By Melissa Lee
You may have heard the expression, “never trust a skinny chef.” I have to say that I am very fortunate. Despite of the fact that I am skinny myself, my students trust me one hundred percent to pass on my technical skill-set and knowledge about food to them. What I love most about my job is that I am able to establish relationship with my students. We share a true passion for food and wine. In fact, many students have become my friends. They often email me what they bake at home, including successful products (as well as some unsuccessful ones too). Many times, I have been asked to look at unsuccessful pastries and do some trouble-shooting. Besides questions about baking and cooking, the most frequent question to me is, “how can I maintain a toned body when I am making delicious pastries all the time?” Since the answer to this question is a little in-depth, I decided to write a blog post to share my “secrets” of healthy lifestyle.
Passion For Life
I believe that a healthy lifestyle starts from mental health. It’s very important to be passionate about life. It’s always ideal to combine your passion with your work. Take myself as an example. I measure my success by how much joy I bring to my students when we cook together. The relationships that I build with students are priceless to me. Yes, of course here are sometimes challenges in my job and line of work, but I embrace it and strive to solve the problems. I always have new ideas swirling around in my mind. I enjoy advancing myself. I can’t imagine that any time soon I would stop being passionate about life and work. This motivates me to work hard and give the best to people around me.
Not to sound too cliche, but I do believe that a good work/life balance is essentially important. What do you enjoy doing when you’re free? Traveling? Cooking? Trying new restaurants? Hiking or biking? Reading books? Volunteering? Watching movies? My advice is to keep exploring the world and venture out your comfort zone. It’s never too late to embrace your passion. Spend quality time with friends and family.
Surround Yourself with Positive Friends
Have you ever had a friend who is constantly complaining what he or she is facing every time you two meet up? It’s usually the same problem and yet you don’t see he or she actively looking for a concrete solutions or putting actions into place to make their situation better. Those friends will drag down your energy. Trust me. So, I suggest that you surround yourself with friends who have vision, who are brave, hardworking, driven and enjoy problem solving. I am so fortunate to have many inspiring friends in my life. They are my miss sunshine, the best listeners, my cheerleaders and even dating consultants. Ha ha.
My Idea of “Healthy Dieting” (Nice and Naughty)
As I mentioned before, I’m convinced that overall wellness starts from mental health. That is to say, you must be able to enjoy food. If you find yourself deprived from all rich dishes and any pastries that contains fat or carbohydrate, I am not sure if you will still be happy. At least I wouldn’t be!? Ironically, I actually suggest that you be cautious about any food labels marked “healthy.” Also, try to avoid “low fat” or “low carb” processed foods. When the label is marked “healthy,” it might just actually mean it is “less bad” in some way for you. Sometimes, it might not even end up being less bad at all! If a muffin is low in fat and high in fiber, it means there might be artificial ingredients used as substitute for butter in it. That’s not good! I would say, let a muffin be muffin. Put real butter and cream fraiche in the batter. Then, balance the indulgence with eating salad and fresh fruit for lunch! To learn more about how to make wise decisions at supermarkets and how to decode the label on the package, please read my blog post YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. LET’S TALK ABOUT GROCERY SHOPPING.
My “healthy diet” policy is “Nice and Naughty.” The naughty part refers to what people often call “guilty pleasures.” Although, I do not like the word “guilty.” I don’t think anyone should feel guilty enjoy a rich dish, such as pound cake or sticky buns. Since I am a pastry chef, I constantly sample different pastries and I sample my own product at every stage. When I go out for a date, I wouldn’t blink at the menu because of the calories might be high. After all, to hang out is to have fun. If I can’t enjoy the moment with great food, great wine and great company, why bother going out?
I think it’s very important to have “Nice” diet to balance with “Naughty.” Make sure you eat enough fruit, vegetables, proteins, good carbs (such as brown rice, black rice, bulgur). You can also use apps to help you keep track of the calories you consume daily. I use an app called My Fitness Pal. It’s very user friendly, and they also offer many recipes of healthy food and some articles regarding healthy life style. One big mistake that many people make is they start to eat more after they exercise. You still have to control how many calories you consume even if you work out everyday. Some healthy food, such as almond banana smoothies may contain more than 500 calories. If you drink one before workout and one after workout, totally it will be 1000 calories only for two smoothies!
Add Exercise into Your Day
Let me repeat myself again here. I truly believe mental health is the key of healthy life style. For me, adding exercise into my day is beneficial to my mental health. It also helps me to keep my body toned, but I view it more like the bonus. Sure, exercise can improve your physical health and your physique, trim your waistline, improve your sex life, and even add years to your life. But, that’s not what motivates me to stay active. I enjoy it so much because it gives me an enormous sense of well-being. I feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about myself and my lives.
Some people expect to lose weight right after they start to exercise. From my experience, I lose weight faster when I don’t take exercise and force myself on a very strict diet. The negative effects are: 1. I was so unhappy because I couldn’t enjoy the food I used to love, and I craved them all the time. 2. I gained that weight back very soon after the diet was over. If you continue to take exercise and monitor what you eat, you will gradually build up lean muscles and lose weight. It may be slower than taking an aggressive diet, but it’s better for your health in long term. Don’t push yourself too hard. Lose your weight slowly, such as one or two pounds a month. Maintain your healthy life style and maintain the weight. Sometimes you may not lose any weight after you start exercising, but you will find your body more toned and your clothes fitting so much better. If you do yoga, you will also find your posture better.
Throughout my life, I have never been a big gym person. It would never occurred to me that one day I would enjoy a healthy life style and start exercising 5~6 times a week. If I can do it, you can. To learn more about my journey to find my meant-to-be studio and how much exercise meant to me, please read EMBRACE HEALTHY LIFESTYLE BY FINDING THE EXERCISE THAT FITS YOU THE BEST!.
Be Confident – You, My Sweet Friend, You’re Enough!
Be beautiful, brave and confident. If you’re single, know that you’re alone rather than lonely. You can spend your alone time pursuing your passion. Never be stuck in a relationship if your partner fails to make you feel loved, warm and secured. You deserve better. If you’re with someone, love yourself, and respect each other. Never lose yourself for any man, and never stop pursuing what you’re passionate about because of your obligation of being a partner or care taker of your children. Don’t ever forget your worth. You can achieve more than you think. I’ve faced many challenges on the journey in the food industry: being a female, being an immigrant, and being a single mom. I told myself, every single weakness, I will turn it into my strength. (Please read MAKE THE IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE: TIPS FROM AN ENTREPRENEUR AND WORKING MOTHER)
Keep finding the moments of discovery, keep laughing and taking risks, and keep being yourself because you, my sweet friend, you are enough!
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