By far and large, the most common questions that come into my headspace include that of Diet and Losing Weight. It's the end of May!!! Here we are, nearly half of the year done and I'm wondering how those January 1st resolutions to become more fit and eat healthier are doing? Sadly, most of these resolutions failed before the end of month. Why? Because in the excitement of the New Year and making positive life changes, we all to often opt for the most dramatic, extreme and in most cases “ill planned” ways to reinvent ourselves. The latest cleanses, starvation diets, or following the x,y or z program are all perfect examples of how to fail.
I would like to propose that for the second half of the year, we focus more on a reversed approach; one not of dramatic change, but of mastering small changes one at a time until the entire lifestyle has transformed.
Change is a process, not an event!
While it’s much more exciting to make a big show of things, excitement only lasts a short time before fading. And often the larger the change, the greater the falling off the horse. I would like to propose a mid year challenge to all of you. Instead of yo-yo dieting, I recommend the formula of growing excitement that comes from small successes for permanent change. How does this happen? Through personal development, education, planning and execution.
What is Nutrition?
Nutrition is not simply buying “whole wheat” bread or choosing “Low Fat” over “Saturated” fat. Nutrition is also not a diet that dictates all food choices based on a certain philosophy such as Paleo or Vegan. Nutrition at the most basic definition is food that makes the body function better. Did you get that? I hope you did because that one statement can change your life forever. So let me repeat it:
Nutrition at the most basic definition is food that makes the body function better.
Either a food or drink improves how your body functions or it doesn’t. Let's stop with the passionate, dogmatic notions of eating Paleo, Zone, Atkins, Vegan etc. And NO, I'm not saying that there are no benefits found in each of these eating philosophies, but there are also massive restrictions that can impede success. If you don't believe me, then look at the numbers! We have adopted more diets, weight loss programs, drugs and fat burners into our economy than ever before- yet we're no skinnier for it!
Currently, two-thirds of American adults are overweight and one-third obese, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means that 58 million are overweight, 40 million obese, 3 million morbidly obese, and all are at serious risk for virtually all chronic disease.
Avoid Toxic Foods and Increase Nutrients
There are several factors behind the surge of obesity, but one of the major contributors is toxic food choices. This would certainly be avoided if we just looked at food in terms of function or how it effects our body. Diet-induced diseases, including obesity, account for the largest burden of chronic illnesses and health problems worldwide. The current Western diet, characterized by foods that are highly processed, deficient in nutrient quality, and high in energy density, has Americans fat and sick as ever. More Americans each day are forsaking healthy home-cooked meals, and are gorging on calorie-rich, nutrient-poor snacks, sodas and sweets when the dinner bell rings. In fact, 90% of the money Americans spend on foods goes toward processed foods.
Why are processed foods so toxic?
Your body is unable to express optimal health when it is fed unnatural food. Your body knows exactly what to do with food that grows from the ground and is found in nature, but it becomes confused when faced with mechanically altered foods. These denatured, processed foods do not provide sufficient nutrients to allow anyone’s body, especially children’s, to reach full potential of health, nor the proper functioning of the immune, nervous, skeletal, digestive, and reproductive systems.
What are some characteristics of toxic foods?
- Produced, manufactured, and likely only been around for a short period of time
- Made in a laboratory or factory
- Animals that are raised in captivity and fed unnaturally
- Always the same
- Lasts forever (ever seen a twinkie go bad?)
- Ready for instant consumption
- Dull, bland
- Artificially flavorful
- No connection to land or culture
What are some characteristics of non-toxic Nutrient rich foods?
- Been around for thousands of years and eaten by your ancestors
- Grown from the ground or tree
- Animals that graze freely
- Variable quality
- Spoils quickly
- Requires preparation
- Vibrant colors, rich textures
- Authentically flavorful
- Strong connection to land and culture
15 Nutrition Habits to Build On
Remember, addition is the first step toward making lasting change. So find some foods that fit the non-toxic criteria, and give your body what it needs to be healthy, age gracefully, and to feel great. Builds habits using foods that improve function; not simply satisfy hunger. You should eat to live. Period.
1. Add Before Subtracting. That is honestly the simplest advice that I can give someone who has a horrible diet and is interested in cleaning it up. Continue eating the foods that are causing harm to your body, but start adding the foods that are going to heal it! Too many changes at once is a recipe for failure so we want to add good habits before subtracting or eliminating those foods we are controlled by. I personally believe that this foundation of nutrition habits is critical for long term function and performance. Next, you will want to maintain the good habits of adding “high quality nutrients” while slowly decreasing the “less than ideal foods” in your diet.
