I have clients who constantly talk to me about nutrition. I’m not an expert (even though my first certification ever 17 years ago was in nutrition) and usually will refer out if someone is looking for specific advice. Meal plans can be found readily online (for free, don’t know why people pay money for them), but people simply don’t stick to them.
However, there are some universal nutrition items that come up in everyone I deal with who is trying to lose weight or change their body composition. These are some harsh truths, but I hope they resonate with you. It’s nothing complicated. As with exercise, people obsess about the last 10% when they should be focused on the first 90 for real results. These are simple fixes and don’t take a lot of effort to adjust, but the results in a period of time can be staggering.
Here’s a quick list of 5 nutrition basics that you’re probably NOT doing:
You DON’T eat vegetables, or enough of them.
Most of us default to vegetables being a second thought when it comes to what goes on our plate. It’s a side at a restaurant that isn’t even considered beyond what kind of topping you’ll get on your baked potato. We will also eat fruit instead of vegetables and consider that just fine because it’s the same thing. Well, it’s not.
Fructose is more easily converted into fat – if you’re overeating, which most of you are. If you’re eating within your caloric energy requirements then it gets converted into blood sugar like any other carb and you use it for energy. However, if you want to remove that small risk (and greatly reduce your calories to boot) try changing out your banana for some carrot sticks or celery. 1 large banana is 140 calories and a cup of carrot sticks is 50.
You don’t get rid of starchy carbs when you can.
“Hey, instead of the pasta or mashed potato side can you just double my vegetables or give me some rice?” said nobody in any restaurant EVER. They will do it, by the way all you have to do is ask. This falls under the heading of portion control. One small serving of (1 cup) ravioli can be 200 calories and a cup of broccoli is 30. In a restaurant where you can actually control what they make and that you are PAYING FOR is where most people don’t limit the choices they should.
When was the last time a restaurant gave you a portion that was 1 cup? Again, never. This leads to overeating. If you now look at menu items in a typical restaurant you will see how loaded they are in calories (thank God for that) and that you can eat literally half and be just fine.
You don’t limit your added sugar intake.
One of my clients’ husbands literally took one step and started drinking his coffee black instead of double double at Tim’s. He dropped 8 pounds in two months DOING NOTHING ELSE. Traps like specialty coffees at Starbucks or protein smoothies which are touted as good for you are the worst culprits. I can’t count the amount of women who would do a group exercise class and then head down to the front desk for a “healthy” smoothie loaded with frozen yoghurt, replacing every calorie they just burned plus extra and wondered why they weren’t losing weight.
There is hidden sugar in many things we consume all the time, so adding more into it isn’t a good idea especially since again – more sugar in the blood gets converted to stored fat FIRST. Believe it or not, if you eliminate it for a couple of weeks you may go through withdrawal. That’s how prevalent it is in many things.
You don’t track your calories. Honestly.
Fitbits and other wearable devices have made exercise accountability easy and mindless. If only there was something you could do to track your calories. Oh wait, there is! There’s probably about 100 apps you can load onto your phone, and god forbid you have to type something into a database and press a couple of buttons.
Many of my clients complain it’s too hard and I give them my patented withering look. It takes five minutes a day. Literally. Delay the Netflix queue and input it and BE HONEST. If you had a handful of M+M’s at work, that goes in there. If you had sugar in your coffee or a glass of wine, it goes in there. You don’t stop recording on the weekend because “you were bad” and feel guilty. This is called self control and consistency, both of which are exactly what you need to lose weight.
You indulge “once in a while”.
Be honest with yourself. If you were, you would realize that the reason your weight isn’t under control is because you reward yourself and indulge way too often. Once a week MIGHT be fine for some people, for many it isn’t if you have a serious goal and a commitment. If you’re exercising intensely several times a week (which again, most of you aren’t – be honest) then you can get away with more.
That means ONE drink at Starbucks, not 3-4 times a week. That means ONE decadent dessert a week, not a couple of cookies every night. It means getting in touch with the reasons you’re eating the stuff, not just eliminating it. All those brownies, chocolate, sodas, restaurant food and French fries add up over time. And it takes time to eliminate them. Yes it tastes good. And yes, it helps when you’re stressed or feel like you need a hit to calm you down or feel better. But if it’s contrary to your goals then just STOP. Take a good look at your habits and figure out what patterns you have or what your relationship with food is and adjust it accordingly. Easier said than done I know, but it is the right step to take if you want to get your weight and health under control.
There you have it.
Did any of these resonate with you? Maybe more than one of them? Well, the best time to start a new habit is today. Don’t worry about days past and failed diets and bad things you have done previously. Today you can start a new habit. Start with the five items here and work on them and I can guarantee that you’ll be in a better place months from now. Get CONSISTENT.
