It seems to be common knowledge that weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise, so having a diet strategy is important. I spent weeks thinking about the challenge and diet I’ll be following for the next 90 days. It seems simple, but food has always been very complicated for me. I have a tumultuous history with food. It’s kind of like an abusive relationship. I love it, yet I fear it. Even though I know it’s sometimes bad for me and there are much better choices, I still can’t walk away. I know it sounds pretty messed up, but it’s true. How many times have you been presented with the choices of the apple or the apple pie? I don’t know about you, but I hardly ever choose the apple. I decided in order to come up with a diet strategy, I must first understand how and what I am eating now, so I started keeping a pre-challenge food journal.
I have been paying close attention to my eating habits these days and I am starting to learn a lot. So far I have learned that I have a deep emotional connection with food. I eat when I am happy, sad, bored, frustrated or in need of comfort. I am either depriving myself of food or gorging on junk food. Pretty much more than half of my food comes in a package or takeout containers. Which means I am shoveling food in my mouth and I have no idea what I’m eating. The fear I have about food is real. I get so utterly overwhelmed at the thought about what I should eat, that I don’t end up eating at all. I’ll skip breakfast, lunch and the snack in between. By the time dinner finally rolls around I am eating everything that isn’t nailed down. It would seem that I eat a lot, but it’s quite the contrary. I have a relatively small appetite and tend to eat under the daily recommended number of calories. I never finish everything on my plate and I start getting full within a couple of bites. When I broke down my caloric intake I found my diet to be heavy in carbs and not the good kind. My pre-challenge journal was eye opening. I didn’t realize how destructive my eating habits were. Well, I guess I knew, but decided to ignore it. I would like to end my dysfunctional relationship with food. So, I decided to take my complex relationship with food and make it simple.
1. Eat Clean
When it comes to my diet I am trying not to overcomplicate things. I want clean and simple-to-prepare meals. Eating clean means eating whole and minimally processed foods. The goal is to keep the food as close to its natural form as possible. A way to achieve this is by trying to limit the amount of packaged foods you eat and replace it with whole foods. When you do consume packaged foods make sure to read the labels. The ingredients list should be short, and all ingredients should be recognizable. Try to avoid additives like artificial coloring and flavors. You also want to avoid pesticides, added hormones and chemicals. Even though the food maybe clean, calories do matter. I do plan on counting calories taken in with a macronutrient breakdown of protein, fats and carbs. More on this at a later time.
2. Eat Often
Eating regularly is important for recovery and proper nutrition. You should never skip meals, especially breakfast. Breakfast is the jumpoff point for your daily nutrition and can help regulate your hunger. Skipping meals is one of the worse things you can do to your body. It slows down your metabolism, wreaks havoc on your workouts and can cause your body to feed on muscle instead of fat. You want to get a meal in every 2-3 hours. Try to eat at least 3 meals and 2 snacks a day.
3. Keep A Food Journal
To ensure I’m eating regularly, I will maintain a food journal. There are tons of print and digital food journal options available. Check out my article on my top 5 nutrition apps where you will find some food journal options. The importance of the food journal is to keep me honest. It also helps me understand how and why I eat. It is the best way to keep yourself accountable and stay on track. If you have a particularly bad day of eating, you might want to note how you were feeling that day or what was happening. This will help teach you your triggers to bad food habits.
4. Cook More
My goal is to eat out less and cook more. I will try to prepare 90% of my meals at home. Cooking at home will allow me to have more control over the quality of calories I’m consuming. This is the only body I’ll ever have in this lifetime, so I want to treat it well. If you had a high end luxury car, would you put regular or premium gas in it? Premium, I’m sure. Well, food is fuel and our bodies are like a car. If you want it to perform well, you have to give it the best. That means the best ingredients, quality protein, fats and carbohydrates. Source local fresh ingredients and eat in season. Food tastes absolutely amazing when the ingredients are in season. When food is out of season or has to travel far to get to your plate, the growers have to harvest it earlier to extend the ripening time. So eat local and in season!
5. Allow One Weekly Cheat Meal
Life happens and it’s not always possible to eat at home. That’s where a cheat meal comes in. Say you have a special event or just out to dinner with friends, knowing that you have a cheat meal locked and loaded takes the edge off of social gatherings and your cravings. When you know you have a cheat meal you will save it until you really need it. It’s kinda like a diet insurance policy. If you have a breakdown then you’re covered. You don’t have to use your weekly cheat meal, but it’s nice to know it’s there just in case. Remember you can’t just have a cheat meal, you have to earn it throughout the week. You can’t stockpile cheat meals either. Each week it’s use it or lose it. Although it is a cheat meal, try not to overeat. Eat what you like, but within a normal portion size. Also, you are only allowed to have one cheat meal per week otherwise it’s a cheat day, which is not the same thing.
*BONUS: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
What is your diet strategy? What are you doing to clean up your diet? Let us know in the comments section below.