What a Beginner Needs to Know About Dieting and Healthy Eating !
If you have ever watched "Biggest Loser", you should know that exercise alone won't cut it. You can sweat your butt off on a 30 minute cardio workout and only burn off the equivalent of a snickers bar. Those guys are on some extreme calorie and food restrictions. And you can see the results which include rapid weight loss, reversal of chronic illness, and increased vitality.
But we're not on a reality show, we don't have full time trainers. we don't have precooked meals, and who on earth has that kind of dedication?? It is not realistic to expect average Joe at home to be able to mimic this. So what do I do?
Good News!! it is not that hard. If it is, you're probably not doing it right. Stick with me to the end and I will give you the 3 steps for Eating Right.
If you have ever tried working out, there is always some coach, trainer, "expert", book, etc stating that you need to be "taking it up to the next level". To that I respond, "Why?". I have gotten to an age where I want to be fit, active, healthy and mobile. I don't care about being the next Olympian. The reason I bring this story up is that the same thing applies to eating habits. You don't have to be an uber psycho organic vegan hippie to be healthier. Heck, if you eat one less potato chip then you had yesterday, you are healthier than you were yesterday. See where I am going here? Baby Steps! You make small changes in your life that you can maintain for life. You determine when or even if you wish to take another step. If you bite off more than you can chew with a hard core health plan, you will probably not be successful and only become frustrated and defeatist. Lets say you start slow and walk a little each day and cut back on McDonalds. At the same time your best friend joins Cross-Fit and takes on a fad diet. The result will be that they lose 20 pounds the first month while you only lose 2. Of course, when they later crash and burn you will be steady plodding on your way. By this time next year, you will look and feel better while they are back where they started. More importantly, the dietary changes will no longer feel like changes, but will be your new norm. (Disclaimer, if you have some serious illness that requires immediate lifestyle changes, by all means,see you doctor and do it.)
In my early thirties, I ate at Bojangles every single morning for breakfast. At lunch I generally bounced around between McDonalds, Burger King, or if I felt healthy, maybe Chinese. Exercise consisted of walking in to eat instead of using the drive-thru. Needless to say my health was deteriorating quickly. Then I got sick and was in bed for three weeks only to develop an ulcer at the end of it. Dang it ! I wanted to feel better as soon as possible, so I followed an ulcer diet I found online to the tee. No fast food, no candy, no soft drinks, no spicey food, and no dairy until the ulcer was gone (3 months). Uggghh! I was forced to eat oatmeal for breakfast! I had to cook and prepare my lunches. The Horror! However, a funny thing happened. When the ulcer was gone, my overall health was dramatically improved. I also had lost the desire for soft drinks. No I didn't stay on that diet, but I didn't go back to the way I was. I continued to eat oatmeal (I came to like it) I seriously cut back on fast food. No more sodas. Unknowingly I had my first baby step. Guess what, my bloodwork magically starting getting much better. My next step happened when our finances took a plunge, but my expenses stayed the same) No more eating out! Period. For a year my wife and I cooked all of our meals eating whatever was in the closet or gotten through angel food ministries. Finances eased up, (they haven't returned yet) we discovered that I preferred home cooked meals to eating out. A new habit had formed. Later I got to meet author Dr. Ann Kulze. She gave me a copy of her book about eating healthy. Since me and my wife were already cooking most of our meals it was now just a matter buying the right foods to cook and not the junky ones. It wasn't a chore at all. Since I had been making baby steps over the years, the transition to her eating plan was not that difficult. In a nutshell, I am not a poster child for health. I still east fast food about every week and still have occaisional candy and chips. But the majority of what goes into me is good for me.
Okay, why did I bore you with my story? To illustrate, that you don't get there overnight. If you try to do too much to fast, you will probably fail. If you just change 1 thing in you eating habits, it will eventually be no big deal and the change will be a part of your life. At that point in time it is easy to say, "hey, I might just give up eating X" Over the long haul, this approach may prove to be very beneficial.
