THE WONDERFUL IDEA THAT EVERYONE AGREES ON
Unprocessed, Organic, Seasonal, Natural Food sources are evidently awesome, and its a good idea to have them make up the highest percentage of your diet possible. Everyone agrees that the benefits suit any fitness and health goal, so its a worthwhile endeavour. Chances are that you can identify where you are going wrong already, but making the change can be a whole different story.
The term ‘clean’ is a bit of a buzzword that can imply that anything outside of these foods is ‘dirty’. This often leads to people beating themselves up every time they deviate which can result in binge eating and building a not so good ‘reward’ relationship with food where a bit of exercise results in a slice of cake etc.
WHAT I DO
I’m conscious of what I eat and it really isn’t a problem for me to turn down food that isn’t good for my health and/or fitness goal. I don’t buy into things like McDonalds because I don’t think it tastes good, I know its not good for me and I don't like their values. I appreciate that this isn’t the case for everyone. At the same time, I like a beer and the odd meal that is by no means 'optimal', but this makes up a small amount of what I eat. In the past, this was not the case, and as a consequence I actually suffered far more from cravings. I credit this largely down to the high sugar spikes and addictive make up of most junk foods.
ITS NOT THE SAME FOR EVERYONE
Changing your diet will vary on each individual, for some people this is hell of a change and therefore difficult to implement. When things get tough for too long - they don’t last. It often goes great for a couple of weeks and falls by the wayside when your routine breaks.
See anyone that has sustainably followed whatwould consider a ‘clean’ diet and I guarantee that they don’t find it difficult and/or dissatisfying. If they did, they likely wouldn’t be doing it.
The perfect thing you don't do, is never as effective as the decent or better thing that you actually follow.
SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
To make the changes required you will likely need a few things:
1.) Realistic Expectations.
2.) Some additional knowledge.
3.) A bit of patience.
Let’s say you eat ready meals every night, like to gun down pints and don’t really know what goes into the food you put in your mouth. You know and want to change your lifestyle, but is it reasonable to assume it will happen overnight - absolutely not. You will need to equip yourself with the knowledge to make actionable steps that don’t perfect, but improve the way you eat. Do this over time and you will have made huge amounts of progress.
LEARN SOME BASIC COOKING SKILLS
Use the wonderful world of youtube to get acquainted with the following skills.
1.) Knife Skills - If you can chop faster/easier, cooking becomes less of a chore.
2.) How to boil, simmer, roast/bake, grill, fry - Really easy, but when you understand each component it gets easier to create your own meals.
3.) Pay close attention on how to clean up as you go - This saves time and reduces washing up if you plan carefully.
LEARN THE FOOD CATEGORIES AND CREATE BALANCE
In loose general terms.
1.) Protein - Builds and repairs muscle tissue.
2.) Starchy Carb - Provides energy.
3.) Fat - For hormone production, vitamin absorption and joint support.
4.) Fibrous Carb - Provides vitamins and minerals and aids in digestion.
A balanced meal will contain all of the above categories. If you are missing some, you are missing out. As a priority I would look to introduce them in to your diet.
FIND GOOD SOURCES THAT YOU LIKE
If you don’t like it, you won’t eat it. Im not going to tell you what to eat, its up to you to build on your preferences and consider your situation. Everyone’s lifestyle/starting point is unique so the process to the end goal will be different.
As a general rule, you should be able to identify the food/ingredients just by looking at it. This is a good indicator of the amount of processing it has gone through. For example, you don’t see cake growing on tress. A bananas on the other hand very much grows on a tree. This shows that a slice of cake has gone through far more processes to end up on your plate.
Look at the labels and see the list of ingredients. The fewer, the better. Also have a think about how the food is grown/farmed. Do your research and consider your choices. Greengrocers and butchers will likely know this information for you, so ask them questions about their produce.
Proteins will be made up from meats, fish and some dairy products
Starchy carbs will come from grains and some vegetables
Fats will come from oily fish, nuts and seeds.
Fibrous Carb will come from Fruit and veg.
What foods in these categories do you like?
Create a list and then you can start thing about recipes you can create quickly and easily. If you eat a load of ready meals, use these as your inspiration. Could you reasonably make homemade variations of these meals? Approach it slowly and build the habit and your knowledge over time. You might start out by improving dinner time on a Monday, take the time to prepare your food and try something new each week. Once you build a library of recipes, maybe include another evening meal that week. Over time, you will have quick solutions for most nights where it was once a complete write off.
SCALE IT TO THE POINT WHERE ITS EASY
You don’t even have to start with a full meal if it seems too daunting. Maybe you want to start by eating more fruit and veg. If 5 a day seems like too much, scale it back to something you are confident you can achieve consistently. Do it for a couple of weeks without falling off the wagon and it will start to feel easy. When it becomes second nature, increase it! You will slowly see the percentage of your overall food quality increase. Get that percentage as high as you reasonably can whilst feeling happy and satisfied and you will both look and feel better, making it easier to keep progressing.
All change requires sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean that the ‘sacrifice’ will still feel the same at the other end. Changing your diet or lifestyle can change your whole perception to the point where you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
Any questions or requests for additional information are more than welcome!