Instagram has thousands of accounts focused on fitness, health, nutrition, self love, body image, body positivity….the list goes on and on and although there is a lot of helpful content, there is just as much confusing and conflicting information being posted on the daily as well.
I’ve seen the number of accounts promoting “intuitive eating” on the rise and completely agree with most of their messages. There are times I’ve personally practiced an intuitive approach, taking a step back from tracking and listening to my body’s natural cues of when to eat, when to stop eating and deciphering between a craving and actual hunger. There is a time and place for this kind of practice but even as a coach who feels very confident in the topic of nutrition and health, intuitive eating is STILL a work in progress and something I don’t rely on solely. The instagram accounts that leave me a little frustrated are the accounts that boast intuitive eating is the only way to go with a negative tone towards any kind of tracking at all. Sure, if we could all be masters of intuitive eating and only eat when we are hungry and know exactly how to do so to maintain a healthy weight, we wouldn’t have the weight/health crisis we have today. The reality of it is we are in our current state because of our current eating habits and most of us DON’T know how to intuitive eat because we don’t know how much we should be consuming.
Think of it in relation to grade school. The teachers would test the students on each subject to get an understanding of where each student’s education was and from that they could determine which students needed additional help in a specific subject. Improving your nutrition is kind of the same thing. It is not a one size fits all and what one person is having trouble with, another may not. For example, you may see an instagram account stating that they gave up all carbs and lost 30 lbs and automatically assume you need to do the same as well to lose weight. The problem (aside from the fact they gave up carbs, YUCK!) is that is a very blanketed statement and the way their body responds to carbs could be much different than yours. Diet history and current eating habits play a HUGE role in what changes you need to make specifically to lose weight so copying someone else’s habits more than likely won’t help you achieve the results you want any faster and you could be going more extreme then you need to.
Typically we see two groups of people:
-Those who chronically undereat averaging between 800-1200 calories a day.
-Those who cycle unintentionally between high/low days (no real pattern or consistency with their eating)
If you’re someone who is in the first group of people, your change in habits will look drastically different than the change in habits of group two. This is why tracking, even if for a short period of time is so helpful. You can get a better understanding of where your current intake is and what your current habits are and make small changes that are directly based off YOUR eating habits, not someone else’s. You can make random changes to your current dietary habits based off what is perceived as a “healthy” habit or you can track your food, get a better understanding of your specific current habits and then make efficient changes from there. How do you know what changes to make to your current nutrition unless you have a clear picture of where your intake is at? Tracking your intake and more specifically tracking macros isn’t the enemy and it can be really helpful to those starting out who don’t know how much they should be eating or what changes to make.
If you are at a place in your life where you want to improve your nutrition, start keeping a food log. It’s really important to see where your current calories are falling each day and what things you’re eating consistently so you can know what changes to make from there. Back in my college days, I would declare to myself “I’m going to start eating healthier!” but then I really didn’t know what that even looked like because I wasn’t aware of my current habits. My day to day eating was so sporadic, I didn’t know where to start. Keeping a food log just gives you a really clear picture of where you’re currently at.
Now lets check your calorie intake. I want to give you a really simple way to calculate the daily calories your body requires to survive and give you a baseline to go off of.
First we start by calculating your BMR. BMR stands for Basal Metabolic Rate. This is the number of calories your body requires to keep you functioning and alive. It’s the bottom line your body needs in terms of calories even if you were sleeping 24 hours a day. We like the Harris Benedict formula the most.
WOMEN: (10 x weight in KG)+(6.25 x height in CM)-(5 x age)-161= BMR
MEN: (10 x weight in KG)+(6.25 x height in CM)-(5 x age) +5= BMR
In order to figure out your weight in KG, take your total weight and divide by 2.2
For example: If you weigh 150, your weight in KG would be 68.18.
Now that you know your BMR, its time to calculate your TDEE. TDEE stands for Total Daily Energy Expenditure (this is the amount of calories your body needs overall to support your basic functions + your movement throughout the day, we call this maintenance calories).
In order to determine this, we need to know your activity level.
Little to no exercise, desk job =1.2 multiplier
Light exercise, 1-3 days at the gym or being active = 1.375 multiplier Moderately active, 3-5 days in the gym or being active = 1.55 multiplier Very Active, 6-7 days in the gym or being active = 1.725 multiplier
Extreme activity, double day training/or intense physical job = 1.9 multiplier
Once you know what category you are in, find the matching multiplier and multiply that by your BMR.
BMR x activity level multiplier= TDEE. This is the amount of calories you can consume in a day to maintain your current weight.
Once you have a week or two of your food logged, compare your daily caloric average to your calculated TDEE, where do you stand? Are you right around your maintenance calories? Great! From there you can start making small changes to your current eating habits to improve your overall health and you may even see body composition changes just by improving food quality and the amount of protein you’re consuming.
Some easy ones to start with are:
-Aiming for a protein goal within your maintenance calories. A good place to start is 1 gram of protein per lb of bodyweight. If your current protein intake is pretty low, start with .75 grams per lb of bodyweight and slowly increase over time.
-Try to keep your meals balanced within your calorie goal. Aim to incorporate a protein, carb and a healthy fat at every meal.
-How often are you including vegetables in your daily diet? They’re a great way to boost vitamin and mineral intake so aim to incorporate 2-3 cups in at least 2 of your meals.
-What is your fiber intake averaging within those calories? A good goal for that is about 20-25 grams for women and 30-35 grams for men.
– Water intake! This is one of the easiest habits to improve yet also the easiest one to forget about. Aim to drink at least half of your body weight in oz a day.
If after keeping a food log you realize you are way under eating or way over eating and not sure where to start, consider hiring a professional nutrition coach to help! The journey is much easier if you have someone who knows what they are doing, helping you along the way.
Whatever your approach, if you are just starting out and wanting to make sustainable changes to your diet, start by keeping a food log. Intuitive eating is great and a good practice for all of us but may be more helpful to you down the road once you have some key foundational habits in place. Remember, the diet that is best for you is one that is sustainable and that you can adhere to! I hope you found this helpful and if you would like to chat more about your current journey, I’m happy to talk! You can set up a call using the link below. Happy Friday friends!
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