We recently watched the film, Fed Up, and it got me thinking about the importance of nutrition and education about proper nutrition. When I was beginning my fitness journey, I read a lot of forums when I had a question. I remember reading many people making statements about how as long as you are within your allotted caloric intake for the day, you can eat whatever you want. This of course sounded awesome! Who doesn’t want to eat a brownie, burger or some beer? But I knew it was too good to be true. It just didn’t make sense.
I continue to hear people focus on being within their caloric limits each day, but don’t pay attention to the nutritional value of what they are eating. They gravitate towards foods that are easy to grab and comfortable. Foods like low-calorie snack packs, zero sugar soda, reduced-fat crackers, etc. Often times these foods are filled with added ingredients, plenty of chemicals and sugars. The nutritional value that these items provide your body with is minimal. While our society has pushed these items as being “healthy” the reality is that they are nowhere near good for you! I saw a meme somewhere on the internet recently that stated you should eat foods that are plants and not foods made in one. Now that’s the general idea- eat real whole foods and not mass produced and processed items.
Now another issue I have noticed, is people who focus so much on calories, but they are still drawn towards unhealthy foods. They still desire to eat things like doritos, bagels, bacon, etc. But when they choose to eat these items, their food intake is then limited because they are typically high in calories, laden with added ingredients and unfortunately low in nutritional value. They either then have to try and cram in the nutrition in those final meals, or they may not even realize that they aren’t providing their bodies with proper nutrition. They view food through the lens of calories, and not through the lens of what nutrition it provides. They are then left with having either met or gone over their calories for the day and eaten nothing of substance and most likely left hungry and bloated.
I know some people are into IIFYM (if it fits your macros,) but in my personal opinion, I just can’t see how it’s healthy. Your body keeps track of what you put in it. If you are fueling it with doritos, which have no nutritional value, you’re only giving your body things it truly doesn’t need and can’t perform off of. Or if you are withholding your carbs until the end of the day when you splurge on a mojito and cupcake, your body is not provided with what it needs throughout the day and then gets a spike in blood sugar later. I eat about 90-95% clean and that small percentage of the time where I splurge on unhealthy foods, I notice a difference in my body. The way I feel, the way my body functions, and even my ability to perform in my workouts. If you are eating that way all of the time, your body is not able to perform at its best.
Personally, I don’t count calories. I base my diet off of making sure that every meal and snack that I eat is balanced with real foods and meets my macros. Sure, I have a good idea of the number of calories I am consuming, simply because I know the foods I am eating, but I don’t focus on it. I look at the nutritional value of what I am giving my body. I balance my meals with a protein, carbohydrate (starchy), and a vegetable. I get my fats from added things to these meals like nuts, olive oil and avocado.
When you begin looking at your foods in terms of nutritional value it will change how you eat. I keep pre-made/ packaged foods to an absolute minimum because I want to control what I am putting in my body. I focus on eating real foods that I have prepared because I can control exactly what I am giving my body to fuel it.
A sample of a balanced meal I eat regularly is:
5 oz. Chicken breast (marinaded, brined etc.)
6 oz. Sweet potato with cinnamon
1 cup Green beans baked with olive oil and garlic
While you should be aware of the amount of calories you are consuming each day, it is more important to look at your food intake through the lens of nutritional value. Is what you are consuming providing your body with nutrients that it needs in order to function and function well? Or is what you are eating giving your body chemicals, preservatives, and ingredients it doesn’t need and providing no nutritional value?
Are you keeping your blood sugar stable, or are you causing it to spike and then crash? Are you able to push through a tough workout without feeling fatigued and exhausted part way through? Are you hitting the midday slump or do you have a level source of energy throughout the entire day? Those are just a few signs of how your food intake is or isn’t fueling your body with the proper nutrition it needs.
I would go so far as to say that if you were to keep your calories the same, but change what you are consuming to foods that provide your body with proper nutrition, you would see more progress than if you limited calories but ate junk.
This is a learning experience, and something that takes effort to change. I didn’t start out eating this way, it was something I had to learn and put into practice. And I didn’t get it right the first time around! But now, with time, practice and effort I see food through the lens of nutritional value. It took me quite a while to comprehend and fully grasp what my body actually needed and how to provide it that. I highly recommend seeing a nutritionist if you are at all confused, or even wanting to learn more. I have had such a great time learning from my nutritionist, and cannot say enough wonderful things about working with her!
I challenge you to give looking at food through the lens of nutritional value a try! Stop counting your calories for a few weeks, get in the kitchen and make foods that provide nutritional value to your body! I dare you! Take a chance and see how your body responds! I bet you will be surprised by the changes! Also, a great film to watch is Fed Up! You will never look at food the same again!