I think all too often we think that to eat well means to CUT OUT foods.
And this attitude is what causes many people to never want to make dietary changes.
And I don’t blame them!
Who wants to think that eating well means cutting out tons of calories or the foods they love?
But eating well isn’t about cutting out…It can actually be about adding in, making swaps and FINDING BALANCE.
The focus on CUTTING OUT is what gets us into trouble. It is what makes us feel deprived. It is what makes us not want to stick to our program. It even can hinder us from getting the results we want.
This focus on cutting out is what makes people think that eating well means suffering.
It leads people to never want to commit to a lifestyle change because eating well is too difficult and doesn’t even get them the results they want.
Sometimes this belief that eating well is just about cutting out leads to people cutting out too much.
For instance, while cutting calories is necessary if your goal is weight loss, there is such a thing as cutting out too many calories. Cutting out too many calories can slow your metabolism and stall your weight loss.
Sometimes by actually ADDING IN higher calorie days, especially on days when you are more active, you can keep your metabolism running strong.
Also, sometimes by ADDING IN those foods you love on a cheat day or in moderation a couple of times a week can keep you on track. They can keep you moving forward toward your goals.
Sometimes if you don’t add in any indulgences, you feel deprived and those feelings of deprivation may lead to an all out binge that will completely derail your progress.
Basically what all this means is that if you restrict yourself too much, if you cut out too much, you are going to stall, and maybe even derail, your progress.
Also people think that with eating well they have to cut out all of the food they love and that just isn’t true!
Ever heard the quote “Strive for progress NOT perfection?”
Well that is exactly what you need to do. It’s all about the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the time you eat what your body needs, 20% you indulge in what your mind wants!
Start making small changes, don’t just cut out everything at once.
Those foods that you love, that you feel you can’t live without, SHOULD NOT be the first foods you remove from your diet.
And on top of that, you aren’t simply cutting out foods, you are swapping them for healthier variations.
If you enjoy french fries, you don’t have to cut them out completely! Either you can choose to indulge in them as part of your 20% OR you can find a HEALTHIER VARIATION.
For instance, you could BAKE fries in your oven!
If you don’t find ways that you can ENJOY eating well, you aren’t going to stick with the lifestyle change.
AKA YOU CAN’T SIMPLY CUT THINGS OUT!
You need to find BALANCE with eating well and indulging. You need to find HEALTHY SWAPS for those foods you love the most.
And you need to make slow steady changes so that each change becomes habit before you start working on something else.
Eating well doesn’t have to feel like punishment and it most definitely isn’t only about cutting things out!
When you discuss making healthy lifestyle changes with people one question that always comes up is “How do I actually know when I’m hungry?”
This question comes up because all too often nowadays we eat out of boredom or stress or because it is fun and social and the food is delicious.
We aren’t really listening anymore to what our bodies NEED.
Many of us aren’t even really sure what true hunger feels like.
I found the best way to learn to eat only when I’m hungry is through intermittent fasting.
Through fasting I took the emphasis off of eating at certain times of days, off of having to eat certain meals even if I wasn’t hungry.
I gave myself time to truly get hungry. I also gave myself time to realize I wasn’t going to die if I didn’t eat immediately after the first hunger pangs.
Through fasting I was giving myself time to realize what hunger was. I wasn’t starving myself – I was still eating plenty of calories to support my daily activities; I was just eating them in a shorter period of time.
So through fasting I taught myself to understand when I was truly hungry.
But I was also teaching myself how to NOT eat when I wasn’t hungry.
It sounds like the same thing right? Eating when you are hungry and not eating when you aren’t hungry?
But it really isn’t.
Eating when you are hungry means you understand what hunger vs. boredom feels like.
But not eating when you aren’t hungry has everything to do with mentally overcoming the desire to eat when you know you are just bored….which is honestly probably the biggest battle.
Many of us know when we are stress eating…Yet all too often we still do it.
That is because not eating when we aren’t hungry isn’t as simple as eating when we are hungry!
Intermittent fasting also helped me with this because it forced me to really think about whether I was hunger and would want to break my fast or if I just wanted to eat for another reason.
