Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the diet and nutrition info out there? Just standing in the grocery store line looking at the magazine headlines you’ll realize you don’t have the ‘5 Foods that Make You Skinny’ in your cart. Or what if you have the ‘3 Foods That are Dangerous for Your Health?’ What if you have one of those in there?
And then there are the experts trying to lead you in their direction because they know best and their advice is going to help you. Right?
Everyone has heard (and maybe lived through) the intense focus on how much you eat. This has gotten way too much attention because while this does affect your weight and energy level, it’s certainly not the “holy grail” of health.
Let’s focus a bit more on the often overlooked (and proven) benefits of what you eat and drink and how you eat and drink it.
What You Eat and Drink
The “calories in, calories out” philosophy (i.e. how much you eat) is being drowned out with research on other factors that may be just as important. Don’t get me wrong limiting calories, carbs or fat can certainly help you lose weight but that’s simply not the only factor for long-term weight loss and maximum energy for everyone.
When the intense focus on how much we ate didn’t work in the long run it wasn’t really a surprise. We kinda knew that already, didn’t we? If it did, we would all be sitting around in our bathing suits looking at our 6-pack abs.
You can certainly still continue to count your calories, carbs, and fat but don’t forget to also pay attention to what you eat.
Ideally, you need a varied diet full of minimally-processed foods (i.e. fewer “packaged” “ready-to-eat” foods). This simple concept is paramount for weight loss, energy, and overall health and wellness.
Instead of Counting Calories, Focus on This:
Most days of the week, this is what you should shoot for:
- A colorful array of fruits and veggies at almost every meal and snack. You need the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
- Enough protein. Making sure you get all of those essential amino acids (bonus: eating protein can increase your metabolism).
- Healthy fats and oils (never “hydrogenated” ones). There is a reason some fatty acids are called “essential” – you need them as building blocks for your hormones and brain as well as to be able to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins from your uber-healthy salads. Use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, eat your egg yolks, and get grass-fed meats when possible. You don’t need to overdo it here. Just make sure you’re getting some high-quality fats.
How You Eat and Drink
The next simple tip: Pay attention to how you eat and drink. This sounds kind of obvious, but a lot of us eat mindlessly, myself included. Studies show that how you eat has more of an impact than we previously thought.
So think about this: Are you rushed, not properly chewing your food, and possibly suffering from GI issues? Do you eat while doing something else like watching TV or messing around on your phone?
When it comes to how you eat let’s first look at “mindful eating”.
Mindful eating means to take smaller bites, eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and savor every bite. Notice and appreciate the smell, taste, and texture.
This gives your digestive system the hint to prepare for digestion and to secrete necessary enzymes.
This can also help with weight loss because eating slower often means eating less. Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full?
We also know that more thoroughly chewed food is easier to digest and it makes it easier to absorb all of those essential nutrients.
And don’t forget about drinking your food.
Yes, smoothies can be healthy and a fabulously easy and tasty way to get in some fruits and veggies (hello leafy greens!) but drinking too much food can contribute to a weight problem and feelings of sluggishness.
Don’t get me wrong a green smoothie can make an amazingly nutrient-dense meal and is way better than stopping for convenient junk food – just consider a large smoothie to be a full meal, not a snack. And don’t gulp it down too fast.
If your smoothies don’t fill you up like a full meal does try adding in a spoon of fiber like ground flax or chia seeds.
The bottom line is, keep it simple and the weight loss will come. Eat veggies at every meal, get enough protein and make sure you get some healthy fats in there. I know we’re all conditioned to believe that everything has to be low-fat, but most of that stuff is garbage. Our bodies need some fat to feel satisfied.
Next – Just slow down. Try for just one meal a day to take your time while you eat and see how that changes how much you eat.
Now if you want a smoothie that will actually fill you up with yummy goodness, try this recipe.
Recipe (Smoothie meal): Chia Peach Green Smoothie
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 chopped peach
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
Add ingredients to blender in order listed (you want your greens on the bottom by the blade so they blend better and have the chia on the bottom to absorb some liquid before you blend).
Wait a couple of minutes for the chia seeds to start soaking up the almond milk.
Blend, Serve and Enjoy!
Tip: Smoothies are the ultimate recipe for substitutions. Try swapping different greens, fruit or seeds to match your preference.
Bonus: Chia seeds not only have fiber and essential omega-3 fatty acids but they contain all of the essential amino acids from protein.
Dalen J, Smith BW, Shelley BM, Sloan AL, Leahigh L, Begay D. Pilot study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): Weight, eating behavior, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2010;18(6):260-264. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2010.09.008