Before & After Photos Are Bullsh*t

For years the before and after photo has been used to sell some sort of product or service, usually a weight loss related one.  It also is a way for people to keep track of, and show, their weight loss progress. ‘Before’ usually features a heavier person who looks unhappy, whereas the after is a thinner, smiling, sometimes more done up, perhaps wearing less clothes version of the first.  

What does this image say?

 

That by changing our outside appearance we will become happier, confident and perhaps more desirable? Lately ‘healthy’ and ‘thin’ have become one in the same.

 

Photos though are a very small snapshot of life that nowadays can be manipulated to exemplify whatever feeling the editor chooses. It’s no longer as simple as taking a photo, developing it and ta-da!, there is a moment captured. Now we have filters, photoshop, and digital cameras that allow us to take hundreds of photos until we get it juuuuusssttt right. 

 

We see what people want us to see. That does not always mean it is showing the whole truth.

 

Because thin and healthy have become synonymous things have gone beyond the simple before and after photo alone.  Now personalized captions are added that discuss how much ‘healthier’ a person feels, their confidence, energy, self esteem and transformation.

 

Let’s play a little game:

Here are some photos of moi. They aren’t the perfect ‘before and after’ photos, but they will work. Can you pick out which ones I’m ‘healthiest’ in?  Which ones do I look happiest?  Most confident? Most energetic? 1

Here's the truth behind each of these photos:

 

  1. 2010: I was happy, but I was FAR from healthy. I was living off processed carbs. Example diet during this part of my life: PB&J's (the cheapest of all those ingredients we could find), Top Ramen, oatmeal, maybe an apple and a couple eggs, topped off with Tim Tams and wine. I started to have chronic yeast infection and guess what? I thought I was so freaking FAT. I hated my body. My sleep schedule was whack, but I was having a grand old time.
  2. 2014: I was healthy by all usual measures. Food, exercise, yoga, sleep...I checked all the boxes.  But I may have checked them a little too enthusiastically. I feared carbs and rest days. I had a lot of hormonal imbalances that I was having difficulty healing including secondary amenorrhea and no libido. This is a few months post bikini competition and my energy had dropped WAY down. I was starting to feel apathetic toward all my former interest and my body was changing rapidly. I was losing my 'perfect' body, gaining weight and losing muscle that was totally freaking me out. I was starting to gain belly fat...(what belly? right?!) About a month later I was in a deep depression and my health went down the drain.
  3. 2015: I am the heaviest I have ever been in my life and I now lead a healthier life than ever. I have dealt with my perfectionism and fear around food and macronutrients, and still eat a wholesome healthy diet of whole foods. I let my body rest, I get adequate sleep, I practice self care. I move my body for fun and not because I despise it. I've gotten my menstrual cycle, libido and my laugh back...albeit things aren't always hunky dory as I deal with residual self worth stuff and I still have some health challenges.

 

I could have captioned those in a million different way. You would never have known what was really going on, and there are many things I still have left out.

 

I definitely support creating healthy habits and lifestyle, as well as nourishing ourselves through food and movement.  I also understand that sometimes we gain weight because of a health issue like hormonal imbalances or depression. Let’s be honest though that has never been what the before and after photo is about.

 

When we caption photos like this with ‘how far we’ve come’ what does that say?  Perhaps it is meant in terms of forming new eating habits and adding in some movement, BUT when these words are displayed next to two photos of a woman in her bikini it makes the message a bit confusing.  

 

Perhaps the transformation DID actually do all these great things for a person outside the obvious weight loss part. The fact is though it’s being displayed as truth based on the fact that the person in the photo is thinner.

 

The very basic message this sends is:

Before = heavier, depressed, low self esteem, no confidence, lazy, slob

After = thin, strong, muscular, healthy, happy, confident, successful, disciplined

 

I did this when I got super fit. I had a ‘transformation’ before and after photo. I will not pretend I haven’t fallen into the trap.  I did start to take nutrition seriously for health related reasons, but exercise...that was pure vanity.  If you asked me why I started exercising a few years ago my honest answer would have been, “because I was sick and tired of being disgusted by myself when I looked in the mirror.”  I would go to the gym every day because I wanted a new body. I was doing it because I hated what I saw, I put my value in my body and I didn’t like who I had become. Eventually I did grow to love exercise but only once I was strong and seeing my body change.

 

Is our weight how we define our happiness, our confidence and our health? Is fitting into certain clothes and into what society views as beautiful our motivation?

