Quite often we join a gym with good intentions, we start attending classes, we book in a few PT sessions, we completely change everything about our diet, we cut everything out, we stop eating those cakes, we avoid those cheeseburgers, we become super frigging healthy. YEEEEAAAAAAAH! Job done right? This healthy living crap is a piece of piss!!
But then its like a sledge hammer to the face it all goes wrong, our food goes out the window, you start eating everything, you decide to skip thew gym for a meal out or a take away in front of the telly and you quickly drift back into your old ways. Am I right?
So what has gone wrong? Where have YOU gone wrong? Well for starters you are trying to break the life time habits all at once. You think that by trying to get quick results you are going to get what you want and it’ll be easy to stay there. Man you bat shit crazy! If it was that easy then everyone would be doing it, seriously, stop thinking that you are special, and that you will get your life changing results in just a few weeks. Results that you can stick with for the rest of YOUR LIFE because it isn’t going to happen. It takes time.
But I hear you shout, ‘What about all those before and after photo’s you see on Instagram or Facebook, where everyone is tiny and saying they lost 20lbs in a 5 days’ Well they are most likely lies and the question you should be asking is where are they now 6 months later? Bigger? Smaller? Stayed the same?
Extremes sell, scroll back up to the title of this blog, would you have started reading this blog, if it was titled ‘Achieve the body you want with hard work, dedication and commitment by eating some of the foods you like, but you have to still control what you eat and drink so that you stay within your daily calories’ Not quite as catchy right?
Well with this extreme amount of changes, in my opinion, you are setting yourself up to fail. No life changing knowledge is being learnt and you are just getting those extreme results that just don’t stick. So how do you change the habits of a life time?
Pick a few things to start with, may be you don’t drink enough water, start with just one extra glass a day and build it up. May be you do not eat breakfast, so start with a cereal bar or a couple of tablespoons of porridge, just start allowing yourself the time to have something, start small. Turn it into a new habit.
Wanting to lost weight, finding it hard to not have a mid morning snack, and an afternoon snack and those chocolates in front of the TV in the evening, well pick one and change it, still eat something at that time but change what you eat. Instead of something from the bakery at 10:30am, have a banana and a yoghurt or instead of the afternoon snack of a cup of tea and a chocolate bar, try a cup of tea and half a chocolate bar. It’s a small change but over time you can try and not have that chocolate bar with the cup of tea every day. Make those small changes and turn those habits into something positive.
Make these changes to start with, start small and work yourself up to the big changes. When you do make that jump up, then it’ll be easier to stick with as you’ve already made some life changing changes. All without loads of effort.
Many, many small changes added together become a big change. Also the fall from a major change is hard to get back up to, but a small change, ‘Oh no, I’ve eaten ‘insert bad food’ isn’t the end of the world. Just make the effort to not have it again that week or to beat yourself up so much that you just give up and say fuck it, i’ll start again Monday.
Okay Tom, can you shut up and tell me more about how I can eat what I like?
You haven’t really listened to me have you? You still want to make massive changes and get results quicker than making gradual changes. Okay, fine, let me ask you, are you food aware?
What is being food aware? It’s knowing what your food is made of, and using that information to eat better. One of the best ways to do that is to start by tracking the macronutrients—protein, carbohydrates, and fats; as well as total calories—that make up what you already eat.
Whatever you choose to do next, you’ll do it from a position of knowledge rather than ignorance. And I want you to gain knowledge that you can use and apply to your own lifestyle.
Step 1. Measure
If I just convinced you to let macronutrients into your life, you probably asked in a sad voice, “OK, how much time will it take and what do I need to buy?” Fortunately, the answer to both questions is “not much but some.”
When you are learning to track your nutrition, the three best tools you can have on the kitchen counter are a food scale, a calorie/gram counting book, and a set of measuring cups. I also recommend you keep around a calculator—unless you’re a master at math in your head or on your fingers—and a resource of nutritional information.
If your food comes with a label, that’s a good place to start. However, if you prefer whole foods that come without labels (which, by the way, you should), you have several options. Any calorie-counting guidebook from an online retailer or a local book store is fine.
