As we all know, good nutrition is an important component of a balanced healthy life, but we sometimes get lost as to what good nutrition is! The basics are easy, eat lots of fruit and vegetables, choose mostly low fat dairy and lean meat, don’t eat junk food excessively, but is that getting you where you want to go with your weight goals?
This is because, although these are really important points, they are not the crux to healthy balanced eating. Some important things to remember are firstly, eating enough (too little will slow down the metabolism), secondly, eating regularly (every 3-4 hours is best) and thirdly, having some form or ‘immediate’ energy food (starch, fruit, dairy) at each meal/snack.
First I want to speak about blood sugar levels. Blood sugar controls your mood, your energy, your appetite and cravings, your metabolism and also believe it or not, fat storage and usage. Some very important things that fluctuate blood sugars include skipping meals and snacks e.g. breakfast and then overeat when you do eat; not eating enough carbohydrates (such as low carbohydrate diets); eating refined sugars, which is quickly absorbed; exercising for a long time on an empty stomach; certain medical conditions (diabetes); and alcohol all cause the blood sugar levels to fluctuate
The second important concept is our metabolism, which is defined as a combination of all the processes in our body, from digesting food to contracting muscles and so on. The metabolism can be compared to a fire that needs to keep burning. The fire needs to keep burning for all the processes in the body to keep going. If it slows down, all the processes in our body will slow down. And this is something we want to prevent, as it will lead to more fat storage because less energy is needed to perform daily functions. And just as you must put wood on the fire regularly to prevent it from eventually dying down to coal, so too we must constantly fuel our bodies. The fuel for our fire is food, and preferably carbohydrates, as these are the easiest for the body to use.
Things that will slow down our metabolism include starvation and fad diets because they are usually such low kJ diets; years of yo-yo dieting and weight cycling; inactivity as this causes us to have a lower muscle mass, and muscle is more metabolically active than fat; medical conditions (thyroid); and aging.
So how can we increase our metabolism? Eat every 3-4 hours i.e. eating 5-6 meals a day; eat carbohydrates at every meal or snack; eat complex carbohydrates (fruit, whole-wheat products); drink plenty of water; eat small amounts of low fat protein and unsaturated fats; eat breakfast every day – if you skip it you won’t get hungry until much later.
Weight loss, increase appetite, and increased energy levels are common signs of an increased metabolism.
The third important concept is being in tune with your hunger and satiety
If you ask yourself the question ‘why do I eat?’ your answer should be really simple: because I am hungry and need the energy to perform daily activities. We should be eating when we are hungry, and similarly with ‘why do you stop eating’ – it should be because I am satisfied.
However, the problem is that many people are no longer in tune with their hunger and satiety signals. Denying a hunger signal will cause the signal to decrease and eventually disappear. Also, eating because the food is there, or for reasons other than hunger (such as boredom, stress, or depression) means that we are no longer nurturing a true hunger, but more likely eating to nurture an emotion. These eating patterns will also lessen the true hunger signals.
When binge eating occurs often the body no longer knows when it is satisfied, as people continually eat past satiety.
The simplicity of eating when hungry and stopping when full is what you should be striving for.
When you get into a healthy eating ROUTINE you will find that your goals are so much easier to attain!
There is a lot of unnecessary as well as unconscious eating that takes place, and many people eat too much for their daily needs. We need surprisingly small amounts of food to function…
And as a go home message, I want you all to remember that you are human – no one expects you to be perfect 100% of the time!