Hello there Beautiful
Can you believe summer is just a few short weeks away … Yay!
That means it’s getting close to the time when we need to swap the coats and the sweaters out for the shorts, the summer dresses and yes … the bathing suits :-).
So that gives us a few weeks to put a plan in action to get “summer ready”. Well don’t worry … I’m here to help!
The easiest way to get there is to focus on your food. That is where you are going to get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to weight loss and getting healthy. If we start today, we have more than enough time to make meaningful progress!
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Done? Ok … now let’s get down to business!
7 Simple Rules For Eating Your Way To The Body That You Want.
Getting the body and the healthy life we want … well, it all starts with food.
Micheal Pollen summed it up best when he said “Eat Food, Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Sounds simple enough. But for anyone looking to find an easy roadmap for healthy eating on the internet, they will most likely encounter confusing and conflicting advice.
Nutrition is one of the few sciences where you can find a study to argue for or against a particular food. Are whole grains part of a healthy diet plan, or is gluten the evil villain behind modern disease? Are eggs, dairy, coffee and fat good for you … or should they be avoided like the plague? Depends on when and whom you ask.
No wonder people are confused!
Well let’s cut through all the noise. Here are some principles for eating that have stood the test of time. These simple rules have been passed down through my family for generations. They are what I recommend to clients and how I live my own life.
#1 Eat Real Food
This includes foods that are unprocessed and unrefined – so as close to their natural state as possible. These foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, beans, eggs, meat, poultry, fish) contain the raw ingredients – vitamins, minerals, antioxidants – the fuel our bodies need to maintain balance and function optimally. They can be found around the perimeter of your supermarket, or at your local farmer’s market.
Minimally processed foods, also considered “real food”, are those that have been altered to increase safety, to make more consumption ready or more convenient. These include oils, dairy, whole grains, coffee, wine.
Cooking, blending, juicing, grating are some minimal processes that we often practice at home.
With unprocessed and minimally processed foods as your anchor –
- eat a balanced diet (try not to eliminate entire macro-nutrients – carbs and fats do not make you fat)
- eat both cooked and uncooked foods – as they both provide different nutrients
- cook from scratch so that you can control the ingredients that go into your food
- eat regularly – to curb hunger and balance blood sugars
- eat the rainbow of fruits and vegetables – across all hues to get a variety of nutrients
- minimize sugar – to what is already naturally occurring in your food
What this boils down to is really eliminating the ultra processed, packaged foods that line over 80% of the shelves of our supermarkets.
These foods are high in refined carbs and sugar which can wreak havoc on our health – increasing triglycerides and cholesterol and promoting insulin resistance. They are hyper – rewarding, which can cause overeating and craving. There is some truth to the saying “you can’t eat just one chip.” They contain artificial ingredients which our bodies do not recognize as foods. And finally, they are nutrient and fiber poor, but calorie rich – a combination that is dangerous for the weight watcher and the health seeker alike.
For the times where it may be more convenient to have processed foods, take the time to read and understand your food labels. Look for those that are closest to their natural states, with minimally added sugars and salt, and have 5 or less ingredients, for which the names are recognizable.
#2 Don’t Drink Your Calories
Avoid empty calories from soda, fruit juices and energy drinks. Besides the fact that they likely contain simple sugars that can cause blood sugar swings, which can lead to reduced energy and hunger, the brain doesn’t seem to recognize liquid calories in much the same way as it does solid food.
In other words, these calories won’t make you feel full. So instead of replacing something, you are having your liquid calories “in addition to ” all the other food that you normally would eat. So consider these calories “extra” for the day.
In one study, people who added soda to their current diet ended up consuming 17% more calories (1).
But this isn’t the case just for sugar laden soft drinks – fruit juices when over-consumed can also cause negative health effects. For instance, studies show that people who consumed the most whole fruits and veggies significantly cut their risk for diabetes, while the opposite was true for those consuming fruit juices. They actually increased their risk (2).
You are much better off having the fruit instead, which also comes packaged with fiber and nutrients – which can curb hunger, slow down the absorption of fructose and help to keep blood sugar balanced.
For liquids, enjoy a green smoothie or a veggie juice with a little fruit added for a hint of sweetness. They are nutrient rich but calorie poor. Herbal teas are also an excellent alternative – especially when served chilled on a hot summer day.
But the simplest thirst quencher is water. We often times mistake thirst for hunger, when all we need is a bit of water. Water is essential to our cellular processes and has a major effect on energy levels and brain function (3,4). Consider drinking 6 oz of water every hour, as a way to retrain your body to recognize thirst signals.
#3 Watch Your Portions
You must eat the right amount of calories. Bottom line – eating more calories than we need can lead to weight gain, especially when eating energy dense foods.
Even healthy calories will cause weight gain if you eat too much of it. With enormous servings being the norm at most restaurants, it’s hard to know how much to actually eat. Additionally, for most of us the “cue” to stop eating, often comes too late, when we have already cleaned our plates and given into the urge to loosen our clothing.
