Simplifying Healthy Eating: 3 Errors You Want to Avoid
Everybody knows that the only way that one is going to be able to reach his/her fitness goals is through exercising consistently and eating healthy. Personally, I believe that the first part, exercising consistently, can be made a lot more doable when the individual is working with a good personal trainer or has a reliable workout buddy because both can keep the individual accountable, thus less likely to skip workouts.
As for eating healthy, this can be a lot tougher for many because it has to be done, in most cases, when no one is looking, especially when one lives alone. When I was in the Navy, right after graduating from boot camp, I was in Meridian, MS, to train for my job as a Yeoman (administrative assistant). For most of us, it was our first times living out of our parents’ homes, which meant we were finally able to eat whatever we wanted and as much as we wanted, so it wasn’t uncommon to see guys go straight for the chips, ice cream, and cookie aisles at the commissary in their first shopping trip.
Eating like this just once each week or two is actually not as bad as you might think, but when it happens multiple times a week, that’s what leads towards weight gain. Moreover, poor eating choices can easily become habitual, and breaking that habit can be incredibly difficult for many.
When you regain control of your eating and repair your relationship with food, this can become a very empowering moment, but it’s not easy to do, especially if poor eating habits have been a regular occurrence for several years. In my professional opinion, people have a tendency for making things more difficult for themselves by complicating things, thus making them feel overwhelmed and abandoning their health and fitness journeys, altogether.
Counting calories is a little weird because it could be an amazing way to guide someone to control their portion sizes and be more mindful about the things they are eating. On the other hand, it can be very tedious and cause more unnecessary stress. Because of this, counting calories can be an amazing tool for some, but totally useless for others.
Counting calories can be very tedious. Before I started working as a personal trainer, I was working in a law firm in San Diego, and one of my co-workers introduced me to MyFitnessPal, a food diary app. At first, I thought it was great because it forced me to think twice about indulging, but after a couple of weeks, I started growing tired of it and missed logging in a couple meals. For me, it started getting annoying to have to log every single thing, every single day. Because of this, I believe counting calories can be okay for the first couple of days, but not so much for the long term.
When a person is counting calories without any guidance from a nutrition specialist, it can become problematic because it puts too much importance on the energy density of foods, and not so much on nutrient density. In fact, when I was in college, a girl that lived in the apartment complex as me developed scurvy because she wanted to lose weight so bad. Scurvy is a disease from a lack of vitamin C, most commonly associated with sailors until the mid-1700s when James Lind discovered eating lemons could prevent it. In the girl’s case, it is likely that she became so obsessed with limiting calorie consumption that she even eliminated citrus fruit.
Nutrition novices are inevitably vulnerable to one of the most common mistakes when it comes to food. Time after time after time, I hear people, either at the gym or all over social media that make this mistake; I’m talking about dichotomous thinking. All too often, people overly simplify foods as either “good” or “bad”, and when one is counting calories without an expert’s supervision, they may associate all high-calorie foods as “bad”, without considering those foods might be loaded with vitamins and minerals. This can create an over-restriction and deprive the body of important nutrients.
Some of you may not remember the Atkins and South Beach Diet booms in the early 2000s. Almost immediately, people began to demonize carbohydrates as the cause of weight gain. Just like overly complicating nutrition can work against you, so can overly simplifying it. A lot of the trendy diets that you see are highly restrictive, and in many cases, you may see positive results in the short-term, but the results almost never last!
I had a client who told me that he was able to lose nearly 50 lbs when he started the keto diet, but it didn’t last for one major reason. In case you didn’t know, the ketogenic diet was originally created to help diabetics by greatly reducing carbohydrate consumption. About 10 years ago, it started to grow as a trending diet, particularly because it was widely promoted and people were having success if losing weight. However, as my former client made it clear, keto is just way too restrictive, so much so that six months into adopting the diet and even after he lost about 50 lbs, he felt it wasn’t worth it because it felt like the diet was making him go crazy.
One of the main reasons why restrictive diets have a long history of failing to make results last is that they are unsustainable. Since these diets usually cutout a long list of food items, sometimes even fruit is put on the “naughty list”! If you’re someone that likes variety when it comes to your eating, then restrictive diets are a recipe for disaster.
For many people, it is not uncommon for them to become isolated from their friends during their healthy eating journey, but this doesn’t always have to be the case. Let’s be honest, most restaurants aren’t exactly the “healthiest”, and if your friends want to go out to dinner or for Taco Tuesday, those of you on a restrictive diet may feel compelled to miss out. With good planning, you can schedule your cheat meals on these occasions, and when it’s something spontaneous, order something that can be split with the group.
I have a love-hate relationship with supplements. There are many undeniable advantages to supplementation, such as reducing nutrient deficiencies. However, the hate part is mostly because the government continues to fail the American people by allowing manufacturers to sell supplements without any testing required. Nevertheless, there are a number of very reputable brands, some of which voluntarily have their products inspected at standards even higher than that of the FDA when they approve of pharmaceutical drugs. For most recreational gym-goers, their knowledge about supplements is limited, which can make things more complicated than needed.
Supplements can be an effective way for people to get the vitamins and minerals they need, however, emerging evidence suggests that getting these nutrients from food sources may be absorbed in the body more effectively. Additionally, getting nutrients from real food takes up space in the stomach, thus keeping you more satiated and less likely to overeat.
Comedian, Bill Burr, had a great joke about how inexpensive it can be to eat produce, where grocery stores are imploring you to buy it because it can go bad so quickly, hence why produce is usually at the front of most grocery stores and costs so little compared to other products. Supplements, on the other hand, are definitely not low cost, especially the high quality brands. Especially with the inflation affecting the country right now, the protein powder that I used to get for $65 for the 5 lb jug is now $115 — needless to say that I’ve switched brands.
In the 90s, Congress passed a bill that categorized supplements as food items, instead of drugs, which meant that they would not be subjected to testing nor regulations that the FDA sets for pharmaceutical drugs. This can make it scary, especially for people with food allergies that take supplements from non-reputable brands as some have been found to contain ingredients not listed on the label.
Eating healthy is one of those things that can appear simple when viewed on paper, but things can easily get tricky. If you’re not entrenched in the world of nutrition, confusion is an understandable outcome when narratives on certain foods go from “healthy” to “non-healthy” all the time — the best example being eggs. My best advice is to try not to complicate things that don’t have to be complicated, and stick to the basics.
Coach Julio is an expert in fitness and nutrition, having helped hundreds of busy professionals in their 30s, 40s, and 50s be healthy, as well as offering nutritionist counseling services. He works out of El Paso, Texas, but also offers remote nutritionist counseling and online personal training. Coach Julio’s expertise is backed by over eight years as a personal trainer and a Master’s degree in Nutrition.
For information about working with Coach Julio for online personal training and nutritionist services, visit https://www.365physique.com/bookonline for a consultation