Overeating, fast food, rich diet: poor diet choices come in many forms and are constantly beguiling us with their salt content, sweet taste and attractive packaging.
To say nothing of how they dance on the telly and pose seductively in adverts.
Or how they feature beloved cartoon characters to entice our children into forming bad eating habits as early as possible.
Meanwhile, the battle rages between the food industry and its corresponding regulatory bodies.
And, reporting from the front lines is the NHS that, in spite of all unhealthy food promotions, advocates for fresh choices and puts accountability for our waistlines, clogged arteries and diabetes squarely back on us.
How dare they!
In the flux of all this sometimes contradictory nutritional information: eggs raise your cholesterol / no they don't... how is anyone supposed to know what to eat these days?
One could be driven 'round the bend with all of the conflicting information...
But you don't have to be.
To avoid anyone obsessing over the subject, let us now have a frank talk about healthy eating.
Keeping a Food Diary
Until the 19th century, food science wasn't even a science. In the daily struggle for survival, little concern was given to lipids, glucides and proteins, and how they act on the human body.
That till-then undeclared frontier revolutionised consumers' attitude toward food.
Today, knowledge of food and its effects on our bodies is a bit like the stock market: hard to understand unless you are trained, certified and in the thick of the discipline.
And what impact do carbs and protein have on your body and fitness goals?
Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain muscle mass or simply want to eat right for health's sake, keeping a food journal is the first step to shaping up.
You should write down everything you eat and drink - and how much of each, as well as record any exercise programs you take part in.
Calculating your Basal Metabolic Rate
Your basal metabolic rate – or BMR tells you how much energy, or calories your body needs to sustain optimal function of basic life systems, such as:
- breathing: your lungs require a certain amount of energy to work properly, even while you sleep
- circulation: your heart must (obviously!) continue to beat in order for you to live
- digestive system: as you rest, your innards are hard at work, processing your meals and converting them to energy.
- For which, ironically enough, they too need energy
Every body is different: in size, height, mass, and even in nutritional needs.
Smaller frames can thrive on 1300 calories per day while larger musculoskeletal frames would only just survive on that caloric intake.
We haven't even figured on anyone's level of activity, yet!
Basic human activity, such as walking or working – even at a desk job, accounts for approximately three- to four hundred calories each day.
Knowing that, to keep your current clothes size, you can calculate your ideal daily caloric intake like so:
Weight maintenance = intake of required calories (BMR) + calories to fuel supplemental activities.
For a handy guide on how many calories ordinary, daily activities – and a few fitness activities consume, you can refer to this chart.
You'll notice that high-impact step aerobics can burn more than 700 calories per hour!
Alarming Signs of Bad Health
“I'm always so tired!” lamented Kathy, popping a Tim Tam. Discarded sweets wrappers and an empty pack of biscuits lay on the table in front of her.
What we eat has a direct impact on how we feel and function.
Certain physical signs can clue us in to potentially life-threatening conditions such as: diabetes, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease:
- Excessive thirst
- insatiable hunger – especially for sweets
- having no appetite – never feeling hungry could also be an indication of disease
- fatigue, especially in those people whose sleep is neither restful or restorative
- vision trouble
- frequent infections, or infections that are hard to clear up
- wounds that take a long time to heal can also be a sign that there is something wrong
- tingling in the extremities – a constant feeling that your hands or feet have fallen asleep
- sexual dysfunction
If you experience any or all of these symptoms, you should immediately visit your GP.
Food Types that Precipitate Serious Health Concerns
Let us proclaim right now: no food type or cooking method is inherently unhealthy – although we do concede that some prepared foods don't necessarily do a body good, even in moderation.
However, health and nutrition experts agree: excess is the real culprit.
- Binging on Netflix while binging on crisps or sweets
- what is a bag of crisps without a refreshing cola?
- Even diet colas have tons of chemicals – aspartame, to sweeten them, for example
- fried foods, especially deep-fried: fish 'n' chips, anyone?
- Red sauce, mayonnaise, prepared salad dressings
- cakes, pastries – not just from the baker's but also factory-produced
- bleached flour products, including breads and breakfast cereals
Reducing intake of these food groups – or omitting them from your diet altogether would go a long way toward preventing a cardiac episode and improving your overall health and wellness.
Keeping Fit by Watching What You Eat
“Buy one burger, get one half-off!” scream the adverts.
“The complete meal is only a pound more!” - complete meal: burger, chips and cola.
It is hard to eat healthy in today's pulsing economy, where one must jump ever higher and run ever faster to earn a decent living.
Making food choices on the fly and eating while you drive: such scenarios are not conducive to spreading hummus on a whole wheat cracker and munching appreciatively.
And sometimes, you just get so hungry!
That is how clever marketing of foods that are bad for you wins.
