Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Change is difficult, especially when it comes to making changes to eating and exercising habits. You can’t just change your eating habits over night. It has to be a LIFESTYLE change. When you’re making lifestyle changes, the first thing you have to change is your mind. Change your mindset, then work on your eating and exercise habits.

You can literally eat like a rabbit and still not be healthy. Health is on the inside, too. Do you have a strong heart? How much energy do you have? What percent is your body fat? Do you have healthy muscle tone? Are you limber and flexible? Are you happy with your life, your job, your path?

Changing your body can take years, and it has to be a total lifestyle change for it to be a permanent change.

When making lifestyle changes, it’s best to make small changes that you can incorporate into your life. When Dave and I first started focusing on health, we cut out using the microwave. All of our research pointed to the microwave as a source of damage to our bodies and our food, and we believe that the dangers of microwaves are a reality. We’ve now been microwave-free for three years, adjusting to reheating food on the stove or in the toaster oven.

The next change we made was to eliminate high fructose corn syrup. It was simply a matter of reading labels and paying attention, sometimes forgoing a favored salad dressing or barbecue sauce. Finding foods without high fructose corn syrup has become easier; Post has come out with an entire line of HFCS-free cereals (Post Good Morenings) at a price point most families can abide by at $2 a pound. With a variety of flavors, Post is the perfect choice for morning cereal eaters. Hunt’s offers ketchup with no high fructose corn syrup. I found a helpful website that lists HFCS-free foods; it’s not entirely up to date, but it’s a start.

Once we’d overcome the high fructose corn syrup, we moved on to tackle trans fats.  Cutting trans fats was the most difficult change, but also the most effective. Cutting trans fats meant skipping fast food meals, paying close attention to food labels, and making more significant changes to our diets. The difference we’ve experienced in the last year since ridding trans fats from our lives has been substantial.

Even though I haven’t seen the kind of change on the scale that I wanted – mostly due to my own lack of ability to regularly prioritize exercise as much and as often as I should – removing trans fats from my diet has most likely saved my life. You see, my family history for heart disease is pretty lengthy. My great-grandmother died during an Angioplasty. My mother’s uncle died of a heart attack at age 40. Her other uncles have all had multiple heart attacks and bypass procedures. Her mother had a heart attack at age 50 and died of complications related to heart disease. My mother, who was ill with leukemia, actually died from congestive heart failure brought on by the chemo. My uncle has had a heart attack, and he is young and healthy.

Last year, in the midst of making changes but still struggling, I had a C-reactive protein (CRP) test. You really want your results to be <1.00. Mine was 7.85. As in, wow, you haven’t had a heart attack yet?

So we really went to work on cutting out trans fats. We stopped – literally stopped – eating fast food. I’ve not had a cheeseburger from Burger King or McDonalds in more than a year. This year, I had a repeat of the CRP test.

It is now a 3.45.

I’m still high risk, and I still have a long road ahead of me to achieve the health I want…but I have CUT IN HALF my risk of heart attack or stroke.

Cut it in half!

I’m not worried about the number on the scale; I’m not beating myself up for not getting on the treadmill every morning.

I am going to continue to tackle my changes one at a time, making changes I can incorporate into my life.

If you’re ready to make some changes, here are some easy ones to start with:

  • Watch how many of your calories come from fat and how many calories you consume in total. Make sure less than 10% of your calories come from fat and that the fat you consume is not trans fat or saturated fat. Not only can this make a difference on the scale but it can do wonders for your cholesterol and heart disease risk.
  • Cut out fast food as much as possible and make better choices when you do go (we rely on Eat This, Not That to help guide us)
  • Cut out simple carbs (chips, white breads, etc) and replace them with high fiber (brown rice, whole grains)
  • Add exercise, any exercise. Walk to the store. Dance to music. Hop on a treadmill. Go for a walk with a friend. Park further away from the office, or better yet, get a bike. Get active!  Do you normally rent movies on Saturday night?  Go bowling instead.  Do you spend Sunday lying in bed reading the paper?  Get up and go to the park.  Walk, feed the ducks, play frisbee with your dog (he needs exercise too!)  It’s winter??  Go out in your own back yard and build a snowman!
  • Meditate. Lowering your stress levels can do wonders for everything from your blood pressure to your weight, not to mention your mind and clarity of thought.
  • Eat breakfast every single day.
  • Sleep at night (with the phone, laptop, tablet, and mind OFF)

Don’t try to completely change overnight. If all you’ve done for exercise for the last year or more is heave the remote control, start slowly and build up. And remember, if your mind does not accept the change in lifestyle, you will not be successful. Change as you can, and make the changes permanent. Burning energy creates energy, so when you use it, you’ll have more. The more you use, the more you lose.

All life needs balance, and balance comes from feeding and exercising the mind as well as the body.

  • Feed the mind a healthy diet: read, observe, listen, think. Read fiction and non-fiction, for the mind learns from both. Exercise the mind with creativity-draw, write, paint, sculpt, play music. Be creative.
  • For your mind (and your soul) keep a journal. Write a few thoughts at the end of the day, or the end of the week.  Speak freely, and keep it locked. This is only for you, to get to know yourself and examine your priorities.

The key to being really healthy is to be happy and content with your life. The more you take care of and love yourself, the happier and healthier you’ll be.