Sunday, July 21, 2024
HomeHealthy LifestyleWhy “healthy eating” can look so many different ways

Why “healthy eating” can look so many different ways

Is there a “perfect diet?” I don’t think so. One of the challenges many of us face on our health journey is wading through the conflicting and confusing messages about “eating healthy.” It’s hard to navigate and it’s hard to know if what you’re doing is supporting your goals or hindering them. I think different things work for different people at different times, and learning some basics about the nutrients and how our bodies work is a great place to start, so we can better understand why certain things work better for us than others.

In this episode, I’m exploring….

Why your sister’s diet might work better for you and not her, and vice versa
⭐ Why your husband’s diet might appear to work better for him than for you
⭐ Why the diet you did 10 years ago might not work the same for you now
⭐ How seeing the “team” at work inside our bodies can be helpful for shaping the choices we make about food
⭐ Where “3 meal magic” can be helpful
⭐ The way protein, carbohydrates and fat support your body
⭐ Examples of eating around your workouts

Links featured in this episode and references:

Episode Transcript

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Betty Rocker (00:15):
What’s up, Rockstars Coach Betty Rocker here. Thanks so much for joining me. It’s great to spend some time with you today. I wanted to talk to you about eating. It’s such a personal thing, right? Such a personal choice, and it has such a big impact on how we feel, how we respond to our training, how our energy is, and of course our overall health. And I, I guess I feel like one of the biggest challenges we face is being presented with so many diets and eating styles that are supposedly the best way to eat or to lose weight, or to get healthier. And I hear from women every day who are confused and overwhelmed trying to wade through all the conflicting advice. One thing I think it really helps to remember is that some of the reason there is so much conflicting advice is because truly different things work for different people at different times.

Some diets are really effective for certain people at certain times in their life. There’s simply just not one perfect diet for everyone. Remember in our last conversation when we were talking about how to recover effectively if you’ve been sick or injured, we were talking about all the different systems in our bodies and how they can impact the level of stress our body is dealing with at any given time, right? We all have these unique stressors due to our life stage, our lifestyle, our genetics, and so many other factors. So how our body responds to the food we eat will vary as well, because the interplay of these different systems in your body is having a different conversation than say the next person’s. For instance, your sister’s perfect diet might not work the same for you because you have an intolerance to one of the main foods in it that may be causes an inflammatory response for you but not for her.

And that sets off a cascade of other issues that prevent you from losing weight or it works for you and not for her because of the way you applied the information as it maybe was just a better fit for your lifestyle. So you were able to be more compliant and more consistent with the guidelines in the diet. Or say your husband’s diet doesn’t work the same for you and you feel that there’s some lack in you or that you are not doing it right, it’s possible that his diet works particularly well for a man’s physiology, for a man’s hormone levels and for the higher amount of muscle mass a man has compared to a woman. Remember, we are not small men. We are women with hormone levels and physiology that is unique to us. So not every diet will work the same for both men and women all the time.

It might be that he responds more quickly because he has more muscle going into the diet than you do. Perhaps the diet is even working for you. It just requires more time. I don’t actually know, but I do know that these are all things I’ve seen happen over the years, and it’s hard to sometimes pinpoint exactly what it is that’s working and not working when you’re comparing two completely different people. Another example is the diet you followed at a certain time in your life now 10 years later, doesn’t work. There are many reasons why this could be one example could be your hormone status has changed and your body just isn’t responding to the way you’re eating the same way as it used to, or a diet you used in the past isn’t working for you now because your activity level is way lower than it was in the past.

So there’s a mismatch in the amount of food you’re taking in and the amount of energy you actually need. Or maybe there’s a new internal stressor that your body is using its resources to deal with and it doesn’t have the same capacity for fat loss currently. This is why it’s both hard to compare the way you eat to the way someone else eats and even the way you used to eat. And also why we simply need to just do some experimenting as we go through life to see what works for us now, and really just stay open and curious and rely on the response we’re getting from our body knowing that food is just one of the many inputs that causes it to feel, look and perform the way it does. I always think of eating and our bodies like a two-way conversation, right? Like what we eat is us talking to our body and how we feel as a result is our body’s way of communicating back to us.

That’s why I tend to look at the foods I eat as like a collection of nutrients that are going to support my body in different ways when I know what’s in my food and what it nutrients it contains, it makes it just a lot easier to choose intentionally how I’m going to support that like internal team of cells and organs and processes happening for me 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year when I’m sleeping, when I’m awake, like literally all the time. And I’m always picturing the inner landscape of my body like a universe contained within me. All these roadway systems like our circulatory pathways, our lymphatic system, and our digestive system running through everything our organs like towns with important roles in the internal world, each with its own products and tasks that supports the entire ecosystem. And our hormones and enzymes are chemical messengers.

