Back in the day, people came to a gym to learn about fitness, nutrition, and all the other minutia that would give them the bodies they wanted. Now, many people already know a good deal about health – if anything, they know too much! Instead of lacking information, many people feel overwhelmed in a veritable sea of conflicting studies, news stories, books, diets, and articles written by the next big celebrity health guru. Throw in a few personal anecdotes from your old high school friends that have found the secret to weight loss and it’s no wonder so many people actually feel more lost than ever.
That’s where we come in. Our job is no longer to simply inform – it’s to act as a filter. What works? What doesn’t? Does the information in this Netflix documentary hold the key to immortal life? (The short answer is a big, fat NO.)
So, let’s talk about what really works.
First of all, ditch the diets. Ditch the food scale and the portion control containers and don’t worry about counting calories. While these things can work in the short-term (or even long-term for a very select few), for many people it over-complicates food and can quickly cause feelings of inadequacy and frustration. It’s just not sustainable.
Instead, let’s relearn how to eat. Get rid of the outdated food pyramid and dig out a picture of your grandmother. Take your picture of Grandma to the grocery store with you and ask, “would Gigi have eaten this?”
Okay, not really, but the idea behind this is pretty straight-forward: much of the food available in our modern grocery stores hasn’t existed on this earth for very long at all. Much of what we find is highly processed food-like products instead of whole foods. What we want to do is limit our consumption of processed foods as much as possible. In general, we should aim to eat things that are ingredients, rather than things that have an ingredients list.
In CrossFit, our nutrition philosophy can be summarized as “eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.” This is the very first part of a longer creed known as “World Class Fitness in 100 Words.” This creed begins with nutrition because it really is the foundation upon which our bodies are built.
To put this into practice, start by building your meals around meat (or very high-protein vegetarian options). You need a serving the size and thickness of your palm with every meal. Put it right there in the middle.
From there, fill the rest of your plate with vegetables. Fill, as in, FILL IT UP. Green, orange, purple, red, yellow, make your plate colorful. You can leave a little space for some rice or potatoes. Make that space no bigger than the bottom of your drinking glass. And really, if you have a lot of fat to lose, you don’t even need that much. Cut them out completely if you can.
Lastly, give up sugar-sweetened foods and drinks. To be completely honest, this part can really suck. But, this gives us an opportunity to examine how that makes you feel. If the thought of giving up sugar makes you panicky, or angry, or sad… you’ve got to ask yourself how much power you’re giving food over your life, health, and, ultimately, happiness. Cutting sugar out of your diet can be hard: it’s found in the majority of modern foods, it’s addictive, and other people won’t make the change easy.
Best Practices: stick to the perimeter of your grocery store, avoid going down the aisles. Buy vegetables first, then meat and eggs. If you find it difficult to prepare vegetables or they often spoil before use, buy your vegetables frozen. Frozen vegetables are often harvested at their peak of ripeness and many now come pre-seasoned or in convenient variety packs. If you want to include dairy, stick with butter, cheeses, and Greek yogurt (choose flavors and brands without copious amounts of added sugar).
Okay, but how much?
If you’re eating protein at each meal, replacing grains and starches with vegetables, and cutting out added sugars, you’ll get better results than any calorie counting, points or portion control system can provide. Even better, these results will LAST. You’ll feel better, you’ll lose weight, and you’ll avoid the rigors of disease caused by the Western Diet.
I know this sounds way too simple, but honestly, keeping people ignorant makes the people with a “solution” money. Supplements and diet books wouldn’t sell if they actually empowered you.
Now, although this advice is relatively simple, it’s not easy. It will take some effort to make many of these changes. To read more about how to implement these changes, click here to go to part two. If you’d like some help, click here to set up a time to meet with our Precision Nutrition certified coach.