Healthy lifestyle is not about longevity – it’s about quality of life!

RightFood4U Blog Leading a Healthy Lifestyle - Nutrition Programmes - Bray Wicklow Dublin
Ilona Madden - RightFood4U - Nutrition Programmes - Bray Wicklow Dublin

Written by Ilona Madden

August 18, 2017

It’s not about longevity – it’s about the quality of life!

My father died at the age of 78 years. On the afternoon he died, he had been on the surfboard windsurfing in the Baltic Sea. The last photo on his phone, is of him in the wetsuit with his friends holding the boards. He died in the sauna that evening of heart failure. Suddenly – and totally unexpected. His plan had been to ride his motorbike the following 3 days all the way across Germany because the weather had been so good. 3 weeks prior he had competed in the National German Gymnastic championships. His last WhatApp video to me was of him at this competition doing a handstand.

Obviously, his heart was not as healthy as we all thought. Maybe he had high blood pressure again, which he used to have, but managed to get under control, with medication first, but later with ginger and garlic – as he claimed. Maybe he had other things going on that we don’t know. There had been talk about a thyroid issue. We never saw him suffer. He would give out that his shoulder had been damaged and that he wasn’t as good any more in his favourite gymnastic exercises and that the handstand caused him pain. His knees were creaking and he got out of breath quicker on our jogs, but he still managed to run the 5k without any major issues.

I would not call him a health guru. He loved his sport. It was his life. It was his love and the most important thing in his life. We as children had to learn that the hard way. He wanted us to do some form of sport – which one didn’t matter. He tried not to push us too hard, but at the same time, it was un-acceptable to him if any of us came home with bad marks in P.E. He blamed all illness and disease, obesity and mental health on lack of movement. He pushed himself – that’s for sure. Too much? I will never know.

I don’t think he really watched what he was eating. He did not deny himself of any delicious food or drink that’s for sure and he loved his odd cigarette or cigar. But I don’t remember him eating real rubbish either. He never carried excess weight and he was always full of energy. He always said he wants to die a healthy man – and he did.

For him the thought of growing old and not being able to move was unbearable. The thought of being dependent on others or losing his mind scared him tremendously. I once gave him a recommendation for a supplement and he only brushed it off saying, he does not want to take anything that might extend his life.

His death made me think.

Here is a man who looked after himself all his life, and yet it ended so soon. Is it worth trying exercising every day of your life, to eat healthy, staying away from real rubbish food all your life – when you never know how long you are going to live?

Yes, I believe it is.

Frankly, I don’t care how long I am going to live.

If I died today, I can say, I lead a full and interesting life. I’ve effected some peoples’ lives in a positive way, even if it’s only that they had a nice holiday in Ireland. I’ve always tried to be positive to people, friendly, give them a smile, help them when I can, give advice, teach. Now that I am working in the health profession, I can see I am able to change peoples’ lives for good. Sometimes, it might just be a small thing that sinks in and encourages someone to make life-altering changes that last. That’s what it was like for me. One talk on nutrition that I heard years ago, sparked a whole new life for me.

Cleaning up my diet has led to more energy throughout the day and that has enabled me to start exercising more and more so that I am now fitter than I was 28 years ago. 28 years ago, when my father at the age of 50 ran his first Marathon and I so admired him for this, never thinking I’d ever be able to achieve anything like it. But I actually did. The last couple of years, I spent a lot of time with my Dad again, he was still trying to teach me the handstand, we ran a 10k race together, I joined one of his yoga classes, he joined me on my big Charity 50k run, amongst many other things. I am so grateful for those years. He saw that the seed he planted in me as a young child took a long time to grow – but it did. While I was never that extremely into any sports as a teenager and completely stopped doing anything in my mid-twenties until my early forties, I was still able to get back into it and became very competitive.

Once you change your food to eating only REAL foods, i.e. staying away from the processed and refined stuff, especially sugars and refined carbohydrates, and once you introduce healthy fats and good proteins into your diet, you can balance your blood sugar. This means you don’t get these energy highs and energy dips, you just have plenty of energy throughout the day, get tired in the evening and sleep right through the night until early morning when you wake up fully recovered and full of energy to take on any difficulties the day might throw at you.

The other thing that balancing your blood sugar does it balances your whole system, including your hormones. A lot of people think mental health has to be or can be treated with counselling only. I would beg to differ because I believe that food can do a lot there as well. I had been suffering from periods of depression and anxiety, and some panic attacks, and only after a year or so of a better diet did I realise that I hadn’t actually experienced any of those for months and months. And still after nearly 8 years of improving my diet, I am simply so much better able to deal with the stresses in my life.

But the best thing of all of this is that I don’t feel I’m depriving myself. Yes, I suppose, there is still plenty I should or could do to really have that perfect diet. In order to get my auto-immune thyroid under control I should be eating a specific protocol that eliminates all gluten, dairy, grains, legumes, nightshades, alcohol and much, much more from my diet. And I’ve tried it periodically – but failed. Yes, I guess, this would seriously impact my life, if I had to go that extreme. But I guess, if I weren’t feeling as well as I am now, I might give it a more serious shot.

For now, I am just simply reducing all of the above as much as possible. I do not eat any processed foods wherever possible. There are some things that I would not eat at all: Hydrogenated or refined fats, i.e. chips. Vegetable oil or rancid oils or nuts. Anything that contains a lot of added sugar. White bread. Possibly some more. But I don’t feel I am denying myself of those. I don’t miss eating those. Since I know what they do to my body, I simply DO NOT WANT TO EAT THEM. Most highly sweetened things actually make me physically sick now, I can’t eat them anymore. I don’t crave them anymore – therefore I don’t miss them anymore. I’ve tried to eat bread some times and realised that I really don’t like most breads anymore.  Eating white pasta feels to me as if I’m eating cardboard. I do love my green vegetables and my good source of protein. My diet is so much more varied than it has ever been before and I actually eat much more. I eat my food mindfully and intensely. I don’t feel ever that I am depriving myself. Even on holidays, I would eat the local food and chose the vegetables and meat/fish dishes and I don’t find the need to eat rubbish while on holidays. There might be the odd more ice-cream and more red wine than at home, but that’s it!

