Variety is the key to vitality

 In Mind and spirit, Nutrition information

whole food- veggie picture

In my Health Coaching practice, one of the biggest things that stands out to me is the repetition and lack of variety in many peoples life be it diet, exercise,  and daily routines. Now, there is something to be said about routine, but when the rigidity of the routine or lack of variety leads to boredom or a decreased enjoyment in life… we’ve got a problem.  Change in routines stimulates the mind, body and spirit.  So…as Taylor Swift says, “Shake it up”!

Many people find themselves having trouble sticking with a healthy diet or exercise regime, and this can create frustration and discontentment.  When I first started leading my Mindful Eating Plan, one of the complaints was that people were getting bored with the same meals.  It was not that they could not have a variety of foods, it was that they were sticking to the same breakfast, lunch and snack because it was easy and they did not have to think.  This defeats one of the purposes of the Mindful Eating, which is to connect with your food/fuel and enjoy eating clean.  I find many people do the same type of exercise, with little variety or cross training, and then they get injured, or stop seeing any results, be it weight loss or strength/fitness gains.  The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Council On Exercise recommends cross training for:

  • injury prevention
  • increased functional fitness for balance and activities of daily living
  • stress body in new ways to see fitness gains
  • foster routine exercise- prevent boredom

A study from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in 2005 looked at exercise variety and its help in reducing risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s in people over 65.  Variety stimulates the mind as well as the body.  If you are a cardio buff, try a bit of yoga and or strength training a few times a week.  If you are a solo exerciser, join a group class or activity to change it up- maybe tennis, or an adult swim, Zumba/dance, martial arts, muscle conditioning or even a class like my Quick HIIT!

As far as changing up your meals and the importance of variety, I know from my kids example that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch every day for a month can lead to not eating PBJ for a year!  I thrive on variety and love thinking about and ‘feeling’ what I am going to eat for breakfast or lunch.  If I have oatmeal one day, I will have yogurt and granola or an omelet another day.  I plan out my dinners to change up the vegetables, the proteins and even grains.  The leftovers are usually lunch for my husband and I.  The government and American Dietetic Association has ‘My Plate’ to foster variety of food category choices and they recommend varying the color of fruits and vegetables you consume daily.  My kids in elementary school are filling out a color chart for their food daily for March into Nutrition month.  Why is variety in food important?

  • prevents boredom and makes food more enjoyable
  • ensures you get all the nutrients and vitamins/minerals that your body needs daily
  • decreases the risk of chronic disease and malnutrition (not to be confused with starvation- as you can be obese and malnourished).

So embrace a little variety, change it up and add a bit of spice to your life!

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