Thursday, May 2, 2013

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food

 I've had 3 emails in 4 days this week, from people asking what they should eat to lose weight, increase energy or improve performance, so I thought I'd blog about it and try and cover off a few points.

I'm going to start by clarifying that I'm no nutritionist, dietitian or scientist. I train with boxers who need to lose anything from 2 or 3 pounds to make weight for a fight and I work with people who have 2 or 3 stone as a weight loss goal, with limited, physical capability. I share my personal experience with nutrition and what I've gained from working with others.

Been there, done that, this is what I learned
My introduction to body transformation was the Body for Life eating and training programme in the early 90's which took me from eating 3 meals a day to 6. I was vegetarian, living in a land-locked country, training in the gym 6 days a week and 3 nights a week in the dojo. It opened my eyes to the nutritional value of food and how I could use it best to fuel my body for optimum energy.

If you shop, prepare and cook your own food - your chances of success will increase dramatically. Don't kid yourself about not having the time to do this. If you want to see change, make change.

If it's got a label, fancy packaging, an advert on the tv? As a rule, I stay away from it.

In an ideal week, I buy vegetables from my local market, the fresher the soil on my carrots, the happier I am. My meat comes from my local butcher who has a farm nearby, he can tell me what his animals are fed on, is happy to discuss their living conditions and will indulge my otherwise annoying quest to buy and eat meat that has come from a good, respectful home. Fishmonger for fish, deli for cheese, chick peas, legumes and other such things.

Here's a short list of things you will not find in my cupboard or fridge (unless my partner has been shopping):
packets of cereal, biscuits, baked goods in packets, cereal bars or low fat snacks, packets of soup or sauce, margarine or low fat spreads, coke, diet coke or other sugary drinks, ready meals, frozen processed get the picture.

Metabolic typing, the 4 hour body, high protein, slow-carb diet, carb cycling, protein loading, calorie counting, low-fat, high fibre and eating meat. I tried them all over a period of a few years and discovered that all I needed to do was get the balance right for my body.

We each have our own biochemical individuality and only we can work out what the right balance is, based on our energy levels, weight, moods and general health and wellbeing.

I go for a 50% carb and 50% protein ratio on my plate. So a chicken breast (around 100g or the size of the palm of your hand) and a sweet potato (same serving size) with at least 2 green veg + salad or other veg would be a typical meal.

On a heavy training day I add more carbs prior and green veg and protein after the event. I try to refuel within the hour and I drink more than my usual 2 litres of water.

I eat salad leaves and other raw food every day and try to limit my fruit intake to berries as bananas, apples, pears and mangoes kick start sugar cravings for me. I snack on nuts, eggs, spinach leaves, seeds, nut butter and rye crackers.

Before you foodies start rolling your eyes and cussing about how I am missing out on life's great pleasures, I'm not and I don't. I aim to eat clean 80% of the time and find that as a lifestyle, this works for what I want from my body now.

Not every meal I eat is a culinary delight, sometimes I just eat the elements of a tasty meal. I snack on a boiled egg, a handful of spinach leaves and a few almonds but I also make a mean creamy spinach omlette with toasted almond slivers. Same stuff, different way.

If I want to drop weight for a particular reason, I cut down on carbs, reduce dairy intake and eat clean protein and lots and lots of plant based food. I drink green tea, lemon water and plain water, eliminate caffeine and fruit and stay away from bread and pasta at all costs. 

When you get the balance right, you will naturally sit at your ideal weight and have plenty of energy. It's a journey, but one worth exploring if you want to live a healthy life that doesn't leave you feeling deprived every day. Let food nourish you, not eat you.

Don't 'go on a diet', just make a conscious decision to sort your diet out and stop eating crap. It takes a while to change habits and parties and dinners and family events or desires will always be there - have them, enjoy them, partake in whatever you fancy but come back to eating clean at your very next meal.

Don't start on Monday because you screwed up on Saturday, or eat rubbish till next Tuesday because it's the 1st of the month. Don't wait for it to be easier or when you have more money or time, it will never happen. Make the smallest change at the earliest opportunity, don't hold yourself back by listening to your own excuses and COOK.

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