7 steps to a healthy diet

A healthy diet is something that we all strive for. For me a healthy diet is not about constantly limiting yourself. It’s about deciding to eat products that are beneficial for your well-being. You will never feel great after devouring a Big Mac. Each time I eat one I always regret I did. There is not one occassion where I was genuinely happy I ate something processed, oily or tasting artificial. On the other hand, there were numerous times I felt amazing after having a smoothie, vegetable soup or a homemade lunch.

A ball of fresh grapes

Personally, I struggle constantly with a healthy, well-balanced diet. I had problems with what I eat ever since I moved out of my home a decade ago. I lived alone in a huge city with all those possibilities within arm’s reach and gained an astonishing 20 kg (50 lbs). My problem was that we live in a world where food is very easily accessible. I move my finger over the screen of my phone and McDonald’s is delivered to my apartment in less than 30 minutes. I can online shop for food, order anything I want and there’s no one to judge me, as I’m all alone in my four walls. 

Food is obviously a great part of our life. We cannot live without it, nor would we ever want to. It became an anti-depressant, stress-reliever and  happiness inducers for many of us. Unfortunately, good quality of meals is directly related to how our bodies look and as well all want to be attractive our diet must improve.  Ever since January 2019 I have embarked on a weigh-loss journey and lost 7 kg [15 lbs] and going strong towards my goal. I’m not a specialist nor am I a trained professional, but I think my progress and how well I feel with all the changes can be of help for you.

Here are my 7 steps for a healthy diet that I had successfully implemented into my own life.

A sliced, healthy avocado

1. Eat outmeal or muesli for breakfest

Ever since the beginning of the year I made sure to incorporate low-sugar muesli or oatmeal into my diet. I usually purchase a bag of muesli and eat it with natural yoghurt. During week days I prepare it at work (it takes around 10 minutes for muesli to soak in the yoghurt and not taste like sawdust. At first I struggled with the flavour – it’s not a delicious piece of cake and it’s hard to get used to… very delicate taste. After eating enhanced food for years, it’s quite demanding to switch to a natural one. Fortunately, just after a couple of weeks I noticed a visible improvement in taste (or maybe I simply got used to it, I can’t be sure). I ate muesli so often now I crave it. This morning I had an avocado toast and felt like oatmeal is so much better. It is important not to immediately give up. I understand it won’t be pleasant at first, but when you give it a try it will get better in time. I promise, you will thank me later.

2. Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate

You probably hear that a lot, don’t you? But have you ever followed that advice? Do you actually drink at least 2 litres of water per day? For the last several months I do, but it took me a significant amount of time to get accustomed to. I started with a very easy task: I had a glass of lemon water each morning, just after waking up. I hated how the water tasted and had to add flavour by adding either lemon or cucumbers. Then, after several weeks, I added another big glass of water to lunch. At first I felt as though I drink too much, but the more water I consumed, the better I felt. Another week passed and I drank 8 glasses of water a day (or 4 bottles). When I reached my goal, I felt amazing! I had so much energy and spark. For a person that never drank lots of water I started craving it. Quite frankly felt unwell when I didn’t get enough. Even now, typing and figuring out which pictures would be most suitable this particular post, I already had two big glasses of sparkling water.

Convince yourself that the more you drink the better you’re going to feel. Also, drinking water boosts metabolism and helps you along the weight-loss journey. 

3. Switch to home cooking

Won tons.

Treat it as an adventure. Developing a daily cooking habit is quite difficult, but it will have so many positive effects you will never regret it. First of all,  food you get at the restaurant is never healthy. It is loaded with preservatives and flavour enhancers. I know it’s much easier to get a yummy hot wing, but your body is not going to be impressed by you devouring so much fat. Second of all, it’s pricy. Obviously, lunch at this new bistro you noticed down the street is at least twice more expensive than lunch you could prepare at home. Also, pre-prepared meals are a trap of enhancers, debatable ingredients and lost cash. 

