Every week we get asked a lot of questions around nutrition. And it is no wonder. It’s not easy to know what’s right and what’s wrong these days with so much conflicting information. Eat this. Don’t eat that. It’s all about the paleo diet. The secret is the ketogenic diet. Carbs are the enemy. Sugar is the enemy. It’s all about organic. Cabbage soup will burn fat. Coconut oil is good. Coconut oil is bad. Follow what this ‘expert’ (who most often than not is not even a qualified expert, ie. a dietician) says. There’s so much misinformation and nonsense out there so we’ve decided to share with you the philosophies, principles and pillars that guide us with regard to nutrition, in the same way as we shared with you our exercise pillars previously.
We want you to be informed and empowered with knowledge so you can eat well and ultimately live a healthy, active life. So here are 9 nutrition pillars to guide you:
Pillar 1 – Nutrition is the foundation
Food is such a powerful tool for your health and is the foundation for any physical transformation. The average person might do a workout, but then they go and overindulge in eating. Why? Because it is easier to do a workout than to change your eating habits. However, as my coach for the Olympics used to say to me “You can’t out-train a bad diet!”. It’s way easier to consume your calories than to burn them off. Consider a 60kg person who consumes 2000 calories a day. If they jog for 30 minutes, they will burn approximately 200 calories. That is equivalent to just one small piece of pisang goreng (and we all know no one ever stops at 1 piece).
This is why 80% nutrition/ 20% workout is a good general guideline to remember for weight management. So, you could exercise like an Olympic athlete, but if you overeat and make too many unhealthy food choices, you’ll remain overweight, without tone and be unlikely to reach your health and transformation goals. Food is the foundation to weight loss and body transformation.
Pillar 2 – Clean Eating – think of your grandmother
First, let’s make it clear what we don’t believe in. We don’t believe in diets. We don’t believe in diet pills. We don’t believe in the latest nutrition fad. We don’t believe there is one ‘perfect’ diet. We don’t believe you have to starve yourself or feel deprived. We don’t believe you should obsess over food, calorie counting and some unattainable ‘perfection’. And, we don’t believe in using food as an emotional crutch. What we DO believe is that eating healthily is actually very simple. It’s about clean-eating and portion control.
Clean eating is simple. It’s about going back to the basics and eating natural, minimally processed, fresh, calorie-dense foods. Commonly referred to as wholefoods – this is the type of food that your grandmother would recognize – vegetables, fruits, lean protein, nuts etc. Our nutrition plans start and build from this philosophy. Clean eating is simple – just remember your grandmother!
Pillar 3 – For good nutrition what you eat is only half the equation – portion control matters
It’s not just what you eat, it’s also how much you eat. Just because you’re eating healthy doesn’t mean you can eat too much of it. No matter what you’re eating, the calorie equation still applies – calories in (consumed) vs calories out (burned). Everything seems to have become supersized these days. It’s important to learn AND listen to the signals your body is giving you about hunger. Often our plates are filled by our eyes, not our need for adequate nutrition to fuel our bodies. Simply, don’t overload your plate! See our FREE guide below to work out how much food is the right amount for you.
Pillar 4 – Use principles rather than rules
Whether it’s your fitness routine or your nutrition, don’t build them around rules. As human’s we’re rebellious creatures and we are seemingly wired to want to break the rules. Think for a second; as soon as you restrict yourself from something, doesn’t it seem like that is the very thing you want to do or have? When you do this it creates a cycle of guilt which is not helpful. In contrast, principles can be applied to any situation and they are easier to adopt and stick to longer term. You can think of all these pillars as principles rather than rules.
Pillar 4 – Do not use cheat days
The idea of a cheat day as a reward for good eating behaviour (the concept of delayed gratification) is not a great strategy. There are a number of physical and psychological reasons why diet cheat days are ineffective, but in essence it is because they can develop negative emotional associations (guilt) with food; can lead to compensatory overeating; and can set you up for an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead we would suggest that you allow yourself 1-2 serves of your treats, 1-2 times per week. We would also suggest you reward your progress with non-food based treats.
Pillar 5 – Add/swap nutrition habits rather than remove
Focus on the health habits you add IN to your diet rather than what you cut OUT. For example, fill up your plate with vegetables and salads (1/2 your plate) and quality protein first (1/4 your plate) and then worry about the rest. There are 2 reasons for this. Firstly, if you focus first on eating the right food that your body needs , then you will crowd out the less healthy options – gradually and consistently improving your nutrition.
Secondly, it takes less willpower when you focus on taking positive actions and adding IN instead of simply cutting OUT negative actions. This same principle goes for your cravings. Instead of trying to tell yourself you can’t have something and to stop your craving, swap for a healthier option. Add/swap rather than remove! Over time you’ll find your eating habits get healthier and healthier, your overall nutrition improves and you avoid the cycle of guilt and rebellion.
Pillar 6 – Nutrition knowledge is power to make better decisions
Learn more and educate yourself about nutrition, as it is power to make better informed decisions. It is why we are explaining our underlying guiding principles and philosophies. Knowledge and principles rather than rules will allow you to be more in control and empowered regardless of the situation. Are you travelling? Sick? In a different supermarket? Eating at a new restaurant? Do you understand how to read a food label? Do you know how to cook? Do you know what organic actually means? Do you know the difference between sucrose and fructose? As my mother used to say to me “knowledge is no burden to carry”. It will help you make great, healthy eating decisions.
Pillar 7 – Aim for a rainbow of colours on your plate
Whilst there is no compelling evidence that eating a balance of different coloured foods leads to a balance in nutritional content, we still like this as a general principle to follow. Eating a variety of foods will help you get essential nutrients and phytochemicals that your body needs. From leafy greens, to vibrantly coloured vegetables and brightly coloured fruits. Eat a variety of types and colours of food. And, besides, you’re probably more likely to enjoy eating an attractive meal!
Pillar 8 – Slow down
Slow down when you eat. Relax, chew properly and taste your food, without multi-taking at the same time. In today’s busy, rushed world we don’t do this often enough. This is more than just enjoying your food. Did you know that it can take 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to register signals of fullness (satiety). Research proves that eating slower will help appetite signals register properly. This in turn reduces how much you eat, as well as reducing cortisol spikes that can lead to increased fat storage and inflammatory digestion responses like bloating and reflux.
Pillar 9 – Have a healthy relationship with food
Food is there to be enjoyed, not obsessed over or used as an emotional crutch. We don’t want you obsessing over calorie counting or meal frequency. We don’t want you stressing out as you strive for some ‘perfect’ diet. We want you to nourish your body with delicious, healthy foods. We want you to have a sensible, balanced approach to nutrition. We want you to have a healthy relationship with food – for good, and for your good.
At Active8me we’re here to help you on your fitness and health journey. We want to inspire, educate, empower and equip you. So, join our great community and let the incredible Active8me team help you make the transformation you want to see. You can look amazing, feel great and be healthy. We’ve helped many others before you and can help you … if you want it.
We hope we’ll see you on the other side.