Attention Gen-Y: Your nutritional ignorance is showing.
At some point in your 20s, you became aware of what you were putting in your body. Whether it’s realizing that your metabolism just isn’t what it used to be, or simply an epiphany that you are, in fact, what you eat, it becomes clear that a steady consumption of freezer meals, ramen and wings just isn’t going to cut it.
The problem with this epiphany is that most 20-somethings don’t actually understand what eating healthy looks like.
That’s why impressionable Gen Y-ers are so quick to embrace the latest green juice craze, turn their noses up at food that isn’t raw or adopt the diet similar to our paleolithic ancestors.
The truth is, you make choices every day that may not seem monumentally significant, but can make a big difference in how your body functions — and looks. Fortunately, those decisions don’t have anything to do with guzzling green shakes or shunning carbohydrates.
Trends in the nutrition realm come and go faster than they do in fashion. So, how are you supposed to know what a healthy diet means in the face of such conflicting advice?
1. Skipping meals.
Listen, homegirl: starving yourself today because you drunkenly housed that calzone at 2 am will not make you skinny.
You’re screwing with your metabolism and let’s face it when you inevitably grow ravenous, you’ll probably go to town on the first available nourishment to which you have access, no matter how unhealthy it is.
Not to mention, depriving yourself of the nourishment you need puts your body in prime fat-storage mode. Still not convinced?
The American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who skipped breakfast are 4.5 times more likely to be obese. Keep your metabolism revved up and your weight down by eating small, balanced meals every few hours.
2. Missing out on sleep.
You’re already aware that you’re an overall miserable, useless human being when you don’t get enough rest. But just in case you still didn’t have enough incentive to hit the hay, the amount of sleep you get affects your weight. Why?
First of all, hunger hormones get out of whack when you get less than 7 hours of sleep, which can fuel your appetite and lead you to crave higher calorie foods.
In a new study published in the Journal Nature Communications, the more sleep-deprived subjects were, the stronger their inclination to opt for potato chips, sweets and other unhealthy snacks became.
In fact, the foods they wanted when they were bleary-eyed added up to a whopping 600 more calories than the foods they picked when they were well rested.
3. Cutting the fat
You can blame the ’80s for a lot of truly terrible trends like parachute pants, shoulder pads and fat inexplicably becoming the ultimate enemy. Suddenly, everything from Triscuits to cream cheese was available in a reduced fat version.
Guess what? A muffin, whether it’s low fat or not, is still a muffin. When companies lower the fat content of their foods, they have to add something to compensate so that it still tastes good.
The fat is usually replaced by sugar, sodium or worse, chemicals, which have no nutritional value and don’t help you to feel full. In fact, these ingredients digest faster than fat, leading to an inevitable crash and sudden hunger.
It sounds counterintuitive if you’re trying to lose weight, but the fact is that you do need a certain amount of fat to feel satisfied and for your metabolism to function properly.
Just try to stick to the unsaturated varieties that are found in olive oil, avocado, and walnuts as opposed to the kind in pastries, potato chips, and processed meats.
4. Meal multitasking
When was the last time you ate a meal without watching “Girls,” tweeting, Instagramming or texting at the same time? Gen-Yers are practically programmed to multitask, but when you’re doing a variety of things at once, you lose focus on the task at hand: eating.
That means you’re way more likely to overindulge without even realizing. So, try to have one meal a day sans social media or other distractions. Socializing doesn’t count as having an actual conversation may help you slow your roll during a meal. Which brings me to my next point…
5. Inhaling food
I don’t care how busy you are, there’s no need to eat like it’s a competition. This is not a race — no one is timing you. And since your stomach takes at least 20 minutes to send a signal to your brain that you’re full, satiation may not register until it’s too late because you’re wolfing down that plate of pasta like your life depends on it.
Besides, studies in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that slow eaters ingested 66 fewer calories at every meal and felt more satisfied than fast eaters.
So, no need for speed — save that for when it matters, like in your spinning class or plowing through that to-do list.