For some reason what you eat and what’s healthy is a topic that I mildly put it, is filled with emotions. I think that is an argument that most would agree with, there are only a few people that don’t have some kind of statement about how, what or when you should eat, and not eat. The topic of nutrition and diet can sometimes seem complex, but at the same time it’s pretty simple. This text is aimed to explain how to sustain a healthy diet based upon your goals and ideology. It’s pretty simple to be honest, no matter which nutritional ideology you follow, most of them have a few things in common. These aspects are easily identified and can be applied to any healthy individual. Once again I will clerify, this text is aimed to explain how to sustain a healthy diet, not how to effectivly slim down or bulk up. I will shortly go into that aswell, but that is after you understand the basics.
There are a lot of diets that claim to suit everyone, this is false
We are all different, you can understand that much simply by looking at people around you. Our genes present themselves in different ways and makes most of us look a bit different. But even though we are all different, that doesn’t mean there aint things in common. Since I aim to explain how to sustain a healthy diet, I will focus on the aspects that are universal, rather than those that can differ. That’s simply because it will fit the majority of people. Just as some enjoy sports, some don’t, just as some enjoy football, some rather play basketball. For you, they might be the same, simply a sport with two teams and a ball, for others they can be seen as very different. The same goes with the food you eat and how you put together your meals. But first thing first, if someone claims there is a certain diet or way to eat that suits all, stop listening to them. There are as I just stated, general aspects that imply to most people.
First, lets look at what different diets want to accomplish
Most of the diets out there are created to loose weight, and that is easy to understand since about half our population is overweight or obese. We are pretty certain that obesity is connected to a lot of diseases, so simply adding on weight is linked to worse health. Which can easily translate to that a healthy diet should not be aimed at increasing weight, atleast not bodyfat. I also want to state that someone “thin” doesn’t necessary need to be healthier than an obese person, there are more aspects in play and an obese person can very likely be healther than an thin person. However, in general, that’s not the case, which means that a text aimed for the general population will focus on maintaining a set weight over time. What that weight is, doesn’t matter, as long as you are healthy and happy, that will be a great place to stay. Longterm, being obese might have bad effect on your joints, simply because you are carrying more weight while walking around. The opposit goes if you are very thin, where your bones likely won’t be as strong. Both can somewhat be worked around by resistant training, but none the less, ideal weight will differ from one person to the next. I will shortly enter the space of what is optimal for most people, but remember there will be outliners.
What’s the optimal bodyfat level
Here, we can see a difference in genders, where females are better suited for a higher bodyfat level, and males are better suited for a lower level. Remember that these guidelines are very general, and not to be taken as exact numbers or the simple truth. It’s simply ment as a way for you to get an idea.
For males 8-20% bodyfat
For females 15-30% bodyfat
Well, what does this mean?
Not much to be honest, and to get an accurate estimate is pretty complicated. But since we use these numbers as general guidelines, you don’t really need an accurate measurement, you just need a way to measure it that is good enough. Most decent ways to meassure it has a 97% accuracy, which leaves about +-3% on your bodyfat results. To find out what your bodyfat level is you can simply search for “us marines bodyfat calculator”. It will use circumference measurement and weight, which obviously will give you an estimate, and not an exact number. Stil, that is exactly what we need, since the recommendations are exactly the same, estimates and assumptions. Personally I am around 10-15%, which is about how exact I need to know. I try to stay below 15% because that seems to be optimal to gain muscles, but that is for another text.
Back to food, where should I start?
Changing ones diet should really be done in stages, we have a lifelong history of habits that are best of changed one at a time. Sure, you can do several at once, but the more things you change at the same time, the more likely you are of failing. You don’t need to make it more difficult than it already is. One person that really put this in a way that is easy for you to understand is Georgie Fear, you can find her work on One by one nutrition, or in her book Lifelong habits for weightloss. Even though it is marketed as a weightloss plan, it’s really a way to learn how to build a sustainable diet. This text will take a lot from her work, but in reality, it’s just basic logic if you break down pretty much every diet out there. They also offer step by step courses to master these habits, for free. So try it out or hire them as coaches. I am an online coach and offer coaching for nutrition and exercise, and ofcourse I accept crypto.
