Aside from navigating your suddenly overpopulated gym, I'd say that avoiding diet extremes tops the list of challenges for people who yearn to be healthier at the start of the New Year.
After all, if you've just come off a month-long binge fest, the pendulum naturally swings the other way. In our minds we MUST DETOX, so we look to extremes:
"No sugar at all until Easter."
"I'm not drinking for 2 months."
"For the next three weeks I'm doing a chia/kale/cilantro smoothie cleanse."
I'm astounded at the amount of mental gymnastics we put ourselves through. Even more troublesome is the fact that bouncing back and forth between extremes is not only unhealthy, it's no way to live.
A couple weeks ago, Coach Erika Suter dropped the truth equivalent of an atomic bomb with an article she wrote on nutrition. She makes the case, quite perfectly, that there is no substitute for doing the little things well. In fact, it's quite counter-productive to think that advanced strategies are a panacea, especially if the foundation to properly implement them is lacking.
Why get on a ladder if you haven't harvested fruit from the branches on the bottom?
The following concepts are, in my estimation, the most consequential. These action steps are not only the easiest to implement, they're also where you'll derive the most bang for your buck. Unless you can implement them consistently (80% of the time), you will struggle and grow frustrated trying to tackle more advanced actions higher up in the tree. You'll also increase the likelihood that you quit, yo-yo or default to behaviors and habits that take you further away from your goals.
Good fundamentals will never fail you. By establishing a solid set of fundamental skills, you'll always have a place to turn to when things get difficult.
As a Precision Nutrition certified coach (and notorious inhaler of food), I've grown to see the value in executing this first step. When we eat slowly, we allow for the following:
Our body is able to digest appropriately.
Satiety cues have ample time to reach the brain, which let us know that it's time to stop. This leads to lowered overall caloric consumption.
We enjoy and savor the meal, which allows us to relax. Even healthy foods can be quite tasty, but if we're rushing through it, we'll never know.
If slowing down is the first step to controlling calories, then stopping once you're satisfied is the all-important follow-up. We don’t need to feel stuffed to know it's time to stop. The general rule for eating to satisfaction is that you stop when you're 80% full.
These first two steps provide a powerful 1-2 punch for calorie control. I recommend you start here and work to execute them consistently.
Another simple solution for both satiety and nutrient density: always have lean protein and veggies with every meal. These two food sources are slow digesting and provide a meal packed with essential amino acids, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
You don't solely have to consume protein and veggies, but making them the base of your meal helps to prioritize quality over quantity. You'll be far less likely to overconsume poor quality, calorie dense foods later on.
Just like manufacturers utilize economies of scale to drive down lead times and production costs, you can do the same in your kitchen.
First, take 30 minutes out of a day of your choosing (I like Sunday) to wash, cut up and store your fruits and veggies. They'll be readily available when you need them later in the week. You'll save valuable time on meal prep and you'll have an idea about what to make next.
Second, when you're cooking, make extra. I always to try to have enough for 1-2 additional meals. On the weekend I might make a more involved dish, like a beef stew or a Bolognese sauce. I'll make two pots – one to eat and one to freeze. Later in the winter I only have to thaw and heat the frozen stew or sauce and I have a couple meals ready to go.
Eating healthy is easier if I already know where my next meal is coming from. A few extra minutes on the front end to plan and prep saves time and hassle later on.
When we prep our food and plan our meals, we minimize (or altogether eliminate) the need to eat out. Since many restaurant prepared meals have a ton of hidden calories, you'll be deducting those directly from your midsection.
Because eating out isn't cheap, the money you save can be put toward healthy food options and that summer outfit you've been eyeing. Plus, our healthy eating habits will (hopefully) help to drive down hidden costs like doctor's visits or an expensive medication.
Remember, good fundamentals will never fail you.
Busy lives and full schedules make it difficult to focus on our health. Why complicate it with overbearing diet strategies and hard-to-follow quick fixes? The 5 "fruits" outlined above not only provide an excellent foundation, they’re relatively easy to implement with a nominal amount of discipline. In fact, the discipline required to implement these strategies pales in comparison to what's required as you move further up the tree. Pick one, master it, then move on to the next.
Next week, we'll discuss the mid-hanging fruit and when it might be right to implement those strategies.
Lastly, if you're looking to get 2019 started off on the right foot and would like a bit of direction, then check out our 12-week ReBUILD program. We offer programs for both men and women. It's perfect for someone with some knowledge, skill and experience who'd like to reengage with strength training! If you have questions or would like to learn more about Vitalifit's programs please contact us today.