All Posts By

Charlotte Kurz

Why I’m Going Plant-Based

 

In the health and fitness world, there are so many different diets and ways to eat—it’s enough to make your head spin. Confronted with a million different trends and lifestyle options, I found myself in a tough place. It became so hard to find a way to eat that would make me happy, feel good, and that would fit in the category of what I thought could be considered “healthy enough” that I struggled daily with the decision.

However, all of this changed the minute I started looking into going plant-based.

This is something I’ve considered for a long time but never thought I’d “be able to do it”; but recently, it finally clicked. I read two books about plant-based diets (How Not to Die and Eat to Live), watched the documentaries (Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives), and I was sold.

(And the food’s pretty good, too!)

vegan mac & cheese with roasted sweet potatoes

vegan mac & cheese with roasted sweet potatoes

I could go on for hours about the benefits of eating less meat and dairy and gearing yourself toward a plant-based, whole foods diet, but I’ll sum it up to the key benefits I’ve found that have pushed me to take this huge dietary risk for the sake of my health:

  1. toast with peanut butter, bee free honey & different types of seeds (chia, flax, and hemp)

    toast with peanut butter, bee free honey & different types of seeds (chia, flax, and hemp)

    Heart health. The more fruits and vegetables you eat, the lower your risk of heart disease (one of the nation’s biggest killers).

  2. Diabetes prevention.
  3. Lower risk of cancer. Seriously, take a minute and geek out over the China study. It’s amazing how changing the way we eat can not only lower our risk of cancer, but slow down cancer where it already exists: studies have shown that plant-based diets can actually turn off cancer cells, whereas diets high in meat and dairy promote cancer growth.
  4. Disease prevention. Research shows how diseases can not only be prevented but can be completely reversed all by eating a plant-based diet.
  5. Mental health. There are also studies that show vegans have lower levels stress and anxiety. This is a huge benefit for me, as I’ve struggled with an anxiety disorder especially related to health and food.

Since heart disease and diabetes unfortunately run in my family, I decided it was time for me to take full control of my health and protect myself from all the disease I could.

I understood the health benefits after countless hours of research, but I had no idea how much it would affect my mindset.

I’ve talked a lot about the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship with food, but for a long time I found it hard to practice what I preached.

homemade Lara-type bars with dates nuts and seeds

homemade Lara-type bars with dates nuts and seeds

In the past two years I’ve lost about 70 pounds, and I’ve struggled a lot with having balance in my life and not being controlled by my food choices and the idea of being “perfect”.

In the past, I would meticulously count calories, weigh every single bite of food I ate, and stress myself to the point of panic attacks if I ate “bad foods”.

Now, I’m only interested in providing my body with the most wholesome nutrients possible. I feel more relaxed about food, and I have to get creative with what I eat, which has made me enjoy food again. Looking up recipes has renewed my passion for cooking and eating. I feel like I’m starting to be freed from a really dark, scary place that happens so easily when people start getting too obsessed with food and fitness. The best part is, this feeling isn’t part of some “fad” or diet—it’s just because I’m eating in a way that is the most health conscious for myself and in a way that makes me feel good.

homemade hummus & guacamole with homemade sweet potato fries

homemade hummus & guacamole with homemade sweet potato fries

I couldn’t be happier with my decision to go on this journey. Of course, this is my personal experience—fitness looks different on everybody! But if you’re looking for a place to start, going plant-based might be a good one.

 

Resources:

http://www.pcrm.org/health/medNews/vegans-have-less-stress-and-anxiety

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/slideshows/reasons-to-choose-a-plant-based-diet

Mindful Eating, and Why You Should Care

National Eating Disorder Awareness week is February 21st-27th this year, where the focus is on bringing public attention to the needs of people with eating disorders and their families.

mindful eating

Why is this important? Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder1 and 30 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder at some point of their lives2.

With so much pressure to look a certain way, fitness and health can sometimes become confusing and completely consuming. In a society obsessed with diets and calorie counting, our eating behaviors may not be as healthy as they were once intended to be. Case in point, 91% of college women have attempting to control their weight through dieting3. It’s easy to go from wanting to “just cut back on calories” to becoming obsessive and meticulous about what you eat. However you like to stay fit and healthy, it’s important to consider different ways to reach your goals, while keeping your mental health and overall wellbeing in mind.

This is where the idea of eating mindfully comes in. Mindful eating is a different approach that attempts to take some of the stress, anxiety, and unhealthy behaviors out of healthy eating.

What is mindful eating?

mindful eating

Mindful eating is a practice that is aimed to resolve the love-hate relationship with food, as well as trying to combat the mindless, consuming, and guilt-inducing way that many people in our society eat today.

This is eating with a purpose—to nourish yourself and to enjoy food and its effects on your body. Mindful eating embodies the entire process of eating. This means that when you eat, you have a heightened awareness of physical and emotional cues, non-hunger triggers for eating, as well as choosing foods for both enjoyment and nourishment. It’s all about creating a balance, which ultimately is done with the goal of developing a better, healthier, relationship with food.

Why is it important?