 

Is there a way to show our wonderful progress in health and wellness without only showing it through how thin we look in a picture? Instead why don’t we show a photo of us DOING something that makes us feel strong or energetic.  Show me through your life and your actions, not your bikini or a body selfie.

 

It’s great that the ‘fix’s’ and programs out there are helping people learn to love movement, cooking, eating whole foods and self care….but they are still promoting the idea that our bodies define those things.  If we look like the 'before,' we need to look like the 'after' because that is where confidence, energy, strength and health lie.  

 

If it’s not just about the weight we lose but the person we become, then why is the proof a before and after body shot?

 

The ideas that we have to deprive ourselves, that we can only feel comfortable in our skin once we meet ______ weight loss goal, the desperation to lose that 10lbs to be happy are not what health is about.

 

We can love our body and still exercise and eat healthy. We can be happy with our body weight even if it is outside society's standard of beauty, we can be healthy and not look super fit. We can eat healthy, move our body and rest because we LOVE ourselves not because we are trying to lose weight.

 

No matter what the caption, before and after photos featuring weight loss are still sending the message that thinner = happier, healthier, confident, worthy.

 

Get over the before and after, think outside the photo.

What The Philippines Can Teach Us All About Food

One of the most exciting things about travel for me is the food.  Getting a taste for the culture, the history and the people.

There are whole shows on this concept (Anthony Bordaine anyone?...Dream job!).

Each time I travel someplace I pick up a new culinary idea, ingredient, or technique.  Experiencing cuisine from all over really opens a whole new world of food.

The Philippines offered simple foods, but their practices around food were far from what we are used to in the US. I bet you will be shocked at what lessons I brought back with me.

The 'Danger Zone' isn’t as important as you think

If you have ever worked in the food service industry you know all about the danger zone.  It’s really drilled into your head.  Basically it’s the temperature that food can start to bread pathogens.  Here’s the thing though; the food I ate the entire time in the Philippines was in the danger zone. The traditional eatery or restaurants are called turo-turo translated to ‘point, point.’

Here’s how it works: large batches of multiple dishes are made in the morning and then displayed on the counter in uncovered, unheated trays all day until it either runs out or they close for the day.  The food literally just sits on the counter.  Then you point (get it?) to what you want and they scoop a bit on a small plate and hand it over.

When I first arrived I thought they would give it a quick stir fry to heat it up, but I was mistaken. Rice and soup were kept heated, and BBQ was cooked fresh but other than that luke warm danger zone food was the norm.

I seriously think all our crazy over concern about the danger zone is just so people don’t get sued, but that’s just my opinion.  Yes people get food poisoning, yes there is such thing as travels diarrhea (which i didn’t get this time!), but those things can happen at home too.  It my be that your digestion isn’t optimal, in addition to being exposed to new bacteria.

It was a bit worrisome at first, but then I realized it wasn’t that big of a deal! All it did was make me really appreciate warm food.

Am I encouraging you to eat ‘danger zone’ food?  No.  All I’m saying there’s no need to be overly paranoid about it.  Remember there is always a possibility of getting sick, but maybe that is a sign you need to look into your digestion.

Pro tip: If it smells weird, looks weird, or has fuzz of any kind growing on it’s bad.  Do not eat.

Don’t be afraid to use the whole animal!

Eating snout to tail is not an option in the Philippines, it’s nutritionally and fiscally a necessity.

Often it was more difficult to find straight muscle meat than offal or organ based dishes.  Liver and intestines were all the rage.  Simmered in soup to being BBQ’d on a stick.  I even got a little adventuresome and had BBQ’d chicken head.

We are so afraid of the organs and odd bits here in the US, but after traveling abroad it seriously seems ridiculous.  Most of the world eats these parts and has been forever.  It’s where a great majority of the nutrients lie.  When did this fear and disgust even start?

The preparation is important to ensure good flavor and since cooking offal may be new to you, the first time you do it it may not be amazing. Try, try again.  Thankfully offal is super cheap.

As with trying anything new sometimes it does take a bit of time to get used to.  When our minds tell us it’s disgusting, most likely it will be.  So go into it with an open mind.  The worst that can happen is you spit it out.

There’s no such thing as kid food

In the US certain foods are marketed for kids and there’s a separate kid menu at every restaurant.  The kid food is junk food lacking nutrients.

Go somewhere else in the world and everyone eats the same stuff.  It’s human food, kids are small humans and they eat what adults do. There’s no differentiation.

I hear laments about how kids won’t eat anything else, but really we as adults set the standard.  What were we feeding them from day 1?  Was it processed junk?  Did we give them kid food and then expect them to like ‘adult’ food?

