Tag Archives: vegan mindset

“How I Became Happy and Healthy”- The 10 Lessons I Learned During My Health Journey

17 Jul
Version 4

About The Author: Hi! My name is Hanna and I am a Junior at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism with a Sustainability Certificate. At the University of Iowa, I am a member of the public relations team of my sorority and starting in the fall, I will hopefully be writing for Iowa’s school newspaper, The Daily Iowan. After graduating from Iowa, I hope to be attending law school to study Environmental Policy and Law. Outside of academics, I enjoy practicing yoga and channeling my creativity through different forms of art. Being a vegan for over a year, I am frequently spending my free time learning more about the vegan lifestyle.

Hi Everyone! Like many others, living a life that promotes both physical and mental health is a top priority, which is why I have spent the past year discovering different strategies that keep me healthy from the inside out. These 10 themes I learned are based off my personal experience, but anyone can apply these topics to their lives regardless of where they are! Each of these tips falls into one of three categories: nutrition, exercise, and mental health. So here are the top 10 lessons I learned while on the path of living a physically and mentally healthy life 🙂

1.    Fuel your body with the proper nutrients!

healhtyeatEating nutrient dense foods is the first step to becoming your healthiest self! A plant-based/vegan diet has all the necessary nutrients your body needs to become strong, toned, and healthy! Consuming our essential macro nutrients (Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat) in whole  plant foods will leave you feeling energized and nourished.

Proteins= The building blocks to our bodies! Proteins make up the structure and function of our tissues which is very important when building muscle! It is extremely easy for vegans to not only consume enough protein for their body’s everyday-function, but also to consume enough to build and maintain muscle mass. My go-to protein providers are quinoa, buckwheat, beans, chickpeas, tofu, and Evolve plant protein powder (it’s so good)! Don’t forget that all plants have protein so don’t worry about not getting enough! Here is an awesome piece about plant-based protein!

Carbohydrates= Energy! All fruits and vegetables have carbs in them which our bodies use to create glucose. Glucose is the sugar that gets used for energy immediately or stored for later. Not only do out bodies need glucose, but so do our brains! With the bad rap carbs get, it’s important to understand that in order to be a functioning, healthy human we need to consume carbohydrates. My favorite complex carb-dense foods are bananas, sweet potatoes, lentil pastas, brown rice noodles, and home-made treats!

Fats= Absorption! It is essential to have healthy sources of fat in your meals so your body can absorb and receive the benefits of all the nourishing vitamins from whole foods! Healthy fats also help you feel satisfied, satiated and can curve cravings. I like to get my servings of fat from avocados, coconut oil, nuts, vegan chocolate, and almond butter!

2.    The timing of your food matters!

nourish bodyNot only is it extremely important to eat the right types of food to be healthy, but it is also important to know when to eat specific foods!

If you have a day packed with activity like walking a long distance, a tough workout, or a race to run, you’ll want to prep your body with a carb-dense meal. Leading off your most energy-expending activity of the day with a substantial, carb based meal will guarantee that you will have a steady flow of energy throughout!

One of the most crucial steps to being fit is making sure you are providing your body with enough protein to gain and retain muscle mass. After an activity where you are exerting large amounts of energy from your muscles (lifting weights, HIIT sessions, long cardio sessions, a challenging hike, etc.), consuming 20-40grams of protein will give your body all the necessary amino acids to repair, maintain, and increase the muscle tissue!

3.    Discover the type of training that works the best for your body!

There are endless benefits to exercise that leads to a healthier body and mind; so in order to be your healthiest and fittest self, finding a workout routine that you love, gets you results, and is sustainable, are key pieces! Whether your goal is to gain muscle, lose body fat, gain speed and endurance, or just to be active overall, there is a style of training that will help you get there. Everyone’s body and goals are different, so find a style of training that makes you the happiest and healthiest!

After trial and error periods, I have found that a routine centered around explosive and body weight exercises consistently gets me to my goals! My workouts always involve exercises that require more than one muscle group like jump squats, push-up-burpees (aka death), walking lunges, and commandos. These are just a few exercises that get my heart pumping and leave me dripping in sweat! Despite the fact that I sometimes think I am going to collapse during a difficult workout, this type of training is what I enjoy, what is sustainable for me, what pushes me, and what keeps me fit!

4.    Find your motivation!

We can’t forget that it takes hard work, discipline, and patience to be the healthiest version of yourself! Ask yourself why you want to commit to this journey. Is it because you’ve played sports or been active your whole life and want to continue? Is it to be confident and completely comfortable with how you look? Is it to get stronger? Leaner? Faster? Do you want to feel your best and be energized? Is it all of the above? Whatever your reason is, find what motivates and inspires you to put in the effort even when you don’t want to! My recommendation is to try to find a mentor or role model that reflects your goals in a healthy and safe way (I have listed my personal favorites at the end). There are so many amazing young men and women that share their fitness and health journeys that provide the opportunity for anyone to follow so find someone who you trust and look up to!