So I think of them like the texts and the packages your body sends all around the universe that communicates and performs vital jobs that keep the town supplied with what they need to function properly ourselves are like all the workers who are working nonstop dedicated to supporting our health. So when I eat or when I train, or when I think about staying up really late for the third night in a row, I think about how what I’m doing is going to support this team or is going to hinder it in taking care of me and how I’m part of the team itself with the choices I make about using my energy, energy that my body works very hard to produce, even the choices I make about how to talk to myself. Like if I’m being down on my body for how it looks, I’m also telling my entire system that it’s not good enough or it’s not doing a good enough job when actually it’s doing the best that it can with the input I am giving it.

And that’s really why nowadays when things aren’t working right, I think about what I need to do to support the team. There’s this sense of responsibility I feel to take care of myself. It goes way beyond how much I weigh or how I look on the outside. And sometimes maybe it’s not something I can figure out all on my own. Maybe I need some outside support or someone to look inside my at my blood to get more information. Then I can just glean with the symptoms I’m experiencing. The bottom line is really that taking care of ourselves is a complex process and it’s not easy. There isn’t one specific or right way to do it, right? We have to experiment and find the right way for ourselves, and there are a lot of ways that can work and some that don’t work as well or work better at specific times in our lives than others.

I always think about this podcast I did a couple years ago with Trisha Nelson who wrote a book called Heal Your Hunger about helping people deal with emotional eating. It’s a great episode if you haven’t listened to it before. She talked about a concept called Three Meal Magic, which she uses to help people focus and have an anchor point. And I just love how that sounds and it’s easy to remember too, and it always resonated with me because I’ve always taught a similar approach with three main meals as anchor points throughout the day. It’s pretty basic and old fashioned, but it works for a reason. While I focus on three meals a day myself, I do also like to have a smoothie, or I will have something in between meals on a day when my timing extends past when I normally eat or I’m exercising hard and I’m just hungrier.

But the anchor point of the three main meals really helps me get the nutrients my body needs throughout the day, and it just makes it easier to plan and not have to think about it very hard. I know that cravings are a real thing, and I think when we’re not getting the nutrients we need consistently that the team inside us needs to do all of its tasks. It’s gonna tell our brain that we need energy, we need something to keep working, and sugar or sweet foods are a quick hit of energy. So we kind of go to them, not ideal necessarily, but effective in the moment. That’s why eating intentionally with our main meals to give the team what it needs to do its job is so important. So we have the building blocks that help us think, support our energy, rebuild our tissue all day long.

You know, speaking of rebuilding, maybe you’ve heard me talk about protein before and why it’s such an important nutrient to include in each main meal. It’s because protein breaks down into amino acids when we eat it, and those amino acids serve a ton of important functions for us. Now, the breakdown process is also serving us actually breaking down protein takes more energy than breaking down other nutrients. So when we’re eating enough protein daily, we’re also increasing our overall energy burn thanks to the thermic effect of food, which I talked about in relation to our overall use of energy throughout the day. In another recent podcast, that was one where I also talked about walking and fat loss, if you wanna listen to that one. So anyway, the protein, it breaks down and the amino acids, it contains travel through the body and get to work and our workouts break down our muscle tissue.

So a big job that the amino acids have is to repair and restore the muscle tissue, which helps make us stronger and makes it so we can actually see the results and the impact of our workouts. Those amino acids also support our immune system. They activate specialized cells called NK cells or natural killer cells that limit the spread of microbial infections and identify and eliminate harmful bacteria, which is awesome, right? They’re just so helpful. They also help regulate your response to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation and speed up the rate at which your body produces something called lymphocytes, which are disease fighting cells. Those are all some pretty important functions for keeping us healthy and keeping our immune system strong, right? And those amino acids, they also impact our mood. Believe it or not, without enough protein, your brain can’t produce enough neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, and this is essential for boosting our energy, having mental clarity and making us feel happier.

Plus doing things like regulating pain, anxiety and initiating sleep, that’s a big one. The better the neurotransmitters are fed, the better they do at delivering important information, which supports better memory and mental alertness. I want all of those things to be happening on autopilot in my body basically. So it’s another reason I’m always making sure to include protein in my meals, and you might be sitting there thinking, well, how much do I need? And the answer is, it varies somewhat. But if you’re eating three meals a day, maybe start with 20 to 30 grams per meal, which might be a little low for you, but it’s a good place to start and you gotta start somewhere. If that feels okay and you wanna increase your amount, just try making the portion of the protein source you’re including a little larger in each meal. Or you could add a protein smoothie in at some point in your day like I do.

