mental health

Hello 2019

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ONLY TAKE THE GOOD SIDE OF PERFECTIONISM 

I haven’t written here for a while... I really enjoy making my very own articles and choosing everything from the pictures to the layout, but I’ve always been kind of a perfectionist, and so it wasn’t easy for me to learn how to write here while not having enough time to make it as perfect as I wished.

But in 2019, I don’t want to be an “all or nothing” kind of person anymore. I’ll always be a perfectionist in the sense that I like things to be well done, but I believe it is better to not feel discouraged by not doing things exactly like I wished and then do nothing instead… Something is always better than nothing in that case. So here I go again, writing on my little personal online space :)!

I want to share what my main focuses this year are, it’s not really a “New Year’s resolutions” article, because we’re already way past that haha, and also because I prefer to see it as engagements to myself instead of resolutions that everyone abandons after a few weeks. It’s ok to not do everything perfectly, as long as you go forward and that your personal goals get closer and closer.

LOWER MY STRESS LEVELS

If you know me, or have been following me online for a bit, you probably know that I’m pretty hypochondriac. I used to take it as a joke, because I felt my fears but knew my brain could handle to talk some sense into them... Until a few months ago where I felt that my anxiety due to hypochondria took way too much space in my life than I wanted to, almost giving me full panic attacks.

This is not something I want to take with me in 2019. I want to cherish my body and mind, cuddle them and take care of them, feeding them with good positive foods and thoughts. I started taking yoga classes again last year and realized how helpful it is to focus on something relaxing for an entire hour, and how this peaceful feeling followed me after. That’s one of my keys to fight anxiety, but I have others that I’ll develop with you in a future article.

If you have irrational worries too, know that it’s a way your anxiety found to express itself. Don’t ignore it, but don’t let yourself fall too far into it. Always remember to breath and most importantly, that you’re not alone.

 
 
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BECOME A DOER

I’ve always been a dreamer. And I’ll always will be because that’s my personality. Now that said, I noticed how things can evolve quickly when I actually push myself to work my lil’ ass off... And I owe it to myself to get out of my contemplating mode (which is mostly driven by fears of failing) and get to where I deserve to be. I have a new project I’m working on now, that I will also write you about very soon, and I feel like it’s the perfect timing in my life, when I finally know that fears shouldn’t be driving my life path.

Also, I want to remind myself to take every opportunity I can and make it into something positive, no matter what happens. EVERY TIME I did something I wanted to do that scared me, it ALWAYS resulted in something positive. So here’s some life lesson. Do the scary things.

REMAIN POSITIVE AND THANKFUL

No matter what happens, I want to remember how lucky I am. I have the best people surrounding me, ones that make my heart ache from love and happiness, ones that I can trust and talk to about my worries, hopes, serious and stupid matters... I live in a country I never dreamed of being able to live in for a long time, I get to travel and meet adorable, interesting people and call it a job. And so, SO MANY other things in my life that I am thankful for. I want to remember all that when I have moments of doubt because life is really an amazing experience.

Cheers, and talk soon ;)!

 
 
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How to start being healthy?

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        There's two kinds of people concerning health: the extremely healthy ones -they workout, care about health and know how to eat clean, do yoga/stretching/meditation, they don’t drink alcohol, don't smoke...- and the ones who aren’t healthy at all -they don’t workout or very rarely, eat out almost every day and drink alcohol several times a week, don’t care how to eat healthy or don’t have much nutritional information...-. It’s a bit cliché but almost always true! I find rather rare the people who are in the middle, also because I noticed some people in the second category actually care for their health but don’t know where to start and are afraid to have to commit to very strict rules.

 

        I had a roommate who've always had a great metabolism all her teenage, therefore never cared much about how food would affect her size. And suddenly as she was in her 20s she wasn’t happy that she started gaining weight (nothing wrong about not being the fittest! If you’re happy and feel good that way it's perfect :) I'm just telling you about this one story). So what did she do? She went to buy “healthy food” that she doesn’t love as an effort to work on her health at the grocery store: roasted salted nuts and all made porridge with chocolate milk... see the problem? She ate foods that she didn't like because she thought she was making an effort but obviously, these foods aren't healthy or good to make you fit, so all she was doing was frustrating herself! We hear “nuts” and “porridge” are healthy, but if we don’t know why, we WILL make the wrong choices at the grocery store. It’s important to educate yourself when it comes to nutrition so you know you can actually have pleasure eating healthy (pizza’s aren’t that bad, even when they’re not cauliflower crusted, as long as you care about the toppings -you know cheese and meats aren’t the best- or how often you eat them) and that you don’t have to buy the so-called “diet” foods that you don’t really like AND aren’t working.

