With so many fad and yoyo diets out there, it can be hard to decipher what is good advice and what is bad. Here is some rule of thumb guidelines to follow to achieve lifelong results instead of some weird diet you’ll try and never learn those long term habits.
1. Read and understand food labels. There is a tendency today, to believe what you see and hear. Just because it says all natural, organic or fat free or healthy doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for us. Food companies can and will put whatever they want on their packaging to entice you to buy it based on trends in the market. Here’s what I would suggest. Read the nutrition label on the back. Check sugar content. Anything with more than 4 grams of sugar per serving might be a little too much sugar per serving considering we should only take in about 30 grams of sugar per day maximum. If there are any more than 7 ingredients in the product, be skeptical. Use your smart phone while you shop to find out what ingredients are and why they are used. If you don’t understand what the ingredient is, odds are, neither does your body.
2. Make sure you're eating enough food. On many occasions people cut calories severely for long periods of time and hit a “plateau”. This plateau happens because of decreased levels of T3 and T4, thyroid hormones that help regulate your metabolic rate along with leptin, our hormone that tells us we are full. When we restrict calories for a long period of time (2 weeks or more) leptin levels drop and our metabolism begins to slow down. When we are restricting calories, here is where strategic healthy cheat meals are important to avoid that plateau. This does not mean pizza, wings and beer. It means going over what you set your calories at by about 500 calories to boost T3, T4 and leptin to begin the fat burning process all over again.
Here is a general guide to calories needed for various goals:
3. Clean water in abundance is essential (half your bodyweight in oz. is the bare minimum daily). Use a filter if possible. Most of us think we are consuming clean water when in fact we are not. A 2009 analysis by the Environmental Working Group found a whopping 315 pollutants in U.S. tap water, including arsenic and pesticides—and more than half of the compounds are not regulated by the EPA, which means they can legally be present in tap water in any amount.
4. Eat foods that will alkalize your body to help decrease inflammation (i.e. vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds) vs. acidic foods in the form of animal protein (not fish) and processed foods (anything in a box or that needs to be microwaved to eat). Think of your body as a swimming pool. If you put too much chlorine or acidity in it, your body won’t like it and on the other side of the coin, if we don’t put enough chlorine in it, it will become algae and fungus filled. We want a balanced Ph. or slightly on the alkaline side. Having our bodies calibrated slightly alkaline has been shown the most beneficial with regard to organ function and hormone balance.
5. Make sure you're supplementing your nutrient intake with anything you may be deficient in to help balance hormones. The most common deficiencies are Vitamin D, Magnesium, Omega 3 fatty acids and fiber. Check out the links. They are quizzes you can take to find out if you are deficient in these nutrients.
6. Track your food at least 1 week out of the month so you can figure out what is working and what is not using MyFitnessPal. Using these apps will also allow you to see your calorie distribution in graphs and numbers. Measure everything. Measure all your food if possible. You can use a food scale or you can use this portion control guide from Dr. John Berardi as portion control is important.
7. Cook your food slowly as to preserve the most nutrients. Most of us cook last minute without much preparation and end up cooking on a high heat so you can eat ASAP. When we do this, we cook out most of the nutrients, so if you can cook slowly or if you can eat the food raw, do so, once it is deemed safe to eat raw. If you are grilling, do not flame grill. When the fat from animal protein drops on those coals, the flames it causes bring carcinogens into your food, so keep your food off the flame. It tastes better that way anyway.
There is obviously so much more to nutrition than these 7 Rules of Nutrition, but here is a great baseline to get your journey started. I hope this helps. If you have any questions, comments or concerns please ask.