The Dirty “D” Word
I really despise the word “diet”. I think the minute we put that word into our head as an action we are going to take to achieve whatever goal, it sets us up for failure. It’s subconsciously telling our brain and body that we can’t have something, we need to change something about our behavior, and of course, we expect our brain and body to respond on cue. Except that is not the case. The minute we start depriving ourselves of something we love, we want it even more!
So how about we eliminate the word “diet” from our vocabulary and focus on four other words: balance, variety, moderation, and exercise. These words encompass healthy eating, losing weight, and optimal nutrition but don’t set you up for failure like the word “diet” can to your body, mind, and soul.
Instead of going on a “diet” every other Monday and feeling like a failure by Wednesday, incorporate a new healthy and positive outlook by incorporating these words into every aspect of your life. Here’s how…
Balance: Every day we strive to achieve balance in our lives. Whether it’s balancing family, exercise, friends, work, or some time to yourself, we are constantly searching for the perfect balance. But what about the food you eat? Are you making sure that you are getting all the important nutrients in your diet that help energize you throughout the day? Is one food more dominate than another in your diet? Nutritional balance is composed of consuming the three macronutrients in proper amounts.
- Complex Carbs: This is your #1 source of energy and fuel and is the only source of fuel for the brain. Carbohydrates should comprise about 45-65% of your diet. This includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Emphasize the fruits and veggies.
- Lean Protein: The body needs protein to provide the building blocks for generating lean muscle mass and should make up 10-35% of your diet. Make sure it’s lean protein – chicken, fish, white meat turkey, eggs, low-fat dairy, soy, whey, legumes & grains, nuts & seeds. But don’t overdo it on the protein. Contrary to popular belief, lots and lots of protein won’t build bigger muscles. You will store it as fat and put a ton of pressure on your kidneys and liver to excrete the nitrogen (byproduct of protein breakdown). However, when paired with a carbohydrate, it slows the absorption and keeps you fuller for longer periods of time.
- Healthy Fats: Listen, we aren’t in the early 90′s anymore. Fat is not bad! Stop thinking fat will make you fat. It’s a fallacy. Healthy fat is essential to the human body as it transports fat-soluble vitamins, generates heat, cushions your organs, and makes your skin, hair, and nails look beautiful. 20-35% of your diet should be composed of healthy fats in the form of oil (olive, coconut, flax, rapeseed, sesame seed), nuts, avocado, nut butters, and fatty fish.
If you would like more information about what types of foods to eat and in what quantity, check out the new and improved USDA nutrition guide, My Plate.
Variety: Do you ever find yourself eating the same thing over and over? Yeah, me too. Sometimes I get on a kick and realize I have had brown rice like 5 nights in a row. Make a pact with yourself to get out of your “food box” and try something new! Studies have shown that people who eat the same things on a regular basis are deficient in many essential nutrients. Whether you are lacking iron or Vitamin D or your B vitamins, your food rut can be costly on your health, well being, and palate.
- Hit up the Farmer’s Market in your area. Choose a fruit or veggie that you have always been too apprehensive to try. There are a million recipe and cooking websites out there that will give you healthy and tasty recipes for just about any food item. Here are a few I like..
- Eat the colors of the rainbow! If your plate is as colorful as a rainbow, it will ensure that you are getting so many amazing different nutrients. Here is a list of fruits and veggies divided up by color group: Rainbow of Fruits and Veggies
Moderation: Going back to the deprivation thing….don’t tell yourself you can’t have something. It’s just a waste. I promise that you will end up eating whatever it was that you banned from your diet and then some. And then some more. Moderation in life, in food, in EVERYTHING, is key. But sadly, most Americans lack moderation. Hence the huge portion sizes that are expected when we dine in and out of the home. Here’s how to keep the moderation in your diet alive and kicking!
- Portion Sizing: I know I have discussed this before but it’s the quickest way to start dropping the lbs.
- Read the label - don’t eat 6 servings when 1/4 cup is 1 serving. Be conscientious about how much you are putting in your body
- Palm of the hand = 1 serving of protein (determine how many servings you can have per meal)
- Clenched fist = 1 serving of whole grains or vegetables
- Tennis ball = 1 piece of fruit
- Thumb = 1 serving of chocolate/cheese
- Leave it at the store: If there is some type of food that you absolutely love, only purchase it when you are allowing yourself the time to indulge. Otherwise, if it’s in the house, sometimes the temptation can be much too overwhelming. And that is when overeating can occur. I love the pre-made cookie dough from the store but I only buy it when I decide it’s time to indulge and only make the serving size. So what if there are only 2 cookies on the pan! I satisfy my craving but don’t overdo it at the same time. Practice willpower! We all have it…some just need to tap into it a little more than others.
I believe that you can enjoy all of your favorite indulgences by consuming them in moderation. Have pizza, cake, cookies, chips, french fries. But don’t overdo it. And don’t do it every day. Enjoy life!
Exercise: Last but not least….exercise, exercise, exercise! Calories in, calories out. That’s about as simple as it can get. Just because you did the Stairmaster for 30 minutes doesn’t mean you can reward yourself with a burger and fries. Remember pre-and post-exercise nutrition. It will make a WORLD of difference in your energy levels and ultimate goals. Refer to my blog, Tapping Into Your Exercise Nutrition, for more information about how to fuel your body and prevent huge hunger spikes upon completing your work-out.
So let’s agree to forget about the word “diet” and merely make “lifestyle changes”. Focus on balance, variety, moderation, & exercise and soon all of your weight loss and health goals will easily morph into reality.