Long long ago the word diet referred to what your dietary intake consisted of. Now it pertains primarily to what you limit your intake to. So when people ask me about what I think of ‘this diet’ or ‘that diet’ I often ask why they want to consider it and for how long will they be on it. Because if the ‘diet’ in question is only temporary, then I suggest you don’t waste your time or energy. Whatever gains or losses you make on this temporary way of eating will be lost when you return to your normal way of eating…thus your regular diet. Because your way of eating greatly supports your current health. But if you wish to make permanent changes to the way you eat, I am in full support. Because permanent changes in diet make for permanent changes in health. Temporary changes will get you just that…temporary changes.
When deciding what changes or ‘diet’ to implement, make sure they are lifelong options. If you wish to give up dairy, can you do this on a long term basis? If not, you may need to consider how much you can realistically reduce if that is the direction you wish to go. Same can be said for giving up meat, sugar and gluten. Decide what is realistic and make that small change part of your ‘diet’.
The real reason for my discussion on diet is because this world is obsessed with diets. Not what you eat but what magic diet of restriction and excess is in fashion. I recently got asked about the wisdom of the Paleo diet and the Ketone diet. Both will have a positive impact on weight or they wouldn’t be so popular. But can you live on it? From here on out? For many, that is a yes. But if not, what do you expect to happen to your body when you go back to your preferred way of eating?
What I would like people to consider is to learn about what changes their preferred diet suggests and make those changes to their current way of eating with the idea that this will be how they eat from here on out. With any diet or way of eating there will be moments where you stray but they should be so incredibly rare. Because this new way of eating is your lifestyle. So if you decided sugar was no longer in your plan, then what can you do to provide a delicious treat for your birthday bash? It will likely be something not traditional and more in line with your diet aka new lifestyle. Also can be said for those who gave up meat and went plant based. Your idea of barbequing is now likely to be veggies on the grill and not a burger. Your choices in restaurants will be reduced and going out or grilling are not excuses to revert to prior eating. Because you made these changes to your diet for a reason and those reasons still exists and are valid and worth staying true to.
So when you think the word diet, I want you to think of it as how you eat. Your food choices, your way of life from here on out.
If you eat based on the USDA Food Pyramid, you may have a weight problem. More problematic with the USDA Food Pyramid is you may have other health problems like Type II diabetes, increased risk of heart disease and/or high cholesterol. Here is why this food pyramid is not recommended for optimal health.
At the top they ask you to limit fats but not all fats are bad. In fact, many plant based fats benefit the heart such as fats found in nuts, olive oils and coconut oils. They suggest that you need your protein from meat, this is also not true. Unfortunately, if you get your protein from red meat you also take in high levels of cholesterols and saturated fats which are not heart healthy. There is no mention of beans or nuts, which are great sources of protein and heart healthy as well. They state that dairy is necessary which is also not true. They believed this was necessary based on its source of calcium for strong bones. You do need calcium in your diet, but dairy is not the best source of calcium. You can get plenty of calcium from spinach, broccoli, oranges, kale, almonds, sesame seeds and figs. Most horrifying for me is they only recommend 2-3 servings of vegetables and fruit verses starchy carbs at 6-11 servings per day. You cannot take in 6-11 servings of pasta, bread and potatoes and expect to maintain a healthy weight. Especially since those items are usually topped with sugar and/or saturated fat food like pasta sauces or butter. Not to mention these simple sugars break down in the body quicker resulting a higher glycemic value and creating havoc with insulin levels.
Ironically the foods protected by the government are simple carbs (grains & sugars), dairy and red meat. The government supplements many crops such as corn, wheat, soy & dairy to the tune of about $20 billion a year (source: USDA). They are not the healthiest choices in any diet yet this is why chips, bread, red meat, milk and sugar are so cheap to consume. It is also why those items are often more affordable than eating plant based. Vegetables, nuts and beans are not supplemented by the government so you pay real value.
In the old days, way back when we used animals for transportation, the rich were fat and the poor were thin. In today’s society where vegetables are costlier than bread and bologna we see the rich are thin while the poor are suffering with obesity and the negative health effects of obesity. Individuals and families who can afford to make these changes are seeing increased health and lower weight but these changes are costly. Healthy changes are financially challenging for low income populations.
There have been attempts to implement new pyramids by Harvard and other nutrition based organizations but the standards of the old pyramid are ingrained in everyone’s understandings and beliefs about what foods are good and what to avoid. Please consider the new pyramids as a starting point to make necessary changes to your overall health and maintaining a healthy weight. Long term health is a worthwhile goal.
Tabata’s are great interval workouts that fit super busy schedules, travelers with no gym access or anyone who wants to get a quick and intense workout at home or park. Tabata was created from the research of Izumi Tabata who found that quick burst of intense exercise was just as effective, if not more so, than steady state workouts. With a Tabata you choose bodyweight moves for each round which are 4 minutes in length. Most Tabata’s use 4 exercises, but I have done them with 6 or even 7 different exercises. You conduct the move for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds until that 4 minutes is complete, 8 rounds total.
The key is a great Tabata app. There are several on the market, but the free apps are fantastic. My favorite is Tabata Stopwatch and I have both the Android and iPhone version. The Quick 4 Minute Workout is another Tabata app but only available for iPhone. If you wish to pay for an app the highest rated app that has iPhone and Android options is the Tabata Pro ($5). There are plenty of apps that have customizable interval timers but I prefer the presets of the Tabata apps. They call out the starts and rests as well as have countdowns for those starts and rests. That way you don’t have to be watching the clock which is hard to do when completing the move in question.
