How many times have you heard, “just eat healthy and workout and all your troubles will disappear.”? The elusiveness of this general blanket statement leaves so many feeling more lost than prior to receiving this -usually unsolicited- advice. Which is why I often get the plead “Cathleen, how do I eat healthy?” from so many clients seeking to lose excess fat or who are sick and tired of being…well, sick and tired. The complexity of this varies beyond each individual ailment. Considering ones individual body, life style, habitual patterns, physiological influence, environment and so forth, creates a vast ocean of answers and plausible solutions for each person struggling to get themselves back to feeling themselves. That being said, you need to start somewhere, and although there isn’t a hard beaten path that meets everyone’s needs, there are some general guidelines to give you an idea of how to begin your journey.
Step 1 – Remove the Extras.
Very seldom am I exposed to someone asking for help that drinks solely high quantities of water. More often, there are several different fluids in everyone’s regular diet. And those beverages are typically laden with empty calories or even contain harmful chemicals that inhibit health and well being. My suggestion, is to remove as many fluids as possible that aren’t water or clearish water based beverages from your regimen until you get settled in your body. While keeping in mind your body needs large quantities (for some, nearly 1 ounce per pound of body weight) of fresh water each day. What the heck is a clearish liquid? Unsweetened steeped teas, black coffee, watered down whole juices, infused waters…any liquid that is primarily water, is very low in sugar (or natural sweetener) and high in vitamins and micronutrients. No, this does not include alcoholic beverages, which burn at a very high kcal and are not directly conducive to health. Even these approved ‘clearish beverages’ should be kept to no more than 1 serving a day (1-6 ounces respectively).
When it comes to removing hindering foods there are a plethora of issues that may arise. Because of these emotional, psychological and behavioral issues surrounding food (and you were hoping it would be a simple physiological dependency only LOL) please be gentle with yourself through this step. Remember, you are a student learning about YOUR self, and as such, it is expected that you observe your physical and mental interactions with food and take note of them, but not beat yourself up over them. This first step is just to decipher (even if this step takes a few weeks and you need to revisit it time and time again) what types of macronutrients –proteins, fats, carbohydrates– do well in your individual system, and to what degree. Then at a predetermined time (which we’ll discuss in step 3) review your findings and objectively conclude where you feel there could be some separation with certain foods. Once something is identified as “toxic” to your body and your success, be diligent to change your surroundings to eliminate it from your life, be it forever or just till you are in a better place to manage it.
Step 2 – Nutrient Saturation
The endless journal publications and medical studies published around current nutritional deficiencies is mind boggling. Most humans living today are so depleted in vital micro and even macro nutrients than ever before, EVER! While I’m not going to go over the plausible reasoning behind this, the immediate solutions to resolve this dilemma do vary, again depending on the prospect and where their time and motivation lies. My first hope would be that each household would grow their own organic fruits and vegetables and buy all additional items from their local farmers, ranchers, and fresh markets. I understand that may be a stretch for some people. Alternatively, you could gain additional vitamins and minerals and massive variation in ingested nutrients through condensed supplementation . But regardless of route, the need to assure that your body is getting all its essential nutrients is pivotal to the success of your health. Do some research about symptoms of common nutrient deficiencies (believe me, there is a wealth of information out there) and learn about what your body needs more of (don’t fret, there are some tools to help you in step 3). Or hire a health coach to do that for you. Either way, it must be done to keep your vessel in working order.
Step 3 – How Much and Which Ones
For some, counting calories and keeping a constant food journal is exhilarating, but for others its tedious and causes more stress, confusion and obsession than whats considered healthy. My experience has shown me that there can be a healthy balance of this while you are still learning to listen to your bodies needs. That is, to take a week or two and diligently track your food (I like My Fitness Pal, its free and has a really large database). Before starting to track its beneficial to see what your BMR currently is using a Calorie and BMR calculator, this is the amount of nutrients you require to not die while being completely immobilized -in case you missed that, you will require more calories than the calculated BMR to be healthy. Typically speaking, most of us eat similarly from week to week, even if there are minor tweaks here or there, the major nutrient profile remains pretty similar. So after you have tracked your week, review what you ate, how you felt that day (also included in the notes section of your tracker), and what percentage of macronutrients you are getting of each. If how you currently look and function is not conducive to how you want to appear and feel then the caloric intake and macro ratios have to change. Ergo, if you continue to stuff your face with the same amount of food with the same proportions of each macro, you will continue to get the same results. Until you can visualize what YOUR individual plate at each sitting needs to look like, this may be the time to:
Is it totally easy? Not usually. Is it time consuming and irritating? Yes, typically it is. But there is no other way that I am familiar with to provide yourself with the tools you need to be healthfully successful for life. Even if you hire a Health Coach to lead you through this there is going to be some awareness that will need to happen on your part. Which is expected is it not? After all, “The price of cathexis is pain.” ~Peck. So kick your lazy butt, engage your inner warrior and just get it done!
While I recognize that these are obviously overly simplified steps and maybe too “generalized” for a very specific end goal, they are indeed steps. There are countless well written books on the subject (and millions of crapy ones too) that you could utilize if you feel you need more direction. If health and wellness is a necessity and not your passion, maybe consider hiring someone to help you. But do SOMETHING! Take action now and invest into the 1 thing you will always have, yourself.