“The fast-food hamburger has been brilliantly engineered to offer a succulent and tasty first bite, a bite that in fact would be impossible to enjoy if the eater could accurately picture the feedlot and slaughterhouse and the workers behind it or knew anything about the ‘artificial grill flavor’ that made the first bite so convincing.”
McDonald’s for breakfast … Burger King Chicken Sandwich for lunch … Wendy’s Bacon Cheeseburger and Frosty for dinner. That was normal to me.
But as many of you know, this type of eating mixed with a sedentary lifestyle is not a good formula for a healthy body.
So when I went and saw a personal trainer it was not much of a surprise when he told me I was WAY out of shape. A trip to my doctor confirmed it–my cholesterol and triglyceride levels were through the roof … and I was only 25 years old!
As someone who grew up athletic and lean, this was a wake up call. It was time to make a change. Here’s how I did it and how you can do the same if you’d like to look and feel better.
1. Start small. Every journey begins with a single step. So don’t expect to overhaul your eating habits overnight. Start by eating one more serving of vegetables than you normally do every day. Then up it to two. And so on. It’s a process, so go at the pace that works for you. Do not try and force it, or you’ll revert back to your old habits.
2. Learn how to cook. This one is crucial. I used to struggle with cooking a box of mac and cheese. Then I started cooking a meal or two a week at my girlfriend’s place (now my wife). And I quickly realized that I loved it. Cooking is a great opportunity to unwind after a long day, experiment with new foods and flavors, and unleash your creativity. Even if you despise cooking, the more you do it the easier it gets. So try it … and you might just discover a new hobby like I did.
3. Learn how to read a nutrition label. Food labels can appear awfully confusing upon first glance. Here are the things I pay attention to in order of importance:
- Ingredients list: stick to a short list of all-natural ingredients you can pronounce.
- Trans fat: if you see any trans fat listed, ditch it.
- Sodium: packaged, processed foods normally have lots of salt. If one serving of a particular food has over 20 percent of your daily sodium requirements, I’d pass on it.
4. Eat out no more than two times a week. Eating out at restaurants a lot is the fastest way to shatter your health goals. So stay home and cook a meal instead.
5. Know what to order when you do eat out. If you know you’re going to eat out, pull up the menu online and scope it out. Look for baked and broiled fish and chicken options, healthy salads, and vegetarian dishes. Many larger chain restaurants even post their nutrition facts information online, which can help you make an informed decision ahead of time about what to eat.
6. Drop the liquid calories. A can of Coca Cola has almost 40 grams of sugar. And over half of Americans drink this liquid sugar every day … and average of 44 gallons of the stuff per person every year! Dropping sugary drinks like sodas and juices and cutting back on your alcohol consumption are two of the easiest ways to change your eating/drinking habits for the better.
7. Cut back on carbs and sugars. “Refined” carbs are grains that have been stripped of their natural nutritional properties through the milling process. White flour is the most obvious example … and it’s probably in a lot of the foods you eat. Choose whole wheat and whole grain options instead. Eating excess refined carbs and sugars is one of the quickest recipes for rapid weight gain.
8. Eat the right types of fat. I always assumed that eating fat made you fat. It seems like a logical conclusion, right? Except for one little problem: there’s no evidence to support this. Fat is essential to a healthy diet. When I started eating more good fats and less refined carbs and sugars, I actually lost weight. By “good fats”, I mean monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from sources such as olive oil, salmon, nuts, and seeds and saturated fats from coconut oil and dark chocolate.
9. Keep a food diary. Research has shown that keeping a food diary is one of the best strategies for losing weight and sticking with your health goals. I like Livestrong’s My Plate, a free resource that has a huge database of foods online you can quickly add to your daily food diary.
10. Eat real food. I saved the most important one for last. Listen guys, if there’s only one thing you take away from this article it should be this: know where your food comes from. The closer to nature you eat, the more likely you’ll be to develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.
The choice is yours, ladies and gents. What will you do today to become a healthy eater for life?
If you enjoyed this article and want to read more about developing permanent healthy eating habits, I’d really appreciate you sharing it by clicking one of the buttons below. I also recommend checking out my free Weight Loss tutorial, which is a series of 18 articles that will show you step-by-step how to lose weight and keep it off for good.