Last night, I sat down to treat myself to a delicious bowl of penne arrabiata and a glass of Merlot. And the week before, I ate an incredible Indian meal complemented with Naan bread and a soft drink. But I must admit, before I learned the importance of balance and moderation, nutrition recommendations saying to cut things out of our diets made me to feel guilty about eating meals like these.
Growing up, I enjoyed an ice cream cone or soda from time to time, but I was not unhealthy or overweight, because I was also very active. From age four to 18, I was a gymnast. I participated in sports during and after school and, in the evenings, I played a running game called "Kick-the-Can" with kids in my neighborhood. Weekends were spent outdoors hiking, biking, skating and jumping rope. Overall, my activity balanced out my caloric intake. And that is the one thing that always helped me: balance. It wasn't (and has never been) about eliminating the foods and drinks I love. Instead, it was simply about consuming them in moderation and making sure the calories I burned were on par with the calories I took in.
Unfortunately, today that does not happen as much. Instead, we're being told to stop consuming the things that make us happy. And then we "relapse" or feel guilt and develop bad feelings toward food. That is unhealthy. I learned this during the days I trained for fitness contests and was a cheerleader for the L.A. Raiders. I was surrounded by women in their 20s who desperately tried to keep slim and trim, living in fear of food altogether. It all came down to this: We were too painfully hard on ourselves about our diets during the season. Our balance was lacking.
Eventually I realized that I needed to adopt again the foods and drinks that I had once enjoyed, occasionally eating and drinking the things that I call soul food. These things are not the enemy. In the long, run self-denial and rejection are.
On Monday the Center for Science in the Public Interest launched a national "Food Day," asking people to begin consuming more healthy foods and stop consuming other foods altogether. I love the idea of us all eating healthier foods on a regular basis -- it is a great call for us to take time to visit local farmers' markets and begin eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. My opinion on this is there is a place for everything, and at times I also see nothing wrong with having your favorite foods and drinks -- including some of the things I had this week.
I recommend everyone consider adding a healthy balance in their lives -- not just in our physical state, but also in our mental state. Listening to our bodies' cravings is okay, as long as we take the time to get our bodies moving as well. That's how I've managed to find my happiness, and it's the reason why my clients and I can sit down to a delicious Italian or Indian meal on any given night -- without the side of guilt.
Ramona Braganza is a fitness expert and celebrity trainer who has worked with A-listers including Jessica Alba, Halle Berry and Anne Hathaway. She uses her popular "321" Training Method to craft amazing bodies in a limited time, using minimal equipment.