Double Cheese Burger Or Salad? What Actually Matters About What You Eat

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I have great news for you – you can eat anything you want and be healthy. Yes this is a true statement – of course with the exclusion of poisonous and dangerous foods – there’s in reality no such thing as good food or bad food.

You can eat exactly what you want and lose weight. You don’t have to workout 6 days a week and eat only leaves and dry chicken, cut out all starches and have all your meals tasting like cardboard to be healthy. Blanket statement such as certain foods are for weight loos or certain foods make you gain weight are technically misleading. To truly understand why, we must see food within the context of your lives and not right up close.

These are the 2 points to remember:

  1. Healthy food is better to eat regularly and over time (weight loss beginning stage).
  2. You can eat unhealthy foods from time to time and be healthy if your lifestyle is in check. (weight loss maintenance stage).

Everything Adds Up Over Time

Starting a weight loss journey or pursuing a health journey/goal, it’s important to note whether the food is taking us towards or away from where we want to be. This is the mindset towards food we must have if we have a goal (weight loss, weight gain, build muscle etc). And then from there decide to do more of what takes us toward rather than away from your goal.

In the article The Power Of The Compound Effect we briefly went into how a 1% change everyday will lead to 365% improvement in a year. Having one salad isn’t going to make you a healthier person overall. In the same way eating pizza isn’t going to undo all your efforts.

However these behaviours will have cumulative effects over time. It’s probably better for you to keep good food and reduce or even eliminate foods that make you overeat/overindulge, trigger foods etc IN THE BEGINNING STAGES or if you aren’t where you want to be.

You want to build the habit of having good food and better meals so it’s better to focus more on the good and this will take you to reaching your goal.

What You Eat And What Else You Do Is What Actually Matters In The Long Run

This is regarding point number 2. It is a more advanced idea that more people who are in beginning stages or not reached their goal might not easily implement because as we start off, most things are seen as black and white – good and bad.

But when you have some experience with reaching your goals, and are now at the maintenance stages, you become more flexible and realise that there are grey areas and you don’t really need to be strict. You need more self-awareness and big picture thinking about your lifestyle.

Let’s take these 2 people:

Person A: workouts out 4-5 times a week resistance training and cardio workouts, drinks 2.5L of water a day, calorie conscious (eats at or just below maintenance), aims for 25g of fibre a day from mostly whole foods including vegetables daily, and follows IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) style of eating, has double cheese burger for lunch 3x a week and makes sure she has extra vegetables on those days she does.

Person B: Doesn’t work out, stays up late watching Netflix 6 nights a week resulting in 5-6hours of sleep a night, hydrates with juice and soft drinks, drinks <1L of water/day, doesn’t really watch what they eat and frequently has take out or pasta for dinner but makes sure to have a salad for lunch 3x a week coz she has heard eating salads makes you healthy.

In these examples, the idea is Double cheese burger = not good and salad = good. However from these two, the reality is that person A will be significantly in better terms of their health because what actually moves the scale is all the other behaviours. Long term success is based on birds eye view and not looking at a particular thing but at everything.

Health Is Not Binary, It’s A Spectrum

Such is to say that there is not one single act that will change things magically. There can be certain behaviours you change that will trigger OTHER positive changes in your life.

For example a person saying cutting out sugar is what helped them lose 10kg likely means – they stopped eating processed foods containing sugar and replaced them with more whole foods – high fibre starches and vegetables (decreases appetite so you eat less), ate more protein (muscle sparing and decreases appetite), drank more water instead of juice and soft drinks.

Improvements that bring results rarely happen in a vacuum and it’s this point that matters. You can make little changes that will add up but making one change and not shifting your whole lifestyle around will not work in the long run.

How To Make It Simple To Carry Out

Take a paper and write down your daily habits and behaviours for 1 week – observe and document what you eat, how much of it you eat, how much water you drink per day, how many hours of sleep you get, whether you eat to feeling full at your meals, how much exercise you got that day, how your energy levels are, your mood, how many meals with vegetables you eat, how much take out/junk food you ate and how often.

