Fuelling a healthy lifestyle
Agathe Holowatinc used to live for her morning coffee — and her mid-morning coffee and her late morning coffee.
Then in her early twenties, she was drinking as many as nine cups a day.
She believes it took its toll: sleep became a problem and she broke out in spots.
More alarmingly, doctors then discovered she had an irregular heartbeat. They are still not certain about the cause.
The 36-year-old believes it was brought on by the constant wash of caffeine — a theory that has been disproved by scientific studies.
“It was awful to stand there and feel my heart beating in my chest,” she said. “It was very scary. I had 11,000 extra heartbeats per day. My choices were surgery or life changes.”
Reluctantly, she gave up coffee, caffeinated tea, alcohol and dark chocolate.
“When you give up stimulants you feel awful and very tired,” she said. “You crave them and worry whether or not you can ever feel energised and focused again.”
Looking for new ways to fuel up, she started looking at her diet.
“I’d eaten healthy for the most part, but I still needed to make some adjustments,” Ms Holowatinc said. “I took easy steps, one at a time, starting with drinking more water. Then, I got into vitamin-rich beverages like more pressed fruit and veggie juices, more smoothies with spinach and kale.”
She treated her dark chocolate cravings with Medjool dates, a sweet, nutrient-dense alternative.
“Because I was starting to feel really good, better than ever, actually, I was motivated to keep on going,” said Ms Holowatinc, a Canadian law librarian who came here to work six years ago.
“I’ve worked in Singapore, Vancouver, New York and Ottawa, but never met so many people with chronic disease. I think the rate of diabetes here is staggering. I have one friend here who had his leg amputated due to diabetes. That’s so sad, because diabetes is largely preventable.”
She thinks the “traditional food culture” is partly to blame.
“There is an absence of wholesome, healthy, nutrient-dense and energising foods,” she said. “Alcohol is widely consumed to excess, with sugary sodas and punches, but not many vegetables or fruits, wholesome grains, or even healthy fish dishes.
“The thing is that the most beautiful vegetables grow here in abundance. Plus, the fish from the waters that surround this island is so incredible [and yet] this is not ‘Bermudian food’ and not part of the food tradition here.”
She decided to write a book to help people achieve optimal health, advising them on the benefits of nutrient-dense eating.
“My book is about real food and how to incorporate that into your life, for someone who wants to make a change.
“You could go to a nutrition class, or spend a few hours reading this. It won’t be tricky fundamentals. Lights should go off in your brain.”
Sometimes simple changes are all that is needed to have a positive impact.
“I had one friend who wanted to lose some weight,” she said. “I suggested he have his main meal at lunch rather than dinner. Otherwise, you’re OK, then at dinner suddenly you’re starving and you eat a lot, and then you go to bed. Sleep is not for digestion, it’s for detoxification. My friend took my advice and lost 23lbs.
“The rule is do the right thing 90 per cent of the time. My book is not about depriving yourself, it’s about abundance. I hope people get inspired to know they can make a change for the better.”
Look for Fuelled: Transform Your Body, Enhance Your Energy, Supercharge Your Life in the Bermuda Bookstore this month. Copies are already available on most major online sites
Health tips from Agathe Holowatinc
1 Try to eat a handful of greens every day. Kale, broccoli and spinach are among her favourites.
2 Eat your main meal at lunch instead of dinner, to fuel your body for the day and give it time to digest.
3 Focus on how healthy you will become rather than unhealthy food favourites you might be missing.
4 If you can’t find a role model in your circle, look for one in a book, in a movie, a YouTube video or a magazine. They will rub off on you.
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