Nutrition 101

Feeling crappy, tired, and grumpy all the time? If you haven’t read our article on sleep, check it out first because that might solve all your issues. If you already have, then this is the next part of your life to start taking control of.

Diets

Diet is a word that is thrown around a lot and I believe it is negatively affecting people’s ideas of nutrition. When you hear the word ‘diet’, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Probably diet soda, losing weight, or eating salads all the time. Yes, these are all associated with diet, but they all have negative connotations. Eating less than what fills us up, eating something we don’t want, or the ‘cancer-causing’ aspartame (by the way, don’t listen to everything you hear on tv).

As was mentioned in our habits article, when we start something new we want to give ourselves every advantage to succeed. You’re not cheating, just stacking the odds in your favor. So break away the negative connotations with the word diet, otherwise you’re already fighting an uphill battle. Your mind is telling you this is not going to be enjoyable, this will be hard, and you will hate every minute of it. As soon as those thoughts start creeping into your head, you’ve already lost. So to do this we need to avoid the word altogether. Diet is defined as “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.”[1] This sounds a lot like nutrition to me. So rather than telling yourself you’re going on a diet, start telling yourself that you are bettering your nutrition. This switches over the thought in your head from a temporary fix from a diet (losing weight) to a lifestyle change when referring to your nutrition (becoming healthier). If you can do this you’ve already completely changed your mindset from most people.

Okay, so you can talk the talk, now it’s time to walk the walk. What is your nutrition going to consist of? You can be a vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, caveman, whatever. We’re not here to tell you what to do, we’re just here to give you the information and tools you need to make the decision yourself.

Nutrition

Nutrition is built around 2 categories, macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are the ones we typically hear about. Protein, carbohydrates, and fat. These provide your body with the energy (calories) it needs to get through everyday tasks. More active people burn more calories throughout the day, therefore they need more calories, and because of this they eat more food. That’s the basic idea. Micronutrients are a little more complicated. These are vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, and vitamin A, that your body also needs for everyday tasks, but in smaller amounts. Micronutrients are a little harder to monitor and determine how much you need without taking a blood sample everyday. But you’re take away for micronutrients should be the more processed your food is, the more likely it is lacking a lot of your necessary micronutrients. These types of foods are more or less produced rather than grown. Fast food, frozen chicken nuggets, and soda are just some examples. So, even if you think you’re eating enough calories every day, your body might not be getting enough of the smaller nutrients to function properly.

Going back to macronutrients. We can go into a lot of detail about this and discuss what your body needs, how it handles it, and what may be considered the ‘optimum amount’ (hint hint: there’s not one be-all end-all answer), but for now, understand the general ideas behind them.

Protein: highly involved in muscular and tissue growth and repair. Want to be big and strong? Eat up.
Carbohydrates: typical fuel source for the body. Are you feeling drained throughout the day even though you had a good night’s sleep? Pick up some complex carbs (sustained energy).
Fat: built in energy reserve. This stores energy for use in a later time when our body’s energy demands increase. Think of it like depositing calories to your body’s bank that can be withdrawn from at a later point in time.

What you can do

So, this is a lot of information at once, but it’s enough for you to start paying attention to what you’re eating. Start making conscious decisions about what you eat rather than reacting impulsively to your hunger. Know what goes into your meals. Take a peak at the ingredients before you buy something. It may be scary but you will be better off knowing what is really going into your body. Once you understand what’s in some of these foods then you can better understand how your body reacts to them. “Oh, I feel really crappy after I ate a cheeseburger and fries from McDonald’s.” This doesn’t mean you can’t eat unhealthy food, you are just able to acknowledge that it’s unhealthy and if it fits in your nutrition plan then you can go for it. But this knowledge will ideally make you think twice before stopping at the fast food joint down the street and grabbing something just because it’s quick and cheap. You’re an adult now, time to start taking responsibility for your own health.

Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power. Don’t let the fear of learning a couple hard truths get in your way of learning the endless possibilities of life. Keep asking questions and keep searching for answers. We will help where we can.

Actionable Step:
Start drinking water. Make it a goal to drop soda for 30 days. Anytime you would normally get a coke, get water instead. Coffee is still good for those that need a caffeine pick-me-up. After 30 days you can go back to drinking soda if you’d like. But even if you do, pay attention to it. Don’t just mindlessly drink it and fall back into your old habits. Pay attention to the taste, do you really even like it? Pay attention to how you feel afterward, did it give you that boost of energy you were looking for afterwards

Notes:

  1. Diet by Oxford Dictionaries
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