If you’re motivated, but don’t know how to start, think about what’s stopping you. I discovered that most of the time I didn’t want to cook because I simply didn’t know what to make. I found a website with delicious and healthy recipes and have been following ever since. Even tonight, when I’m sick and trying to calmly die in my bed flooded by running nose, I am going to get up and prepare chicken, rice and vegetables for tomorrow’s lunch at work. 

Sometimes I gave up cooking because I felt like it takes way too much time. 

The same site with recipes helped me by offering short and simple instructions for cooking great, healthy meals. If I was too lazy to go shopping I looked at my bank account and convinced myself, that spending 50 PLN [12 euro or 15$] per lunch is not going to help me save money. I also visualized myself looking bomb and it’s been a great help as well. If you’re interested about my meal-planning routine or my love for slowfood check this post here

4. Make several smart swaps

It’s difficult to eliminate unhealthy food from your diet entirely, but you can definitely make several swaps that will improve your health. I have started with not adding sugar to tea. Instead, I drink them plain or with honey. I eat only full-grain bread as it’s easier to get full with smaller slices.  Look at my list and think of more products which can be easily swapped:

  • never buy flavoured yoghurt. It’s so much tastier to eat a natural one with pieces of fresh fruit. 
  • don’t spend cash on pre-produced products, rather buy fresh ones and cook them yourself,
  • skip the mayo and change it for a greek yoghurt,
  • always order the smaller size of portions, chances are you’ll get full with the food you get. If not you can always order more, if yes – you get additional cash!
A piece of cake and coffee

5. Eat sweets in moderation

I have a full understanding that living sugar-free is a difficult existence. But boy, have I tried! I have struggled with weight for my entire life and a sweet tooth I have has been rather detrimental for my “slim” figure. With years passing I have accepted that there is no way I will ever be able to eliminate sweets from my diet. I accepted that a long time ago and so instead of forcing myself to ditch sweets forever I’m simply eating in moderation. I can have a piece of cake at my niece’s birthday party, I can eat dessert on holidays or even eat a candy bar during a cheat day, but I won’t eat more than I really want. Sometimes one little candy can be enough to satisfy your sweet tooth.  

The problem is that more often than not we don't focus on our needs and keep eating more chocolate because we didn't notice we've had enough

I try to focus more on food and be present and mindfull of what I put in my mouth. Each time I take a bite of something sweet I’m wondering if I want more of it? Was it enough? How did it make me feel? Do I really want more sugar? In most of the cases I don’t and I simply stop eating. Try this exercise at home as it really helps to eat sweets in moderation. Also, as I am used to eating whatever I want (and thus I’m on a weight-loss journey) the cognitive dissonance of not wanting more sweets is quite mindblowing.

6. Believe in 80/20 ratio

80/20 ratio is a simple rule  of eating food that is in 80% good for you and in 20% less healthy. I use this canon for everything in life as I believe balance is necessary for happiness. My regular week consists of 6 days when I eat healthy and a cheat day when I can eat everything I want. I plan cheat days in advance: this week it’s going to be Sunday. There is no limit of what and how much I can eat during a cheat day, but if you keep strong on remaining days you’re not going to eat much more for a splurge day. Also, the healthier you eat the less harmful food you’re going to crave. Right now I have spread myself a little too thin and got lost in sweets and fats. I have simply lost track of my healthy habits and have been struggling to go back, but I still kept the ratio of 80%/20%, hence I didn’t gain any weight.  

7. Keep away from alcoholic beverages

In general alcohol is a terrible idea. When I was younger, I used to party all the time. I could return home at 5 am, get a couple hours of sleep and go straight to work/classes. Then repeat the whole process and never feel bad or too tired. Right now as I’m 28, I can feel the difference. I never stay up later than 1 am as my eyes are already shutting down anyway. I also can’t drink too much alcohol as my stomach protests in the worst of ways. And the thought of the headache, exhaustion and all the other symptoms of hangover is just damming. 

