About two years ago, I decided that I wanted to eat healthy and lose weight. I thought that it would all be fairly straight-forward. Eating healthy, I thought, was nothing more than whole wheat bread, meat and veggies – nothing too complicated about that. But as it turns out, especially if your goal is losing weight, there are a lot of conflicting messages about what healthy eating is. Everyone is an expert, and everyone promises that their method works the best, so it’s really difficult to know for sure what’s true and what’s a lie.

And right off the bat, I’m going to admit that I am not an expert. I have not gone to school for nutrition, but I have lost fifty pounds by changing my diet and exercising regularly. And that is all that I am drawing on here: experience. Experience, and a desire to help people sort through the conflicting messages that are available online.

So, without further ado, here are the things that I have learned from eating healthy.

1) Different things work for different people

This might be one of the most important points. When searching advice for healthy eating, you’ll find a lot of the same questions: “Is cheese okay?” “Is a vegan diet better for you?” “Can I still eat breads?”

And here is my answer, from my own experience eating healthy and listening to other people: different things work for different people.

For example, there are some people who will claim with die-hard conviction that you will feel a million times better if you eliminate bread from your diet. But when I did it, a good three months later I was sitting in class, unable to focus on the lecture because I was too busy watching the girl in front of me eat a sandwich. I went just a little bit delirious, fantasizing about that little bit of tortilla that comes at the beginning of a taco. Eventually, I decided that it just wasn’t worth it, and I went back to eating 100% whole wheat bread, and I haven’t had any problems since.

Some people believe that a plant-based diet is better than anything. Some people physically cannot live without meat. Some people say that cheese is terrible for you. Others say that it’s a great source of protein, and a good way to bulk up your calories if you’re looking to gain muscle. It’s all very individual, and you need to work through different diets to figure out which one works the best for you.

And the same goes for how you eat too, not just what you eat. When I first started eating healthy, I was told that the best method for doing so was to eat small meals every two to three hours, because it keeps your metabolism up. I cannot imagine any other way of eating, because I find that, every two to three hours, I start to get a little bit hangry. Yet, I have heard many alternatives to that theory. I hear that it’s best to eat within a small window between, say, noon to eight p.m. I hear that it’s best to eat one large meal and small snacks throughout the day. I hear that it’s best not to eat at all, just drink water or tea or some sort of detoxifying concoction. And I’m not saying that these methods do not work for some people; I’m just saying that they wouldn’t work for me. And that’s okay. We are all different, and all of our bodies need different things. We just need to find out what works for us.

2) You can still eat many of your favourite foods – you just need to substitute

Ever since I was little, muffins have been one of my favourite treats. They’re a comfort food, and have been ever since my mom would bring them home for me when she got off of work. And as much as I can’t (regularly) eat store-bought muffins now, I can still make them at home with substituted ingredients. Using oat flour and honey rather than sugar, I can make blueberry muffins, gingerbread muffins, even double chocolate chip muffins if I want, and I can enjoy them daily without guilt.

And muffins are not the only treat that you can do this with. For example, you can make great healthy tacos using lean beef and whole wheat tortillas. You can make your own pizzas using whole wheat pitas or whole wheat tortillas or whatever you can think up. Heck, you can even eat chocolate, as long as you can get used to the taste of dark chocolate (and your tastes will change after a period of eating healthy. Honestly, I think I eat more chocolate now than I ever used to).

Pretty much any meal that you can think of has its healthy alternatives. You can buy pasta made out of brown rice or vegetables, you can make flour out of oats or almonds. And the internet is a great resource for looking this stuff up. You can do a Google search for healthy alternative recipes, and you will find a whole variety, many of them fairly inexpensive.

3) If you want some solid advice, just try to eat natural

There are so many companies nowadays that claim that their product is the best. Because their bread is low calorie, that means that its a healthy alternative to your typical bread. The problem with that is, in their attempt to make it low calorie, they stuffed it full of so many chemicals that, as much as you can most certainly digest it, it really isn’t all that good for your body.

It is so much better for you to just eat foods that come naturally. Fruits, vegetables, farm-raised meats, natural sugars like honey or molasses or maple syrup. All of these are so much healthier for you than the products companies push to help you lose weight.

Now, I say try to eat natural because, in our day and age, it isn’t always easy. GMO apples are much cheaper to buy than organic apples, and meats from animals that never saw the sun and were fed a diet of chemicals are cheaper than farm-raised meats. Every once in a while, something’s got to give, and maybe it’s better to accept the chemicals than it is to not have enough to make next month’s rent. But that being said, when you can eat natural, it is always the best alternative.

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