It’s Mostly Mental
The first thing we have to do is mentally prepare for the challenge of eating better. First, you have to want to do it. Eating right is actually easier than training if you think about it. In training, you actually have to do something physical and do it for an hour or so a few times a week and that is tiring to both the body and mind. Eating is easy. You can eat and just about do anything else along with it. Driving, talking on the phone, watching TV, even playing baseball can all be done while eating. Eating right just requires more of a mental dedication than a physical one.
When I listen to most people’s reasons for avoiding certain foods and eating others, it is usually because of physical appearance reasons. Most people want to look better. I think this is a great goal if done in a healthy manner, but there is a pitfall where you can be eating the wrong foods and thinking they are right. When eating to look better or to lose a few pounds, it is very easy to fall into two traps arbitrarily counting calories, or purchasing so called “health foods.”
The first trap is very common. People get so fixated on a calorie number, they do not care where they get their calories. This can make for bad food choices that fail to provide adequate fuel for the body. Calories are not calories. To quote Dr. Eric Serrano, one of America’s leading nutritionists, “what is better for you? A 100 calories of broccoli or a 100 calories of Lucky Charms?” The answer is obvious, but when we solely focus on counting calories, we risk eliminating nutritional requirements.
The second trap is less apparent. Foods packaged with people enjoying outdoor activities and claims of being a low fat and healthy. Have you ever looked at the label and tried to get through the list of ingredients? I go cross-eyed trying to read all of the words, let alone trying to understand what they mean. Often these packaged offerings have little to no nutritional value and are stuffed full of chemicals. Eating chemicals designed to add flavor, color or extend shelf life, is not a recipe for healthy living. The best advice I can offer you, is to eat food that has as many real ingredients as possible.
With a few mental tweaks, anyone can eat better without getting overwhelmed or confused about what is best. Instead of looking at your food as something that will make you lose weight try to focus your efforts in two different ways. First, try viewing your food as potential energy, and second think about what foods will lead to optimal health.
If you think about food in terms of giving your body energy, it is easier to make better choices. For example, when choosing a snack between an orange and a sugar packed candy bar, pick the orange. Nine out of ten people know this. It is obvious because an orange is healthy. We should think about eating for health over everything else. If we focus on consuming foods that are best for our overall health, then we will be eating the foods best for fuel, performance and appearance: they all coincide.
Average Food Choices
When I review clients nutritional journals, I see a common need to significantly reduce certain items while increasing others that are minimal or completely absent.
Generally speaking people need to:
ELIMINATE Sugars / Processed foods / Trans fats
INCLUDE MORE Vegetables / “Natural” foods / Proteins / Water
Most diets I see are very carbohydrate heavy (70-75%) and the carbohydrates that are consumed come from refined and processed foods. Refined carbohydrates or sugars are found in almost everything that is processed or packaged from bread to condiments. One of the most common ingredients today is high fructose corn syrup, which has no nutritional value and has been linked to an increased risk for various diseases. Astonishingly, it is often prevalent in “diet” foods designed to help people lose weight
Some other commonalities I came across are the absence of vegetables and minimal consumption of water. I had a friend who is a vegetarian ask me how to lose a little bit of weight (body fat). I asked her about her daily routine and her eating habits. She told me she was fairly active, but could be more. She was a three-day-a-week gym member and weekend warrior. She told me she was a vegetarian and when I asked about her typical weekly eating habits she gave me a few pieces of information and then offered me a chance to look in fridge. To my surprise I saw a only a few things that resembled food surrounded by pre-packaged items. I remember saying “well, for someone who is a vegetarian you sure don’t eat many vegetables.” She was shocked to realize how inadequate her diet was.
Water is also something that people forget to include in their daily diet. The benefits of water for hydration, weight loss and overall health, are tremendous. Most of the diets I review provide only 30% of the amount of recommended daily water intake.
Deciding to eat for health will require a little bit of sacrifice and will power, but it can be easier than you think. This guide helps to keep things simple by establishing Six Rules to follow that will help you transition yourself to a lean, energetic, and healthy machine.