Focusing on Whole Food Health Instead of Diets
I was born in the 80’s. Which meant I grew up in the late 80’s and early 90’s when low-fat, fat-free, diet food was all the rage. So were ads and commercials for Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers. I paid attention to all these things because I was always on the chunky side. I was active in gymnastics and swimming and horseback riding and just being a kid but I also liked food and grew up as a latch-key kid with two hard-working parents. I was often left to my own meal planning (especially in the summers) of Kraft Mac n Cheese, Spaghetti O’s, Chef Boyardee, and all the snacks. You know, the convenience foods a lot of us won’t let our kids eat today. I became hyper aware as a pre-teen that even though I was active I couldn’t outrun a bad diet and I started on the path of restrictions. First it was Weight Watchers, then it was Atkins diet, then it was back to Weight Watchers, then South Beach Diet, then Weight Watchers informally again. Along the way I did lose weight (with a significant amount in my early 20’s before I got married where I sustained a 1000-1200 calorie eating plan) but would spring back up 5-10 pounds once I stopped so closely following a particular “diet”. And then came pregnancies and young family life, my debilitating anxiety diagnosis when I wasn’t eating for meals in a row, then marathon training where all eating restrictions were thrown out the window because I was hungry all the time. My body was being put through the ringer year after year. Something had to give. So I stopped the calorie counting, threw out all the diet food in my pantry, and just starting respecting my hunger and fullness cues. I also intentionally made sure to be active whether it was by myself, with the kids, as a family. Just move. And guess what? I found my happy. I want you to find your happy, too.
Diets v. Whole Food Health Mentality
The word “diet” gives me a visceral reaction. It automatically makes me feel on-guard, edgy, and sad. It focuses on food as the enemy, all of my bad habits, the scale, things I don’t like about myself, etc. It focuses purely on a finish line and restrictions. No wonder the first 3 letters of the word spell “DIE”, because there is no long term sustainability (physically and mentally) to most trendy diets.
Whole Food Health, on the other hand, focuses on food as fuel for the everyday demands of our fast-paced world, my good habits, and daily choices and well-being. There is no finish line with this approach. It makes me aware and tuned in to my body (it’s how I figured out I have a gluten sensitivity) and I still get to enjoy food! Don’t think I don’t have a little memorizing device for this, too: the first four letters spell “HEAL”. And I feel strongly about this in both physical and mental capacities.
Diet quality, not quantity, is what will help you lose and maintain weight most easily over the long run. Case in point, I was starving myself 15 years ago with 1000-1200 calories a day often in pre-packed diet foods (ie South Beach meal kits, 100 calorie packs, Healthy Choice frozen meals) because it was what I thought would keep my weight low. Today, I am eating 2000-2300 calories/day of REAL food to maintain my active lifestyle. Now these are just guesses. Because I eat what I want, in general, respecting my hunger and fullness cues and don’t keep many (if any!) processed foods in the house. Anytime I grab something to eat it is whole food, non-processed and as close as I can get to nature. My body thanks me for the fuel. This is NOT to say that I don’t indulge! Remember, I LOVE food and am a cooking instructor with lots of food coming in and out of the the house for my classes. But I since I focus on the quality of my food about 80% of the time and focus on movement quality, too, my body can withstand and rebound from those indulgences 20% of the time.
Who I am to make these claims? Yeah, you have a lifetime of experience and point of view but what formal training do you have on the matter? I’ll tell you.
Two and a half years ago, Brian, my husband, went to get his annual bloodwork and physical. (Side note: you should be doing this, too!). And he received less than stellar results. He was on the verge of high blood pressure, had high cholesterol, and was nearing the upper half of the obesity BMI scale. A lifetime of bad habits and lots of brown and processed food was leading him down a morbid path. Though I cooked healthfully for the family and made whole food options a part of the house, he was making the choice to ignore them. But these test results scared him. And he decided enough was enough. We started on his food habits first. He purged his office and pantry space of the bad snacks and we essentially had to do a detox of sugar from his daily intake. I also had to be the bad gal when he wanted to grab take-out for lunch instead of serving up a plate of leftovers from dinner the night before (which was much more controlled and healthy!). Then he had to get over his picky taste buds by skipping the fruits and veggies in our meals. And guess what? He decided he liked more than he thought-especially when it was seasoned well. After a few months of better eating habits he started incorporating daily movement-walking and running and an Adult Coaching Program for weight training. At his next physical-one year later-he dropped almost 40 lbs, got taken off high blood pressure watch, and dropped his cholesterol numbers by 15%. This is when I decided I wanted to more formally help more people the way I helped Brian and I signed up for an accelerated Family Health Coach Certification Program, graduating in May 2020.
The Key to Happy
It’s not that calories don’t matter. Consuming fewer calories, overall, is the basic science behind weight loss. But the point is that you can do it by focusing on whole nutritious foods that satisfy hunger instead of restricting whole food groups. 50% of our daily caloric intake should be from carbs (carbs are not the enemy!), 30% from fats, and 20% from protein. We really need to focus on a foundational diet. Base of the food period stuff. This means more fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans and legumes, and less added sugar and refined grains. So enough with the “diet” talk and starting over on Monday. Just make conscious whole-food choices each day, respect your body, and get moving!
Did you grab my Free Family Menu Guide, yet? It explains how to make delicious whole-food meals for your family each week. It’s on my website homepage, just scroll to the bottom and enter your email.
Also, stay tuned this fall for a new guide coming your way that explains all the basics of nutrition and a fun way to get your family involved in Whole Food Health! Lots going on behind the scenes!