Create a healthy diet
Achieve a healthy life
There are several questions most people ask about weight loss.
- How can I lose weight quickly?
- How do I burn stomach fat?
- How many calories should I eat everyday?
And so on.
These are very common questions.
My first piece of advice is to forget everything about weight.
Don’t think about weight loss.
Forget about your fat.
If you think about it every day, you’re going to stress over it. As we all know, stress can be a contributor to weight gain and a host of other problems.
If you’re constantly thinking about how many calories you should eat, you’ll always be thinking about food.
Thinking about weight loss can lead you to think negatively about yourself and your body.
All of these thoughts keep you from acting. You can find yourself getting stuck in a loop of inaction and indecision.
First thing’s first. Stop dieting. There are a LOT of different types of fad-diets out there. Even those with a somewhat proven track record are still diets.
They’re restrictive. Most of them are only good for short-term gains. Once you get off that diet, if you go back to your normal diet, you start to gain back weight that you had loss (most likely fat-weight).
Do yourself a favor. Stop dieting.
Start a new healthy diet that becomes your sustainable, long-term life style.
Don’t just think. Do.
Make the Decision to have a healthy diet
I said the same thing in this article about exercise. Don’t think, don’t try, just do it.
The first step to having a healthy diet is the same. You must first decide that you want to change your overall diet. You have to make the decision to live a better life for yourself.
This is very important. Without that100% concrete decision, you won’t commit. It’s very, very rare that a half-hearted attempt turns into a fully committed, life changing decision.
So do yourself a favor. If you’re not willing to commit to this life-changing goal of improving your diet, then stop reading and move on. Put that energy into something else you are more interested in right now. Come back when you’re ready.
Still here? Let’s continue.
A quick point:
I am by no means a qualified nutritionist. If you do have any specific health problems, you should definitely talk to your doctor or a proper nutritionist for any special needs your body may require. Use my suggestions as a guideline.
That said, I have found that the lifestyle and diet that I lead has a positive effect for almost everyone I have coached.
Food and Calories
Let’s get this out of the way first. Food and its relationship with calories.
If you have a lot of body fat (over 20%) and you’ve already started exercising four or more times a week, then I suggest you don’t worry about counting calories.
Counting calories can be fun, but is better if your goal is to attain a certain body image.
Those of you looking to get that six-pack? Yeah, you are going to need to count calories. Along with daily exercise (and I do mean daily), counting calories and getting all your necessary nutrition is really the only way you are going to be able to get that six-pack.
You can probably start seeing your six-pack at around 15% body fat. It will really start to show at 10%.
Is it sustainable? It can be, but only if you are willing to put a lot of effort into getting there first. After you get there, it becomes easier to maintain it. Quite frankly, once you get there, you will probably want to stay there and keep it up. That’s great.
For the majority of us, we want something different. What we need is something more sustainable for the long-term.
Creating that sustainable diet
Having a healthy diet does not necessarily mean eating less. It’s about eating the right foods in the right quantity. However, you cannot deny that eating less calories will help you to lose weight.
Let’s use myself as an example. Take a look here. This is the caloric calculation for a 34 year old male that is 5’10” tall and weighs about 183 pounds that is lightly active. I would need about 2400 calories per day to maintain my weight, and 1900 calories per day if I want to lose 1 pound per week.
What does that mean? Does it mean that I just need to eat 2400 calories a day and I’m good? Can I pig out one day and not eat as much the next?
What if I want to lose 1 pound a week… what kind of weight am I losing here? Fat? Muscle? A combination of both?
When it comes to weight loss, you can’t just go by calories alone. It’s a guideline. And it’s why I don’t believe anyone who just wants to lose fat should strictly follow a caloric defecit, at least not until you get to around the 15% body fat mark.
Focus on Food
The first part to any healthy diet is to first write down what you are currently eating and drinking.
The name of the game for the first couple of days is baby steps.
On your first day, focus on what you are eating. Write down everything you eat. Don’t cheat yourself, just eat what you normally eat. The only thing that you’re doing different today is writing down exactly what you are eating.
At the end of the day, circle everything that is not natural. Anything that came in a package, circle it. If you had to tear off a wrapper, it was something that was probably made in a factory. Candy bars, chips, dried fruit; even if you think it was healthy, if you had to unwrap it, circle it.
Day Two: Don’t change anything yet. Remember, baby steps!
On this day, write down everything you drink throughout the day. Yep, you read correctly. You’d be surprised by how many calories you ingest from a cup.
Lattes, sodas, juices, water, coffee, vitamin and energy drinks: write them all down.
At the end of the day, if you drank something that wasn’t water, circle it. Yes, even tea, juice, and coffee, circle it.
Day Three: Nutrition
We’re not going to do anything too fancy on day three.
At some point in your day, I want you to take a look at your list of food and drinks. For everything you had circled, try to find the nutrition information. You can either look at the packages or bottles throughout the day, or search the internet for that information.
Pay attention to what’s on the labels. You may be surprised on what you find.
Most packaged foods, including so-called health foods, have a LOT of unnatural ingredients. Chemicals for preservation or color is just part of it.
The biggest problem is refined sugars and corn syrup. This shit will wreck havoc with your overall health. Almost everything that is prepackaged has a lot of added, refined sugar. This adds up very, very quickly throughout the day.
Your drinks may surprise you as well. Many people will buy bottled teas, juices, and energy drinks thinking they may be a healthy alternative. Unfortunately, much of that is just marketing bullshit.
Sugar. Sugar everywhere
You’ll find just as much sugar in bottled teas, juices, and energy drinks as you will in a bottle of coke. Sometimes even more.