Kid food is sugar and sugar is addicting so you can’t blame them.

In the Philippines it was normal to see the little ones at the BBQ stand choosing the liver stick or nomming on the chicken intestines.  Which just showed me that kids can like healthy things, even seemingly ‘gross’ things.  It’s all about what they are offered and given.  I highly doubt that American kids are born with a special set of taste buds that only like chicken tenders, mac and cheese or white bread.

So to sum things up.

Nutrition lessons from the Philippines:

  1. No need to freak out if your packed lunch ended up not be refrigerated for a few hours.  If it smells alright and there’s nothing growing on it, it’s most likely alright.
  2. We should stop being afraid of organs and acting like they are garbage.  Offal is food too and actually is more respectful to the animal and cost effective to use it all (not to mention it’s a superfood)
  3. There’s no such thing as kid food.  It’s a modern American invention.  An invention that has made a whole new industry creating more money for the companies at the expense of children’s health.

I realize all of these things will probably be met with resistance.  When things have been ingrained into our upbringing it’s hard to open our mind to another way.  Just give it a thought, without judgement, and allow them all to be possibilities.  I can tell you they are all very, very true.  If you don’t want to take my word for it then it’s time to plan your own trip abroad!

Tera

How to Choose The Best Tasting Coconut Water

coconut-water Now that I’ve thoroughly frustrated you with the truths behind coconut water production, let’s get into why it’s so popular in the first place.

 

BENEFITS

 

It is a nutritional powerhouse.  In comparison to sports drinks it has high mineral content (electrolytes), low sugar, and doesn’t have disgusting additives.  Sports drinks unfortunately have a lot of added sugar, artificial coloring and flavoring, and preservatives.

 

Coconut water is extremely high in potassium, and also has calcium and magnesium.  The one mineral it is slighting lacking in is sodium.  This is important because sodium is one of the main minerals we lose to sweat.  If you are using it as a sports recovery drink, or recovering from severe dehydration you will need to give your coconut water extra hydrating power by sprinkling a pinch of sea salt in it.

 

All in all coconut water provides more nutrients, less harmful additives, less sugar and does the job of a sports drink.  Also anything that comes from nature is going to be more easily assimilated by our body and therefore more beneficial.

 

HOW TO CHOOSE

 

To get the best tasting coconut water you will want to try to get real young coconut water and not the stuff that has been fouled up by manufacturers.  (read my previous post on that here)

Once again, we must read the label.  With our modern day processing, and big food companies it has unfortunately become important to be able to read food labels.  (I made a video about that! check it out here)

 

What to look for:

  • Where it was bottled.  Was it in the US or in a place where coconuts actually grow?
  • Where the coconuts are from?  Did it come from a mix of different locations?  If so you can bet that it has been concentrated.

**fyi: Thailand and the Philippines are known to be some of the best tasting coconut water!

  • Check the ingredient list.  Look for added sugar, water, preservatives, natural flavors?
  • The statement “from concentrate.”
  • Expiration date.  If it expires in a year or two it has been pasteurized.  Coconut water is delicate and perishable.

 

As long as you choose a 100% pure coconut water it is going to be superior to any sports drink or soda, even if it has been pasteurized or concentrated.  So it’s not the end of the world, but the flavor will be different and may not be very good.

 

Remember to add a bit of sea salt if you are using it specifically as a sports recovery drink!

 

There you have it!  Coconut water is an amazing source of essential electrolytes, it’s low in sugar and it’s a million times better than Powerade, Gatorade, or other fruit juices.

 

Although if you want the best tasting stuff with the highest nutritional profile you do have to be a label detective, if you don’t mind the taste of the more processed stuff then don’t fret about it.

 

If you haven’t ever enjoyed coconut water straight out of a coconut, then I highly suggest you put it on your list of To Do’s.  Plus you get to experience another country and the joy of travel so you have an all around win!

With [icon icon=icon-heart size=14px color=#000 ]

Tera

 

PS. What’s your favorite coconut water?  Do you use it for a sports drink?  Tell me about it and let’s give each other some advice!

 

References and for more detailed information:

http://www.nutrition.org/asn-blog/2010/09/coconut-water/

http://www.tiana-coconut.com/products/the-truth-about-coconut-water/

http://foodbabe.com/2014/07/15/how-to-buy-the-healthiest-coconut-water-and-avoid-the-worst/

3 Steps to Navigating Nutrition Labels

[kad_youtube url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vP7AY4Xd0sw" width=1080 height=720 ]  

Knowing what to look for on a food label can be tricky.  We are constantly bombarded with beautiful marketing on the front, and then when we look to the back all the numbers can seem confusing.

