Saturday, 22 March 2014

Our need for food and drink joins us with all living creatures, and the particular foods we eat, along with how and where we consume them, helps define us as a culture. Unfortunately, in developed countries, we mostly take our food for granted. Often, we eat boring meals just to keep the fires going, or we eat for emotional reasons that have nothing to do with the need for nutrition.
These unconscious poor eating habits have to be broken, just like having a habit of poor posture needs to be corrected. If you are looking to create an ideal body for life, you will need to integrate your style of eating with your other mindfully healthy lifestyle choices.
You need to first look at what kind of foods you put into your body, the amount of food that is appropriate for you based on your individual activity, and, equally important, the way you eat and drink, or how you consume. The good news is you don’t need to count calories or analyze the ratios of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to achieve your ideal weight.
Over the course of many years of coaching people to manage their weight and eat healthy, and having seen one diet fad after another come and go, I have realized that what people need are simple guidelines that make eating smart a natural part of living well. By following the Lifestyle Eating Principles you will liberate yourself from counting calories, seeking new diets, and worry over eating choices, and will instead gain confidence and lifetime control over food and your weight.
           1.  EAT A VARIETY OF FRESH FOODS. A variety of fresh and natural foods is always best. Our bodies need many different vitamins and minerals, and science is finding that some micro nutrients play very important roles in how our body functions. Start by shopping a little each day to buy salad vegetables, bread, milk, and fish on the day you are going to eat them. Purchase other fruits, vegetables, eggs, cheeses/yogurt, and meats within 1-3 days of consumption. Obviously, some grains and nuts and other staples can be purchased in bulk and stored for longer periods, e.g. rice, dried beans, nuts, pasta, spices. It sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how much people will buy processed or packaged meals just to save time and effort. In the end, they may save some shopping time, but your nutrition suffers. Eating fresh food purchased the day of is one of the key aspects of the Mediterranean diet that make it so healthy. Frozen foods and juices are unheard of in Europe and South America. In almost any major city outside the United States, you see people in the morning drinking fresh squeezed orange juice that is available from any café or street stand. It’s the only way to go. 

         2.  AVOID SATURATED FATS AND LIMIT SALT AND SUGARS. Saturated fats are found in meats and dairy, and hydrogenated oils are found in margerine and processed foods. Saturated fat and cholesterol go hand in hand and are present in some quantity in all animal protein. This stuff collects in your arteries and around your organs and can cause serious health problems. But you can limit your exposure to saturated fats and cholesterol by limiting your consumption of red meat (beef, veal, ham, bacon, lamb), egg yolks, and cheese and cream made with whole milk, to once or twice per week and substituting fish, poultry, and vegetable protein for the red meat, and egg whites and non-fat milk products for the others.
     Another source of bad fat is found in processed foods in the form of hydrogenated oils. Margarine is the most common source, but you can find partially hydrogenated oil as an ingredient in many other less obvious places. Crackers for instance, even the whole wheat kind, often list partially hydrogenated oil as an ingredient. Now, if you are at someone’s house and they offer you some crackers, eating one of two of them even if they are made with hydrogenated oil isn’t going to kill you. Just don’t buy them or regularly eat them as snacks.    
     With regard to limiting salty foods and those with added sugars, it is not that salt and sugar are inherently unhealthy for you. However, most people don't realize just how much of them they are actually consuming, and it is usually a lot more than anyone needs. They are the most common form of ingredients in packaged and processed foods, and because they can be easily concentrated and chemically enhanced, they can greatly affect your system. Having too much salt (sodium) in your diet can increase your blood pressure, and having too much sugar (glucose) in your diet can make a person prone to metabolic diseases like diabetes. Most people consume twenty times the daily amount of sodium their body needs, and since sugar has no nutritive value other than calories, it is also consumed excessively, particularly in sweets. In addition to the obvious health concerns, there is another reason why you should avoid salty foods and sweets, and that is they can create unnatural cravings for more of the same foods. We were born with a wonderful sense of taste that allows us to appreciate all kinds of flavors. When we artificially add salt or sugar to our food we are training our taste buds to be less sensitive to natural flavors of food. Moreover, we then crave this same strong flavor in foods that otherwise have a naturally mild flavor. Cheese, potatoes, pasta sauces, and soups are examples of foods that are regularly over salted for consumption. It terms of sugar, it is nearly ubiquitous in packaged foods and drinks, especially cereals and sodas, in the form of syrups and chemical extracts. Like sodium, sugar occurs naturally in vegetables and fruits, and it is only when we condense it and add it to flavor our food that it becomes a problem. Eating sweets such as candy or ice cream regularly, and/or drinking sodas, even artificially sweetened ones, has been shown to have an adverse affect on the metabolism. This means that after you eat or drink them, your metabolism speeds up briefly to process the sugar, then slows down to a setting that is lower than before. This makes it harder for your body to burn calories at rest and can lead to weight gain.  

