A Nutritious Mindset

What to eat, when to eat, even how to eat — all of this you learn from your parents and peers. Really, it's not until you're a teenager that you have much of a choice about what you eat. And then it becomes fun to eat all the “bad” stuff — fast food, high-fat snacks, pizza with extra, extra cheese. It's easy and gratifying to include these foods as part of your regular meals. So, of course, they become habits — habits that lead to weight gain, lethargy, and even addiction.

When a Diet Isn't a Diet

A diet is actually made up of the foods you live on day after day. It doesn't matter whether you eat poorly or well; your diet consists of the foods you consume. Period. In the United States, though, diet has come to mean what you're restricted to eat in order to lose weight. Because most Americans have been on diets and certainly exposed to the diet culture, it's hard for them not to associate diet with tough choices, overconscientious eating, and, ultimately, frustration.

So one habit you have to mentally overcome is thinking of your diet as a faddish weight-loss plan. Instead, envision your diet as the fuel that feeds your machine (your body). Do you want to keep filling up your tank with crud that ultimately leads to breakdowns, or do you want to take in the kind of fuel that keeps your system running at its very best and that guarantees performance? If you're reading this book and are serious about your fitness and training, you undoubtedly will choose the latter.

The chemical processes in your body that break down and synthesize nutrients in food are called your metabolism. Everyone's metabolism is different, which is why some people can seemingly eat anything and never gain weight while others need to constantly monitor the amount they eat.

Nutrition Know-How

To get the most out of the fuel you put into your body, you have to understand what makes up the fuel. What is in the fuel that provides energy? What is in the fuel that is wasteful or harmful? What is the right balance of nutrients that help you feel your best?

What nutritionists, doctors, and scientists have found optimal is a meal that breaks out thus: 55–60 percent of total calories from carbohydrates, 25 percent from fat, and 15 percent from protein. These are three of the six essential nutrients your body needs. The others are water, vitamins, and minerals. All are discussed in this chapter.

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