It is not a secret that alcohol is not good for health. 

Quite frankly, it not only causes you to eat more (and less healthy) but it is also dehydrating and damages your natural immune system. I don’t have any tip for you as to how to stop drinking alcohol in general. I’m terrible at it. Seldomly, I love a glass of wine with a fancy dinner, or a pint of beer with friends on Friday nights. Because of my 80/20 rule I indulge in an occasional drink only once a week (it has to be a cheat day) and I’ve noticed positive changes in my skin and general well-being.

Start your healthy lifestyle right now

I hope my tips will help you get on track with a healthy lifestyle. If you have any questions or tips for me, please write them in the comment or contact me through e-mail. Thank you very much for reading my post and visiting Journal of Dorota.

Within your own self is a treasury… an ocean of pure bliss, consciousness, intelligence, creativity, love, happiness, energy and peace… within every human being.

Weekend Break in Belgium – discovering Brussels

When I first considered travelling to Brussels I encountered numerous articles, blog posts and reviews which strongly discouraged me to ever visit the capital of Belgium. Described as grey, boring and dangerous, the city seemed like the last place I wanted to visit. In October my best friend and I found cheap flight tickets, which were so inexpensive (around 20$ or 15 Euro both ways) that I simply had to go, even if I was extremely agitated with safety issues. I literally freaked myself out reading safety articles and how Brussels’ safety index in only 59%. Then, to increase my disconcern, I watched documents on terroristic attacks on 22nd of March 2016 and even considered not going. Above all, my paranoia was infused by the fact my landing date was on the third anniversary of the attacks. Luckily, my boyfriend convinced me not to be such a crybaby and we flew to Brussels.

A great arc in Brussels

Charleroi Airport and getting to Brussels

We landed in Charleroi Airport just before 11 PM. Being a control freak as I am, I planned everything in advance, purchasing tickets for the shuttle bus. It was a rather neat idea, as we were one of the last ones to get on a bus to Brussels (it was second-to-last bus that night so with the crowd that gathered in line, there was a great concern we would not make it, if I didn’t purchase tickets online). The bus took us through well-lit highways straight to Brussels-South railway station in Rue de France. We were a little bewildered by the marking system, so we decided to take a tram instead of metro. What is interesting, the timetable of trams was so confusing, we didn’t really know which way we should go. The monitor above tram-shelter projected direction the tram was coming from, as oppose to where it’s going. Also, the timetable showed next stops above the stop we were on, which was even more confusing. I don’t know how it is where you live, but where I come from it’s the complete opposite.

The Grand Place

We started our first day with a long walk from our hotel to the narrow streets around La Grand Place. In the heart of Brussels, the “Great square” one of the most often visited places in Belgium. It is a great quadrangle surrounded by architectural masterpieces altogether forming a UNESCO Heritage Site. The 15th century Town Hall and King’s House, as well as 200 years younger guild houses give the La Grand Place an astonishing feeling of wealth and luxury.

 

We spent a rather long time reading interesting details about guild houses and how each sculpture or even shape of facades conveyed a deeper meaning. My favourite building, the baker’s house named Le Roy d’Espagne, decorated with busts of Saint Aubert (patron saint of bakers) and sculptures of six figures representing force, wheat, wind, fire, water and security, all believed to be necessary ingredients for baking a perfect bread, charmed me immediately.

 

Manneken Pis

From the Grand Place we ventured towards the statue called Manneken pis. “Little Pisser” is a bronze figure just next to the Town Hall, depicting a toddler urinating into the fountain. The statue is the best-known symbol of people of Brussels, representing a rather dark Belgian sense of humour. Each week a non-profit association “The Friends of Manneken-Pis” dress the figure up in various outfits. While we visited Brussels Manneken Pis was dressed in FC Barcelona attire and we have yet to discover why.

