Food and nutrition. And why diets don’t work.
The first month of 2015 is gone. Do you still remember your resolutions? I bet at least one of them is to do with fitness, right? Ok, so you promised yourself to hit the gym at least 3 times a week, or run more, or take up a fitness challenge. But how about your food and nutrition? Have you given any thought to that? I often find people push food goals aside, thinking becoming more active will help them get into healthy lifestyle. Yes, of course they say “I’ll eat healthier” or “I’ll eat more fruits and veggies”. But that’s not enough and let me tell you why.
Your body is amazing. No matter what size, shape, colour you are, your body is the most powerful tool you have in this life. You can walk, run, see, feel, hear, taste, create another human being. All that however requires fuel. And by fuel I mean food. Not any food, but the best quality you can get. Food that is bursting with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients required to sustain your body’s vital functions. Think about food as an opportunity to nourish your body.
Nutrition needs to go hand in hand with your fitness goals. Nutrition however does not mean going on a diet. Let’s get one thing clear. Diets don’t work. None of them. Do you know why? You are forcing yourself to cut out foods, eat less. The thing is, if your body starts feeling even the slightest attempt to diet, it goes into starvation mode. Starvation mode means your body is storing fat from any food it can get, as it is preparing for the worst. So you are not eating well, while your body stores fat. You are not seeing results and eventually you give up. Rather than going in this vicious cycle, enjoy good, natural and nutritious food, fuel your body with what it truly needs and you will feel the difference. It’s actually quite simple!
First of all start tracking what you eat. Do that for one week but don’t change your eating habits. I recommend downloading My Fitness Pal and recording everything you eat during this evaluation week. It can be boring but you are doing yourself a favour. Do it while you are getting back from work, you can catch up on social media some other time 😉
During the first few days, you will notice you are starting to feel conscious of what you put in your body. Are you shocked to find that yogurt actually has so much sugar? Are you second guessing your meal choices during lunchtime? If you started analysing what you are eating, it means this exercise is working. You need to learn about your eating patterns and start reading food labels. You need to understand what your body needs.
Once the week is over, sit down and analyse your nutrition. Can you see some patterns emerging? Do you eat enough for breakfast? Do you get enough fruits and veggies? These are just a few questions to guide you but once you see your weekly tracking records you will know what to ask yourself. And you will know the answers for sure.
Now that you are more self aware of your nutrition, it is the perfect time to make some changes in your lifestyle. Permanent changes. Think of it as your new way of living, it is really time to commit to your health. What do you want to achieve in your life? Feel more energised? Perhaps you want to burn more body fat? You need to establish personal nutrition goals. Write them down and stick to them. For example, I want a better skin and thicker hair, which means I need to include healthy fats in my nutrition, such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, etc.
There is so much information available to you, you just need to know what you want to achieve and look for a way to do it. Once you know your base ingredients to a better nutrition you can start making a list of products you should consume every day. Very soon you’ll discover ingredients that you completely left out because you thought they have no value or you were too lazy to add them to your meals.
Once you now know what you need to add to your diet, you should find recipes including those ingredients. For example, I thought I’ll never eat an avocado, to me it was just a weird berry (yes, did you know that it is actually a berry?!) which everyone was raving about. I knew I had to add some healthy fats to my diet as my hair and nails needed some post winter loving. By carrying out my own research I discovered that avocado is one of the best resources of healthy fats and I dared myself to try it. Ever since I can’t get enough of avocados!
So you’ve got your nutrition goals sorted, you know what you need to take out and what to add in to your meals. Now it’s time to gather all those recipes you will be using to whip up amazing breakfast, lunches and dinners in one place. You need to start a new habit of creating meal planner for the upcoming week. I’d like to recommend yet another helpful app that you are going to love. It’s called Pepperplate. It’s the best app for planning your meals, creating your own custom recipes and shopping lists. You can even add recipes from any website using their bookmarklet. Seriously, go and get it now, it will make your life so much easier!
Using this app collect the recipes for your meals, add them into the meal planner and then create a shopping list. This way you will know what you are going to eat throughout the week, what ingredients you have to get and in general you will feel super organised. I started doing this a while ago now, every Saturday morning I prepare my shopping list and head to the shops. I only get what’s on my shopping list and in this way I managed to reduce my food waste significantly. For example, I drink a lot of smoothies and juices, so my fruit and veggie shopping is very important. I tend to get two packs of bananas, one that is ready to eat, and another one where bananas are still slightly greenish. By the time I use the first set, the second is ready to go.
I also love fish, so I tend to buy it in bulk, prepare it and freeze it. All I have to do later on is to prepare my salad, pop the fish in the grill and my delicious, healthy meal is ready in less than 30 minutes.
So make sure you plan your meals, your ingredients, stuff your freezer and cupboards with healthy quick ingredients to whip up delicious meals and you will soon realise that it’s actually so very simple to eat good. All you need is a bit of planning and preparation, and the rest is up to your imagination.
Spring clean your eating habits, get rid off all unhealthy stuff in your cupboards, create a meal planner which is bursting with delicious meals that you actually can’t wait to try. Go food shopping and enjoy the whole experience of picking fresh ingredients. Find time to immerse yourself in cooking, slow down, take in all the smells and textures while you cook. Sit down to eat your meals at a nicely set table with people you care about. And I promise, this new way of living will make permanent and positive changes in you. I challenge you to track your new eating patterns with Fitness Pal like you did in the beginning and see the results for yourself. The only thing that Fitness Pal won’t tell you is how amazing you actually feel inside and out. Start fresh, take care of your body.
P.S. this article is based on my personal experience. I am not a certified nutritionist, but I did gather a lot of research from credible sources, and all the points you just read work really well for me (however it might not suit everyone).