The challenges of eating healthy

Student blogger David Adelman picks up pointers on wholesome nourishment from Health Services
April 17, 2012

In the fall I’m going to Paris on exchange. Although I’m excited, I’m also a little worried that I’ve become too accustomed to home-cooked meals with my parents. For the first time in my life, I’m going to have to cook for myself!

Worried that my experience studying abroad is going to turn into a fast-food bender, I decided to meet up with Owen Moran, promotions specialist at Concordia’s Health Services, to see if he could help me develop healthy cooking and eating habits.

Watch the video of my visit with Owen:

“Do you know what a healthy diet looks like overall?” was the first question that Moran threw at me. I tried to dodge it by responding how I eat oatmeal every day for breakfast. After a brief pause, I added in that chocolate is my Achilles heel.

“There are no bad foods, just bad amounts. Even for chocolate,” explains Moran. Okay, now he had my full attention!

He asked me what goal I hoped to achieve. I wasn’t sure, but I told him I definitely didn’t want to gain more weight. “If you truly want to make changes in your health behaviours, I’m going to give you four steps to follow. Are you ready to start a journey towards a healthier life experience?”

“As long as I can still eat chocolate, “ I responded instinctively. Moran laid out his four-step plan:

Step 1: Set a S.M.A.R.T. goal

“S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Time-bound,” Moran explained, stressing that a person has to be ready to commit to daily nutritional and/or physical exercise goals. “These are behaviours that will help you lose those ten pounds because you can’t just chop them off.”

If only it were that easy, I thought to myself.

Step 2: Build commitment
“Your heart has to be in this. If you want to succeed, you have to see what you’re doing as a gift. Don’t approach this from a deprivation point of view,” he insisted. I always thought it was willpower and motivation that carried a person through diets and behaviour changes, but Moran argued the spark of willpower burns out quickly when we are having a bad day. “Dedication and commitment will always be there regardless and they will help you overcome any barrier.”

Step 3: Make a plan
“You have to measure the pros and cons of making a change towards healthy eating habits. Actuate those positive reasons and eliminate or minimize the negatives. If the negatives are too overwhelming, then you won’t want to change,” Moran said.

He began to tell me a story about how he started to floss. I had no clue how this was related, but he’s pro-chocolate, so I tuned in closely. “I put a calendar next to my bathroom mirror and put a check mark every time I flossed. After a while, I couldn’t go to bed unless I flossed my teeth. First it was a pain, but once I saw four months worth of check marks, I felt incredible. Now flossing is part of my bedtime routine.”

Luckily, I had a lot of extra calendars lying around.

Step 4: Monitor
“Those who monitor are much more likely to achieve and maintain their goal than those who don’t,” explained Moran, who suggested I follow the Canada Food Guide’s division of food groups. According to this guide, to be a true healthy Canadian one must have a balanced daily intake of: vegetables and fruits, grain products, milk and alternatives and meat and/or alternatives.

“A healthy diet is mainly a plant-based diet and the more colourful the fruit and vegetables you eat, the more vitamins your body takes in,” added Moran.

Towards the end of our session, Moran suggested that I start paying attention to food labels. I told him I only look for protein and he started to laugh. “That’s quite a common remark I have heard from people. Most of us don’t realize that as North Americans we are far from protein deficient. In fact, too much protein is bad and can lead to problems like kidney stones.” I shuddered at the thought … fruits and vegetables it is!

I thanked Moran for his time, but as I was about to leave, a scary thought came to mind. “What happens if I’m still hungry?” It’s all about the pacing, he said. Spreading out meals during the day and indulging in healthy snacks is a key aspect to good eating. But sometimes our perception plays a trick on us and we feel hunger when really we are just thirsty. “Drink more water during the day,” were Moran’s parting words.

What about you? Do you eat healthy? If so, do you have any tasty and healthy recipes that I should try?

Related link:

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