First of all, I would like to thank the mainstream media for making my job and the jobs of so many other health professionals hard. Between Carrie Underwood's Leg Workout, Kim Kardashian's Post-Baby Comeback Plan and the best detox EVER plastered across the front of every magazine in the check-out at the grocery store, most people end up more confused than anything.
I spend a lot of my initial sessions with personal training clients invalidating most of the nutrition guidelines that they believe to be true.
- You can eat after 8 PM.
- Carbs do not make you fat.
- Detoxes are irrelevant. You have kidneys & a liver -- God-given detox.
- Foods are not inherently "good" or "bad" and "clean" food is not magical. Foods are either whole or processed -- high/low calorie/carb/fat/protein.
- Diet Drinks are not worse for you than regular soda.
I could go on and on, but the underlying theme is that everyone wants to make things harder than they have to be. People want to suffer for the sake of suffering rather than doing something that will work for the long-term. P.S. - Being on a terrible diet does not make you a martyr and does not make me envious of your willpower - it makes me feel sorry for you.
Sohee Lee (www.soheefit.com) has a great blog post that discusses making your nutrition fit your lifestyle and this was a great, informational excerpt from her post:
First, let’s start with what all diets – and by diets I’m referring to the way people eat – have in common. We can all agree that, regardless of how you choose to eat, all healthy diets consist of the following:
includes a variety of fruits and vegetables
covers both macronutrient and micronutrient needs
provides sufficient protein from complete sources
allows you to maintain quality of life
Now let’s discuss what sets diets apart. The most perfect nutrition program out there isn’t going to work for you if you don’t enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy something, you’re not going to stick to it over the long haul. You’re eventually going to jump ship, and then all the hard work you put in will be for naught.
Don’t try to cram a square peg into a round hole. Rather, find the nutrition puzzle piece that fits nicely into your life, not your favorite fitness model’s.
The hard part is taking the time to figure out your unique nutrition strategy. That could be any one of the following:
Eat bigger, less frequent meals if you like to feel satiated. You might be better off eliminating snacking altogether if tiny portions do nothing but piss you off and add to your waistline. Eat smaller, more frequent meals if you like to graze throughout the day. You might like this approach if you dislike the sensation of fullness and enjoy having multiple opportunities to chow down.
Utilize intermittent fasting if you’re not hungry in the morning and don’t care for breakfast. From a lifestyle and practicality standpoint, this could work great for many of you.
Carb backload (consume the majority of your carbohydrates in the evening) if you crave carbs and calories at night.
Consume higher carbohydrates on a day-to-day basis if they give you good energy. Consume higher fats on a day-to-day basis if they fill you up. Consume higher carbohydrates on some days and higher fats on other days if you enjoy variety in your diet.
Eat less during the week when you’re busy with work and have a structured routine. Then on the weekend, you can bump up your energy intake by a few hundred calories and enjoy your social hour. Rig your numbers such that your weekly average still yields a caloric deficit if your goal is fat loss. (This is a strategy that I’ve recently been implementing with more and more clients with great success. They report that this works beautifully for them from a lifestyle standpoint.) Just make sure you’re not bouncing from starvation mode to all-out binges; be more conservative with your fluctuations in food intake.
Sprinkle in treats, like a few squares of chocolate, into everyday if that helps you stay sane. Alternatively, you can save your indulgences for more isolated occasions, such as Wednesday and Saturday evenings, when you’re out with your friends. Either way is perfectly fine so long as you stay in the moment, keep an eye on food quantity, and then move on with your life.
Count your macros and adhere to a prescribed set of numbers if you haven’t the slightest grasp of how much you’re consuming and need a little structure for the time being. This might also be appropriate for you if you’re trying to get contest-lean or if your hunger signals are out of whack. Or intuitive eat if you don’t care to spend the time playing with a nutrition app and don’t mind slower progress. Just be mindful of your portion sizes and keep an eye on how your body looks and feels over time.
There are so, so many ways to do this. I can’t tell you which path to take, and neither can anyone else. This is something that you’re going to have figure out on your own. After all, you know yourself best. You know which foods and meal sizes make you feel great and which make you feel crummy.
Pay attention. How are your energy levels after eating a given meal?
The more painless the process feels, the more likely you are to adhere to it over the long-haul. And that’s ultimately what this is all about, isn’t it?
Yes, that's a big excerpt and has some terms specific to the industry, but hopefully it gives you the gist -- Nutrition & Fitness are not one-size-fits-all.