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Nutrition is obviously a hot topic these days, with everyone touting gluten free this and sugar free that. Basically if you read enough on the internet, everything is going to kill you. Here’s a bit of a hint – everything IS going to kill you eventually. Really what you want to focus on is staving off the effects for as long as you possibly can and not letting yourself develop a chronic degenerative disease that might make it happen sooner. My grandmother recently turned 100 years old, and still puts salt on things, eats butter and has two sugar cubes in her instant decaf coffee every day plus a hit of sherry once in a while. I also share a Coke with her once a year. She also lives an incredibly stress free lifestyle, which I think is one of the major contributors to degenerative disease today – but I digress.
While at the store this morning I thought I might post about exactly what I shop for and why, and hope that it might give you some insight into what a “fitness person” eats. So here’s what was in my grocery cart this morning, which is pretty typical of 90% of our food intake:
Apples Tomatoes Bananas Cheese
Grapes Cucumber Green Beans Whole Wheat Wraps
Broccoli Strawberries Kale Lactose Free Milk
Greek Yogurt Brussels Sprouts Oranges Brown Rice
Peppers Sweet Potatoes Peppermint Tea
Tofu (we feed this to our daughter for fat and protein – and she loves it – yes, I know about soy)
Cheerios (my daughter also loves these as a treat but I eat them too for breakfast sometimes)
Total Cost: $53 (at our local FreshCo) for enough to cover us for about four to five days. We typically spend about $80 per week on groceries.
We get our meat from a local butcher because it is better quality – I rarely buy meat from the grocery store unless they are having a big sale on something in bulk. Most of our meat is fish and chicken, but I also buy ground beef and sometimes a roast for convenience. Once a week we do a slow cooker meal which covers us for 3-4 meals so it is easy for my wife to simply reheat if I am working late.
You might notice that there’s nothing from a box or that’s frozen. This isn’t always the case – we buy frozen fish because it is cheaper and my butcher doesn’t carry it and we buy frozen peas because they are convenient and cheaper as well. We don’t drink pop, or any juice. I drink coffee that I sometimes make at home but I typically buy one from Tim Horton’s 5 days a week when I’m on my way to work. I put cream and sugar in it because it tastes better that way. If I want a snack I’ll eat fruit, yogurt or banana chips from Bulk Barn since I’m allergic to nuts and can’t eat those. My post long run recovery drink is chocolate milk and sometimes my wife puts it in her coffee at home.
Here’s another shocker – I don’t take supplements. No protein shakes, no BCAA’s, nothing beyond a simple Vitamin C to help reduce the risk of illness. I found through trial and error that protein powders don’t make my system happy and the added juice and sugar add up to a ton as well. Not that this is necessary, but I made a decision a while ago to basically cut back on anything artificial or that has chemicals in it, which any protein powder does. And you can tell me until you’re blue in the face how yours comes from 100% natural ingredients, but the truth is, your powder still got made in a factory with 20 others that are simply boxed and shipped to other companies and there are still fillers and additives in it. So basically I get 80% of my nutrition from real food, and the other 20% is the occasional 1-2 times a week I grab something when I’m out. About once every other week my wife and I order in Thai food like normal people. I follow the 80/20 rule – if you do the right thing 80% of the time it likely makes up for the 20% that you don’t.
I also have a ten month old at home – we feed her pretty much the same stuff that we eat at this point because she loves to feed herself and imitate Mom and Dad. She loves beans, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, tofu, brown rice pasta, and especially strawberries. For breakfast we often make her toast with almond butter and she loves it. She has been exposed to pretty much everything (all fish, nuts, major allergens except for honey) and has no food allergies. She doesn’t like too much animal protein because of the texture at this stage, but she will eat fish and chicken if we hide it or if she’s hungry enough.
So there you have it – the grocery and eating habits of a not perfect personal trainer and a regular human being. I know that nutrition is a personal choice for many people so if you want to comment, that’s fine – I just might not listen. I’ve spoken about nutrition before, and lots of people either over complicate it or simply don’t manage their time well. They hit the snooze button 3 times and skip breakfast. They don’t bother making lunch at home and spend hundreds a month eating out – which also leads to unhealthy choices. Instead of whipping something up that’s healthy and easy at home (which you can easily do in 15 minutes) they stop and pick up something packaged or fast food. Always remember – this is a choice. If you choose to do that, then fine, but don’t complain about it. It is really easy to make a simple change and manage your life and time better so you can live longer and feel better. If you’re going to make a change, don’t make it for 6 weeks or a “90 day challenge” – make it for the rest of your life and commit already.
I hope it helped – feel free to comment, subscribe and share!