It’s a fact – most health problems can be markedly improved once a person attains a healthy diet and lifestyle.
I’ve seen my fair share of patients get healthy, off blood pressure pills, antidepressants, and other meds once they’re diet and lifestyle are under control.
It’s not a fad and it’s not sexy BUT the basics of a healthy diet, lifestyle, stress reduction, exercise, etc. WILL help you lead a healthy relatively disease free life. Estimates are that 80% of ALL cancers are lifestyle dependent….80%!!!!!!!!!
That means that 80% of all cancers are caused by —— ourselves!
Due to the choices we make.
So how do we overcome ourselves? I’ve got some strategies.
How to Maintain a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle After You’ve Tried “Everything”
Make no mistake about it – human beings are pre-programmed to overeat.
There was no portion control for most of our existence. When you had access to food, you ate it, and stocked energy reserves to prepare for times when you didn’t have access to it.
Going crazy at an all-you-can-eat buffet is not weakness or a cheap way to bulk up. It’s simply a survival instinct.
In an environment where resources are limited, and food is real and scarce, this natural tendency to overeat leads to survival.
In an environment with unlimited access to highly refined, fake foods, it leads to chronic overeating, and the health struggles associated with living on the wrong side of excess.
I don’t care what the ADA says the arbitrary serving size of a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles is (3/4 cup), human instinct dictates it’s the whole damn box.
When you combine the natural evolutionary instinct to overeat with the following:
*Refined foods that have weak effects on the hormones that regulate appetite and energy intake.
*Unlimited access to those foods (the 5AM mocha-and-muffin run).
You have yourself one big, modern problem – an obese, sick country.
When analyzing the root causes of this problem, it becomes clear there are two different ways you can get healthy and get on the right side of the energy balance equation.
Healthy Eating Strategy #1 – The Food-Choices Route
Improving your food choices is the quickest and easiest way to maintain health. It’s also the most sustainable approach for the long-term.
If you hate counting calories, calculating macronutrient percentages, measuring and tracking foods, etc., your only choice is to start making better food choices. It’s way too instinctual and easy to overeat refined foods.
It’s much harder to overeat real foods. I’d argue it’s almost impossible. Without any tracking or measuring, I’ve had female patients struggle to eat 1,200 calories a day and male patients had a similar problem getting 2,000 calories a day when cutting out all refined foods, and only eating real, natural foods.
They couldn’t believe how so much food volume led to so few total calories and provided all the nutrition they’re body needed. That’s the beauty of real food.
A patient of mine was in a few months ago complaining about having to eat too much for dinner. What was on the menu?
It was 3/4 pound of top round steak and 2 pounds of potatoes. Remember, the best overall approach is to eat lighter during the day and eat the majority of calories at night – which allows us, at least once a day, to satisfy that natural urge to feast like a beast.
That’s a boatload of food to eat; yet it’s still less than 1500 calories. No late-night, starvation-induced binges here.
This patient couldn’t lose weight when he was on his ketogenic, unlimited fat diet, pouring oils on everything. Why?
Refined oils are much easier to overeat than real food, so he was always in a caloric surplus despite treating carbs like rat poison.
On his new plan, he’s lost 50 pounds.
Simple Eating Templates
*If you’re sedentary, eat like a caveman: animal proteins, vegetables, whole fruits, whole food fats (nuts, shredded coconut, avocado), and muddy pond water.
*If you’re active, follow the patterns of a Japanese village-style diet, which simply means adding in some low sugar, gluten-free starches to the above caveman diet to support anaerobic training: sweet potatoes, potatoes, or rice.
Now I’m sure I’m going to get some nit-picker saying something like epidemiological research shows no culture has a universal diet and food intake varies across geographical locations, etc.
My response? Pay attention to the bigger message here…
“Themed” approaches to eating aren’t meant to be 100% historically accurate dogmatic scrolls. They’re simply educational tools to give people simple templates to remember.
The bottom line is that emphasizing lean proteins, vegetables, whole fruits, whole food fats, (and a select few starch foods if you strength train) is good advice regardless of historical era or geographical location.
Healthy Eating Strategy #2 – The Portion-Control Route
Here’s the tough-love reality: 90% of the foods available to us these days aren’t that great for either body composition or biomarkers of health. That’s why people are always shocked, or even offended, when I give my honest opinion about certain food choices.
“Doc, what do you think about this high fiber cereal or low-glycemic bread or low-carb chips or pro-biotic yogurt?”
If I didn’t list it, I don’t like it. And the list is relatively small. But remember, I’m not the be-all-end-all of nutrition. To paraphrase the Dude, well, that’s just my opinion, man. (Big Lebowski reference there.)
And for a lot of people, a full-blown real-foods diet may seem too restrictive or extreme.
There are some people out there who just don’t want to eat better, despite their knowledge of the health effects of food. It’s mind blowing to me. But I get it at some level – refined foods and sugar have drug-like effects. Like any addict, we scour the earth for justifications for including them into our plans.