I don’t starve myself on green salad leaves and rice cakes as some people suggest you do when you eat healthy. My typical day would start with Overnight oats, sometimes gluten-free and/or buckwheat flakes, soaked in coconut milk or water. Loads of ground nuts & seeds, lots of fruit and some homemade kefir. After a workout I’d have a smoothie with ½ Banana, ½ Avocado, almond butter, chia seeds, coconut oil, fruit, spinach or/and kale and protein powder. Lunch is general some protein chicken or salmon or beef or turkey burgers with a big salad of green leaves, grated courgette, carrot, beetroot, sauerkraut, avocado, sometimes an egg, pesto, hummus, mackerel, chicken liver pate, and whatever is there. This usually keeps me full until dinner which would often be a vegetable stir-fry with some chicken, or some vegetable soup with sausages or bacon.

People are sometimes surprised to see me eat sausages and bacon, or that I’d have butter on my special seed bread. There’s nothing wrong with foods that have been around for hundreds of years! That’s basically my motto. If someone tells you to have a rice cake instead of some full fat cheese, just because they’d have less calories, I’d say that’s bullshit! Enjoy your good quality artisan cheeses with a glass of red wine. Fully and truly enjoy it. Let the cheese melt in your mouth and the delicious fruity-ness of the wine complement that joy. You will feel happier and much more satisfied than you’d ever do on a rice cake. It’s about how often do you have wine & cheese. If you wolf both down and have every evening, I don’t think it’s a good idea – definitely too many calories there. But every once in a while, that’s no problem (unless you are currently actively on a diet and are trying to lose weight – but that’s a different story. Or if you have a real issue with dairy or with alcohol or the histamines or sulphites in the red wine! Again, that’s a different story.)

Life is about enjoyment – absolutely, but eating a healthy diet and enjoyment don’t exclude each other. If for you, life is not worth living if you can’t have those donuts, then sorry. I don’t understand this!

Get your act together and eat a good diet for a couple of months and I guarantee you, you won’t want that donut anymore.

You will have so much energy and your mental health will be so much better, that your life has become so much more enjoyable, so much easier and so much more intense because you have all the energy you need to do the things you love!

“O, I have such a sweet tooth, there’s nothing I can do about that”  “If I don’t have my sweets and sugar and coffee, I wouldn’t have any energy at all.” “Life is not worth living without any treats” “Life is not worthwhile if I have to restrict myself all the time” “You could be eating healthy all your life and then get hit by a bus” “When your time is up, your time is up” “Such and such ate healthy all her life and she still got cancer” “I could never give up x,y,z”

Have you said any of the above?

I hear all these excuses all the time – from someone who at the same time complains about lack of energy, suffers from depression, suffers from digestive issues, or can’t cope with stress, is on a number of medication, barely can get out of bed in the morning or/and can only take on one thing a day because otherwise wouldn’t have energy for something else.

Are you that someone?

Do you want to change? Do you believe you could possibly change? Or do you honestly don’t think you can change one small thing at a time with the help and support of someone who’s been through it, and someone who understands? What are you afraid of? That something is being taken away? Can you not image HOW MUCH YOU WILL GAIN by stopping to eat just some really bad stuff?

“Will I ever be able to eat like a normal person again?” is a question I sometimes get asked when people who try to lose weight, gain it after a weekend away or a good night out.

Define “Normal” first of all?

Is it normal now to carry extra weight around the middle?

Is it normal to fall asleep in front of the TV in the evening and struggle to get going in the morning?

Is it normal to need a coffee and something sweet to get going in the morning?

Is it normal to have an afternoon slump?

Is it normal that most people over 50 years of age are on some life-long medication?

Is it normal not to be able to move around, carry your shopping, being exhausted after walking a few miles?


Why should it be “normal” to eat cakes and biscuits, ready-made, processed meal, deep-fried chips, etc?

Why should it not be normal to have a eating REAL FOODS, like vegetables, meat, natural fats and oils?

IF YOU AGREEE, that all those things are NOTnormal, please give it a go!!! Try it, and notice the difference. All you can lose is a few pounds. But I guarantee, it will become easier and you can create new habits, and create a NEW NORMAL.

Yes, there is never a guarantee just how long you will live. Yes, there is never a guarantee that you might not get any of the modern diseases. But at least give it your best shot!

Years ago, there were no seat-belts in cars. Now it’s the first thing most people do when they get into a car. There is never a guarantee that it will save your life, but you still wear it, and not just because it’s the law. You just do, it has become second nature. That’s the way to go with a good diet and a good life-style.

It’s not about how long you will live. It’s about your quality of life!


You don’t need to be told what not to eat and what to eat. You know yourself, and can educate yourself, get information and recipes online. But a lot of people could go for a run, do some push-ups and sit-ups and yoga exercises at home, yet they still go to a gym and to classes. Why? Because, they like the interaction, the motivation, the support, the latest information, the accountability and much more. That’s what you get from me, if you need it. If you’re struggling on your own to permanently switch to a healthier diet and life-style, give me a buzz or drop an email.

Thank you so much for reading the whole blog. I’d love to hear from you what you think of it. Please leave a comment on my facebook page.

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