Making Nutrition into a Lifestyle
When thinking about physical fitness and health, many people immediately think in terms of the exercises they’re doing. Most times people only think of their 1-2 hours they spend working out as the only time they work towards their fitness goals – which isn’t inherently wrong. You can directly focus on only your fitness for a couple hours a day. But realistically, if you want to reach your maximum potential or even just move a couple steps closer to your goal, then you must make conscious choices daily.
That doesn’t mean sitting at your desk planning your next set of bicep curls (nothing against you if you do). Thinking about physical fitness could be as simple as making a decision in the morning to eat a bowl of oatmeal instead of a bowl of sugary cereal or last night’s leftover pizza. It’s these small steps that, over time, lead to massive jumps in your physical health. If your goal is to be a little leaner, or maybe you just want to be feeling your best, then creating healthier eating habits is the key to physical fitness.
An exact percentage of how important nutrition is over exercise is a little blurry, so, I’m not going to throw one out there, as it’s different for every person. Just today for example, I had a good friend of mine approach me asking how I stay at my bodyweight all the time. I explained to him that it’s all a matter of lifestyle. I may not be in the gym every day, and I have missed a workout a day or two. But the point is I have created a lifestyle in which I prioritize my physical fitness. I watch what I eat and count my calories. I started making healthier decisions in my meals. None of the choices I have made for my physical fitness have hindered my daily routine at all. In fact, at this point I’d say my physical fitness is part of my daily routine now.
It’s really as easy as prioritizing. I used to get home from my classes and play video games for an hour. I took a step back and looked at my priorities. I knew I had a free hour, or even more, where I do absolutely nothing of importance. So I dedicated that time to my physical fitness. If you are serious about wanting to impact your health or change your fitness level, then you have to prioritize it and structure other, lesser commitments around it.
The quality of your diet comes down to small, isolated, conscious choices that add up to a diet that either benefits or hinders you as you pursue your fitness goals. When you’re at the grocery store, make it a point to add some color to your cart or basket. Hit all levels of the food pyramid. Rather than a specific nutrition plan or diet, adhere to the 80/20 plan. That means eating foods that contain vitamins and macronutrients 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time, allow yourself free range to eat the foods you just inherently like, regardless of their nutrition quality.
Notice I did not call these “dirty” or “bad” foods. That’s because when you give food a negative label like that, it’s going to lead to a negative relationship with those foods. Which could lead to guilt when you eat those foods or the dreaded, binge then starve diet. Don’t take foods out of your diet completely. If you’re craving a piece of chocolate cake, then have one. You can stop at one piece and it will curve your craving.
Another huge thing that has helped me exponentially with a healthier lifestyle is experimenting with cooking. For example, one of my guilty pleasures is ice cream. I can down a whole gallon of ice cream if nothing is stopping me. But I don’t need to eat all of that. So I tell myself that I’m still going to eat ice cream. But I found that blending frozen fruit and milk creates the exact same effect as ice cream. One of my favorites is a mint-chocolate-chip recipe using frozen bananas. This allows me to still rid my craving of sweet mint-chocolate-chip ice cream, without overindulging and blowing way over my calorie limit.
Your health shouldn’t become a dictating force in your life. You should be able to work around it and still allow yourself to splurge every once in a while. Another analogy I really enjoy is comparing meals to a batting average. Let’s say you have 3 meals a day 7 days a week. That’s 21 meals a week. If you allow yourself to indulge 3 times, you still have an average of 18/21. If you were a baseball player with an average like that you’d be pretty good. Just like in baseball, there’s no need to beat yourself up over missing 3 balls when you hit every other one. You ate nutrient rich foods 18 times this week, that’s 6 times the amount you ate your guilty pleasure.
Changing your eating habits is a process involving quality and quantity. Tackle one variable at a time before taking on the other. After awhile you’ll know what you’re body needs, and you can start intuitive eating, without having to track anything. Eventually you’ll get more comfortable with your food and you’ll no longer be thinking about what food you’re eating, or even how much you’re eating. Look at some elite level athletes, Michael Phelps for example, he’s able to stay incredibly lean all year round, and he doesn’t even think about the food he’s putting down anymore. To him he’s fallen into a nutritious rhythm that works best for him and works with his goals.
The main point of all of this, is that a massive part of fitness is what you’re fueling your body with. Are you putting stress on your body after eating a whole box chicken McNuggets, or are you warming up with a nice plate of greens and lean protein. Once you understand your nutritional needs and work around what you found out you need, then you will reach your goals quicker than you think.
— Clay Beeker