Peer pressure is another reason we make bad food choices:
Let's say your workmates love Five Guys. Are you really going to stay at your desk, nibbling on carrot sticks and celery while everyone else indulges in the UK's latest fast food craze?
Or worse: will you be ostracized for being the office health nut?
If you choose to be so labeled, your stance is gaining traction: more and more people are dropping out of the fast food frenzy and opting for fibre-rich and fresh, natural foods, grown organically.
You can also engage a health and fitness specialist or online personal trainer to educate you about proper nutrition or find one, nationally, in any city across the UK!
Get Healthier with a Certified Personal Trainer
The fitness industry is currently buzzing about the concept of healthy eating.
Several gyms and health clubs promote their individualized brand of nutrition, all packaged in ready to eat portions that they claim will help you lose weight and tone your body (through their accompanying exercise program).
These regimens may have merit, but: are they really any better than plain old sensible eating and regular workouts?
There is no magic bullet to regaining your fitness: all that is required are common sense food choices and exercise.
The Fitness Steps
Find out what shape your body is in through a clinical test of endurance that will measure your cardiorespiratory fitness through a series of aerobic exercises.
These are the same exercises a cardiologist would conduct for a heart stress test.
Discuss the results of your fitness assessment with your personal trainer. S/he will then work with you on a program design tailored to your current fitness level.
S/he may also consult with a registered dietitian or nutrition specialist to help establish a sound nutritional program for you to follow.
Your first step in fitness training may be corrective exercises, to prepare your muscles and joints for a more rigorous workout.
If your goal is to get fit rather than lose any weight, you may start out with functional training: a series of exercises to improve movement in your daily life.
In any case, functional training is the next level, after remedial workouts. Improved performance will clue your personal trainer that you are ready to move up the fitness ladder.
You can jumpstart your sports conditioning by working on your aerobic capacity: classes such as Zumba or other cardio workouts offered at the gym.
You could also join a bike club, take up jogging and/or swimming, and dance – or exercise to music.
Anything that raises and sustains an elevated heart rate is aerobic exercise.
Exercise physiologists aver that alternating between fast and slow – on a treadmill or stationary bike works your heart better and helps get in shape faster.
Be sure to consult with your fitness professional to see if you are ready for this type of athletic conditioning and, if so: how much?
Overworking your muscles is just as dangerous as not working them at all!
Once you have attained a satisfactory level of sports conditioning, where your fitness goals take you is your choice entirely.
Do you want:
- to continue losing weight, while toning your muscles?
- Resistance training is for you.
- a more sculpted look? To become a bodybuilder?
- You should talk to your fitness instructor about strength training
- to participate in athletic competition?
- Depending on your sport of choice, you may need to train one on one with an athlete of that discipline
What about fitness programs for the whole family?
Considering the alarming rates of childhood obesity in Great Britain, it might not be a bad idea to get the whole family enrolled in a fitness program.
Your family's fitness education is as close as your computer: you can find a group fitness trainer online, or search for a fitness centre that offers family fitness classes near you.
Nutrition and Exercise Science for Special Populations
Not everyone can look to private training for their fitness and nutrition questions.
Some aren't even motivated to seek out training programs... yet!
For whatever reason, the most vulnerable segments of our population are at greatest risk of poor nutrition and suffer the extremes of poor physical conditioning.
The obese, the disabled, the young, the old, the poor and disenfranchised have little to no access to health fitness education.
Fortunately, our NHS takes the lead.
On their page, you can find it all: senior fitness, youth fitness; even exercise programs for the disabled.
You can learn about biomechanics and training techniques, and learn about exercising safely.
The Personal Fitness-Proper Nutrition Link
Anyone in the fitness business will emphatically state that you cannot get fit unless you feed your body.
Just as you would not put low grade fuel in your Audi A4 and expect high performance, you cannot put foods of nutritionally poor value in your body and expect to have a healthy body composition.
Or any energy for anything – let alone physical fitness!
Your personal fitness trainer would advise you to take in the proper fuel for your fitness goals:
- To build muscle mass, you should take in plenty of protein
- and carbs, to give you the energy for those heavy barbells!
- To tone and trim your figure, leaner is better
- plenty of fresh fruits and veg, whole grains, and lean meats (or other forms of protein)
- To build endurance – for crossfit and circuit training, or maybe registering for that marathon is what motivates you
- here again, carbs are key.
Any type of interval training, especially at high intensity for short bursts, calls on your muscles to give up glycogen for fuel.
That is why carbs are essential to your fitness plan: they convert easily into sugar, that you will burn off as you work out.
To determine your current level of fitness and knowledge of nutrition, you can take quizzes online.
Again, our NHS leaps to our aid with this overall fitness challenge.
From that page you can find all manner of help and insightful articles about various societal challenges that get in the way of our health and fitness plans.
And at Superprof, you will find any number of certified fitness professionals who will help you overcome them, to become the best and fittest you!