When it comes to your health, what you eat is pivotal to your success with fitness. Fitness on its own will not accomplish the health goals of weight/fat loss, muscle growth, increase stamina, balance, etc.
When you hear the word “diet”, what comes to mind? “Been there, done them all”, Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Cabbage Soup, Atkin’s Diet, starvation…
The definition of diet is “the kinds of food a person, animal or community habitually eats.” (www.oxforddictionaries.com)
At this point in time, you are on a diet. Diets are eating habits which are impacted by the environment, culture, childhood, thoughts and feelings. From the Inuit in the Arctic to the Japanese in Asia to the American or the South African, and everywhere in between, the human diet differs. Some good, some bad. Some healthy, some not so healthy.
There is merit in the saying, “health and fitness is 80% diet and 20% exercise.” Why? Your diet pertains to the amount and kind of energy you put into your body. What happens if you put in more energy than can be used or burned up? It is stored. Imagine you have a fireplace in your house and you constantly bring large amounts logs, coal, etc. into the house whilst burning the energy for 15 minutes or not at all. Rather than store what you need, you continue to pile in the energy supply. You have to store it. You will find ways to store it until there is more wood than house. Likewise, our body does the same. The only difference is the walls of the house don’t expand, whilst our skin was designed to do just that. Our bodies will store the fuel we do not burn up or use. So it is vitally important to:
1.Ensure your output is greater than your input. You can’t get away from calories! You need the right amount calories, or your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) for living! The amount is key. Consume foods with low calories yet high fibre, nutrients and vitamins, all the while not under-consuming. The daily caloric intake for men with no exercise is around 2,500 Kcal, whilst for women it is 2,000 Kcal. Many people over-eat that amount and do not exercise. In fat loss, it is advantageous to lower the caloric intake to 1,400 Kcal for women and 1,900 Kcal for men so that the stored energy cells can be used. Now, if you are burning way more calories than you need due to intense training, get the right balance, say 1,700 for women and 2,100 for men. When I started with weight/fat loss, I reduced my caloric intake until I needed more due to the amount of exercise, intensity, and muscle growth I was experiencing. Don’t kid yourself! To reach your goals, you need to be honest about what you need to do to consume the correct number of calories. Maintaining your calorific intake in the right way nutritionally will allow your body to become a calorie burning machine. Now, my caloric intake is supposed to be around 3,500!! I still eat nutritiously to maintain my muscle mass which keeps fat loss an everyday process. Think nutritious calories, not empty calories. Quality food=quality calories.
Be wise: don’t sabotage your health and goals!
2. Ensure to eat as naturally sound food as possible. I have a friend who once told me, “Aaron, if God didn’t create it and man had to make it, don’t eat it.” Good advice. Obviously, there are foods that have been processed, like bread, which if processed in a way that preserves the nutritional value are good. Think of it this way, any food that has had the original nutritional value removed through processing will not contain anything worth consuming. Stay away from processed foods that contain white sugar, rice or flour, high saturated fat, fructose, glucose, hydrogenated fat, high salt. Eat the apple than drink the juice. Whole grain. Fresh. No additions.
3. Ensure you prepare your food in a way that gives you the best nutritional value. For example, raw vegetables are better than cooked. However, steamed is better than boiled, frozen to cook is better than from a can. Fried is deprived! If you eat fried food, realise water has evaporated out of the food and replaced with fat. It’s delicious, but it can be dangerous! Be wise.
4. Ensure you have good fats in your diet. Good fats help with circulation, taking away the bad fats, storing vitamins and nutrients and ensuring your body gets the energy it needs to function. Sources: nuts, oily fish, avocado, coconut oil, etc.
5. Realise there is a vast ocean of food choices to be explored, tried and enjoyed! Enjoy food! Yet, think about the nutritional value of what you eat and what it actually does to your body. When I realised that the foods I was eating was actually causing me health problems that impacted me physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and socially, I became determined to eat right and take advantage of all the nutrition available. If you have food allergies, see a dietitian for advice.
6. Learn to make it, cook it, not buy it ready made. Plan it!
Here is a proverb to contemplate and apply: “The appetite of the lazy craves but gets nothing, but the desire of the diligent will be abundantly satisfied.” (Proverbs 13:4)
What a powerful statement! I lived with much cravings for being healthy, yet I didn’t do a thing about it until I became determined to be diligent! I wanted to look, feel and live as valuable as I am! No longer devaluing myself. Yet, hear this: No one can motivate you but you. All I am sharing with you now means nothing unless you become self-motivated and self-determined to be self-diligent. This is healthy selfishness! Why? At some point, you will begin to help others understand how to overcome their own struggle with food.
7, Is food your source of comfort or your source of energy? This is the main question to answer. It would be a safe bet to say those who struggle with their weight eat (or don’t eat (those who may struggle with anorexia or bulimia)) to comfort themselves. Food was created as a source to fuel our bodies to function whilst at work or at rest. I hadn’t realised that I was using food as a source to comfort my soul. Food numbed me from the insecurities of my heart. Rather than overcome my feelings of insecurity, I would use food to give me a false sense of security. I would not have stated that was happening because food is an object, not a person. It wasn’t until I woke to the facts of what food does to my body that I realised I had made food a subjective friend rather than an objective tool to help me. What I chose to eat determined the health of my body. Many of our lifestyle diseases are caused by our lifestyle decisions. It is important to take stock and change your relationship with food by putting it back in its right place – a source of energy. Good-bye friend, hello healthy balanced eating!
Article written by Aaron Hornback, Founder and Director of HHN, August 2016, updated March 2020.