Have you ever heard of the saying, “Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym?” It’s usually accompanied by a dubious claim that a healthy lifestyle can be broken down as 70% diet and 30% exercise. But just how much can food affect our bodies? We’re all guilty of mindlessly eating from time to time, especially when we’re stressed or too tired to whip up a decent meal at the end of a long day.
Everyone wants to be healthier, but very few people are willing to exert effort into changing the way they eat. In fact, whenever someone recommends seeing a nutritionist or dietitian, people quickly dismiss the notion as “pang mayaman lang” or they’re afraid that they’ll be given meal plans na walang lasa. What’s puzzling, though, is that we’re more than enthusiastic to shell out thousands of pesos on shopping and traveling, but when it’s time to make a long-term investment (like our health), we tighten up the purse strings.
Let’s be real: Promising to eat better (for the 57th time) is not enough. Trading your white rice for quinoa without knowing why is not enough. Getting real advice offline on how your food intake affects your body system can cause drastic changes. And we don’t just mean finally getting Anne Curtis’ abs.
Reasons to consult a professional
1. Weight loss
According to nutrition coach Dr. Jeaneth Aro of Nutrifit, losing weight is the number one concern among her millennial clients. Entering the workforce can have a huge impact on your fitness—in that it obliterates any motivation you have to work out. Having a nutrition coach can help you make healthier choices without necessarily cutting out all your favorite foods.
2. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Some women with PCOS have found that fine-tuning their diets had better results than simply relying on medication. Nutritionists can help you figure out which foods cause inflammation, thus aggravating your condition.
3. Too much stress
Dr. Candy Drilon of Centro Holistico, who believes in holistic healing, says that stress increases inflammation in the body, which then increases a hormone called cortisol. Too much cortisol can wreak havoc in the body and hamper recovery. And as we all know, food intake and stress are strongly connected. Dr. Drilon addresses symptoms of stress by studying her clients’ environment, medical history, lifestyle changes, and eating habits.
There’s a misconception that because athletes exercise for a living, they also get to eat whatever they want and as much as they want. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that isn’t true at all. Binge-eating isn’t good no matter how active you are. Professional athletes might actually need more help when it comes to regulating their diets because of how much their livelihood depends on their physical abilities.
5. Other health problems
Nutritionists can also help you deal with health issues like bloating, hypertension, indigestion, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
What to expect on your first visit
Though there are different approaches out there, there’s one common factor when it comes to your first consultation: Expect to answer A LOT of questions. Both Dr. Aro and Dr. Drilon disclosed that they have patients answer extensive questionnaires, covering your medical history, your current eating habits, and even going into what you’ve eaten in the past week. Traditional nutritionists also check your height, weight, and BMI. Unlike traditional nutritionists, however, Dr. Aro and Dr. Drilon don’t believe in giving patients a list of foods they can and cannot eat; each food plan has to cater to the patient’s dietary needs.
Dr. Drilon’s approach is all about functional medicine: “Functional medicine is all about how nutrients play a role in the biochemistry of the body, so food is our main platform. We emphasize on eating foods that represent all the colors of the rainbow because you get specific vitamins and macro nutrients from each. We don’t rely on calorie-counting; in theory, your body will tell you if you’ve had enough. So when you feel full, tama na talaga.”
For Dr. Aro, who’s built a business around nutritional coaching, it takes more than just one session to help change someone’s mind, which is why, on top of giving her clients a weekly meal plan, she makes herself available for consultation at all times: “We can’t impart our knowledge in one sitting. I want my clients to be able to ask me questions when they’re eating out, so they know their options. It’s my way of holding them accountable.”
What to eat less of
1. Instant coffee
“Black coffee is okay—even I drink it. But instant coffee is just sugar with a smidge of coffee. They basically just put enough so that it smells like coffee.” –Dr. Candy Drilon
2. Simple sugars
“While I don’t really believe in cutting out foods altogether, I wish people consumed fewer foods with simple sugars, like soft drinks, bottled iced teas, and juices.” –Dr. Jeaneth Aro
“I love smoothies, but they can be deceptively high in calories and not necessarily filling, which could cause you to end up eating more in the long run…[especially if you aren’t making it at home.]” –Dr. Jen Flachbart
4. Bottled salad dressing
“Bottled salad dressings can carry stabilizers, sweeteners, and much more salt then you would add to your own dressing.” –Dr. Miranda Hammer
“I often find that people think all sushi is healthy because it’s made with fish and they think of rice as low-fat. However, there are dramatic differences in calories among the variety of menu items. A shrimp tempura roll can pack over 500 calories, nearly as many calories as a Big Mac. Additionally, each roll can include up to one cup of white rice. That’s a lot of refined carbohydrates.” –Dr. Lauren Harris-Pincus
What to eat after a specific workout
Fueling your body after you just killed it at the gym can be tricky—especially if you feel the need to consume everything in sight. It’s best to take your time and think about how to correctly nourish your body. Here are some suggestions of what you should be eating, based on the type of workout you completed:
For high-intensity workouts like HIIT or boot camp
"Grilled chicken and sautéed vegetables provide the perfect mix to nourish your body. The lean protein and carbohydrates in chicken will fill you up, and veggies offer a heart-healthy boost.” –Dr. Ariane Resnick
“Oats or a whole-grain low-sugar cereal with fruit and almond milk or whey protein [is my go-to.] This meal provides the right ratio of carbohydrates, natural sugars, and protein to repair your muscles and hydrate you." –Dr. Hannah Richards
For low-intensity workouts like yoga and pilates
“A portion of salmon supplies you with a great source of protein and healthy fats in the form of omega 3s, which are great for preventing joint pain and reducing inflammation.” –Dr. Hannah Richards
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