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When you look into the mirror what do you see? Perhaps you see a cupcake. Perhaps you see a pear that can talk. An apple maybe? A watermelon? Or perhaps you see walking toothpick. No matter your aesthetic malady, if it can be fixed with diet and exercise.
So often I’ve seen folks try to diet by immersing themselves in fad diet strategies. They use Atkins, Weight Watchers, South Beach, The Zone, Hollywood diets, Low-Carb, Low-Fat, the list goes on and on. Read some reviews of a couple fad diets. The problem is that when dieters go off fad diets, 90% of them gain back whatever they lost and sometimes more! I want to address that issue and provide some tips on how you can generally eat healthier for the rest of your life, rather than abusing fad diet after fad diet.
Starting a new diet or exercise program should not be taken lightly. If you are severely overweight, severely underweight, and/or have any medical conditions, you should always consult your physician prior to drastically changing your eating habits and performing significant weight bearing tasks. Now I would like to outline a number of basic rules for building the foundation of your new dietary plan.
Rule #1 – Permanent Changes
I avoided using “The Diet” as a subtitle of this section for a reason; this is not a diet. I repeat, we are NOT starting a new diet here. These are the permanent changes that need to be made to your lifestyle eating habits. From now on when I use the word “diet” I am referring to your lifestyle eating habits. For example, right now you might say that your diet consists of Coca-Cola, donuts, cheeseburgers, and ice cream. In the future you will say that your diet consists of Crystal Lite, beef jerky, lean beef and chicken, and a protein bar.
Rule #2 – You Are What You Eat From Your Head Down to Your Feet
Your diet will be responsible for 70% of your total results, with physical exercise and lifestyle comprising the additional 30%. You can not escape this rule. If you eat french fries and drink beer, you will be either a) fat or b) skinny but soft and unhealthy. Cows and pigs are fat. Chickens and fish are not. Therefore each chickens and fish instead of pigs and cows. Vegetables are crisp, healthy, and full of nutrients; candy bars and desserts are full of fat and high fructose sugars. Guess which one to choose.
Rule #3 – No Cheating
No, it is not OK to cheat. Even the term cheat carries negative connotations. The Weight Watchers and Jenny Craigs of the world will tell you that you can eat what you want in moderation. To most people that means it is OK to have donuts in moderation, then it is also OK to have ice cream in moderation, which must mean it is OK to have soda in moderation. Soon you are eating everything that you shouldn’t be eating in moderation, but the end result is that you are just eating little servings of a whole bunch of different junk foods! You can develop a system of goals and rewards that you can follow to achieve the success you want and enjoy the foods that taste best.
Rule #4 – Set Those Goals and Rewards
Set milestones along the way so that you have something to look forward to. When you hit a certain body weight you can treat yourself to something nice. Maybe a professional massage, a free cheat meal on a Saturday night, a night at the hot tubs, invest $40 or so into supplements to help you hit the next milestone, new workout equipment, be creative. Put up sticky notes, pictures, and other reminders about your rewards. Setting those goals will keep you on track.
Rule #5 – No Fad Diets
There is no fad diet out there that works for everyone. Atkins can work for some, but can lead to binging and kidney failure. Low fat can work for some, but can lead to diabetes. Juice diets might work for a couple weeks, but you will end up nutrient deficient and likely very sick. Our plan is to take the best of all worlds and create one all-encompassing philosophy for changing your diet forever.
Rule #6 – Eat Breakfast Silly
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you skip breakfast you might as well forget about maximizing your progress. Skipping breakfast means that your body will continue to eat up precious muscle tissue (catabolism) in a prolonged state of fasting. Your metabolism will slow down to accommodate the lack of nutrients, and will store each successive calorie that you consume in efficient little adipose cells (fat tissue) for later use. Even if you start with a glass of milk or a piece of toast an hour after you wake up, you will be better off than if you wait until lunch to eat your first meal.
Rule #7 – Then Eat 5 More Evenly Spaced Snack-Meals
Starting with breakfast, space your meals throughout the day in 3 hour intervals. This might mean you get 5-6 meals in any one day. Each meal should consist of 200-400 calories, depending on how the rest of your meals are constructed and on how many calories you are supposed to be eating each day. Each meal should contain about 15-25 grams of protein. Drink a glass of ice water before each meal to both curb appetite and also to force your body to burn extra calories by increasing the temperature of the water. You see how many little tips and tricks there are?
Rule #8 – Choosing the Right Calories
A calorie is not a calorie. Fat should not be combined with carbohydrates period. General guidelines are: any meal with more than 10 grams of carbs should have less than 8 grams of fat; any meal with more than 8 grams of fat should have less than 10 grams of carbs, and absolutely NO sugar. Yes, this means high-fat sandwiches are out, steak and potatoes are gone, no more juice and toast with your eggs, and nix that full-fat butter on everything except for vegetables.
Rule #9 – Seriously… Choose the Right Calories
A calorie is still not a calorie. Every meal should have at least 20 grams of protein. This means a 6-meal day will contain a minimum of 120 grams of protein. I maintain that athletes should not eat less than 80% of their bodyweight (in lbs) in grams of protein. That means a 180 lb athlete will consume between 140-180 grams of protein in a day. This is not now, nor has it ever been, too much protein for an active human being.
Protein requires additional calories to process, similar to soluble fiber, and therefore creates a thermic effect in the body, thus speeding up your metabolism and actually burning additional calories. Read this article about how much protein you should eat in a day.
Rule #10 – Do Not Mix Carbs and Fat
Without getting into the science of it, this concept is simple. The reason we don’t consume carbs with fat is because when glycogen hits the blood stream it triggers an insulin response, which sends a message to the body to dump those fat molecules directly into adipose tissue. Furthermore, your body will use the carbs for energy because they are easier to process, and will just store all the fat for later. Feel free to combine protein with carbs and protein with fat, but never fat with carbs. And when I say carbs in this sense, I mean sugary or starchy carbs. Moderate fibrous carbs are OK since they don’t spike insulin levels.
Quick Tip #1
It is OK to eat a small healthy snack before bed.
Quick Tip #2
It is OK to drink as much water as you can comfortably consume, 64 oz minimum in any given day.
Quick Tip #3
You need carbohydrates for energy. Instead of avoiding them, we will time carb intake based around pre-planned activity levels. Eat some carbs before and during exercise for energy, and after exercise for recovery.
Browse back to this article on dieting and scroll down to the bottom section titled “The Healthy Living Diet”. This is where you can get some additional information about figuring out your calorie consumption.
Go ahead and start implementing these changes now. Adding in a couple changes at a time will make it easier to change your overall habits, and you won’t be able to actually pinpoint the exact date you started “dieting” because it will be a slow aggregate change. Good Luck!