When it comes to lattes, what are you adding to it? Milk and espresso isn’t actually bad. It’s the added, sugary syrups that you add that will increase the calories two-fold (and bad, refined sugary calories at that). A 16 ounce (grande) Starbucks latte is about 180 calories, but if you add that tasty hazelnut syrup, you’re suddenly flirting with 300 calories.
Here is a link for a Vitamin Water Zero. It’s a tricky one. While it looks healthy, you can see how there is a lot of added stuff to the drink (just what is modified food starch? Why do you need it in a drink?)
The moral of the story is, stay away from prepackaged goods if you want to have a healthy diet. Many, if not all, have added sugars and other chemicals to help preserve them or to add flavour.
So what should you eat?
Natural foods. You can’t go wrong with natural, grown from the earth foods.
Look at that. Mmm. Yum.
The problem with the typical western diet is that our bodies are used to eating a high amount of refined sugars, fats, and empty carbs.
If you want to have a healthy diet and healthy body, you need to get away from the western diet. At least 80% of your food intake should come from natural sources. Almost everything you see in the photo above should have everything you need for your body.
Add in nuts, legumes, and some whole grains, and you’ll have the complete package. Then add a little meat for protein and other nutrition your body needs.
But what about weight loss?
You may have noticed that I haven’t said anything about calories and weight loss yet.
That’s because it doesn’t really matter if your goal is to simply lose fat, gain fitness, and gain a healthy, long-term and sustainable healthy lifestyle. If you exercise at least three times a week (I recommend five times a week) and 80% of your food intake is natural, then that extra weight and fat will simply drip away over a long period of time.
There are tools out there that can help you track your food intake. One that I like to use is MyFitnessPal. It’s a good tool to track your food intake, and the free version is good for tracking basic nutritional needs. I highly recommend you give it a try, at least for a couple of weeks. It can certainly help you achieve your goal of a healthy diet and even help you track calories.
Fruit and Vegetables
“But Nathan!” I can hear you saying. “Everyone keeps saying eating fruits and veges has too much sugar and carbs! You’ll get fat!”
Well, of course fruits and vegetables have sugar and carbs.
However, it’s all natural ingredients. Your body is made to process these foods more easily and efficiently than processed, made in a lab or factory foods.
I get told a lot that I shouldn’t eat as much fruit as I do. On any typical day, I’ll eat an apple, several bananas, a persimmon, a dragon fruit, and whatever else strikes my fancy. I’ll also eat a bunch of veges.
None of these foods will have more sugar or carbs than most processed junk out there. Furthermore, your body won’t absorb as many sugars or carbs because of fiber.
Here’s the deal though: I don’t do smoothies or juicing. If you juice, you remove the fiber and other good stuff from the fruits and veges that help you feel full. You also get a lot more of that sugar in your body.
Also, don’t forget one other key component to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
I have a love / hate relationship with bread. I actually think that most bread is empty calories and really not that good for you overall. Whole wheat bread may have some sort of nutritional value, but the thing is, it’s just carbs.
This is good if you have a specific need for carbs. This quick energy is good for people who run a lot (typically 50kms or more a week) or for cyclists.
I really consider bread as just a filler or a snack. I rarely eat it, about once a week.
When I do want bread, I either buy it from a bakery or make it myself. I don’t buy any packaged bread from the store because most of that bread is packed full of factory ingredients.
Here is one food that I do eat regularly. Rice comes in many shapes and forms, but I typically eat regular white rice.
Rice isn’t the best, most nutritional food around. What it does have, though, is a lot of water. This allows your body to process it more easily. After all, our bodies are mostly water!
Rice is very easy to cook and great for trying out new recipes and flavours. You can add all sorts of different spices to it for different flavour combinations.
Gotta love me some rice. I just have to be careful not to eat too much!
Mmm, but cake…
Yes, I also like cake. And cookies. Chips. Gingerbread men with lattes.
They’re all good and tasty. I like them, you like them.
Remember, this is all about creating a long term, sustainable and healthy diet. Do you think you’re going to enjoy life sticking only to natural foods all the time? Possibly, but I know I like my pizza sometimes!
This is what I call the 80 / 20 rule. 80% natural, 20% stuff-my-face-with-yummy-cake.
Moderation is key
If there is only one take-away for you, that is to remember that moderation is key. We all like that tasty sweet stuff. We all want to have a pizza sometimes, or a big, juicy hamburger.
Making it a special occasion works for me. Once a week, normally on my weekend, I go downtown and find a cafe. I typically visit a new cafe twice a month, and I’ll try their sweets and lattes. It becomes special for me to go out there and eat something tasty and different.
Sometimes, I even make my own sweets!
Give it a try. You’ve been sticking with your healthy diet for five days. Over the weekend, go to town, find a nice cafe and have that cake and hazelnut latte.
Or stay home and find a recipe you can follow. Make your own cake. Have a family? Work together with your wife, husband, or child to make a treat for yourselves.
Stick with that 80/20 rule and keep the sweet, special treats on those special days.
We all fail
I’m not going to placate your feelings. You’re going to fail. I did, you did, we all have. And we will all fail again and again.
As long as you don’t stay down, you can get back up. Just get back up, and DO IT.
Remember, changing your body and your habits takes time. It took my six years to get where I am today. Over those years I changed my exercise routines, my diet, and my mental attitude. You can too, and I hope that this guide helps you achieve it faster than I did.
The 30 day challenge
Sticking with your new, healthy diet is probably the most important thing you can strive for. I challenge you to try it for 30 days. See how you feel after eating naturally and sticking to the 80 / 20 rule. Comment down below with your thoughts and let everyone know about your progress!
Next article in this series will focus on mentality and your inner mental state. Learning, setting goals (and how goal-setting can be bad) and how optimism can be your secret weapon.
I leave you now with some images of some home-made dishes.