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Don’t Lose Track of the BIG Picture

And there’s another one, and another, and look there’s another. What am I talking about? I’m talking about the number of sponsored ads on my social media feeds talking about a new diet scheme, the best way to lose weight, or get fit. There’s Keto, Paleo, Mediterranean, etc. Some will tell you it’s all about calories in and calories out, that you must count calories and count your macros (protein, carbohydrates, fat), and maybe even weigh your food. Are there benefits to these approaches?

I would say a certain extent. It is my opinion that counting, or measuring can be helpful for understanding portion sizes and amounts of fat/carbs/protein in those portion sizes. Is it practical long term? Is it short sighting the long-term goal? I would say yes, it is, to both. My intent here is not to undermine the importance of understanding calories and macros, but to guide you through the importance of seeing the bigger picture of food and nutrition.

Counting calories, tracking macronutrients, weighing food, etc. while informative can be stressful when you first embark on your wellness journey. This can be especially true if you have been (or are) a chronic dieter and have been counting for years under various programs seeing results and then falling back into your original pattern of eating and seeing all the lost weight come back. What happened here is that the goal was just to get you to lose a certain amount of weight, not to educate you and help you instill behavioral changes around your food choices. My objective with this article is to guide you into viewing a bigger picture, one that will have a big impact on your life and have you thinking about food in a whole new way.

In general, we have been taught to look at food simply as a way to fuel our daily activities, and how much we should eat to gain muscle or lose weight. Furthermore, we have been told by marketers, food companies, and even government agencies what and how much to eat to make us “healthy”. Most of us have been susceptible to these ads and “teachings”, and I am no different. What I did do is begin to question this information and listen to my body and think about food differently. For example, go beyond the thought of “I like this so I’m going to eat it” or “how will this taste” and ask yourself “how will this make me feel and help my body”. No, I am not asking you to eat foods that aren’t palatable to you (we all have those), but I am asking that you think about what benefit that food is going to provide you.

This is getting us to look at the big picture of food and how it can heal us and benefit us long-term.

Here are a just a handful of items I think about when making my nutritional choices.

  • What nutrients are provided?

Most of us are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals and certain one’s boost various functions in our bodies. For me, I have been focusing on foods that can help boost brain health and keep my gut healthy, so I look at foods like blueberries, olive oil, dark leafy greens, and bone broth. These are foods I know provide me quality fuel, nutrients, and offer a healing benefit for my focus. What is your focus? Nobody is the same. My caution here is not to jump on the latest “super food” supplement bandwagon. Remember the marketers’ we discussed above. When in doubt always choose whole foods and you won’t go wrong.

  • How does it fuel you? Does the food have a satiating effect on you? Is it a slow burner or quick burner?

These are important questions to ask yourself. As the quality of the nutrient can have

bigger and longer lasting effects than just energy. All calories are NOT created equal. The same number of calories from different types of food can have very different biological effects. Such as certain foods/food products increase blood sugar and insulin which then increases belly fat storage, increases body inflammation, and raises blood pressure.

In contrast, the same number of calories from a whole food wouldn’t spike your blood sugar or insulin levels and would help reduce body inflammation.

  • How does it make you feel?

This might seem like a silly question, but it is an important one.Sometimes I even have clients keep a journal about how they are feeling before a food, how they feel an hour later, and even the next day. For instance, if you rarely eat vegetables due to a dislike of all vegetables, try to find one that is palatable, and you can eat twice a week. Record how you

feel in relation to energy, focus, digestion, etc. This is providing valuable feedback to the bigger picture of food and nutrition. This also works on the flip side. For example, if you know you are going to indulge in a food that is sugar laden note how you are feeling before, an hour after, and the next day...if you are like me this is eye-opening. I suspect you will find yourself incorporating more vegetables and nutrient dense foods in to your life, curtailing or eliminating sweets.

  • What is the healing potential?

For instance, many foods have multiple benefits. Certain foods help boost your liver’s ability to detoxify environmental chemicals, reduce inflammation in the body, or protect against cancer and heart disease. Think about the big impact a simple choice of what you put on your fork can make to your overall health long-term. The choices you make today could

impact you decades later.

  • What are the external benefits?

The big picture for me goes beyond what’s on your fork. This step looks at the impact of food from a different angle. We often don’t think about the effect food has beyond satisfying a growling stomach. Honestly, it plays an integral part in our sleep, stress levels, and mental agility. Quality nutrition allows us to sleep deeper, keep our cortisol levels low, help prevent negative emotions, and allows us to think quicker and act more decisively.

Think about what it would be like to wake up every morning feeling fully rejuvenated because your body was able to fully repair itself overnight based on the foods and self-care you gave it...and how unstoppable you would be. Wow!

Final Thoughts

Rather than subscribing to the antiquated calories in/calories out model for weight loss and good health, focus on powerful, whole, real, fresh food that you cook yourself and that can rapidly change your health and wellbeing. You will lose weight by getting your body’s systems in balance, not by starving yourself.

Food is information. If you want to turn off the genes that lead to obesity and weight-gain and turn on the genes that lead to health, focus on the quality and type of food you eat, not necessarily the number of calories you consume or the ratio of protein to fat to carbohydrate in your diet.

As a coach, I’m not doing my job if you aren’t changing behaviors or thought patterns to benefit long-term health and happiness. It’s literally the old analogy of “give a man a fish; he eats for a day, teach a man to fish; he eats for a lifetime”. Nutrition plays an essential role in leading us towards health, a place of balance, and feeling our best. It is personal and it’s not one size fits all. By asking yourself similar questions to the one’s above we become conscious eaters and we become the best version of ourselves.


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