FIXING YOUR DIET ISN’T MISSION IMPOSSIBLE
Nutrition ‘advice’ is often delivered in buzzwords and slogans. It’s easy to reduce healthy eating to a five-second pitch, but soundbites aren’t enough to help people fix their eating and get better results. With real humans in the real world, slogans don’t get the job done. You need a framework that teaches you how to eat well consistently and achieve the results you want. Step one is to identify and deal with nutritional deficiencies. It may seem ridiculous given our abundant food supply, but many people in the West suffer from deficiencies. According to data from the US Department of Agriculture, less than half the American population gets enough vitamin A, magnesium, calcium, folate and vitamin E – and research has consistently shown that most people lack at least one critical nutrient – and often over a dozen.
MISSING IN ACTION
The most common dietary deficiencies I see are low-level dehydration, lack of calcium, folate, magnesium, vitamin D and zinc, a lack of protein in endurance athletes, and a lack of essential fatty acids. No matter how good you think your diet is, chances are you’re deficient in something. So what can you do? To eliminate nutrient deficiencies, you simply need to eat more of the protein-rich foods you prefer, drink more hydrating fluids (especially water), take in more essential fats (through the use of fish or algae oil) and eat more foods that are rich in the vitamins and minerals you need most – especially lean protein, veggies and fruit. Without any other advanced screening or dietary changes, you will quickly start feeling better. You will lose fat and gain lean muscle. You’ll feel more motivated and your workouts will become better.
Step two is to adjust the amount, and types, of food you eat. Once you’ve made sure you’re consuming adequate quantities of those vital nutrients, you can move onto other issues. These include your calorie intake and the composition of the food you eat – in other words, the quality of the food and its macronutrient content. My recommendation is to get away from counting calories when planning meals. While calories are certainly important, there’s a simpler and less stressful method of controlling your calorie intake: use your own hands as the ultimate portable portion tool.
MAKE A FIST OF IT
Assuming you eat four meals a day, for each meal you might begin by eating two palm-sized portions of protein-dense foods, two fist-sized portions of vegetables, two cupped handfuls of carb-dense foods and two thumbs of fat-dense foods. This works well for many reasons. First, your hand is portable and goes everywhere with you, whether you’re at the pub or your mum’s house. And it’s generally in proportion to the rest of your body – the bigger you are, the bigger your hands. This approach also ensures you consume adequate amounts of protein, vegetables, quality carbs, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. It covers your nutritional bases to help eliminate nutritional deficiencies. Step three is to assess and adjust your eating. Once you’ve mastered the starting meal template, you should adjust portion sizes depending on your body, your goals and the results. If you want to gain weight, for example, you might add a cupped handful of carbs or a thumb of fats to a few meals. If you want to lose weight, you might remove a handful of carbs or a thumb of fats.
As with any other form of nutrition planning, this meal template is just a starting point. You can’t know exactly how your body will respond, so be flexible. Continue to adjust your portions based on your sense of hunger or fullness, your overall activity level and the progress you’re making towards your goals.
Everyone can improve their nutrition, and this system is simple enough for everyone. Address nutrient deficiencies, control your calorie intake by using your hands as portion control tools, and adjust your intake based on your goals and results. Whether you’re just getting started, or are more experienced but have gone off-track a bit, these steps can make all the difference.
“Use your own hands as the ultimate portable portion tool”