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I remember the first time I realized how important nutrition was to being healthy- particularly to weight loss. I was working in a fitness center about 13 years ago in the Philadelphia area and there was a woman who would come in regularly to workout. She came in at least six days a week, sometimes twice a day. I got to know her pretty well.
“Sara”, as I’ll refer to her, was probably 5′ 2″ and about 90 to 100 pounds overweight.
Sara would work out for about two hours, non-stop, sweat pouring off her by the end, and she looked like she was about to die from over-exertion.
Yet the real mystery surrounded Sara’s nonexistent weight lost. Despite all that work, she never took off a single pound. I remember watching her and just being absolutely amazed that she could work so hard and not get any results whatsoever. How could that possibly happen?
Eventually I left that gym and moved on and Sara was always a mystery to me- until about three years later when I saw her on the street. Actually, I saw her – but I didn’t recognize her. I walked right by her and didn’t even know it was her when she called out to me. Eventually, recognition set in, and in my awe-struck state I demanded to know how she lost all that weight. She had gone through the biggest transformation I had ever seen up to that point in my life, and I had to know what she did.
She told me that she kept doing everything she was doing before, but eventually started seeing a nutritionist, who helped her to clean up her eating habits. Once that happened, the pounds started flying off.
That was all it took for me to realize that for the rest of my career as a personal trainer, nutrition would have to be an integral part of my clients’ programs. My concept of eating healthy has become more individualized and more refined over the years, but thanks to this experience – my concept of how important nutrition is, has not.
Recently, I was asked when someone wants to begin working on their nutrition what the first changes should be.
Normally, I make sure to individualize my recommendations for the person I’m working with, but there are some key things that everyone should do, and it’s a good place to start. Here are the top five things you should do to start eating healthier:
1- Cut out all fast food
2- Stop drinking soda of all kinds, yes – even “diet” soda
3- Eliminate all partially hydrogenated oils, as well as “sugar-free” substitutes
4- Avoid white flour and refined sugar products
5- Begin to eat whole, organic foods whenever possible
This list of key guidelines is important, but can be difficult to do all at once. Your personality and behavior patterns play a major role in determining the best approach for you. The best advice I can give to a large audience is to start with what appeals to you the most, and take it in steps.
David M. Zappasodi holds a BS in Exercise Physiology, is a N.A.S.M. Certified Personal Trainer, and is a Certified Metabolic Typing Practitioner. His interests include Ju Jitsu, yoga, basketball, swimming and surfing.