If I had a nickel for every conversation that went like this, I could retire young:
“I’m not making any progress in my fitness goals! I don’t understand why. I eat healthy!”
“What do you mean by eating healthy?”
“Healthy! You know, healthy!”
It seems that a LOT of people think they’re eating healthy or have an idea of what healthy means…or think they do…but they really don’t.
Here’s a checklist of dos and don’t on eating healthy:
1) Get enough vegetables in your diet. In fact, regardless of your dietary habits and lifestyle your food pyramid should contain vegetables at the bottom, then fruit, then starches like brown rice, quinoa, lentils, etc. If I look at your day to day meals and they consist of mostly animal proteins, meal bars, and the occasional carb source, you’re not getting enough vegetables. I’m not going to be obnoxious and tell you to go veg*n or whatever, but I can guarantee you if you replace about half of the animal products you eat (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy) with fresh vegetables and fruits, you’ll start to see some serious results.
2) Over-reliance on “protein”, AKA animal products. I put protein in quotes because this is what the food industry sells you on: that you need “protein” and animal products are the source of it. Every natural food contains protein, see my previous rant on the topic. If your meals are mostly filled with meat and dairy, you’re ingesting a good deal of unnecessary fat and calories, not getting a lot of nutritional bang for your buck…and absolutely zero fiber whatsoever. People like eating this way because it’s a heavy meal and won’t make them hungry, but if you ate more fiber (natural sources, not supplements!) you’d have a similar effect. If you’re a bodybuilder and looking to gain mass, google people like Robert Cheeke–they’re not having any issues whatsoever with mass gain on veggies. Ditto with the raw folk.The key is getting in enough calories and nutrients, protein is overhyped and too much of it could actually cause damage in the long run.
3) Too much processed food. If you’re eating mostly meal bars, Lean Cuisines/Healthy Choice/Smart Ones, and what-have-you, you’re not eating enough *food*. Buy your favorite salad ingredients in parts, bring them to work and make your lunches on the go. If you MUST get packaged food, check the calories, fat, and sodium content of each plus read the labels to see if there are added sugars and crap which you could do without.
4) Too much fat and oils. If you’re cooking and/or eating salads with salad dressing, butter, or oils, you’re getting a lot of unnecessary calories that have zero nutritional value and are pure fat. Cut them out. I can guarantee you that if you do this, you’ll eliminate about 200-500 calories per day you didn’t know you were ingesting. 500 calories a day for seven days adds up to a pound of fat. Are there healthy fats? Yes, in sources of food that also have nutritional value. Oils have ZERO nutritional value. Don’t buy the hype on olive oil, you wear what you eat and if you eat foods that are nothing but pure fat…well, you get the picture. Stick to avocados, nuts, and seeds as your sources of fat, and in moderation at that. Your percentage of calories which come from fat should not be more than 20%. When in doubt, start logging your food intake into cronometer.com.
5) Too many sugary drinks and hidden sugars in your food. If you’re eating anything processed in the way of baked goods such as bread, jarred or canned anything, “fruit juices”…you’re eating a ton of unnecessary sugars. When you buy a package of peanuts, the ingredients should only list “peanuts”. Maybe “peanuts”, and “salt”. Not molasses, corn syrup, corn solids, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, and gods only know what else. Eat real food!
6) Stop obsessing over carbs. It’s an unnecessary, unhealthy waste of time based on a fad diet developed by someone who is DEAD due to a slew of health problems (gee, what a shock). The problem is UNHEALTHY carbs: fried potatoes, white bread/flour, refined sugars, etc. Fruit, quinoa, lentils, brown rice, and whole grains are HEALTHY carbs. You need carbs to fuel your body, provide energy for your physical activity, and it’s quite literally food for your brain. I lost 100 lbs not by carb watching, but by watching my combination of calories, fat, and sodium along with a serious increase in my physical activity. Carbs are GOOD for you. Get some!
Does this list above mean you can’t ever eat your favorite foods ever again? No, but it does mean you need to rethink what eating “healthy” means to you so that when you do indulge, you can do so mindfully. I allow myself one cheat food per week. Now that’s a food, not a day’s worth of crap. If I eat two chocolate chip cookies at a Saturday night social function, it won’t kill me. If I am eating out every day and putting who knows what into my body, it will. I also pay attention to how much I indulge. If my philosophy is “Hey, if I’m going to indulge I’m going to go completely all out” and wonder why my fitness progress has either slowed down, come to a grinding halt or gone backwards, now you know why. Indulge in moderation. You can do it. You’ll still get the satisfaction of enjoying your favorite foods, whether it’s pizza, fries, ice cream, or what-not versus completely destroying all of your efforts to stay on track all week.
Pack your lunches, cook in advance, bring make your own salad/healthy wrap ingredients, and you’ll save money and your waistline. Learn to read labels, and even if you think it’s intuitive as to what you’re buying and eating, READ. Read every label. You don’t need additional sugar in your breads, your drinks, your packaged anything. I knew a gal from Australia who came here and complained that our bread tasted like cake. We put THAT much sugar into them in comparison with the rest of the known world, which doesn’t. People come to this country, don’t change a thing about what and how they eat and wind up gaining 20-30 lbs because of all of the crap we put in our food! And this is why I say to avoid processed “food” whenever possible–putting “food” into quotes because it’s not really food.
What boggles my mind is why the food industry would stick additional sugars into something which already contains fruit. Fruit’s sweet as is, and it’s a HEALTHY sweetener! People eat and drink that crap and blame it on the fruit when they have health issues when in actuality it’s the added sugars to the fruit that are causing the problem. Fruit sugar is NOT the same thing as table sugar, cane sugar, corn syrup/HFCS, and what-have-you. For more on this, read my post on forbidden fruit.
Also, don’t get caught up in the hype on superfoods. Want to eat superfoods? Kale is a superfood. So are spinach, chard, and broccoli. Quinoa is a superfood. Bananas too, as are oranges. Real, unprocessed, natural foods that aren’t manipulated or manufactured but provided to you by Mother Nature is a superfood.
Last piece of advice: when you up these items of foods and reduce and/or drop the ones which contain zero fiber, you may notice some differences in digestion at first. Drink plenty of water, watch what foods may bother you the most, and make a note of it. Your system will adjust. Most Americans get 15g of fiber per day. Would you believe I get more than that in my daily breakfast let alone an entire day? You don’t need fiber supplements, laxatives, and other assorted crap, you need REAL food.
You can still eat healthy and have it be delicious and tasty. I can also guarantee you that your taste buds will change over time. I used to think that soda and fast food were both tasty, and after not eating or drinking either in a year I completely lost my taste for them. Tried to eat what were my favorite foods, and found that they tasted like crap. This was six years prior to my dropping animal products from my diet, too–so going vegan had nothing to do with it. But it had everything to do with dropping 100 lbs and going down from a size 16 to a size 2.
People who are overweight aren’t overweight because they’re eating too much, paradoxically they’re not eating enough. They’re consuming so much in the way of empty calories that their body thinks they are starving and hoards the food they eat as excess fat. Increase your nutritional bang for your buck, and you can drop the excess pounds.
Like this post? Support me and a good cause by donating to my Avon Walk for Breast Cancer! I’ll be walking 39.3 miles in two days May 19-20 in Boston to raise awareness and funds to help combat this disease.