Mindful eating can be useful for those who struggle with food, in relation to negative thoughts and feelings. If you’ve ever struggled with binge eating, overeating, or emotional eating, you may find mindful eating particular helpful. Studies show that mindful eating leads to fewer symptoms of eating disorders, like binge eating.4

Mindfulness can make you aware of certain behaviors, which allows you to identify triggers and make healthy changes. When you eat mindfully you are clear on when you are hungry or full, which allows you to create healthier eating behaviors. Overall, mindful eating increases a sense of wellbeing. That’s something that everyone can benefit from, no matter your fitness level or your personal relationship with food.

How can I do it?

Just like diet or exercise, keep in mind that mindful eating doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. You can incorporate a couple simple mindfulness tips into your eating and see the differences it makes in your life. Start slow; take it one tip at a time to begin to incorporate mindful eating into your life. Like everything, it’s a process, but over time it can lead to a healthier, happier, life full of balance. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started:

Eat slower. This will give you more time to appreciate the food and reflect in all of it.

Pay attention to what you’re eating-experience all of the flavors and textures of what you’re eating. Savor and enjoy your food and embrace the good it’s doing for your body!

Find support. Talk to your friends about your desires to eat more mindfully, social support goes a long way.

If you have more serious concerns about your eating habits, reach out! There are a number of resources on each college campus, ranging from the counseling center to the student health center. Eating disorders are treatable and early intervention can increase the likelihood of preventing the onset of a full-blown eating disorder. Early intervention can save lives. 

Check these websites, too: they’re great resources for not only awareness, but intervention and support as well! 

National Eating Disorders

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

Eating Disorder Hope

Sources:

  1. American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152 (7), July 1995, p. 1073-1074, Sullivan, Patrick F.
  2. Wade, T. D., Keski-Rahkonen A., & Hudson J. Epidemiology of eating disorders. In M. Tsuang and M. Tohen (Eds.), Textbook in Psychiatric Epidemiology (3rd ed.). New York: Wiley, 2011. p. 343-360.
  3. Multi-service eating disorder association
  4. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030413p42.shtml

5 Tips to Eating Healthy in College

healthy eating in college - fit university

College isn’t exactly known for being the healthiest time of our lives—there’s dining hall food, late night snacking, and sometimes the freedom of choosing our own meals proves to be overwhelming. I believe that it’s possible for everyone to eat healthy in college, if they spend just a little time making that effort.

I’ve lived in a dorm room the past 2 years with a dining hall meal plan, so I get it. It takes a little practice to get in the hang of making these choices, but with a couple of my simple tips, I think you too could become a pro at this healthy eating thing while you’re in college.

Keep reading for my 5 tips to eating healthy in college…

  1. Keep it simple. Walk into any dining hall on campus and you will see all sorts of crazy foods that appeal to the typical 20-year old. Mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, French fries, mozzarella sticks, it’s like every child’s dream in the dining hall. Sometimes we run a little wild because there are “NO RULES”, and we end up with a plate that has every single option on it. Think about the balanced plate drawing we had to do as kids—the one that had proteins, grains, veggies and fruits on it. Go into the dining hall with this kind of mindset. Pick lean proteins and whole grains if they’re available, and always load up on veggies. If you go to dinner thinking about how you’ll make your plate a simple, balanced meal, you’ll be making healthier choices without having to think too much about it.
    eating healthy in college
  1. Take charge of your eating. This is for all of you living in a dorm with limited (if any) access to a kitchen. One thing that has absolutely been the key to staying on track in the dorms is having access to healthier alternatives in my own room. I always have healthy snacks on hand: carrots & hummus, string cheese, yogurt, popcorn, etc. This comes from the logic that if it’s available to me, I will eat it. If it’s healthy, even better. I also really enjoy prepping some of my meals in the communal kitchen of my dorm. This way, if I’m really not in the mood for any dining hall food, I can grab some prepared grilled chicken and brown rice out of my mini fridge. It’s like takeout, just a little healthier!
    eating healthy in college
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for what YOU want. If you want to eat healthy in the dining hall, it’s really important that you’re able to advocate for yourself. A lot of the time, you’ll see me in the dining hall at the grill, asking the workers to make me a grilled chicken sandwich without the bread. When chicken breasts aren’t being offered in the regular entrees section, this is a great option. Getting the chicken allows me to make a huge salad with some protein, or to get rice and beans from a different station and have an easy, healthy meal.
    eating healthy in college
  1. Eat a variety of foods/try new things. The first time I ever tried Quinoa was in the dining hall. I knew it was healthy but for whatever reason hadn’t tried it. I love it now! Eating healthy requires a number of things and one of them is variety. If you eat the same thing time and time again, you’ll get bored and won’t want to continue to eat that way, no matter how healthy it is. Take advantage of having someone else preparing food for you and experiment with the things they serve. You never know when you’ll find a new favorite.  
    eating healthy in college
  1. Maintain balance and moderation. This is the most important tip I could give you. Eating healthy is part of a healthy lifestyle and it should be treated as such. There should never be pressure to eat a certain food or a certain way. Eating healthy is about doing what’s good for your body, but maintaining balance and moderation in your life is about doing what’s good for your soul. Balance to me means eating healthy and working out the majority of the time because you love it and how it makes you feel. It also means that you can take a break from the gym and treat yourself sometimes without it being the end of the world. This is the only time you’re young and in college, so take advantage of that. Go out with friends and have an amazing meal, make some memories! Living a healthy lifestyle is recognizing that you need both moderation and healthy eating to create an ideal balance in your life. That’s what it’s all about right?