Finally, we get to the nutritional aspects! Some of you have probably been anxiously awaiting this post, others of you may have been dreading it, not wanting someone else to tell you another list of foods you can’t eat. Since when did nutrition get to be so complicated? Do you think that people in traditional cultures stress over what they’re going to eat? Well, they may stress over whether or not they’re going to eat, but they certainly don’t stress which foods to eat. They eat what’s available to them in nature. We could learn a lot from this simple approach to nutrition.
Eliminate processed foods.
This one isn’t news to anybody, but it bears repeating. Foods that have white sugar, white flour, chemical preservatives, partially hydrogenated and trans fats in them are not real foods. They are chemical concoctions designed by marketers to appeal to our senses, our need for convenience, and our dependence on sugar. These foods are empty calories. When we consume them, our bodies still need all the minerals, enzymes, and cofactors to digest them as we would with any other food. The problem is that natural, whole foods have their own enzymes and minerals and cofactors that replenish our system as we eat them. Processed foods do not. We have to pull from our own stores to properly digest these foods, and over time, that changes our metabolism and alters the cells within our bodies. It’s like creating a small negative balance in your checking account every day, sooner or later its going to hit zero.
Cut back on carbohydrates.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-carbs. We need carbs in our diet, and eliminating them entirely will give you a whole other set of problems. But an overconsumption of carbs is one of the fastest ways to gain weight. When you eat, your body responds by secreting insulin. Insulin allows your cells to take in nutrients and use them for various purposes. However, your cells can only take in so much. Once they’re full, they start resisting the effects of insulin. Those extra nutrients have to go somewhere, so your body begins to squirrel them away as fat. Great for the hunter gatherer who may soon encounter a famine or needs to stay warm in winter, but not so good for the modern man who doesn’t worry about food scarcity. If you continue in the pattern of overeating and indulging in carbohydrates, the fat deposition keeps growing, and growing, and growing.
Don’t be scared of fat.
In my opinion, the demonization of fats in America has been one of the greatest failures of modern medicine. We’ve got everybody scared that consuming saturated fats is going to make them die of a heart attack. The reality? It simply isn’t true. Don’t believe me? Here’s a quote from Dr. Schwarzbein, endocrinologist and author of The Schwarzbein Principle:
There are many studies that vilify saturated fats. However, while conducting and analyzing the results of these studies, researchers totally ignored the fact that their subjects were eating desserts, too many carbohydrates, ingesting stimulants, not exercising enough, smoking, drinking alcohol, taking drugs and engaging in all of the other factors that cause prolonged high insulin levels. Because insulin directs all the biochemical processes that lead to plaque formation in arteries, these subjects had higher rates of heart disease…the patients who I have followed, who have increased their consumption of saturated fats (as well as all other good fats), have improved their cholesterol profiles, decreased blood pressure and lost body fat, thereby reducing their risk for heart disease.
Numerous research studies have proven that eating healthy fats such as saturated fats and monounsaturated fats is actually good for you. In addition, your body reacts to fats and proteins a lot sooner than carbohydrates. You’ll start feeling full while eating a much smaller amount of fat, while you can binge on an entire bag of potato chips before your brain realizes that you overdid it.
Eat the colors of the rainbow.
Eating a wide variety of fruits and veggies will help ensure that you are getting lots of nutrients. I have to say, in my own experience, I’ve never felt more nourished than when I include liberal amounts of vegetables in my diet. (Eating some fat with your veggies will also help you absorb all the fat soluble vitamins). All of a sudden I didn’t have a bunch of cravings anymore, I didn’t look to food as much as when I was bored, and my snacking between meals greatly decreased. I had what I needed, and my body was content with that. Fruits are also important and should be a part of your diet, but be careful not to overdo it, as they can be high in sugar. Berries are very high in antioxidants and some of the lowest sugar fruits around, so they’re great to include in your oatmeal, smoothies, and salads.
It isn’t all about calories.
I go into detail about this in my post “Why Diets Don’t Work”, so I won’t reiterate it all here. Suffice to say that if you drastically cut back on your calories and starve your body, its going to react accordingly. Your metabolism will drop, your weight loss will plateau, your muscles will start breaking down, and you’ll be MUCH worse off than when you started. Eat healthy, whole foods, eat until you’re full, and cut back on the mindless snacking. Don’t assume that consuming 1000 calories a day and burning 500 at the gym every night will get you the bikini body you always wanted. What it will get you is a long list of health problems and a jacked up metabolism.
So that’s the broad view of nutrition for trimming down and toning up. If you have any questions or areas you’d like to see discussed in more detail, feel free to send me an email or leave a comment. If you’re still skeptical about the benefits of saturated fat in your diet, don’t take my word for it. Here’s a link for an excellent article from the Weston A Price foundation. There’s a ton of citations at the bottom for various studies you can read for yourself, so go check it out.