Nutrition is one of the most complex topics in contemporary society. It seems like each week there is a new diet, fad, or way of eating that is supposed to be the magic cure for all your ailments. The weight loss industry itself is worth over $200 billion, with projections to grow considerably to over $300 billion by the year 2027. As someone who has navigated this field and personally lost (and kept off) over 160 pounds for a decade, I want to share the 5 principles I live by when it comes to food, diet, and lifestyle eating strategies. However, before we jump into these principles, let’s take a wide angled view of diet culture.
Dieting has been around for centuries, One of the first articles published that critically examined obesity and its relation to diet was in 1863 by WIlliam Banting. His article, Letter on Corpulence Addressed to The Public, gave a firsthand account of his experience being morbidly obese and how he was able to lose weight sustainably. Banting consulted with a doctor to change his diet and lose weight by drastically decreasing his consumption of things like potatoes, bread, butter, beer, and sugar, while increasing his consumption of vegetables, fruit, fish, and other meat. Even more powerful than sharing his experience with changing his food and losing weight is his testimony to why he made these changes. He was fed up with things like feeling tired after climbing stairs, not being able to bend over to tie his shoes, the emergence of large boils on his skin, and overall feeling weighed down and lethargic. Banting’s spark for change was when he began experiencing hearing and sight loss attributed to his lifestyle. These types of experiences are not siloed and have been common for many others through history who have battled with obesity.
Both before and after Banting’s revelations, others have made changes for the sake of losing weight and increasing energy. For example, in the 11th century William the Conqueror became so fed up with his weight that he adopted an all liquid, alcohol based diet (I would not recommend). On the other end, Stanley Burroughs came up with the Master Cleanse Diet in the 1940s which was touted to cleanse the body and help folks lose weight. Fast forward to today, and there are hundreds of diets available for consumers to try. In fact, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (which houses one of the top health coaching programs in the country) covers over 100 different diets as part of their curriculum to prepare coaches for what they may encounter in practice. The diets they cover range from the carnivore diet to vegan, and include lesser known diets such as the 4-hour body diet and the peanut butter diet. Even more crazy, there have been diets that call for the consumption of non-foods to lose weight, including the eating of tapeworms in the 1800s and most recently the cotton ball diet. While there can be benefits to trying diets, we need to look at the underlying methodologies and why these diets exist to understand them.
Now, I am not saying any of these diets are good or bad (well, except for the tapeworm cotton ball diets, that’s f***ed up). On the contrary, I encourage my clients to experiment with different styles of eating to find what works best for them. However, the problem with many contemporary diets (including the ones listed above) is that they are focused on speed, not sustainability. Listen, we are already moving faster than humans ever have at any other point in history. We are flooded constantly with messages to accelerate, get more done, and be more efficient. Again, I am not saying that’s bad, but when it comes to food, we need to take it slow to see true success.
This raises the question: What the hell am I supposed to eat if I want to lose weight and keep it off?
To clear the noise and give it to you straight, here are my 5 basic principles of top notch nutrition.
1. Eat Real Food: This sounds simple but can actually be quite a task. We live in a society where processed foods are the norm, nutrients are an afterthought, and finding meals that are quick, easy, and cheap has become a top priority. When I say eat real foods, I mean the majority of our diet should consist of foods that are in their whole form. Things like:
- Vegetables and leafy greens
- Rice and whole grains
- Beans and lentils
- Unprocessed meat
- Nuts and Seeds
These are the foods that provide real nutrition and will help us not only lose weight, but live our most vibrant and thriving lives.
2. Read the Ingredients: Being a human in our current society, there will be times when we cannot eat a meal composed of 100% real, whole foods. So, to be strategic and put the best things in your body, you must be cognizant of what exactly you are consuming. Food products today are pumped full of chemicals and substances that can wreak havoc on our health. For example, there are well over 50 different names for sugar, there are gums and paste like substances added to many plant-based milks and hummus (it pisses me off that they f*** with hummus like that…), and things known to cause cancer (like sodium nitrite) are staples when it comes to food preservation. As a general rule of thumb: if you do not know what something is, run a google search and educate yourself before putting it into your body.
3. Eat More Fiber: There is a strange obsession with protein and its influence on weight loss within the health and wellness sphere. Protein is certainly important, but hardly ever overlooked when it comes to diet and food. On the flip side, research has shown time and time again that fiber is one of the most important AND least consumed nutrients available to us. Eating more fiber has been correlated with:
- Increased lean muscle mass and bone density
- Enhanced body composition
- Increased skeletal muscle strength and grip strength
- Deceased BMI, relative total body fat, and visceral fat
- Decreased fasting glucose and insulin
- Overall healthy aging
You can find fiber in plant based foods, and the best sources are: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lentils, and whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc.). Increasing your fiber intake by just 5-10 grams per day can have profound effects on weight loss and healthy living.
4. Calorie Consciousness: This is a topic that you may not have seen before, but the premise is really simple. We need to be conscious of our calorie consumption and expenditure on a regular basis. Too often folks trying to lose weight sabotage their progress by overeating, so I came up with the idea of calorie consciousness to put it in perspective. Use a calculator to get a basic understanding of what your base metabolic rate is (I like this one), pay attention to the calories in the foods you eat on a regular basis, and be conscious of if you are in a deficit or surplus daily. At the end of the day, if you want to lose weight, you must be in a calorie deficit (it’s science!).
**As I was typing out this point of calorie consciousness it turned out much longer than I anticipated, and I will write more about it in a future blog**
5. Have Grace with Yourself: This very well may be THE most important piece of the weight loss equation. Keeping yourself in a high vibrational state while avoiding feelings of guilt and shame is imperative to sustainable weight loss. As I have said before, we are human. There will be times when we overeat, days when we miss the gym, and moments where it feels so tough that we want to stop. Remember that you always have choice in each moment, and that taking time for self-care, reflection, and visualization can pay exponential dividends on the journey.
There you have it, 5 principles for top notch nutrition from a health coach and weight loss expert. If you have any questions, ranging from more info about the sources provided to seeing if you are a good fit for the Integrated Deceleration Program, do not hesitate to reach out. You can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or on my cell at 651-500-8162