Are You Struggling with Healthy Eating? You’re not quite sure what that means?
- Your doctor told you that you need to lose weight.
- You’re sick and tired of being the self-deprecating big guy/girl in your group of friends.
- You just had your first kid and realized you need to be there for him growing up.
- Or maybe you woke up this morning, looked in the mirror, and finally came to the realization that it’s time to start taking care of yourself.
Whatever your reason is for wanting to make a change, you’re not alone! Every day, thousands of people decide to start eating better and losing weight. And every day those thousands of people don’t have any plan or idea what they’re doing.
After all, there are so many decisions to be made: Should I follow the food pyramid? Should I be counting all of my calories? What about “heart healthy” whole grains? Should I do this juice diet all of my coworkers are on?
Fundamental Rules to Follow
If you’re looking to start losing weight, living healthier, and feeling better, it comes down to a few necessary rules:
- Eat mostly real food.
- Eat fewer calories than you did in the past.
- Avoid liquid calories like the plague.
I realize following these rules is much easier said than done. If it were easy, then everybody would look like superheroes and supermodels.
That’s why nobody follows these rules. Life gets in the way and sticking with a diet for more than a week is brutally tough. And diets don’t even work anyways!
And yet we still fight the good fight. We go on a diet and starve ourselves. We eat crappy low-fat diet food that tastes terrible. Then we become so hungry and cranky and miserable. And we still don’t lose any weight.
I hear you. This stuff sucks.
There’s nothing more frustrating than putting in the effort for months (or years) while eating food you hate and avoiding the food you love. Only to put all of the weight back on when you stop dieting. I hate that.
Healthy Diet Philosophy
If I had to break down a Healthy Diet into a single sentence, it would go something like this:
“You’re smart, and you know what real food is, so stop eating crap.”
You know what real food is: things that grew in the ground, on a tree, came out of the sea, ran on the land, or flew through the air. Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts are all great examples of REAL food.
On top of that, you know what crap food is: food that comes from a drive-thru window, a vending machine, box, bag, or wrapper. If it started out as real food and then went through fourteen steps to get to the point where you’re about to eat it, it’s probably not right for you.
Use this information and combine it with this mantra: “you can’t outrun your fork.“ When trying to lose weight, feel healthy, and get in shape, 80% of your success or failure will come from how well you eat.
Eat more real food; you must. Eat less junk food; you will. I realize this concept is nothing new or revolutionary, but up until now the ability to DO IT has eluded you. Whatever your reason, my heart wasn’t in it, I got sick, went on vacation, got bored, or just decided that you couldn’t live without certain foods.
I am not a fan of diets, detoxes, juice cleanses, or crash-fads that results in substantial fluctuations in your body weight and health. These are the useless solutions that are sold to you in pill form, in MIRACLE Diet ads online, and in super expensive health food stores. You are smarter than that.
I am a fan of small changes that produce significant results.
You need to determine for yourself how likely you are to succeed depending on how many changes you can deal with at once. Some people can radically adjust everything they eat overnight and have no adverse effects. Other people wouldn’t dream of giving up certain foods, and the second they go more than a few days without it they become cranky.
That choice is yours. You need to determine:
- Are you adaptable to change?
- How much weight do you think you need to lose?
- Is there an upcoming event for why you want to lose weight? (a wedding? A honeymoon? or a vacation?)
- How likely are you to stick with your changes?
Long story short: decide what method works best for you based on how radical of a change you’re chasing. Don’t overdo it – small permanent successes will beat out massively ambitious failures 100 times out of 100. You can progress at your speed to make your changes stick!
Committing to change
If you are eating better for the wrong reasons, you’re probably going to fail. Every day that you deprive yourself of your favorite foods will seem like torture – you’re going to fail miserably.
Instead, look at the changes you’re making to your diet as small steps on the path to a healthier lifestyle. You’re not depriving yourself of junk food because you want to suffer, but rather because you want a better life, a happier existence, and because you want to set a good example for your children.
It’s time to give up that instant gratification you get from eating a donut, a bag of chips, or six slices of pizza. You are not a slave to your taste buds.
You do have a choice – we’re not looking for instant gratification. We’re looking for a long life full of epic winning.
Eating for dummies
Okay! You’re finally ready to start making some changes, but you’re not quite sure what you’re going to change or how you’re going to change it.
