Ask any person around you if they know what ‘eating healthy’ is and I guarantee you, they will all give you roughly the same answer. Why is that? Because we are stupid when it comes to making choices in food and drinks. Yes. Stupid. Don’t feel offended, it is hardly your fault. It’s because your education wasn’t complete. But don’t worry, I’m here to help you out.
As the world evolves, nutrition evolves with it and so every month there is a new opinion about what choice is a healthy one to make or not. But we get one similar message still: eat your vegetables, eat less meat and drink enough water. And there’s a ton of other things people tell you is healthy but I am not going to bother with them.
While we have been told to eat healthy, we have not been taught the basics of nutrition (except if your parents or someone close to you are professional athletes maybe). At an early age, we learn to eat our meals according to the customs of the cultural environment. For instance, in France it’s totally normal to eat warm meals at noon whereas in the Netherlands a standard lunch is just a couple of slices of bread hugging spreads of some sort (think peanut butter, jams, ham, egg salad etc etc). As we grow older we stick to what we know. We don’t know why we are doing this but we were taught to feed ourselves in this fashion so why should we doubt this?
Spending childhood and puberty in different countries and different cultures I was privileged enough to learn different ways of eating. And different styles. My parents were invested in nutritional health and it helped me develop a love for food in general as well as for different cuisines. They did not however teach me the importance of protein, the significance of macros or why every container label mentioned the amount of kcal per 100g. I found it an interesting read at the breakfast table as I was avoiding conversations (I am not a morning person) but it didn’t mean anything to me. And it didn’t occur to ask about it. I just thought; my parents haven’t told me about this so it probably isn’t important.
Being a student in the Netherlands is a whole different ballgame than having warm lunch, having access to fresh produce that tastes amazing even without seasoning it or being used to a fair lack of bread throughout the day. Let me tell you though: Dutch bread has nothing on a French baguette. But I had decided to come back to my roots and discover the culture being a twenty-something year old.
Imagine my joy when I ended up in a student house with 9 housemates and where the daily meals consisted of loads of pasta dishes, bread, fries, typical Dutch winter meals with potatoes, pea soup, meats, meats and more meats, and all of that with no restriction. Because it is cheap. And you can eat quite a good quantity of it before your body starts to send out signals that you’re satisfied. That’s the sugar most of the times. And let’s ignore the fact that candy is a staple in student houses.
I am sorry to say but we Dutchies have no rich food culture. We just make do with what we have and know. Now imagine being accustomed to all of that. Does it come as a big surprise that we tend to become overweight? I mean… we have more snack bars in town than clubs. We have something called ‘bittergarnituur’ which I believe to be on every single menu of food places in town. We have fancy fries stores nowadays that trick you into thinking that we are making a better choice. For f*** sake we invented the ‘kroket’ and the ‘bitterbal’. How is that healthy?
But again, I can’t blame you for not knowing any better. Most of us haven’t been taught this. We keep making the same mistakes when it comes to our food and drinks. Because we just don’t know how to handle it all differently. And if we don’t know any better… why change? So it happens that from one day to the next, you can see yourself getting bigger and bigger. Not taller, bigger. Any muscular definition you might have had disappears and we are being told that after a certain age there is not much you can do about it. Well. I disagree. And I have proof.
When I started weightlifting a whole new world opened to me. Not only the fitness world, or the world of bodybuilding, but also the nutritional part of the story. It took a little while before I understood the significance of nutrition at all but once I saw, I understood. I grew up with the same beliefs and the same stupidity as you guys. I thought that eating Nutella was bad for me, as well as eating candy, drinking sodas and packaged crap. Because my parents taught me so. They were right to a certain point. It’s not the product that’s bad, it’s the lack of moderation and self-control that is making it bad. But that’s all on us and not on the product itself.
To try and achieve a healthy mind-set and the body that goes with it, we tend to grasp at diets without knowing what it will do to your mind and body. I’m saying ‘mind’ first and ‘body’ second because anyone who has tried dieting before knows that it’s your mind that will trigger the first ‘misstep’ when following the course that you set out for yourself. The thought of all the foods you are craving will become overwhelmingly present as each day goes by until you finally give in and cave. Guilt takes over and before you know it you quit your diet because that one time you couldn’t control yourself has ruined your progress.
Or so you think. Because that is how society has formatted us, tricked us into spending money on methods that are supposed to make you healthy again. I can’t even begin to describe how sad it makes me to see so many people fail at getting that healthy mind and body they want so badly. How frustrating it is to hear so many of you tell me that no matter what they tried, going to the gym for hours and hours of cardio didn’t help. Listening to men and women complaining about how hard it is to eat healthy…
As I am writing this I feel a sense of urgency to help all of you clear out the misunderstandings. There are so many wonderful teachers out there that care about others like I do and want you to achieve that look you dream of. I am taking notes from these teachers that are sharing their wisdom freely and doing the same in my own way. Because it really is very simple: to achieve what you want, you need knowledge. You need to actually know why you are eating the way you are eating. It all starts with that; your food.
I want you to become conscious of the choices you make and why you are making them. Don’t go looking for information on your own, trust me you’ll go mad because of the mixed messages. Instead, trust your gut, listen to your palette and enjoy your food. That is step one. In the coming articles, I will elaborate more on the nutrition part and give you actual keys to open the door for change. But for now, it’s important you become aware of yourself. Every person is different so everyone needs a different form of self-care. Don’t follow the crowd, become you and it’ll all start from there. Trust me. It really is simply peanuts.