One thing I have been hearing a lot lately is: I eat pretty healthy.
Whether it’s a client trying to lose some body fat, a friend puzzled by their sudden weight gain, or my Dad who is starting to develop a little belly (I say this in the most loving way Dad).
They all say the same thing – I eat pretty healthy.
Even when the coin is flipped its more of the same.
For example, when I asked a friend of mine, who recently had a baby, how she got her pre-pregnancy body back in less than 3 months, she proclaimed “…. because I eat pretty healthy.”
And yesterday while at the gym I chatted with this 70-year-old lady, who I see walking the beach everyday in the tiniest bikini ever (looking fab by the way), and asked how she kept herself up so well… And yes, you guessed it, she also responded, “Because I eat pretty healthy”.
So you see my point here, everyone thinks they eat healthy, regardless of their physical appearance.
But are these people all actually eating healthy?
Can we assume just because someone appears healthy (or not overweight) that they are actually healthy?
Can eating healthy food make you unhealthy (overweight)?
What Do We Mean by “Healthy”?
More importantly – What the heck is eating healthy?
It seems like everybody has a different answer.
One person believes if you wear a size 4 you’re eating healthy, while another person believes eating vegan is healthy.
I’ve worked with enough clients and discussed this with enough people to have heard the gamut of responses. And maybe you have too?
One thing I know for sure -people think about eating healthy totally different.
So how do you think about eating healthy?
Do you think it’s about eliminating certain foods? Or adhering to a certain philosophy?
I believe that there isn’t any one way to eat healthy, but instead you must apply some actual thinking to how you eat. And in order to be able to properly think about eating healthy, you’ll need to develop a few skills around food awareness. Here are a few key things you need to have a working knowledge of:
- Know how much you are eating. You need to know the amount of food you are eating because you can’t eat unlimited amounts of food, even if it is healthy. Portion size and total calories do matter. Learn how to easily approximate serving size. Examples: a fist full is 4-6 ounces of meat, a deck of playing cards is 3 ounces of meat, and a small apple is 1 cup.
- Know the nutritional content. I’m not saying you have to know every single vitamin, mineral, or nutrient, but it’s good practice to start getting an understanding of the approximate proportions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates in any food that you eat.
- Sugar Awareness. I find most people know soda, cookies, and candy have sugar. But when it comes to hidden sugars that come in the form of condiments like soy sauce, ketchup, balsamic vinegar, often times they’re overlooked. And they can really add up. Also crackers, bread, and cereal have sugar.
- How you feel. Do certain foods make you feel tired, crappy, or even hungry after you eat them? Pay attention to what your body is telling you. It’s your wisest teacher.
- Tracking. How do you monitor or track what you’re eating? There is a great online resource called Lose It where you can track everything you’re eating and then look at the overall calories and macronutrient (carbs/proteins/fat) breakdown of your daily food intake. This can be eye opening, it certainly was for me :).
Now let me give you an example of why these skills are important.
In order to change your body you need to know where you are starting. Often times what we think we are eating is much different than what we actually eat – once we get a clear picture of it. Having the above skills will help you do just that.
Once you know where you’re at combined with your specific fitness goal, you can pivot in the direction of your goals. Different goals require different strategies and each person has their own unique metabolism dictating how certain foods affect them.
Let’s use my Dad (pictured above) as an example whose goal is fat loss. As he has gotten older, he has gained some weight around his waistline. Now, my Dad would tell you he eats healthy, and I can vouch for the fact that he really does. He never eats fast food, fried food, and very little processed food. Lunch and dinner mostly consist of lean protein with veggies and when we go out to eat he always subs rice or potatoes for extra vegetables. No desserts or sweets.
So on the surface it looks like he is an ultra healthy eater. But he has this belly, so why?
When I asked my Dad some simple questions about his daily intake of food it became clear that although he thought he knew what he was eating, until we looked at it a bit more deeply, he didn’t really fully understand. We applied the skill set I listed above to get a complete picture of what he was eating.
Together we uncovered a few things:
- He was eating way too many calories. Although it was real, unprocessed food it was too much.
- He wasn’t eating enough dietary fat. My Dad still had the old school mentality around fat and thought it was unhealthy (read more about that here). But fat is important for many reasons one of them being satiation. Because he wasn’t eating enough fat he wasn’t feeling full, so he overate.
- He was eating too many carbs and sugar. They were coming in the form of fruit smoothies, but he was using too much fruit. And fruit has sugar.
Once my Dad had a clear understanding of what he was actually eating, it became very easy to adjust.
This is the real power of awareness – it puts you in control.
So, when it comes to eating healthy, it’s really not about any one way. It’s about finding a sustainable approach that’s unique to you. And the best way to insure this is by deepening your awareness of what you are eating through developing a set of skills that will allow you to better assess if you truly are eating healthy.
If you’re interested in developing these skills while shedding fat and creating a leaner & stronger YOU, click here to get on the wait-list for our 30-Day Stronger and Leaner Program – Online coaching begins January 16, 2017.