January 11, 2015

Eating Healthy --- What Does it Mean?

Vietnamese Spring/Summer Rolls: 1, 2, 3, 4

You just scrolled through a ton of photos of food (which, hopefully, you think looks pretty good). 
In my opinion, all of the food you just saw is "healthy". 

Can chocolate be healthy? Can cream be healthy? Can pie be healthy? Scones, too?!

The word "healthy" means something different to everyone; 
to some, it means eating "rabbit food", and to others, it simply means eating whole foods.
My definition is founded upon the latter; I think that simply eating foods that have been minimally
processed is the way to go. Personally, I try to minimize my sugar and (unhealthy) fat intake to a minimum. 
Given my sensitivity to lactose and gluten, I rarely eat those too.
And if you read my previous post, "The Human Relationship with Food",  I choose to be a pescetarian.

So you might ask me, "What do you eat, then?!"
My answer: everything you've seen above.

No, really, I'm not kidding.

Given my unconventional diet (or as my doctor called it, "funky" and "disordered") , 
I've gotten a lot of weird looks and questions from others, and I think it's fitting to just explain 
the whole story so everything makes a little more sense ;) :

So let me just start with how it all began:

When I was little, every now and then, I'd have a random health kick and try to eat healthy (which meant eating lots of raw vegetables as snacks). Then after I got tired of those few days of "eating healthily", I'd revert back to my terrible eating habits, meaning I'd eat ice cream 2-3 times a day, pie for breakfast, frosting straight out of the jar, lots of chips, daily sandwiches with deli meats for lunch, cupfuls of goldfish crackers and honey nut cheerios (the list goes on). How I was always the scrawny kid in class is still a mystery. And while my diet was quite glutinous, I did like broccoli (in the Chinese chicken & broccoli dish), corn, mushrooms, celery, and salad (with A TON of ranch however). So the whole concept of "vegetables" was not entirely lost, but it definitely did not make up most of what I ate.

Fast forward to my freshman year of high school: 

I had never really experienced a ton of acne; I had a few spots in the eighth grade, but it started to get much worse right before I entered high school. I probably went to the drugstore several times a month, trying different skin cleansing products, just hoping that one would finally clear my skin. My skin issues carried over to my sophomore year, and my obsession with my skin grew exponentially. I would scour the internet for home remedies to "cure" my acne and make it go away, and when I wasn't doing that, I was CONSTANTLY worrying about what others thought of me. This persistent nagging in my mind was awful; I didn't like looking in the mirror because I didn't want to remind myself of my skin to make my anxious thoughts haunt me again. I pulled myself away from a lot of new opportunities because to me, new opportunities meant putting myself out there and meeting new people who could possibly judge me for how I looked. Even adults around me either tried to give me advice or pointed my skin issues out. To be frank, I tried so hard to forget the embarrassment I felt and the insecurity that plagued my thoughts at school, so I don't remember all the details. But I do remember that the humiliation crushed me on the inside, and I think the only people who really understood me was my mom and my brother. I relied heavily on concealer to cover up the redness and I looked to fashion to draw other people's attention away from my skin. My insecurity was so bad that I never left the house without smothering my face with concealer for at least a year and a half.

January of 2013 (sophomore year still):

While all of this was happening, I had become a YouTube fanatic. I started off watching music covers (hence the creation of my music channel) when I was 11-12, but I then discovered the cooking community on YouTube when I stumbled across Laura Vitale's recipe for crepes. I religiously watched Laura Vitale, SORTEDfood, and FoodWishes because they were all so passionate about cooking, something that I had started doing when I was 9 (that's a story for another time). My love for music and food related videos brought me to something else: beauty videos. Bubzbeauty and MeghanRosette became my big sisters;  Bubz taught me everything about skin (including face mapping), Meghan taught me about being confident and not caring about what others thought of me, and they both made me realize that I wasn't the only one struggling with acne issues. My love for beauty channels bloomed, and I was introduced to so many other channels, including Nikki Philippi's, and here's where it all connects back to my eating healthy topic: Nikki mentioned Kimberly Snyder's "The Beauty Detox Solution" book and how it changed her, and that was when the first domino fell. 

The Beauty Detox Solution:

I wanted to clear my skin, and I learned from Kimberly Snyder's book that it was possible to do so through my diet. I learned how foods can irritate my body, causing acne, and I was also inspired to eat healthier because of my desire to get rid of the acne. "Eating healthy" was no longer a phase because I was determined to get rid of the acne, once and for all. Transforming my diet wasn't easy at first; nobody else in my family had ever heard of "kale" or "chia seeds" before, so I felt like a pioneer, trekking through the new world of health foods by myself in search of my "fountain of youth" --- clear skin. 

I didn't expect to see drastic results quickly, which was good, because that didn't happen. The acne reduced, but it was still definitely there. I continued to make green juices, I cut out deli meats (which was a BIG thing because that's pretty much all I ate for lunch in my sandwiches), and I began to open myself up to different vegetables, including the bok choy that my Grandpa made all the time. 

That March, I started my own beauty channel, something that I had wanted to do for a while, but was hesitant about. At the same time,  I found Kassie, @CloudyApples on YouTube, who shared her stories about natural skincare and food, and I was completely awestruck. I switched up my skincare routine and began using the cleanser she uses, the oil cleansing method she uses, and avocado oil as a moisturizer as she uses. 

All the while, my diet was significantly much healthier and my water intake skyrocketed. Gradually, I began to see fewer pimples.