There are also countless online resources; Composition of foods integrated dataset (CoFID) is a good place to start. Also a growing number of mobile apps also utilise the same or similar data for easy calculations when you’re not near a computer.
The project of memorising your staple dishes is more approachable than you think, considering that most of us stick to eating 20-30 favorite foods. Before you know it, you will remember that a 170 gram chicken breast has about 140 calories, a little more than 26 grams of protein, and 3 g of fat.
Keep the scale and measuring cups close at hand. For foods generally weighed by the grams (kilograms), such as most meats, use the food scale. For foods where the calorie count is usually measured in cups or other volume-based units, use measuring cups. Determine your quantity, do the calculations, and voila! You know your macros.
Step 2. Record
You now know what your meal is “worth,” at least in terms of macronutrients. For example, say you eat about a quarter-cup of almond butter and an apple when you get home from work every day. Here’s how the macros would look:
1/4 cup Almond Butter
Fats: 34 g
Protein: 13 g
Carbohydrates: 11 g
1 large Apple with skin
Fats: 0 g
Protein: 1 g
Carbohydrates: 30 g
Nutritional databases can offer incredibly complex breakdowns of micronutrients, up to and including quantities of individual animo acids, but don’t worry too much about those unless you have to. As you find your footing, it’s OK if you stick to the big ones: calories, fats, carbs, protein.
You will quickly discover that macronutrient quantities are rarely whole numbers—no problem. Unless you want to spend more time doing math than eating, don’t bother with calculating down to the hundredths of a gram. I just round down if it’s .50 or below and round up if it’s .51 or higher.
Once you calculate your macros—here’s the key part—write them down in the notebook. Every successful businessperson knows that what gets measured gets improved. I’ll also add, “What gets measured and reported improves exponentially.”
This basically means that when you measure your meals and report them, your results will improve even faster because of the accountability a notebook represents.
However—and this may sound simple, but it’s important—remember to jot down which food you eat each meal, not just the macros. That way, after a few weeks you can plan your weekly meals from your notes rather than having to look up every food you eat.
Step 3. Break It Down
Now you know how to measure macros! After you feel confident with it, next determine what your nutritional breakdown will look like going forward, and how the macronutrients in your individual meals will support it.
The first number you need to determine when planning your diet is the number of calories your body needs. This number is based on your age, gender, weight, rate of metabolism, activity level, goal, and the amount of time you have to achieve your goal. You can work out your BMR here.
Break your macros down so you know how many calories you should spend on each macronutrient. Let’s say you start out on a simple 40/40/20 plan. On a 2,000 calorie diet, that means you need 800 calories worth of protein, 800 calories worth of carbs and 400 calories worth of fat each day. Convert those calories into grams so you know how many grams of each macro you need to get into your daily diet.
A gram of protein contains 4 calories.
A gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories
A gram of fat contains 9 calories.
800 calories/4 calories per gram = 200 g of protein. You’ll get the same number for 40 percent carbs, 200 g. For the 20 percent fat, the equation is 400 calories/9 calories per gram of fat = 44 g of fat (rounded down).
Step 4. Start Meal Planning
Now you have your number. But you can’t eat a number, and you can’t predict how it’ll make you feel. So while there are classic ratios you can start with, like 40/40/20, 40/50/10, or 60/30/10, they should be guidelines, not rules.
Try something like 40/40/20, and if you’re hungry all the time, increase your protein. If you find your energy lagging, you may want to try increasing your fats.
Along the way, don’t make yourself crazy with the calculations. Get as close as you can to your macros, and when you’re not at home or are in a rush, eyeball your portions as best you can. If your protein is a little low one day and your carbs are a little high on another, don’t freak out. The last thing you want is for the stress of calculating perfect macros to kill your motivation for eating well.
Also, don’t get too hung up on minute differences in the ratios. Eating roughly 40/40/20 is better than not knowing what you’re eating at all. If you can’t track everything, every day, just do your best. It all seems like a lot of work at first, but you’ll be able to do this on the fly before you know it.
So there you go, two ways to eat what you want a) small changes towards the big change over time and b) the massive change to how you view food and what you are consuming to make the changes to your health and body that you want to make.
It’s up to you what route you take but try not to get too caught up in the instant results, take your time and have a little patience because if you rush it you won’t stick to it.
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