Your diet should work in unison with your journey to achieve your goals, but diet doesn’t mean eating less, and this is where many people get confused and frustrated.
Food means different things to different people. It’s a way of reconnecting with our roots, it brings us comfort when we’re sad and it brings people together. We celebrate with food and we commiserate with food. But, what happens to our relationship with food when we want to trim down? When we decide to go on a diet, our immediate thought is to cut down on food altogether, which isn’t necessarily the healthier option. We’re going to help you navigate that fine line between eating too much or too little.
Our relationship with food
Food has the power to unite people in happiness and grief, it can even take you on a gastronomic journey to other countries. It also serves a more practical purpose of keeping us alive. Whether we enjoy a plant-based, vegetarian or vegan diet, piling our plates high with bright colours, crisp, crunchy veggies and juicy, exotic fruits or a thick, perfectly grilled steak, smothered in a cheesy mushroom sauce, we all have a relationship with our food. While we all love to eat for the social and familial reasons, we often forget that what we eat and how much we eat has direct influence on our health.
In today’s society, we're eating more fast foods and takeout more than ever before. The pressure of daily living is so high that we often opt for convenience and speed rather than nutritional value. But now more than ever, we need to take a step back and examine our eating habits. We know that it’s not always easy to keep a healthy diet all the time, even for the most disciplined amongst us. But, maintaining a healthy, nutritionally rich diet will do the world of good for our bodies.
When we decide that we want to live a healthier lifestyle, or perhaps drop a size or two, the first place we make adjustments is to our diet. While the spirit in which this change has taken place is welcomed, the way we do it, can sometimes do more harm than good.
When you’re dieting and exercising in order to live a healthier and happier lifestyle, food plays a massive role. Yes, you should limit your intake of unhealthy foods, but more importantly, you need to ensure that your diet works in unison with your fitness journey. Going on a diet doesn’t always mean eating less, and this is often the stumbling block that trips us up.
How do you know if you’re eating too much or too little?
A question that everyone is going to ask themselves at some point during their training is whether they’re eating too much or eating too little!
There are a few things you’ll need to consider when gauging if you’re over or under eating on your weight loss journey. For example, if you aren’t simply relying on your diet to lose weight and you’ve decided to increase the amount of exercise you get, you'll need a higher calorie intake. What you will need to do, however, is watch what types of food you include on your plate. As you may know, here at DNAfit we don’t agree with counting calories. This being said, diets that promote counting your calories can be beneficial because they’ll help you accurately measure the amount of food you’ll need to be able to keep up with your fitness regimen. You should only use calorie counting diets for a short time though. These have also been known to foster an unhealthy relationship with food.
If you’re unable to include exercise into your wellness journey for whatever reason, please remember that people who undergo highly restrictive diets often regain all the weight they lost. Sometimes they regain even more once the diet has come to an end. For sustainable weight loss, research has shown that the best strategy is to eat a balanced diet of healthy food. Slow and steady wins the race.
To learn more about what a healthy, balanced diet looks like, download our Beginner's Guide to Healthy Nutrition.
Eating right for your training plan
Have you ever noticed that when you start exercising regularly you feel hungrier than usual?
If you've decided to undertake a training plan with your new diet, you must remember that in order to perform at your best during your workouts, it’s important to be properly nourished. By not eating, or under eating, you’ll be undermining the effectiveness of your workouts. If you’re under eating, your body won’t be getting the proper nutrients and energy reserves to maintain your fitness levels. We do need to replace the energy that we use up with exercise in order for us to continue training at that level.
Calories are not the dirty word we've made them out to be. Especially not if your periods of lethargy and sitting stationary are offset by exercise and staying active. By consuming insufficient calories, you could experience hunger pangs, crashes in energy levels and mood-swings. It’s a vicious cycle that could leave you frustrated from a lack of results. Simply put, obsessively reducing your food intake can be unhealthy, both physically and mentally.
If you find that you aren’t able to fit in both healthy eating and making time to exercise, we have a selection of healthy meals that are full of flavour and super quick to make. So, you never have to compromise your promise to yourself to eat better.
Access our at-home nutritional guide for easy to make, healthy meals that can support your health journey.
How can calories help me lose weight and get fitter?
When you're training, your calories need to complement your routine. So, keep an eye on how many calories you’re burning compared to how many you consume. Remember that while you’re training, what you’ve eaten is going to be used for energy, and while you recover (we all know what the day after “leg-day” is like) those nutrients will be used for repairing and growing muscle tissue. As you exercise more regularly, you'll notice your metabolism speed up and as it does so, you’ll find that you may need to eat smaller meals more frequently.
Yes, overeating is associated with obesity, but that’s in the context of low activity levels, and calorie-dense foods. All those cheeky, “cheat-day” fast food stops you’re making are simply turning food into fat. When you’re training hard and consuming good quality food, those nutrients are used to help you recover and grow. For optimal performance, the reality is that you need to eat well so your body can adapt to the stress you putting it through.
No matter how hard you train, a bad diet will catch up to you. We’re not saying you are never allowed to enjoy an ice-cream cone or a hamburger and that you need to stick to a stringent diet for the rest of your life. There's no fun in that. But, if you want to achieve your fitness or weight loss goals then you have to realise that some foods, especially processed foods that are high in trans fat, are always going to hold you back.
Overall, your target should be a balanced, healthy diet that suits you and complements your training regimen. Healthy food can be used to slim down or bulk up, you just have to get to grips with your portion sizes.
A balanced lifestyle that adheres to simple guidelines, with a bit of leeway, will have you reaching for an apple rather than a chocolate bar, taking the stairs without even thinking, and smiling a whole lot more.
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