Long, but good!

As a dietitian and a figure competitor, I am constantly asked nutrition related questions.  I love helping others and spreading my knowledge, but sometimes I get frustrated and saddened when people do not want to accept my answer because it isn’t the answer they were hoping for and/or it isn’t the easiest road to their goal.  I promote smart training and nutrition, which most of the time takes discipline, commitment, lifestyle change, psychological transformation, and TIME.  Most people want simple solutions that require minimal effort, minimal time, and minimal change to their current lifestyle.  The group of questions that I have the hardest time with and frustrate me the most are the ones where people ask about a specific food item that they want to include in their diet on a regular basis because it is low calorie and/or low sugar and/or low carb and/or low something else, but contributes minimal, if no, nutrients to their body and/or does nothing significant for their long-term health and well-being!  Specifically...I am talking about snack food rubbish, such as sugar-free jello or pudding, rice cakes, no sugar added cookies or candies, artificial sweeteners, baked chips, low-carb protein bars, diet sodas, trans-fat free crackers (supposedly!), 100 calorie snack packs...the list could go on and on!  Many people are fine with adding this junk to their diet because it is low calorie/carb/sugar, but are afraid of eating fruit because of the natural sugar it contains or nuts because of the high fat content or whole wheat bread or white potatoes because of the carbs!!!  This disheartens me.  And as much as I try to explain to them my reasoning for replacing the jello with fruit or the baked chips with a baked potato or the rice cakes with nuts, they do not want to accept my suggestion.  People are so concerned about losing weight these days, that any suggestions I have for them that are not directly related to immediate weight loss, but are typically related to overall health improvement, decreased disease risk, decreased fatigue, and long-term weight loss and management, are a let down for them.  I am concerned with long term health and long term weight loss solutions.  Many people in this country are overfed, yet undernourished!  This cannot be combated with simple solutions.  This is a serious problem that requires serious solutions with serious effort. 

So what exactly is the real food revolution?  It is getting over your preconceptions and fears of real, wholesome, nutrient dense, delicious, and functional foods that also happen to contain fat, carbohydrates, and/or natural sugar, and adding these foods to your diet while ridding your diet of the junk mentioned above.  Is this the simplest solution to weight loss in most peoples’ minds?...NO...but it is the healthiest, smartest, most fulfilling, and best long-term solution.  And now more than ever, we (meaning humans as a whole) must be thinking in the long-term if we want to survive and prosper!  Now, this definitely requires habit change, planning, moderation, and reassessment.  I am not saying that you should never eat snack foods and you should never give yourself a treat now and then, but I am saying that the majority (about 90%) of your food should be whole, non-processed, and nutrient dense (a high amount of nutrients[vitamins, minerals] with a moderate amount of calories).  Can you overeat these foods and gain weight?...of course, which is why moderation and portion control are such big factors.  Don’t be afraid of natural sweeteners such as honey or agave syrup. This is what I typically see…people start replacing natural sweeteners with splenda, to later splurge on the cookies or cake that was brought into their office!  These folks could have saved calories by eating one teaspoon of honey in their morning oatmeal instead of splenda and eating only one cookie instead of 4!  This is where psychological transformation comes into play.  Peoples’ minds are so twisted about food these days that they think if they replace natural sweeteners with artificial sweeteners, this allows them to eat four cookies at work instead of one!  Or, if they do not eat the piece of fruit that contains 75 calories for breakfast or a snack, they can eat the two sugar-free popsicles in their freezer instead!  Most people have heard of, or religiously incorporate into their diet, splenda or other artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols, but are unfamiliar with, or have never tried, real food items such as quinoa, barley, beets, pomegranates, butternut squash, and bok choy.  Real foods have added benefits that the majority of the “junk” lacks such as phytochemicals and antioxidants.  This is what makes them “functional foods.”  So instead of grabbing that sugar-free jello, with no significant nutritional value, at night after dinner, have a small piece of dark chocolate or ½ cup blueberries and ½ cup yogurt.  We all need to reassess our priorities a bit and challenge ourselves and each other to go beyond basic weight loss solutions, take the long road to success, and savor the results.  Life is NOT about shortcuts!  Life is NOT about what you can get away with.  It is about what you should be doing to improve your life and thrive.  This applies to everybody, even those with specific food intolerances.  If you have a lactose intolerance, don’t rely totally on supplements to get your daily intake of calcium and vitamin D, but instead consume more calcium-rich vegetables such as broccoli, turnip, collard, and beet greens, and Brussels sprouts and more vitamin D-rich proteins such as salmon and shrimp.  If you have a gluten intolerance, don’t rely totally on gluten-free processed snack foods that have a 20 item ingredient list, but instead learn to cook with alternative grains such as quinoa, millet, or buckwheat. 

There is a reason for the abundant variety of food on this planet and we need to take advantage of it.  This means eating a highly varied and portion controlled diet consisting of whole foods in their most natural state.  We need to start looking at food in a different way, asking ourselves “what good will this food do for my body?”, instead of “can I get away with eating this food?”  AND, we need to stop coming up with excuses!!!  Everyone can come up with an excuse, but few want to come up with a solution!  “I have kids”, “I have a job that requires long hours”, “I am too tired”, etc, etc… these are the main excuses I hear day in and day out.  If you start placing value on good nutrition and gradually learn how to incorporate it into your life and plan ahead, it will become easier and easier everyday…and you will feel better and better, mentally and physically!  You didn’t know how to be a parent the minute you had kids, you didn’t obtain that high position at work overnight, and your body wasn’t always exhausted.   All these things (good or bad) came with time.  Make the change today and discover all the benefits of real food sooner rather than later!


What else can the real food revolution do for you? 

  1. less sick days
  2. more energy
  3. decreased disease risk
  4. reset your metabolism to a normal level
  5. help you with planning and discipline in other areas of life
  6. set an example for your children!
  7. what else????