Nutrition can be complicated yet very simple at the same time. Let’s say you want to lose weight, the simple way to go about this process is following four easy steps:
1) Track your intake
2) Whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains
3) Determine the portions
4) Drink plenty of water
A more complicated way to do this is by finding out your resting energy expenditure, your active energy expenditure, weight, age, body composition…so on and so forth. Unless you are a professional athlete or plan to become one then the four steps listed above are the best way to go about losing weight.
The first step in the process of proper nutrition is to log what you are eating. This is called a food diary or a food journal of sorts. Using a food diary and actually logging your daily consumption of food will help you track and see what you eat. What often times happens is a subtle disconnect from what you think/say you are eating and what you actually eat. You may think that your food intake is not bad but when you review your log at the end of each week you will find that the occasional sweet, soda or something with empty calories does add up and works against your good efforts. Keeping a food diary also helps you recognize your good and bad habits.
Water consumption should also be tracked on your log. Drinking plenty of water plays a huge role in not only weight loss/gain but also keeping your body overall healthy. Your body is made up mostly of water, and when you start to sweat you lose some of that water which then leads to dehydration and other symptoms that can be harmful to the body. Another reason why it is good to make sure you are getting enough water is because sometimes when you think you are hungry you are actually just thirsty. It turns out that the same part of your brain is responsible for interpreting hunger and thirst. Signs of hunger is stomach rumbling and feeling weak; signs of thirst are headaches, dizziness, dry skin, and your urine being dark yellow. When you think you are hungry just drink a cup of water and wait a little bit. If you still feel hungry then you probably are and you need to eat something.
The second step to proper nutrition is to start making sure the foods you are eating are real foods, and what I mean by that is foods that don’t come out of a box. Most foods that come out of a box are processed which means they have added sugar or other substances in them to make their shelf life longer. There are different misconceptions on what it is that makes people gain unwanted fat. Some believe it is the carb intake while others believe it is the fat intake, but what it really boils down to is the kinds of foods you eat. In order for most diets to work it requires you to eat real food. For the most part that is the number one ingredient that goes into a successful diet. One tip to help with picking the right foods is when you pick up a food item look for the ingredients, if you don’t know some of the ingredients that go into it then chances are it is not good for you. An example of this would be if you were to pick up a banana the ingredients that go into a banana is banana, but if you were to pick up lays potato chips then you would see things like sodium diacetate, maltodextrin, salt, malic acid, sodium citrate, sunflower oil. Although I may not know exactly what all those ingredients are, I do know that if I were to eat a bag of chips instead of fruits or vegetables, I would most likely not lose weight or gain good weight.
Step number three for nutrition is portion size. When it comes to portion size there a few different options. One way of determining the correct amount needed is by using your hands! You can use the size of your palm for the denser carb foods like brown rice or sweet potato; then start at the bottom of your palm and go all the way to the second crease on your middle finger so if you were to look at the top of your palm and see the crease there then go one more and that is the size amount for your protein like chicken. For your fats, you would use the size of your thumb, but I like to go a little past because I love peanut butter. The last hand measurement you would need is the vegetables. For this you would take both of your hands and put them together like a cup and that’s the amount you need in order to get the adequate amount of nutrients. Another way to handle the portion size is by using a plate. Now when I say plate I mean a normal size plate, not a tray! When you get the plate out you will make half of the plate vegetables, 1/4 of it protein, and then the other 1/4 you would split it into fats and dense carbs. The last way of calculating portion size is by actually measuring out your foods. Now I’m not going to get into all of that stuff in this guide because I want to make things simple and easy to understand.
In order for proper nutrition to work you need to be consistent. The more consistent you are the better results you will get. Being consistent doesn’t mean never eating an unfavorable food; it’s ok to have a slice of pizza or a dessert every now and then. Consistency means eating about the same amount every day, and making sure you eat real food. One way to help with being consistent is by meal prepping. Often times people venture towards whatever is convenient and so they will have that greasy taco for lunch from the food truck right outside their office, or eat the kolaches that are in the break room. With meal prepping this will help reduce the urge to eat those foods because everything is right there in your lunch box; breakfast, lunch, and a snack. Don’t get me wrong though, those urges will still be there if you enjoy those foods, but if you start to turn them down it only gets easier. One thing to do is stop and think if it’s really worth it. Is it really worth throwing away that end goal? Constantly having those foods is only going to set you back and make that goal that much farther out of reach, but by saying no you will soon start to create a habit. It only takes 2-3 weeks to start making good choices a habit, and if you can resist the temptation of eating those foods and start bringing your own food then you will soon be well on your way to success!