        3. BE MODERATE - YOU CAN EAT TOO MUCH OF ANYTHING. Joseph Pilates said, “Man should bear in mind and ponder over the Greek admonition – Not too much, not too little.” Moderation is a key principle in Pilates and here it means choose sensible portions. Portion size is relative to calorie intake, and calorie intake should be relative to activity level. It is also related to your age. When we are younger, our metabolic rate (the amount of calories we burn at rest) is higher than it is when we are older. That’s just a fact of life. Although a very fit and active older person can have a higher metabolism than a sedentary young person, their metabolism will still have declined proportionately to when they were in their thirties. That is why you see so many ex-athletes get fat soon after they retire. They stopped doing their athletic activity, but can’t stop their athletic appetites.

      My recommendation here is to limit your portions to one serving of the main dish (3-6oz of protein group) and one side (3-6oz of vegetables), and they should both fit on one normal size dinner plate. Breakfast and lunch meals should never require more than one dish, whereas dinner may require another for the salad. Unless you have been training for marathons, this will be enough to satisfy your needs. I see people overeating everyday, even with healthy food choices like vegetables and fruits. A large baked potato or large banana can be a whole meal unto itself. Be aware of the weight of your food as well. The heavier the food the more dense it is, and hence more calories. If your plate of food requires two hands to carry, it is probably too much.

       4.  BE CONSCIOUS WHEN YOU ARE EATING AND WHEN YOU ARE NOT.   Your body is like a car engine. You need to stay aware of your body’s fuel gauge and make sure there is water in the radiator. One of the easiest ways to sabotage your metabolism is to skip meals. After you wake up in the morning, your metabolism will be on low. Activity starts it revving up, but if you don’t put some fuel in the tank pretty soon (within 2 hours of waking) it will start to slow down again. Basically, you will turn your engine on idle, because your body will be trying to conserve as much of its fuel as it can. Eating your first meal too late in the day will not reset your metabolism to high, since your body was already deprived of fuel and now is going to look to store fuel for the future. This metabolic formula is true for anyone, and is why you need to eat three square meals a day not just for nutritional needs, but also to keep your metabolism fired up. I don’t believe you need to eat more than three meals a day as some have proposed, since I don’t find that practical and is not lifestyle friendly. Healthy snacks are good enough if you have a fast metabolism or have extra energy needs due to your work or exercise regimen. The main thing is to pay attention to how long it has been since you last ate. For example, it is seven p.m. and you’re still working. You remember that you had lunch at 1pm. You should be conscious that it is time to eat something to keep your metabolism from ratcheting down and possible cause your body to start cannibalizing muscle tissue. Time to stop work, or, if you can’t, it is time to order in.          
     The other part of this principle is to eat consciously, meaning to be present or in the moment and not to be completely distracted when you eat. Even if you are in a rush or at an event, take a moment to remember that you deserve to eat healthy. Make wise choices always and then slow down. Eat consciously and appreciate that you are doing something healthy for yourself. Unconscious eating is the root of weight problems in our society. Eaten with disregard, even healthy food can be overindulged and cause problems with digestion and nutrition. Always remember to appreciate the value of food and how it is provided for you – from the earth, from farms, from animals, from grocers and markets, and ultimately from your hand to your mouth. How you eat is an expression of yourself and your lifestyle, so do it with grace and enjoy the time you are taking to nurture your body.

