What Healthy is NOT
by Laura Iu, RDN
If you asked me a few years ago, what being “healthy” means to me, I wouldn’t have the slightest clue how to answer you. Imagine me 5 years back: I’m chugging Red Bull for a 9 AM class, and courtesy of the microwave, devouring mac & cheese for dinner 3 days a week. Yes, this was my freshman year at New York University, and at that time I knew nothing about the importance of nutrition (gasp!) Flash forward to present day, and I’m working at a private practice in NYC, providing in-home cooking classes, and working as the nutrition guru at Housing Works (more on that in my next post!) Without a doubt, you can bet my definition of what it means to be “healthy” has evolved tremendously over the past few years.
When I first began my studies at NYU, I considered myself fairly healthy. I was a pescatarian, went to the gym regularly, and also never restricted myself from any baked sweets or savory snacks. It wasn’t until my junior year, when I started taking core nutrition courses that I became hyperaware about the foods I ate and the amount of calories I consumed. After a class project where I was required to mimic a patient’s diet by logging the food I ate, the amount, and even using measuring cups to cook, I soon became paranoid about calorie counting. In fact, the time I spent on the treadmill was no longer fueled by enjoyment, but by the amount of calories I knew I had to burn in order to “zero out” part of that day’s calorie intake. Then within that same year, I met Laura Cipullo, a New York City dietitian who was surprisingly not at all a proponent of fad diets. In fact, she was the exact opposite. When I began working with her, I’ll admit it, at first I was skeptical. Does she really do pilates for enjoyment? Spinning? And running?? Does she really preach “all foods in moderation” and follow it too?!
Yet after the first few months of getting to know her on a personal level and working side by side–I discovered that it was all true. The next time I visited the treadmills, I covered up the numbers on the screen and instead focused on how I felt on the inside. And when it came to food, I slowly focused more on the nutritional quality of foods I was eating, rather than calories. From modeling her behavior and learning about the consequences of restricting foods, without even knowing it she motivated me to change the way I viewed food and to develop healthy habits. Although the ability to eat freely and without any guilt takes work, it’s certainly not impossible to get there! Remember that what you choose to eat (or not eat) for one meal or day(s) doesn’t negate all of the healthier choices you’ve made in the past.
As I’ve broadened my knowledge of food and nutrition, I’ve realized that working in the field by no means makes me perfect in the way I eat; but the way I eat is perfect for me. I’m at my happiest and healthiest when I’m able to cook my own meals, which I prefer to do instead of dining out. I love knowing exactly what ingredients are going into my food, which helps me eat healthier and allows me to experiment with new ingredients. When I’m not pretending like I’m a Chopped contestant at home, I’m always running from job to job around the city, and having my packed snacks on hand keeps me energized and happy.
*To read this full blog post, click here.