Exercise alone is not enough to ensure our health. It must go hand in hand with nutrition for overall wellbeing and fitness
I am sure that by now, we are all in unanimous agreement that nutrition is key to our health. In fact, it is one of the four pillars of health, the others being physical activity, sleep and stress management. The last sentence could have whizzed past over your head; you may have understood it but I think there are still a lot of us who think that one or the other of those pillars can be compromised. I have heard people in the fitness industry claim that exercise is all you need, that if you do enough physical activity, you can eat whatever you want. Similarly, I have also heard catchy expressions and quotes stating, as a fact that you can practically eat your way to a six pack. (Please excuse me while I screw my head back on!)
It is imminent that we do not over-simplify any concept or idea although rules of thumb can be helpful for many of us who do not have time or energy and are just trying to live a healthier lifestyle. All the over-simplifications only prove to confuse the public even more. Sugar, fat, gluten, synthetics, organics – it is enough for anyone to heave a sigh and fall into complete apathy or simply have paralysis of analysis.
Who has time for all of this? By right, all of us should be concerned because it is our lives we are talking about here. Diets out there can be very successful especially the ones that give us structure. When there is structure, it is easy to follow. Finding the right structure to follow can be tricky but it is not impossible. I do not want to throw the word “diet” around as this can be quite a four-letter word for some. When I say “diet”, I mean a food routine, so please don’t associate “starvation” with “diet” nor “eating disorders”.
We live in a multi-factorial world where many little things come into play and finding the sweet spot or what people generally call ‘balance’ is quite a delicate feat. I know that up to this point, you want me to stop with the gibberish and get on with the ultimate secret or the miracle solution. There is no ultimate secret and no miracle solution unfortunately. There is grueling effort, a lot of sweat, some hunger pangs and some withdrawals.
I am going into uncharted territory here by assuming that nutrition for health targets obesity because our minds go there quite automatically. We often neglect skinny problems. There is such a thing as skinny fat and skinny people can also be eating the wrong foods and fat people should not take advice from skinny people because the opposite is not true when it comes to nutrition.
A skinny person has no idea what it is like to lose weight which disqualifies them from giving nutritional advice, most of time as simple as “just don’t eat so much” without realising the correlation between body mass and calorie needs for a person to carry out simple bodily functions.
Likewise, gorging yourself silly is not the solution for a skinny person to bulk up either. So, no one size fits all and always remember that even though low-fat/low-carb worked for you in your 20s, it does not necessarily work for you in your 40s. So the key is to pay attention to your own responses to foods and develop a healthy relationship with food.
What does developing a healthy relationship with food even mean?!?!? Changing the way you eat will require giving up some foods that you like and most often, it is sugar or simple carbs or alcohol. I believe to a certain extent that these have to be approached with caution, like addiction. When you are dependent on a certain food group, that dependence is in fact an addiction at different levels depending on how tightly you hang on to it.
Serious health conditions aside, we can revisit these food groups later – have a piece of cake, a glass of wine or that delectable pile of mac and cheese and a greasy hamburger. You know you have developed a healthy relationship with food when you no longer need to stuff them all in your face in one sitting and you can have a glass of beer without chugging down an entire keg.
A good start would be eating minimally processed food, and if you do not know what that is, try this – whatever it is you eat, make sure you can trace back its original form in no more than a two-step process. That will mean that you need to know more or less how that plate of food was prepared, in general. Whole fruits, vegetables, fresh meat, fish and seafood are foods you want to go for. Eat them simply cooked i.e. grilled, steamed, blanched, stir fried or baked. The taste of simple foods can be enhanced with the right herbs and spices. You may even get back to enjoying chicken or fish in its freshest form without piling up taste enhancers or bottles of store-bought sauces on them. Here are some substitutes you may want to consider in your pantry.
|Sugar||Maple syrup/good quality honey|
|Vegetable Oil for cooking||Coconut oil for cooking/olive oil for drizzling over|
|Cow’s milk||Coconut milk|
|Rice||Coarsely grated cauliflower|
|Almond butter||Peanut butter|
|Table salt||Pink Himalayan Salt/Sea Salt|
To put things into perspective, if you follow any particular eating structure, you will get more out of it if you monitor your progress and have your vitals in check. Keep a food journal and use reliable and accurate methods to measure your progress i.e. measuring tape vs. weighing scale, bioelectrical impedance analysis from a reliable source vs. weighing scale with BMI readings.
We know how hard it is to give up some of your beloved foods so keep yourself sane, find healthier substitutes but you do have to cut down substantially (if not altogether) if you are serious about jumping on the bandwagon. There are no two-ways about it.