2. Practice Intermittent Fasting. This is by far the best thing I do for my health. For many years I believed in the whole eat several meals a day BS, but now I believe it was a futile, inflexible and impractical way to eat and live. It's obvious to me now that the human body was not designed to be constantly fed; food was not readily available thousands of years ago like it is today and modern research is now proving that our cells work better when fasted.
3. Never ever go to buy your groceries or food, empty stomach. I have noticed this pattern from time to time. High number of unhealthy items in your grocery list is directly proportional to how hungry you were when shopping!
4. Clear your kitchen. Absolutely clear your pantry, refrigerator and secret stash from the junk. More sugary things (or other unhealthy stuff ) you have in your home, the more likely you'll eat them from time to time.
5. Keep healthy foods in front of you at all times. This is an extension of previous point. Keep foods like almonds, walnuts, fruits, dates, etc in your kitchen preferably at eye level. Fill up your bowl with fruit that is easily accessible. Don't blame your will power in case you snack on chips, donuts, biscuits etc from time to time. The real reason I would snack on crap is because it's right in front of me.
6. Whenever hunger strikes drink water. Learn to distinguish hunger from cravings. In most cases its the craving ( which is due to missing nutrients in your diet ) or you eat because you are BORED! Drinking water or green tea will in most cases alleviate the cravings. This practice can easily reduce few hundred calories daily and when compounded can result you in few kilos lighter in just few months time.
7. Take Omega-3's everyday. Our brain is the master controller of our body. It regulates hormone production, digestion, feel good hormones, cell repair, learning and memory and more. The brain is primarily made up of fats and that is why all the research on omega-3 fatty acids is so positive.
8. Practice low flame cooking. High flame cooking destroys the precious nutrients in food. Practice low flame cooking even if it takes longer. Be patient.
9. Reduce Sugar Consumption. Didn't I already tell you to get rid of the junk? dsOur sugar consumption has drastically increased since last 100 years. Almost every product on supermarket shelves have some form of processed sugar in it- cereals, ketchup, soft drinks etc, salad dressings… even tomato sauce?
Completely eliminating sugar may be next to impossible and can overwhelm majority of us. Every day simply aim to minimize the sugar you eat by becoming conscious- if you plan to eat a cheesecake, eat one third of it, and share the rest with friends. If you plan to drink sugared coffee, use a smaller cup and so on and so forth.
10. Eat healthy fats. My diet is almost 40-50% healthy fats. Yes I thrive on fats (coconut oil and related products, avocados, desi ghee, whole eggs and various butters). Its a myth that saturated fat is bad for you.
11. Give at least 2 hours gap before sleeping and eating your dinner. This will ensure that your blood sugar is normalized. Eating food closer to bed time, can raise your blood sugar which can interfere with your ability to sleep.
12. Eat more protein everyday. Protein has a higher thermic effect when compared to other macro-nutrients. What it means is you burn more calories to digest proteins than carbs or fats. Numerous studies suggests eating anything between 1.4g-2.0g per kg of your bodyweight.
13. Eat lot of veggies everyday. Start by eating veggies first in your meals and you will never overeat. Eating raw vegetables have fibre in them which draws water and fills up your stomach reducing your appetite
14. Drink enough water. 70% of your body is water. Drink half your body weight in ounces everyday.
15. Drink something alkaline before you drink tea/coffee. Besides water, drink green tea or have lemon with honey. You see your stomach lining is very sensitive after 8 to 10 hours fast when you sleep. Tea/Coffee are acidic in nature and should be consumed only after you have consumed lot of water/green tea etc.
A few other lines to digest:
- If it didn’t exist when hunter-gatherers were around, it’s probably not food.
- If it’s wrapped in layers of plastic, cardboard and foil, it’s probably not food.
- If it requires heavy advertising to sell it, it’s probably not food.
Commit to Personal Excellence
Whether the goal is maximizing athletic potential or simply a healthy lifestyle, strive for the best. I know it's cliche, but Rome was not built in a day. So give yourself the time to develop and stop pressuring yourself so much. We have 6 more months to go before the next “New Year Resolutions Extravaganza”. What choices will you make that will lead to permanent changes in your fitness and nutrition moving into the next year.