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Health & Fitness

Diet & Exercise: Weighing the Options

October 9, 2018

If you’re trying to improve your overall health (which, let’s face it, is an ongoing goal for a lot of us), it can be hard to know where to start. Sure, we know that healthy eating and regular exercise are important, but what exactly does that mean? When every diet looks good on paper (or on your Internet browser, as it were), how do you choose one on a spectrum that ranges from plant-based, “Who needs cheese, anyway?” vegan to high fat, low carb, “Hope you like bacon and eggs!” keto? If the woman in the front row at your hot yoga class is in great shape, but your sister who does Crossfit is also in great shape, how do you know whether the best workout involves a Namaste or a Workout of the Day?

 

We don’t necessarily have the answers for you, but what we can do is take some of those open tabs from your browser window and put them all in one place so you can compare, contrast, and consider what makes the most sense for your body, your brain, and your budget. Check out these popular diet and exercise plans, and see what may work for you!

 

Diet

 

The word “diet” simply means “the kinds of food that someone habitually eats.” Whatever the literal meaning might be, though, there are a lot of cultural implications attached. We often say we’re “going on a diet,” and while sometimes a temporary change can help us build momentum or reset our habits, the eventual goal isn’t to “go on a diet” until we lose, gain, or redistribute weight, but to HAVE a diet that’s sustainable enough and accessible enough to support long-term, overall health—not just help us wiggle back into those skinny jeans from college. Here are just a few of the many, many ways you can choose to feed yourself.

 

Mediterranean Diet

 

The Mediterranean diet isn’t new by any means, but it was ranked number one on a list recently published by U.S. News & World Report, so if you prefer “tried-and-true” to “trending,” this could be a good fit. It’s more of an approach to eating than a structured diet, which gives it the potential to be more sustainable—and more affordable—than some other options.

 

Basically, it encourages lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, healthy fats, and seafood, moderate consumption of dairy, eggs, and poultry, and very limited red meat and refined sugar. If you grew up with a fridge full of skim milk and fat-free salad dressing, this diet might be difficult to wrap your head around, but healthy fats can actually help lower “bad” cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. So unless you’re at a rad 90s party, put down your Snackwell’s cookie and eat an avocado!

 

Paleo Diet

 

The premise of the Paleo diet is “eating like our ancestors ate.” While it’s unlikely that our cave-dwelling predecessors were doing their hunting and gathering in the aisles of Trader Joe’s, it’s probably still a good idea to avoid added sugar and processed foods. This plan can be tough if you’re not much of a meat eater, as it also recommends eliminating dairy, legumes, and grains, but removing those items from your diet does have the potential to reveal food sensitivities.

 

Paleo landed pretty low on that U.S. News & World Report list, coming in 32nd out of 40 with an overall scorecard of 2.3/5, and it can be surprisingly expensive to eat like a cave person. However the Paleo diet’s ongoing popularity suggests that it must be working for some people…so check it out!

 

Keto Diet

 

The goal of a ketogenic, or “Keto,” diet is to achieve ketosis, a metabolic state in which you burn fat first instead of carbohydrates. How do you get your body to do this? Well, you basically feed it a lot of fat and very few carbohydrates. At first glance, a Keto menu might look similar to a Paleo menu with the occasional “add cheese” option, but the two diets actually have pretty different approaches.

 

Keto focuses more on fat intake than protein (again, if you’re a 90s kid, your brain might be short circuiting right now), and while Paleo is more of a general eating strategy, Keto involves setting up your personal macros (i.e., optimizing the ratio of fat, carbs, and protein you consume). If you like science bacon, but can live without bread and potatoes, a Keto diet may be worth a shot!

 

Weight Watchers Diet

 

Weight Watchers might sound like the diet plan your mom used…and it totally is. But at #4 on the U.S. News & World Report list, Weight Watchers just might be standing the test of time. This program lets you eat whatever you want, but uses a “points” system to help you focus on portion control and mindful food choices. If you’re someone who benefits from structure, but you’re also someone who’s looking for a diet plan with flexibility (AKA, permission to order the occasional pizza without feeling like you’ve failed), Weight Watchers may be well worth the cost of a subscription.

 

Vegan/Vegetarian Diet

 

While most diets are based largely on how they affect your body, the decision to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet may be motivated by other factors, such as animal welfare, eco-consciousness, and even food cost. If you are ditching meat (and maybe dairy, eggs, etc.) for your own health, it’s important to keep in mind that simply reducing or eliminating your consumption of animal products doesn’t automatically mean you have an ideal diet.

Packaged meat and dairy alternatives can be expensive, and it’s easy to overdo it on soy and sodium if you rely on them too much. Sour Patch Kids are vegan. French fries are vegan (as long as they’ve been fried in a plant-based oil). The bottom line is, you absolutely CAN have a healthy, cost-effective plant-based diet…but a plant-based diet isn’t healthy and cost-effective by default.

 

Exercise

 

For many of us, an oversaturated schedule is the biggest obstacle to regular exercise. But even when we do have the time to work out, it can be a tough to figure out the best way to go about it. There’s usually more than one answer.

 

If you just run, you might be in great cardiovascular shape, but you may have trouble building muscle. If you just lift weights, you might build a lot of muscle, but it may be tough to maintain flexibility. If you just practice yoga, you might become really flexible, but you may not be getting much cardio. You see the dilemma.

 

So even if you know what you usually gravitate toward, do a little “fitness tourism” if you can. If you belong to a gym, try out a few different classes and add the ones you like to your regular rotation. If you don’t have a gym membership, browse YouTube for workout videos, or see if any of the fitness studios in your area partner with classpass.com, which is basically like ordering a sampler platter from the appetizer menu…except you know, with exercise instead of mozzarella sticks and fried pickles.

 

Your life, your life insurance

 

Much like finding the right diet and exercise plans, shopping for life insurance can feel overwhelming. That’s why at Our Life Covered℠, our goal is not only to keep things simple, but to also recognize that choosing a life insurance policy to help protect your family is a very personal process. So visit us today to get a free quote designed just for you…because whether you’re sipping a green smoothie on your way to Pilates or chewing on a piece of grass fed beef jerky before your Crossfit class (or vice versa), we’d love to be part of your journey to a longer, healthier, more financially secure life.

 

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