Control the amount of times you eat in a day = remove snacking
This might go against a few things you learned over the years, since eating often is recommended by many. But in reality, more frequent meals are often correleated by a higher bodyweight. Remember that this is not the case for everyone, but yet again, for most people. This is one way to control the caloric intake of your daily meals. By removing snacking for snackings sake you are removing calories that doesn’t give you body anything else than a way to pass time.
Going to the fridge to check if something is there, simply to close the door, go back to what you where doing, soon followed by a second trip to see if the content of the frige has changed. Which often results in eating something we know aint great for us.
Same goes about passing by a candy line in the supermarket while shopping for dinner, taking that snack in the car on the way home.
The list can be made long, but in reality it’s most of the times just a way to pass time, or an habit to eat something. Not listening to your hunger (which by the way is a signal in the body that suprisingly enough tells you that you need to eat). Many of us are misstaken by the signal of a crawing for hunger. And passing by the candylane and suddenly feel the urge of snacking… that’s not hunger.
I recommend most people to stick to 3-4 meals per day, where 3 is sufficient for most of us. a highly active person might need more meals simply to fit in your daily caloric intake, or the meals will be massive. Personally I am pretty active and workout a 3-6x per week, and I stick to 3 meals per day, most days.
Listening to your body, are you hungry or not?
This one is kinda obvious… yet it’s the hardest thing to manage. Some of us have never lost this habit while growing up, these magical people (ye.. im not one of them), wait until they are hungry until they eat :O, and when they eat… they stop when they are full, instead of when the plate is empty… and those leftovers are also gone. For us that see this ability as magic, we need to learn how to differ from crawings and hunger. We need to learn how to manage the urge to take more simply because it was tasty. Well, that is if we care about our weight, which I guess you do since you have sticked with me this far.
One good que that is out there is when you feel the signal for hunger, do something else, and if it’s still around, it’s most likely hunger and not a crawing. Many of us has built in habits when we do certain things, i.ex. go to the movies (gotta have snack), after a workout (gotta have snack), when we get home (gotta eat), when we have a break at work (gotta get energy)... most of these habits have little to do with your hunger, but are rather learned patterns that we simply keep following.
Breaking these patterns are not easy, but a good way to try it out is to skip snacking, or skip eating at a certain place or time that we always do. Then a few hours later see how we feel, most likely it will be hard, and it will feel weird. But that’s okay, we gotta first observe our patterns, then try to change them and see what we can learn. Worst case scenario, just go back to your old habit, and in any case, you learn more about yourself and your habits.
There are many more ideas and tips for how to manage this. But what’s good is that you will over time have an easier time to differ a crawing from hunger. You will most likely always have to make an active decision not to endulge on a crawing, but the decision will be easier to make.
Veggies, you gotta get them veggies, and a lot of them
We all know that vegetables are good for us, we all learned that we need to eat them for their nutritional values. But there are more gains to be found from eating a lot of veggies, and there are hacks to make it tastier. Personally I love vegetables, and I don’t see any meal complete without them… But I have not always been that way. When growing up I was very picky with what I ate, and veggies was not my go-to food. Vegetables are more nutritional dense than any other foods, nutritional dense means the amount of nutrition per calorie. Where kale is in the top and sugar is in the bottom. The term “empty calorie” simply means that what you eat lack any nutritional value except the calorie itself.
By basing your food on vegetables, together with controlling the amount of times you eat in a day, you will greatly reduce the amount of calories you endulge. Reducing the amount of calories will in return mean it’s easier to maintain weight, and for most people, these 2 simple changes will also lead to a reduction in bodyfat.
Vegetables deserve an entire post themselves, but I will try to keep the benefits short. Nutritional value is one major aspect, but so is the fiber content. The fibercontent will feed your body and build up a strong immunesystem, which goes without saying, is grea for you overall health. Since veggies contain very little calories for the amount you can eat, simply by filling your plate with vegetables, you will reduce what else you eat. Which also in return will reduce your caloric intake.
