Snack or not snack between meals? Eat only protein? Avoid fat at all costs? Count your daily calorie intake? Even health professionals can’t agree on these key questions! To keep things simple, here are my top five tips to help you decipher fact from fiction.
Eat real food
Simple, yet effective. If this is the only piece of advice you adhere to, you’re well on your way to a healthier body and weight. It surpasses every diet theory, regardless of the grams of macros or number of calories. Practically every ingredient that makes you fat, sick and tired is found in processed foods. If unsure, ask yourself, “did it grow this way?” If the answer is yes, enjoy! You’ll find that shopping around the outside of the supermarket will not only save you time, but it’s also where you’ll find ’real’, unprocessed foods. It’s the best return on investment when it comes to maintaining your health.
Forget everything you learned about nutrition from the 1980’s
In addition to spandex, there were many questionable theories borne during the 70’s and 80’s. From eating every 2 hours to speed up your metabolism, to avoiding fat like the plague, this was an era of uninformed evangelists, commonly delivering their preaching via best-selling diet books. Unfortunately, some of the most ludicrous things just stick! Unfortunately, there are still many dinosaurs stuck in this era, so it’s important to ask questions and source your information from reliable, scientific, current data.
Quit snacking and go back to basics.
Prior to snack food marketing, we were told not to snack before dinner as we’d ruin our appetite. Now, there’s snacks in the car at school pick-up and grazing through to bedtime, all in a quest to ‘speed up our metabolism’? It even sounds quite silly when you say it out loud! As it turns out, our grandparents were correct. It’s important to leave at least five hours between meals and a minimum 12 hour overnight fast. This allows your body to properly digest food and lower insulin enough to tap into fat stores for the purpose they’re there in the first place – fuel.
Get moving, every day.
Studies done on people who have successfully lost weight long-term, show the number one habit by a huge margin is daily exercise. Ideally, a combination of staying as active as possible throughout the day, combined with three strength workouts a week, is spot-on for optimising your metabolism, joint health, blood sugar control and cortisol (stress hormone) levels. We lose around 5-8 per cent of our lean muscle each decade after the age of 35, so regular strength training can curb this loss and keep your metabolism firing on all cylinders.
Stress and sleep are the most underappreciated factors when it comes to optimising physical and mental health. The stress hormone, cortisol, is intended as an acute, short-lived response to danger, not as a chronic, long-term state. It sends a message to the body to store fat around your middle, which has many negative health implications. Poor quality sleep or getting less sleep than your body needs is also a major stressor, causing heightened cortisol levels and increasing belly fat accumulation. Besides reducing your stress levels and focussing on better sleep, exercise is one of the most effective methods of reducing cortisol levels.