There will always be a much, much more than this
In a previous post I spoke about the impending New Year’s resolution to get back into shape and make fitness part of your lifestyle. The heart of the article talked about easing into a change as large as this one. I think the same attention needs to be given to resolutions that centre on what we eat, and how we eat.
To me, eating well should be part of our lifestyle and not something we do only when things start to get out of hand. When it’s something we do only when the scale, or ourselves determine that we need to, most times things are done to address that extra weight that can be damaging to our bodies. I see it all the time, people following the newest and latest diet. People eating only cabbage, or only having a shake for lunch. Usually this is because even though it probably has taken months for the weight gain the person is dealing with they want that weight off as quickly as possible, no matter what.
The problem with this is this process can be damaging to our body. Usually the body is deprived of vital nutrients, or put into starvation mode because of the lack of calories. The process itself of gaining/losing weight over and over can be damaging to our body.
The fact is nutrition plays a huge role in how we perform day to day, and how we will perform and exist 20 to 30 years ahead. Damage we are doing to our bodies today may not be evident until much later in our lives when it’s too late to change our eating habits. If you consider yourself an athletic person look at it this way. A high performance car made to run on high octane fuel just does not run well on regular fuel. The affect can be felt immediately with loss of power and also long term when your mechanic is hitting you up for thousands of dollars due to the damage done to the engine from running low grade fuel. Your body really is no different. Garbage in / garbage out.
But don’t get me wrong. By no means am I saying you can only eat healthy foods and you need to eliminate all other foods. Doing that would make it very difficult to make eating healthy a lifestyle and you are most likely to end up back to where you were. We need to adopt a process that is realistic and doable, something that can be done gradually over time.
To get to where you want to go, you need to know where you are coming from. Take a week and keep a record of everything you eat and drink. Then create 4 groups; fat, protein, carbs and water. Now move each item you have written down into one of those groups.
Now take each group and break it into two sub groups; healthy and junk. As an example, a bag of chips would be considered junk. A baked potato kept simple and not loaded down with tons of cheese would be considered healthy. Do you get the idea? If your meals come in the form of a box than you would want to read the label to see the ratio. I hope your meals aren’t coming in the form of a box. Processed food should be avoided since they are loaded with unhealthy fats (these fats are cheaper to use), sugar and salt.
Now you need to look at the ratio of fat, protein and carbs. Generally speaking the ratio should be around 30/30/40 respectively. This is a general recommendation without taking into account your age, sex, activity level. If you need a ratio that is more specific to you I would recommend you do some research or see someone who is a professional in the field of nutrition.
Now that you know what you are eating, how much of it are you eating? If you want to know the exact amount you need to measure what it is you are eating. Measuring does not mean counting the number of bowls of cereal as an example or the number of cups of juice. How big is your bowl? There is no standard bowl you can buy. Because of this most of us who have a serving of cereal in our ‘bowl’ usually end up having 2 to 3 times the actual serving amount listed on the box. The same can be said for drinks. A cup is not a cup. Our western civilization has gradually moved towards much bigger bowls, plates and glasses. If you ever have the chance to go to Japan you will see what I mean. Their dishes are much smaller than ours.
So now that you know how much you are eating, are you surprised at the amount of calories? Probably. Most people are. Again, if you are looking for your daily caloric intake amount I would suggest you do some research or speak to someone who is certified in this field.
How is looking so far. Where do you fall? A lot of junk? A little junk? Too many calories? Don’t sweat it because you are now trying to do something about it and you are trying to turn things around.
A slow walk
So it took you a while to get to where you are now. 30, 50, 75 lbs overweight. Not feeling healthy? How long did it take? 6 months, a whole year? I’m sure it took a while so why the rush to lose the weight. Let’s look at this as a gradual process.
Looking at the groups and subgroups you created let’s try to eliminate 10% of the junk for the first couple of weeks. If you are someone who drinks a can of pop a day, for two days substitute water for the pop. If your caloric intake is on the high side try reducing it by 10% for two weeks.
Then, let’s try another 10% for two more weeks.
One month later and you are now drinking pop only 3 days a week from 7. Thinking about it, can you go without any pop at all? Probably. Gradually bringing the amount down has allowed your body to handle the change. Many studies are showing that the brain reacts to sugar the same way it reacts to cocaine, or heroin. The same areas of the brain become alive when consuming sugar as they do when taking certain drugs. Just like the heroin addict who needs to be weaned off of the drug, you need to gradually remove sugar from your diet.
Let’s go back and look at the groups I asked you to create. One of those groups was water. The importance of water should not be underestimated. We are mostly made up of water. When we are dehydrated our body has to work harder to pump blood. Dehydration can also lead to cramping up when training. So drink plenty of water.
The percentages I’m using are a general recommendation. If you feel you are able to reduce by a higher percentage than go ahead. Just don’t go off the deep end and start eliminating by 60% – 70%. The goal is to succeed, not fail.
The first step
Everything starts with the first step. It can be difficult, taking that step. Walk before you run. Make these changes letting this become part of your life moving forward instead of something you’ll do for 4 weeks.
Time is fleeting. Just like you looked at yourself wondering how you got where you were, you’ll be doing the same thing 6 months from now knowing how you got there. Glad that you are where you are. How would that feel?
Yours in health,