5.    Develop a Healthy Mindset

There is an extreme amount of pressure put on both young men and women to look a certain way, for women to be “thin” yet “curvy” and men to have the “triangle” shape with broad shoulders and a six-pack. These difficult expectations are not only promoted through advertising campaigns but also found through different social media platforms. It is challenging for young men and women to avoid comparing themselves to these unrealistic standards. With the constant pressure to look a certain way, it is crucial that you retain a healthy mindset regarding yourself, your food, and your workouts!

body careI have experienced first hand of what an unhealthy mindset looks like; I counted calories, restricted myself, counter-acted any “slip-ups” with 2 hour long workouts, and sometimes I would even go to the gym twice a day. But the unhealthiest part during this time was that I put an extreme amount of pressure on myself to be this impossibly “perfect” person. After much needed self reflection, I decided that I was no longer going to sacrifice my health and happiness to meet these expectations. I now look at my health and fitness journey with these 3 attitudes.

View food as your friend, not your enemy! Nutritious, whole foods are the necessary support to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Nutrient dense plant foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, and grains will be your allies in being your fittest self! When you do decide to indulge in your choice of “junk food”, try to remember that having a vegan doughnut (my go-to) or a vegan double-cheeseburger is not going to ruin your progress or require you to spend 3 hours at the gym the next day. Don’t be hard on yourself if you “treat yo-self” once in a while!

View your exercise and workouts as a time to make progress toward your fitness goals, not a counter to not-so-healthy choices! Viewing exercise as a time for yourself and a way to increase your strength, speed, endurance, and overall health leads to a healthier mindset. Also, don’t be hard on yourself if you miss a day of exercise! Our bodies require time to recover so don’t force yourself through a workout if you’re sore or if you aren’t up for a gym session! Listening to what our bodies are saying will lead to a healthier self inside and out!

If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself. We tend to be the biggest and toughest critics of ourselves so it is crucial that we maintain a healthy mindset towards what we see in the mirror. Understanding that people see you differently than you see yourself can switch your self-criticism to self-acceptance. No one is going to notice that pimple on your forehead, that you’re a little bloated today, or whatever insecurity is on your mind. Positive self-talk is so important for your happiness and self esteem, so expressing gratitude and appreciation towards how amazing your body is and everything it does will help you feel confident throughout your journey!

These last few lessons I learned are concepts that I follow in order to be in-tune with myself and my happiness!

6.    Don’t forget about your passions!

Each of us has small passions that provide a way to express our creativity and ideas! When we’re trying to keep up with the pace and demands of our lives, sometimes it can be easy for us to forget about our little hobbies that make us happy. Whether you love to create art, build things, take photos, make fire mix-tapes, write poems, watch old movies, whatever it is, just do it! Carving out the time to do something that you love enhances your individuality and will leave you feeling accomplished, content, and proud of who you are. Your passions are what make you, you!

7.    Put yourself first!

This might sound selfish but hear me out. I believe that taking the time to provide space for yourself to decompress and do what is best for yourself benefits not only you, but others. Putting yourself first dedicates the time and mental room to ground and recharge yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or a little off! If you take the time to support yourself, love yourself, and understand yourself, you then can support others, love others, and understand others!

8.    Learn how to be alone

The wise lyrics of Lil’Boosie and Lil’Phat, “I-n-d-e-p-e-n-d-e-n-t, do you know what that mean mayne?”, asks an important question of the meaning of independence. Being independent doesn’t just apply to your ability to support yourself, it also applies to your emotional and mental independence! There will be times in our lives we won’t have our family and friends surrounding us; maybe we are away at school, or we moved to a different city. Whatever the reason, eventually we will need to learn how to be alone. Spending significant time by yourself allows you to really think about who you are and who you want to be. I am not saying spend a month in solitude just to figure out where you want to go to college, but being alone can lead you to your own conclusions and decisions without outside influence! Spending time in your own company will inevitably create a strong support system for yourself and solid coping skills that will be necessary when making big decisions and struggling with conflict.

9.    Allow room for growth

grothEveryday we are presented with both big and small trials and decisions whether they relate to our careers, home life, school work, or health! These areas of our lives offer the opportunity for us to challenge and push ourselves outside our comfort zones. This final push over the threshold of comfort is where we find the most growth! It may be challenging, uncomfortable, nerve-racking, and even a little scary to challenge ourselves to keep growing in different areas of our lives, but the outcome of our progression is completely worth it. We all have dreams and goals we wish to reach and achieve and its our job to push ourselves to be the best we can be!

10.    Take one step at a time

Life is hard. We get dealt hands we don’t want and we get thrown curve balls we don’t expect. Sometimes we have to adjust our lives, plans, and dreams in order to accommodate our new situations. It may seem overwhelming and daunting when trying to become the person you want to be; but I promise if you just take one step at a time, soon you will be able to look back and see how far you have come!  It doesn’t matter what you are facing; it could be the start of your fitness journey, a mental health situation, relationship problems, uncertainty about your future, whatever it is we’ve probably all experienced it. Just keep moving towards your end goal and I promise that you will make it out on the other side stronger and wiser!

I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to read this piece; I hope I could provide beneficial advice and a helpful point of view!

Here are links to just a few individuals who inspire me to continue on the path of healthy living!

Tess Begg – Both a fitness and vegan inspiration! Tess has delicious recipes and great workouts!

Sarah’s Day – My go-to girl for great workout routines and exercise plans! **Disclaimer: I do not agree with or promote Sarah’s food choices, I only recommend her workouts!**

Hanna ❤

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