[This piece was written by Jamie Epting, MS, RD, CDN, the system director for clinical nutrition with St. Peter’s Health Partners.]
February is a month when we are all thinking about relationships; about the people and things we love and maybe even giving a valentine. That valentine may include some antioxidant-rich dark chocolate, the dietitian’s favorite! But maybe we can also use this time to reflect on other relationships, such as our relationship with food and our bodies.
As a dietitian, I love food! I love the science of how it works to nourish our bodies and why sometimes some food may positively or negatively affect our health.
It’s important to love our bodies; it’s the only one we get. So, we should love and nourish it with the healthy food, hydration, and physical activity it needs to thrive.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week. The key is to make it work for your lifestyle. Whether you exercise 20 minutes every day, do 30-minute workouts five days a week, or are a weekend warrior who packs it all in a couple days, do what works for you.
Hydration is important. Generally, a healthy adult needs eight, 8 ounce glasses of water per day. Ask your valentine for a water bottle you can carry around with you. There are even apps for your phone which remind you to drink water at regular intervals.
And most important: Food. Make sure your relationship with food is healthy. Eat when you are hungry. If you are mindlessly grabbing for a snack when you are not physically hungry, there is probably something deeper going on.
Ask yourself: Are you bored? Are you having a difficult day and need comfort? If these are some of the reasons you are snacking when you’re not hungry, try to choose a new habit. Go for a walk, drink a glass of water, take a bath or do something else to treat your body well.
When you are hungry, eat mindfully and enjoy the taste, smell and sight of your food. Choose foods that will nourish your body including a vast array of colorful fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, low fat dairy, and whole wheat and grains. Plan your meals ahead and prep when you have time so you don’t go through the drive through or reach for frozen junk food just because it’s easier.
If you do all these things most of the time, don’t be afraid to skip a workout to take your valentine out or indulge in a treat to celebrate. You don’t have to be perfect. It’s all about finding that healthy balance!