I get a lot of questions about diet. What should I eat? How much should I be eating? Timing, portions, macros, the list goes on. And there's so much information out there. There's some really great resources, but it can also all be very confusing, especially if establishing a healthy lifestyle is something new to you. I take for granted everything I've learned over the years and I forget that it hasn't always been easy. The fact of the matter is, if you truly want to live a healthy lifestyle, you can, and you will. But if it's not important to you, you'll continue to find excuses. For me, being healthy and fit is a part of my life. I compete in CrossFit, GRID, Weightlifting, etc. So I put a huge emphasis on eating foods that fuel my performance. But I also love being able to go hiking with friends on a whim, hop in a boat and go waterskiing, visit with my parents and go pick a bunch of fresh food out of their garden, all things I can do because I put a high priority on my health. So if you're trying to find a way to get started on living a healthier life, or you're struggling and just need a little help, I've put together a list of some of the things that have helped me, and hopefully they can help you too.
Don't "go on a diet"
At least for me, this strategy has never worked. If I said I was "going on a diet" I was automatically setting myself up for failure. I'd put too many restrictions on myself and after a couple of weeks (or maybe even a couple of days) I'd find myself binging on something I shouldn't have and telling myself "oh well, I'll start again on Monday". Eating a healthy diet shouldn't feel restrictive. Think of your diet as a lifestyle, something you can maintain forever. And if you do eat something that's on the less healthy end of the spectrum, own it and move on. We're all human, we all give in to temptation, but we shouldn't throw away everything just because we made one less than perfect choice.
Be realistic with your goals
If you have hefty goals (and there's nothing wrong with that) you may need to be a little bit more strict with yourself. Although I said we need to be flexible with our methods and make this a lifestyle, we also need to be honest with ourselves and what it is we're trying to achieve. If you want to be healthy so you can go be active with your friends or play with your kids and run around, then making a little mistake here and there isn't the end of the world. But if you're suffering from a seriously health problem or you'd like to lose a large about of weight, or you have a big competition coming up, then those little mistakes can add up and cost you. As an elite athlete every choice I make affects my performance. I want to be the best I can be, and if that means passing on the bowl of ice cream I so desperately want that all of my friends are enjoying in front of me, then that's the decision I have to make.
Make sure the people around you support you
This leads into my next bullet point. Make sure those around you support your lifestyle. It's not easy changing the way you eat and live if your friends and family don't support you. It would be great if they all decided to take this journey with you (and if that's something you think they'd be willing to do then I highly encourage you to bring them along!) but if not, at least let them know what changes your making and that their support is important to you. My family has been incredibly supportive in my decision to eat a whole foods, paleo diet, and I'm lucky that the majority of the time they cook and eat this way with me. I mean it's delicious, so why wouldn't they? But I know it's not always that easy. I struggled for a long time with my best friends from college wanting to go out drinking every weekend. That's what we'd always done. That's how we had fun. But as I became more involved in CrossFit, I didn't want to spend my weekends drinking. I wanted to train, I wanted to be outside. Fun for me was going on a hike, or to the lake. It's taken time, but they get it now. And to be honest, they've started to enjoy being active and eating healthy with me.
I was just going through some old photos and came across this picture from my first CrossFit competition in 2011. I had to put it side by side with a photo from this year. Crazy. CrossFit won me over that's for sure!
Today! Right now. I know it isn't Monday, and that's okay. Here's what I suggest:
- Meal prep. Plan your meals, make them on Sunday night, or whenever is convenient for your schedule, and take them with you. Especially lunches. You can usually get up and make breakfast, and you can most likely come home and make dinner, but sometimes lunch can be a scramble. If you're always prepared with a healthy meal, you're less likely to grab something you shouldn't.
- Eat a balanced meal. I try to get a good balance of protein, carbs and fat at each meal. Balance is key to getting the proper nutrients throughout the day and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As far as portions go, I don't want to get too in depth here (that could be a whole other article in itself) but if you have questions feel free to ask me, especially if you have a certain goal in mind. Personally I use the zone diet as a rough guideline which is 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat, and depending on my goals I may up my fat and lower my carb intake.
- Try new recipes. Variety is key to maintaining a healthy life. And there are SO many resources out there that you should never get bored with your food. Check out some of my recipes here and a list of bloggers I love here.
- Snack smart. This goes back to the balanced meal stuff. You can have snacks, especially if you need something pre or post workout, but make sure you're getting the nutrients you need. It's easy to grab a bag of nuts, but that's not the healthiest choice. Make sure your snack has protein in it too.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. With all of that being said, sometimes we still struggle, and we need help. If you think you're doing everything right but still don't feel like you're reaching your goals, ask someone for advice. When I first started down this journey my only saving grace was my coach who made me write down everything I ate. I had to bring it in every week for him to look at. Sometimes I just wasn't being honest with myself, and sometimes I just didn't realize that I was making poor choices. It wasn't meant to punish me, it was just to help me learn how to make smarter choices until I was able to do it all on my own.
And feel free to leave any comments or questions. I'll do my best to answer them!