I’ve been trying to formulate the idea of my health routine. There are underlying tenets forming the basis for this lifestyle, and the more I flesh those out, the more readily I can learn to follow a healthier way of eating and living. I’m going to post the main ideas I have on what underpins my current diet plan and then some things I’ve learnt while trying to implement it.
1. Nutrition comes first
When determining a daily diet, focus on nutrition over all other factors. This means to select foods high in nutrition regardless of calories or other considerations (carbohydrate content, fat or protein content). This also means that the focus is not really on caloric restriction at this point. The focus is on meeting 100% nutritional optimization first and foremost.
2. Preferred foods
Foods that are liked and nutritious should be picked over foods that are nutritious but disliked. Eating a food item simply for nutrition’s sake when that food isn’t satisfying or delectable will lead to a greater likelihood of not continuing a healthy lifestyle. As such, whenever possible of two or more choices, pick the food item that is preferred and meets nutritional goals rather than item or items that aren’t preferred.
3. Fresh, raw food
Fresh, non-processed, raw food is selected over other food types.
- Nutrient enrichment via processing – In some cases, nutrients are increased when cooking or processing an item (spinach is one example). This would fall in line with Tenet 1 Nutrition comes first. If a food item improves in nutrition by processing without detrimental added health risks, then that food would be best eaten processed in that way.
- Pre-packaged foods high in nutritional value – Foods such as cheese or other dairy items (yogurt, heavy whipping cream, sour cream). Since these items form the basis for calcium, potassium or other possible important vitamins and nutrients, dairy items or other healthy items (those with actual high nutritional value without detrimental added health risks) would be acceptable.
4. Home cooked food
Home cooked food is preferred over pre-packaged store or restaurant prepared food. The basis of this tenet is due to the inability to know all possible ingredients in some pre-packaged or restaurant prepared foods. Also, added components that decrease nutrition or increase calories can occur when not preparing food at home.
When selecting food to eat for the day, the simplest preparation or recipes are ideal. This leaves more time for eating / enjoying the food and planning the next meal or day’s food. This also makes it easier to be able to spend the time to prepare the food, because the preparation time will be minimal.
Under this tenet, if you have a cooked meal, using fewer ingredients to make the meal would be preferred over a long list of ingredients. Keeping the main meal ingredients (discounting the spices) down to 2-5 maximum ingredients would make it easier to prepare. As for spices, use as many of these that are needed to make the dish palatable so long as the spice / spices are nutritious without detrimental qualities (such as Ceylon cinnamon being healthy, while cassia cinnamon has high amounts of a toxic component called coumarin).
Another part of simplicity is cooking time. Smaller cuts of meat or fish (4-8 oz) will reduce cooking time and oftentimes provides a sufficient amount of nutrients for that food item.
Keeping the cooking in one dish so that all items are prepared in the same dish together is yet another way to simplify the process.
6. Keeping honest track of daily intake
Keeping a daily log of all food and beverages taken during the day will make it possible to know the amount of nutritional values met for the day. The only way to increase the nutritional intake each day is to know each day’s nutritional intake and build each subsequent day from that knowledge.
When tracking daily nutritional intake, ensure to track liquids and drinks of all kinds, including water. Our bodies need a certain amount of water each day, and some other drinks can have deleterious impacts on health. Tracking all intake per day will make it possible to know the full nutritional profile for that day.
Without variety, turning a nutritional routine into a lifestyle may be difficult. This is why selecting preferred foods (Tenet 2) matters so much, but having a large list of preferred foods to select allows a greater variety to meet nutritional needs without becoming tired of the healthy eating lifestyle.
8. Less calories over more calories
When selecting over two different preferred and equally nutritious foods, the lower calorie food would be better to select. This holds when variety has been sufficient for that food. If spinach or eggs have been eaten every single day for months, then Tenet 7 Variety overrides this concept.
9. Being Satiated
Because the focus is on nutrition and overall well being over calorie or fat counting, being satiated when sufficient intake has occurred for the day matters more than the calories consumed for that day. When taking in extra calories, ensure to select foods following the prior tenets.
If satiated before meeting all nutritional requirements, then this is the only tenet that overrides Tenet 1 Nutrition comes first. Your overall well-being matters, and eating to the point of being sick to meet nutritional optimization would not be wise. As such, if you are satiated but have not met all nutritional requirements for that day, then do not continue to eat any further food for that day.
10. Real food over supplements
If a nutritional deficit can be met by eating a preferred food item in a sufficient quantity, then the food item would be better than a supplement. Only take supplements when food items eaten cannot meet the requirement for nutritional optimization for that day.
Of note, the keyword for this tenet is if. Some nutritional components such as chromium aren’t in high quantities in a lot of foods. It may be impossible with preferred foods to meet the requirement. If this is the case, then a supplement is preferred over the nutritional deficit, since the overall goal is optimal nutrition.
11. Not letting setbacks be a discouragement
There are days or times when it is not possible to follow a healthy eating plan. Cheat days or times will be expected. Times when weight gain occurs rather than weight loss will be expected. Such times may be necessary even one to two times a week in order to transition to a healthy lifestyle. It’s more important to try to achieve healthy overall optimal nutrition as often as possible than to brood or be dissuaded by a day or days of bad nutrition.
