Explaining proper nutrition from the so-called experts out there usually amounts to quick sound bites:
“Eat less. Move more.”
“Stick with eating whole foods.”
“Don’t eat anything from a bag or a box.”
All really are great advice, actually. But, they only scratch the surface on how to apply real-life approaches to diet and nutrition. Real humans need more than the quick slogan and marketing pitch. It takes a real focus on a variety of factors and personalizing a program to achieve positive results.
Here’s the cold-hard truth: At the end of the day, all diet plans will end up plateauing and leading to stalls in progress. This leads to a crossroad that is so very important. When we hit that roadblock, it takes the knowledge and skill to learn how to avoid falling off of the wagon altogether.
I know. I’ve been there. I didn’t plan to be overweight and out of shape. I didn’t want to be considered on the obese side of the BMI (body mass index) scale. I wasn’t hoping my doctor would have a conversation with me about dropping pounds to feel healthier.
But it happened. And it happened because I wasn’t listening to my own body and applying the right tweaks at the right time. So as a result, I fell off the wagon and let poor habits take over.
Let’s learn from my mistake to help you get back to the positive side on the results meter when that nutrition plan feels like it’s breaking down.
First step in this process is to figure out where any nutritional deficiencies may exist, attack them and eventually remove them.
Ever been here before: “Man, the scale read that I’ve put on 10 pounds. I need to drop some weight!”
Of course, we all have.
But what is the usual gut reaction that we have here … what is the first step we usually take? We cut carbs. Cut fat. Start jogging. Stop eating so much.
Now, on the surface, this looks like a brilliant approach that will have you back in those pair of jeans in no time. But, the problem is that this is not sustainable long-term. And while it may work right away to help you look better, it is definitely not a solution to feeling better.
By making these drastic changes, we are likely starving our body of the adequate nutrients we need to truly look, feel and perform at a peak level. Nutritional/Dietary deficiencies are actually pretty common. Most of those can be lumped into the following:
- water (dehydration)
- vitamins and minerals
- essential fatty acids
“Oh … well that’s fine,” you may say, because, “I’m Paleo or Vegan or [insert random diet plan here] so I’m definitely getting everything I need through my diet.” And that may very well be fine and dandy. But, energy levels, strength, appetite, even mood, all hinge on getting those essential nutrients. So you may be perfect in your approach by following those diet plans to a tee and still feel like crap because you still aren’t hitting the nutrients your body specifically needs.
So how do we get the nutrients we need in order to be successful? Great question.
Without getting too sciency, we attack this through proper programming and portion controlling. And before I lose you with with fear of calorie counting guilt. That’s not what this is about.
Let me repeat that: WE ARE NOT COUNTING CALORIES.
Seriously, does anyone hate that as much as I do? Let me stop eating right now because I hit my limit and I’m not allowed to take one more bite? Yuck. No thank you.
In fact, it’s really just not that accurate, anyway. Differences in food quality and/or preparation and just general misleading information on food labels and websites can be off by as much as 25-percent!
Think I’m joking? Even Whole Foods was recently sued for mislabeling the sugar content in their Greek yogurt. Turns out there was FIVE TIMES more sugar in the serving size than what the food chain was claiming.
So … for the next 21 days, we let your body do the talking and eliminate the need to count calories. And the crowd goes wild.
Proper nutrition can be developed through a program that shows the right foods to eat and in how many doses. It’s a like a prescription for looking and feeling like a badass. Instead of counting carbs and calories, we simplify things with an approach that breaks it down to servings and portion sizes that we can all understand.
This can’t possibly be that easy, can it? Sure it can.
And to simplify things even more, here is what it all looks like on sample plate:
This is the baseline. This is where we start. Practice over the next few weeks by modeling your plate at each meal after this image. It will work wonders for your ability to control portions and still ensure you are getting the right amounts of proteins, fats and carbohydrates in your diet.
Once you get this down, we can go a little further to really make changes.
A more advanced approach
The next step is to personalize everything. A 150-pound man and a 120-pound woman should not be eating the same amounts of foods at each meal. Thankfully, you will now turn to the following system that will keep you from having to pull out the food scale and calculating calorie counts in a fitness app (remember how much I hate that) … by using the handiest tool we have at our disposal: Our HANDS (see what I just did there?).
By utilizing your own palm, fist and thumb, you have a portable and convenient measuring device that is unique and scaled to you and only you. The palm of a 150-pound man is definitely not the same size of the palm of a 120-pound woman. Only YOU have the right scale that perfectly tracks the right portion sizes.
It works as follows:
- For proteins, we turn to our palm. When sitting down to grab a bite to eat, check the size of the protein portion against the palm of your hand. That carries roughly 20-30 grams of protein.
- For vegetables, we turn to our fists. A fistful of leafy, green vegetables is the perfect serving size that usually translates to about a cup.
- For starchy carbs, we turn to handful. One cupped handful of starchy carbs (breads, pastas, potatoes, fruits) is the equivalent of about 25-35 grams of carbohydrates.
- For fats, point to our thumb. The size of your thumb will dictate the portion size of fats (olive oils, nuts, nut butters, avocados, etc.). Of course, always take into consideration whether a certain item may have already been cooked in fatty oils and sauces – in other words, the thumb-sized portion of fats may already be cooked into the meal.
So in practice … here is how you will breakdown your portion sizes for optimal fat loss. Keep in mind that these are based off of FOUR meals per day (you’d need to adjust accordingly if you eat more or less):
It breaks down like this:
2 palms of protein dense foods with each meal
It takes practice. But, that’s what these next three weeks are all about.
Exploring and experimenting to build a foundation for long-term success. From here, we determine what works best as we continue from week-to-week by tracking appetite and, of course, progress in measurements and weight.
Take a mindful eating approach to the above meal by eating slowly and consciously (not just scarfing it all down) and letting your body tell us when enough is enough by stopping the meal once we hit 80% full. Again, it takes practice. But, over time, this becomes the new normal and leads to action plan for a lifetime of success and health.
A meal full of nutrients. Closest thing to a “balanced diet” you’ll get.
Once we realize how difficult it is to be fit and healthy, it all becomes pretty easy.
Additional Resources and References:
- My Plate & Portion Control as recommended by Precision Nutrition
- Cover Image Courtesy: Viktor Hanacek