A major component of being fit is learning healthy eating habits. Many people practice yo-yo dieting throughout their lives with occasional but often short term success. I’ve seen many family members and friends lose weight and gain it throughout their lives. One day I was talking to one such friend about diets and something he said resonated with me. He said quite bluntly, “Brandon, diets don’t work for me because they’re short term. What you really need is a lifestyle change.”
That turned out to be exactly true. If there is one thing I wish I could teach all of my clients, it’s that dieting doesn’t work and if you plan to change your diet drastically by cutting out any particular kind of food or only eating all protein (or whatever the current trend is) you’re on a fast track to failure. Period. The end. No doubt about it.
You have to learn to eat healthier (not necessarily healthy all the time) and not go crazy or be miserable while you do it. I’ve changed some of my eating habits over the last two years but nothing too drastic. I also still enjoy my sweets occasionally, and today my waist is smaller than it was in my mid 20’s.
Here are a few recommendations that have helped me cut a few inches of fat from my waistline. They are in no particular order because I do not believe that any single one tip is a key to my success. Furthermore, these will only work if they are done in conjunction with each other and you maintain some kind of physical activity.
- Eat Clean – non-processed foods. Stated simply this means eat things that are fresh, not boxed. 2 years ago I stopped buying all frozen meals, snacks, and lunches. I started to buy fresh meats and cook my meals from scratch. Yes it takes more time, but you’ll notice that you will feel fuller longer and you will be getting more nutrients your body needs. A good rule of thumb to follow is to do most of your grocery shopping from the outer edges of your store. Boxed, processed foods don’t need to be refrigerated so they are in the center of your store.
- Look for WIC – WIC is a food assistance program for Women, Infants, and Children. As you shop for food you might look for these signs. They will indicate foods that are nutrient dense and not full of empty calories. They will include things like natural fruit juices, whole wheat (cereals, rice, etc), and fruits and vegetables.
- Follow the 1 gram of fiber to 10 grams of carb rule. When you pick up your favorite snack take a second to look at the nutrition label. You will see fiber listed just below carbohydrates. For every 10 grams of carbs, there should be at least 1 gram of fiber. For instance, one of my indulgences are these chocolate flavored fiber bars. They have 28g of carbs and 9g of fiber. Not great with mental math? Here’s an easy way to know – just multiply the fiber content by 10. If that number isn’t equal to or greater than the carb content, put it away. Follow this for a while and you’ll quickly learn that not all tasty products are all bad for your waistline.
- Don’t worry too much about fat – Truthfully your body needs fats. Not only your body, but your mind as well. Research has shown that many children aren’t getting the DHA that’s found in some fats that support brain development. In men, fats help maintain testosterone levels. The key here is to eat natural fats as much as possible. This means I buy real butter, and I use olive oil when cooking. I avoid the deep fried foods, but eating those occasionally isn’t that bad honestly if you’re following the other rules as well.
- Moderate Alcohol Consumption – Binge drinking doesn’t only affect your mental state, it affects your weight. Beer, wine, and liquor are pure carbohydrates. Zero nutritional value. A single can of beer contains about 100 calories. Those are calories that are going to be converted straight to fat for most people because most people don’t drink just 1 can of beer and call it a day. Most drink several in a row and those calories add up fast. Combine that with an already high calorie diet and you’ll see your waistline expand quickly. You can eat well all day long but if you come home and throw back a six pack, it was all for nothing.
There you have it: my short list of nutritional tips. Learning to eat healthier isn’t that difficult after all. Try some (or all) of these tips, and your body will thank you later.