Today I expand a little on a topic I spoke of a few weeks ago jump starting your fit lifestyle. It’s not that I’m trying to be redundant, it’s just that food is intimately linked to your body shape and your health. Want to change your body? Then you MUST clean up your eating and embrace healthy eating habits.
Indeed a source of great pleasure for many people. From delicious smells, to evoking good memories, to luxurious textures, to unexpected flavors, to satisfying cravings, to tantalizing tastes, food seems to hold enormous powers of seduction over our ability to make choices that support our goals. But just because it has power doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t resist, or at least maintain the upper hand with regard to our choices. It only has power because we gave it to it in the first place. Good news – we can take it back.
What does eating well mean?
Now I get that the term eating well will mean something different to different people so I will define it here for my purpose (it is my blog after all). Eating well here implies making food choices that support three objectives: a well functioning body (health), a body composition in the desired range (look), and an ability to perform well in my physical pursuits (performance). The intersection of these objectives is where eating well happens – it’s what I call good nutrition. Yes, as goals change so does the profile. But what doesn’t vary is the mindset that food’s primary purpose is to provide the necessary building blocks for a healthy body to support a happy life. So many people become obsessed with how they look that they forget that food is there to nourish above all else. It is a distorted reality when people contemplate surgical procedures and risky diet aids rather than clean up their eating. So what exactly does clean eating entail?
Clean eating basics
Sometimes, it is helpful to define something by what it does NOT include. So eating well does not include mindless eating – or the action of putting food in your mouth without being conscious of it and without needing the nutrition or calories (i.e. snacking at social gatherings when you aren’t hungry comes to mind). It also doesn’t include bingeing of any kind, filling our stomachs with low nutrient-density foods (i.e. drinking sugar-filled juices, convenience snacks, highly processed foods), or repeatedly making unsupportive food choices because we’ve failed to plan in advance. A few more NOTs come to mind, but I think I’ll wait for another post since I’m hoping to present Basics here.
So while we’ll be looking at more detailed views on eating well in future posts, let’s review 3 Basics that everyone can adopt now: know what you eat, drink water, protein and veg at every meal.
- Know what you eat. More than 80% of successful body transformation participants used a food diary to keep track of their food intake. Why? Firstly it’s being mindful. No one truly knows how much they snack, or underestimate their portions or whatever until they write it down. Next, the simple act of having to record what you’ve eaten helps you make better choices later on (or ideally right on the spot). Lastly, you can’t change what you don’t know. Write it ALL down. Or better yet use a smart phone application – there are tons out there. Is it a pain in the butt? It sure is. But remember when you said you’d do anything to change your body…here is a simple, proven strategy that will deliver results. Stop whining and do it.
- Drink water. Your body is made of water and critical metabolic processes are facilitated by water. Plus it fills you up, controls hunger, helps flush out toxins, keeps your skin healthier (it’s the cheapest, effective anti-aging potion out there). Even low levels of dehydration have shown to decrease performance. Drink at least 2L per day of water. Don’t like it? Too bad. Do you like your body more than you dislike water? Find a way to drink it. Add some fresh lemon, orange slices, cucumber or apple slices, maybe some mint. Whatever. Just drink it.
- Protein and veggies at every meal. Paleo folks love me for this, but it’s really not so much about wanting you to eat more protein for the sake of it – it’s about the fact that protein takes more time to digest so it keeps you fuller and bodies use proteins as building blocks. Keep portions the size of your palm. Veggies are all about high nutrition, low calorie options. The more veggies you eat, you get fantastic nutritional bang for your buck, while leaving a little less room for higher calorie carbohydrates like grains and legumes. Shoot for at least 2 servings of veggies with every meal – yes, breakfast too (I had broccoli and mushrooms in my omelette this morning).
Decide if changing your body is important. Decide if the eating habits you may be teaching your children is important. If they are, then act. If not, then don’t feign surprise when your body stays the same or things get worse. The best time to start eating well was likely some time ago. But that’s ok since the next best time to start is right now.
If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.
