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lettuce with measuring tapeI saw a picture the other day of a beautiful plate of food.  There was pan seared fish, sautéed veggies and a lovely salad.  The photographer happily proclaimed that this meal was only 350 calories.

As delicious as the meal looked I couldn’t help but think “350 calories?  That’s it!?”

See I work in an industry where people are consumed with the calories they consume.  In the fitness world, I can’t keep up with the latest craze.  (Umm carbs are good this month?  I think?)

We are given one program to count calories.  Another to count points.  And if you don’t like counting you can choose yet another program that will ship pre-packaged processed foods to your door and you just eat!  No counting needed.

There has never before been a time where we, as a culture, have been so obsessed with monitoring our food intake.  YET there has never before been a time where we, as a culture, have been so OVER WEIGHT.

Perhaps we are missing something here.

Perhaps eating should be easy and we have over complicated something that children and babies think nothing of, yet they follow their instincts and thrive nonetheless.

With the new year in full swing many of us (myself included) are looking to modify our diets and maybe even shed a few Christmas cookie, eggnog and cake pounds.

So here are some new (old) thoughts on diet for weight loss to consider before you start your new way of eating.

1. The body needs what it needs.

I took a physical assessment this summer.  The kind where they plug you up to electrodes and determine your body fat percentage and a bunch of other fun physiological measures.

My technician found that I needed 1600 calories a day to SURVIVE.

Do you get what I mean by survive?

I mean just to keep breathing, heart pounding and organs functioning, my body needs to consume 1600 calories!

This does NOT account for any physical activity I may engage in cleaning the house, playing with the kids, or working out.  I need to eat that much just to sit on the couch and live!

So you can imagine how put off I am to read articles where dieticians suggest 1500 calorie diets. (Or 350 calorie dinners.)

Obviously, this base caloric intake level will be different for every person, BUT I mention this so that you can start to appreciate what YOUR body needs.

We all need a certain amount of food (consistently) to survive.  But often times when we are trying to loose weight we deliberately neglect or body’s energy needs.

Our bodies also need a certain amount of nutrients to function properly.

It’s pretty hard to get all of the needed vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins and carbohydrates when we severely restrict or calories.

To make sure you are providing your body all that it needs while you lose pounds DO MORE and EAT MORE.

Do more exercise instead of relying on calorie restriction.  Try adding five or ten minutes to your treadmill time.  Or take an extra aerobics class at the gym.  If you are short on gym time, do some extra manual labor around the house.  House cleaning counts as exercise too.

Eat more nutritiously.  Choose fresh foods that you cook yourself.  The fresher (and I don’t mean frozen or canned) the food the more nutrients are retained for your body to consume.  Cook your vegetables lightly. And buy organic whenever you can.  Because organic produce is grown in nutrient dense soil, the fruits and veggies end up with more nutrients for your body.

2. Nature provides what you need when you need it.

Yes I realize that we live in a modern world where I can buy strawberries in January that have been shipped to the East Coast of the U.S. from Peru.

Yes I know that we have freezers and canning processes that allow me to eat summer corn in the dead of winter.

BUT just because we CAN do something DOES NOT mean that we SHOULD.

Nature has a way of “delivering” the types of foods that are best for us during the seasons that our bodies most need it.

If you look at food from this perspective its no surprise that sweet, juicy fruits are plentiful in the hot months when our bodies need to be well hydrated and cooled by these fruits.

Likewise, root vegetables and hardy greens are plentiful (and keep a long time) during cool weather months when we need hardier bulkier foods.

So it’s January!  Enjoy roasted vegetables like potatoes, yams, carrots and winter squash.  Braise some kale, collards or mustard greens.  And turn some dried beans or lentils into delicious and body warming soups and stews.

These are some of the lowest calorie foods you can find.  But who’s counting?

3. Let your body be the authority.

There is so much weight loss and diet advice out there. But remember eating should be easy.  So my “advice” is to listen to your own body.

Okay let me clarify.

I DO NOT mean listen to your “craving” that says eat a whole cake or a whole tub of ice cream.

What I am saying is, really take note of what your body wants and needs.  It will tell you its secrets if you are willing to listen and abide.

So you’re craving cake?  Perhaps your body is rejecting that low carb diet and is telling you that it needs more carbohydrates.  Instead of downing a big slice of cake, grab a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread.

So you’re craving Skittles or Jolly Rancher type candy?  Maybe your body needs sweet, tart and juicy fruit. Try some grapes, oranges or grapefruit.

Potato chips?  Perhaps you are following doctor’s orders to cut out salt, but our bodies NEED salt to survive.  Try tortilla chips and salsa or homemade pita chips with homemade hummus.

Here’s the thing.

Our body is designed to keep us healthy!

It has all kinds of mechanisms to keep us alive and kickin’.   But we have willingly ignored its guidance and placed our health in the hands of doctors, nutritionist and dieticians, which has made us so disconnected from our own bodies.

Good long lasting health starts by understanding YOU first!

Doctors and nutritionist can help you along the way, BUT they still need your input to do their jobs well.

So listen to your body.  Eat when you are hungry. Stop when you are half way full.  Choose the freshest, most nutrient dense foods you can find in season.  And enjoy the simplicity of eating.

Oh and the weight loss?

Your body will naturally settle into its “perfect” weight when your food is fresh and nutritious, your body is active, and you are eating as much (or as little) as your body needs.

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