It’s Hard, But Not THAT Hard
…that’s what she said?
It’s an age old saying “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail”.
They will tell you that if you don’t prep all of your food on Sunday, then you won’t succeed.
They will tell you that if you eat carbs at dinner, then you won’t succeed.
Eating after 8pm? You might as well have done nothing all day.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to dispel some of these MYTHS and give you some tried and true advice that will help.
If you picked out 10 different fitness/health professionals and asked them how to lose weight, you would likely get 10 different responses. Honestly, maybe even 11. The debate is ongoing, but I highly advise that you take the pieces that work for YOU and piece together what is in YOUR best interest. There is no “one way” and it doesn’t have to be insanely hard. (Yes, that means I’m telling you to take what I say with a grain of salt, because I’m not you and you’re not me, and Dr. Seuss would be proud of me.)
When I was preparing to compete in the NPC, I looked like this:
I sometimes ate 8-10 apples a day (not joking, fruit all hours of the day), oatmeal for dinner was quite frequent (sometimes even at 9 or 10pm!!!), and I rarely prepped all of my food on Sunday. I was lean as f*&^. I got even more shredded than the picture above.
Now I look more like this:
…but I’m fine with that and still like my body!
The point of the first picture is to prove to you that it doesn’t have to be the hardest thing in the world to lose weight or even get super lean, if that’s your goal. (Clearly my goals are different now than they were in 2009. I want to be leaner, but not as lean as the first picture. I had my fun having the chest of a 6 year old boy, but I appreciate that I’ve stopped confusing my chest size with a very popular automobile club ahemAAAahem).
It DOES take dedication, and I won’t discount that. I was a really clean eater and didn’t eat any processed foods (except for my cheat day once a week).
What I AM here to do, is to give you some helpful tips that will help you get through the parts that are made to seem so difficult. I truly believe that with a little discipline, anyone can make a good change in their life. It doesn’t have to derail your life, and you can still enjoy food. In fact, I think depriving yourself is only a quick fix and can backfire on you over time. Somehow people started getting the vibe that food should be fuel and nothing more. I disagree. While food should primarily be fuel, food is to be enjoyed! There’s a reason that you feel happy when you take a bite of that chocolate chip cookie that’s fresh out of the oven. It’s not an accident.
With that said, here are my tried and true suggestions for anyone looking to get started on the journey to a healthier body (this includes losing weight or just becoming a healthier person)
-Eat a few times per day
This will help to keep your hunger levels in a comfortable place so that you don’t get so ravenous that you start devouring food without even knowing what hit you. No, you don’t have to eat 6 times per day, but try to get at least 3 meal times in. In the end, do what’s comfortable. I don’t necessarily think you should eat 1 meal a day, but if that’s what works for YOU, then who am I to change that? It comes down to….
–Eat balanced meals
For your main meals of the day, I truly believe in eating balanced proportions of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. This is not only good for your body (as it needs all three of these), but also keeps you much more satisfied than you would feel if you left something out. Try to include a portion of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates into each meal.
For example: If you order a baked potato(carbs) and butter(fat) and call it a meal, you’re missing out on the protein. Pair that with chicken, tofu, steak, eggs, or whatever protein choice you’d like. (You can even add plain greek yogurt instead of sour cream, and I bet you won’t know the difference!)
-Watch your portion sizes
…but LOAD UP on fruits and veggies. For example: A medium container of strawberries like this is about 65-75 calories.
Eat the entire thing and tell me if you don’t look 6 months pregnant after that. I’ll likely tell you to eat another and report back. You’re only 150 calories into the hole at this point, so I don’t even feel bad. I’m not saying you HAVE to do this, but I’m telling you it’s one of my tricks. Giant bag of broccoli, a bunch of baby carrots, a container of strawberries, 1-2 apples. While they taste really good (and the fruit options double as a sweet-tooth queller), they also help fill you up so that you don’t feel unsatisfied after a meal and start digging into junk foods. This is definitely one of my best kept (okay, it’s not that well kept) secrets. I usually use the vegetables as my “appetizer” before a balanced meal and the fruit serves as my “dessert” when I’m feeling a hankering for something sweet.
For your main meals, you don’t have to go around measuring all of your food, but a good rule of thumb for each meal is this:
-make the protein part of your meal about the size of your fist
-the starchy carbohydrates portion of your meal should fit in the palm of your hand
-vegetables should be abundant and eat as many as you want (see above.if you start getting fat from eating too many vegetables, write me a letter and send it via pigeon. and P.S. let’s be honest with ourselves, it’s probably not the veggies’ fault…)
-fats should be around 1-2 TBSP
-fruit should be about 1-2 fist sizes, ideally
This is only a starting guide, and can vary from person to person depending on SO many things. Start with this and see how you feel.
One of the biggest and healthiest changes I’ve made over the years is watching my ingredient list. My boyfriend and I have become a bit obsessed with checking to make sure that we aren’t being fed random, awful ingredients that aren’t necessary. Thank you, but I don’t need any BUTANE in my food. Yes, they put butane (or as they like to call it BTHQ) in many packaged foods. For “freshness”. And maybe spontaneous combustion. The added high fructose corn syrup and hydrolized palm kernel oil that is put into practically EVERYTHING is also unnecessary. Find brands that choose to use REAL ingredients. Eat fresher foods. Eat local foods (that don’t require so many preservatives). I guarantee you will feel better and healthier by making these simple changes only.
If you choose items like fruit, vegetables, nuts, nut butters, whole grain or sprouted grain breads, greek yogurt, minimal ingredient snack bars, chicken sausages, etc. you will be good to go! Snacking on empty calories does nothing more than keep your mouth busy. If that’s your goal, you might as well just make out with someone and save the calories! Eat a snack and make it COUNT. Some ideas: almonds and fruit, carrots and hummus, almond butter and celery, hard boiled eggs, Larabar or QuestBar, protein shakes and more!
-Eat the damn cookie
If you NEED a chocolate chip cookie (although you don’t really NEED it, but you catch my drift), eat the damn cookie. Just don’t eat 5 damn cookies.
In the end, it all comes down to having some discipline and a level head while wanting the best for yourself. You don’t have to starve yourself, you don’t have to deprive yourself of your favorite foods, and you don’t have to stop enjoying food. You have to decide that you want to be healthier, first and foremost. While you should enjoy your foods, the majority of them need to also be fuel to you. You will start to notice the difference in how you feel during your workouts (and in life!) as you slowly make these changes. In time, you will find that the foods that fuel you will also satisfy you, and will become the foods you crave. It doesn’t mean you won’t ever want to eat a plate of nachos again, but I do believe that over time, the desire will become less and less. The constant desire for junk will become just an occurrence here and there.
I hope these tips serve you well. I could probably go on for pages with all of the tips I have, so trust me, more blog posts on this subject will be coming!
I am not a doctor, I am not an expert, I am not a magical wizard (although sometimes I like to think I am), so please check with one of those before making any dietary changes or starting a new eating regimen. Listen to your body and go with your gut.