Congratulations! You are a card-carrying member of Crossfit Kaiju. You obviously care about your health and fitness, take them seriously, and have embarked on the first step(s) to improve them both. So…. now what?
Nutrition is just as important as your physical activity, if not moreso, when it comes to improving your health. How you look, feel and perform are all dependent on how you fuel your body. You might be in the gym 1-3 hrs a day, but nutrition and lifestyle are 24/7.
Some facts: According to 2007 statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), the United States has the highest prevalence of overweight adults in the English-speaking world, and the rates continue to grow. An obese person in America incurs an average of $1,429 more in medical expenses annually. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that 57.6% of American citizens were overweight or obese. The organization estimates that 3/4 of the American population will likely be overweight or obese by 2020. Obesity has been cited as a contributing factor to approximately 100,000–400,000 deaths in the United States per year and has increased health care use and expenditures, costing society an estimated $117 billion in direct (preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services related to weight) and indirect (absenteeism, loss of future earnings due to premature death) costs. This exceeds health care costs associated with smoking and accounts for 6% to 12% of national health care expenditures in the United States. (source)
Why do we struggle? Unfortunately, in our society we are set up for failure. Unlike our ancestors, who had to work hard to find food and provide for their families, we have easy access to more food than we could ever eat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, the vast majority of this “food” is actually not real food at all but rather some sort of processed, manufactured “food product”. Finally, MONEY! There is a huge amount of money and profit in the production and sale of food products. Because of this, there is a whole industry making and marketing these products – pushing them onto us and telling us to buy and consume. These products are scientifically engineered to trigger reactions in our bodies that make us want more, and to suppress reactions in our bodies that tell us we’re full. Marketing for these products lead consumers to believe that they are both delicious and good for us and our families. With all of this working against us, it’s no wonder that we have such high levels of obesity and chronic disease.
The basic nutrition tenant prescribed by CrossFit founder Greg Glassman is: “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.” This is a simplistic way to say that making an effort to stay away from highly processed foods and sugars are one of the most effective ways that we can eat to give us energy and move us along the health continuum line towards being exceptionally healthy and fit. And there are two major tenants that matter: Quality and Quantity. While quantity is definitely important (calories are king… overall caloric balance is what allows for weight and energy homeostasis) eating high quality foods and listening to your body’s hunger/satiety signals will help immensely with quantity. It’s a lot harder to overeat on steak and broccoli than it is on cake and potato chips!
So where do I start? If really thinking about and/or tracking your nutrition is something new to you, start with monitoring – working on awareness. Begin keeping a food log and getting an understanding of what you are actually putting into your body on a daily basis. You might be surprised – those little bites while cooking, finishing up leftovers on your kids’ plates, etc… all add up! Or, often it’s the opposite. People start tracking and realize they are under-eating and not giving their body adequate fuel to support the intense workouts that we do at the box. My favorite tool for tracking is MyFitnessPal – it is free and has millions of foods in its database including restaurant foods.
Simultaneously, while becoming aware of how you are currently eating, you can try to make little adjustments. Some good places to start:
- Begin being conscious of your food choices. Just take a second to think before you put anything in your mouth and consider if there is a healthier alternative that would satisfy.
- Eat your food off of a plate, sitting down, not distracted by TV or electronics. Mindless eating out of containers can turn into overeating very quickly.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store – that’s where the good stuff is!
- Don’t eat the leftover mac and cheese on your kids’ plates… throw it away (Either way it’s gone… better to have it in the trash than in your belly)! Also, you don’t have to be a member of the clean plate club. If you are full, stop and put it away for later.
- Try to include a vegetable at every meal, (even breakfast) and include a healthy carb, protein and fat.
- Don’t under-eat to try to prepare for something (like a party coming up) or to compensate for something (like overindulging the night before). It will backfire and likely result in over-eating in the long run.
- Don’t get hung up on the scale. It only tells a small part of the story… especially in the crossfit world where we are working hard to get stronger and build muscle!
Finally, enlist help and support! Whether your goal is to lose weight/fat, gain weight/muscle, or just make healthier nutritional choices and learn how to best fuel your body… the more support you have, the better. Tell your friends and family what you are doing and ask them for their help, enlist a team. Ignore anyone who tries to sabotage or pressure you into eating or doing something you don’t want to – that is a reflection of THEM feeling bad about their own decisions. Best of all, get a coach! They can help you with education, motivation, inspiration and accountability. #KaijuKaizen