Balancing Good Nutrition with Life

Many people approach a new year with resolutions that tend to be unrealistic, but with the best of intentions. We are all human after all and creating a balance between a healthy lifestyle and enjoying life is hard work. My goal is to help my clients find a realistic balance of nutrition and exercise that works for them.

Typically, I ask my clients to create a balance where 85 percent of the time they are eating well, and the other 15 percent of the time they are enjoying life. There are always going to be weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries and get togethers. Planning for these are essential in creating a balance.

Getting Started

I like to start my clients out by tracking their food, that way they can see exactly what they are eating and how much. We can then move on to other options of measuring and looking at food. When it comes to nutrition, there are many ways to keep track of the what, where, when, and why of food. The MyFitnessPal and MyPlate apps are great tools for anyone wanting to track their progress. Keeping a food journal is awesome too!

Mindful eating goes beyond logging food intake. Let’s face it, no one wants to be tied to a food log for the rest of their life and it is not what I want for my clients either. When coaching a client, we focus on what being 80 percent full feels like, portion control, alcohol, and macronutrients. 

How do you achieve 80% full?
  1. Slow down! This allows the signals from your gastrointestinal tract to get to your brain and let you know that you’ve had enough food.
  2. Do something physical! After you are finished eating, you should be able to comfortably do something physical right away, such as taking a walk.
  3. Notice your breathing! Sighing is your body’s way of saying, “I’m full.”
  4. Are you eating faster? Once you begin eating faster, that’s when you’ve shifted into psychologically wanting more food, but not needing more food.

Portion control can be done many ways. Measuring and weighing is the most accurate, but there are other ways to control portions. Using your hands is a great way to visualize portions. One protein portion would be the palm of your hand, carbohydrates like rice, pasta, quinoa, and potatoes would be one to two cupped hands. Vegetables and fruits one to two fists, and fats one to two thumbs. All this would also be dependent on your body type and physical activity.

If you have a healthy diet and are not seeing results, it may be because of your alcohol intake. Alcohol is considered an empty calorie and completely void of any nutrients. It is used as a primary fuel source. When it is consumed, it is burned first as a fuel source before your body uses anything else. This includes glucose from carbohydrates and lipids from fats. The excess glucose and lipids end up as adipose tissue or fat. Bummer for us!

Alcohol can also affect your organs. The liver is your filter for any foreign substances like alcohol and plays a role in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Excess alcohol can lead to an alcoholic fatty liver which can change the way your body metabolizes the macronutrients.

Excess belly fat is also a byproduct of too much alcohol. Unfortunately, we can’t choose where the extra weight goes, and it normally sets up house right in the abdominal area. This is the most dangerous fat accumulation as it is closer to the internal organs. Think about the last time you went out for a few drinks! One drink leads to two and then maybe three, which leads to poor judgement in the food department. You then have a double whammy of alcohol and not-so-great food choices.

Increased periods of wakefulness are also a side effect of alcohol. You may feel sleepy at first, but during the night it typically messes with the sleep cycle. This can lead to hormonal imbalances which trigger hunger, satiety, and energy storage.

Finally, poor digestion is another lovely side effect of alcohol consumption. It can cause stress in the stomach and intestines, which leads to decreased movement through the digestive tract. The secretions in the digestive tract not only move food but break down the food into the macronutrients that are absorbed by the body. 

Macronutrients like carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are essential for functioning on a daily basis. Suggestions for my clients include lean cuts of meat like chicken, turkey, pork, beef, and eggs. Carbohydrates in the form of whole grains and fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables are the best choices. Eating white flour, rice and pasta should be done sparingly. Good fats consist of olive, avocado, grapeseed and vegetable oils, and avocados and nuts. I personally recommend a variety of whole and low-fat dairy options like Greek yogurt, milk and cheese.

The percentages of these macronutrients are always tailored to the client and their specific goals. The key to this balance of an 85 to 15 percent ratio is moderation! I am a firm believer in eating all foods in moderation.

I live by several rules when it comes to food:

  1. Know where your food comes from
  2. Eat all real food in moderation
  3. Eat plant-based meals one to two days per week
  4. Buy organic fruits and vegetables on the Clean 15 food list
  5. Use portion control, and drink alcohol in moderation

Eat to live, eat for fuel, and eat to perform! Enjoy your life, your food, and your family; and as Micheal Pollan states, “Just eat real food, and if you want junk food make it at home!”

Reference: Precision Nutrition 2019