It is so simple, but it is so complicated! We all have our very own, and very personal relationship with food. We eat in times of stress; we eat when we are happy; we eat out of boredom; we eat crap because we just got too hungry and it led us to a poor a choice. In reality, eating right comes down to this simple mantra: EAT. WHOLE. FOODS. That’s it. But in our culture—the age of the quick fix and fad diets—eating right becomes unbearably complicated. There is sugar in almost everything processed. There is sugar in things marketed as healthy. Here’s the thing. Sugar sucks. Sugar sucks because it makes our brain all kinds of happy, but our asses all kinds of fat. And, even more detrimental than our big ol’ butts, sugar causes inflammation inside the body, and the effects of this is as minor as having less energy to chase our kids, to more serious ill effects like exacerbating auto-immune disorders, depression, and the list goes on.
It gets complicated, so I’ve compiled a list of nine clutch tips that will help you navigate the maze.
Here are 9 simple steps to kick-start a healthier you.
1. Eat whole foods.
You’ve probably heard it before. Shop the outside of the grocery store. This simply means to choose foods that haven’t been processed. Load up on the veggies. Get your proteins. Have some fruit and a handful of nuts and some healthy fats. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t put it in your mouth!
2. Rethink your food pyramid.
Your plate should be ½ veggies (preferably green), ¼ protein (meats, legumes, etc.) and ¼ complex carbs (sweet potato, rice, squash, etc.). You should also have a tablespoon or two of healthy fats.
3. Fat is not evil.
Fat is delicious and it is not evil. Did you know your brain is made of mostly fat? Fat helps promote healthy skins, it keeps you full longer, and it is totally necessary for a properly functioning body. Don’t overdo it, but enjoy a handful of nuts, avocado, and some healthy oils like olive oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, or avocado oil. Vegetable oil—corn, canola, soybean, etc., aren’t so good for you. They are high in Omega 6s and disrupt a healthy balance of Omega 3s. And beware, almost anything that is fat free is packed full of sugar or other processed fillers to mask its horrible flavor. You are better off having the fat and not the sugar, dyes, and chemicals.
4. Read labels.
Seriously, big companies are so sneaky. Their marketing teams are comprised of evil geniuses. They will tell you it is healthy. You are eating right. It is free of this or free of that. There will be a happy cow grazing in green pastures, or a skinny woman enjoying the perfect bite of food. Just because something is marketed as healthy, does not mean it is healthy. Read the label carefully. As a general rule, you should be able to pronounce all the ingredients. There shouldn’t be more than a few ingredients in any product.
5. Eliminate of sugar.
Sugar is insanely addictive and it reeks havoc on your body, and well, it makes you fat. Sugar comes in a bazillion forms. 57 names for that sneaky little bastard. Here are a few: sugar, cane sugar, agave nectar, barley malt, molasses, brown rice syrup, cane juice, carob syrup, corn syrup, fructose, dextran, diatase, evaporated cane juice, and list goes on and on.
Good substitute sweeteners are maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar and dates. Fruit and fruit juice also add sweetness to recipes. But remember, these are still forms of sugar, so use sparingly.
6. Don’t go crazy on the fruit.
Eat fruit. It has vitamins and fiber. It is a good snack. But limit your fruit to a few servings each day if you are not a competitive athlete, because it contains fructose and too much fructose will result in an overload of glycerin, which if not used in a workout, will store as fat. Also, not all fruit is created equal. Berries have a lower glycemic index. Next in line are granny smith apples, grapefruit, and cherries.
7. Drink a lot of water.
Sometimes your body confuses thirst for hunger. Drink a glass of water before meals to help fill your stomach and hydrate your body. The general rule of thumb is 64 ounces of water a day. If you are active or live in the firey depths of hell also known as the desert, drink more water. Your skin will look better, you will feel more energized, and it will help you eat less at mealtime.
8. Dieting is stupid.
Don’t diet. You are going to set yourself up for failure. Here…try this test. Don’t think about chocolate. Whatever you do, stop thinking about chocolate. As you finish reading this post, don’t think about chocolate even once. Try. It is impossible. I just subliminal messaged your ass and now you want to eat that delicious chocolate. I should join the evil marketing companies who try to sell you packaged garbage. But seriously, it is the same thing with dieting. The more you deny, the more you obsess, and the more you set yourself up for failure. Instead, add new things to your diet. Make slow changes. Improve what you eat. Go for whole foods that aren’t processed.
Instead of depriving yourself, try adding one healthy, new food to your diet each week. I will post new recipes once a week, and I will also direct you to some of my favorite healthy cooking recipe sites. Swap out that soda for a water. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Set achievable goals and watch how things fall into place. Success builds upon itself.
9. Don’t let yourself get too hungry.
Often, when trying to drop a few pounds, it is all too common to let yourself “starve” a bit. You are melting that fat off, right? While intermittent fasting works for some, it is difficult for many and leads to mood swings and really poor binge-style eating patterns. Here is an interesting article on why intermittent fasting is more difficult for women (Link precision nutrition article). And, if you are breastfeeding, you are going to be so hungry. You need about 500 extra calories a day. I exclusively breastfeed twins. You’ve never seen a woman so hungry. Hunger leads to poor decision-making and you will probably act like a bitch if you get too hungry. Do yourself (and those around you) a favor and have healthy snacks on hand. This is one of my favorite recipe sites. Check out some of these awesome snacks.
Above all else, remember, you don’t have to be perfect. Don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t think, “I just ate that pizza, f—k it, I am a failure, so I might as well eat dessert tonight and a donut for breakfast.” NO! No one is perfect. Aim for an 80/20 approach. Choose healthy whole foods 80% of the time, and allow yourself some flexibility for life. You will have one too many glasses of wine, a piece of cake at your friend’s wedding. It is okay. It is life. Just try to make healthy choices most of the time.