Dan John says it best, "Eat like an adult. Stop eating fast food, stop eating kid’s cereal, knock it off with all the sweets and comfort foods whenever your favorite show is not on when you want it on, ease up on the snacking and—don’t act like you don’t know this—eat vegetables and fruits more."
Brilliant. Simple. Somewhat practical. Why only somewhat practical? Because sometimes we want to eat like kids. Sometimes we eat our feelings. Sometimes we just don't give a s*** and want to throw down on some biscuits and gravy. And maybe I want cake too.
AND ITS OK. Don't get me wrong, Dan John hit it right on the head. But you only have to do that about 80-90% of the time. In this blog, I'm going to help you develop a simple way to own the 80-90% of meals. You can do whatever you want with the other 10-20%!
Step 1: Evaluate your current diet.
This is where you need to ask yourself, "where do I want to be?" Really think about the crap you're eating and think through where you can add in more "real" food. If you are trying to lose some weight, then you need to be eating like an adult 90% of the time. Are you feeling pretty good about where you are? Then you can start with eating like an adult 80% of the time. It's really that simple.
Step 2: Think about your schedule and prepare.
Do you have a wedding this weekend? Are you working late on Thursday? Do you have a breakfast meeting this week? Think about where you'll be and how it will affect your eating. Start by writing out what you know for the next week or two, and plan accordingly.
- Monday: Work luncheon, post-work errands = Have a light, well balanced breakfast, and plan for a slow cooker recipe for dinner.
- Saturday: Hungover from Friday's night out, birthday party in the evening = You already splurged on Friday night, so keep the calories a little lower throughout the day to prep for another splurge that night. When you plan ahead in the week, then social weekends like this won't do a lot of damage.
If you want to take your planning to another level, label your meals so that you have an idea where your calories are going to go and how to prepare for it.
For example: P=Protein, Fr =Fruit, V=Veggie, F=Fat, S=Starchy Carb
Friday: Breakfast=P+Water / Lunch=P+V / Dinner=Birthday Party
That gives you some control over the week, and still leaves room for improvisation. Use whatever abbreviations that work for you.
Next and very importantly, make a list for the grocery store. Let me emphasize...MAKE A GROCERY LIST. Mom was right when she pulled it out and checked off the items on the list as you strolled though the store. "Can we get fruit snacks mom?" was one of the many requests shut down by my mother growing up.
One way to avoid overeating and snacking is by making a list and sticking to it. If the crap food isn't in your house, you probably won't eat it. Make your craving foods hard to get to, and you will be surprised at how fast those cravings start to dissipate. Try it out, it will make a world of difference.
So next time you go to the grocery store and reach for those "2 for $4" chips, keep Uncle Rico in your mind, "You know we can't afford the fun pack!" (Napoleon Dynamite reference??)
Here's a pro tip...keep track of the meals and recipes that work well for you and your lifestyle. Keep track of them and store them for easy access.
Step 3: Keep track of your macros and find alternatives.
The tighter the goal, the tighter the macros have to be. Here is a brief overview of each of the macronutrients that food is comprised of:
- Protein (roughly 4 calories per gram)
- Carbs (roughly 4 calories per gram)
- Fat (roughly 9 calories per gram)
Oooo ya, and don't forget,
- Alcohol (Roughly 7 calories per gram)
So as you can see from the calories/gram values, it's important to understand the values of each macro so that you don't overeat (or overconsume when it comes to alcohol).
Cutting out some alcohol, cheeses, oils, and processed meats (all high fat) would be a great place to start. Then, start breaking down your carbs. Are they carbs from vegetables (potatoes do NOT count here, nice try) or from grains and sugar?
The best way to know what you're eating consistently is to record what you eat consistently. Ya I know, it can be tedious and annoying. But if you want to lock it down and make some changes, you need to collect the data so that you can make a solid plan. Set yourself up for success, people!
Here is how you do it:
1: Download your favorite calorie-tracker app (I use MyFitnessPal, but Lose It! and Fatsecret are great apps as well).
2: Record everything you put into your mouth. (No, chewing on your pen doesn't count)
3: Repeat for 1 week. Don't miss ANYTHING.
4: Look at your wee, and notice the days you're over on calories. Figure out what went wrong here. Did you forget to bring lunch to work? Did you drink too much? Did you say "yes" to office donuts?
5: Make some tweaks and resolutions for the next week. Don't forget lunch and consider saying "no" to office sweets.
6: Keep doing this for a month or so, and you'll really start to understand what your food means, and you'll be blown away at your progress.
Here's a pro tip: If you really can't cut down in some areas like pasta and hamburgers...well, you're in luck because there are alternatives. You can substitute noodles with nutrient-dense edamame noodles or spaghetti squash in place of regular or wheat pasta. You can opt for a leaner cut of meat or a leaner ratio of hamburger. Just look them up on your handy-dandy calorie-tracker and see the difference for yourself.
At the end of the day...
It's important to enjoy the food you eat. But we owe it to ourselves to eat clean..80-90% of the time. It's worth it. You'll feel better, you'll look better, you'll have more energy to do things you love. Plan, make a list, and eat like a kid...but only once in a while.