If you do only 2 simple thing to improve your nutrition ... make it these two simple things. (Click here for Step One)
After receiving my Personal Trainer certification, I learned that in order to keep my certification active, I'd need to earn a certain number of Continuing Education credits. And since I love learning and could seriously be a professional student for the rest of my life, I got excited about the opportunity to learn about some of the topics not covered (or not covered thoroughly) in my Personal Trainer training. First up ... nutrition! And not just for my clients, but for myself, as remaining balanced is something I struggle with on a daily basis also. Food is hard. Food is complicated. And the fitness and nutrition industries make it even more complicated!
"Only eat these 7 foods to get the body of your dreams!"
"Are you using the RIGHT carbs to fuel your workout?"
"How are you recovering from your workouts? If it's not with our product, it's the wrong way!"
"Can't lose those stubborn last few pounds? Cut these 32 ingredients from your diet and add in these other 17 ingredients!"
"Complete our 21 day cleanse and drop 20lbs ... but you'll gain it all back and then some on day 22 because you've starved yourself and white knuckled your way through it ..."
PHEW! I mean, no wonder so many of us yo-yo our way through "diets" and other fads. We keep searching and searching for that ONE diet that's going to be the right one for us - and yet we keep not finding it. Sure, some might work for the short term, but at best they are not maintainable, and at worst they are very damaging to both our physical bodies and the mental attitudes we end up taking towards food. And that ain't good.
So, I delved into some nutrition training. Going in, I expected it to be very heavy and in-depth and "sciencey", and I expected to be able to come out with THE exact and perfect formula for optimum nutrition that I could then pass on to my clients (and use for myself). And what I ended up learning IS the perfect formula for my clients to obtain optimum nutrition - but, much to my surprise, it's nothing complicated at all. In fact, it's the simplest thing ever. Whaaaaaaat?!
Are you ready? Here we go ...
Step Two: Counting calories WITHOUT counting calories. Yes, you read that right - counting calories without actually counting calories. Because, like, counting calories is THE WORST. I had to do it for a bootcamp I was enrolled in a few years ago and it made me mental. I hated it. It made me crazy. It made me feel so much pressure. And when I did log my food, and I was eating so awesome and clean, and I went up in weight (they had us weighing ourselves every day - another thing I'd highly recommend against) - ooooooh boy. It got to the point that I started lying in the log. I would just log the same foods everyday, even though I was eating pizza and chocolate. I couldn't handle the pressure. I was literally lying to myself about my food and it was crazy making. And I know I wasn't the only one. It just was such an ineffective tool, but one that so many people rely on. And one only a select few can actually emotionally handle. So, I stopped. And I gained freedom from it. Food is something we MUST have, we can't avoid it, and to create such an obsessive relationship with it is simply not maintainable for the long term. But, obviousy, we also can't just eat whatever the heck we want in whatever the heck portions we want. That's kinda what got us to the point we're at today reading (or writing) this blog, amirite?! So, what's the middle ground? Well, it's simple, and you might even have heard of it before. It's all about being able to visualize your portions. It's about being able to look at your food and know exactly (or very close to exactly) how much of it you need to eat for optimal nutrition. It's not about pulling out a scale and being completely exact with it - it's about ball parking it - and coming very close. And the beauty of this technique is, you can use it anywhere. You can use it at home, at work, at restaurants ... anywhere. All you need is one (or two) of your very own hands. If you're eating 3-4 meals per day, you *should* be eating approximately the following per meal ...
2 palms of protein (PALMS, not your entire hand)
2 cupped handfuls of grains / carbs (and not overflowing handfuls)
2 fist sizes of veggies (Consider this your minimum recommended amount. If you want more veg, please do!)
2 thumbs of fat.
1 palm of protein (PALMS, not your entire hand)
1 cupped handful of grains / carbs (and not overflowing handfuls)
1 fist size of veggies (Consider this your minimum recommended amount. If you want more veg, please do!)
1 thumb of fat.
Now, yes, I hear you already, there will always be exceptions to all of these, but honestly, there are going to be far less exceptions than you imagine (and, sorry to say, but you likely are not one of those exceptions, unless you're a crazy competitive body builder or an extreme elite endurance athlete). For *most* of the population, this is going to work, and work well. Eating this way will ensure that you're getting very close to your recommended values of calories, protein, carbs & fats per day.
It is recommended that you attempt to follow this non-program "program" for approximately two weeks and see how it is working. How are your energy levels? How is your weight loss or gain (depending upon your goals)? How is your appetite? How is your mood? How is your relationship with food? All these things should start improving in as little as a week and should show a marked improvement in two weeks. If you are not yet seeing or feeling results after two weeks, of course you can make little tweaks here and there (add more protein? add more carbs? etc), but the core of this should stay the same. Keep it simple - and keep it sane!