By Danielle Tworek
I recently had a trainer come and ask me if I could write the “perfect” menu for his clients.
His request made me think about all the times my clients have sat down in front of me expecting that my role is to tell them exactly what to eat.
The funny thing is that there are several weight loss and management programs out there that do just that – tell you what to eat. Yet, in all these years, none of them are considered miracle weight loss and management programs.
And you know why? Because telling you exactly what to eat isn’t the solution to the problem.
What you really want is someone to sit on your shoulder and tell you a definite yes, you can have this without consequence – or no, you can’t have that and voila! – you end up with a perfect body in less than a week.
Let’s be honest, you want to know exactly when to hold back and when to splurge.
The closest thing to having that weight management angel on your shoulder is to teach you nutritional strategies, so when faced with a choice, your inner voice tells you exactly what you should or should not eat.
Nutritional Strategies to be lean for life
New research is finding that one of the reasons so many people struggle with weight loss and management is “decision fatigue.” You may know it as an excuse for shunning a healthy diet – lack of variety. Many people proclaim that the reason eating healthy is so impossible is there are simply not enough choices. However, too many choices is precisely the problem.
If you have ever stood with fridge door open peering in at fully-stocked shelves and still feel uncertain about what to eat, your lack of willpower in the nutrition department just might be the result of decision fatigue.
That’s why understanding the basics of a healthy day of eating and building a few easy choices around those standards can make eating an easy, automated choice for you – just like clicking your seatbelt on as soon as you get in the car.
Plan ahead. A recent study found that people who write grocery lists, statistically, have a lower BMI than those who do not. Of course, what you put on the grocery list matters too. Take the time to plan all your meals and snacks. Consider your schedule – where will you be? Who will you be with? Will you have access to a microwave? Will you have time to eat a meal or just a snack?
Prepare. After you make your menu and hit the grocery store, take the time to put your meals together for the week. Turn fresh, whole foods into “grab and go” meals. Cut up all your fruits and veggies, cook your meats and organize by day. You should be able to reach in your fridge and toss Monday’s food in your lunch box and be out the door effortlessly.
Commit. Remember that menu that you made at the beginning of the week? Stick to it. Write down what you eat, check it off the list or some other form of accountability. Holding yourself accountable to your menu will save you money and slim your waistline.
Choose a few solid “go-tos.” Commit to three to four choices for breakfast, three to four for lunch, three to four for dinner and three to four for a snack. Mix and match throughout the week. Experiment until you find your favorites that meet the needs of your taste buds and your lifestyle. Change up when you learn about something new, but always keep it simple. Save the complicated stuff for special occasions.
Treat yourself. Being lean and living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to scorn sweets or savory favorites. Rather than having a “cheat day” have a “cheat moment” every day, like a square of chocolate after lunch (keep it to the one square). You can also enjoy a “cheat meal” on Saturday nights, but don’t gorge yourself, enjoy moderate portions of indulgent foods like pizza or steak and potatoes. Try to avoid a whole day of unhealthy eating, experts are finding these types of binges can make it harder to get back to eating healthy the next day, or week, etc.
Have a plan B. Even if you plan your menu to fit your schedule perfectly, life often throws curveballs. You get off work late. A friend is in crisis. Your kids are sick. Your car breaks down. You have an impromptu meeting. Life happens and it happens every single day. That’s why you have to arm yourself with a plan B. Keep almonds in your car. Have a stash of fresh fruit at the office. Pack an extra bag of carrots in your lunch. All these easy foods can keep you away from the drive-thru if you have to dash off unexpectedly. The same is true for dinner – bad days happen and you may not feel like cooking. Keep frozen veggies and chicken breasts on hand. They don’t go bad, are easy to fix and are way better for you than takeout. Having a plan B is crucial to success because the unexpected happens almost every single day.
Choose a cut-off time. One of the most commonly reported hurdles to overeating is nighttime snacking. A long day at work makes wine and cheese a perfect snack to quell frustrations or nothing makes you feel cozier before bed than cookies and milk. Whatever your vice, set a cutoff time. “No eating after 7pm” or a similar rule that fits your lifestyle.
If you have ever asked what do fit people eat? This is it. It’s dedication to a small selection of healthy foods and a few “cheats” on occasion. And, “cheats” aren’t cheat days.If you love chocolate, you don’t have to deny yourself entirely. Pack one delicious square in your lunchbox for dessert or if you are obsessed with coffee and cream, have ONE small coffee once or twice a week. You will find that living lean is all about tiny indulgences and small portions of really fresh foods – which by the way are full of flavor, but the key is fresh (you can’t beat farmers market fresh or straight-from-your-own-garden fresh!)
Dani Cee (a.k.a., Danielle C. Tworek) seeks to empower women to discover the best version of themselves through the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle and fabulous fitness wear. Dani holds a degree in Fashion Merchandising and a degree in Nutrition & Dietetics from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. She is also a NASM certified personal trainer and certified weight loss specialist. She has more than ten years of experience helping individuals reach their wellness goals not only as a writer, but also as a counselor and trainer, including time spent at Jenny Craig, USAA Corporate Wellness, Equinox Fitness Clubs and BodyLogicMD. Learn more from her expertise at www.danicee.com or contact Dani at [email protected]