If you are interested in losing ONE pound per week, you need to be eating 500 fewer calories per day (or burning 500 calories more per day). Optimally, your 500 calorie deficit per day would come from a combination of increased exercise and decreased calorie intake. But let us say for today that you’re going to focus on eating 500 fewer calories per day.
How do I do that?
I HIGHLY recommend you spend the next three to four days tracking your calorie intake. And I mean track EVERYTHING YOU EAT.
But counting calories is tedious, right? And who has time to calculate all of that? Right? Luckily, there’s this thing called the Internet – sign up for a calorie tracking site and start tracking!
Now, once you have a few days under your belt, take a look back and determine an average of what you’ve been eating and how many total calories you’ve been eating daily.
To lose a pound a week, knock 500 calories out of that diet per day. If you want to lose half a pound a week, you’ll need to reduce your intake by 250 calories per day. It might mean one less snack, ordering a smaller lunch, or cutting back on soda.
It is the most easy-to-understand method of weight loss. You still eat all of the same foods; you have to adjust how much you are eating those same foods.
Not all calories are created equal!
Your body digests certain types of nutrients differently, using them for all sorts of bodily functions. Building muscle, transporting nutrients, fueling various organs or tissues, or storing energy as fat for later use. Let’s take a look at how to compose a basic meal:
When you exercise, your muscles are broken down and then use protein to rebuild themselves stronger while recovering. Protein needs to be the main component of every meal. Aim for one gram per pound (two grams per KG) of lean body weight with an upper limit of 200 grams. Sources of protein include chicken, eggs, beef, pork, fish, nuts, legumes, quinoa, and most dairy products.
When you eat carbs, they get converted into glucose (sugar) in your system. Then its used to provide energy for all sorts of body functions to take place. Vegetables and fresh fruit are quality sources of carbohydrates, with grains being less so in my opinion but we’ll get to more grains later. There are undoubtedly bad carbohydrates (processed carbs, refined grains, and more), and those are the ones we want to avoid. Unless you’re a marathon runner, you can function with fewer carbs than you’re probably consuming now.
Fat is easily the most misunderstood macro-nutrient in your diet. Long story short: fat is critical to your body and should make up a significant portion of your daily calories. Things like avocados, almonds, olive oil, walnuts, and almond butter are excellent sources of healthy fat (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated). Stuff like full-fat milk, coconut milk, and fatty cuts of meat will provide you with saturated fat.
The first thing I want to make sure you know is that the fat in your food is not what made you fat. It wasn’t until the past 40-50 years that poor fat was suddenly vilified. Which is why every “healthy” food these days is “low fat” or “fat-free!” Not surprisingly, our country is fatter and more unhealthy than ever. People still avoid fat at all costs and consume more “healthy whole grains!”
So what is making us fat? Simple, refined, and processed carbohydrates! Rather than spend thirty minutes typing it out, I’d recommend instead that you spend three minutes to watch this video to show why excessive carbohydrate consumption can make you fat:
To kick-start, your weight loss journey with healthy eating, start by swapping out processed, refined carbohydrates for more natural foods.
The Glycemic Load
At this point, you’ve learned that you need to be eating a healthy portion of protein and fat with each meal. As far as your carbohydrate sources go, we’re going to get a little help from our friends, the Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL). No clue what those things are? Don’t worry:
Not all carbohydrate foods are created equal; in fact, they behave quite differently in our bodies. The Glycemic Index describes this difference by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. Choosing low GI carbs is the secret to long-term health reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes and is the key to sustainable weight loss.
The GI is a scale of 1-100, with 100 having the highest impact on your blood sugar level, and 1 having the lowest impact on your blood sugar level. By choosing foods that are lower on the glycemic index, your nutrients are delivered more slowly to your bloodstream. Which means they’ll provide a slower and more prolonged source of energy, produce less of an insulin response, and create less of a crash that causes your body to crave more carbohydrates!
Factor in the Serving Size
Now, the GI won’t factor in serving size. The GI number is based on 50g of total carbs for each type of food. For example, watermelon has a GI number of 73, and milk chocolate has a GI number of 43. You only have to eat 3 oz of chocolate to get to 50 grams of carbs, while you need to eat 1.5 pounds of watermelon to get 50g of carbs.
