Eating and exercise skills without strict dieting

By Migie Felizardo, CSCS,CPT, Pn1

Majority of people need to lose fat whether they admit it or not, and they would often try various types of exercise and diet programs. While some achieve success, some have trouble complying and fail for several reasons: the diet plan is too complicated or too strict and very low on calorie intake that the body cannot function well throughout the day. Another is that it might not be sustainable for long-term improvement, so after losing weight they rebound and get fat again once they return to their usual eating habits.

So rather than focusing on a strict diet, another approach is to focus on good nutrition. The goal of good nutrition is to help improve performance, health, and body composition, all at the same time. There are a lot of rules involved, but here are some steps everyone can use to lose fat and, more often than not, lead to better nutritional intake.

fat loss venn diagram
Diagram courtesy of customkinetics.com

1. Eating slowly. Due to our fast-paced environment many of us eat too fast. Instead of eating until satisfied, we tend to eat until we reach 100 percent fullness or even until we’re bloated. We ingest additional, excess calories, which often leads to weight gain. The communication between our gut to our brain, and back to our gut is slow. It takes 15 to 20 minutes for our satiety mechanisms to kick in. The practice of eating slowly and stopping at 80 percent full/satisfied is invaluable. It helps us enjoy our meals better and helps us eat less for the day. Try it by chewing each bite more, setting a timer, and stopping just short of your usual intake. The idea is to build up to eating 15 to 20 minutes per meal.

2. Taking your multivitamin, multimineral, and fish oil supplements. People who eat very healthy normally don’t need to take dietary supplements. However many individuals practically have limited access to the required nutrients in addition to being re exposed to stressful conditions. Also, if you’re an athlete with intense trainings, dietary supplements help a lot, especially for recovery. Vitamins and minerals help our bodies function well and boost our immunity if we’re deficient in them. While fish oil supplements supply us with the healthy fat (omega-3 fatty acid), it also provides us with beneficial effects on cardiovascular and nervous system function, brain development, immune health, and even on metabolism. Yet fish oil is usually deficient in modern diets, especially if you don’t eat fish. With a better health profile you can certainly be more productive when exercising which helps you burn more calories!

3. Adding protein and veggies, controlling or choosing better carbs. Vegetables are packed with micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and plant chemicals (phytochemicals) essential for optimal physiological functioning. Increasing protein intake for healthy individuals is safe and may actually be important to achieve best health, body composition, and performance. Protein helps in gaining lean mass and for recovery after exercise; an increased lean mass promotes faster metabolism. As a start, men can eat two palm-sized portions of protein and two fist-sized portions of veggies for each meal. Women can eat one palm-sized portion of protein and one-fist sized portion of veggies with each meal. Normally our carbohydrate intake is quite high. So to help control carbs and excess calories, it’s best to focus more on unprocessed varieties and to save starchy foods(rice, pasta, bread, sugary foods) until after an intense workout or for breakfast. Here are some guides to follow:

For someone just starting to eat better

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http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating-plate

For someone who wants to be more specific on exercise nutrition

Berardi-Anytime-Plate1

Berardi-Post-Workout-Plate

4. Changing cheat days to cheat meals. Yes we should avoid all the junk; processed, fast foods, and most of the unnecessary stuff. But we still need to enjoy food and even the social benefits of eating together. The usual solution to this is by scheduling cheat days. Yet sometimes when following a cheat day, most tend to splurge too much on a cheat day. So instead of cheat days, do cheat meals. It means you can spread out your unhealthy meals and manage excess calories throughout the week. Just remember to follow 80 percent for good meals and 20 percent for bad/unhealthy meals. And if you want to step it up try 90/10 instead!

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5. Consistently exercising. Our bodies are designed to move and there are numerous benefits of regular exercise. Build up to five or more hours of physical activity per week. At least 50 percent of those exercise hours should be of higher-intensity activities (high intensity intervals, circuits, strength training, sports training etc.) and the remaining for light or moderate activities. This should help promote fat loss combined with good nutrition. For someone who is sedentary, less than five hours per week may be enough but eventually should build up more hours next time.

Try applying one or two steps for the first two weeks then progress as needed by adding more until most of them become habits. Even if you just follow the first step (eating slowly), it should help lose body fat in the long run.