Want To Reach Your New Year’s Fitness Goals? Eat Real Food.

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It’s that time of year again! The time when we realize just how much damage we did to ourselves over the holidays and recommit to getting in shape. It’s also the time of year when companies try to push every fat flush, detox and transformation cleanses down your throat. Well, I’m getting on my soapbox today to tell you some real “secrets” to loose fat fast, and you can put away your credit cards, this won’t cost you a thing.

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I’m getting married in 11 days (?!) and unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I still managed to put on weight this season. I want to emphasize, as I often do, that I don’t personally feel weight loss is a healthy goal. My goal for years now has been to be healthy and fit. For some that means loosing weight and gaining muscle, for some it means gaining weight and for some it means maintaining the fitness they already have. Right now I let myself veer away from that due to my diet. I managed to gain 11lbs between October and December 29th, when I got on the scale, shook my head, and said, “Where did I go wrong?”.

I didn’t really have to ask that question. My workouts have been consistent, working out six days a week in the following configuration: three days a week of rock climbing, three days a week of biking at least 30 minutes, 2-3 days with a good yoga practice, and 2-3 days of combo weight training HiiT. Yes, I’m stoked that I’ve maintained consistent and increasing workouts for a few years now but the major thing I faltered on is diet. Most fitness and nutrition professionals will tell you that diet plays much more of a key role in weight loss than exercise. Ideally we should be doing both, and I fell off the wagon when I let my diet slip. I got back on my diet six days ago and I am down eight pounds. I’ve used no fancy pills, powders or potions, I’ve just been eating real food.

For those who read my blog regularly you know I have a slew of food allergies that were diagnosed via a blood test back in the beginning of 2013. When I stopped eating the foods I was allergic to I dropped 30lbs; 15lbs in the first month. Through a lot of research on my part I found that what works best for me personally is eating closer to a paleo diet, little to no grains, lots of fresh veggies, no dairy and local organic meats. This is not an article promoting paleo, and I am not strict paleo. This is an article promoting eating real food. Whether you’re a vegan, an omnivore or anywhere in between, eat real food.

So what do I mean? I’ll give some guidelines that I stick with but also want to give the HUGE caveat that diet is an individual thing. What works for me may not work for you, we all need to do our own tweaking. I’m keeping these guidelines basic so they will be most effective to a larger audience.

What not to eat?

To start with, nix entirely:

  • Processed foods: This is anything that’s been manufactured, including those “healthy” bars and powders that came from “whole foods”. Sorry, if it looked like kale and now it looks like powder it’s no longer a whole food and has probably lost a lot of it’s nutrients.
  • Alcohol
  • Refined sugar. Seriously.
  • Caffeine. Yup, also seriously. Yes, it will suck for a few days and then you will thank yourself.
  • Any foods you know you are allergic to or that you are aware give you inflammation (if you don’t know I recommend doing an elimination diet).

If you’re looking for that quick “transformative” weight-loss consider nixing these for at least 2-4 weeks:

  • Dairy (note: eggs are not dairy, cows do not lay eggs.)
  • Gluten
  • Grains (or at least limit your grain intake to just a small amount ever other day or less)
  • Soy
  • Fatty cuts of meat, especially if they are from grain-fed animals (if you’re unsure, cut red meat and fatty cuts of pork and duck).
  • Nightshades

What to eat?

This is definitely going to be unique to the individual, but I’ll give you some ideas of what I eat.

Typical Breakfast:

  • 1-2 eggs (hard boiled or a real favorite is scrambled with spinach and flaxseeds) and half an avocado OR
  • A smoothie that has dark leafy greens and chia or flax seeds for protein (I have several in my recipes section)

Typical Lunch:

  • Salad with dark leafy greens with a healthy fat like avocado or flaxseed and an additional protein source like half a grilled chicken breast, salmon or lentils OR
  • A simple soup, bone broth, a protein as mentioned above, and some greens like kale, bok choy, chard, collard greens or spinach.

Typical Dinner:

  • Another protein source (e.g. half a grilled chicken breast or salmon) with a cooked dark green veggie (i.e. steamed kale or kale fried in coconut oil with garlic and flaxseeds, brussels sprouts with macadamia nuts) and if I’m feeling particularly hungry I’ll also add roasted or mashed cauliflower.

I also like to have a snack if my stomach is getting grumbly. Normally my snacks are one of the following: a very small handful of raw walnuts, a small smoothie or fresh juice, a piece of fresh fruit (I’m really into macoun apples right now but be careful of the sugar content).

The big “trick” is to just eat these foods in healthy quantities. I recommend having protein and some healthy fat with each meal and your protein source should fit in the palm of your hand. Also try to eat cooked dark greens with at least one meal a day and this should be the largest thing on your plate. If you’re really struggling to stay full add in small snacks with protein and fat (like the walnuts mentioned above or even an egg yolk) and if you still really need more try adding just a small amount (palm-size or less) of a light grain like quinoa or amaranth.

Why do I like this diet?

It’s very customizable and it’s relatively very easy and simple. It’s easy because you can get the ingredients anywhere and thanks to the internet it’s easy to find recipes that are simple and healthy (I even have a recipe tag with a lot of ideas you can steal). It does mean taking the time to plan out your meals and it does limit your options when you eat out but it’s not impossible to eat out. It’s customizable because you are deciding what works for you by exploring how different foods effect how you feel and whether or not they get you close to your fitness goals.

You also choose your portion size and can adjust the amount of fat/protein/veggies you need based on activity level. This is a big one for me because so many cleanses keep you running on a very low caloric intake, many eliminating both fat and protein which makes it incredibly hard to keep up a strong exercise regime and also not feel like crap.

This is also a sustainable diet that you can fiddle with as you see fit (and I do highly recommend tweaking it with the season) but it’s easy to come back to and doesn’t require a lot of money, a contract or calling a rep to get a refill. If you’re struggling to figure out the right foods and portion sizes for you consider meeting with a nutritionist who could help guide you.

The bottom line is that the secrets for weight loss and better health are all at your grocery store. Now that my diet and fitness are back on track the extra pounds are disappearing at a record rate.

Still want to do a more intensive cleanse? Check out an article I wrote around this time next year for more ideas.

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