Again here we need to first get a sense of the amount of food that we should be eating – my general guidelines for a dinner plate are 1) a protein serving about the size of a deck of cards, 2) a serving of starchy veggies or whole grains similar in size to the protein or about 1/2 cup cooked 3) a serving of vegetables equivalent to double the size of the protein serving. So your protein should make up one quarter of your plate, your starchy food another quarter and your veggies should take up one half of your plate.
Some other ways to reduce your portion sizes – Serve your dinner on a smaller plate, have a small apple or a soup before a meal, which can make you less likely to overeat, don’t eat from the bag or a box – rather take out just enough for a snack and put the rest away, and just be mindful of what you are eating.
Also focus on foods that are naturally filling, nutrient rich and calorie poor or moderate – fruit and veggies smoothies, soups and stews with lean protein and veggies, cooked whole grains and beans.
#4 Be Flexible
This is otherwise known as the 80/20 Rule.
Oftentimes when we embark on a new healthy living lifestyle, it’s all or nothing. We hold ourselves to a standard that is hard to uphold, and the minute we make a “mistake” and have something we aren’t supposed to, we throw in the towel and give up.
Perfection can be stressful and hard to keep up in real life – where there are birthday parties, travel, eating out, pot luck gatherings, or the many challenging situations we may find ourselves in.
What if you told yourself it’s ok to have a treat every now and then … especially if it still falls into the “real food” category. Food is an experience … tastes and flavors can bring us tremendous pleasure and create wonderful memories. So if you want to have a piece of cake – have a small piece of cake, and tell yourself it’s ok to just enjoy it. Sure it has some sugar, but if you are eating the right way the majority of the time, then a small piece of cake will likely not work against your health.
It’s what you do 80% of the time that will have the biggest effect. So choose to eat healthy foods 80% of the time, and save 20% to indulge in your favorite “real food” treats.
Giving yourself permission to indulge periodically likely has the unintended effect of reducing overall cravings. Win-win! Extreme abstinence, however, likely does the opposite.
#5 Know Thyself
There is no one size diet that works for everyone all the time. Truth is that people from difficult cultures, eating very different foods have thrived over time. So in essence, we have the ability to get to our best weight and health with different combinations of foods. There really is no one size fits all.
Getting stuck in dietary dogma means that we can sometimes focus on the the things we think we are “supposed to eat” versus the foods that our bodies really need. Hence the battle amongst different dietary schools of thought – vegan, paleo, pescatarian, vegetarian, low carb, low fat to name a few.
Our specific bio-chemical makeup is unique, which means that we each have different needs. This is called bio- individuality. For instance, someone with blood sugar issues may very well do better on a lower carb diet. Someone with great insulin sensitivity will likely feel great eating a higher carb vegan type diet. It really comes down to the individual.
So listen to your body – not to all the well meaning Internet gurus. Find the foods that naturally work well for you, that make you feel the most satiated, the happiest, the most energetic – that’s when you will effortlessly get to your natural weight.
#6 Food Should Be Social
Food can be a fun way of bringing people together. Rather than eating alone, revive the age old tradition of family dinner time, if possible.
The truth is that where you eat your food affects how many calories are consumed. Eating mindlessly in front of the computer or TV likely affects what and how much you eat.
Sharing a meal with others will make you more likely to cook, it will likely take you longer to get through the meal, and it will likely be more enjoyable.
What’s more delightful than sharing a deliciously nutritious dinner with family and friends, enjoying wonderful conversations and belly aching laughs?
#7 Say Yes To YOU
You know I’m BIG on this. A commitment to healthy eating means finally getting to a place where you are saying YES to yourself.
As we get older, our bodies are starting to show the wear and tear of years of abuse from the standard American diet (SAD). That is often the impetus that gets us to start thinking about healthy living and eating, in the first place. The good news is that the effects of SAD can be reversed and you can protect your health, no matter what you are genetically predisposed to, but you have to make the decision that you are worth it.
When you decide to love yourself and get happy with where you are, when you decide to fully commit – mentally and physically to getting the results you want, then that’s when the real magic happens.
Then you will naturally want to do the best thing for your body. It means loving it from the inside out and giving it the nutrients and support that it needs to prosper, to thrive. So that it can give you what you need – that rocking figure, great energy, glowing skin and hair, and an amazing sense of wellbeing.
That’s when you realize that we are holistic beings with holistic needs – when you realize that getting enough sleep, exercising, managing stress with meditation and living in alignment with nature also contributes to your health.
When you approach it from this “holistic” perspective, fad diets have NO place in your world.
That’s when you realize … it’s a lifestyle.
So focus on “healthy” and taking care of you – all that you are. And believe me everything else will come. But instead of just dropping a size or reversing your diabetes, you now have a mind, body and spirit makeover.
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