Healthy Body, Healthy Game: Nutrition & Dietary Regimes
Let’s keep it simple.
First, be aware of what your intake is. Keep a food diary for how long it takes. Note roughly how much of your food is carbohydrate, fats and protein. Note your rough portion size. Note when and why you snack. Note how you eat your food. Note the way you eat in relation to someone of similar genetic mix to you that you consider healthy. Read through the nutritional values in anything you buy. You’d be surprised how much you start to do simply because of the insight you attain simply from taking the time to observe.
Now make small, gradual changes. Different strokes for different folks, but small gradual changes are what stick for me rather than a dramatic instant change. As a general principal, gradual change is easier for your body to adjust to.
What adjustments to make? It depends on what you’ve seen from your analysis. Here’re some suggestions:
- Simple sugars are ‘bad’ carbohyrates, and complex sugars or fibre are good carbohydrates. You could look for markers such as the glycaemic index of foods: the lower the index, the better. The lower the glycaemic index, the more time that carbohydrate takes to get broken down and the less of a sugar rush you get all at once attacking your system, and the less of an associated low and increase in appetite that comes after it. You could add more cereals, bran, fruits and vegetables to your regimen, whilst minimising the sweets to rarer treats.
- Trans fats are definitely ‘bad’ fats, saturated fats may or may not be ‘bad’ fats but not as bad [ed: see here]. Unsaturated fats are relatively good fats. The main thing to aim for is to definitely avoid trans fats (hydrogenated oil: one hidden one to watch out for is french fries in fast food chains) and increase your intake of unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats can be found in all sorts of places some of which are nuts and oily fish.
- Especially during the times you’re working out, it’s definitely worth thinking about kicking up your protein intake a notch.
- Lowering your salt intake is thought to be protective of blood pressure. Start by not adding salt to your foods. You’ll get used to the taste quickly enough, and there’ll be salt added to whatever sauces you use anyway.
- The nutrient yield from organic foods gram for gram is meant to be better than their counterparts. Organic fruit and vegetables also contain more antioxidants. In general, opt for food that is higher quality if you can and produced in a cleaner way. You are what you eat, and spoiling yourself this way is not a waste at all. Attempt to grow your own vegetables: I’ve managed tomatoes in pots in a flat! I won’t pretend the yield was great, but it certainly is much more satisfying.
- Rediscover the joy of cooking. Cooking is a good option, including storing for yourself a meaty salad or some such for your lunch to work. The advantage of cooking is that you know what you eat, you control how much it costs and you have fun doing it. I like cooking as a social activity. Don’t forget you eat with your eyes too: a dish presented beautifully gives you more pleasure.
- Watch the way you eat. Savour your food: look at it and smell it and taste it and chew slowly. Don’t eat until you’re too full but don’t leave yourself hungry either. Take small portions and then go back for more.
- Be aware of your needs and what your body is telling you. Match your intake roughly to your individual energy expenditure, which will be different from everyone else’s. If you’re having a lazy day, you’ll need less energy than if you’re stressed, run off your feet all day at work and went to the gym. The exception is when you’re sick: you’ll need to up your intake.
- Recognise the triggers for you eating in ways that you consider unhealthy. Do you do it when you’re bored, when you’re in a group of people who have atrocious eating habits, when you want comfort, when you’re in the kitchen or if you leave the cookies out in plain sight instead of hidden away? Whatever trigger you identify, you need to avoid it or psychologically change your reaction.
- When you do treat yourself occasionally, do it guilt free and genuinely enjoy yourself. Knowing that you will treat yourself means you don’t cave in to temptation meanwhile.
I’m going to emphasise again that you need to aim for permanent change that suits you. You don’t have to be perfect. Aim for long-term change and avoid faddy crash diets. Weight fluctuations aren’t particularly good for you: for example, they result in a loss of elasticity to your skin thus dreaded stretch marks and quite possibly an accelerated ageing process. There’re theories that the fluctuations cause other forms of harm to the body, but there’s not quite enough evidence to say either way. In any case, fluctuating habits don’t achieve the goal of a stable increase in contentment and health.
Pertinent to our talk of health and diet is aoefe’s adventures with paleo.