Since I set out to not eat till a certain time, it gave me a goal, an incentive to not break my fast unless I truly was hungry.
It forced me to think and it gave me time to overcome my desire to eat even when I wasn’t truly hungry.
Now I only fast when I’m completely not hungry. Some days I don’t eat till the afternoon. Others I eat right upon waking. It all just depends on when I’m hungry.
Now I’m more in tune with my body.
I’m even more in tune with not eating when not hungry, although there are times when I most definitely slip up.
As I said before that is a mental and emotional battle that we all sometimes struggle with.
The key with it is to not get down on ourselves when we fail.
No matter how in tune you are with your body, you are going to occasional eat even when you aren’t hungry.
As I was thinking about eating only when you are hungry and searching for other opinions and articles, I stumbled onto Charlotte’s post over at The Great Fitness Experiment and loved the tips she gave the reader about NOT eating when you AREN’T hungry. It also really got me thinking about the difference between eating when hungry and not eating when you aren’t hungry.
While intermittent fasting helped me get more in tune with my body, it may not work for you. Check out some of her tips as well and start truly listening to what your body needs!
How did you help yourself become more in tune with your body?
Sidenote: Here is an interesting article on nutrition and sleep!
Often when I do health and fitness workshops, I get asked a lot of specific questions, like questions about what I consider to be very specific details of a healthy lifestyle.
Like what’s the best post workout snack?
I always answer these questions; however, I also state, “Really this shouldn’t be your first worry. Your main focus should be on getting your overall diet and exercise program into line.”
Many people get caught up in the details. It’s almost as if they want to make things more complicated so they don’t have to do them.
Or maybe it is just that they are searching for some secret and eating WHOLE NATURAL FOODS just doesn’t sound revolutionary enough.
But whatever it is, most people seem to want to MICROMANAGE their diet and exercise programs before they’ve even gotten the big stuff in line.
I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way.
There is no use pouring over the details and worrying about what leafy green is better (kale or spinach) if you are still eating crap 80% of the time.
Get the basis of your diet (or exercise) program under control THEN worry about the details.
Eat whole natural foods.
It doesn’t have to be complicated! You don’t have to worry about all the details!
Focus on the big pieces and once those are in place then have FUN WITH THE DETAILS!
Here are some great articles to help you start fixing the BIG problems first:
- 10 BASIC Healthy Eating Guidelines
- Laying the foundation for a great exercise routine – Create a PROGRESSION!
- It all starts with the Mind-Body Connection
- My secrets to a healthy diet
I get asked often what I eat.
And it’s funny sometimes the assumptions people make.
They totally assume I eat whatever way the last read, or heard, was healthy. If they heard about Paleo and their friends have been getting results on that, I must eat some form of that.
If they lost weight on a lower fat diet, they may assume I do that.
They will asked me detailed questions about some of the most random, and in my opinion, unimportant dieting details ever!
When really my diet is nothing fancy.
I keep things simple. The simpler I keep things, the easier it is to create habits that last.
So here are MY SECRETS to a successful diet:
1. Prepare your grocery list before you go to the store. This prevents you from buying random crap or forgetting an ingredient you need for a meal. (I find that often people use the fact that they don’t have all the ingredients to make a meal as an excuse to go out and eat badly.)
2. Use the same basic grocery list every week. Keep things simple. Don’t reinvent your list every week and try to make new and fresh things all the time. Stick with the same basics and vary your diet every once in a while. It may sound boring, but it really isn’t and it makes things EASY, which is key to creating lasting habits.
3. FInd a few staples to keep around in case you need a QUICK and easy meal. For us, staples are things like tomato sauce and tamari. If I have either of those two things around with a protein, I know I can easily make a meal. Tomato sauce can be used for chilis or meatzas or even fake pastas with meat sauces. Tamari can be used to make an easy stir fry or fried rice with whatever meat and veggies you have!
