What if you could eat plenty of food and still get fit? What if we stopped fearing our food and seeing it for the fuel that it can be? With the countless number of weight loss products advertised on television, in magazines, on social media and society’s strict correlation between someone’s worth and the size of their waistline, it’s no wonder that so many people think that eating more food will keep them from fulfilling their fitness dreams. The reality is, to be healthy, you have to eat enough food. Food is not something that you can live without. While burning more calories than you eat will result in weight loss, doing so in an unhealthy way will only set you back with your fitness goals. Eating healthfully and providing your body with the fuel (calories!) it needs to sustain itself is what will ultimately get you the body you dream of. Restrictive diets or dangerous appetite suppressants are only temporary “solutions” that can set you back. Eating enough food ensures that your body has enough energy to get through your workouts and gives your body the nutrients it needs to survive. While some people may need the help of a dietitian to get their food choices on track, it’s completely possible that you may just need to take the fear out of eating, focus on nutritious foods, and exercise in a way that is fun and productive. While you should always consult your primary care physician about any dietary concerns you may have, taking charge of your health by eating more (healthy) food and respecting your body can transform your fitness journey from an uphill battle into a healthy lifestyle.
15 Lifting Weights
When it comes to how food plays a role in lifting weights and getting fit, protein is often what comes to mind. While protein is a vital part of a balanced diet, it is important that you aren’t excessive with your protein intake. The WebMd article titled “Will Eating More Protein Help Your Body Gain Muscle Faster?” notes that eating too much protein (or exceeding 30% of your daily caloric intake) without increasing your calories or exercise regimen can be detrimental to your body. The idea with proper weight loss is to make sure you’re getting enough calories to keep up with your workout routine. As protein helps to rebuild muscles after lifting weights, make sure you have some protein after a good day of weights at the gym. Good sources of protein include lean meats, beans, and lentils. Protein powders can be used in a pinch, but it’s best to rely on whole foods for your nutritional needs.
14 Increased Energy from Eating Enough
Under eating or eating a highly restrictive diet is not a healthy way to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. When you under eat, you aren’t fueling your body with what it needs to preform everyday tasks, let alone keep up with a regular exercise regimen. Think of your food as a natural energy source and you’ll see why eating enough is so important to staying fit. Eating a well balanced diet will give you the energy you need while giving your body the nutrients it requires. Eating healthy fats, plenty of fruits and veggies, lean sources of protein or plant based protein and reducing added sugar and processed foods will keep your body feeling it’s best. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has convenient daily food plan chats on their ChooseMyPlate website to help you ensure you eat plentifully. If you’re concerned about your energy levels and are eating a well balanced diet, consult your primary health care professional to rule out potential underlying contributors that could be affecting your energy levels.
13 Gains in Muscle Tone
When you are focused on losing weight, muscle tone may not be a high priority on your list. However, if you start focusing on both weight training and cardiovascular exercises early in your fitness journey while eating enough food, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that you can not only shed unwanted pounds, but the body you will be left with will have lean, well defined muscles that will make you look strong, sexy and lean. In the article “4 Female Training Myths Debunked: Sculpt Feminine Muscle without Masculine Bulk!”, bodybuilding.com reminds us that to lose weight and be toned anywhere on our body, we have to work on our whole body, and that no amount of heavy lifting will diminish your femininity. Rotating your weight training exercises to include your arms, back, legs and abs will help your whole body become strong and toned. Like any other form of exercise, adding muscle means your body will need fuel, so don't skip your breakfast and think it will help you lean out faster. Eating well will promote muscle tone by giving your body the nutrients it needs.
