take your fork and knife away and let you eat like a pig does, just stick your face in the plate and eat like a hog!". He went on to say that the extra weight I was carrying would ensure that no man would ever want to marry me! Of course his approach was very harsh at the time but it served as the "wake up call" I needed to start down the path towards healthier eating. It was just the motivation a fifteen year old girl needed. But how would I go about this great feat? After some trial and error, I discovered the combination of better food choices, moderate portion size, and exercise helped me drop the pounds. This led to my father buying me better clothes, fixing my crooked teeth, and to an increase in my self esteem.

Now let's talk about portion size since I just brought this up. As a chubby teen, the only thing I could come up with at first was to restrict my calorie intake---mostly by skipping meals. It was working in terms of dropping pounds, but I found myself weak, sometimes nearly passing out . Exercising but not eating helped too, but this just made matters worse. I had to go about it another way. At the time, both my parents had dabbled in weight loss while quitting smoking. This gave me the idea to measure my food. A cup of pasta, a smallish piece of meat, dipping my lettuce in the dressing instead of drowning it in high calorie dressing. As time went by I realized my tummy had shrank, I could no longer eat large quantities at one sitting. In fact, eating too much just made my stomach hurt! This led me to the strategy I use to this day: eating several small meals over the course of the days. Some days I might even eat up to six small meals! I know what you are thinking--who has time for that! Some of these small "meals" might really just be a snack, like a banana and apple mid-morning, or a few whole grain crackers with hummus in the afternoon. But just think, if you are not letting yourself get too hungry, you can get by with half a sandwich at lunch instead of a whole one. This led me to the brilliant idea of serving dinner on a dessert plate. Of course the first time I did it my husband was not as thrilled as I was, but he too wanted to keep his trim figure. After 20 years we still eat on dessert plates and make sure our portion sizes are moderate. When we do eat out, splitting one full restaurant meal is usually plenty for both of us. If you can get your stomach size to shrink like we have, you will likely see the pounds whittle away.

Now let's talk about shopping for food. Stick to the outside ring of the grocery, since the middle aisles usually contain the bad used oil you don't want to put in your fine race car. Don't get lured in at the grocery. Did you know the grocery's layout is all planned to get you to buy more! Food company pros have figured where to place their items to get you to put them in your shopping cart. The fruits and veggies are in the beginning, so by the time you go to the aisles and see chips and cookies you are feeling virtuous about all the healthy stuff already in your cart! Here's another secret, control your urges and don't put junk food in the cart. If it's not in the house it can't call your name from the kitchen at 8 o'clock at night. Just the time you don't want to be eating, especially cakes, candies, cookies and snacks. It's not rocket science. You know that broccoli is better for you than a Twinkies, right? Buy lots of fruit (naturally sweet) and veggies for those snacks, and plan real food meals in small portions! Sear these concepts into your mind before you shop! Make a list of healthy meals that you can make and what ingredients you will need before you go shopping. Skip the aisles that sell those high sugar fruit and soft drinks. Make water your primary drink of choice (other than beer, of course!). Sound simple? Challenge yourself to make these choices!

I need to give up more secrets in future blogs. Of course most of it is the way I cook, so you will have to come back to my blog over and over to see what new recipes I have developed. I say developed because I can go to the Farmers Market and buy what ever is fresh that day and make a meal. This sort of cooking evolved out of need. My husband loves to travel. I tell you this not to brag but to bring insights into how I came to be the cook I am today. We rent apartments near city centers and no matter what city we have visited there is open air market somewhere. I love markets like this and wish we had more of them here in the U.S.. This would force me into buying all the fresh bread, cheeses, olives, nuts, dried grains, dried beans, fruits and veggies I could get my husband to carry. A meal was conceived. It has been the biggest influence on the recipes I will share with you.

I could go on and on with this topic. I have other secrets such as don't leave the house without a healthy snack in your car, don't skip any meals, if you are feeling hungry, eat a handful or nuts or a piece of fruit, don't drink alcohol on an empty stomach, eat some protein first. Find snacks that are low in sodium but high in real grains, don't buy things with ingredients you can not pronounce, read labels, drink lots of water, skip pop and juices. Check the sugar and salt content of everything! Buy whole grains of everything, brown rice, quinoa, farro, barley, and millet. Go to the salad bar at your local grocery and buy all the veggies already cut--you're that much closer to dinner. Park your car far away to the entrance to anything, burn calories by taking more steps every chance you get. Little changes add up. I will do my best to help you eat better and feel better in future blogs--but in the meantime, try your best to adopt some of my secrets to keeping your body healthy!

© 2012 MindbodyandFood4u


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    • Ranzi profile image

      Cut The Bullshit 

      9 years ago from All Over

      Voted up. Thanks for the reminder. Putting bad food in your body is like slow poison

    • profile image

      Lynn R 

      9 years ago

      Peri, you are a true inspiration and the best example to everyone around you. Your blog is just what I needed. Thank you!

    • coffeealera profile image


      9 years ago

      Great information that I will take into account next time I am out. Thank you.



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