‘Just because you can put something in your mouth, chew it, swallow it, and then poop it out doesn’t mean it’s food. It just means you can chew it, swallow it, and poop it out.’ (Cameron Diaz, 2013)
Today, I would like to introduce to you: the Body Book. My new bible when it comes to health and nutrition. I know that this blog is supposed to be a ‘travel tribute’, and that discussing fitness doesn’t really fall into that category… However, I have an absolute need to share and recommend this book to you, so I’ll make an exception here. Also, to be able to enjoy travelling and to discover more and more about the world, we need energy. Energy, which we obtain through good nutrition. (Hope I can get away with that!)
To be honest, this summer has been the worst for me when it comes to healthy foods and exercise, with lots and lots of cheat days. Greece introduced me to Souvlaki, in Brussels I couldn’t resist the famous Belgian waffles, and in England I had scones almost every other day. Moreover, I didn’t move my butt at all.
Even though I had an amazing time in every single one of these places, something was off. I didn’t feel connected to my body. I felt worn down, tired, and the days at home in between those trips I was just lying down, feeling unmotivated to do anything. Moreover, feeling unable to physically move influenced my overall mood and happiness.
I didn’t understand why I was feeling this way. After all, only a month ago I felt on top of my game, despite the stress about my final year exams and dissertation.
Why was I feeling this way in summertime? Free, sunny, relaxing summer?
The explanation I can give is that during those busy weeks of travelling, I didn’t have any structure or routine in my life. I would wake up in the middle of the day, go to bed whenever I felt like it, and eat unhealthy foods –both in amount and substance- at irregular times. In comparison, during my exams, I would wake up at 7 am, had a full breakfast to carry me through the morning, brought my ‘brain-food’ with me to the library, and after a full day of revision I’d go to the gym and fall asleep like a baby before midnight, to then again wake up early morning feeling energized.
To test the theory, three weeks ago, I decided to go back to my old routine regarding exercise and food, and see whether this would make me feel better. And to tell you the truth, I greet the day in the morning with so much more happiness. I am feeling lively and full of energy during the day, and have the best-uninterrupted sleeps at night. My skin looks better, I feel less bloated and worn down, it has had a positive influence on my mental health and spirit as well, and I literally feel better about my body and about life.
This is why I found a lot of recognition in Cameron Diaz’s book. One of the things she emphasized was: “If I find myself in a pattern of poor nutrition, poor sleep, and not enough physical activity, I notice that it comes along with a curious feeling . . . everything from my thoughts to my actions to my emotions starts to take a lot more effort than when I’m taking care of myself properly. But since I’ve learned that my mental and emotional health are directly connected to how I care for my body, as soon as I start to feel that drag, I get myself back on track’
This is exactly the experience that I have had, and therefore, the body book captured my attention from first to last sentence.
When reading the book, I just knew I would have to share it in a blog. Even though she acknowledges herself that she isn’t an expert, she shared with great conviction her personal discovery of the importance of being healthy, and how much more you can get from life if you are in a body that has boundless energy and capability. That realisation, she wrote, had to be shared with others. That’s kind of how I feel about going to the gym and quitting sugar. You just want to scream it off the roofs, as you wish everyone the life-improvement that you’ve experienced after learning about healthy nutrition and exercise.
With this I don’t mean the diet crazes that have been around, and ideas like ‘carbs are no good’. I’m talking about really knowing what processes go on in your body when you take certain foods into your body and what it means to be healthy.
Cameron describes what it means to be healthy as the following: ‘’When I refer to health, I’m talking about having a body that is working at its optimum, a body that has the energy to go all day without crashing, a body that can fight off illness and keep you strong. I’m talking about feeling amazing in your skin, in a body that can wake up in the morning, get out of bed, make breakfast, and get moving. I’m talking about having a mind that can be clear and productive, thoughtful and happy.’
