If I pointed at a food, could you say if it’s healthy or not? Cheeseburger? Chocolate? Milkshake? Can you count? Are you able to acknowledge when you’re full?
So why are so many of us overweight and living unhealthy lives? Not only does it cause life threatening illnesses but makes us tired, depressed, and weaker. It wreaks havoc in every element of our lives.
For most of my life, that’s been me. I’ve dipped my toe into fad diets for short periods of time and claimed ignorance for the rest. A combination of laziness, stress and having a good time lead to an unhealthy dough body (and dough brain.) 6 months ago, enough was enough and I started to change my approach to nutrition.
It’s clear that healthy eating is more of a mental hurdle than physical. We can all distinguish healthy foods from unhealthy, and we can all count calories. The problem comes with doing the work. It’s hard work, it’s not cool or sexy and you need to be in the right headspace to start. The only time you have is now though so here’s the simplest guide.
Regardless of what diet plan you wish to follow or your dietary preferences. Calorie consumption is responsible for 60% of healthy eating. Made simple; consume less calories than recommended for maintaining your body weight to lose weight.
Having a healthy weight is the number one thing that having a nutritious diet can offer you. Ignore your weight at the peril of your health.
Your weight loss shouldn’t be dramatic but a slow and gradual lifestyle change. We think of the effect of compounding when it comes to our savings gradually growing with time. The same can be said with maintaining a healthy weight. It must become a habit.
What type of food should I be eating?
80% of your diet should be fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. That’s it. The other 20% can be ice cream or chocolate. It doesn’t make you a bad person but you must track it and not go overboard. Otherwise you’re back to square one.
Your macronutrients are fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Different diets place different emphasis on each. Keto for example being high fat low carb. As long as our bodies get 10% of our recommended daily allowance of each of these macros, then these extremes are perfectly healthy.
This is much less important than we’re lead to believe. Eat 3-6 meals per day, ensure the total falls within your calorie range. Having more meals, will mean your energy will be spread out over the course of the day. Smaller meals will also mean you aren’t likely to be tired from digesting a huge plate. The timing doesn’t matter so much if you’re within your recommended calories for the day.
If you’re thirsty your body will tell you. Drink more when you workout or its hot.
If you have a well balanced diet, supplements are overkill. A blood test and consultation will tell you if you need a particular micronutrient. In our quick fix culture, we can tend to reach for supplements as the cure for poor sleep, tiredness, fill the blank instead of looking at the possible root cause. Are you sleeping enough? Are you napping during the day? How are you spending the hour or two before you sleep? Are you working from your bed? Are you doing enough physical activity to be tired? Is stress an issue?
The truth is, most of this won’t be new information for you. Like all things in life worth having, it takes a long term vision and gradual progress. For most of us, living a healthy balanced life simply requires consistent awareness of these simple rules and self-discipline. The further along your journey your are, with lower body fat percentages, the more important these finer details will become but for now, stick to the basics.
This was inspired by Dr Mike Isratels ted talk.