We’ve all been told that the only way to maintain a healthy weight is to reduce the number of calories we eat and increase our energy expenditure – eat less and exercise more. Sounds logical and simple doesn’t it? But is that really all there is to it?
Calories are not all created equal, so that formula is flawed. The bottom line is to choose fresh, clean, nutrient dense foods. Nutrition is the foundation of good health and weight loss as well. If you eat real, whole foods that nourish you down to your cells, you will find you are satisfied, your body begins doing what God created it to do and you have energy as well. When you have energy, you are much more likely to spend some of it exercising, which will help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
It is obvious that 500 calories of chocolate cake and 500 calories of chicken are very different nutritionally. It is just logical that they will do different things in your body. That just makes sense.
So, how do you choose those calories that will give you the most bang for your nutritional buck and help you get to your healthiest weight?
1. Choose real food, not packaged, processed junk. I call it “one-ingredient” foods. Chicken, beef, beets, Brussels sprouts, lentils, apples. Each of those is a “one-ingredient” food – chicken is chicken, an egg is an egg.
2. Focus on quality. Once you’ve chosen real food, be sure it is the highest quality you can afford. That means organic produce, grass fed, grass finished organic beef and dairy, free range chicken, wild caught fish. If you feel it will be too expensive to buy all organic produce, you can visit the Environmental Working Group’s website to get their Dirty Dozen, Clean 15 and make your choices accordingly. One of the most important things people overlook is the effect a toxic liver has on weight loss. If your liver is overworked processing toxins from your food, you will find it very difficult to lose weight.
3. Don’t go fat free! For years we’ve been told that eating fat will make us fat. Well look what happened – ever since the fat free craze hit, obesity has been on the rise. As with everything else, choose high quality, healthy fat like omega 3s, pasture butter, coconut oil, ghee, nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil. Contrary to popular belief, healthy saturated fat does not cause heart disease or weight gain. Make healthy fat part of each of your balanced meals.
4. Include a source of clean protein at each meal. The foods we eat go through a different metabolic pathways. Each pathway is different – some are very efficient, and most of the food’s energy is used for processes in the body. Other pathways are less efficient, and so most of those calories are metabolized by your body and lost as heat. Picture putting dry wood on a fire! That’s the case with protein. It takes more energy to digest protein so it boosts your metabolism and will help keep you feeling full and satisfied.
5. Avoid processed sugar. Processed, white sugar can properly be classified as a drug. It is extremely addictive as almost all of us can attest. Sugar is also very inflammatory. It causes blood sugar to spike, which results in a vicious cycle of high insulin which increases storage of belly fat, increases inflammation, raises triglycerides and lowers HDL (“good” cholesterol), raises blood pressure, lowers testosterone in men, and contributes to infertility in women. Yikes!
6. Limit grains. Grains are converted to sugar in your body very quickly after you eat them, so the same reasons I listed in #5 above, can be repeated here. While limiting all grains is a good idea, avoiding wheat, even supposedly healthy whole wheat, is a very good idea. The wheat we find in our foods today is very different from what our grandparents ate and the problems with wheat extend beyond just the gluten it contains because it’s been genetically manipulated and hybridized. It’s also an ingredient in hundreds of foods – even those you wouldn’t expect. If you must have a grain, choose one like millet, quinoa, amaranth or buckwheat.
7. Make vegetables, especially green leafy, and fruit (in moderation) your carbs of choice. It’s never a good idea to eliminate an entire group of foods. We need all 3 macronutrients – protein, fats and carbohydrates – to be truly healthy. You just have to choose the right ones. Veggies and fruits are your healthiest choices for carbs and I would focus on the non-starchy vegetables and keep the fruit intake to two pieces or servings per day. While eating whole fruit is much better than, say, drinking fruit juice, because you also get the fiber to slow the absorption of the fruit sugars, I still suggest limiting your intake and focusing your meals around the non-starchy veggies.
I hope you can see that for successful weight loss and overall health, the quality of your nutrition is MUCH more important than the number of calories you consume.
About the author:
Ann Musico is a holistic health coach and wholeness advocate who works with women of all ages to empower them to exemplify lives of vibrant health and wholeness – spirit, soul and body – in a way that is simple and effective, in order to be a positive influence in their world. Her focus is on nutrition, detox and healthy, long term weight loss because she believes those areas are most often the root cause of so many other problems. And she addresses them not only from the physical but also the spirit and soul as well, which are often overlooked. Learn more at Three Dimensional Vitality. And be sure to follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for free exclusive giveaways as well as daily inspiration and motivation!