As many of my friends and clients know, I do not really mention much about diet. My philosophy is that although diet is as important as exercise, it's harder to control than exercise.
Reason being: we started the habit of eating since we were born. So trying to change a habit of eating badly is really difficult because it has been something we have been doing since birth. However, for a sedentary person, the habit of exercise is one that has yet to be established. Hence, it is easier to create this brand new habit of getting of the couch and being active than trying to change the lifelong habit of consumption.
So here are some thoughts on diet which I have for you to consider:
How Balanced is Your Diet? The 40-40-20 Rule.
It has always been recommended that we should have a balanced diet shown in your meals. What does this mean?
Having the different kinds of macro-nutrients in your meals such as protein (from your meats and seafood), carbohydrates (your simple/complex starches and fiber), and fat (generally oil or healthy oils). If each meal consists of those three macro-nutrients, you are on the right path and you can think of the next step.
To figure out if you are having a balanced meal, it's pretty simple. You don't have to weight your food (which I did in the past and got alittle tired of it). You can do this by putting all your different macro-nutrients on a plate. I generally follow the 40-40-20 rule (it can also be 50-40-10 and I will explain later).
Being a organizational/structure/obsessive freak, I love my percentages and I apply it to my diet as well. The 40-40-20 rule simply means the breakdown of my meal would be 40% protein, 40% carbs and 20% fat. (So as mentione earlier, the 50-40-10 rule would be 50% protein, 40% carbs and 10% fat).
You must be thinking: "Damn! That's alot of fat!" Well.. if you are eating the right fats and essential oils, you are doing your body a favour than taking in the unnecessary fats and stuffing yourself up. So back to the rule, 40/40 makes it easier to determine how much you are eating: it simply means you eat as much protein as you are having carbs!
Low carb diets work for some but do not work for others. But it involves the restriction of a vital energy source. And especially if you are training regularly, you need energy for your workouts as well as proper recovery. This energy would come from carbs which people normally have the misconception that they will be converted to fat if they have too much of it. As much as you need protein to build muscle, your body also needs carbs for energy and when it can efficiently use carbs as an energy source, you will not have the issue of it being converted to fat. Hence, low carb diets when utilized actually cause you to balloon up when a carb source is introduced because your body is not efficient in using carbs as energy instead.
Thus, if you can keep the amount of carbs equivalent to the amount of protein you have in each meal, you are doing yourself a favour because you are giving yourself the right energy sources to not only reduce bodyfat but also maintain/gain muscle. As for fats, a no-fat diet is also not ideal because you are not giving yourself the nutrients you get from fat sources to keep your cells functioning properly. Hence, healthy fats from sources such as nuts, fatty fruits (avocado - my favourite) and olive oil should be introduced to your meals to help keep the fat intake up. If you think you are lacking in that area, take supplements such as fish oil which help with the reduction of inflammation of the cells.
Everything In Moderation.
This is one that alot of people have trouble with, sometimes including myself. We have our favourite foods and we have things that we enjoy indulging in. And let's admit, most of the time, these items we enjoy are not beneficial to our physical health in any way.
But I personally believe, being able to indulge helps improve mental health with the idea of being satisfied. However, many lack the discipline to tell themselves when to stop. For example, if you are snacking on a packet of chips, because it tastes so good, you just keep going and you do not know when to stop!
However, if you moderate your intake of such snacks, not only are you making yourself happy because you are indulging in something you enjoy, but you also work on your discipline to control your snacking which in turn enhances your self efficacy in regards to moderating your dietary habits. And when you start building that discipline and confidence and you can see it for yourself, it in turn enhances your motivation to keep moderation in your dietary lifestyle.
So how do we moderate our food intake or whatever we put into our mouths?
The important part of the equation is portioning. Portioning is actually the key factor that leads to overeating. When you have a huge portion of food on a huge plate, the tendency to finish it up increases. A study has actually been done with this where there were two identical bowls of food, one with a standard portion and the other with a bottomless pit (meaning food kept topping up from the bottom). The subjects who had the bottomless pit bowl, ended up eating more than they should as compared to those who had the standard portion. Hence, the visual effect of what we eat actually determines how much we eat.
So the solution to this is simply being consistent with your portion. This takes abit of practice similar to the 40-40-20 rule. Once you get a hang of how much you need to be eating, you can easily picture the portion you require. And to help you with the visual aspect of this, you can also begin by using smaller plates and bowls. Visually, when you put the same amount of food on a bigger plate as compared to a smaller plate, you will think that the portion is insufficient and you will subsequently want to eat more. Simple as that. Even when snacking, instead of taking it directly from the bag of chips or lollies, take a single serve out. It helps with disciplining yourself and portioning out how much you can snack on. With that, you would not have that tendency to over-indulge and create bad eating habits.
So these are some things that I actually practice myself in terms of my dietary habits. I used to be really particular about my meals (in regards to fat amount, amount of protein and carbs) but it took such a toll not only on myself because I was restricting myself alot in terms of what I ate, but also on my partner who had difficulty preparing meals for us both. It was through a couple of years of trial and error that I finally managed to keep a dietary lifestyle where I am still able to enjoy my food but in a more practical way to a healthy diet.
Give it a try. I am not saying it works for everyone. But unless you try it, you will not know if it works for you! You need to enjoy your food and how you go about having it. If not it is not going to enhance your mental health which in turn will affect your physical health. Diet is as important as exercise but harder to control. But hopefully with these two tips, they can make it easier for you to handle your dietary lifestyle.
Stay Strong and Keep Eating Well,
The Training Geek.