Alongside working out like a fucking savage, sleeping like a baby and minimising the stress in your life, good nutrition is key to a happy and healthy you. And just like all those other things the what and the how is a bloody minefield of contradictory information, misleading advertisement campaigns and people who have spent far too long reading books about something rather than practicing that something. Spend 10 minutes alone with google and you will be convinced you should eat no meat or only meat, no fat or a diet high in fat or that you should starve yourself to get those abs you’ve always wanted.
The truth: all of those things could work for you (apart from starving yourself!!! Despite being seemingly effective it is just a good way of looking unhealthy and older than you actually are, developing an unhealthy relationship with food and causing yourself some serious and long-term health issues.)
The fact is numerous ways of eating are backed and supported by various studies and scientific research along with thousands of anecdotal evidences from people who walk the walk. In the same week I have read a blog article about a man who ran 100 miles in just over 11 hours and accredited his success with only eating meat and listened to a podcast about an endurance athlete who claims their vegan lifestyle is to thank for their continued success at long distance running.
In reality there are healthy options of nutrition at each end of the spectrum and dozens of people who could argue the validity of them all. The key though is finding one that works for you. Optimal nutrition is only optimal if it is practical, affordable, sustainable and repeatable. If you can’t get the food you need, for the money you have available, consistently and week after week then it isn’t optimal nutrition for you.
So where do you start? Your mindset. How we think about food is the first thing to change if we want to focus on sound nutrition:
1 – be real and honest with yourself. Let’s face it we all know the foods and drinks that are ‘bad’ for us. Fizzy drinks, sweets, high sugar processed foods, alcohol, anything that can live in the cupboard for years on end and still taste the same – it’s all shite and we know it. A good place to start is to cut that crap out, full stop.
2 – prioritise. I appreciate money is a factor when it comes to food: buying fresh fruit and vegetables and quality meat can get expensive. I do, however, always make the argument that you can’t put a price on your health or happiness. I am as guilty as the next person of complaining at the price of fresh fruit and then spending £80 on a night on alcohol that I don’t even really want. When you can honestly say you waste zero money on shit food I will listen to your concerns on the price of fresh food.
3 – experiment with yourself. Most of us have some form of digestive or gut issues. We might be mildly intolerant to certain foods, find somethings make us bloated or gassy or even bring out defects in our skin. It’s hard to isolate what’s causing what when we have such variety. Take your diet back to simple food for 30 days (meat, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and nuts and seeds). Cut out all the diary, grains, processed shite and other crap we consume. After 30 days you’ll be in a position where you know what’s neutral. You can then add back in things and see if they have adverse effects. Through this process I know grains fuck me up but dairy is A-Ok.
4 – be strict with yourself. We are all secret eaters. We forget that biscuit we had here, that sweet we had there and that tub of ice cream we had last night. We are so good at convincing ourselves we eat healthy. I guarantee each and everyone of us would answer the question, “How’s your diet?” with “I eat pretty cleanly”. Basically, we’d all be lying. One of the best ways to get control of your nutrition is get strict with yourself. Call yourself out on your eating decisions, keep a diary of everything you actually eat and then realise where you are making the mistakes!
5 – be kind to yourself. The vast majority of people I speak to about nutrition, in fact I reckon the vast majority of people full stop, have an absolutely disastrous relationship with food. We blame food for our problems or use it to cope with them. We eat for fun, out of boredom or most importantly out of habit (how many of you have forced a desert down because you have to have one after your main meal right?). To be completely unromantic about it food is fuel, simple. The fact we enjoy great tastes and flavours is a bonus but it’s not the reason we should be eating.
When we start seeing food in this way we start to use it for negative things:
Control – we restrict what we eat as it shows we have control. We might have lost control of other parts of our lives but we can control this one thing pretty easily.
Reward – had a bad day, feeling unhappy with life or even just done something you think deserves acknowledgment? Treat yourself, that’ll cheer you up. Or it will just create an unhealthy association with food!
Punishment – feel you don’t deserve to feel good today, or havn’t earn’t those calories (literally the most ridiculous idea ever!!!). Then don’t eat or don’t eat the right things as a corrective element. I guarantee we’ve all felt guilty over something we’ve and worked out to try and counter balance it.
So now we’ve identified how we should think about food, what should we actually eat and how should we approach it? Check back in a coupe of weeks for the science part of good nutrition!