Growing up, I didn’t realize the importance of nutrition so I grew up rather pudgy and weak. It’s not like I was obese or even close to that, but I had a pretty round face and big gut for my small frame. One day, I decided “Hey, I want to have six-pack abs” and since then I have experimented with many diets (some of which were a total waste of time) and eventually found one that worked for me. Everyone has a little bit of variance to how they respond to certain food (for example, wheat based products destroy my stomach), but the basics remain the same so here are a few things I learned that will help anyone get started.
1) Diet > Exercise
Don’t get me wrong, both are important and you should do both. The problem is most people tend to think tons of exercise will get them in the shape they want to be in, but without proper nutrition results will not show. If you do a quick Google Search on “calories burned walking 1 hour,” you will see that will total about 250-350 calories. Sadly that isn’t even enough to burn off a cheeseburger Happy Meal with a soda (about 500+ calories). On average, I exercise about 3 days a week, about an hour each session. It’s much easier to not the calories vs eating it and then trying to burn it off with endless hours of exercise. Know the importance of controlling what you eat.
2) Treat food as fuel
A lot of people (including myself) complain that eating healthy is not tasty. I love to eat hamburgers, chocolate, and candy but eventually I came to an understanding that if I want to be healthy and look healthy I had to make sacrifices with all the junk food I used to eat. True story, I used to come home every day from school and eat 2 pizza Hot Pockets, 2 Twinkies, and a Hostess Cupcake. Getting started in dieting, get an estimate of how many calories your body needs and that will help you plan out your meals (this page should provide a decent estimate). I still enjoy junk food maybe every one or twice every few weeks, but the key is to stick to you meal plans 90% of the time AT THE VERY LEAST. Once you learn to only eat the amount that your body needs (i.e. treat food as fuel), you will be well on your way to achieving your fitness goals.
3) Prepare your own food
The trick to not eating unhealthy food is to make it as difficult as possible to obtain it. Each Saturday, I buy groceries for the week and separate my food into plastic containers that will account for every meal. Some of the groceries I buy are vegetables (specifically broccoli), egg whites, chicken, almond milk, avocados. I do not keep junk food or candy in my place. I found that if junk food is within my field of vision, I would be tempted and just eat it. As you can see I eat very boring. It was hard at first, but over time you get used to it, and the health results are very rewarding.
4) Eat the same meals over and over
From the previous bullet, you probably already figured this but I feel it is worth mentioning. The less variance you have in what you eat, the easier it will be to make adjustments and maintain a healthy body. I have been eating the same chicken and broccoli meal 3 times a day almost every day for the last 3 years. Once you get used to it, it’s not so bad.
5) Take measurements when you start dieting to track progress
I use a scale with a body fat estimator as well as Body Tape Measure to track my progress. Yes, if you google the accuracy of body fat scales many people say how grossly inaccurate they are but I compensate for that by measuring myself on an empty stomach every morning. An important thing to note is to not take the body fat % to heart, but rather use it at a baseline starting point to measure progress. I mean hey, if 4 weeks from now your scale says you are 5 lbs lighter, body fat decreased 2%, and you lost an inch or two off your waist, something is happening right? Take your measurements at least once a week, if you are not seeing results in fat and weight loss, then you need to take a look at your diet and most likely reduce calories (it’s easier than exercising more, right?).
Doing these 5 items listed above will be a good start for anyone who wants to take a step into becoming healthier and losing fat. In future post, I will go into more detail on meals and food, and the type of exercise plans I have recommended to people who have asked me. A good start would be to check out my post on 3 Exercises Everyone Should Learn to Lose Body Fat.