Cameron describes the simplest ‘logical’ things such as the importance of eating breakfast, or drinking enough water, or sleeping enough, in a very clear informative and funny way. She also explains about different nutrients: ‘Foods like rice and whole grains and vegetables provide carbohydrates, which your body turns into glucose, to give you energy. Fish and poultry and beans offer protein, which your body breaks down into amino acids to repair muscles. Healthy fats like nuts and olive oil give your body the essential fatty acids that it needs to absorb vitamins and minerals and keep you healthy.’
She also explains why the obsession with calories is not accurate, as there is a difference between ‘nutrient-dense calories’ and ‘empty calories.’
Furthermore, she describes things such as the difference between refined grains and whole grains, and explains what is wrong with diet crazes such as: low fat diets, low carb diets, low protein diets and so on.
The chapters ‘protein is strength’, and ‘fat is essential’, are definitely worth reading.
The section about sugar I found specifically interesting, as ever since I quit sugar for 40 days, I’ve been advocating the danger of sugar. One of my personal experiences is that when I don’t eat sugars, I have less appetite in general. This is backed up by studies mentioned in Cameron’s book showing that when you ingest sucrose, the sugars bypass the hormones that tell you that you’re full, which means you can overeat without realizing it.
She explains perfectly why it’s better to avoid sugars –added sugars, not fruit sugars- and additionally gives some tips on how to do so. Moreover, she addresses the danger of high-fructose corn syrup.
[If you are specifically interested in the poison that is sugar, I highly recommend you to watch this documentary: sugar, the bitter truth; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM%5D
It’s more difficult to just think ‘I’m not going to eat added sugars’ and stick to it if you kind of believe it is bad for you, but you don’t really know why. However, once you have the information of what added sugar does to your body, it’s a totally different relationship with making that choice; trust me, it becomes easier. And once you experience the results, you don’t want to go back to the older days.
It may seem like a sacrifice, or too much of an effort, to eat healthily and to avoid sugars. However, not eating these types of foods is the actual treat you are giving to yourself.
I see sugar as feeling tiresome, sluggish, unhappy in my skin, and healthy eating as… well, all of the opposite.
People may not have directly linked the way they feel physically and mentally with the foods they eat, and therefore, excluding those nice treats from your taste buts may seem horrid. However, once you know what those nice tastes do to the rest of your day(s)… it’s an easier choice.
It’s the mentality of what you are giving yourself by NOT eating it.
In the Body Book, there is no goal to reach in 7 days or 30 days or 365 days. The goal here is forever. It is not a quick fix. It is about longevity. It doesn’t emphasize just the way you look, but moreover the way you feel.
The second part of the book regards movement and fitness. It is very motivational and once again it doesn’t force you to follow a certain regime. It merely tries to bring some awareness to you to the importance of movement, which to me is more inspirational than following a certain routine without knowing why, without knowing the benefits.
After a while, the fitness part of the book becomes quite biological; you may or may not be interested in it. For me it was a good way of catching up with my old biology classes. However, my main interest was the nutrition and fitness part of the book.
The third part of the book is about the mind, staying motivated and disciplined. It also touches upon the mind-body connection. She literally writes something that I always tell my boyfriend when he says to me to take a paracetamol when I have a headache: “’When you have a headache in the middle of the day, do you pop some ibuprofen and wash it down with some coffee or diet soda? Or do you ask yourself if you might be dehydrated and consider how much sleep you got the night before?’
It’s all about listening to your body.
To end this blog, I’d like to present you with this last quote by Cameron Diaz, which hopefully motivates you to read the book, but moreover to motivate you to take care of your health. As you’ve only got one body, and that’s the one you’re going to live in till the end of your days.
“Your days may be full of energy and clear thoughts, happiness and gratitude, productivity and advancement, or they can be the complete opposite. Sluggishness, foggy thoughts, sadness, regret . . . basically, a bad day full of wasted opportunities. It took me a long time to really understand that, but I finally get it: If I eat garbage, I’m going to feel like garbage. If I eat good healthy food full of energy, I’m going to be full of energy.
Today, tomorrow, and twenty years from now, your nutrition is worth your attention and your time, because nutrition is health, and health is everything.”
So, as Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, famously said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”