        Some people would say this is obvious but honestly, I see so many people that lack basic info on foods that I think it's important to help them know the basis -where to start- for a healthy life! Not everyone was born with parents who could teach them that ;).

 
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         HEALTHY DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN SKINNY

 

        Coming back at the example of nuts: why are they healthy? They contain lots of good fats and extremely necessary nutrients (potassium, magnesium, vitamins, iron, calcium, ...) but the downside of it, is that they also contain so many calories (just a little less than oil, which is pure fat), which is great if you want to gain weight in a healthy way (I have many friends who are naturally very thin and try to gain weight eating a lot of fast foods and candies... Which doesn't work because they get sick of it, and it gives them poor skin condition most of the time). But if your goal is to lose weight, maybe you want to limit the nuts a little (don't completely erase them from your diet, remember the nutrients they have).

        As another example, fresh fruit juices are great and bring loads of vitamins quickly, but as I wrote in my article “juices vs smoothies”, you don’t have the fibers in it to help slow down the absorption of sugar... No problem at all if you don’t care (although it can mess with your blood sugar levels and so your energy) but again, if your goal is to lose a few pounds and that you think drinking juices will help you do that, maybe simply switch for fresh fruits or smoothies, where there are fibers to help fill fuller and slow the sugar absorption. There's no need to quit on natural sugar, it satisfies your sweet tooth and fruits aren't very high in calories, just be careful with the way you eat them :).

        Same goes for olive oil and other oils, agave syrup, coconut products, granola and granola bars, peanut butter, ...

 

        So remember: people can be healthy without being skinny (so don’t judge too quickly), and depending if your goal is to simply improve your health, or lose or gain weight, there is not just one answer and you might want to make adjustments to your own diet.

 
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        PLANT-BASED UNPROCESSED FOODS AS A PRIORITY

 

        Instead of searching for “low fat”, “low sugar”, or removing all the carbs from your diet while still eating highly processed “diet foods”, you might want to go back to a simpler way of eating. Because your body needs nutrients and vitamins, and the more processed the less of these you have in it (maybe you've heard of the term "empty calories", which is when you eat something that doesn't bring anything necessary to your body). Always have fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, and find ways to cook them that pleases you without wasting all the benefits (maybe try not to deep fry them every day haha). Also include basic plant-based foods in your diet that will help you feel full in a healthy way: rice, sweet potatoes, potatoes, beans, chickpea, lentils, ... These unprocessed foods should be your staples if you want to change your health, then of course, it's up to you to make it delicious in a way that is still good for you :), like chickpea curry with rice, lentil dahl with sweet potato, whole grain pasta with homemade tomato sauce, ... there are quite a few options to play with!

        Of course, not everyone has time to cook after a whole day working, so don't feel guilty about not being able to eat fresh produces every day. But for example take a look at the amount of sodium in a jar of pasta sauce you can buy at the supermarket: there’s often way too much salt, while if you simply make your own with simple ingredients (garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, onions, ... and a dash of salt and pepper) you’ll never reach that amount of salt. Sometimes it’s also a lot cheaper to make it yourself, and it doesn't take too much time in that case!

        So think about it when you buy all made foods: could you make it yourself? Is there ingredients in it that are unhealthy and you could avoid using if you made it yourself?

 
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        WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON THE LABELS

 

        When you do buy processed food -because there are good processed foods! Like oats for example, or canned beans- take a look at the label. Here are the few things to look for when you start your health journey (there’s more to look at, but these are the priorities in my opinion).