The boring back part with the Nutrition Facts and Ingredients is where the truth lies though.  This is where companies can’t hide behind clever marketing mind games.

 

I want to arm you with the knowledge to make informed healthy choices, so here are a the most important things to check when you are deciding whether something is ‘healthy’ or not.

1. Ingredient List

This is numero uno for a reason.  No matter what all the macro nutrients are or what vitamins are put into a food, if it’s made of crap…it don’t matter.  Your body is real smart.  It knows the difference between quality and crap.  Nutrients that come from whole real foods are better and more efficiently used.  Our body won’t run well on chemicals, artificial ingredients and fortified nutrients, in the end they will cause imbalances and ill-health.

Remember you literally made up of what you eat.  Even when looking at the Nutrition Facts you will often reference this list, so get real comfortable with looking at ingredient lists.

So what the heck to do you look for?  What are the red flags?

 

  • Less is more:  When the list is 3 inches long I’d be willing to bet there are more than a few things your body will not like and doesn’t need.  Processed food is often stuffed full of fillers, preservatives and other toxic ingredients.
  • Can you pronounce it?  Can you actually picture what it looks like?:  Be able to do at least one of these things with each ingredient.  Perhaps there is some exotic ingredient like Dragon Fruit you’ve never seen, but you can say it.  You can probably able to say “artificial flavors,” but what in the hell does that even mean?
  • MSG: Monosodium glutamate, maltodextrin, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed vegetable protein…with more than 40 forms it's not alway easy to pick out.  This is a neurotoxin that damages nerve cells to the point of cell death.  The best way to stay away from this poison is really just to stay as far away from over processed food as possible.  You won’t find any in your grass-fed beef or organic veggies.  One place you know you won't find any of this stuff is at your local farmers market, or co-op.
  • Artificial Colors: First off we know it’s not a real food if they are adding colors, and we know they are trying to make this food seem more appealing than it really is.  So someone is trying to trick us.  Which is a personal pet peeve.  Beyond that, artificial colors are linked to hyperactivity in children, tumors and cancer.  

2. Trans Fat and Hydrogenated Oils

Unfortunately, for too many years the wrong fat was shunned.  It’s not saturated fat that's causing disease but this sure is.  Hydrogenated oils are a modern-day human invention.  To keep things super simple these are vegetable oils that have had hydrogen forced into them.  This makes the oil solid instead of liquid and creates shelf stability for processed foods.  Remember though, our body is smart.  Each of our cells is literally made up of fats, but this fat has been chemically altered and therefore wreaks havoc on our systems.  It has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and impaired infant growth.

  • Check the Trans Fat section on the label
  • If listed as zero; double-check the ingredients list.  If there are any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil it does in fact contain trans fat
  • If there is less than .5g of trans fat per serving the manufacturer does not have to list it.  Which means they can create a serving size that benefits them but not you as a consumer

3. Sugar

One of my favorite topics!  I will try to keep this short and sweet (oh puns!), which will be difficult for me.  It comes in so many forms and it is a large cause for the obesity epidemic in American, diabetes and heart disease.  The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25g of added sugar/day for women and 37g/day for men.  That amount of added sugar can easily be found in on bowl of cereal, or yogurt.  Beware of artificial sweeteners as well.  These modern inventions are almost worse than sugar.  They disrupt gut health, and have been shown to actually cause people to gain weight further contributing to obesity and diabetes.  To top it all off sugar is addicting!  Like really addicting.  Ok ok, I’m going to stop, but a full post on sugar is ahead.  So what do you look out for?
  • Keep this in mind as you look at a label: every 4g of sugar = 1 teaspoon.  The teaspoons add up quick!
  • Sugar is hidden under many names!  You have to be a sleuth sometimes.
Hidden-Sugars
P.S. Sugar that is naturally occurring in the food will be less harmful to ones health, but a juice that has 32g of sugar per serving is not a health food.  It still effects your bodies organs and systems the same way.  The difference is there are some other nutrients in it that a refined does not have.

 

In the end if you shift your food choices to more whole foods, and away from packaged and processed you won’t have to worry about labels much.  No one will suffer a deficiency in additives, chemicals, processed sugar, or trans fat.  I guarantee you.  Not only do these things have absolutely no positive effect on your health, but they have many negative.  Now go forth and make informed choices!  It's probably not realistic to never eat packaged food, but now you can choose wisely.

--Tera--

 

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