Start with a warm up: jogging in place, jumping jacks, etc. Then pick bodyweight moves and complete that move for the entire 4 minute Tabata round. Here is my list of favorite bodyweight moves: Burpee, push-up, lunges in all varieties, slow mountain climbers, inchworms, squats, jump squats, bench step ups, plank, wall sits, curtsy lunge, split lunge jumps, Bulgarian squats, single leg deadlift, superman, dips, double crunches, abmat sit ups, flutter kicks, side plank, bicycle crunches, jumping jacks and skipping rope.
So for the price of free (app) and your body (already have…aka free), you have a workout plan!
If you have ever watched HGTV shows relating to fixing up homes or selling and buying homes, then you know the biggest part of any decision always includes the kitchen. Everyone seems to want, need or require a gourmet/large kitchen. I find this ironic because so few people I talk to admit to actually cooking regularly or liking to cook in general. In fact, more people admittedly prefer quick foods (i.e., prepared foods), eating out or ordering delivery. You don’t need a designer kitchen to heat up water for Mac n Cheese or pizza delivery. Not sure why are kitchens so important when so few people cook?
I think kitchens are incredibly important because we all need to be cooking more. We all need more time in the kitchen, both men and women. We need to prep our meals for those who work and need food to take for lunches. We need to cook from raw ingredients as often as possible and utilize our kitchens more. In fact, we need to be in them daily, cooking from scratch. Doesn’t matter if they are large, gourmet or tiny little galley kitchens. It’s what you do in them that’s truly important.
We aren’t cooking enough and boxed/fast food choices are bad for our health and our waistlines. We are all busy but cutting out the cooking portion of our day is like ‘robbing peter to pay paul’. You short cut the one thing that truly helps you stay, be and live healthy. What are you making time for by not cooking from raw ingredients? More time in front of the television? More time to work extra hours from home? If you have a big fancy kitchen, its even better for family time or together time. Even those little galley kitchens make for some cozy cooking and conversations.
Cooking isn’t easy for everyone, especially if you are used to always wanting short cuts. But eating food you prepared from raw ingredients is always the healthy way to go. So many prepared foods are loaded with chemicals and added sugars so that you are never better off taking those short cuts. Take the time to learn how to make a few meals you enjoy eating. Plus, learning to cook is so much easier now days with easy access to YouTube, cooking shows, cooking channels, online recipes or local cooking classes through private chefs, cooking schools or culinary retail shops.
The healthiest people I know cook all their food from home and often from tiny kitchens. They may enjoy a pizza on the weekend but they made it at home and from ingredients that are fresh and clean. And yes, they taste great.
You don’t need a big kitchen to be a cook, but if you have one…utilize it!
I love numbers, probably because I was a science student and they represent something. But that is all they are, a representation of information. They change as changes are made but I don’t put much power beyond that into a number. These numbers can be your BMI, your weight, your body fat, how many full body push-ups you can do or even your pant size. They are just numbers, aka data. But I am finding that many people around me put a lot of power into these numbers. STOP!
You may not like your BMI number but are OK with your body fat percentage. You may not like your weight but your body fat you are happy with. These are just numbers designed to let you know where you sit in the ranges of all numbers. They will not match your friends, many factors play into these numbers and good news, changes to them are usually at your control.
I pop on the scale pretty regularly to see what’s happening. I know what I weigh and what my range is and I simply note those numbers. I love having my body fat measurements taken especially by the bod-pod’s (long story short…I am excellent at caliper testing and will judge those around me for their very questionable skills…thank you to my college fitness labs for forcing/enhancing my skill in caliper testing) I use these numbers as tools not weapons. I wear different sizes based on brand and when that size is low, I know that the company is ‘generous’ in their sizing and when its higher, then well that is the size I wear in that brand. It’s just a tool so next time I shop them I know what to grab for the dressing room or better yet, makes online shopping a breeze.
We need to stop letting these numbers control our thinking. Rewarding ourselves when we buy a dress and the size on the label is lower than usual. Or getting down because our body fat measurement isn’t where we want it to be or greater than your friends number. They are numbers to guide you not define you. If you wear a size 10 and only a size 10 but the industry changes it and now all size 12’s fit the new size 10 then what; you now only wear clothes too big for you? It’s a guide. Designed so that when you pick up a dress and it’s too big or too small, you go back to the rack and select another size in either direction. Thank you mass production since we no longer have to be measured by a seamstress for our custom fit clothing of days long ago. If there were no sizes or unit of measure on a dress or pant, you’d have to take 10 items into the dressing room and try each one until you found one that fit. Numbers are that simple.
Do you really need a number telling you your body fat percentage to know that you are at a good body fat number or have body fat to lose? What knowing these numbers do is give you a start point and when you retest, an end point. If you wish for a different number, you make necessary changes in your life or way of eating then note what works or doesn’t work and test a third time and a fourth time to really know the impact of your changes. They help you design your life, not define it. They make clear what you probably already know about your body, not who you are or your worth in this world. They let you know if your chosen changes made the impact you wanted to make, not validate whether or not you hold value as a human.
Do not give numbers so much power. Take them for what they are and all they are is information. Use that information to make you the version of you that you and only you wish to be.