WHY NO FOOD IS HEALTHY
A couple of years ago when I first decided to get fit, I used to ask myself this all the time; ‘is this food healthy?’.
The photo of me on the left is me at this moment in time. I’d go shopping and pick up items, asking myself whilst reading the ingredients - ‘is this healthy?’. I’d go out to eat in restaurants and look at the menu, thinking to myself - ‘what’s the healthiest thing here?’. I was even known to resort to a trusty (!) google search - typing in phrases like ‘are carbs unhealthy?’.
I didn't have a clue what to eat or how to exercise efficiently (not to mention dress appropriately, the importance of good eyebrows or the damaging effects of spray-in hair bleach...)
But what exactly does healthy mean? It varies so greatly from person to person. Does it mean a food that's full of vitamins? Does it mean food that's nutritious? Does it mean a food that will help get you to your goal?
Thinking back, I used to perceive anything low in calories, bright green or with the word ‘superfood’ sprawled across it's packaging as healthy. But no wonder - with the incredible rise in ‘health’ products available combined with really savvy marketing, it’s hard to distinguish what’s going to get you to your goals and what’s not.
Ultimately for most people, a ‘healthy’ food translates to ‘a way to get me to my goal’. So to explain how I’ve changed my mindset and approach to get the results I wanted, I’ll use to example of weight-loss.
Put simply, if you want to lose weight, you need to eat in a calorie deficit. That means eating less calories than what you are to maintain your current weight (there are plenty of online calculators which you can use to find this information out). Whether you track your food and count calories or you don't, your body knows exactly what you’re putting in it. That’s why that late night snack mentality, which I knew all too well, can be so damaging.
It’s 11:33pm. You sneak downstairs to the kitchen. 'I’m just going to have that bar of Galaxy and 97% of a packet of caramel digestives.’ (because 100% would obviously be outrageous.) You kid yourself that it doesn’t count because you've eaten well all day, but you can't lie to your body. It knows exactly how many calories you’re feeding it. #Soz
This is the main reason why I prefer to track my food. Aside from being slightly OCD, by using MyFitnessPal I can keep control over exactly what I’m eating. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about flexibility and don’t stick to my calories and macros (amount of carbs, fat and protein) every day like I should but it keeps me somewhat in line.
So when I go shopping now and I pick up an item, I’m not thinking to myself ‘is this healthy?’ - that’s basically like asking how long is piece of string - I am thinking ‘how does this fit into my calories for the day?'. Context is what counts. If it’s 5pm and I’ve had 1,200 calories, plenty of protein, some fat and limited carbs, I’ll happily pick up some ice cream and call it healthy. Why? Because if healthy to me means 'eating to get me to my goal’, then it’s healthy.
I don't advocate anyone to do this frequently as there’s much more efficient ways of using 60g carbs and 300 calories but if i’m not going over my target for the day, I am still techincally on track towards that weight-loss goal.
If I’m out for breakfast and I am choosing what to eat off the menu, I’ll have a quick think about what I will mostly likely be eating that day then make the choice. If I know I’m also going out for dinner that evening, I’ll opt for something high in protein and relatively low in calories such as poached eggs and salmon. Similarly if I’m not, then I’ll go for the egg benedict and a couple of slices of toast. Remember there is no such thing as a healthy food, but there is such a thing as a healthy diet.
It’s so important to stay fad-free when it comes to food. Yes the acai berry smoothie bowls, vivid green smoothies and raw cacao flapjacks may look pretty and sound like they’re going to do you good, but if they’re putting you in a calorie surplus when your goal is weightloss, it isn’t 'healthy’.
Obviously not everyone’s goal is weightloss but regardless of that, try to look at your diet as an entirely as opposed to individuals foods. Your progress is a collection of efforts which will get your results. It’s the days, weeks and months of consistency that matter not the green smoothie you had last Tuesday.