Part of my job description includes analysing and evaluating food logs. As masochistic as it may be, this is one of my favourite parts of what I do. Food is relatable. Everyone needs to eat and we can all relate to food and the struggles eating too much and/or too little can present. If you want to really be vulnerable, allow someone to see what you eat for a week. It's eye opening. Sometimes you don't even realise how all those little "bites" and "treats" add up. You don't think about the fact that you add 100 calories to your meal every time you polish off a bite of your kids mac 'n cheese or swipe one of their fish sticks. You are oblivious to the fact that you take in over 500 calories a day of sugary beverages.
Food is fuel. We need to learn how to eat to live and not live to eat.
A few weekends ago I was on a blind date and the conversation went something like this:
him: "so you're a nutritionist?"
her: "I am. I advise people on what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. I love what I do."
him: "I don't really like food. I mean, I don't look forward to it. I eat because I have to."
her: blank stare. (check please!)
I sat there thinking to myself, this man doesn't find pleasure in food. There is something mechanically wrong with his genetic makeup. Where do we go from here!? But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that the way he thinks about food (or doesn't think much about it) is arguably the healthiest mindset one can have. Food is fuel. We should eat because our bodies need the energy, not because our pleasure centers are salivating over sugary, salty yumminess. Needless to say, despite the revelation, there will not be a second date. Since our conversation, I have decided to add a stipulation to my list of attractive qualities in a date, No. 1: Enjoys food. More to the point...
Let me share a few of the Biggest, Baddest Diet Mistakes I see time and time again on food logs:
1. Under Eating. At least 70% of my fat-loss clients are chronic under eaters. How does this make sense? If someone has fat to lose, doesn't that mean they are eating too much? No, not necessarily. When you eat fewer calories than what your body needs to execute all its basic functions (this is called your Basal Metabolic Rate), you force your body to compromise certain systems, namely your metabolism, in order to function on the limited energy you're taking in. When you eat too little, your body goes into what's known as "starvation mode", your metabolism slows down, you don't burn as many calories and BAM - you're stuck in an endless cycle of trying to lose weight by eating too little which causes you to remain overweight. Calculate your BMR and aim to eat within 500 calories of that number.
2. Skipping Breakfast. Remember all that talk about your metabolism? Well, the same principle applies. Breakfast acquired it's name because after sleeping throughout the night your morning meal is quite literally the breaking of your fast. Overnight, your metabolism slows down and in order to get it back up and running most efficiently you need to kickstart the day with a healthy, wholesome meal. People who tend to skip breakfast allow themselves to get ravenously hungry and bottom-load their calories later in the day. But this is the opposite of what should happen, because most of us are more active during the first half of our day. Energy fuels activity. Therefore, we should eat the majority of our energy during the highest periods of activity.
3. Failing To Schedule A Cheat Meal. Studies show that individuals who don't allow themselves a treat every so often end up binging on bad foods because they feel restricted to excess. When was the last time you achieved perfection? Yeah…that's what I thought. The same goes for your diet. You can't be on your A-game 100% of the time. So instead of cheating a little bit every day, keep your progress headed in the right direction by eating lean and green 90% of the time with the allocation of a cheat meal - 1 or 2 times a week where you allow yourself to eat what you want WITHOUT GUILT. Enjoy it and then get back on the healthy horse.
4. Using Meal Replacements. We've all known that friend or family member who tried Medifast or the HCG "diet drops" weight-loss strategy. They probably lost a lot of weight…and then gained every last pound (plus a few) back. No surprise there. I mean, really? You expect to survive on some overly-priced, appetite suppressant forever? No. You can't. Our bodies weren't designed that way. Eventually you have to go back to eating real food like the rest of the world. If there's one thing I've learned about diet and exercise it's the importance of sustainability. Whatever your plan is to lose weight or get healthy, needs to be something you can envision yourself doing for the rest of your life. That is the true picture of health.
I'll give you hint: there are only two sustainable ways to lose weight and get healthy. 1. Healthy nutrition, 2. Exercise. Sorry to disappoint folks, but it looks like you're actually going to have to get off your butt and do something if you want to see results. Otherwise, you can accept the all-too-probable reality of being morbidly obese and malnourished (yes, those two things can in fact coincide).
5. Choosing packaged and processed over fresh. I've had conversations with people who say, but Nicole, I'm doing everything right! I eat oatmeal for breakfast, protein and vegetables at lunch and dinner…I don't know why I'm not seeing results! I crack my knuckles, grab my highlighter and sit down to analyse their food log. They are telling the truth but after some inspection I see that they're eating flavored instant oatmeal at breakfast, packaged lunchmeat and seasoned steamable veggies for lunch and dinner with a protein bar as a snack. What's the commonality? Everything comes from a bag or a box. And because the food industry cares more about shelf-life than the condition of your insides they've loaded those seemingly healthy foods up with starch, sodium and sugar. I get it, you're busy. I'm busy. We're all busy. But to what extent? Too busy to take care of the body you demand so much of every day? Too busy to do what you can to encourage a healthy, cancer-free future for yourself? For your children? Too busy to value your quality of life and longevity over the day-to-day chores? Take a step back people. Because if you're that busy, something is terribly wrong.
Spend two hours on the weekend to grill up fresh proteins and steam fresh veggies. Make a double batch of ground turkey or stir fry to have as leftovers throughout the week. Buy whole-grain oats and cook them up yourself. Boil up a dozen eggs for quick on-the-go fuel. Pre-portion out your snacks of nuts, seeds and fruits. eat. real. food. and I promise, you will get out what you put in.
Eat well. Live well. Be well.