Manneken PIs statue in Brussels

After a rather long walk through narrow streets around La Grand Place we decided to head for lunch. We found out earlier that our hotel is just next to the place with “greatest pommes frites in Belgium” so we headed there. There was quite a queue, with a lot of Belgians so I knew the fries were going to be delicious. We ordered and were pleasantly surprised that we could take them out and eat in one of the nearby bars where we ordered additional beer. The size of fries is rather tricky, so if you visit Brussels always go for small ones as you will get full quite easily.

The Atomium

After lunch we travelled by metro to one of the most well-known symbols of Belgium – the Atomium. Built for the first postwar Expo in 1958 the steel structure has become an unmistakable trademark of Brussels. In the shape of iron particle enlarged 256 million times, designed by Andre Waterkeyn and architects Andre and Jean Polak, Atomium is 102 meters tall and is a rather literal symbol of progress and development. Connected with escalators and elevators hidden in pipes each sphere is 18 meters in diameter. I enjoyed the sight of it but felt as though the surrounding was not that pleasant.

After lunch we travelled by metro to one of the most well-known symbols of Belgium – the Atomium. Built for the first postwar Expo in 1958 the steel structure has become an unmistakable trademark of Brussels. In the shape of iron particle enlarged 256 million times, designed by Andre Waterkeyn and architects Andre and Jean Polak, Atomium is 102 meters tall and is a rather literal symbol of progress and development. Connected with escalators and elevators hidden in pipes each sphere is 18 meters in diameter. I enjoyed the sight of it but felt as though the surrounding was not that pleasant.

Used as a museum, exhibition center as well as a viewpoint the structure is a great place to explore. We did not enter inside as the tickets were rather pricy (20 Euro per person) and the weather wouldn’t allow us to appreciate the view anyway. If you ever visit Brussels and the sky is clearer visiting interiors of the Atomium is an absolute must!

Dinner and Belgian Ale

In the evening we returned to the Grand Place for dinner and drinks. We started out in the restaurant called Chez Leon, as we did not have to wait long to be served. We ordered seafood (of course!) and a bottle of cooled, white wine. I really enjoyed the food, although if I knew while ordering it would be covered in cheese I would have probably picked some that was not. We have also visited Delirium Tremens, most recommended bar in Brussels, but it was way too crowded for us and we finished our evening with some beers in a bar next to our hotel.

Autoworld

Visiting Autoworld was one of the main points of our trip to Brussels. Displaying more than 250 cars the Automotive Museum was one of most entertaining museum I’ve ever been to. I learned a great deal about the history of automobiles and discovered various trivia. Did you know that in 1955, during a race a car crashed and it’s scattering particles killed 82 people? Considered as the worst crash in motor sports history, it happened during a Le Mans 24-hour race in France. The accident was so tragic both France and Switzerland banned motor racing, the latter still holds the ban active today. You can read more about this here.

After visiting the museum we had only one thing left on our “to do list” before catching a bus to Charleroi Airport. WAFFLES. I could not leave Brussels without the famous chocolate! Therefore, we returned to La Grand Place, visited the oldest shopping centre in Europe and devoured delicious waffles!

Overall, I really enjoyed visiting Brussels and I would recommend a weekend trip to anyone. It was safe, beautiful and the food was quite delicious. I really enjoyed museums, historical buildings as well as modern parts, with bars and fancy restaurants.

Have you ever been to Brussels? Did you enjoy the city? Let me know in the comments!

The importance of travelling

As the proverb says: travel is to live. Since I started travelling often I realised how true this motto is. I tend to measure my time from one trip to the other, so when my day at work is particularly hard I’m motivating myself with simply stating when I’m going to visit some great place. Right now I’m counting days until my next adventure: I’m going for a weekend to Brussels, Belgium with a couple of friends and that is exactly what makes me endure some tough moments.

The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life.