And if you’re in the perimenopause or post menopause stage of life, it’s good to know that our body doesn’t absorb the aminos as readily as it did when we had say, higher levels of hormones in our cycling years. So even if you’re on hormone replacement therapy, you do wanna up your protein and take a bit from the ballpark range I shared before. So if you were around 20 to 30 before, you’d wanna go up to like 30 to 40 grams per meal, and that’s a sliding scale, right? Same suggestion here about how to easily boost your protein, like just increasing the portion of protein in the meal you’re making or adding a protein smoothie into your day at some point. But you know, first, you do kind of need to take a look at how many grams of protein are in the meals or foods you’re eating now, so you actually know.

And this is really the only nutrient I pay attention to, specifically knowing the grams I’m getting of daily on an average amount. And really, once you get a good sense of how many grams of protein are in the various foods you rotate through, it gets a lot easier to estimate and not really think about it as much. And hey, if those numbers don’t work for you, you can also think about percentages like try and make 25 to 35% of your plate in your meal be a protein source. For instance. I always give a wide range because you might fall somewhere on either end of the spectrum, either because of your lifestyle, your activity level, your body composition goals, you know, what have you. Just some experimentation is always a good idea. And actually one other cool thing about protein is how it’s more satisfying than fat or carbs.

So not only does it use more energy to break down increasing your resting metabolic rate, it also makes you feel more full and satisfied when you include it in adequate amounts for your needs along with your other meal components. That means you’ll be less likely to be as hungry as soon after because you’re supporting the internal team with what it needs. So you won’t get those craving signals or the need to snack as much because you’ll have a good baseline of nutrient density from the protein portion of your meals. And there’s even more that protein does for the team. I mean, the amino acids are the building blocks of some of our hormones, which perform important signaling roles in our body like insulin glucagon, human growth hormone, just to name a few. And of course, we need amino acids to construct our enzymes, which helps speed up chemical reactions in our body like muscle contraction respiration, that’s kind of important, right? ,

Our digestion, our nerve function protein synthesis, and so many more things. So there’s just a lot of value in building protein into your meals daily with intention. Of course, different food sources contain different amino acids. There’s a lot of different amino acids, but nine that are called the essential aminos because your body can’t make them on its own and has to get them from food. Animal sources of protein contain all nine will. Plant sources contain a mix. So if you don’t eat meat, for instance, eating a varied vegetarian diet can still cover your bases. Of course, I’ve always included both omnivore and vegetarian options in all of my meal plans and programs. So you’re always covered if you’re using something that I created. And of course, protein isn’t the only thing the internal team needs to function. We also need those carbs and fats. I know it’s easy to be confused by carbs, but if you think about them for their ability to support your energy balance and your gut health, it’s just easier to include them with intention I think, and make our choices from whole food sources that contain more fiber, that supports that gut health.

And our heart health. Carbs of course, are broken down into glucose, which gets used for things like immediate energy, and it’s your brain’s preferred energy source as well. Anything that your body doesn’t need for that instant energy gets shipped off via the UPS system in your body to your muscle tissue or to your liver, and it gets warehoused there as a usable form of energy that your body can call on later on. And it’s called glycogen in that form. Now your body unpacks the glycogen in between meals, so you have energy to keep doing all of your things, and it helps to fuel your workouts and your recovery as well. This is why I don’t really recommend low carb or no carb diets for women, but you know, experimentation is always important. It’s a part of finding what works best for you because what low carb means to one person might be a moderate or balanced carb intake for someone else.

So for instance, if we’re basing high carb on relying on a lot of high sugar foods, definitely a lower carb diet that contains things like whole grains, legumes, fruit, and fibrous vegetables is going to be a reduction in the grams of sugar we’re eating. And all of those whole foods are really beneficial to our health and contain a lot of minerals and vitamins and things like fiber that are so important for us. And that long-term, you know, carb deprivation can lead to this real depletion of your body’s storage glycogen levels. It can depress your immune system, reduce your exercise tolerance, decrease your metabolic function, and just cause a lot of long-term issues. I remember when the keto diet first became really popular, and that’s a very low carb diet. People were lining up because the science showed how impactful it was for weight loss. But the research was done on men who have very different hormone levels and a higher amount of their body tissue is muscle as compared to us.

