Discipline to train and discipline to eat: as you develop a discipline for training you need to develop, in tandem, a discipline for eating healthy too. Exercise amplifies whatever good or bad food habits you have because you’re consuming more fuel (even if your goal is fat loss you still need to eat more – another topic).
What does healthy mean? What is healthy for one might not be healthy for another. You have to be clear about goals, weaknesses, types of training and how your digestive system works; what sorts of fuel work best for you, do you train on empty, eat before bed? We’re all very different and this journey is about becoming an expert on what foods work best for you. It might mean behaving differently from the crowd who can project their eating habits onto you, display shock, even arrogance at the way you eat and knock your confidence. This is a test of resolve and self belief: in becoming fit and strong you develop a stronger mind too; you can’t have one without the other.
What is your fuel? Some people thrive off fats as fuel, some carbs, certain training programmes require more protein, others less, some are looking to increase calorie intake or protein, others a calorie restricted diet that still provides adequate energy for exercise. Your fuel can also change depending on hormones, recent exercise history, stress, medical problems (life basically).
A trainer can help identify which foods are typically recommended for which training plans. If you don’t have an expert to hand then research. Never before has so much information been so easily available. We’re walking around with libraries in our pockets. Use it. Google it. Don’t be afraid to look at science research papers; read the abstract or conclusion. Always challenge authority, even the scientists (which is what science was initially all about), always research whatever info you’ve been told, never take anyone’s word for it EVER because we are all different systems and scientific knowledge is fluid; it will change. Your body is your responsibility.
Process of elimination: you will make many mistakes before you learn what your body thrives off. As in business the mistakes are the most valuable lessons. To find out what doesn’t work is the journey of life! (Amen). The more experienced you are the quicker you learn from mistakes and adapt. Ponder but don’t dwell and never ever think it’s easier for anyone else.
Step 1 – Food diary
- Food diaries are the first step to working all this out by looking at what you actually eat as opposed to what you think you eat. Write down everything you nibble, graze, sniff, guzzle, drink and it’s not just about meals, even if you eat one chip of your kid’s dinner, write it down. Everything.
- Also write down any exercise you do and all activity like walking, DIY, domestic chores and shopping (this is considered light exercise).
- At the end of 3 days or longer, write down your thoughts and feelings when reading it back. Is it what you expect? Are you a secret eater!? Are you ready to face this?
- Don’t judge! Acknowledge and accept.
- Write down your goals (e.g include more greens, less sugar, min protein requirements [Protein] avoid over eating).
Step 2 – Take time to think
This is what people mean when they say ‘manifest your desires’; before you achieve something you need to concentrate on it. Have a sit down or lie down and think about your goals, what you’ve eaten in your diary, how you feel about it, any old demons? Are you ready to release them? (you might not be!) do you feel strong emotions like shame or guilt regarding food?
Write it down. You’ve just come a step closer to dealing with some stuff.
Think about healthy food that makes your mouth water, what would you really like to try this week, your gut knows what it wants/needs and will attempt to direct you to the foods that contain those nutrients but doesn’t always get heard.
If you have any junk food cravings like burgers & chips, chinese or kebab then try and recreate a home cook healthy version that will hit the spot as opposed to denying it. Junk food is often based on a healthy original version the difference is effort your effort! Also on a serious note you might need fat, salt, calories, protein and that’s ok simply look for ways to fill those needs using quality whole foods. We’ve moved on from ‘diet’ mentality as it’s not effective or healthy.
For example butchers beef can be much cheaper than supermarket meat and you can check the source of meat, give money to a local business and have good quality free range meat burgers. Instead of chips boil potatoes and grill with a little oil, add loads of salad. Or, you could decide in advance the healthiest alternative; lots of healthy kebabs for example; grilled chicken & salad wrap, houmus & salad wrap.
If you like sweet things google sugar alternative cakes and try out a new sweet treat without sugar and healthy alternatives. If it falls apart keep trying. Don’t deny yourself foods but be creative in getting the hit you like with nutritional ingrediants. Get involved.
Step 3: plan meals and snacks
Preparing meals and snacks takes time. Most likely your calendar is already at its max so you have to make sacrifices; lose one social occasion a week or one activity in order to have time to prepare food and freeze it.
It’s tedious but you gotta do it. Include all the food types: carbohydrates (low GI, google it if you don’t know it’s important), protein, fat, fibre and the best bit GREENS (vitamins & minerals). Then think about snacks. What is easy to prepare to take with you to work or when going out? Can you freeze it and make lots? Based on your goals your snack will vary wildly!
Step 4: plan shopping
On the same day plan through your shopping, food diary in one hand, shopping list in the other. This is a good time to book a delivery; straight after looking through your diary and analysing your emotions regarding the foods you eat. Organic delivery companies that use local producers are healthy on many levels (another blog topic). Generally deliveries allow you to be in control of what you’re buying in the comfort of your own home as opposed to being hungry after work, rushing about with lots on your mind and lots of promotional material steering you off your path.
You might have to dedicate a day or a half day to do this. Sacrifices are worth it when you’re parading your abs around the park this summer :). Fitness is democratic every effort you put in pays and equally any pretence will be revealed! Good luck!