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Healthy Eating - Education not Deprivation

Have you heard the saying that 80% of what you look like is what you put in your mouth and that 20% is your exercise routine?  It’s something that I not only preach but practice, too.  As you may have read on my website, I have been through a lifestyle change with my diet and exercise over the past four years and now weigh 12 kg lighter.  I did this through not only working my butt off at the gym but with a change in how I was eating.  When I tell my clients that I know what I’m talking about, I actually do, and I know that those people who don’t lose weight or change once they have started an exercise programme are the ones that will not change what and how they eat.  No matter how much time you spend in the gym, you cannot exercise off a bad diet.

I follow the principles of Clean Eating and, once again, the 80/20 rule applies.  Eat clean 80% of the time and have your ‘treats’ 20% of the time.  So how do you do it?  Well, simply put, clean eating is the practice of avoiding processed and refined foods (and sugars) and basing your diet on whole foods and organic or free range meats and dairy.  I liken it to turning back time to when your grandmother or great grandmother cooked.  They didn’t have packets and jars with labels listing ingredients that have unpronounceable names - they bought fresh food and cooked it themselves.

In theory it’s extremely simple, but putting it into practice can be a little trickier.  It means more thought and planning and taking your snacks and meals with you so you aren’t reliant on the café or dairy when you get hungry.  It generally involves planning your menus and shopping accordingly.  Sound too hard?  Let’s have a quick look at the benefits:

 It’s easier to maintain a healthy weight, which reduces the risk of several diseases.

  • Eating a good variety of foods ensures you get adequate amounts of most essential nutrients.
  • Relying on whole foods is the best way to get a good combination of micronutrients.
  • Whole foods keep you satisfied longer so you’re less tempted by junk foods.
  • Foods high in micronutrients can help reduce cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar.
  • Whole foods help keep your digestive system regular.
  • Eating a healthy diet makes you stronger so you can stay more active.
  • Avoiding artificial ingredients keeps your cells strong so your body systems work efficiently.
  • If you feel good, you’re more likely to take care of yourself in other ways.

I always ask my clients to keep a food diary.  This not only gives me the chance to see how I can help point them in a direction of better choices but it also gives them variety in what they eat and teaches them to think for themselves rather than having someone dictate to them what they eat on a daily basis.  My belief is that if you can educate yourself around food then it becomes a habit and a lifestyle and the yo-yo dieting ceases.  It also means that you aren’t on any fad diets or spending money on ‘diet’ meals or systems.

So what about the 20% I hear you ask?  Well, if your aim is to reduce body fat then you need to exercise very regularly – building your muscle and ‘getting your puff on’ with some form of cardio and you need to eat clean 80% of the time.  On a Friday or a Saturday you then get to have your ‘treat meal’ for being good all week.  Now, that’s not a weekend of over-indulgence – it’s one meal.  Whether that be a frothy latte and a piece of chocolate cake out for morning tea with your friend, or sharing a cheese laden pizza with your partner on a Saturday night.  Thoroughly enjoy every mouthful and don’t feel guilty.  Get back onto your 80% horse with the next meal and then wait for your 20% to come back around again.

Alcohol is also a treat.  Wine is full of empty calories and all alcohol goes straight to your belly.  Drink moderately throughout the week or save a couple of glasses for the weekend.

Changing the way you eat doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes time, thought and perseverance but I believe that if there is a will there is a way.  It is quicker to have a takeaway or a pasta sauce out of a jar but that’s also the lightning route to feeling like crap and taking the highway to an earlier grave. 

The last thing you want to feel is deprived when you eat.  Food should be savoured and enjoyed – not tiny portions with just a baked chicken breast and steamed vegetables.  Educating yourself around food means that you can eat well and eat a lot – just of the good things!

To sum up:

  • If it’s in a packet (barring rice, pasta, etc) avoid it.
  • If you don’t understand what you’re reading on the label - avoid it.
  • If it’s got added sugar – don’t eat it.
  • It’s healthier to eat one homemade cookie than a shop bought one.
  • And, no, it’s not just for hippies.

Until next time…..