What is health?
You see the word practically every time you blink your eyes now. On the labels of the latest new organic tea drinks, in the description taglines under food choices on restaurant menus, and so on and so on. “Health” drinks that promise to lower your cholesterol, or fat-free, low-carb, “health” options at restaurants – everywhere you turn now, there’s no shortage of “health” for sale.
But what does health mean to you? Why are you trying to become healthy?
Because where I come from, being “healthy” has always meant eating everything your mother puts on your plate. That’s just how it is in Brazil. Leaving food on your plate is never a compliment to the chef like it is in French cuisine. In fact, it’s the polar opposite there: offensive! But I know that this is not just the case with Brazilians. I have a feeling that many of you were also raised in this kind of culture as well. “Don’t waste food,” your mom probably told you. “There are starving kids out there who are not so lucky.”
Now for those of you who are not familiar, in Brazil, there is no such thing as a breakfast that isn’t loaded down with lots of bread, cheese, and processed meats. In addition, of the 64,000 bakeries in Brazil, nearly 20% of them are all located in just one city: my hometown of Sao Paulo! We love our bread so much here that it is crazy to even think about going one day without it.
After all the bread, cheese, and processed meats for breakfast, we customarily sit down to a lunch or dinner that is served buffet style, with staples like white rice and beans always present on the table. Next to them are almost always large helpings of delicious meat-based dishes, vegetables and salad.
Now I know that doesn’t sound that bad, but you should also know that we cook our food with a lot of oil and salt. And when we help ourselves to the food, the portion sizes are, to say it lightly, very generous.
Now I wish that was all, but we Brazilians are quite well-known for our obsession with sweets and cakes! My afternoon tea time at Grandma’s house was like a repetition of breakfast, but with the addition of a huge assortment of delicious cakes and sugary coffee. This is how the table looks like in the afternoon:
So needless to say, the concept of “healthy” foods or “eating healthy” was kind of a mystery to me growing up with such delicious foods all around me every day. There was no such thing as portion control or measuring your caloric intake, and when we ate, it was so that we could enjoy ourselves. None of us ever thought we were eating unhealthy or had poor nutrition habits; we just had no awareness of what was good or bad. And so growing up ignorant made it feel as if life was bliss and I continued stuffing my face and stomach until I was content.
The first real wake-up call took place when I moved to Australia in 2012 and reality started to kick in. I was 18 years old, couldn’t speak English, had no idea what I wanted to with my life, and didn’t have a dollar in my pocket, [read more about my early days in Australia here] but what I noticed most clearly was how my body wasn’t reacting the way it used to.
Although I was still eating the same way I used to, my body was definitely not looking the same. I began to notice a small but concerning muffin top around my waist and cellulite forming in places where it never used to be. I also felt tired more often and I knew that this couldn’t be a normal thing for a 20-year old girl to be feeling all the time.
I think that, as most girls can relate, the idea of being healthy is never that important until you start feeling the effects of being unhealthy. I didn’t feel the need to adopt a healthy lifestyle until I didn’t like what I was seeing. The core drive to improve my health began because I wanted to look fit and feel sexy and beautiful.
But in my quest to become fit, I discovered my own understanding of what it meant to truly be “healthy.” In addition to making me look better, my new lifestyle also provided me with more energy, confidence, and the feeling that everything inside my body was operating on cleaner fuel and working so much more efficiently. I felt stronger, more capable, and just so much happier with the person I had become.
So this blog is my way of recording my adventure into what I know will be a lifelong obsession with fitness and health. I sat around wondering if I should share my experiences at all, as I’m actually quite a private person in real life, but when it comes to topics I’m passionate about, I know how extraverted and energetic I can become. I love meeting with not just some of the world’s best nutritionists, scientists, and athletes, but regular fitness enthusiasts like me who enjoy pursuing a healthier lifestyle just because it makes them feel better. I hope to use this blog as a way to share all the knowledge we bring to the table in order to achieve what we are all individually looking for when we pursue the betterment of our “health.”