It has taken me a long time to come into a habit of eating and living healthily. It was only a couple of years ago when I was fresher at university, drinking copious amounts of alcohol and smoking heavily. Before this phase of my life, I would regularly help myself to seconds and thirds after dinner, as well as whatever chocolate goody was available. However, something clicked about a year ago and I began to live much healthier. Throughout the weekdays, I am on a low carbohydrate diet. For breakfast, I will eat an omelette or scrambled eggs with vegetables such as mushrooms, spring onions and pepper. For lunch, I have a tuna, chicken or turkey salad with four to six low carb vegetables in it. At dinner, I will eat meat or fish with three or four low carb vegetables. When the weekend comes I will continue eating low carbs for breakfast and lunch most of the time. However, I will treat myself to a cheat meal on the Friday or Saturday evening, for instance a curry or a pizza. Finally, on a Sunday afternoon I will have a healthier meal with carbs, for example a roast dinner.

I have no doubt that some dieticians and nutritionists might find fault with this lifestyle. However, I have lost twenty kilograms from this way of eating and my weight has reached a healthy plateau for a few months now. Day to day I feel fit, healthy and full of energy. When I am doing very strenuous activities, such as an 80 minute game of rugby or a very long run I do not pass up on carbs, I eat things such as fruit or dahl to prepare my body. I try to keep strict with this plan, but when I am occasionally invited out for a meal with friends or family I do not pass up on the opportunity to enjoy myself.  I certainly would not recommend this diet to everyone and of course I do not condone taking it up on a whim without consulting a doctor, dietician, etc.

However, what I do recommend is seriously considering making a lifestyle change that involves eating natural healthy foods and avoiding processed, unnatural foods. There are an array of fad diets out there that do little to help you in the long run. Eating chocolate for two meals a day seems counter-productive and drinking milkshakes instead of meals does not appeal to me personally. Rather than take up one of these short term diets I would argue making a conscious decision to eat good food consistently throughout your life will bring you to a healthy weight and put your body in a good place.

However, as most people will agree, it can be very hard to keep up this way of living. The lure of eating a quick and easy pizza or a microwave meal on week nights is often appealing. Sometimes my fridge magnets taunt me as they boast the takeaway menus. In times like this, you have to grit your teeth and bare it, but you can also take solace in the awesome advantages of eating healthier. There are plentiful benefits and many more that we continue to find out as people continue researching food’s effects.

A benefit that often inspires me onwards is the improvement in my mood that I have noticed. I feel calmer and happier when I am eating healthy foods and rewarding myself with cheat meals on the weekend. The reason for this is twofold; firstly, I know that it is good for me to eat well and I am happy with myself for doing so. Secondly, my body and brain notices this input of healthy living and consequently makes me feel better through its various chemical reactions etc. This research seems to confirm my second intuition and I am sure there are many more similar findings.

Aside from feeling better mentally, I also noticed that I was doing better mentally as well. This lifestyle change is one that I have followed fairly strictly, however, whilst on holiday recently I was  being cooked for and I wanted to indulge my inner carb-queen for a week. Whilst I enjoyed this, I did also notice I was feeling groggy and a little bit dull compared to when I had been eating healthier. This article and many more all give examples of food that aids concentration, it is all too obvious that natural vegetables, fruits and oils contribute to better concentration levels. I have no doubt my eating patterns changing positively contributed to my results at university. Furthermore, I have found mindfulness, reading and writing far easier and effective whilst eating healthier.

A final positive I have noticed is that healthy food certainly does not mean boring food. In recent months, some of the best food I have tasted has been in accordance with my healthy diet plan. Whilst takeaways and fast food have their own place as being tasty dishes, I feel a lot of this is predicated on their ease and mindlessness. Making your own healthy meals can be hard and takes time, effort and research – aspects that may put someone off. However, spending an extra ten minutes or half an hour doing food prep can result in great tasting food that trumps fast food and makes you feel great.

Mood, concentration and great tasting food are three positive inspirations for keeping up with a healthy lifestyle, examining the negative impact of junk food also provides ample ammunition to keep cravings at bay. If you give up a healthy lifestyle in favour of fast food based gluttony there are a number of negative effects that can be observed straight away and in the long-term. If one continues to eat badly, obesity and cardiovascular problems loom. Furthermore,research has also shown that eating bad foods can lead to depression, something that everyone should intuitively want to avoid. In the short term, you may find yourself with bad skin and spots, lethargy and indigestion. Aside from the physical short-term effects, mental short-term effects can also be apparent when eating bad food. A feeling of guilt has often taken over me as I realise I could and should have eaten healthier. This is often enough to ruin any of the brief satisfaction I may have gained from the meal.

It is not easy keeping up a healthy eating pattern. It means spending extra time and money preparing meals, being strict and constantly researching recipes. However, it is so obviously worth it in both the long and short term. If you are interested in low carb food I have collated a board on pinterest, if not find your own suitable healthy foods and meals to incorporate into your lifestyle. Do some research, be proactive and live a better life!