Luckily, the Glycemic Load factors in serving size along with the glycemic index. Processed foods, refined carbs, and sugar all have high glycemic loads, while fruits and vegetables have low glycemic loads. It’s the info that we’ll be using to our advantage.
Rather than print out every single piece of food and its GI and GL, I’d rather keep things simple. Focus on eating foods with low glycemic loads during the day, and only eat carbs with high glycemic loads immediately before a workout as they’ll be burned immediately as fuel. Or eat high GL carbs directly after a workout along with protein. They’ll get used for refilling your muscle’s fuel stores rather than stored as fat.
Search for whatever carb you’re eating here to see it’s glycemic load. Calculate the glycemic load>> Foods above 55 are considered to have a medium to high Glycemic Index, and foods above 20 are believed to have a high Glycemic Load.
Vegetarian or Vegan
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, then this is the path that I’d recommend for you. Cut back on grains and crappy carbs, load up on vegetables, nuts, beans, fruits, and some low-glycemic grains if you’re running low on calories, and make sure you’re getting enough protein! Now, this method of eating requires a little bit more effort, as you’ll be restricting yourself from eating certain foods and you have to spend time researching which carbs produce what type of response in your body.
However, it’s a massive step in the right direction towards healthy eating, and you’ll have more success with losing the right kind of weight when combined with strength training – burning fat and keeping the muscle you have.
The Paleo Diet
If counting calories and not changing what you eat is at one end of the spectrum, then the Paleo Diet is at the complete opposite end of that spectrum: no calorie counting, but an extreme restriction on what you can consume.
It’s one of those diets that people either love or love to hate: it seems far too restrictive for some, while for others it’s the only way that they can find success.
- Eat this: meat, fowl, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy oils.
- Don’t eat anything else. No dairy, no grains, nothing!
Boom. No calorie counting. No perfectly timed meals. Only eat the stuff above, and eat as much of it as you want whenever you’re hungry.
Due to the nature of the diet and how counter-intuitive it is to what’s considered a healthy food, it can be quite tricky to stick with a Paleo diet. It’s especially true if you have to eat out, your family/friends don’t eat the same way, or you travel a lot. However, if you can manage to stick with the diet and build healthy habits, you’ll have the best possibility to see the best results.
So, this is the most “difficulty increased” diet out there, but it can also produce the most drastic results and healthiest benefits. If you need to lose a lot of weight quickly, or if you are interested in getting down into extremely low body fat percentages, the Paleo Diet is your play. Make sure you can say NO to a lot of foods throughout the day.
So what’s the best one?
I’ll give you the same answer that I give people when they ask me “what’s the best workout plan?” It’s the one that works best for you! Pick a diet that works for your particular body type and situation because you know what food you can stick with. No matter what type of healthy eating diet you choose, be it counting calories, vegetarian, vegan, glycemic load, or paleo diet, you are going to have the most success with the one that you can stick with.
For that reason, I recommend that people start slowly at the manageable level until they have a reasonable level of knowledge about how their body adjusts and what portion sizes are. At that point, they can determine how invested they are in making changes.
If you want to be healthy and get down to a healthy weight, I will push you towards the glycemic load type of eating. Avoid foods that cause insulin spikes in your system, cut out as much junk as you can, and focus on the good stuff.
If you want to look like rock solid, then I’d push you towards the Paleo Diet with a few warnings. To get to that low of a body fat percentage, you need good genetics, a strict workout routine, patience, and the iron will to say NO to foods that aren’t on your list of approved foods.
Determine what level of commitment you are comfortable with, and then make adjustments based on that.
Final Thoughts on Are You Struggling with Healthy Eating?
I do the best I can, with what I have, where I am. I also know that I only get one chance on this planet, so I’m going to have some fun too. I’ll eat what makes me happy occasionally and then go right back to healthy eating because I want to become the best version of myself that’s possible.
I encourage you to do the same – do the best you can and have fun! Make small, permanent changes that you can live with until they can become a habit, and then pick another small move to tackle. Don’t feel guilty about a bad meal or an unhealthy weekend. Pick right back up where you left off as soon as you can, and continue living your life.
I hope you found this article helpful and inspiring. If you have anything that you’d like to share or any opinions on any of the content on my site, please do speak up. I look forward to your comments, questions and the sharing of ideas.
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