12 Nutrient Dense Food
Weight loss and staying fit doesn’t have to be a chore when you’re fueling your body with foods that are nutrient dense (and prepare them in a healthy manner). On his website (DrFuhrman.com), Dr. Fuhrman (M.D.), notes that foods that are high in macronutrients (like vitamins, minerals, and fiber) also tend to be lower calorie foods, which allows you to eat a plentiful amount of these foods while properly fueling your body and promoting weight loss. Fuhrman lists vegetables, beans and fruits as great nutrient dense foods. As weight loss is achieved by running on a (healthy) calorie deficit (meaning you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming), eating foods that are nutrient dense keep your body satisfied while keeping you in a heathy calorie range.
11 Healthy Carbs
Carbohydrates are a macronutrient profile that is often demonized in our culture. People often associate carbs with excess weight gain, which can be true if your idea of carbs includes donuts and fried foods. However, if you’re carbohydrate intake is coming from nutrient dense, unrefined (or minimally refined) foods, you can get the carbohydrates your body needs without the guilt. On their website, Food Network notes that sweet potatoes (yams), beans, lentils, and fruit are all healthy carbohydrate sources. When you prepare these foods by baking steaming them, or just washing and eating them raw, you’re getting a powerhouse of nutrients (like fiber, vitamins and minerals) with the hunger curbing satisfaction that your body needs.
10 Hydration from Food
Hydration is another term that is often discussed when it comes to begin fit and healthy, but the issue doesn’t have to start and end with water. While getting enough water is important, food sources can help keep your body hydrated as well. In an article titled “Foods That Are High in Water - Foods to Decrease Bloating”, the Marie Claire website notes that foods like oranges, watermelons, spinach and cucumbers are all examples of water rich foods. As the title notes, water rich foods can help you avoid that ugly bloated feeling after a large meal. As these foods are so high in water content, they often have minimal calories, making them an ideal snack for late night movie sessions or for snack food on long trips without the guilt that comes with processed foods.
9 Trying New Healthy Foods
Eating healthy foods can be daunting when you’re craving something sugary and filled with empty calories. When you’re trying to say fit and want to satisfy your sweet tooth, you may be surprised that there are ways to satisfy your cravings while staying on track with your health and fitness goals. Chocolate itself is not unhealthy, it’s how we prepare it that can be questionable. Using dark chocolate or cocoa powder in a fruit smoothie (made with fruit, ice and low fat or plant based milk) will satisfy a sweet tooth with ease. Banana “ice cream” made with frozen bananas, milk and your favorite “toppings” (like nuts or nut butters) are another sweet treat that won’t leave you feeling guilty.
8 Eating Out
Staying on track with your health and fitness goals can feel like an uphill battle when it comes to social gatherings. For many people, food is a social experience and once we’re in the presence of those we love (or at say a work meeting), our health goals are quickly substituted for indulgence and acceptance. No one wants to be that weird person calculating macros at christmas dinner. The best way to balance your social life with your fitness goals while still eating enough food is to plan ahead. You can choose to have a “cheat meal” where you indulge at said social gathering, eat ahead of time so that you’re not as hungry when you go out, or prepare and bring your own healthier dish to share. Limiting the amount of alcoholic beverages (or abstaining for a night) will also keep you from consuming empty calories that are present in nearly all alcoholic drinks. If you have a bad night and eat one too many slices of cake, don’t sweat it. Take comfort in the fact that tomorrow you will get back to your healthy eating habits that allow you to indulge now and again without derailing your progress.
7 Better Body Image
When you start working out or working toward being healthy, it is easy to think that the only way to lose weight is to stop eating so much food and to exercise excessively. This desire to be some unrealistic “perfect” version of ourselves (that doesn’t exist!) can be nurtured by unrealistic fad diets and social media trends like #thinspo. While begin thin itself isn’t always problematic, the problem is the promotion of underrating, rapid results that seem to go hand in hand with such a notion. Letting go of the notion that your self worth is tied to your thigh gap or that if you don’t lose weight today that you need to skip breakfast tomorrow and treating your body with kindness by eating nutritious food and acknowledging that your body is becoming healthier every day, you will learn to truly appreciate how wonderful your body is (while eating plenty of delicious food).
