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Staying healthy is more than just exercise — you have to be wary of your diet, too. Though being active is an important component of maintaining a strong and healthy body, what embodies the whole of a person’s overall wellness is multifaceted.

While nothing gets us geared up like a hardcore, sweat-inducing HIIT session, we know paying close attention to diet is a MAJOR factor in a comprehensive healthy lifestyle. This doesn’t mean limiting or punishing oneself to get results. It just means making the right choices when eating – much of it is a lesson in moderation.

Meal Frequency

Skipping Meals: Skipping meals won’t help you lose weight. What it does is cause you to binge at your next meal because you’re ravenous. Instead of skipping meals, listen to your body and eat when you truly feel hungry. The body is our most important tool and by listening to it, you will better know what it needs.

Setting Satiety Points: Tied to this idea of eating when you physically feel your stomach is empty is eating to something called your satiety point. If you feel uncomfortably full, you went beyond your satiety point. Use that opportunity to think about how much you ate versus how much your body needed. To avoid overeating, slow down. Your body relies on signals that tell the brain that the stomach is full and stretched. It takes about a good 20 minutes for the brain to register that the stomach is full.

Manage these signals better by allowing yourself more time to enjoy the food you put in your mouth and perhaps to eat those smaller meals more frequently.

Portion Control

When you were a kid, were you expected to “finish your plate”? Many of us have been trained over decades to clear our plates, which established the habit of ignoring our sense of fullness. Adjusting your brain to stop at a point where you feel satisfied can reset your habits long-term, something truly important if you aim to lose weight.

Meal Prep: An effective way to pay attention to portion control is to read labels. Nutrition facts will list serving sizes, so if you pack a lunch, fitting containers to portions is an easy way to keep you from eating more than necessary and packing just enough.

Eating Out: One of the biggest challenges when it comes to portion control is knowing how much to eat when you’re at a restaurant. Many restaurants serve portions that are much bigger than what’s needed for an average meal. We suggest asking for a to-go box when your meal comes out and immediately putting a portion in the box. Out of sight is truly out of mind.

Dieting Don’ts

Avoid Crash Diets: There is always another popular diet popping up. Some are legitimate indeed, and those which are grounded in science are likely going to offer a well-balanced plan. On the other hand, typical fad diets will often promise instant weight loss without evidence or scientific support. Ultimately having a comprehensive understanding about your specific body’s relationship with food provides a healthier map for overall wellness.

3,500 Calories = 1 Pound: It takes about a 500 daily calorie deficit in order to lose one pound per week. For example, a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola is 140 calories. Decide to drink water instead of soda and you knock down calories in no time. If you particularly have a sweet tooth, replace candy and sugary processed foods with a handful of berries or other fruits and you’re making a healthier yet still satisfying trade. Tuning into the little things adds up.

The overall lesson in eating is to eat real food, not artificial, processed or out-of-the vending machine foods. Some additional key takeaways:

  1. Fuel your fitness by stocking your gym bag with healthy snacks which include good sources of carbohydrates and protein for an energizing pre-workout snack.
  2. Schedule meals with other people, so you’re talking and eating. Read the news or just take a break every few bites. You’ll feel more satisfied and more comfortable if you slow it down.
  3. Mindful eating will help you establish your satiety point, training your brain to push your plate away at the right time. This will in turn help you with eating only when you really feel a hunger pang.