”Question: What are some fundamental principles that will help to improve my eating habits?
Reading time: 10 Minutes
- Get expert insights into a new mind set that will support your healthier eating habits
- Learn three basic principles that are easy to maintain and will make you healthier
Aristotle’s Golden Mean states that there is some moral mean between two extremes. The mean, in this sense, is not the middle. Rather, it is some moderate position between extremes that might be closer to one extreme than the other. This idea of finding the mean can also be applied to nutrition. Looking for middle ground can provide the mean of most diets and nutritional approaches.
The idea is to not focus on the extremes. Focusing on the extreme-end of diets can create unnecessary barriers to starting and delay the positive effects of getting your nutrition under control. Though there are some people who might benefit from jumping right into an extreme diet, most of us can make some relatively simple changes that produce extreme results.
Listed are 3 basic guidelines you can follow to simplify healthy eating: 1. Eat natural foods, 2. Eat within a 12-hour window, and 3. Don’t eat within 2 hours of bedtime. These simple steps to eat better foods, minimize quantities, and limit snacking can represent the mean of healthy eating. Though there are other, more advanced methods to healthy eating, these principles should provide an easy way to start improving your nutritional habits.
Eat Natural Foods
The first step is to change the foods you are eating. Processed foods are readily available, highly palatable, calorically dense, and very addictive. Eliminating processed foods reduces overall sugar, trans-fat, and unhealthy plant oil intake. These substances in processed foods can wreak havoc in your body, especially when eaten together. They can lead to a plethora of acute and chronic conditions, including rapid weight gain, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, and overall metabolic dysfunction.
Your focus should be on foods that are unprocessed, or very minimally processed, such as meats, vegetables, fruits, tubers, and nuts. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than this. This list of foods will provide a solid balance of macronutrients and micronutrients. When you eat foods in their natural form, there is higher nutrient assimilation, meaning nutrients are broken down and absorbed more efficiently and effectively.
When these foods are varied and balanced, the intake of quality protein, good fats, and fibrous fruits and vegetables leads to lower blood glucose, higher satiety levels, and better overall portion control.
Use a Twelve-Hour Eating Window
Fasting has been associated with many health benefits- everything from increased insulin sensitivity and lower inflammation to increased cognitive function and weight loss. Fasting is typically thought of as a 16-hour period, 24-hour period, or multi-day period without food. The truth is, you can receive a lot of the fasting benefits by abstaining from food for 12 hours. This means you could stop eating at 8pm in the evening, and then eat again at 8am the following day.
A 12-hour fast reduces blood glucose and insulin levels, leading to higher levels of insulin sensitivity. As blood glucose decreases, the body will start to breakdown stored energy to use as fuel. For the majority of the 12-hour fast, you will be breaking down glycogen into glucose to use as fuel. Somewhere in the 8-24 hour fasting range, your body will start breaking down fat. This process is sped up with exercise, especially if you perform exercise prior to eating your first meal.
A 12-hour fast is a very simple starting point for fasting. With time and experience, you can easily push your fasting window up to 14-16 hours a day or two per week. These longer fasts, performed 1-2 times per week, will allow you to burn more fat as fuel.
Don’t Eat 2 Hours Before Bedtime
The guidance here is probably not what you’re thinking. The abstention of food before bed is not because eating anything before bed will result in weight gain and increased body composition. It is because over-eating before bed can lead to weight gain. When most people eat before bed, they are snacking in front of a TV. This type of mindless eating can easily lead to overconsumption and a high-caloric load.
This high-calorie consumption so late in the day can lead to sleep disturbances and high carbohydrate metabolism, resulting in increased insulin and higher fasting glucose levels. Conversely, there is evidence that eating a small protein-rich snack before bed can have an opposite effect. For the sake of simplicity and easy guidelines to follow, I suggest avoiding food 2 hours before bed.
”"Focusing on the extreme-end of diets can create unnecessary barriers to starting and delay the positive effects of getting your nutrition under control."Michael Giardina
These 3 principles are starting points. Don’t major in the minors. Spend time on these simple steps and use this experience to build confidence. With success, things such as tracking macronutrients, more prolonged fasts, and meal-timing optimization will become much easier.
MWi would like to Michael Giardina for sharing his expert insights with our community. Follow this link to find out more:
Michael Giardina is currently the Director of Education at Assault Fitness. He spent 4.5 years in the Navy before pursuing a B.S. in Exercise and Health Science and an M.S. in Applied Exercise and Health Science at Kennesaw State University. Recently, he graduated from the University of Southern California with an MPH in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Michael has been involved in the Health, Wellness, and Fitness industry for the last 15 years, with 11 of those years spent working at CrossFit, Inc as a Course Supervisor and Content Supervisor.