Get fit to get healthy

Fitness, Health, Eat Natural, Repeat

The question of whether to start dieting or exercising, or diet and exercise, and what diet and types of exercises are best for health often evoke strong reactions and divide opinion. Not least because diet and exercise are highly individual and personal, and linked very closely to self evaluation and esteem.

My personal view is to first focus on fitness, then health, and then a healthy approach to diet and nutrition (unless you have received medical advice to do otherwise, e.g. you’re having an operation in the next seven days), and then to periodically shake-up, refine and fine-tune your approach in each of these areas.

When exercise is used as a tool to assist rapid weight loss, it’s usually unsustainable, and the bigger goal to lose weight is unlikely to be achieved and less likely to be maintained – it’s a recipe for reducing the metabolic rate and increase hunger.

Rather than something you do to burn calories, the purpose of exercise is to develop fitness and improve the metabolism. Fitness enhances the physiological functioning and efficiency of the body, and when the body is more fit, or has relatively high muscle mass, it burns more calories, and it’s also happier thanks to endorphins.

What can you do if you are fit but want to improve health and nutrition?

Proponents of healthy keto diets provide excellent advice on how to clean-up on health and diet, maintain a healthy metabolism, and use fat as fuel; and a lot of these recommendations can be used and adapted for athletes looking to improve energy levels, digestion, and boost the immune system.

In his book, The Healthy Keto Plan: Get Healthy, Lose Weight & Feel Great, Dr Eric Berg says that a healthy body “has tons of energy, high stress tolerance, and can sleep peacefully through the night and get out of bed refreshed. Healthy bodies can digest their food and feel satisfied without any cravings. A healthy body has flexible joints, relaxed muscles and no inflammation.”

Dr. Sten Ekberg recommends avoiding certain food types that affect insulin resistance, fructose, high in glycemic index (GI), inflammation and allergies. These foods are all refined and processed, and cause blood sugar swings and inconsistent energy levels, and include:


High in insulin, GI and fructose, bread, wheat and gluten grains are high in inflammation and intolerance. While bread includes dietary fiber, it’s not enough.


Insulin and GI is about the same as bread. While cereal includes more fiber than bread, it’s still not very much.

While porridge oats are seen as a healthy breakfast staple, they have variable GI results. Efforts on the part of the food industry to make food preparation more convenient and faster cooking, results in differences in refining and processing that affect the degree of starch gelatinization.

Tip: Look for steel-cut oats rather than instant or rolled oats. Steel-cut oats are naturally gluten free with a fairly low GI.

An alternative to processed cereals is grain-free or gluten free muesli or granola, sometimes called Paleo Muesli, and includes coconut, real berries, nuts and seeds.

Sweet fruit

Medium to high insulin and GI, high in sugar and typically GMO (genetically modified organism). Our ancestors ate fruit that was a lot different to the sweet, juicy, year-round available fruit we see on supermarket shelves today. Ideally, fruit should be consumed seasonally and in moderation.

Tip: Blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are the best sweet fruits and should be eaten in moderation.

Eat fruit in its natural state. There’s little need to macerate berries unless the fruit is specifically for jam or sauce, or some other recipe, like a fruit pie.


Low in insulin and GI and usually GMO, soy can be difficult to digest, and has been found to have a number of other side effects when consumed in excess, including allergies and tiredness.

Tip: Consume in moderation, and go organic and GMO free.

Low fat dairy

Removing fat from milk removes the best part. Once milk is processed, pasteurised, homogenised and the fat is removed, it’s not milk.

Skimmed milk is medium in insulin response, but when mixed with cereal it’s high in GI.

Egg whites

For allergies and intolerance, people are usually intolerant to the egg white rather than the whole egg. Throwing away the yolk removes protein and essential amino-acids.

Tip: Eat whole eggs. For chicken eggs, choose pasture raised, not pasteurized eggs.

Bio industrial oils

Vegetable and seed oils (soybean, corn, rapeseed (canola), sunflower, peanut) are the worst you can eat. These industrial oils promote inflammation. They are harshly processed empty calories and best used for soap and candle wax.

Tip: If you are eating some sort of processed or convenience food, chances are you are eating some kind of bio industrial oil.


Trans-fats, hydrogenated fat (soybean, corn, canola), oil turned to solid – high in inflammation, allergies, empty calories.

Tip: Consume more naturally produced fats like butter, olive oil and coconut oil. Let fat be a natural part of the diet.

Red wine

While red wine includes resveratrol, known for its antioxidant properties, you can’t drink enough wine to reap this benefit. Alcohol in excess is the worst thing for the liver – causes alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Dr. Sten Ekberg
Dr. Sten Ekberg

“Don’t lose weight to get healthy; get healthy to lose weight.”

Dr Eric Berg

Ironically, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the above listed food types are among the items people in the UK have been stockpiling during COVID-19. The knock-on effect of this consumer demand will inevitably propel food manufacturers and processors to swap picks and shovels for ever more industrialized GMO manufactured food.

As science, technology and (fast) food manufacturing develops and evolves, as well as demand for app deliveries and dark kitchens, avoiding hidden sugars and highly refined and processed foods is a constant challenge.

Published by Zealousrunner

Faye is a London-based British Athletics registered athlete, coach, volunteer and licensed Leader in Running Fitness (LiRF), Movement and TRX Suspension Training. She regularly participates in endurance sports and is a member of Fulham Running Club.

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