When I started getting serious about working out and eating right was when I started seeing results–this was when I got combined eating wellwithexercise. I had the exercising down, but I wasn’t getting slimmer–stronger, sure, but not smaller. When I stopped buying diet books and trying to cook outrageous recipes, things got easier.
I had to take some time to recognize my strengths and weakness. Here is a list of things that I’ve picked up over the past few years that I try to keep in mind when I’m preparing or eating food:
1. Keep It Simple. Exotic ingredients and complex recipes can be fun, if you have the time and energy to prepare the meal. When cooking for myself, I stick to lean red meat (once a week), chicken, and fish (tuna, tilapia, and sole, mainly). I pick out a green vegetable, usually broccoli or spinach (I often buy fresh, but pre-cut and pre-washed produce, so I can just toss it on a plate or lightly steam). I then make 3 – 4 servings of brown rice or quinoa. I season the protein with salt, pepper, and maybe a bit of cayenne. I then make up 3 – 4 plates of the same dinner. Yes, it’s boring. Yes, I’ll put some hot sauce or soy sauce on there to mix it up. But once you start seeing food as fuel, not as fun, then it makes sense. Einstein wore the same outfit everyday so he wouldn’t have to put any energy into what he would wear–I’m applying the same principle to food.
2. Shop Smart. If you buy it, you’ll probably eat it. I don’t even go down the snack aisles of the grocery store anymore. I stick to the outter circle aisles–produce, meat, dairy, and bulk products only. It’s easy to tell yourself that you can have “just a handful,” but truthfully, I’m not that disciplined, so I need to remove the temptation by keeping processed, sugary, non-foods out of my cart.
3. Cheat. You aren’t a robot. You will have slices of pizza and burgers, that’s okay. The important thing is making better choices and eating for the size you want to be, not the size you are. Sure, I can eat a double burger, but ordering the single is just as satisfying and I probably don’t need the fries or the soft drink. I could order a whole pizza, but walking to the store to get a slice is the wiser idea (and the more economical). Before I cheat, I think of all the time I spend in the gym, sweating, grunting, and hurting, then I make my choice.
4. Why Do Tomorrow What You Can Do Today? Get to it! Stop telling yourself that you’ll start tomorrow or get back into it tomorrow–choose now, there’s no time like the present.
5. Be Prepared. If you are a busy person, you’re going to eat whatever’s handy. Always keep lots of ready-to-eat foods on-hand. I spend the extra cash to buy pre-made salads, pre-cut and pre-washed vegetables, and pre-mixed protein shakes so I don’t have the excuse of “Well, there was nothing that I could eat, so I got take out.” I like keeping shakes and protein bars in my car, so if I’m in transit, I still have no excuse for grabbing something from a fast food place.
6. It’s Okay to Say No. My family expresses their love for eachother by making and serving rich and delicious foods on special occasions. For my birthday, it was always “Tell your mom what you want to eat.” Well, if you’re family is like mine, you have to learn to be a firm no person. No need to be rude, but you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone–it’s your body. My family is slowly, but surely, learning that my eating habits have changed, but it’s a process. I still have to refuse seconds or say no to chips and pop during a movie, but they have been mostly supportive. The big change came when I was doing laundry at their house one day and my dad held up a pair of my pants and laughed “These look like kids’ pants!” and they all acknowledged how hard I’d been working. Even if you don’t get any sort of acknowledgement, be firm in your choice and know that it’s really not offensive to turn down foods that are detrimental to your health and fitness goals.
7. Keep a Journal. You can use a memo pad, smart phone, blog, whatever, but write down everything you eat–even that spoonful of Nutella you shoved in your mouth when you thought noone was watching. By analyzing what I eat, I’m better able to see where and how I can improve. For instance, I need to eat every 2 – 3 hours, if I go longer between meals, I tend to make some poor choices and I notice that my workouts suffer because of those choices. I am more cognisant of my diet, because I’m accountable to myself for every bite that goes into my mouth.
8. Calories Do Count. You cannot reasonably expect to get smaller if you do not reduce your caloric intake. I’m not talking about being crazy and limiting your calories to the point where you are starving and your body is not getting the nutrients it needs to build lean muscle and burn fat. When I’m working out, I need about 2,500 calories just to function, that means that eating 5 times per day, I should aim for my meals to be between 300 and 500 calories each. If you’re eating clean, you don’t need to stress, you’ll be fine. If you are a person who eats a lot of take out (even so-called healthy takeout), you might want to pay more attention to packaging and nutrition labels.
9. Take Supplements. Fish oils (6 per day), a good multivitamin, vitamin C, and branch chain aminos (before, during, and after a workout) are what I’m taking. Everyone is different and should consult a professional before starting this kind of regime, but I find I get better, faster results when I take my supplements. I put them in the days-of-the-week pill box, so I don’t forget.
10. Don’t Eat Low Fat Anything. I don’t eat anything that advertises that it’s fat free or calorie free. Food should have calories in it. Dairy should have fat in it. Meat should have fat in it. Fat Free and Calorie Free sound like foods that have been processed to the point of Frankenfoods. Scary!