The Steps Instructions
Doing the steps in order is important, but you don't have to do all the steps. What matters is that you make a commitment to stick to a step for life. There is no pressure to move up the ladder. You chose to do that at your own pace. You choose where you stop. Just make sure you get rid of the "I'll try that for a while" mindset. You stick to whatever change you agree to make.
Don't ever drink a soft drink again ever! This includes diet drinks.
That's it. Nothing hard. No other requirements. Although substituting Kool-Aid for the sodas is a bit counter productive.
This change all by itself will probably amaze you. You will be surprised how many calories these produce. They also have other health damaging aspects. I recommend drinking only water, tea (sweetened with splenda/stevia) or coffee. The good news is that over time the desire for sodas goes away. Today I can't even drink sweet tea at a restaurant because it tastes like syrup. (I am a Southerner!!)
Don't eat any fast-food/ pizza more than once a week. No more than 2 desserts a week. (cake / candy bars / ice cream)
See, no one is limiting your calories here. Just breaking bad habits. If you are eating less junk food, you are by default making better choices for your body. The results won't show up in a week like a fad diet will, but they will show up.
Important note: I want to take this time to point out that most people tend to continue weight gain as they get older. If you are overweight now and don't make changes, you are not going to stay the same size, instead you will get heavier. The reason I need to point this out is because many people start improving their diet and exercising only to find they didn't lose weight, or even worse, gained. They give up in frustration and quit. What is really happening is that they are starting to watch the scale more than they used to. Although it shows you didn't lose any weight this month, what it doesn't show is how much you were going to gain if you hadn't made the change!! If you think you're going to drop weight like on Biggest Loser without blood sweat and tears, think again. This site is to help you get there slowly over the years and let it last.
For Step 3 I wish to refer you to any of the books written by Dr. Ann Kulze. You can find a link to them at the bottom of this page. This is the part of the diet where you actually start watching what foods you eat. You know, learning to eat real vegetables instead of frozen fried okra. Just as you would feel much better after your first month of steady working out, your first month of eating healthy makes a huge difference. Again, it doesn't have to be that hard. The main things are as follows. Just try to begin eating a serving of fresh produce/ vegetables with each meal until the habit sticks. The other thing is to avoid the "Great Whites". The great whites are white rice, white bread, and white potatoes. Just substitute 100% Whole Wheat Bread and Natural brown or long grain rice. Sorry, there is no good substitute for potatos. That was the hardest change I had to make and still struggle with it. All in all if fresh potatoes are your only vice, I don't think they are that bad. However, if you have high triglycerides, you need to avoid them like the plague. Finally, if you follow Dr. Ann's books, you have really reached the finish line for proper eating. STEP 4 is really for those who are just health nuts or deperate to treat some chronic illness.
The Paleo Diet: This is the hardest of healthy eating plans and is still debatable. Only for the psycho insane or those treating various chronic sickness. If you followed this diet there are a great many ailments you can prevent, manage, and sometimes reverse. I am not going into a discourse on all the benefits of this diet, but if you have been following Step 3 religiously and are still suffering from chronic illness, you may want to give the paleo diet a go. In a nutshell. You may eat all the fresh vegetables that you want. You may eat small portions of fruit each day. You may eat meat. That's it. You heard me, no bread, no cereals, no canned food, no processed food, and no dairy.
In case you are wondering, my wife and I are somewhere in the middle of STEP 3. We've done better, but we've done much worse. All in all, I am working out harder than I have in 30 years. I am eating better than I have in my life. Even I still get a little frustrated that my fitness level is not where I want it. Unfortunatley, as I alluded to in the blurb after STEP 2, I am just getting older. But, I am making the most of what God has given me now.
Vitamins and Supplements
I am not going to tell you which vitamins and herbs you should be taking, because that is highly individual and depend on your specific needs. That being said, I take quite a few. I have found the best prices come from Puritans Pride and Vitacost. Puritans Pride usually has the best prices, while Vitacost has a greater variety.