  •  There must be as little names you don’t understand as possible. You know, the scientific names you don’t really know what they mean? Well let’s try to stay away from them if you can. For example, I sometimes used canned chickpeas instead or dry ones because I'm in a rush, and when I read the ingredients on the can at wholefoods, some only had chickpeas, water and salt, while others had "calcium chloride" in it. So keep it as short as possible, if it's not necessary, I don't buy it :).
  • If there is salt and/or sugar (note that most of the names finishing in “ose” have sugar - glucose, dextrose, fructose, ...) in the three first names on the ingredient list, it’s not a good sign (unless you're buying salt lol): the ingredients are classified by quantity, so the higher the name, the more percentage of it is in your product. I personally never buy any food that has added sugar in it, except if it's a particular cheat day (if I use ketchup for example). The reason is that I believe sugar is addictive (a few experiences proved it) and since I've quit added sugar I don't really crave it anymore. I also feel that natural sugars in fruits and dried fruits is way enough for my taste (since I've stopped eating added sugar, even from agave syrup and other health foods, I can taste it better, and some foods I used to love taste way too sweet for me now).
  • Sodium: the problem with sodium is that it's often hiding in your everyday food (example: breakfast cereals) because it's a good preservative. Therefore, in general if you eat less processed foods you'll also reduce your intake of sodium, but if you want an indication of how much sodium is too much sodium for a food, here's what I found: it has to contain less than 140milligrams of sodium per serving (number from USDA's recommendations), or from 300mg to 120mg per 100g of food (120 is best obviously). Note that I don't count my grams and milligrams and all these numbers, as I say eating healthy shouldn't be complicated and if you simply reduce processed foods you should be ok :) but it's a good indication to start and understand. But don't panic, it's easy!

 

 
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        DON’T FEEL FRUSTRATED!

 

        It's important to indulge a little sometimes! If you’re unhappy with what you eat, are you really healthy? Mental health is also very important!

        It’s all about balance, remember you can't be perfect! As long as you’re making better choices everyday and that you’re informed about what you eat, you can of course drink wine with your friends and have a little fast-food sometimes, after all we only live once ;)!

 

 
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Find motivation with positivity

 

        When you observe your past actions, you may notice that your most productive moments are often generated by negative forces like fear (of losing an opportunity/of starvation/of someone else/of death), panic (the famous last minute productivity) or a sad life changing event. So, in general, you worked the hardest during the darkest moments of your life, for the simple reason that in these moments you often have no choice but to work your ass off.

 

     But what happens when your goal isn't urgent?

         Many people get stuck with their small goals like lose/gain weight, change a habit or a diet, start exercising or run a marathon... For example, I recently stopped smoking. I have to say I wasn't a huge smoker (2-3 cigarettes a day, sometimes more, and a lot more if I was partying) but still, smoking is smoking and in my head I knew it was temporary, "I'll stop one day" I thought "but not today". Another thing about me is that my mom is an Oncologist so I know all the ugly truth about cancer, but it's funny how it wasn't enough to make me stop: nothing was imminent so I always pushed it to later. Until I decided to stop for a different reason: I wanted to run faster.

     Motivation with positivity

        I read before about this positive approach that focuses on what are the potential positive outcomes if you change instead of the potential negative ones if you don't. Instead of thinking you want to lose/gain weight because you find yourself unhealthy/not beautiful enough at the moment, think of how healthy you will become and the confidence you will have. If you just started exercising and you compare yourself to others thinking you aren't fast enough/good enough and that's why you should work harder, it can be less motivating than if you think of how far you will go/how strong you can become compared to where you started (in general try to never compare yourself with others path, we come from different places and have different bodies/minds).

So when I finally stopped smoking, instead of thinking that I had to stop to not die some day, to not smell like cigarettes, to not age my skin too quickly etc... Well I started thinking the other way; this time it was to be able to sprint faster at Barry's Bootcamp as I already made progresses but felt like I would feel so much stronger if I stopped... And I was right! After 2 weeks without touching a cigarette, I already could sprint 0.5 mph more than before! I also wanted to feel healthier in my everyday life and keep my money for better things. And because of that, the few moments when I craved like a cigarette it was so much easier than before to make the right decision.

It's subtle because sometimes it's just turning a sentence the other way ("I will have a better skin if I change" instead of "I have to change because my skin is/will be bad" which is technically the same thing but it rings a different bell in your mind) but more than the saying it's the positive thinking and how you see the situation. I don't know if that will work for you, but I know it works for me because I am tired to always think of the bad things that can happen to me as a motivation force. I just want to be surrounded by more positivity in general in my life.

     Thinking positively doesn't mean closing your eyes

        Of course, you also have to face the negative things in life because nothing good comes from closing your eyes to the truth. As another example is how I decided to eat vegan and what made me change -the horrible videos and the truth about climate change opened my eyes- but it doesn't have to be your motivation force! Because in the end what made me really go vegan is all the delicious meals I tried and how I felt healthier and how my skin got better (I already had good skin but some friends told me the last 2 years my pores went smaller which is when I started a plant based diet). So, maybe in the end it's a mix of both: be clear about your situation, but use all the positive things that can happen to you as a motivation.

 

Pictures shot by Patrick Xiong

Pictures shot by Patrick Xiong

 

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