Just like everyone has a different body, everyone is going to prefer different things.
When setting up meal plans or macronutrient/calorie recommendations for people, I always start with the following steps:
#1 - How many calories should you be eating to maintain your current body weight?
I calculate this by multiplying a person's bodyweight by 12-15. I say 12-15 because so many factors are involved when deciding what multiplier to use. Activity level, age, dieting history, etc. just to name a few. A good rule of thumb is to start somewhere in the middle (13 ish) and see how your weight responds.
#2 - How many calories should you be eating to lose weight?
Weight loss is as simple as calories in < calories out -- i.e. you should burn more calories than you consume each day. I do not mean go workout until you burn 1,500 calories. Your body will burn a specific number of calories each day just by breathing, sleeping and other natural processes that are vital to your ability to live. Your daily activity level also plays into this as stated above. To begin fat loss, we must create a caloric deficit, so I will typically start with 100-250 calories per day at first. So if you need 2,000 calories to maintain your body weight, I'll prescribe you 1,800 or something along those lines.
*Note* Do NOT drop calories drastically (Oh if 2,000 is maintenance let's eat 1,000 for faster results). You will be hungry, you will most likely slip up and binge and we will be back to square one. Slow progress is sustainable progress.
#3 - Food preferences: Do you typically like higher carbohydrate foods or higher fat foods? Tracking is an easy way to determine this as you can see where most of your calories come from. For example, I prefer higher fats. I enjoy eating peanut butter, avocado, whole eggs and fattier meats versus potatoes, grains and other carbs. Most people are opposite but this is helpful to know when trying to achieve lasting results. Also, likes and dislikes. If you hate fish, don't eat it. It is not magical and is most likely raised in a foreign country off of human waste.
#4 - Eating habits - Meal Frequency, schedule and lifestyle all come into play here. Do you like/have time to eat breakfast or would you rather have a bigger lunch? Are you someone that would rather eat smaller meals more frequently or have 3 big meals? One is not better than the other, but can make a difference when making a meal plan you can stick to.
#5 - Flexibility - Some clients cannot bear the thought of eating the same thing every day and then others could pass as robots. Again, tracking calories allows one to learn how to be flexible with their diet, but some people like the simplicity of routine. Decide where you are on the spectrum and make it work. For example, I hang out in the middle. Most of my meals can stay the same for several days or even weeks, but I want to cook dinner most nights for my husband. So I plan ahead and make it fit into my daily calories/macros.
Are you overwhelmed yet? Probably even with just 5 steps. You can't go from crawling to walking overnight so be patient with yourself. Understand that you will not be perfect. You will not be great every day. But let a slip-up become a failure. Small victories when wars. Celebrate the little things but don't sweat the small stuff.
How to Start Planning Meals
Some people hate the thought of counting calories. And that is completely okay (it will make continued progression a little tricky but it's doable). Structure 3 meals a day using the following:
- 3-4 oz serving of lean protein (chicken, fish, turkey, lean beef or pork)
- 1 serving of a carbohydrate (potatoes, rice, cereal, oats, etc. etc.)
- 1 serving of green veggies (broccoli, salad greens, asparagus, green beans, cauliflower)
- 1 fat serving (this is where things get tricky - check labels for meats and carb sources and make sure they are not higher fat first. Some beef can be higher fat and dark meat chicken or turkey will be. If you choose a higher fat meat, skip the fat source)
Next, figure out your snacks. Stick to higher-protein options - greek yogurt, tuna, protein bars/shakes or milk. Aim for 2-3 snacks per day.
If you need a treat, calculate it in. I love something sweet before bed so I always make room for low-fat ice cream, a PowerCrunch bar or a piece of candy. Find something lower calorie that will satisfy you, i.e. dark chocolate, fat free pudding, or Skinny Cow products. Don't deprive yourself. Figure out what can take the edge off and have that.
Aim for 8+ glasses of water a day (Rule of Thumb: Your bodyweight in ounces. 150 lbs = 150 oz)
And you're done! It's that easy. Don't make it harder than it has to be and don't think you have to be miserable! Get creative with your food and make the things you enjoy healthier. Life is too short to eat food you hate (TRUST ME I KNOW! Tilapia can go extinct as far as I'm concerned)
If you're still overwhelmed or would like additional guidance, please contact me via email or Facebook to discuss nutrition counseling. I set up meal plans for a relatively low cost with adjustments. Or if it's a simple question - I'm happy to answer those!