When I’m talking to people about clean and healthy eating they often go into panic mode, they want to know things like, do they have to give up chocolate, can they have a drink, what do they do if they’re eating out…? A question I like to ask in return is what do you want to achieve and how much do you want it…? Because the answer to all of these questions is, yes you can do some of these things, BUT if you want to make some changes to your body and your health, you might just need to do them less frequently than you are currently doing.
Now, if you’re working towards very specific goals such as a very low body fat percentage, gaining muscle, or training for an event, then you will probably need to be incredibly strict about, not only what you are eating and drinking, but also how much of it. You will have very strict control over daily calorie intake and expenditure and you will definitely need to say goodbye to the chocolate, chips and wine – at least for a limited period. However, if like most people, you are looking for general good health and reasonable weight loss or maintenance then you should be able to have a little bit of what you enjoy – occasionally! It’s just about learning to say ‘no’ more often than you say ‘yes’.
If you’re one of the lucky few who finds it easy to resist completely the ‘off limits’ foods and drinks, that’s wonderful! For the rest of us poor souls, telling ourselves we can’t have something, unfortunately makes us want it even more. It doesn’t mean we’re weak – it’s human nature. It’s unlikely that we will be able to stop that desire completely, but we can control it – particularly as the less sweet and processed stuff we eat, the less we crave it. If you’re somebody who gives in to the chocolate cravings on a daily basis, or relaxes every night with a drink or two, or who turns to some fizzy pop or caffeine to feed your energy slumps throughout the day, then perhaps you could improve your health by simply striking a better balance and saying ‘no’ just a little more often than you say ‘yes’.
In the days before I turned my diet around, I was eating highly refined and processed carbohydrates for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was snacking on sugar, drinking extra calories in juice, beer or wine. There were no limits and nothing was monitored, everything was a ‘yes’. I was overweight, despite being very fit and burning high numbers of calories with intense exercise and given my family history, I was on a sure fire route to diabetes later in life.
These days the majority of my diet is made up with clean, wholesome, freshly prepared lean meats, fish, vegetables and wholegrains, which means that I can afford the odd indulgence. You can still find me tucking into an occasional portion of chips with a meal out, a glass of wine or two at the end of a long week and the odd dessert, but now my balance is much better and my body reflects this. I’m fit, a healthy weight, have a reasonably low body fat percentage, a healthy digestive system and consume a vast array of essential nutrients. I’m nothing special, I’d love to be tucking into ice cream all day long just as much as the next person, but just not quite as much as I want to live a long and healthy life. My body isn’t perfect either, but do I need it to be? Well a perfectly flat tummy and skinny thighs might be nice, but I don’t want them enough to say goodbye to every single glass of wine or bowl of chips – just most of them!!
Here are some general rules of thumb that I try to live by and I try to encourage my clients to live by:
- Sleep well – aim for 7-8 hours a night.
- Drink lots of water.
- Exercise 3-5 times a week, combining high intensity cardio workouts with strength work.
- Prepare the majority of your food at home and ditch the processed and junks foods.
- Get 50% of your food intake from vegetables.
- Keep your protein intake high.
- Eat good quality carbohydrates and only after exercise.
- Avoid refined sugar completely and limit other natural sugars to occasionally – perhaps choose one day a week to indulge in a little chocolate or a dessert.
- Limit toxins – a rough guide is 1 coffee a day and alcohol to 1-2 drinks once or twice a week.
- Choose carefully when eating out – choose the right place to eat, where you can find healthy options and speak to the waiting staff about omitting high calorie sauces or breads, for example.
- Don’t throw in the towel. If you fall off the wagon, it’s not the end, just pick yourself up and get back on!
There are of course times where I throw even these rules out of the window – holidays, Christmas, social occasions, for example, but I usually find that a bit of time away from my normal, healthy ways, leaves me feeling desperate to get back to them as I start to gain weight and feel sluggish!
If you would like help striking your balance, controlling your weight, improving your overall health or your sports performance, then get in touch for some personalised nutritional coaching.