We are not small men like I was saying. And you can’t just blanket apply every study done on men to women’s bodies and expect the same results. Now, women did see weight loss too from doing that diet, but there were long-term results that showed that while it was effective in the short term, it didn’t seem to have a great impact long-term for us and could actually increase our cortisol levels, which of course, cortisol is a stress hormone. And when that’s elevated over time, it promotes fat storage. So while it’s always exciting to think that there’s a shortcut or way to lose weight fast, it can end backfiring in the long term. That’s not to say there isn’t value in it. That’s not to say that you can’t use it for a specific timeframe, um, or experiment with it. I totally think experimentation is so valuable.

But these are just some of the results of the longer term studies and also women’s specific, right? I think that’s really important to remember when we are talking about how different things work for different people and not everything works the same for everybody. Anytime we’re going a little too low on our fiber intake, like a diet that’s very, very low carb, especially as women, I do get concerned, a really low carb diet might deprive us of some of those key elements that support us in important ways that actually can lead to long-term sustainable fat loss. If that’s a goal in how you’re choosing to eat. Fiber is of course a component in whole food carbohydrate foods that slows the release of sugar into the blood, which gives you more steady energy, supports your healthy gut bacteria and immune system and supports an optimal digestive flow.

Fiber is really important. It’s a really important part of our diet at every age, but it becomes even more important to pay attention to as we get into perimenopause and especially supportive post menopause as well, because there’s this area of your gut called the estrobolome, which specifically helps our body process and remove excess estrogen. And in the menopause years, it’s really crucial to pay attention to nutrient dense meals that fuel the good gut bacteria to both support the diversity of the microbiome and specifically help keep the estrobolome balance so it can support that elimination of excess estrogen so we don’t end up getting the dirty estrogen circulating back into the bloodstream triggering estrogen dominance and the things that really exacerbate some of those uncomfortable menopause symptoms that so many women struggle with. Of course, we need healthy fat in our diet too. It really helps fuel our muscle when we’re doing low to moderate intensity activities, which is why I’ve done some recent podcasts about how your body burns energy and the impact that low impact activity like walking has on fat loss.

Some of the vitamins that your body really needs, like a, D, E, and K are all fat soluble and they can’t be absorbed in the absence of dietary fat. Healthy fat in our meals is also very satisfying and it can help us feel full when we include it in balance with the other nutrients in our meals. And it also helps to slow gastric emptying, which is just a fancy way of saying it slows down how fast the food exits your stomach. And this is helpful once again in keeping your blood sugar levels stable, which prevents an insulin spike that can trigger fat storage. And having enough healthy fat in your diet provides you with really lasting energy in your workouts and your daily activities along with those glycogen stores we were talking about, which is, you know how the body stores glucose from our carbs, fat is burned during exercise and also low impact activities to spare the vital amino acids from protein in your muscle tissue.

And that’s actually an important point I wanted to tie in about protein and why I encourage you to make it a point to include protein in each meal you eat. We’ve talked about how your body diligently stores both fat and carbohydrates for later use. You know, when we need energy in between meals, but the body doesn’t really have the same mechanism for storing the amino acids from protein. They get used to rebuild our body tissue though, and that’s what the body breaks down when it needs to call on aminos for any of those important jobs I was telling you about earlier, if it can’t find amino acids circulating in your blood, say from your last meal, it literally breaks down your muscle tissue to access the stored amino acids there. And if you’re working on like a body composition goal that includes fat loss and muscle tone improvement, you don’t wanna be losing muscle tissue just because you didn’t pay attention to your protein intake.

And as we age, this becomes more important than ever because we’re not absorbing the aminos as easily, right? So this is one of the reasons people start to lose their muscle tissue as they age. And the less muscle you have, the more your resting metabolic rate goes down, and that’s how efficiently burn calories or energy at rest. So the more muscle tissue we have, the more energy we burn. So losing our muscle tissue means we don’t burn as much, and if we keep eating the same amount, we gain weight. So if you’re active and exercising, we can think about the importance of eating around our workouts, right? Because going into your workout fueled or fueling up shortly after you train is going to support your energy and the muscle adaptations from your training, which helps you preserve the lean mass you have and supports your body in recovery and repair.

This doesn’t mean you need like a pre-workout drink or that you have to have a protein shake immediately after you exercise, but of course you can if you like, that’s totally fine, , it just, it just means that if you go for long periods without eating, then workout and then don’t eat for a while after that, your body’s really not getting the support it needs for that workout and that energy expenditure and it doesn’t have the building blocks. It needs to go into repair mode and regrowth mode after the training session. So your workouts won’t actually be as effective for strengthening your body. This is why I personally just kind of focus consistently on getting those old fashioned three main meals a day. And my workout usually falls somewhere between two of those meals. And some women are just more comfortable working out first thing in the morning and then eating their first meal after they train, which is fine.

