Let’s talk about food. Why? Because I love it so much. Most people do. If there is a way to live off of Italian pastas and all kinds of chocolates and cakes while still looking and feeling great … I’d be the first in line for that program.
But, the fact of the matter is: that is not the case.
Nutrition is the single toughest obstacle that we all face in the battle of the bulging waistline. Despite all of the interval training, jump roping, weightlifting workouts we perform on a regular basis, if the eating is not in check, results will not happen.
Simply put: we cannot out train a poor diet.
On the flip side, I see too many people make crazy sacrifices on their fat loss journey. It’s basic human nature to want to go extreme on everything all of the time.
“Get rid of all of the junk for three months. That’s it. No more. No more pizzas. No more pancakes. No more fun.”
These are the peeps that pack a bunch of containers with their food for the week and count all of their calories and obsess over that half of a brownie they tasted yesterday so it means hitting the gym extra hard today.
This is not the way to go, either.
We need to find a happy medium in our approach to health and fitness.
For most people with modest goals (think losing 10-12 pounds), a strict adherence to eliminating all fun from the diet is not going to be attainable.
For those that want to take this to the next level of dropping the body fat percentage into the inside Brad Pitt from Fight Club level of leanness will likely need to get all sorts of scientific with it. We’ll tackle that later.
But for now, let’s talk about what it takes to make this nutrition game as seamless as possible. The key is to make this a LIFESTYLE. Not some quick-fix approach that means sipping on some crazy sugar-laden shake and hoping to drop 20 pounds in two weeks. This is a marathon, not a sprint, people. And if you follow my five rules to nutrition, you won’t need anything else to set up a lifetime of health, happiness and success.
My Five Rules to Healthy Nutrition
1) Eat Slowly and Stop at 80% Full
This is perhaps the trickiest practice to master, yet it is the most important approach that will literally work wonders for your waistline. In this world of needing everything now and being on-the-go at all times, many of us end up eating way too fast. And what happens when we devour that bowl of pasta with the quickness? Gut bomb. Bloating. Gas. All sorts of unpleasantness, right? Here’s the key: slow down … and really listen to your hunger and appetite cues. It takes 20 minutes for our satiety mechanisms to kick in. So, if we slow things down and focus on stopping just before that “I’m stuff and need to be wheeled away from the table” feeling, that alone will restrict calories and assist in fat loss. Instead of scarfing down your next sandwich, strive for about 15-20 minutes for meal time. Appreciate your food. From now on, consider this practice to be your new baseline. When all else fails and the food choices aren’t necessarily optimal, focus on this practice of eating the food slowly and stopping at 80% full.
2) Protein at Every Meal
We’ve already touched on the importance of this macronutrient from a muscle building and fat loss perspective. It doesn’t stop there. Including a protein source at every meal will help control blood sugar and satiety and keep your energy high throughout the day. Whether your goal is to build the body of your dreams or simply drop a few unwanted pounds, you must start by adding a lean protein source every time you eat. Look for things like meats, poultry, eggs and fish.
3) Healthy Fat at Every Meal
One more just for good measure: fat does not make you fat. In fact, the healthier versions will improve a bunch of functions in the body that will assist in the fat loss journey. Just like it is important to include protein at each feeding, healthy fats are just as essential. Aim for extra virgin olive oil/coconut oil, nuts, grass-fed butter and avocados.
4) Vegetables at Every Meal
Your parents will be so proud of this one, as the phrase long-used by moms across the globe really has some fat loss principles. Vegetables include a host of important vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that help the body run at tip-top shape. Aim to consume at least five fistful portions of vegetables each and every day by choosing leafy veggies like kale and spinach or things like summer squashes and green beans. “Eat your veggies!”
5) Earn Your Carbs
Carbs are definitely not the devil. In fact, adding in starchy carbs can assist in a dieting program. We just need to be smart about it. The best way to do this is by adding in your carb sources after you train. In other words: if you want that slice of bread or bowl of oatmeal or plate of pasta … you must EARN IT first. We are not restricting carbs, instead we are controlling them. Make a pact with yourself: no exercise, no carbs. After training, aim for healthier, non-processed, more-fibrous carb sources: yams, winter squashes, quinoa and fruits like berries.
These are the introductory rules that I set with all of my online coaching clients. Why? Because if you can be at least 85-90% compliant with these guidelines, then it will result in real, meaningful and long-term success.
Notice the percentage of compliance, by the way. It’s not 100%. That’s just not feasible, and frankly, it’s not healthy, either.
Our body and our mind needs to have a break from the system on occasion. For you, that may mean having a piece of that freshly-baked banana bread your grandma insists you try on Sunday. Or it may mean skipping tomorrow’s session in the gym because you were just not feeling it. For me, it usually means having something sweet or diving into a stack of pancakes.
Psychologically, the hardcore approach to strict eating with absolutely no exceptions and no fun is just not sustainable. Those who follow this approach are usually the same that find themselves falling off of the wagon eventually.
It’s the sustained, steady as she goes approach that the most successful people take that leads to the most happiness and the best results.
And it starts with these simple rules.
Once you iron out the basic tenants of nutrition and healthy eating, it then becomes so much easier to dive head-first into the advanced strategies to find those six-pack abs.
Again, this is how I live my life when I approach food. Sounds a whole lot easier than just stressing over that slice of pie, right?