Although my skin was improving, I'd still have breakouts. On the last day of school, I went to my brother's eighth grade graduation, what was supposed to be a fun experience. After the ceremony, my dad, brother, and I met up with a family friend. While we were all talking, this person made a face and pointed to my forehead, where I had a small breakout. Immediately, I felt like my heart was being crushed. A lump grew in my throat and I felt my cheeks grow hot. The person asked why I had so many pimples, and my dad then said "yeah, she just eats a lot of junk food". 




He knew that I had been working so hard for the past six months to maintain a healthy diet. He knew that I had persistently refused to let him buy junk foods and processed deli meats because I wanted to change my bad habits. He even called me "too healthy" two weeks before. I love my dad, but that hurt so bad, and I felt so utterly humiliated at that point. My brother turned around and he had overheard the conversation. After the moment passed, I walked away and confided all of my frustration to my brother, who, fortunately, reassured me and reminded me that he knew that I've been working hard to eat healthily. And that night, I went back home and rewatched a MeghanRosette video to get over it. 

I left the incident even more determined to change my skin.

Ups and Downs:

 I continued to educate myself and I began to get more creative with my food, because who says eating healthy meant only eating salads? I chose to also give up dairy and gluten as a little experiment, and honestly, I was fifteen and curious, so I did that without the consent of any doctor (so I don't recommend just doing it blindly --- talk to a doctor/nutritionist and educate yourself more about it first), but my skin improved tremendously. I no longer got the super deep pimples and my breakouts became less frequent. I began to have days where I didn't wear concealer at all, and it felt so good. I could be proud of myself without concealer. 

When junior year started, my skin wasn't as clear as it was over the summer. No more watermelon (my watermelon addiction phase took place that summer), so it was harder to find hydrating snacks that would keep my skin clear. I had to learn how to adapt to the change, diet-wise and schedule-wise: less sleep, more work, more stress. The stress did take a toll on my skin; it didn't break out as badly as it once had, but there were moments when it got worse. This balancing act took several trials and errors, but I finally figured something out, because my skin remained manageable for most of junior year. 

Finding Balance & Now: 

While my skin issues no longer affected me as much, my interest in nutrition continued. 

For the sake of shortening this post (that's already super long), you can read  "The Human Relationship with Food" to find out how & why I chose to become a pescatarian. 

I know, from first-hand experience, finding that balance, in exercise, in sleep, in diet, is not easy. But I also know, from first-hand experience, that once you find that balance, you'll be able to live so much more happily. People have interrogated me and demanded to know why my diet is so "restrictive", but to me, it's not restrictive or disordered or funky. It's my balance. It's also how my skin has remained relatively clear (not perfectly clear but oh man has it improved), and I honestly believe that  my skin is a reflection of the inside of my body. Unfortunately, this isn't the case for everyone because everyone's body is different, but I really believe that choosing to eat whole foods will clear your internal body and as a result, your external appearances.

I will not go back to how I used to eat because it made me unhappy. It made me unconfident. It held me back. 

And with my new lifestyle, I've discovered so much and I've become a lot more aware of the world: I am no longer as ignorant to other people's lifestyle choices, to allergies, to environment sustainability, to animal rights (and this coming from someone who has wanted to be a veterinarian since the age of 9). I've opened up to exploring yoga, I've tried so many new foods (beets, chia seeds, flax seeds, almond milk, coconut oil, figs, tempeh, matcha, kale....the list goes on!),  I've experimented a lot more in the kitchen, I've created so many new recipes --- my own recipes, not some conventional butter & sugar latent recipe from the internet. I've found new blogs that inspire me to be even more creative with food. 

Cooking is my creative outlet. I'm so incredibly happy in the kitchen because that's where I feel I belong and where I feel the most confident. It's also my school because that's where I learn. It's my community because I have found such a large community of people online who share the same passion. It has helped me discover what I love, what I value, and it's an integral part of my identity

So That's What It Means To Me: 

Eating healthy is subjective: everyone's definition is different. Eating healthy is going to be different for everyone because everyone's lifestyle, mind, and body is different. Eating healthy is different for everyone because no two people are going to have the same exact "balance". For some people, eating a vegan diet is the route to go. For others, they might choose to keep an omnivorous diet. 

To me, "eating healthy" is a balancing act. For example, I have to work daily to not over indulge in peanut butter (believe me, the struggle is real ;P). 

But in all seriousness, it's a lifestyle choice that has to be maintained. Although it wasn't easy at first, it becomes much easier after a while, especially once you realize how worthwhile it is. If you want to learn some of my tips for maintaining this lifestyle, watch my video below:

 Lastly, I really want to remind everyone that eating healthy is not a religion

There are no "rules" and you should not beat yourself up for little mistakes. At the same time, there's no right or wrong way to do something. 

There's always going to be people out there who will defend their diet choices and proclaim it to be the right way to eat. But there isn't. If it makes you happy and it's beneficial to both your body and the planet, then go for it. Keep it. Be open to new changes. Be open to other people's lifestyle choices. Don't force your lifestyle choices upon others. Live positively and make people see how your lifestyle choice has changed you. They'll be inspired by your actions, because ultimately, actions speak much louder than words.

I genuinely  hope this answers some people's questions they might have 
and I hope this helps someone out there and inspires them to change their lifestyle for the better.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time out of your day to understand me a little
better by reading this post <3. 

xoxo, han

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