So, veggies will increase fiberintake, increase nutritional intake (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals), allow you to eat a lot of food (give you the sensation of fullness), and at the same time reduce your caloric intake.
If you do not enjoy eating veggies, there are simple ways to learn how to enjoy them. Because it’s all about teaching your body to love them, and that can be done quiet easily by learning how your body reacts to different foods. To increase how much you enjoy a certain food, you can experiment with: Fat, sugar, salt and acidity. These 4, mainly fat and salt will improve the taste of veggies a lot. So to make your veggies taste better, simply learn how to cook them properly. Adding herbs, spices, salt and a good source of fat, will make your experience way better.
Choosing the right drink with your meals, and between meals
Goes without saying, that drinks containing sugar is a bad idea to enjoy on a daily basis. There is overwhelming support for that in the vast base of research made on the subject. Without changing anything in a diet, except adding drinks with sugar increases the bodyfatmass of subjects. And the opposit goes by only removing sugarcontaining drinks, which results in reduction of bodyfat. That doesn’t mean you can never enjoy a sugarydrink, but save them for the right occasions. The best option is most likely to enjoy plain water or tea as your daily drink. Black coffee might add straight into that, as that aswell has a lot of benefits.
However, going from drinking tons of soda to just water will suck for most people, and that’s not a sustainable solution. And if we look at the aspect of maintaining a healthy weight, artificial sweeteners, for sure aspartam, seems to be with no harm. Meaning you may enjoy as much of is as you like. That is when we look at the weightmanagement and overall health. There are however no long controlled studies that can verify if it has any other effects on our bodies. But we have to use the data that we know today, and with that data, it seems very safe in the amount that is added to the drinks that are sold.
Alcoholic beverages seems to have little or no bad effects on our health if enjoyed in a limited amount. I don’t recommend anyone to drink alcoholic beverages all day long, but now and then enjoying it seems to be no damage at all, the same goes with pretty much anything. But a tip is to enjoy it together with a meal, and not between meals. As that will reduce the amount you drink.
Choosing whole food items
The main reason for this being in this text is simply because whole foods tend to contain more fibers, more fibers are good for us (until a certain amount). So when choosing between a potato or a cardboard packaged version, simply choose the potato. We do not know if unprocessed foods are worse for the body or not, but we know that wholefoods are good for you. So once again, one side is certain, the other is uncertain. Go with the certain one, as it most likely is the best.
Protein, a subject of many discussions
I will not go into the area of animal protein vs vegetable protein, that is for your ideology to decide. But what I can say is that a low amount of protein seems to be good for longevity. A higher amount of protein seems to be preferred for better bodycomposition (muscle:fat ratio), which is also good for longevity.
The studies that connect a low amount of protein to longevity tend to be epidemiological studies, which is often based on questionarries and not observations or controlled aspects. These studies are good as a base, but not as a source of correlation.
RCT studies however seem to point that a higher protein intake is preferred for health. That is for several reasons, your musclemass will be higher, which improve longevity by actually being able to move at an old age. Better recover at injury and so reducing death from falling in old age.
What protein also does is increasing satiety from a meal, and icrease the amount of time you feel full. Which in reality means you will last longer on a meal containing more protein than one with less protein. Which if you follow your hunger, means you will eat less frequently and therefor eat less calories and thereby have an easier time maintaining weight.
I can go more into protein, but that will need an entire article, so if you want me to elaborate, I can do that.
So what you should do to keep an healthy diet is reduce the amount of meals you endulge in a day, make sure each meal has a big source of veggies (yes, breakfast aswell), a proper source of protein. Wait until you are hungry before you eat, base your food on wholefoods, drink water and don’t snack.
It’s not harder than that to maintain a healthy diet, you can then make a few changes depending on what your current goals are, what your ideology tells you and what’s important.
Keep the basic simple, and once you master it, you can do temporary changes for temporary results. Don’t search for the temporary changes before you have the foundation. Remember to focus on one aspect at a time, for example, start with getting a set amount of meals per day, i.ex. 3. When you can do that with ease, try adding another habit.
I work with building these sustainable habits with my clients, if you need assistance, contact me. Of course I accept crypto as payment.
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