The first introduction for The Dagger’s health and fitness column was about how to decide your F-I-T factor and how to get moving on your journey to become fit. To be honest, food comes time and time again right to the top of the list of problems when people are trying to become healthier. If you exercise your heart out day in and day out without adjusting your diet, unless you have awesome family genes, you will most likely struggle obtaining your goals.
Food, calories, yada yada–it is a tough subject. And, everyone asks me about food even though I’m not a Nutritionist or Dietician. Food is part of personal training. I struggle with food too. I mean I’m only human, and in a world where there is commercial after commercial for McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Chili’s etc. it sometimes difficult to avoid crap. Our world is filled with options of food that do not fuel our body appropriately. You have to make a conscious decision to choose to eat healthy—everyday.
I tell my clients who need to lose weight to write everything down, but I don’t. I’m not a hypocrite, I just currently do not desire to lose weight. That’s not my goal. I think writing a food journal is a pain, but I have learned over the years, and I did previously write EVERYTHING—seriously, every single thing down. It works. It holds you accountable because who wants to write down that they ate a Big Mac with large fries and a large coke? Or a Venti Frappachino with whipped cream? So, if you want to lose weight then I highly recommend keeping a food journal.
What I can tell you, as a personal trainer, is a generalization of how to eat and what to eat. I can also let you know what I’ve learned over the years, and what has worked for me. Will it work for you? Who knows, because each of us are different and our bodies although it is generally the same, some of our bodies like more fat, some more protein, some more carbs, etc. In fact, one of my fellow RKC’s, Tracy Reifkind, just wrote an article about food journals because I complained about it. Those lovely apps that everyone downloads on their phones are terrible—why, you ask? Well, because they expect you to eat food with bar codes. If you don’t, then you have to literally itemize every single item in your salad or dinner. Talk about tedious–my salad has a lot of vegetables, avocado, some chicken, and an egg…no barcode there.
Here’s the bottom line about food—I eat when I’m hungry. I eat real food all the time. I do love ice cream though—I even have an ice cream cone tattooed on my underarm. TMI, right. I have a splurge day on the weekend and sometimes it both days, but not always. I overeat on the weekends because I choose not to moderate self-control on the weekends—I CHOOSE not to. However, sometimes I do choose self-control on the weekends, especially if a vacation is coming up because I know I’ll splurge a little more there. That’s just me. Every person will differ here. I’ve had clients who cannot have splurge days because they cannot get back on track. I’ve had clients who just dislike the splurge days because the food is so different and makes their bodies feel sluggish. Moving on.
Let’s talk about HOW to eat. I’ve learned that if I eat REAL FOOD, REAL FREAKING FOOD SERIOUSLY that my body works and feels great! It’s funny because in Michael Pollan’s book, he says “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I love that and it was the best advice that I’ve read so far in a book. I don’t need to overeat as much when I follow his advice. When I eat crap food it runs through me. It doesn’t sustain my body. There is a huge difference between good calories and empty calories—i.e., salad with free range chicken, loaded with vegetables vs. pop tarts or some frozen dinner. I just read this from the Lift Big Eat Big blog and had to share, “if you can’t picture it [the food you’re about to eat] within three stages of it’s natural state (good luck breaking a Pop-Tart down to this), you likely shouldn’t be eating it.” Think about that.
Here are some ways to decipher your food consumption:
1. Can you tell the difference between boredom and hunger?
2. Are you really hungry or just confusing thirst for hunger?
3. Is your goal realistic? You cannot give up something forever. Fat free and sugar free just bring on more chemicals for your body. Plus, often those items are worse for you because they have to do things to make them taste better minus the natural properties they hold.
4. Get rid of emotional eating. Seriously, just stop. Don’t run to food. Do something else. Go outside and run around the block. Your dog needs a walk. He/she will help you get through the moment.
Let’s move on. Now that you have some tips and pointers on HOW to eat, you need to know WHAT to eat. I can’t exactly tell you WHAT to eat—see above reasoning, but, I will give you generalizations. You already know, most likely, that we are creatures of habit. We do not like change. Pick a week of your best foods: things you eat, things you like, things you want to eat. Most likely your diet will revolve around these particular meals. However, there may need to be some revisions to clean up these items if they consist of just chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and corn. Just saying…
I’ve met families and couples who have created a food menu for the month just based on a series of meals mixed up each week and that’s how they regulate what they eat. This also allows the kids to help cook, and helps the cooks of the house to determine who will fix which meal. Personally, I cook most of my food on Sundays because I know that by the time I get home after a long day, I will be starving and start to eat bad stuff while waiting for dinner to cook. (Even though I don’t keep bad food in the house, it seems like I can always find something that isn’t as good for me as my dinner!) So, by being able to heat up my food or just throw some thawed fish on the grill or in the oven, I’m ready to rock with food that will refuel my body until breakfast time. It works for me.
Here are some things to consider in the WHAT to eat category:
1. Eggs—good protein. They are one of few proteins that is almost complete, and, you can eat the whole darn thing. Don’t waste the yolk—there’s good stuff in it (I’ve blogged about eggs on my website if you want more information). I’ll either eat 2 eggs or 3 egg whites with 1 egg depending on the day.
2. Good fats—fat free sucks! Have you ever tried an avocado? They are mighty yummy. How about coconuts? A real one! This is an example of good fat. Now, you have to be careful because they are certainly calorie dense, but your body needs fat.
3. Lean meats—you should know that I’m not really a meat eater, I struggle and don’t like it much. However, more recently I’ve been doing chicken from Rousedale Farm because I know Rouse takes good care of those ladies (and some gents too) and they are free range—able to eat bugs if they wish. Grass fed beef (grass fed AND finished can be found locally, just ask questions), pork, turkey, you name it. Eat it up in moderate portions. Avoid sauces. Just use spices to avoid adding calories.
4. Vegetables—ALL OF THEM! What do you say about vegetables? Yum? Good fiber. Fills you up. Yeah.
5. Fruits—some. Fruits have natural sugars. That isn’t entirely bad. But, it is still sugar and should be consumed in moderation. Fruit is good for you because again there is fiber and lots of antioxidants.
Bottom line to eating: There isn’t a quick fix. There isn’t a magic pill. Living healthy means making a decision and pursuing it with good food and exercise. Go to the Farmer’s Market—all real food there. Plus, you get to help our your fellow locals.
Do it up! Live your life with a smile.