My father in-law is 85-years-old and recently watched a You Tube video that shared how a diet high in sugar and processed foods can lead to diabetes. He didn’t know this and was shocked. He’s a very intelligent man, but he didn’t know what he didn’t know. I am a certified personal trainer and fitness professional, so I live and breathe healthy living, wellness, fitness, and nutrition. His discovery reminds me that most people don’t know the truth about nutrition. At best, they have pieces and parts of what they have heard on the news. At worst, they have been misled and misinformed by commercials.
I’d like to give you some basics to help guide you toward a healthier lifestyle. I hope a positive that results from COVID-19 is a greater awareness of the importance of good health. Let me start by saying there is no magic pill. If just one of the fad diets actually worked, we would never need another one. Have you ever considered that? All they are doing is repacking something and selling you either an idea or process. The bottom line is our bodies require a certain balance of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins to function properly. We can’t change our design, and when we attempt to alter this equation, we can risk damage.
Take for instance the Atkins Diet where you remove all carbs and eat only protein and high fats. This has proven to lead to heart attacks, bone loss, and even death. Introduce the Keto diet, and it is the same plan just updated to include some carbohydrates. It is just as dangerous and cannot (nor should it be) be sustained long term. A healthy diet consists of 55 to 65 percent complex carbohydrates (not processed foods or simple sugars), 12 to 15 percent lean proteins (not fatty hamburgers), and 25 to 30 percent fats with no more than 10 percent of that being saturated (think junk food).
Most people are shocked that we really don’t need more protein, and I’d say it is one of the major contributors to weight gain. The fat recommendations surprised me until I learned how our body uses them. Our hair, nails, skin, and organs depend upon fats to be healthy. They key again is the right fats and carbs.
The ranges exist because we are all different sizes. A tall, muscular man needs more protein than a frail older woman. An active individual needs a higher amount of complex carbohydrates than a sedentary person. Proteins are used to help build and support our muscles. Our muscles, in turn, create dense bones. Our energy system runs on carbohydrates. Removing them from your diet is like trying to run your car without gasoline.
Please be aware that food packaging is usually based upon the caloric intake of 2,000 calories. Only some people need 2,000 calories a day, so right off the bat, you will consume too many calories if you follow that guideline. I believe this is the second major culprit of obesity! Take your weight and times it by 13 if you adhere to moderate exercise (lower number like 10 if you don’t). This gives you a general number to shoot toward IF you want to maintain your current weight. If you want to lose weight, however, you would need to reduce calories. I suggest cutting 400 calories from your baseline because it is easy to find 400 calories. Don’t drink that Starbucks sugary coffee or eat that bagel!
Here’s how it plays out: If you weight 150 pounds and times that by 13 (3 to 5 days of exercise a week – I’ll blog about this next week) you need 1,950 calories to sustain that weight. If you want to lose weight, you deduct 400 from that and shoot for 1,550 calories a day. Let’s say you drop down to 135 pounds and want to stay there – your new caloric goal is 1,755. If you take in 2,000 calories a day, you are exceeding your needs and creating fat that increases your chances of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and a myriad of other illness and diseases.
Whatever your calorie intake is, you then get your percentage of protein, carbs, and fats. This is what you use to guide your food choices. This is a tried and true formula because it is how we are made. It is sustainable and relatively easy to follow if you choose wisely by avoiding process foods and sugar and opting for lean proteins and lots of fresh vegetables.
Packaging can be confusing. Take the time to read labels. Better yet, limit foods that come in boxes and cans! I have some great tools like journals that help you track your nutrition and stay the course. I can also coach you and offer accountability via Zoom Personal Training. Contact me if you are interested!
For more details and specific plans based upon your personality type, get my book Finally FIT.