I was at the grocery store the other day, doing my weekly shopping and reading food labels like I always do, when an acquaintance came up and said, “Why are you reading labels? You can eat anything you want with all of that exercise you do!” I have to say that this is probably one of the biggest misconceptions that people have.
I talk to many people who are frustrated because they are working out and not losing weight, or not seeing the results they want. The first question I always ask them is, “Have you changed your eating habits?” The answer is usually no. I have to tell you that it takes both exercise and healthy eating habits to lose weight, drop pounds and shape up.
Remember, in order to lose one pound you must create a 3,500 calorie deficit. That means you have to burn off 3,500 MORE calories than you consume just to lose one pound. How many times have you said to yourself, “I worked out today, so I can have that piece of delicious cake or tasty candy bar”? Instead of rewarding yourself with food for working out, use it as motivation to eat better. Say to yourself, “I worked out really hard today, so I don’t want to blow it by eating this junk food that will only set me back.” Remember that everything you eat adds up and you can’t out-exercise a bad diet!
Here are Some Helpful Tips:
- Actually read those food labels! Learn what a serving size is and how many calories it contains for all of the foods you put into your grocery cart.
- Educate yourself on the nutritional contents of the foods you eat. You can buy “The Complete Book of Food Counts” that lists thousands of food items along with the calories and macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat).
- Be smart about portion sizes. Even it’s a healthy food, you still need to avoid overeating or you will gain excess weight.
- Don’t reward yourself for working out with food. Find other ways to reward yourself for meeting your short-term goals. Some of my favorites are a massage, a new outfit or a new pair of shoes!
- If you really want something that you know you shouldn’t have, allow yourself a SMALL portion. Take one bite and throw the rest away. I know this sounds hard, but you can do it!
- Pay attention to how much sodium you are consuming! Food production trends currently allow for the injection of massive amounts of sodium into a variety of foods. Putting too many sodium rich foods into your system will make you body hold onto water. While this is a temporary issue, it is one that can cause frustration during your weight loss journey even when you are following your program closely.
- Instead of removing different foods from your diet, add some instead! Taking away food that you enjoy causes you to feel as though you have to sacrifice everything you love in order to get the body you want but that isn’t the case. Eat certain foods you love in moderation by eating just one bite and truly enjoying it without having too much. You can also add new and healthy foods to your diet. Grapes are a great low-calorie snack or consider adding some kale into your morning smoothie.
- Consider purchasing a small food scale for everyday use. This may seem like you are being a perfectionist, however, many people who believe they know how much a serving size is do not know what it actually looks like. Try using a scale for one month and it will open your eyes to the ways that you may be overeating without realizing it.
- When reading food labels, make sure you compare it with other options if you are concerned about sugar and sodium (and you should be). There are many different ways of preparing food and while the options may seem exactly the same, one could easily be healthier than the other.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! We hear this everywhere because it’s true! I’m not suggesting you drink a sports drink either. Even though they seem healthy, reading the food labels on many of the leading sports drinks will reveal high levels of sugar and calories. Drink some water instead!
- When eating out, either request to see the nutritional information or look it up on your mobile phone. Estimating how much your meal is in calories never works and most chain restaurants have their nutritional details available.
- Try using a fitness application to help you track your diet. These apps are usually free and they help you learn how many calories you’re eating every day!
- Commit to a diet and exercise program with a friend! Having someone with similar goals can help you reach your own! Online fitness communities can also be a great support system!
- Ask your entire family to support you in eating and living healthier. Kids love to read labels and will probably chip in to create creative new recipes that they will want to try out! You can turn it into a fun game where everyone tries to find the most delicious, filling, nutrient rich and low-calorie recipe each week!
- When reading food labels, look for foods that are low in cholesterol as well as trans and saturated fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsatatated fats are the fats you should be eating more of. These are mostly found in vegetable oils like olive oil, nuts and fish.
Remember – exercise is NOT a license to eat anything you want! Combine your workouts with a healthy, balanced diet and you will see the results of your hard work much faster!