A key component of any fitness program is nutrition. Nutrition is a broad subject and should not mean the same for everybody. With nutrition, “one size fits all” will not work. We all have different needs based on our genetics, our allergies, our exercise levels, our likes and dislikes, our eventual health issues, our cultural differences and so on. If you have some underlying health issues, only a certified nutritionist should be assessing your needs and helping you. Follow his or her advice, and do not follow the last fad diet which is well advertised on social media.
If you are generally healthy, here are a few tips which may help you become more fit:
- Balance: Eat a balanced diet from all food groups with a variety of colors. No food is a no-no, but always in moderation. Portion control is important and is dependent on your exercise level. Make sure you include healthy foods that you like. Never let yourself get too hungry. Being hungry will often lead you to search for an easy processed snack with no real nutritional value.
- Any food in its natural form is the best: For example, eating a full apple is better than a peeled apple, than apple sauce, and better than apple chips. The food industry is really good at profiting and creating processed food based on the new nutrition trends. As being vegetarian or being vegan has been the craze recently, a whole array of new “vegan” or “vegetarian” or “gluten free” junk foods have shown up on the supermarket shelves. Read the labels; some of those processed foods are full of fats or sugars and are really junk although made with plant-based ingredients. The less ingredients on the label, the better. Eating more fruits and vegetables is, of course, recommended, but in their natural form and with as little cooking as possible.
- Diet and weight are not the best standard for fitness: Our culture is obsessed with image and weight. Social media is bombarding us with pictures of young models strutting on the beach in string bikinis. This certainly should not be your reference of being healthy. Some of those models have been dealing with anorexia issues. They might look good, but they are not necessarily healthy at all. Advertising and social media have encouraged some people to obsess with image and weight and led them to unhealthy behaviors.
- Drastic changes are hard to follow: If you decide to change your diet, it is better to slowly incorporate the new healthy food you want to try. Taste is important. If you do not like a food, you probably will not eat it often. Using a different way of cooking can also make one of your favorite foods healthier. Try to bake instead of fry, roast your vegetables in the oven, cook at home instead of buying fast food. Do not start a diet at the same time as you start an exercise program. Cutting your calories will decrease your energy level, and may prompt you to quit both your exercise program and your diet.
The best is to start your way to fitness by a progressive and consistent exercise program such as swimming or water aerobics. This will allow you to keep eating as much, or even maybe more. Slowly make small changes to your nutrition such as eating more fruits and vegetables, using a healthier way of cooking, eating more slowly, stopping as soon as you feel full (without letting you be hungry), always having healthy snacks on hand, buying and storing less junk foods. Those little actions can go a long way in making you healthy and keeping you healthy and fit for the long run.