Clean eating is a term that is so common now it seems overused. From people avoiding sugar, trying a whole 30, or just eating more vegetables, everyone seems to be eating “clean”.
While it is great that people are more conscious of what they are eating I think it is far to easy to get into a diet mentality.
Even when we say we want to just eat better, we can easily fall into the trap of restriction. Sticking to eating just salads, avoiding social events, or even ignoring negative health symptoms all in the name of clean eating.
It is all too common that when we try a new approach to eating, we simply don’t eat enough.
I have been down this road many times. Vowing to clean up my eating (although I already eat pretty healthy) and resort to treating it as a diet.
My body always lets me know when I am not fueling myself properly, my sleep starts to suffer, I feel more anxious, my cravings become intense, and I feel cold all the time.
Maybe you can relate to these symptoms too. Ignoring your body’s needs in the name of dieting or wanting to lose weight. But the opposite actually happens when we don’t eat enough.
The body holds onto weight because it believes it is in a starvation mode. This causes a stress in the body which leads us to craving unhealthy foods and more likely than not bingeing on them.
I think it is easy for those of us that are conscious about food and highly motivated to get into the vicious diet cycle of restricting and overeating. Clean eating quickly turns to eating way under our calorie requirements which we are only able to sustain for a couple of weeks or so.
The thing about eating whole foods is that we need a lot more food than we think. Whole, nutrient-dense food just isn’t as calorie dense as processed and refined food. Sure healthy fats will provide a higher calorie count, but most of us are conditioned to eat as little fat as possible!
An easy place to start is by building your plate as such: 4-5 oz of protein, 2 servings of vegetables (include starchier varieties if you are active) and 1-2 tablespoons of added fat (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, olives, etc.)
Eat three meals a day following this template and adjust from there based on how you feel.
If you are a numbers person like myself, here is a more detailed approach to your calorie needs.
First, start with determining just how many calories you need. There are plenty of resources out there to determine it but this calculator is a good place to start. Of course this isn’t the be all, end all but can be eye-opening into your energy needs.
Once you have an idea of how many calories you need, you can start tracking your meals. I like to use My Fitness Pal as an app on my phone when I decide to track my days.
And if you want to delve deeper into the details, tracking your macro-nutrient breakdown can be another great way to determine your ideal food requirements. You can also easily track this on My Fitness Pal and I recommend a starting point of 40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat.
I’ll be following up with a more detailed post on counting macros, it can seem daunting but becomes pretty simple after a few days.
Now of course you don’t need to be tracking for the rest of your life, but it is great to do for a week or so to give you an idea. Also the point of tracking your food is not to eat as little as possible.
It is actually quite the opposite.
To fully nourish yourself and give your body what it needs. Our bodies are always talking to us and giving us clues if we are on the right path.
Food is fuel and in order to live a fulfilled and empowered life, we need the energy to do so.