Exercise is important, but make nutrition your top priority
We need to be physically active and nutrition is vital
to fuel and support physical activity.
Over 35 years ago I began my career in the fitness industry as a part-time fitness instructor and later, as a full-time personal trainer. At first I was coaching my clients to improve their health by being more active.
At the same time, I was Freelance Writing on health issues – spending all my non-gym hours researching and interviewing experts in the fitness, nutrition and medical fields. I learned so much from interviewing them – but I was particularly intrigued by the nutrition specialists. Their information made me increasingly aware of the importance of properly fueling our physical activities, including the daily functions (activities) inside our bodies. I decided to go back to school and educate myself about nutrition, to help my clients become even healthier – and ensure I was giving them credible information!
Early in my fitness career, it was truly gratifying to see the positive health changes I witnessed in my clients. However, after I added nutrition coaching to their exercise programs, there were even greater improvements. No longer did I hear the occasional pre-workout request of, “Can we take it easy today?” Instead, they arrived energized and excited about doing their workout. But what impressed me most was their dietary changes were positively affecting all aspects of their lives.
They were sleeping deeper and longer, their ability to concentrate improved, they were thinking more clearly, they were calmer and less emotional. It became easier for some to lose weight, and several even said they felt “cleaner and lighter inside” (no more constipation!). Nutrition seemed a bigger factor for their good health, than being physically active.
I’m not advising to stop exercising and focus on diet only. We need to move:
many bodily processes that we can’t voluntarily control are facilitated by movement. It doesn’t matter what activity you do – just do something on a regular basis. But more important, we also have to realize we must eat to be able to move! What you eat and absorb is the foundation that allows you to be physical.
Everything you eat is taken apart and absorbed by that incredibly efficient factory: the human body. Food becomes the tools our bodies need to survive. If you don’t give it the right tools, in the short term you become less efficient doing anything physical or mental. And in the long term, you risk imbalances that can lead to disease and disorder.
Testimonials, along with hundreds of studies and research projects have shown the importance of a healthy diet: from relieving depression to lowering our risk for illness. Sadly, nutrient-poor, highly processed foods are the majority of what we eat today. Our fast-paced lifestyles have made us rely on the time-saving convenience of fast foods. But these “designer” foods are far too advanced for the unique simplicity of the human digestive system.
Our digestive systems are designed to slowly and methodically break down a whole food (process and refine it) into the nutrients it needs. But we are not designed to eat a food that is highly processed and refined before we eat it.
Refined sugars, flour and other processed foods are already highly broken down and will be absorbed improperly and very quickly, creating confusion in the synchronized stages of the digestive process. Eating them too frequently is confusing and stressful to the body. Over time, imbalances are created. In addition to losing losing many nutients like vitamins, minerals and fibre, processed foods are generally high in fat and/or sugar. A vitamin/mineral pill can’t possibly replace the fibre and the many known nutrients (and those yet to be discovered) that are lost when food is processed.
These tampered-with renditions of Mother Nature's bounty won’t affect our health if eaten infrequently – so go ahead and have a treat occasionally.
However, the problem is breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for the average person is mostly food that doesn’t resemble its original form: Bread, cookies, deli-meats, French fries, snack bars, juices, milkshakes, and sodas didn’t occur that way naturally.
Obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are increasingly prevalent today. And a major contributor to our declining health is our wide selection of highly processed foods. They stress and exhaust the digestive system. They lack the nutrition needed to strengthen the immune system and ensure good health. And this certainly makes them a poor choice to fuel our physical activities.
Find a healthy balance in your food choices. More often, choose to eat the foods our bodies can properly process: whole foods that aren’t as tampered with or changed by humans. Choose an apple as a snack instead of a cookie or sports bar. Try to eat more vegetables and fruit. Include a moderate amount of root vegetables, nuts & seeds, cooked whole grains, as well as natural meat and dairy choices.
And if you must have them, save those highly processed “fast foods” as a rare treat.