One of my favorite and most accurate quotes about diets is "The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison." That's what Dr. Ann Wigmore said long ago, and those words will always ring true. As a personal trainer, I can attest that exercise has the ability to work like medicine. Any form of activity for any period of time will benefit our bodies. If we workout for an hour every day, or every other day, we should be doing enough to maintain a good balance. But balance requires something that weighs in on the other end. When it comes to a healthy body, the other end of balance needs to be made up in our diets.
Here are 5 signs you might not have the balance you need. Is it time to clean up?
1) You're hungry an hour or two after breakfast
It's never a good sign when you're walking back into the kitchen an hour or so after eating breakfast because your hungry. If you're truly hungry, and not just bored or thirsty, there is a strong chance that you didn't eat enough fat or protein for breakfast. You don't need to eat a lot, but need a little bit. For instance, if you had a fat free Greek yogurt with fruit, you had some good protein and carbs, but where's the fat? Try sprinkling a handful of almonds, ground flax seeds or walnuts on your yogurt to add a little more of what your body needs. Other healthy sources of fat you can add to your breakfast include:
- Avocado: to your eggs
- Coconut oil: to your oatmeal
- Almond Nut Butter: to your smoothies
2) You want to take a nap at your desk an hour after lunch
If you find yourself fighting the urge to nod off after you ate lunch, it's probably not because your body needs the rest. It highly likely it's because you've messed up your blood sugar levels by eating too much sugar and/or refined carbohydrates for breakfast or lunch (what we eat for breakfast affects all all day, too!). Sandwiches, subs, pasta, rice bowls, paninis and wraps are all fairly high in carbohydrates. Some people might be able to tolerate carbohydrates fairly well, but many of us are sensitive to them. Too much carbohydrate can throw off our blood sugar levels, creating a post-lunch dip. Want to stay awake after lunch? Eat a meal that has far fewer refined carbs and your problem could be solved.
3) The scale just won't budge
So you've been on a diet for months, eating diligently and not cheating...but you can't lose weight? A couple things could be at play here. In my book, the top reasons include a) not eating enough, b) not eating often enough and c) eating too much...but you just don't realize it. When you don't eat enough, you slow down your metabolism. It's as simple as that. When we diet, we cut back on the amount of food we eat. Some of us go too far. At first you may lose some weight, but if your body isn't getting what it needs in the long run, you'll maintain or gain weight. Sounds unfair, but that's how the body works. When you don't eat often enough, your body goes into starvation mode, and will store fat when you do actually eat. This usually happens when people wait 5+ hours in between eating meals or snacks. The solution? Eat smaller meals more frequently. Even the healthiest of foods can be calorically dense. If you're eating too many calories for your diet, you'll gain or maintain weight. Sometimes keeping a food journal can be a real eye opener. You can download my food journal right here (download), or just keep tabs of what you're eating throughout the day. You might be surprised to see just how much you eat.
4) You have no energy
No energy is no fun. Often times our diets are full of depleters, or poor dietary choices that strip nutrients out of our body. Alcohol, caffeine, refined foods, a lack of healthy fat, food additives, and non-food items, like stress, lack of sleep and smoking work against a healthy metabolism and energy production. The food we eat and the supplements we take have the ability to jump start our body and keep it going. If we don't eat the right foods throughout the day that are loaded with vitamins and mineral that help energize us, you'll run out of fuel. Some vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning they need fat to use. Other vitamins are water-soluble, meaning they break down in water alone. All vitamins and minerals need something called "co-factors," that act like helping hands to make sure the nutrients get where they need to go. This is why we need a balanced diet. Eating a variety of healthy foods consistently will keep energy flowing throughout the day! Make sense?
5) You crave sugary or refined foods all day long
Craving foods all day long can cause mental and physical anguish! That sounds really dramatic, but it's true. It's easy to lose control around food and eat too much too often. Weight gain follows, along with a myriad of other problems. Food cravings could mean you're not getting certain nutrients your body is needs, or you could be eating too much refined carbohydrate or sugar. Before over-thinking what you might not be getting, clean up what you can in your diet first.
Hopefully this is helpful to some of you looking to get your diet in order. Any other questions? Contact me for a consultation.
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Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.