And I’m back! It’s me again, Jim Eaton, nutritional therapy practitioner.
When it comes to calorie counting, right off the bat I’m going to say that I’m not a big fan of it for a couple of reasons:
1. I feel it adds another level of anxiety to food – an already stressful topic for a lot of people. “Did I eat too much? Not enough?”
2. If you are eating a whole foods, nutrient-dense diet, like we started talking about in the last post http://funintelligenttraining.com/the-ancestral-diet/ (please read that post before you finish this if you have yet to do so), your body will tell you when it has all the nutrients and calories it needs. That being said, it’s nice to have some reference points and a place to start.
With that in mind, I’m going to go back to how our ancestors ate. Studies of many primitive cultures show that, in general, they ate along the lines of a 30/30/40 diet. That refers to 30% of calories from protein, 30% from healthy fats and 40% from carbohydrates. We should all be looking to get our calories from whole and minimally processed foods.
More specifically, when it comes to proteins, we are talking about pastured/grass-fed organic meats, eggs and dairy (if tolerated), wild caught fish and even wild game.
For fats, we are again looking to properly raised animals to provide us with things like lard, tallow, eggs, and full-fat dairy. Fish, fish oils, coconut oil, coconut milk, olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds are also good sources of healthy fats.
Our carbohydrates should be coming almost exclusively from fresh, organic fibrous vegetables (think broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, lettuces, kale, spinach, radishes, celery, carrots, beets, onions, mushrooms and more). We can also consider occasional servings of fruits, starchy vegetables (like sweet and white potatoes, winter squashes, etc.) or (small servings of) rice.
Now, just because “most” cultures ate like this does not mean it will work for you. These are just guidelines. Play around and find what feels good for you! Food should bring you joy, not cause you stress and anxiety. For instance, my diet looks more like: 50% fat, 25% protein and 25% carbs. This is what feels good to me, but I am not counting macronutrients (fat, protein, carbs) on a daily basis. More on that in a bit.
Now that you know from where your calories should be coming and in what general percentages, you may be wondering, “How much do I actually eat!?!” Again, this is going to be different for everyone. One thing I want to make sure you avoid, however, is under-eating or restricting your calories. The idea behind most weight-loss diets is to eat less, and perhaps move more.
The problem with this approach is that it’s not sustainable in the long run. How many of you have, or know someone who has gone on a restrictive diet, lost weight, gone back to their normal routine, and gained all the weight back (maybe even a little more)? Then they started the cycle over again, only to find it was a little bit harder the next time.
Restricting calories for extended periods of time sends a message to the body: “The world we live in sucks and there isn’t much food out here.” How, then, does the body respond? It’s main goal is to keep us alive, so it starts slowing down the metabolism, allowing it to function on the restricted calories it’s being given. It also puts a high value on fat, storing more of it, and starts dumping lean tissue (muscle) because that’s more biologically expensive to maintain.
Let me restate: by restricting calories, we are telling the body to slow down our metabolism, store fat and dump muscle. Not exactly what most people had in mind when they began those fat-loss diets.
Back to the topic of daily calorie consumption. As a baseline, I suggest women shoot for around 1,800 calories per day, and men 2,200 per day. I’ll say it again: this is just a guideline.
If you are bonking out during your workout, you probably need to eat more. If you are feeling stuffed to the gills after meals, you probably need to eat less. I generally eat between 2,500 and 4,000 calories per day, and this gives me good energy and keeps my weight pretty consistent. So what does it look like when we put these guidelines together?
1,800 calories for women would break down like this:
• 180g carbs, 135g Protein, 60g fat
2,200 calories for men would break down like this:
• 220g carb, 165g Protein, 73g fat
Some of you are probably wondering, “If I don’t track my calories, how do I know how many I am eating and what my macro break down is?” The truth is, I have no idea how many calories I ate yesterday. What I do know is that it felt like the right amount. I have figured this out over time by occasionally keeping a food journal.
I suggest doing that for at least three days in a row. It gives you a better picture of how you really eat, and can be as simple as writing down all the foods and beverages you consume, and then taking a good look at it to determine your macro intake. If you do it this way, I also suggest keeping track of your moods, energy levels and any digestive issues. This can help pinpoint if there are any food sensitivities you were previously unaware of.
When it comes to food sensitivities, remember that you don’t have to go into anaphylactic shock (like a kid allergic to peanuts) to be sensitive or allergic to a food. While gas, bloating and skin breakouts, for instance, are common, that doesn’t mean they are normal, and what they could mean is that you have a food sensitivity of which you were previously unaware.
If you want to take a more technological approach to tracking your food intake, you can use a website or app like http://www.myfitnesspal.com/. MFP has a huge food database, which makes it fairly easy to log any type of food and get a complete analysis of how many calories you are taking in, as well as the macro-breakdown into fats, proteins and carbs. Be warned, though, that the default guidelines in MFP are based on USDA standards (low-fat & high-carb); so either ignore those or you can manually change them once logged in.
What I’ve talked about here are some decent guidelines to start with. What I’d like to see is that you reach a point where you are eating such delicious and nutritious whole foods that you are not worried about calories, only about properly fueling your body!
Experiment and have fun by finding what feels right for you. Don’t beat yourself up for missteps and definitely don’t make food the enemy. We are learning as we go, and any step in the right direction, no matter how small, will reap benefits in the long run.
Come join me Sunday 3/22 from 5-7 to learn about how you can properly sustain your weight loss efforts. Please click here for more info!
Jim Eaton is a certified nutritional therapy practitioner who teaches people how to use whole foods to achieve optimal wellness. He has worked with people around the world who are interested in sustainable weight loss, reducing stress & anxiety, repairing their digestive tracts, evening out energy levels, and reducing chronic aches & pains (i.e., headaches, migraines, arthritis, colitis, backaches, etc.). To work one-on-one with Jim, visit his web site or contact him through email or phone.
email@example.com |603-568-3306| EvolutionaryEaton.com