With few exceptions, most successful body transformations started with a want: a better body (or at least a better shaped one), more energy, a healthier lifestyle, improved health markers, more endurance, a better example to family, increased strength, decreased body fat, better metabolism, shapelier arms, a more toned butt, better sports performance, or whatever. But until that ‘want’ was turned into a specific goal (or set of goals), it remained wishful thinking, lacking the power to help drive behaviors towards making it reality.
The two main difference between a want and a goal are usually an action plan and a deadline. Therefore for those who want to truly change their lives to reap the benefits of a healthier, stronger body the next step is define your ‘destination’ in as much detail as you can, because where you want to be will usually suggest the best ways to get there. Most of us have heard of SMART goals. While many descriptors can be used to define goals as SMART, I’m defining them as Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time Bound. In a nutshell, goals that don’t meet these criteria are too wishy-washy to be of much help – either too vague or broad to know if you are moving closer to them or farther away, are based on subjective evaluations that can change with your moods, aren’t really something you can take daily actions towards, require more work or resources than you can realistically provide and/or are too long-term to be useful at the moment. It doesn’t mean that huge goals aren’t great – because they are. It’s just that to be SMART, it’s usually a good idea to break them down into smaller, shorter-term goals so that you can build momentum, celebrate many successes and enjoy the journey along the way. Changing your body must happen in the context of your life – don’t cheat yourself out of the satisfaction of succeeding at making small changes and being consistent because it’s the small things that we choose to do, and not do, that make a life.
Two notes on specific and measurable
- Unless you can measure something, you know nothing. And you’ll never know when you’ve reached it. Do you want to lose weight? OK – perfectly fine WANT. Now lets break it down: lose weight or body fat? How much (kg, lbs, % body fat)? Lose cm? How many? Fit into a size “Q”? Which brand of what? By when? Eat better? How – X servings of foods, Y servings of water, Maximum #of items allowed (servings of alcohol, unsupportive meals, etc.)? Improve your blood pressure? By how much? You’ve got to take the time to be specific if you want your goals to help you.
- Along the same lines: what are your starting points? Take your current measurements, and BEFORE pictures (trust me, you’ll be so very thankful you did), get the details of how current clothing fit (again with pics is best), what you currently eat (5-7 day detailed food diary), medical reports (blood tests, etc.). Successful transformation started with people knowing exactly where they were and where they wanted to be. Armed with those tools, they could map out the daily ABCs (actions, behaviours and choices) that would bridge that gap.
Stay tuned: Body Reshaping Basics #3 – Eat Well.
Reshaping your body – it’s in your power.
Is it complicated? No, it isn’t. In fact, certain fundamental principles repeatedly find their way in almost every body shaping program out there. There really isn’t anything totally ‘new’ – other than perhaps the marketing BS that goes around trying to make you believe something is new so you buy it (spoken from an extensive marketing background here). The good thing is that we know what to do. The bad thing is that we often choose not to do it. We look and find convenient justifications, excuses and reasons NOT to do the things that we KNOW we should do. And do you know what? After repeating those excuses to yourself long enough, your brain starts to believe them. But that doesn’t mean you are doomed to your existing body. Your brain is an incredibly plastic and wondrous thing: what you teach it to believe works both ways…start taking responsibility, trusting in your strength and ability to commit, to make tough choices, to resist temptations, to work TOWARDS your goals and your brain will start to believe that instead. And once your brain believes it, anything is possible.
So the first basic step in reshaping your body is taking responsibility for your actions and acknowledging that working towards goals isn’t complicated, it just isn’t always easy. Tough choices have to be made as it’s those choices, little ones, big ones, frequent ones, etc. – towards or away from your goal – that add up to your result. No one else is responsible for your success but you. Stop blaming your busy schedule, your lack of personal time, your family responsibilities, your stressful job, your old injuries, your medical conditions, your visiting friends/relatives, your or your family’s food preferences, etc. and acknowledge that YOUR DAILY ABCs (actions, behaviors and choices) are what created the body that you already have and will create the body that you will have. No one else can chose that future body but you. You just need to really want it and believe that you deserve it. And trust me, everyone deserves to live in their best, healthy body.
Stay tuned for Basics #2 – Goals.