So why is it that sometimes we forget travel makes us happy and instead we rot at home? Mostly it’s the amount of chores we impose on each other, deadlines, sometimes feeling overwhelmed with social issues and workload. I know that when I become corporate robot I forget about anything really and simply sink in all the chores. If you’re in the same place right now where you walk and walk but you’re always in the same spot and feel zero motivation to move and drive anywhere really, here are several reasons why you should keep going and never give up on travelling.

1. Travelling broadens horizons and makes you a better person

It sounds strong, doesn’t it? Like getting into a car and driving to a nearby city for a sightseeing tour would make you truly a better person. And yet… It’s true, or at least I believe so. Going on an excursion always broadens your horizons. Even if it’s very short, to a place you’ve already been to, it’s still going to teach you something. It’s going to build up your experience and simply make you wiser. Example? Visiting another nation and learn about their culture.

Bonus anecdote: When I moved to Portugal (for my Erasmus) I was pretty much disgusted with all the people simply snapping their fingers to call a waiter at a restaurant. I thought it’s so rude! And yet… it’s normal there, so I learned that when I’m in Warsaw, I don’t have to get all airtight and silently rant and rave on their bad manners, but rather understand they might come from a completely different place than I do.

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A photograph of Prague, Czech Republic 2018

2. You can learn another language and improve your CV (resume)

Learning languages is vital. I don’t think I can stress enough how amazing it is to be able to communicate in a foreign language wherever you go. Right now, I’m using skills I learned years ago and can (hopefully) successfully communicate with you, my dear Reader in English. Before I moved to Portugal I used to learn the language from books and some additional classes, but only when I moved my knowledge of Portuguese sky-rocketed. Knowing languages can improve your position in applying for a job or even grant you get one!

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Nazare Beach in Portugal, 2014

3. Travelling makes you stay younger

Ok, I might not have any scientifical proof that it’s true, but I do believe travel makes you more active and therefore younger. Constant planning and plotting stimulates the brain and sightseeing is a great way to reach your 10000 steps needed for a healthy lifestyle. Moreover, when you spend so much money on plane tickets and hotels you just can’t afford food anymore… Just kidding, although it might be true in some cases. For New Years Eve this year I travelled to a city of Torun in Poland. Just for one day, a very short trip. And during this day I visited so many places, I walked more than 20 km in less than 10 hours!

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Barcelona, Spain, 2014

4. You can make friends from across the globe and cement relationships you already have

Meeting people from around the world not only broadens the horizon (see point 1), but also creates connections which not only let you have so much fun, but also allow you to travel further and cheaper. I keep in touch with many of my friends from Erasmus and we’ve exchanged many trips (I travelled to their hometown, they visited mine) for a fraction of a normal price. But what’s most important? The memories, because as you know, people forget years and remember moments. All these precious moments laughing at similarities and differences between our cultures (sometimes very distant, hello, my Brazilian friends!), teaching each other various things or simply hanging around could never be the same if I only had friends from my own country.

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Porto, Portugal, 2014

5. Travel lets you experience amazing cuisines

Oh, the food… how I love it. One of the best virtues of travelling is trying out different cuisines, flavours and products. My long time dream is to visit Italy, Parma, to be exact, and try all the amazing dishes there, including pizza with potatoes and different flavours of pasta. When I visited Croatia last year I fell in love with white wine (Grasevina), sea food, eating freshly caught tuna grilled at the beach, watermelon at noon under an umbrella, and so forth. Celebration of food teaches us love of life. I also learned several tricks of Croatian and Portuguese cuisine and definitely improved my cooking skills.

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A great steak in Lisbon, Portugal

So let’s go on an adventure!

So, don’t dwell on tough times, take a look at some sites with cheap flights, bus or train tickets or even, for a free trip, pack your bag and venture to a place you’ve never visited in your city. Learn new things and don’t let work and chores overwhelm you. Travelling really is a sollution for sadness!

Do you travel often? If yes, did you learn anything interesting during your trips?

Let me know in the comments.