Some people just aren’t going to give up their cereals, wheat-bread sandwiches, fruit juices, high Omega 6 cooking oils and salad dressings, pastas, etc., no matter what.
Fake Foods and Real Instinct Don’t Mix
If you think you can take an instinctual approach to eating while making less-than-ideal food choices, you’re in for a rude, belly-fat awakening. (See beaches and poolsides everywhere.)
Because it’s so easy to overeat refined foods, you’ll have to do the ol’ measuring, calorie counting, macro-calculating, and tracking thing if you have any real shot at dropping a visually significant amount of weight and getting healthier.
My ears are already ringing from all the complaints.
If you don’t want to eat real foods, you’re going to have to measure your fake foods.
I like to make getting healthy as easy as possible for people, but you can’t be completely lazy and expect to achieve goals. If you refuse to fight one battle, you’re going to have to fight another one. You can’t win a war from the sidelines.
Besides, all it really takes is one extra step. If you’re on a carb-based diet, is it backbreaking to pour your cereal or pasta into a measuring cup first instead of directly into a bowl?
If you’re on a low-carb, fat-based diet, how hard is it to pour salad dressing into a tablespoon measurer instead of directly onto the salad, or count out twenty-four almonds?
For most foods, especially the energy nutrients (added fats or carbs) that are the most important to measure, it takes an extra 10 seconds to get an exact measurement, instead of just winging it.
Portion Precision Tactics
Here are some thoughts about how to implement this process in the real world. It’s not as hard or inconvenient as you think:
*Buy a couple sets of measuring cups (1/4 cup to 1 cup) and teaspoon/tablespoon measures.
*Use measuring cups as serving spoons instead of traditional serving utensils, particularly for starch foods and added fats like nuts.
*There’s no need to weigh your meats, poultry, and fish on a scale. Simply buy these foods one pound (16 oz.) at a time and cut them up according to your dietary needs.
If you’re supposed to be eating 3 oz. servings cut into 5 pieces, 4 oz. servings = 4 pieces, 5 oz. servings = 3 pieces, 8 oz. servings = 2 pieces. It doesn’t have to be exact; we just want the right range. Food scales seem a bit excessive to me.
When you don’t have access to measuring cups and spoons, like eating at a friend’s or at a restaurant, you’ll have to eyeball portion sizes. 4-6 ounces of meat, poultry, or fish is about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards. 1 cup of starch is about the size of a closed fist or a baseball. 2 tablespoons of dressing is about 2 spoonfuls, or about 1/2 of most of the cups they use for the “dressing on the side.”
*No need to measure non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, lettuce, spinach, onions, etc.) unless they’re cooked in butter or oil. Plain vegetables are pretty much free foods that can be eaten in unlimited amounts.
— HALFTIME REPORT —
The first half summary is really simple. To maintain a healthy diet you can either:
#1 Make better food choices.
#2 Start measuring your bad food choices.
For health, and overall ease of the program, I prefer route #1. You’re always going to be hungry trying to diet on refined foods, and your biomarkers of health probably aren’t going to be great either.
Simple Healthy Eating Tips
Debate could go on forever about what the best plan is to get healthy. Who cares? It all needs to be tested and refined in the real world, for you personally, anyway.
Here’s a decent starting point:
*12 calories/pound of lean body mass.
*1-1.5 grams of protein/pound of lean body mass.
*20% calories dietary fat mostly as byproduct of protein sources and maybe some Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
*Remaining calories to carbs.
*Have a cheat meal/re-feed meal once a week.
*Choose the meal frequency pattern that’s most functional and sustainable for you.
*Aside from your pre/post-workout nutrition, I think the easiest plan is to eat lighter during the day and eat the majority of calories and carbs at night.
*Try measuring your foods and making sure you’re consistently hitting the above recommendations before you think you need some crazy, triple-carb rotating, ketogenic cycling diet to lose weight and get healthy.
Chances are you just need to be better with the basics.
So there you have it. More nuggets of nutrition wisdom.
Why am I constantly sending you this healthy-eating stuff?
Because I want you to be successful.
Look, 9 times out of 10, smart folks reject my common sense healthy-living advice because somebody in their world is a naysayer. A negative Nancy sporting a cynical everybody’s-out-to-rip-me-off attitude.
If somebody is standing between you and your soon-to-be excellent life, simply fire them.
Remove (or limit exposure to) one negative person in your life. That person who always complains. The one who drags you down.
The one apathetic slacker who would say, “You looked better when you were heavier!”
“Oh my gosh! You’ve lost so much weight. Are you sick?”
(Meanwhile you have worked diligently to achieve a healthy and lifestyle. And you feel better, with more energy, than you EVER have in your life.)
Cut them loose.
And replace that person with someone who will lift you up.
Someone you look forward to seeing. Someone who inspires you.
When you start doing this, you’ll be amazed at the results.