I’ve been on a “health” journey for almost two years now, which really means I’ve found ways to clean up my diet and live a healthier lifestyle all the way around while still enjoying old favorites every now and then. Growing up, there were no food requirements in our household. We got whatever we wanted. We could have soda, chips, frozen pizza, and were never forced to eat fruits and veggies, so my preferences stayed that way well into my adulthood. Things I eat regularly now, salmon, shrimp, brussels sprouts and spinach, quinoa and brown rice, would have NEVER been my food of choice just a few years ago. The more I educated myself on what our bodies really need, the effects food have on our everyday lives, our skin, our hair, our disease probability, it made it so much easier to make better decisions.
Becoming knowledge on food choices can be very difficult. We’re overwhelmed with information on the internet and automatically assume that cleaning up our diets means we have to eat lettuce and grilled chicken. Through trial and error I’ve been able to discover what my body reacts well to, and what it doesn’t want anymore. The saying that “when you know better, you do better” is absolutely true. Once I started to know more about food, the decision to pick a grilled protein over cheesy enchiladas didn’t get any easier, but my willpower became stronger. Since I’m not a professional, I reached out to Mearaph Barnes who is one, to get educated answers for the four questions I get asked consistently so that you all have a better understanding of healthy living.
1) Where do I start? What should be the first things that I cut from my diet? Especially seeing so much junk being advertised as a healthier alternative.
The first thing you must cut out of your diet is…..your diet.
Get rid of all of your plans to “cut out” an entire food group, refrain from seeing certain foods as “good” or “bad”, and lastly-stop starving yourself. Restrictive behavior is not something that you should attempt to maintain if you want results. Research has shown time and time again that restriction/dieting leads to binge-eating, and even more weight gain.
The first thing you have to change in order to start a healthier SUSTAINABLE lifestyle is your mindset. Start looking at the food you eat in terms of nutrient density. That means, try to see food as fuel. When you change how you perceive food, your personal food philosophy will also change.
2) Making good food choices is so hard! How do I change my perspective to want to eat better food?
Essentially, the goal is to start to making food decisions based on what your food will provide to your body and not based on what you think you “should not” eat. Here’s an example-
- A person who has a diet/restrictive mentality will go on a diet and refuse all sugars, carbs, or something of that nature. While on the diet, they start to heavily crave those items that they’ve denied themselves. Most times, they eventually cave and binge on the foods they refused themselves leading to guilt and giving up. Then the cycle repeats resulting in a vicious cycle of weight gain and weight loss.
- A person who has a food philosophy will recognize that foods high in added sugar (candy, desserts, fast food) do not offer much in terms of nutrient density, but he/she will then take into account that they ate 3 servings of vegetables that day and can satisfy themselves on eating half a candy bar without feeling any trace of guilt. Or, he/she will recognize that they have a craving for something sweet and choose frozen grapes (fiber + natural sugars) over the ice cream in the fridge and also be satisfied.
The latter is an example of adopting a food philosophy that is sustainable because you are now focused and aware of what you’ve given and offered to your body that day instead of what you are frustratingly trying to avoid and pretend not to crave.
3) Eating healthy is expensive!
Eating healthy does not have to be expensive – the trick is to do 3 things:
- Buy fruits and veggies when they are in season so you get them at the best possible price. Seasons usually vary by state so look up a produce calendar for whatever state you call home and see when your favorites are most affordable.
- Buy frozen veggies and fruits so you don’t end up throwing out what you spent your coins on. The frozen options are usually affordable and result in less waste because they can be stored and used when you’re ready!
- Sign up for a meal prep service. I get my Lunch, Dinner, and 2 snacks/day for 3-5 days delivered on a weekly basis from a local LA meal prep company that I love (@FitMealFitLife). The menu is in constant rotation and the convenience has been life changing since I travel all over California for work. The price per meal is so low! Especially if you sign up for a month’s worth of meals. I also don’t have to waste my own time & gas coordinating trips to the grocery store, or sitting in LA traffic. Life. Saver.
4) Organic or Nah?
It is proven that you can effectively decrease your risk for disease when you simply choose to incorporate more vegetables into your diet-whether or not they are organic. Research doesn’t support either side (organic vs non-organic) strongly in terms of one being more nutritious than the other (at this time) but what IS PROVEN is that the increased intake of fruits & veggies a GREATER positive impact on our health as whole than not buying the produce at all.
5) How many calories do I eat a day? This would be really insightful to help differentiate “bad” calories from “good” ones and also encouraging people to eat for their goals. For example, a 400 calorie crash diet isn’t nutritional just because it’s “low calorie”. Keto diets where you’re not eating carbs and tons of fat, etc.
I get this question A LOT. Honestly, it really comes down to simple math. Your energy expenditure (how many calories you burn) should exceed your energy intake (how many calories you eat). The important thing to NOT do is give yourself too few calories for your body to function normally and here’s how you figure out your recommended calories per day based on what your desired outcome is.
- Convert your weight* to kilograms.
- Multiply that number based on your weight goal below:
- 20-25kcal/kg for “weight loss”.
- 25-30kcal/kg for weight maintenance.
Ex: 180# =82kg and the interest is in weight loss.
82 x 20= 1640kcal and 82×25= 2050kcal
Daily calorie range of 1640-2050calories/day to encourage weight loss.
Ex: 180# =82kg and the interest is in weight loss.
82×25=2050kcal and 82×30=2460kcal
Daily calorie range of 2050-2460 calories a day for weight maintenance in addition to an active lifestyle.
*Please note this is not medical advice and is adapted for general use. This equation is not recommended for those with a BMI > 30. See a registered dietitian for an individualized plan.
In this case, I’d never recommend the 1640calories/day because it’s too restrictive. However, a calorie range that is based on maintaining your current body function + increasing your daily physical activity is a recipe for healthy and gradual weight loss. Individualized nutrition is an important aspect of living a healthful lifestyle. Consider working with a dietitian to help your body reach it’s optimal potential. Why? Because you’re #OneInAMelon.
Follow Mearaph on Instagram, she’s always dropping tons of great info that can help you make better food decisions and lives an amazing life while doing so. Soon she’ll be offering wellness events and nutrition consulting that you won’t want to miss out on!