It’s more of a philosophy we follow than a diet we stick to, and allows us to have our cake and eat it too. Photo / 123rf
Counting calories is not a long-term solution for maintaining health or losing weight. Once considered the key of both, calorie counting is now recognized as a flawed system that ignores the
quality of food consumed. This narrow-channel system eliminates high-calorie superfoods such as seeds, nuts, and avocados without considering their nutritional value as excellent sources of fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins that support healthy weight and metabolism .
Focusing on calories without considering their source blinds us to what really matters and opens the door to an invasion of poor quality foods that negatively impact our metabolic function and how we store and burn fat. ‘energy. Eating foods that zap our energy, contribute to fatigue, and stimulate cravings for more of the same creates a vicious cycle of ups, downs, and quick fixes.
We get no lasting energy from these foods, but experience a lot of fatigue.
The good news is that with so much health and fitness information readily available, people are educating themselves and personal well-being continues to become a priority. The focus on calories alone is being phased out, as people now understand that when it comes to maintaining health and weight, it’s never about the number of calories in, but the number of nutrients consumed. .
It means clean eating. Health-conscious people are now opting for natural, high-quality, nutrient-dense whole foods over low-quality processed foods. High-quality foods include unrefined and minimally processed foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy carbohydrates and fats, low-fat dairy products, and good-quality protein sources.
Poor quality foods include white sugar, refined white grains, candies, snacks and desserts that have been processed, fried foods, and harmful saturated and trans fats. Sugary drinks and beverages are also part of this list.
Does eating clean via a nutrient-dense diet mean we have to give up all of our favorite flavors and indulgent foods? Or is there a way to have our cake and eat it too?
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Luckily for us, living in a black and white world of fixed food choices isn’t the answer. Convincing ourselves that we can forever eliminate our desires/cravings to eat our favorite foods is neither realistic nor sustainable. Putting a noose around our eating habits can be maintained for a short time, but will fail in the long run. Once cravings take over, dieting reservoirs and guilt set in.
So what is the solution ? Flexibility. Rather than trying to live in a black and white world of demands that eventually fail, why not adopt the more flexible and lenient 80/20 rule for eating?
The 80/20 rule, postulated by the Pareto principle, is an economic concept that can be applied to all aspects of our lives, including our diet. Its premise is that 80% of the outputs are the result of 20% of the inputs/causes.
Applying this concept to our eating habits means eating a diet of nutritious foods 80% of the time and indulging in our favorites (which may or may not tip the nutrient balance) the other 20%.
Because it’s more in line with real life, the leeway afforded by this allowance is easier to follow and adhere to than strict calorie-focused diets. Its sweetness helps take the “feel” out of dieting and allows us to eat healthy while enjoying our favorite foods in moderation.
Lots of fresh water, plus a variety of nutrient-dense food choices, fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins (including plant-based proteins like soy, edamame, and beans), low-fat dairy products, seafood rich in omega-3s, and healthy fats like those in olive or coconut oil are all important ingredients that should be included in the 80% portion of our plan.
The remaining 20% is more about leeway and fun. This is when we feast on our favorite, indulgent foods – in moderation, of course.
If we keep the formula to 80% healthy and 20% fun/favorite/indulgent (moderation and portion size are key), we’re fine. Eating this way takes away a lot of the guilty emotions and stress that come with those times when our cravings for a piece of chocolate cake get the better of us.
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When applied to food/diet, the 80/20 rule honors personal choice. It allows us to be guilt-free humans and gives us leeway to splurge on the delicious treats we love. It invites variety (the spice of life) and repels boredom and deprivation. It’s more of a philosophy we follow than a diet we stick to, and which allows us to have our cake and eat it too!
This type of healthy eating, combined with proper and stimulating exercise, is a dynamic and stimulating duo that will bring life to your years and years to your life!
Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness.