Updated: Jan 31
So much focus these days is on eating "right" and exercising "enough." There are lots of quick fix diets and exercise plans out there that claim you'll reach your goal weight in an unrealistic time frame, such as 30 days. Every body is different and has different needs in terms of calories needed to sustain life and provide enough energy to do the things a person needs/wants to do. A 5'8" man weighing 160lbs and has a seated office job will need a different number of calories than a man with the same height and weight who does 8 hours of physical labor each day for work.
To eat "right" first you must determine what is right for YOU. What are your health goals? How dedicated are you to reaching those goals? Does your body tolerate all kinds of food?
I used to think that my body tolerated all types of food (whether or not my taste buds agreed). Then I learned in my late 20's that I have celiac disease and need to avoid gluten. That drastically changed how I ate, and once I was following a 100% gluten free diet I felt drastically different...better! Fast forward 10-12 years when my doctor recommended that I go on an Autoimmune Paleo diet to help reduce the inflammation in my body caused by several autoimmune diseases. I was very disciplined with this eating plan and followed it 100% for 8 weeks. The first part of the diet is all about eliminating potentially inflammatory food. I felt incredible! My body had never felt so good before, it was amazing! I had more energy, I didn't have pain anymore, I didn't get sick! The second part of the diet is focused on adding back in the eliminated foods and taking note of how you felt for 7-10 days afterwards. I was eager to add food back in, and sometimes went through the reintroduction phase too fast. This made it difficult to tell which food my body was reacting to. I did, however, discover that my body DOES NOT like nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, etc), and it doesn't like processed sugar. When I'd eat nightshades or processed sugar, I'd get a very painful stomach ache, and decided that the pain was not worth the taste of that food. Over the last 2 years, I've added back in all the eliminated food except nightshades and processed sugar, and now my body doesn't feel as good as it did while on the diet. Consequently, I am in the process of eliminating foods again. So for me, it is worth the extra time in the kitchen, the extra planning, and rarely eating out so that I feel good in my skin.
I'd highly recommend talking to your doctor prior to making a drastic change in your eating. If you don't have a problem with autoimmune diseases, you may want to consider the Whole30 diet. This diet eliminates quite a few foods but is not nearly as strict as the diet I went on. Another word on diets...when changing the way you eat consider if the new diet is sustainable for the rest of your life. After all, most people typically go on a diet for a short time and then return to the bad habits that led to the problems with their weight or how they feel. The best thing you can do is to choose a meal plan that you can sustain forever. This will help you maintain a healthy weight and feel better long term.
In terms of exercising "enough," this is also subjective. A person who is sedentary at work will need more exercise than someone who has a physical job. A lot of people dislike traditional exercises that involve cardio machines and dumbbells. If that's how you feel about it, exercise in a non-traditional way. Take a class that involves a lot of movement: dance or martial arts, for example. Join a community gardening group, go hiking, swim, park your car as far as possible in the parking lot from the door you intend to enter, take the stairs, or walk laps around the building at work during your lunch break. There are countless ways to add movement and non-traditional exercise into each day. For those who are more interested in traditional exercise but aren't sure what to do, hire a personal trainer to get you started. Take a class at the gym for camaraderie and to learn how to do some exercises correctly.
It is normal for some people to feel sore 1-2 days after exercise. As you start to increase your exercise, take notice of how your body feels. What is your energy level like throughout the day? Do you feel sluggish more often than before you started exercising? You may be doing too much too soon. Find what feels right to you and your body.