No food is all good or all bad. It is your attitude towards food that makes for unhealthy eating. One small piece of sweetened chocolate is OK, but get depressed and eat a whole packet of chocolate biscuit and you will be doing irreparable harm to your body.
Let’s use the example of fats in our diet to show how one food can have both good and bad points.
Some of the good points about fats are:
- FAT is nature’s way of storing high concentrations of energy in the good times, for later use in hungry times;
- FAT is vital for many of your body’s metabolic functions, especially in women, where there are many hormones associated with fats and fat stores;
- FAT aids in the absorption and digestion of vitamins A, D, E and K;
- FAT is an important component of cell tissue;
- FAT insulates the body against cold;
- FAT is used by the body as a shock absorber, such as on the soles of your feet, and around the kidneys.
Some of the bad points about fats are:
- HIGH levels of fat in the diet are linked to death from heart disease, and with high levels of potentially harmful cholesterol levels; a high fat intake is linked to certain forms of cancer;
- FAT has more than twice the calories of carbohydrates. Excessive fat in your diet can lead to increased body fat, and obesity.
If you want to develop a sensible attitude towards eating, you should:
- REDUCE the amount of fat in your diet, but don’t eliminate fats completely;
- INCREASE the number of complex carbohydrates you eat.
- BALANCE out the calories you eat with enough regular, low-level activity to keep your body lean.
If you decide to modify your diet, you should realize that you are going to eat regularly for the rest of your life, so an occasional radical change in your diet to the latest fad will not make a long-term difference.
Change your bad eating habits slowly, one by one. For example, you might think you are eating too much refined sugar. Make one change, such as no sugar in your tea. Concentrate on this one thing, until it becomes a natural part of your life.
Then look at other drinks, such as soft drinks and “mineral waters”, and make an effort to not drink any that contain refined sugars. Over a few years, you can develop eating habits that will suit your body, and give you a healthier lifestyle.
Learn to listen to your body. If you are not hungry, say no to food. If your body wants food, give it something healthy to eat. If you fancy a midnight snack, eat a bowl of popcorn (no salt or butter), instead of a piece of cake. Sweeten cakes or muffins with fruit or fruit juices, not refined sugars. If you like to eat often during the day, snack on foods rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates, not cake and coke.
When I exercised and trained a lot, my record was 16 salad sandwiches in one day (plus normal meals, and a reward of a bucket of chips, baked, no added salt). This food was easily digested and didn’t cause an increase in body fat.
Don’t think that because you are fit, you have immunity against the effects of a poor diet. A fit person with a high fat intake will have the same chance of heart disease as an unfit person, or the same chance of adult-onset diabetes if their diet is rich in simple sugars.
Keep your energy intake (the total amount of energy contained in the food you eat) in balance with your energy output (the amount of energy you use up in exercise, and body metabolic functions).
Over Christmas, accept the fact that you are going to have an increase in your food intake. Don’t let this worry you. If you eat a lot of energy-rich food, all you have to do is balance it out with an increase in your physical activity.
Don’t ever deny your body a well-balanced diet by taking up fad “diets”. Eat fresh fruit and vegetables, some dairy products, nuts, carbohydrates, and a little protein and fats. Limit your intake of refined sugars, salt, and saturated fats.
The secret is to balance your regular exercise with the amount of food you eat. When you eat a little more, exercise a little more. When you are exercising less, eat less! That’s all there is to maintaining a lean body.