The (Super Basic) Five Steps You Can Take to Begin to Eat Smarter
I lied! I am such a dirty liar.
I told you that the next fitness post would be “Carb Cycling 101 from a Carb Cycling Rookie” and it’s not. I’m sorry I lied, I really am. Let me explain myself – there are a lot of good reasons for why I changed my mind. (And I promise that the carb cycling post is coming.)
Here’s why I decided to write this blog instead of the carb cycling blog:
- Carb cycling is extreme. It’s a dieting technique used mostly for body-builders for getting into competition shape quickly.
- Carb cycling is hard. It’s an intense, regimented, strict approach and, frankly, it’s not going to be that practical for most people who just want to eat better and feel better.
- Carb cycling could potentially be boring. Now, since a lot of you know me, it might provide some “wow she’s really a freak” type entertainment but, in general, a long discussion of macronutrients, supplements and schedules could be really boring.
- Last time I gave you “The (Super Basic) Big Five Lessons from Boot Camp” which were mostly focused on goal setting. Why would I go from Super Basic to Super Advanced all in one fell swoop? That doesn’t make any sense, does it? No.
So, let’s start simple and I will bore you with the minutiae of my carb-cycling later. You can read it before you go to bed at night instead of taking your melatonin or valerian supplements.
With no further ado I bring you, “The (Super Basic) Five Steps You Can Take to Begin to Eat Smarter”. As always, I have to warn you, most of these things are tips you’ve probably already heard somewhere. This should tell you something – if everyone and their mother is saying the same thing then the chances are good that these approaches are probably really effective. Here’s the other disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist nor am I a trainer. I just spend a lot of time thinking about, researching, and asking professionals about this kind of stuff. I am someone who cares about my body. I am someone who cares about your body.
- Write down everything you eat for a week: I know, this sounds crappy and cumbersome and you’re thinking, “I do not have enough time to do this!” Well, I have news for you – you do have time to do this and you should do it. This is not to say that you have to keep track of every calorie, every carb and every gram of protein that you consume (if you can pull that off, all the better, however). All you have to do is write down what you eat and when you eat it. Bonus points for also writing down how you feel at different points during the day, particularly when you find yourself with energy peaks or valleys. Writing down what you eat plays a number of important roles.
- It makes you more accountable for what you put in your mouth,
- It gives you an accurate picture of what your food consumption really looks like (we tend to do a lot of revisionist history when it comes to thinking back on what we’ve eaten over the day)
- It helps you figure out patterns around what foods are helping you and what foods are hurting you (particularly if you track the way you feel during the day).
- More than anything, it brings a new level of “consciousness” to your nutrition. It makes you think about it. It makes you be present to it. You’re not just eating on auto-pilot anymore.
If you have constant access to the web there are a number of good, free tools for tracking your calorie intake: Sparkpeople and FitDay come immediately to mind. You should NOT have to pay for an online tracking tool – email me if you have questions.
- Start eating 5 -6 SMALL meals a day. If you are still in the three-meals-a-day mode you have got to throw down your old, tired notions and come running into the Brave New World of Small Meals with me. Seriously. This is going to change your life. All you have to do to make this change is take the healthy caloric intake for your body (usually you can get this number at a site like one of the above-mentioned sites) and divide it by 5 or 6, depending on how many meals you are going to eat per day. This is a really important step. I know it requires some long division (caculators are great!) but this way of eating will not have the desired effect if you eat the same sized meals more often during the day. Eating more frequently during the day has tons of benefits: it will speed up your metabolism, keep you more satisfied and full throughout the day, and curb the cravings that lead to over-eating or unhealthy food selection. Here’s a quick guide to making small meals work for you:
- Shoot for an equal number of grams from protein and carbs. Better yet, shoot for fewer carb grams than protein grams.
- Remember fruit and veggies! Fruit and veggies are good for you and will make you healthy and shiny.
- Remember to keep these portions small. If it helps, think of these as “snacks” instead of “small meals”.
- A portion size is about the same size as your fist, or a deck of cards.
- Use shakes or bars for 1 or 2 of the meals. This is the only way I can make this plan work for me. I would not recommend using Meal Replacement Products (MRPs) for more than 2 of your daily meals.
- Carry food with you all the time: Keeping your own store of food will prevent you from stopping for fast-food or eating from a vending machine. You don’t need a whole sackful, just an apple or two and some almonds in your purse can really do the trick. And, while we’re on the subject, almonds are a miracle food – an easy, portable way to get quality protein, essential (good) fats, and a quick-hit of calories. Other nuts and fruits are also great portable foods that will carry you through those times when you just can’t stop for a break.
- Stop eating processed foods: Believe me when I tell you that the processed food industry is trying to kill you – that crap is horrible! Read labels; if you can’t pronounce most of the ingredients, you’re probably better off without it. Processed Foods are the devil. Cast thy demon out. The manufacturers of these products appeal to us on the basis of convenience – you have busy lives, our products will help you stay on the go! Baloney. Fruit and nuts and trail mixes can do the same thing with less garbage added in. Eat whole foods absolutely as often as possible. Beware marketing and packaging. Here’s a rule of thumb, if you see an ad for a product with a catchy tagline and you think, “Hey, that sounds great!” – be suspicious.
- Cut back (and I mean WAY back) on Sugar and Alchohol: Recent studies have suggested that sugar may actually speed the aging process. Yeah, you heard me right. That sugary garbage is making you older. Not only is it making you older, it’s making you look older. Start reading labels and look for sugar in foods – it’s hiding everywhere. Especially in highly processed foods, especially in processed foods that are marketing themselves as low or no-fat (when you know darn well that they shouldn’t be that way). Stick to natural sugars, like the kind that you find in apples and grapes and other fruits (oh look, I’m talking about fruit again) Keep your eyes peeled for high-fructose corn syrup, which is satan’s spawn. As for alcohol, well, what can I say – alcohol is poison. Really. And you can take this from a self-proclaimed “drinker”. I mean, I love the stuff. I like my beer dark and frothy, my whiskey on the rocks and my martinis ice cold and a little dirty. But, I’ve recently begun to move away from alcohol consumption because, frankly, it makes me feel like crap.
These five basics will get you headed in the right direction. The most important thing is to start really focusing on having a “presence” around food. Think about what you are putting in your body, how it’s going to help or hurt you, how you’ll feel afterward, and why you’re eating it. Be conscious about your wellness and your body – this is the only one we get.
And here’s a bonus just in case you’ve managed to make it to the bottom of (yet another) long-assed post. DRINK WATER. Seriously, I am the worst at this. For years I hated drinking water. Since I’ve started being more diligent about it I’ve found that I have fewer food cravings and more energy.
Thanks for reading. Next time I’ll cover my Top Ten Favorite Super Foods.
In the meantime, go kick some booty. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
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