Maintaining a healthy diet is a crucial part of weight loss, and when coupled with exercise, will give you maximum results for your efforts. However, the world of dieting can be dangerous terrain, and with so many quick-fix fad diets to lead you astray, it can sometimes be hard for even the most health-conscious person to eat healthfully. Here are some general, easy-to-remember guidelines to healthy eating for someone who is exercising regularly to lose weight.
Cody’s Do’s and Don’t of Dieting
- Eat 4-6 small meals a day: Eating multiple small meals a day, instead of two or three large ones, will help your body regulate your blood sugar levels, control cravings, stay energized, and keep hunger away. You should always start the day out by eating breakfast within one hour of waking up, as this helps jump-start your metabolism for the day. You should also make sure to eat right after working out, whether it be fruit or a protein shake, this will help your body recover and build muscle instead of cannibalizing your muscle tissue.
- Indulge in a small treat every now and then: Allowing yourself to eat a small treat a couple of times a week will satisfy your junk-food cravings without heavily disrupting your diet. People who cut fats and sugars out of their diet totally and completely have a tendency to binge-eat junk food later, and end up consuming many, many more calories than if they had just allowed themselves to indulge in a portion-concious way.
- Pay attention to portion-sizes: In America especially, portions tend to be much larger than the standard serving size, making it difficult for one to gauge how many calories are really being consumed. If you were taught to always finish what is on the plate in front of you, being portion-conscious is especially important, as many people get mentally trapped into eating more than necessary. Here is an easy way to measure your portions: One serving of meat should be the size of a bar of soap. Carbs like pasta should be the size of your fist, while waffles and pancakes should be the size of a CD. One portion of cheese should be restricted to the size of an old flip-phone. I wouldn’t worry so much about restricting your intake of fruits and veggies, but for the curious, one portion of this is the size of a baseball.
- Starve yourself: While it is true that losing weight boils down to simple math and creating a calorie deficit, you should never, ever, ever skip entire meals. A comatose human body needs 1200 calories daily minimum to provide enough energy for all the organs. And you are not a comatose human body. You are an active, exercising, functioning person. When you receive less than 50% of your necessary calorie intake (this will vary depending on your gender, weight, and activity level), then your body will go into “starvation mode”, meaning your metabolism will slow to a crawl and your body will hold onto your existing fat as a method of preserving energy. Thus, starving yourself will actually hinder your ability to lose weight.
- Drink diet soda: Well, first of all, you really shouldn’t be drinking soda at all if you are dedicated to losing weight. However, nobody’s perfect and we all slip up sometimes. The problem with diet sodas and other low/no-calorie drinks is that the artificial sweeteners used in them have actually been proven to make food-intake regulation more difficult. Meaning that your stomach is slower to tell your brain that you are full, and you end up eating much more food, much more often. Not to mention that artificial sweeteners have been linked to cancer and other really scary side effects. So when it comes to diet or “no calorie” drinks, just say no.
- Omit entire food groups: Fad diets like the grapefruit diet, or the Atkins diet, ask you to cut entire food groups out of your diet, which is not a sustainable way of eating healthy. Especially if you are exercising and leading an active life, your body needs complex carbs for energy, protein to build muscle, and even healthy fats and oils to function properly. The food pyramid exists for a reason! Eating a healthy balance of all the food groups will ensure that you are getting all the essential vitamins and minerals that every human needs to function at peak performance.