So with Christmas and the New Year firmly in the rear-view mirror and the distinct taste of regret for eating too many mince pies/Lindt chocolates/[insert vice here]s still lingering in everybody’s bowels, the time has come for everyone to utter those famous words: “New Year, New Me”.
Considering that most New Year resolutions normally revolve around the subject of getting in shape or ‘losing weight’, a lot of people tend to begin with the best of intentions but don’t know where to start. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of conflicting advice so haphazardly dished out in most ‘fitness’ magazines, and even worse, women’s magazines, so it leaves people without a strong base of knowledge to start from.
Therefore I present to you a few basic pointers to help anyone reading this get started. You probably won’t find anything groundbreaking here, and you may even know it all, but stick with these key rules and you’ll be quickly on your way to that “New You”.
Basic stuff. Drink more of it. Unless you’re making a conscious effort to drink it throughout the day then you’re probably walking around dehydrated. The effects of chronic dehydration on the body are too numerous to go into detail in this article, but drinking more of it can help with anything ranging from making your skin glow, helping digestion, weight loss, Eczema, cholesterol and combating fatigue. Put it this way: your body is made up of anywhere from 55% – 75% water. It’s pretty important.
Replace as many of your daily drinks as you can with water. Not only will your body thank you (water is a MUCH better choice for your digestion than a fizzy drink full of carbon dioxide) but your wallet will too (an added incentive) if you choose to opt for a tap water with a meal.
Side note: Caffeine-free or low-caffeine hot drinks are also a good choice, such as green or herbal teas.
2. Fruit and Vegetables
Oh I know, I hear the sigh of exasperation at this one. I didn’t want to believe it either, but it’s true. There are far too many benefits to be had from good fruit and veg. Your best bet is to eat the ones that give the best bang for your buck with regards to health. For example, having a salad consisting of lettuce won’t do much for you, but eating one consisting of spinach leaves and broccoli will at least comfort you with the fact that you’re getting some benefits out of it.
Try and find a way you can make yourself enjoy these. If it means throwing on a dressing to make it bearable then go ahead, just don’t go bat-shit crazy with the amount. Your broccoli does not need a swim.
The first thing I look at when analysing a person’s eating diary, and more often than not the thing they can all improve on is the amount of protein they take in. Protein is important for so many reasons, mainly growth and repair, but eating more protein also helps with satiety, making you feel fuller for longer (less binging).
The other plus side to making protein a priority in your diet is that the TEF (Thermic Effect of Food) is much greater than that of both carbs and fats. This means your body will expend more energy in order to simply digest and process it, even while resting.
Eat protein with every meal, as it helps to blunt the impact of everything else you eat with it, keeping your blood sugar stable.
Good sources include: Any form of meat, as well as the following, which are good sources for the Veggies out there: Eggs, milk, cheese, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, legumes and whole grains, such as quinoa.
If you’re exercising (which you should be), protein intake should range from between 1.2 grams per kg of bodyweight (for those who do more endurance based exercise) to 2.5 grams per kg of bodyweight (for those who are heavily into their strength training or bodybuilding). If you’re not exercising (tsk tsk), the absolute minimum intake should be 0.8 grams per kg of bodyweight, but more would be better.
Used primarily for energy, however most people over-consume the types of carbohydrates that cause issues (SUGAR), and under-consume the types that they should be consuming. Eating foods that chronically elevate your insulin, such as sugar and “white” foods that lack fibre, can cause insulin resistance, where the cells in your body are unable to use insulin (and therefore the food that you take in) as effectively (meaning it’s more likely to be stored as fat). This can lead to conditions such as hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia and Type 2 Diabetes.
Saying that, carbs are not the enemy. Your brain is one of the biggest carb-hogs in your body, and unless you want to switch into ketosis then you should not devoid yourself of them. Where possible, get your energy from wholegrain sources, such as brown rice (basmati is also acceptable), sweet potatoes, oats (NOT muesli) and fruit (although fruit has a higher sugar content, it also contains fibre which slows down its impact on the body).
Bacon and eggs for everybody! Well, not quite… but make sure you get more of the good ones and less of the bad ones.
- Saturated Fats. Increase testosterone levels. (REAL butter, whole eggs, red meat)
- Monounsaturated Fats. Protect against heart diseases and cancers. (Extra virgin olive oil, olives, mixed nuts)
- Polyunsaturated Fats. Increase testosterone levels, promote fat loss and decrease inflammation. (Fish oil, ground flax seeds, mixed nuts)
DO NOT avoid good fats. A deficiency in dietary fat can cause depression, increased appetite, high cholesterol, increased risk of cancer and heart disease. Fat also helps keep you feel satisfied for longer. These guys had the right idea:
6. Total calories and the quality of the food matter, not what time of the day it is
Forget the whole “eat every 2-3 hours to rev up your metabolism” mantra. It’s bullshit. Your body is not a car.
What matters is simply a combination of how many calories you ingest versus how many you expel and how your body deals with the food you take in. I won’t go into details here, but if your body is insulin resistant, your digestive system chronically inflamed or you have hormone imbalances then your body won’t be efficient at partitioning macro-nutrients or using them efficiently, which in turn increases the likelihood of food being stored as body fat.
This is a very simplified way of putting it, but what it comes down to is that those years of demolishing sugary sweets and fizzy drinks have probably done you more damage than you think. The good news is that you can fix these issues by eating certain foods (Cinnamon, for example helps to increase insulin sensitivity).
7. Aim for the 80/20 rule
Some people will make this the 90/10 rule, eating whole foods 90 percent of the time with 10 percent being designated ‘treats’, but let’s be realistic, especially when people start their journey it probably won’t happen. What it comes down to is make the target to eat as well as possible most of the time, and allow yourself the odd treat/fuck up (note: this does not include binging).
We are but human, and everybody has their own vice (cheesecake) so make sure to treat yourself every so often. Your sanity will thank you.