4 Ways ‘Eating Healthy’ Could be Halting Your Progress
As a father of a two year old, I do my best not to swear in front of my daughter. You know the big words – the “S” word when you stub your toe and the “D” word when you can’t find your darn phone. Of course the legendary “F” word is the big one I would like to try to keep her away from. I also have problems with the “H” word.
But my “H” word is different than yours. I’m not referring to “H-E-Double Hockey Sticks.”
In this case, the “H” word is healthy. I’d prefer for my clients to not use it. I know what you’re thinking: a personal trainer telling his clients not to be healthy sounds like a nutcase. In a world with high obesity rates, you would think that people who are trying to eat healthy and select good foods would be doing well. The selective acts of self-improvement should be congratulated, but let me explain my stance.
I would argue that just settling for eating healthy can mess with your progress. Here’s how:
- Being Healthy is Vague
The issue here is where do you start?
Let’s use the salad example. We see the green veggies and think “Oh man – health jackpot!” But what does that mean? Does the salad have adequate protein? A reasonable protein-to-fat ratio? Veggies are great, but is it the be-all, end-all road to health? Why not just eat salads all the time then?
I know most people don’t think like that. But let’s say your salad has an oil dressing on it, some cheese, almonds, and avocado slices. Sure, those are all healthy options. But eating all those fat sources means a huge calorie surplus in just one meal. A better option would be to spread that fat intake throughout your day.
You could take things further and look at the rest of the meals this person is eating. Or maybe the salad is the only thing they put in their mouth – which is certainly not a healthy thing to do.
- It’s Open to Interpretation
What’s healthy to one person may not be to the next. For instance, building muscle is a great way to live a healthy life. Muscle is the machinery that keeps your metabolism high and leads to quality movement while you age. But I guarantee that most people won’t think of gaining muscle when they think of healthy. Since its open to interpretation, it’s possible to undershoot your abilities and actually not improve your health.
- It Leaves Wiggle Room
You can buy organic soda with cane sugar in it. The ingredients are organic, so you can label it healthy, but 50 grams of organic sugar in a can is still 50 grams of sugar. You can buy gluten free doughnuts. These pastries can help people with celiac disease since gluten will give them issues
Are they healthier alternatives? Maybe. And you may be thinking that there’s no way that people think like this, but trust me – they do. It’s the classic deal of ordering two Big Macs with a Diet Coke. It’s that little bit of wiggle room that can send your fitness backwards.
- It Demonizes Food
Fat is bad. Sugar is the devil. Red meat will kill you. You can see here that you’re running out of options of what to eat.
There are food cults out there and they’ve created a society in which certain foods are good and others are bad. Therefore we try to eat healthy around these rules and end up short sighting our gains.
For one, we know that saturated fat is needed in the diet to help produce certain hormones. And sugar – yes, sugar – is beneficial after a tough workout. When combined with protein and fast digesting carbohydrates, (some) sugar can help the body burn fat and build muscle. But sugar is bad, right? There’s a time and place for everything.
So if you’re not supposed to eat healthy, then what the heck is left to do? As I tell my clients, let’s improve on something specific and measureable. This allows you to be on point, leaves nothing to interpretation, and takes wiggle room out of the equation. Most importantly, it requires you to take action. Taking specific action is sorely missing from most “let’s get healthy” plans.
What do actionable steps look like? Try this:
I’m going to have 1/2 cup of veggies with each meal
I’ll drink 2 cups of water before I get to work
I’m going to do three days of intervals per week
The more objective you can be, the more you’ll actually be leading a healthy life.