12. Continuous Learning
The current state of nutrition is just that. Nutritional foods and ideas have changed over time as scientific research has developed. In order to know which foods can help to maintain optimal nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, researching online, reading papers, joining forums where health discussions happen (such as CR Society Forum) or a nutrition group (online or in-person) can ensure that optimal nutrition is truly optimal nutrition. Learning is a continuous process best done by interactions with others whether they be nutritional experts or optimal nutrition cohorts.
The above tenets were formed after years of making mistakes in my diet and even recent mistakes that I discovered while trying to follow my current healthy eating lifestyle.
In the past, I have been involved in fad diets or cleanses–Atkins, lemon cleanse. I’ve starved myself for days (once 21-22 days straight). I’ve eaten horribly with fast food take out or delivery, or microwave / pre-packaged foods being my staple meals. Even when I cooked, I would create lavish meals with many ingredients or return to known meals that I liked but had no idea of the nutritional values.
Without having any actual idea of the nutritional value as a whole in my daily intake, I couldn’t know if I was meeting my nutritional needs. In the long term, losing weight, while a great ideal, will not make a person feel healthier if that person is not meeting most nutritional needs. Look at starvation diets and the ultimate consequences these can have on overall health when done to excess.
I finally came to the realization that it is nutrition that actually matters. If I strive to meet my nutritional daily needs, I will feel better. I may lose weight even. I may not lose weight, but I’ll be healthier at the weight I am than any other possible combination of fads, cleanses, starvation, etc. that I could possibly do.
To that end, knowing the RDA guidelines is a must, but a site like cronometer.com (free to sign up and use) can keep track of the vitamins and nutrients for the foods for you. Only by actually putting in the values each day have I come to understand what I’m truly eating and been able to improve my nutritional optimization.
Over the years, I’ve failed to maintain a diet due to multiple factors, which form the basis of other tenets noted above. I would pick non-preferred foods and then hate the time I had to eat that food for whatever benefit it supposedly provided. Even recently, I found myself doing this. I had decided sunflower seed were vital to meeting my nutrient goals and added them to pumpkin seeds as a snack each day (1 oz of each, combined together for 2 oz of healthiness). Unfortunately, while I absolutely love pumpkin seeds and would willing eat them every day, I do not have the same penchant for sunflower seeds. Combining the two together made that snack untenable for me and I would dread eating it. As such, I now am picking through the snack to pull out the sunflower seeds and throw them out and just eat the pumpkin seeds, because I won’t eat that snack otherwise and get the health benefit of the pumpkin seeds.
This leads to the idea of variety. At times, because my diet didn’t have sufficient variety in it, I would revert back to unhealthy eating habits. If I find that I no longer enjoy eating a food, I quit eating it until I want to eat it again (if that ever happens). I’ve gotten tired of salmon at some points in my life along with spinach and even ribeye. When that happens, I start eating something else, and I am trying to vary what I eat more or make the food item in a different way to avoid repetitiveness.
Another issue in the past has been the time to cook food or the number of ingredients to make the meal. Whenever the complexity or time increased, I would lose interest in continuing to cook at home for that meal. Since the idea is to cook at home, keeping the meals simple make the likelihood of cooking or eating food from home easier.
Being satiated is another important component. If what I have eaten for the day hasn’t kept me full and I don’t eat more, then I risk falling back to my old ways. I must ensure to be satiated by what I’ve eaten. When I’m eating preferred foods that I like, it isn’t a chore to eat more of those items. Since simplicity is a core value, it also isn’t a challenge to prepare.
Currently, my main challenge that I really have remaining is Tenet 9’s Being Satiated. A month after taking Chlorella Spirulina tablets, I began to be perpetually satiated every day with no hunger pangs or desire to eat. Because I’m picking foods I prefer and enjoy, it’s easier to eat at breakfast and lunch than it would be if I weren’t, but I am struggling every night to eat dinner or evening snacks.
To solve the snack dilemma, I’ve moved snacks earlier into the day, so I eat them while waiting for lunch or before working out at the company gym at the end of my work shit.
For dinner, I have tried reducing portions and, when I’m really not hungry, in removing items from the planned meal for that night. The overall issue itself of not being hungry at all at night has not been solved, and besides the idea of reducing or quitting the Chlorella Spirulina tablets, I am uncertain what else I could try. The reduction of hunger has been a huge benefit to maintaining my diet plan without going overboard in calories. Since everything is working out so well, I’m concerned with the idea of changing this one aspect of my lifestyle.
So, those are the basics of what I’ve developed on how I’m trying to live nowadays. I’m continuing to learn how to live this healthy lifestyle and meet all of my nutritional needs. Once I’ve managed to achieve that goal, my next goal will be caloric restriction with continued optimal nutrition.
Please let me know what you think and what works for you. Also, I’m always happy to discuss what I’m doing, eating, and so on with you if you need help in trying to become healthier with optimal nutrition.