So you ate a bowl of granola with soy milk and strawberries for breakfast…now what? I always have these days and they primarily fall on Tuesdays. It’s that day of the week when you finally feel like you got it together and ate some veggies to make up for that less than paleo Saturday night. You start strong, but being consistent with your diet can be a real challenge.
I eat healthy on a daily basis count calories (in a healthy way), fill my cart with veggies as opposed to the candy that I would rather devour, and have managed to convince myself that a kale salad tastes better than chicken wings (most days). I have not yet wrapped my brain around gluten-free vegan brownies or how that is materially possible, adding green veggies in place of where chocolate should be in baked goods, and putting celery in the blender still makes me uneasy despite Pinterest’s best attempts at making drinking your vegetables appealing. I have read gazillions of articles lately on the right things to eat before a workout, how to manage your caloric intake for every hour of your day, etc. Obviously a brownie while walking to the treadmill isn’t going to make you feel light on your toes, and a belly full of milk will make you throw up mid run. Your stomach sounds like a velociraptor and you still have three more days left to the green smoothie cleanse diet. It is obvious, yet we obsess and agonize over doing the right thing nutritionally. The internet tells us we already have no clue how to eat. Doctors explain that you are doing it all wrong. Your diet has been made into an insolvable calculus problem that you continually won’t be able to understand. Just when you feel like you are happy with your diet the trainer will explain that you have “plateaued” and everything needs to change…once again.
As a 20 something female I have been privileged enough to listen to friends ponder their next move towards veganism, swear off broccoli eternally (because it makes you bloated), and carry milk gallons filled with water inside their purses. The over stimulation of our dieting flaws, as well as the American tendency to eat multiple meals in one sitting, has left us in a state of flustered uncertainty about what we should eat. The question is not “what am I doing right?” it is “how badly am I sucking at this whole eating right thing?”
The process needs to be simplified. Three grapes, 5 gallons of water, and 1 square of cheese every other day does not need to be your magical snack formula for ultimate wellness. In my mind the answer should be as simple as “avoid cupcakes, French fries, and heart attack burgers” but if it was that simple we would have figured things out by now.
Once there is a basic understanding of what the body needs and which foods fall into that category we can begin to feel more accepting of our diets and spend less time giving up…(insert guilty pleasure here) like it’s the 1920s.
Below are a few of the basics.
Cutting Calories: It’s like all of a sudden deciding to give up sleeping on a mattress or not talking before 12pm every day. Dramatically altering eating habits in a short amount of time until you see results is setting yourself up for failure. In terms of maintaining general health (as opposed to planned weight loss) less is more. Cutting 400 or more calories daily sends your body into panic mode, and as a result it tells you that you are starving which fuels the mental challenge of abstaining from the nearly meal’s worth of intake you are denying yourself. Instead try cutting 100 calories or smaller increments from each meal. Giving up the equivalent of an apple as opposed to an entire bison will make the transition into healthy eating feel more natural (pun intended).
Incremental Fitness: studies have shown that every little step counts. On top of diet intimidation, we have been groomed to think that a workout requires grunting, sweat, and heart attack like symptoms. Most of the millions of calories you consume every year are burned without you even realizing it…most exciting fact I’ve ever read. To maintain your basic health needs adding the minutes you walk per day, how heavy the groceries were you carried up the stairs etc. all count towards maintaining healthy activity. Due to hormonal composition this has proven to benefit men more than women, but across the board reaching the recommended 10,000 steps a day truly creates an impact.
Avoid the obvious: We all know what we probably shouldn’t eat and if you are unsure think about what you are craving right now and that may give you an answer. I am not a fan of saying no, but there are a few things you should avoid if you are looking to get results in your diet or exercise. Sugars, enriched flour, corn syrup, hydrogenated oils. The average American eats 63 pounds of high fructose corn syrup a year which can translate to around 33 or more extra body pounds per year. These items will always provide little to no nutritional gain no matter how much we can will ice cream to take on weight loss characteristics. When it comes to whites in the pantry stick egg whites, cauliflower, and fish.
Produce: when in doubt you can’t go wrong in the produce aisle. Whole grains, fruits, and veggies are the nitty-gritty when it comes to diet content. These are the things you should consume for optimal health and are nutritious enough that portions become less of a factor therefore you are free to enjoy guilt free. That doesn’t mean go ahead and live off a bunch of bananas for an entire day. Keep in mind to wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly. The worst you will hear about the produce aisle are horror stories about the chemicals that they are grown in.
Cravings: These urges can lead us to do shameful things in the name of a good cupcake. Everyone deals with them to some degree, it is how we choose the manage them that reflects on the success of our diet. To forever resist a craving is like holding a Band-Aid mid rip off your skin, eventually you will just go for it. Instead of teasing yourself like a ravenous lion know how to indulge responsibly. Enjoy things in moderation and with the proper balance. When it comes to quelling cravings in a non-food way try water, sex, or sleep. All three can relieve the hankering and leave you in a better state of mind.
When it comes to dieting there is no easy answer. Finding what works for you doesn’t have to be as challenging as we think. Cut the fad infatuation, listen to your body, and this whole dieting thing won’t seem so bad.