What Does "Eating Healthy" Mean?
Today's post comes from Med Gym Coach, Chris Zinn. Chris has been working with clients at the gym on their exercise routines since August of 2019, and now he's wrapping up the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coaching Certification, with the goal of helping clients through Med Gym's Nutrition Coaching Program. Below, Chris provides some insight into what really constitutes healthy eating for each person:
What does “eating healthy” really mean? What sacrifices do you have to make to eat healthy? A lot of people stress over the idea of a perfectly balanced diet, and don’t even make it to the starting line when it comes time to change.
“I don’t need to be a bodybuilder, and I’m not a professional athlete. So why do I need to eat like one?”
The reality is, you don’t need to weigh your food, or eat a perfect diet, to live a healthier and happier life.
Okay, so if you don’t need to be perfect to be healthy, then what DO you need to do? Well, good nutrition can really be boiled down to a few main ideas:
Good Nutrition Controls Your Energy
Most people think of a Calorie as an amount of food, usually found on the back of a food label. However, a dietary Calorie is really a unit of energy.
1 Calorie = the amount of energy needed to heat 1 kilogram of water by 1° Celsius
So, what you’re really looking at on the back of a food label is the amount of energy that that food will provide you. Too much food and energy input to your body, and you risk problems such as increased blood pressure. Too little and your body starts to shut down things it doesn’t need to survive immediately, such as the reproductive system and parts of your brain.
With that in mind, good nutrition really consists of finding the right energy balance. You need to put in an amount of energy that lines up with the amount of energy you expend. When this is out of balance, you run into problems.
Good Nutrition is Nutrient Dense
Nutrient Density refers to the amount of nutrients per Calorie.
More nutrients + not a lot of Calories = high nutrition density. Some good examples of nutrient dense foods are things like spinach, kale, and blueberries.
Little nutrients + a lot of Calories = low nutrition density. Some good examples of foods that are low in nutrients are things like cake, cookies, and ice cream (Sorry!).
Of course, this does not mean that low nutrient dense foods need to be eliminated. It just means that they should not comprise most of what you eat throughout the day.
Good Nutrition Helps You Perform
Okay, I’m sure I’ll get some eye rolling here. “I told you before that I’m not running a ball into an end zone! I don’t need to perform!”
Woah; hold up! Let me explain.
Performance does not always mean running as fast as you can or jumping as high as you can.
Performance refers to how able you are to meet a goal you have. Whether that means being the best hurdler you can be, or being able to go for a walk outside every morning; good nutrition should support your goals.
Good Nutrition Is Sustainable
As the saying goes: “the best diet is the one you can stick to”.
Whether you prefer high-carb, low-fat or high-fat, low-carb, what matters more than the macronutrient percentage is how well you can stick to it.
You may have the ideal nutrition plan laid out. Vegetables at every meal. No treats. A gallon of water a day. That’s great! But how long can you keep that up? In a perfect world, eating like that would be much healthier than some of the alternatives, but it isn’t always easy to keep that level of precision up within the framework of real life.
Unfortunately, life gets in the way sometimes. That’s why it is best to make small, sustainable changes to your diet over time to get to where you want to be. That beats changing everything all at once, feeling good for 2 weeks, burning out and giving up.
Is This New Diet That is All the Rage Right for Me?
There are lots of diet fads that seem to appear every few years, and without fail people seem to suggest that this new diet is the holy grail of nutrition and that everyone should only eat lentils and carrots. Now, there is nothing wrong with being vegan, and there are certainly benefits, but just because it works for one person does not mean it will work for another. No matter how great the results.
Everybody is different, which means there is no one size fits all approach to nutrition.
What exactly do I mean by saying “everyone is different”?
Sure, we know some people are short and some people are tall. Some people are naturally leaner and other people find it harder to shave off those last few stubborn pounds. In addition to the obvious differences between people, everybody has a bit of a different make up, from the rate of their metabolism to their individual preferences when it comes to food.
There are many factors that can influence how someone should structure their diet and what constitutes a good diet for them. There are:
Some people really enjoy eating red meat and could never give up steak. Some people feel much better and healthier when they stick to a mostly plant based organic diet. All of these diet preferences could easily fit into a healthy diet.
Not everyone has the luxury of having enough time to thoughtfully plan out each meal and slice up fresh garlic for everything they cook. While the option to have fresh homecooked food for each meal is certainly a healthy choice, it might cause someone else to fail and veer off track if they don’t have enough time.
For many, eating is a social experience. Gathering with family and friends and sitting down and enjoying each other’s company. An intermittent fasting diet where the eating window is only the four hours between 12PM-4PM, or a diet that only allows for 15 tiny snacks throughout the day is going to cause a lot more harm than good for someone who values eating with friends and family as a social experience.
The diet preferences and amount of food is going to vary a lot between people based on how old they are. Following a 3000-Calorie diet because your 17-year-old son is following that and seeing great results may not be the best option for you.
Does This Mean No Late Night Ice Cream Runs?
If late means 9PM? Of course not. Reward yourself every once in a while, for doing a good job with your diet and go out with your family for ice cream! If late means 3:30AM? Yes, I would probably stop doing that…
What’s important in having a well-balanced and healthy diet, is to eat less low nutrient dense foods like ice cream, eat more high nutrient dense foods like vegetables, keep it simple and sustainable, and craft the diet to meet your lifestyle and goals.
There are just too many factors that can influence appropriate diet choice for you to use a one size fits all approach. It may not always be wise to hop on the latest fad... “milk diet”, where you only drink milk.
Okay that might be exaggerating a bit… but you get the idea!
Want to find out more about how to craft an approach to eating that will fit in with your needs, goals, and lifestyle? Well, starting this June, you can work with Med Gym's own Precision Nutrition Certified Coach, Chris Zinn, in our brand new Nutrition Coaching Program!
If you'd tried diet after diet and struggled to reach your goals, nutrition coaching may be the answer you need. Working with a qualified nutrition coach to find craft and stick to the plan that is the right fit for you can be game changing!
Contact us here to learn more about the nutrition coaching program and how you can get started.