When you lose 40+lbs, you start getting questions: how’d you do it? What are your workouts like? Can you recommend a meal plan? The truth is, it’s taken me 3 years of experimenting with fitness and nutrition to find the perfect combination for me.
I’m not a nutritionist, so really the only things I can recommend are consistency and dedication. While your workouts are important, the real magic happens in the kitchen. Anyone can go and workout for 2 hours but it takes real commitment to keep nutrition at the forefront. Before you jump into the next fad diet, detox, or juice cleanse you scroll over on Instagram, here are a few things you need to consider about your food preferences and your meal strategy:
Feed your needs
I’ve shared that I grew up with food and that food was there for me emotionally whenever I needed it. In the moments when I was eating, everything was okay. It didn’t matter if I was sad, happy, angry – food was comfort.
I still reach for that unnecessary slice of pie when I feel stressed or even as a reward for myself. What’s different now is that I don’t overindulge (or I try not to). Ignoring my cravings just made me more agitated. Combine a shitty mood with an intense workout and you get SURPRISE! an even shittier mood. Have you ever tried to deadlift your 1RM on a stomach full of baby carrots? I don’t recommend it.
I use flexible dieting because it gives me enough freedom to have the odd donut and still see results. I can eat carbs before a heavy lifting sesh and get the most out of my workouts. Evaluate your goals (strength, marathons, fitness competitor etc.) alongside your individual preferences and then go from there.
Hey, diet! Don’t tell me how to live my life!
A lot of nutrition gurus might call bullshit on this one, but I think your lifestyle is totally valid in this decision making process.
Do you travel a lot? Constantly on your feet all day with minimal breaks? Strapped for cash? All of these reasons factor into your food choices whether you like to admit it or not. You can be the meal prepping MASTER and still succumb to on-the-run food choices.
In my case, I work part-time (no food or drinks allowed on the sales floor) and don’t make a lot of money (no extra cash for ultra-organic food). Sometimes, my study snack involves protein oats and poptarts. They’re quick, in my fridge, and satisfying. That being said, I make sure that these things fit my macronutrients for the day. If I’m travelling, there’s no guarantee that there will be a microwave and a minifridge where I’m going. My flexible diet allows me to eat out at restaurants with relative ease. If you’re not willing to give up girl’s night at your fav wine-o joint (I hate to tell you this, but wine has carbs) , maybe that no-carb diet isn’t so great for you.
That being said, there are options if you still want the occasional high-carb refeed. Here’s a great into to carb cycling from Bodybuilding.com.
Don’t be afraid to test drive
I think I’m one of the few people who “diet” and can say they genuinely enjoy their nutrition plan. I didn’t get to this point, though, without some trial and error. Tried paleo, hated it. Tried eating clean, binged on chocolate every 2 days. Your nutrition plan should complement you. Research some nutrition plans that interest you and fit your goals and experiment.
I have the utmost respect for people that eat paleo because it is damn hard. Whole 30 is a great program that allows you to try before you commit to paleo indefinitely. Hey, it’s only 30 days. So if after 30 days it’s not your thing, you didn’t waste 6 months of your time grumbling about missing butter.
Masterpieces aren’t made in a night
Nutrition is probably the most difficult part of any wellness goal. It’s important to know that there will be some growing pains on starting any diet or nutrition plan. You won’t be and aren’t perfect – no one is. The most important part is not eating right but waking up each day and making the conscious decision to keep at it and get back up if you’ve strayed from the path.