4. Keep your meals centered around protein and veggies. I always make protein the center of my meal with veggies as a side. I don’t worry about having a certain amount of side dishes or even about the exact macronutrient break down. I focus on meat and veggies, knowing that focusing on those things will get me the nutritional profile I want. Then after that I worry about condiments and or other little additives to make the meal taste delicious. (And of course if it is a carb day, I’ll focus on healthy carbs).
5. Get high quality ingredients. Basically what this means to me is “READ THE INGREDIENT LABEL!” People buy the cheapest ingredients or fall for labels such as “healthy,” “gluten-free,” “low-fat,” “organic.” Those labels don’t equal healthy! There are tons of organic creams out there that have a ton of crap in them! And gluten-free foods can be highly processed! Don’t fall for sales labels. Read the ingredients and get quality stuff. I 100% believe that the quality of your ingredients affects not only your health, but also your fitness goals, be they weight loss or strength gains.
6. Avoid vegetable oils and gluten. Honestly, if you avoid these two things, I think you are on the road to a long, healthy life. While yes, I do try to eat grass-fed beef and organic, locally grown produce, I don’t even think that is near as important to your health as simply avoiding the two things above (although I do like supporting good farming practices to help encourage their spread and growth). So if you ask me what the most important component of a healthy diet is, other than listening to your body, I would say it is this – avoid vegetable oils and gluten! Aka avoid inflammation causing foods!
7. Listen to your body. I wrote a whole post on this recently, but it is probably the most important rule I follow and governs ever other tip listed here. I listen to what my body needs/wants. If I worked out more, I give my body more calories and more carbs. If I wasn’t very active, I will eat fewer carbs and calories. I respond to what my body needs. And yes, if my mind needs the break, I will even indulge in a cheat meal or two!
8. Know what restaurants around you have HEALTHY options. While eating in is ALWAYS better, it is good to know what restaurants around your home and work DO have quick and healthy options in case you need to eat out or your routine is really thrown off and eating home cooked food isn’t an option. Plus, I find by just having the option to eat out if you really want/need to, makes you even less likely to want to cheat on your diet.
9. Don’t be afraid to adjust. My diet is continually evolving. I’ve gone through periods of complete low carb. And periods of carb cycling. I’ve gone through periods of fasting and periods of eating 6 small meals a day. And as I settle more and more on things that work, the changes have become smaller…But my diet is still always changing. There are periods of time where I go super strict and then there are periods of time when I indulge in dark chocolate every single night and use a little extra cheese. I’m not afraid to make slight variations because I have a consistent base. I’m not afraid to LISTEN TO MY BODY and adjust instead of forcing my body to follow a set plan that may not be working. If you are flexible and listen, you are going to be more consistent than if you force yourself into a pattern that doesn’t really work (because you won’t be able to force yourself to do something for very long if it doesn’t seem to flow with what your body needs!)
10. Don’t be afraid to eat. This rule has numerous meanings. I think all too often people become afraid to eat bad foods. They eat clean for fear that one cheat treat will completely derail their process. There are also those people who watch all the documentaries and become afraid to eat anything that isn’t extremely naturally raised….like conventionally raised beef. But you can’t be afraid to eat! You’ve got to enjoy life and you’ve got to buy what you can. While yes, I do love buying grass-fed beef because the omega ratio is better and it is NATURALLY RAISED, conventional beef isn’t the worst thing out there! For one, it is still better prepping your food at home than buying pre-made crap. And two, conventional beef can be made healthier by simply cooking it in a good, healthy fat like pasture butter or coconut oil. So don’t think you can’t eat well just because you can’t get grass-fed beef or buy all the super expensive local and organic ingredients (although farmer’s markets are good if you are on a budget). Also, you can’t starve yourself to lose weight. More isn’t always more as we’ve discussed numerous times. Dieting is a balance. Everything in moderation! Just focus on eating whole, natural foods.
If you notice, none of these are things you haven’t heard before. Heck, they are things I’ve even stated numerous times before!
And none of them are exact magic foods you need to eat. There is no secret superfood for weight loss. Leaner meats, fattier meats…They can all be a part of a healthy, clean diet. It’s finding out what YOUR BODY NEEDS.
Honestly, if you take away only two things from this post, I hope they are, KEEP IT SIMPLE and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.