I would just recommend that you eat pretty soon after you train if you didn’t eat before your training session. Another way to sort of give your body more of a buffer for your training session would be to add a protein shake in the mix in addition to your main meals, maybe on training days or even on non-training days if you’re just for it. And this is just a great strategy for boosting your overall protein intake for the day. And it can just be a great way to get some more nutrient dense fiber from fruit or even greens into your body. So if you like having a protein shake, you might have it if you just worked out, but it’s gonna be a little while before your next meal. Again, it’s a great buffer. This, this could just give your system some of those nutrient building blocks it needs after your workout, namely protein and carbs, but you could also just eat your next main meal if that was the, the right time of day for that.

I would say another convenient way to use a protein shake or smoothie could be a little while before your workout. So here’s an easy example of that. Say you ate breakfast and you’re going to work out on your lunch break at work, you wanna use lunch as your post-workout refuel meal, but it’s been a while since breakfast and your energy levels are dipping a bit. So instead of going into your workout hungry, you could have a protein shake an hour to half an hour, or at some point before your workout, which would give you some fast digesting energy from the carbs and the fruit and some aminos in your system, right? This can help you push harder in your workout and get more out of it that way. Too many different approaches with your eating timing can work, and I really wouldn’t over complicate it.

Just focus on making your meals consist of those nourishing whole foods and avoid going long periods around your training with no food. I, I would suggest not eating or training too close to bedtime either as both can kind of elevate your body temperature and prevent deeper sleep. And I know it’s really easy to get in our head about food intake and we wanna have these perfect numbers and perfect amounts for each nutrient. And don’t get me wrong, different strategies work for us at different times. And experimentation is a great way to learn and learn more about food deteriorating and see what works for you or you know what you like. But one thing I think that’s important to keep in mind is that calories on foods are estimates. That’s why they vary between different manufacturers. So if you want to follow a calorie type of diet, I just suggest having a range or even looking at your estimated intakes over the course of the week.

And keep in mind that online calculators that tell you how many calories to eat are also estimates. They can’t really know day to day what is exactly right for you. So don’t give them too much power over your choices or you know, try to go to a super low calorie diet too fast just because you really want weight loss. Remember, the body needs its own time for this to occur in a safe and healthy sustainable way. Of course, if you consume less than you expend each day, you will lose weight. But again, is it sustainable? Are you enjoying your experience? And we have to ask if weight loss alone is the goal, or if we wanna lose body fat and support muscle strength, support our energy balance, our hormone health, our bone density and more, which is the approach that I tend to take, which is why it’s not very extreme, right?

It’s a long-term health focused approach that gets great results. But I also like to be real about the fact that I’m not trying to do a crash course in dieting here. That might not be right for you. You know, only you can decide what’s best for you. I’ve just seen over the years how extreme dieting and eating too little for a long time can cause serious health issues, really depress our metabolic rate, making it harder to lose rate weight down the road and leave us deficient and vital nutrients that we need, which can cause a lot of other health problems. And this just brings me back to this connection that we have with our body. Even though we can’t see and maybe appreciate what our body is doing for us each day at all hours, it is happening beneath our skin constantly and working tirelessly with one goal to support us.

So what we put in with what we eat, what we breathe, what we drink, and even what we think impacts the output or the result and how we feel, how we function, and how we age. So get in touch with that inner world. If you haven’t thought about it in that way before, I think it’s probably one of the things that has had the biggest impact probably on my own choices and, and how I write my programs and just think about food in general. You know, getting in touch with and caring about taking care of my body and the network of systems that are taking care of me every single day. And once you start seeing it that way, it’s just easier to make choices that support us better. So anyway, rockstar. I hope this conversation gave you some food for thought , pun intended. And you’re inspired to just think about nourishing yourself with this theme of supporting the team inside you.

And remember that different things work for us at different times, and that there isn’t one perfect way to do this that works for everyone all the time. There are some absolutes like we all have to eat , but there are a lot of different options to suit your tastes and you can experiment to see what works for you. You can find the eating plans and recipe guides that I’ve created on the betty website, and of course my workout programs and organic protein powders too. Lots of great support for your healthy body that I have enjoyed creating over the years. And thanks so much for taking the time to hang out with me today. I hope to connect with you again very soon. And until then, I’m Betty Rocker and you are so awesome, flawsome and amazing. Bye for now.

This episode brought to you by The Body Fuel System!

Today’s Podcast is brought to you by The Body Fuel System, my 6 week easy eating system! This customizable eating plan is designed to sculpt your body from the inside out with done for you daily menus, grocery lists, simple meal prep tips and so much more!

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Body Fuel System!

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