6 Learning Macros
With restaurant portion sizes far exceeding what we actually need to eat, and social gatherings tending to promote sacking on an endless supply of junk food, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed about what you should eat. Understanding macronutrient groups (or macros for short) will help you know how food works together to give your body what it needs. The McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign notes that macronutrients are comprised of: carbohydrates, protein and fat. These there nutrient groups are essential to a healthy diet. While specific diets have varying ideas on what the best ratio is for macros when you want to lose weight, MyFitnessPal’s website notes that the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a calorie breakdown of 45-65% from carbohydrates, 20-35% from fat, and 10-35% from protein. Once you get a feel for eating the proper amounts of macros each day, eating out or going to social events won’t be as intimidating because you’ll know how to eat healthfully.
5 Sleep More, Lose Weight
You can spend hours a day in the gym, eat all the right foods and drink plentiful amounts of water, but if you’re not giving your body time to rest, you’re results will diminish. Your body needs ample amounts of sleep to rejuvenate itself from both exercise and day to day activities. In an article titled “Why Sleep is the Most Important Thing for Weight Loss”, Shape magazine notes that research has shown that not getting enough sleep can reduce weight loss, and that you should get a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night. Give yourself a relaxing bed time routine that doesn’t involve the TV, your cell phone or tablet to help your body fall asleep easily at bedtime.
4 Axe the “Cardio Bunny”
Have you ever eaten a candy bar and thought to yourself “I’ll have to run two extra miles for eating this!”? It’s an easy trap to fall into. Oftentimes, we replace healthy food choices with unhealthy indulgences because we think we’ll be able to simply work off the pounds, and in some respects, it’s true. In an interview for the article “What’s more important for weight loss: cardio or strength training?” on Women’s Health Magazine’s website, personal trainer Mike Donavanik, C.S.C.S., C.P.T. notes that while carido exercise will help you drop weight fast if you have a lot to lose, it doesn’t help you build muscle in the same way the weight training does. So while indulging from time to time is okay, you can’t outrun a healthy diet. Instead of trying to constantly outrun your food choices, take a break from the treadmill, stair-master or elliptical and do some weight lifting to keep your workouts varied.
3 Better Mood
Eating enough food to keep your body fit not only improves your overall health, but it improves your mood. When you’re focused on giving your body nutritious, unrefined or minimal refined foods and you take the time to exercise regularly, the struggle of weight loss will continually diminish over time. Not having to obsess about food and feeling in control of how you eat will relieve stress and let you enjoy your time with others. Eating a well balanced diet can also improve your mood by motivating you to show your family and friends how to eat in a way that is both fulfilling and healthy, which makes everyone happy.
2 Intuitive Eating
One of the greatest benefits of learning how to fuel your body with proper food is the ability to let go of tracking, calorie counting and other ways of having to constantly think about what you’re eating and drinking. When you eat intuitively, you’re listening to your body. You eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. If you’re eating a well balanced diet, eating intuitively can be an effective part of getting fit and staying satisfied after you eat. While tracking food, calculating macros and learning about the nutrient properties of various foods is all helpful in getting (and staying) fit, there is a unique freedom that comes with knowing how to listen to your body and feed it properly. Don’t confuse intuitive eating with an excuse to binge on cookies or eat pizza twice a week. Intuitive eating won’t serve you well if you don’t put healthful food into your body.
Fast results are a lure that many people give into when looking for the next best way to lose weight and get fit, but most things that promise fast results will leave you feeling depleted and cause you to binge or regain any weight you may have lost. Instead of going on a yo-yo style of dieting where you constantly go up and down with weight loss (and most likely aren’t eating enough food), experiment with healthy food choices that keep your calorie intake in a healthy range while also finding time for exercise routines that suit your needs and desires. How fast you can lose weight or get lean doesn’t matter if it’s done in a way that is unhealthy and unsustainable. When you find something that you not only love but also gives you results, you can sustain your habits and work towards being as healthy and fit as possible.