          5. DON'T DEPRIVE - TRAIN YOUR TASTE BUDS. Built into the notion of dieting is the idea that you will be depriving yourself of certain foods. This mindset implies that are natural urges need to be constrained. Traditional dieting thus creates resentment toward controlled eating and invariably is why most diets fail. The solution is that you shouldn't deprive yourself, but train your taste for greater sensitivity. To understand this principle, you need to understand the difference between real hunger and cravings. True hunger pangs are a message from your body telling you that it needs nutrition. Cravings on the other hand are messages from your brain that stem more from emotional, chemical and sensory triggers. For example, sometimes you might crave a salad. That could partly be your body telling you it’s hungry, and partly be your body telling you it specifically wants fiber and vegetables. Your mind may also enjoy the idea of using your teeth and mouth muscles to chomp and chew on crunchy stuff. All cravings are information that shouldn’t be ignored. If it has been awhile since you last had a certain type of food, your body and your mind may crave that for your next meal. We are omnivores, meaning we can eat a variety of foods to sustain us, and principle one tells us this is a good thing. However, cravings are also created from our eating habits. Because salt and sugar are such potent flavor enhancers, food companies rely on them as important ingredients for most of their products. You will even find prepared sauces, breads and crackers that have both salt and sugar ingredients in them. Once again I urge you to avoid processed or prepared foods and seek fresh, natural foods instead. If you must buy prepared foods, read and know the ingredients. When preparing your foods yourself, you can practice fooling your taste buds by substituting lemon juice for salt.

      Sweets and salty foods affect the body much like addictive drugs, with repeated cravings that are hard to control. The good news is that cravings that stem from these flavor seducers can be trained like overly anxious pets to calm down. To reduce cravings for sweets first cut down on their consumption. Next, substitute nutritional sweets for those with no nutritional value, i.e. fruits for candy. This doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat a piece of chocolate or bag of chips. In moderation, these foods are fine. Just watch the frequency and quantity closely so they don’t dominate the calories you consume that day. One or two small pieces of good dark chocolate aren’t going to hurt you if the rest of your lifestyle eating habits are all healthy. Likewise, eating a few chips with salsa at a weekend get together isn’t going to ruin your diet either. However, buying small bags of chips or m’n’ms and munching on them everyday before or after dinner isn’t acceptable and turns a craving into something more like an addiction because your ability to control it is lost.

           6.   KEEP HEALTHY SNACKS AT HOME, WORK, AND SCHOOL. Since principle three tells us to be moderate in our portions, you may find yourself hungry again before another regular meal is planned. Principle four tells us to be conscious of not going too long without eating. This means it sometimes makes sense to have a small meal or snack once or twice a day. However, most of us are busy and we can’t always be near ideal food sources when we need to eat. Usually the food sources available are anything but ideal – quick stop shops full of soda, candy, and donuts, or pizza or hot dog stands. Don’t even think about it! The best way to avoid ruining your healthy eating lifestyle is to always have healthy snacks around at home, school, and work. Examples of items you can easily carry with you include most fruit, e.g., apple, orange, banana, kiwi, strawberries, etc. Other foods for snacking include carrots, nuts, string cheese, low fat yogurt, vegetable juice. You could even have a little peanut butter on celery sticks. One of the best things I do is get healthy food, like salmon or chicken salad with no fat dressing, and eat half for lunch and save the other half for later in the afternoon as a snack. However, be careful. I’ve also seen some women get a little crazy with the idea of eating mini meals throughout the day and purchase extra portions of several dishes to go. Then eating what is in effect another full meal worth of calories later. That is like having four full meals, not five small ones.  Remember, order one regular portion of food, and if you want to get a little extra as a snack for later, that’s fine. But don’t order two entrée size portions thinking you can eat the second meal later. That’s gluttony.

          7.    COOK OR AT LEAST LEARN HOW. The preparation of food is an art and, like any art, the more informed we are of how it is created, the better we can appreciate it. You don’t need to become a chef to learn the basics, and you will learn a skill that is really basic to all cultures. Start with easy meals like breakfast and lunch. Decide what you want to make, or choose something from a cookbook. Then, line up your ingredients and work carefully. Another great way to learn to cook is to watch your mom or dad making the favorite dishes. If mom and dad don’t cook anymore, than find a relative or friend who does and ask if you can help them the next time they are making a special meal. Cooking is mostly about practice, once you make something right, it is easy and fun to keep going with creating delicious meals. Once you learn the way foods are prepared and cooked, you will appreciate it more and be better at choosing meals at restaurants.

Eating well is one of the great pleasures of life, and having quality food that you, or someone you know is a good cook, select it and cook it is what eating well is all about.

Much Love & Good Health!

Coach Tina XO 
Co-owner & Co-founder Holistic Bodyworx,

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