Are you over complicating your diet?Posted on | Last updated 17-01-2017
Nutrition and your diet, do you find it confusing? I don’t, but the reason why isn’t because I know everything there is to know. For a start, I don’t, but more than that the reason that I don’t find nutrition confusing is because I actually ignore most of what I know and make it REALLY simple for myself.
See the problem with knowledge is that the more you acquire, if you don’t have a system in place to shelve it somewhere for a rainy day, all it does is clog up your mind and make you over think every god damned thing.
How do I know this?
Because I’ve been there. When I was a nutritionist at the age of 23-25, I over complicated EVERYTHING. What I was eating, why I was eating it, when I was eating it, it was so complicated it looked like an aeroplane pilots pre-take off check list. And do you know what, it just stressed me out, especially on the days I was tired or just wanted a simple day of eating and not thinking too much about it.
The reason I am writing this blog is to help the people that are in that place I was 5 years ago, and show you a better way. Show you a simpler, less stressful way.
The reason I find nutrition simple is it is, it’s us that over complicates it. And if I or the BTN Academy has ever overcomplicated stuff, I apologise, it is 100% not our intention at all, our aim is to simplify, make it practical, and then if we do need to get all geeky because the scenario demands it, like race fuelling or advanced dieting, then we know why and how to do so.
The reality is that in our view, nutrition is kinda like this diagram which we have adapted slightly from the excellent nutritional Pyramid book by Eric Helms:
One thing we cannot ignore, and LOADS of people like to ignore it as they feel there is some magic they have yet to discover in the world of nutrition, is that how much you eat determines your body weight. If you eat more than you burn you gain weight, if you eat too much you get fat, if you eat less than you burn, you lose weight, too, and that can either be fast and unsustainable long-term, or slow and sustainable long-term. Look at that first, because eating too much or too little is bad for you no matter what you do.
Now you have to ask yourself how you are going to effectively do this. Are you going to count calories? Control portions using some kind of visual aid? Reduce a certain macronutrient in certain meals? Just try to eat less? This is important, as I said, if you eat too much you get fat, eat too little and you lose weight - this is the frustrating reality.
I meet an awful lot of people in my role as an educator and coach, and the amount of people that say “I’m not losing weight, but I eat really healthily”, to which I simply say “Perhaps you are simply eating too much”. The person I am talking to usually goes on to say “But… “ something, and they then see the look in my eyes, the they know the buck stops here. I’m going to struggle to help if someone is eating too much, now by all means we can then discuss methods of controlling food intake, improving satiety so it’s easier to diet, methods for adherence and consistency, what a diet should actually look like etc, but we can’t avoid the fact that if you eat too much, we remain or get fat.
I hate this fact as much as you do, I wish I could eat as much of certain tasty ‘healthy’ foods as I want and not have to think about it, but the reality is I do have to put a little thought into it if I don’t want it to affect my weight.
Of course you can ignore me and by all means do what you want, but accept that your body will not just then do what you want it to.
This doesn’t mean that I can’t have a cake or a beer, I just have to plan a little, eat lighter in the day, eat a little the next/previous day, fast or skip a meal, do some more exercise, eat a meal that is leaner or have more vegetables in my meal rather than calorie dense carbs. It takes planning.
In life we often complain about the reality of a situation a lot, that and the fact is that too many people like to moan for the sake of moaning and having their voice heard. If you are one of those people, me saying this won’t change the fact that you do this, because you are likely not aware of the fact that you do it, but please just think, the world is the way it is, the human body is the way that it is, it’s just a case of pulling up your socks and dealing with the world in front of us and how it actually is.
Once we accept the basic facts of how the human body works, we can work with it and not against it, we can apply systems and fact rather than hope “I’ll eat well and hopefully my body will just get fitter and leaner”, then we can really start to make some headway.
It’s not just about calories, though, and that’s where many traditional diets break down. We can then consider that food quality is key, without a lot of good whole foods in the diet you are going to inhibit your body being able to perform optimally and get the best recovery and performance outcome.
If you’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables, fix that, because your health is going to suffer. If you don’t get a broad mix of anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and all the other good stuff packaged into your greens then whether immediately or further down the line your health WILL suffer somehow, it’s just a matter of time. If you know you’re eating roughly the right amount of food/calories, then try to make selecting the best possible food choices you can your next priority.
After that you need protein in a consistent and adequate fashion, so if you are eating 3x meals a day, get a good serving at breakfast, lunch and dinner as a minimum, and if you are active, you’re going to need more than those who are not because of the recovery demand you are placing on the body.
Hydration, overall food intake, vitamin and mineral intake, fruit and vegetable intake, carbohydrates and fat balance, supplements (further down the line). It’s the simple stuff, but it’s the effective stuff – once you get this all in line then you’d be surprised at how easy things get. Which are some of the other things listed in the nutrition pyramid, which we can save for now for a rainy day.
As a nutritionist my diet isn’t overly complicated, I eat 4-5 times a day, I have protein at most of those meals, I eat a balance of carbohydrates and fat that work for me and my goals in that I can stick to them, perform well in my sport and not feel hungry all the time. I control my energy intake by roughly counting my calorie intake almost every day, I exercise with purpose targeted towards the goals of maintaining my bodyfat levels, building muscle and improving my rugby performance. I live a life that is as stress free as possible, I sleep well, ensure I am well hydrated, and take a few choice supplements to support my goals and health.
Get these basics nailed, be consistent with them, enjoying a bit of cake here and some alcohol there, and success will be yours. And if you do want help with understanding all of this fully, if you want to know these nutritional life skills, then consider enrolling on our Foundation Academy, our basic online nutrition course.
Never ignore the real and true facts around nutrition, it will only make you spin your wheels and achieve less.