Keep the record for a week and you will find yourself already noticing behaviours you may not have noticed you were doing and instinctively want to change them even without anyone having to tell you.

And the even better news is once you do one thing, make one change, you won’t want it to “go to waste” and it’ll be easier to make other changes for your benefit.

So a cheese burger is not wrong in the same way a salad is not right, they are a 0.5% impact action with power to influence things over a big enough scope of time. It is more potent when you change other behaviours around you.

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How Snacking May Be The Answer To Your Weight Problems

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It feels good to chew on something, especially to carry on in between meals, or when just bored at home watching Netflix.

Or maybe it’s tea time at work and you’re feeling peckish and could go for a light pick-me-up before the meeting at 11.

Nutrition is one aspect that is interweaved with our lives; it’s the TOTALITY of your lifestyle is what leads you to where you are on a weight loss journey. Picking a point such as snacking is a strategy that can help a long way because it’s a commonly overlooked potential Achilles heel.

Having filling nutritious meals will reduce the urge to snack in between so it’s simply another alternative. Cover your bases (main meals) so you don’t need to snack. This requires an element of meal prep and might be easier than having to hassle about snacking.

So let’s get into it. We have to play devils advocate here because nothing is ever truly bad or good. It just depends on whether it’s serving you or not.

To Snack Or Not To Snack, That Is The Question

Snacking adds up calories to your daily total, and usually quantities are not measured. In the context where one has full meals, snacking especially when unchecked and taken in an automatic fashion tends to overshoot total calorie intake.

When keeping in mind our struggle with weight loss and not seeing results, its the small things that we tend to gloss over that actually contribute the most and have the ability to swing in our favour.

Reducing your snacking will help if you tend to snack on cookies, cakes daily or even regularly. One lady I was talking to says she has chips (french fries) everyday at tea time yet she was struggling to lose weight.

Any idea where a starting point for her could be? Even before dwelling into the rest of her dietary habits.

Snacking the wrong way could be worse than snacking at all. In this case, cutting out meals in between will likely help especially if there are no available healthier snacks available.

If all you have are ultra processed foods available and you’re having issues with your weight, it might benefit you to reduce your intake. Decrease from 5x a week to 2-3x a week and eventually zero.

An Argument For Snacking

On the other hand, snacking is a way we can use to alleviate our hunger between meals, especially for those with busy working hours and little time for proper meals in between.

Commonly if we leave too much time in between meals we tend to overeat – fill up our plate more than usual and eat beyond satiety (11/10 on the hunger scale – you can even get the “itis”). Or when we get home without having had lunch, we grab the easiest quickest food to bite – usually packaged or something we can heat up in the microwave quickly.

This is where having a healthy filling snack would keep you full until the next meal.

The Best Snacks For You

  1. Medium apple and 1 tbs of any nut butter eg peanut butter, almond butter
  2. A boiled egg
  3. A handful of nuts – ie ~ 15 almonds/macadamia/cashew nuts
  4. Beef jerky/biltong
  5. A single serving of yoghurt
  6. Raw carrot sticks
  7. A cup of coffee/tea
  8. A small bowl of air popped popcorn
  9. 500ml of cool refreshing water (You may be dehydrated and think it’s hunger.)

The list above are the preferences I would recommend to someone who likes to snack or needs to due to time, their job etc. They are based on being higher in fibre, protein or nutrient dense in varying combinations.

If you can nail that, then snacking will be a helping hand towards your goal of losing weight. If you can’t however, rather than indulging in Jane’s freshly made cookies she brings everyday to the office, you might have to put in more effort in your main meals as mentioned at the beginning.

Are your snacks your downfall? Do an inventory on your dietary habits and you’ll probably find out what needs to change.

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