Lately, I have been receiving quite a few requests to post my “diet” and my work out routines, and so, to avoid having to repeat myself countless times, I deciding I’d post it all in one place, and let you all pick and choose what you want to read.
First of all, let me just say, I DO NOT DIET. Diets are a temporary, never permanent fix for something that requires a lifetime of good habits. Calorie counting, meal portioning, and fad diets are the enemy of consistent weight management and good fitness. Things like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Atkins are fantastic in theory, but will never get you the long lasting results you want, nor are they healthy in any way. And as soon as you stop the “diet”, the weight will come back immediately, and usually more so. Sure, they work for you right away. But I could make you lose weight eating nothing but donuts and McDonalds. It’s not about caloric intake. Weight loss and management is a matter of a consistent lifestyle, and cannot be achieved with “diet”.
Second, I do what works for me. I want long term, permanent results, so I have created a lifestyle of habits that will work for me in the long run. I do not want to have to stress about how many points my meal is, or if I’m over or under my certain calorie number for the day. That kind of thing doesn’t work for me over a long period of time, and I really don’t know anyone that it HAS worked for. It is much easier for me to just eat things that I know are healthy, and won’t have negative effects of my body. That way, I don’t have to think so hard 🙂
Thirdly, you cannot target a specific body area in which to lose fat. What I mean by that is, you cannot lose belly bulge or love handles by doing endless crunches or core workouts alone. Excess fat in these areas is not caused by lack of muscle, but by an excess of fat over the whole body. In order to shrink these areas, you must reduce your overall BMI. So put away the crunches and get out of the dessert menu. Start putting clean food in your body and you will definitely notice the difference.
For the last year, I have been eating about 80-85% clean. I allow myself to cheat on my habits occasionally, however, I have found that even my cheats are still rather healthy options. If you allow yourself some wiggle room, it makes the whole process easier, and helps to avoid bingeing. Binge dieting (eating extremely strictly for a period of time until you just can’t take the cravings anymore, then eating crap food for a day or two) is a primary cause of eating disorders, bloating, weight swings, and health problems. If you want to see consistent results, small treats every now and then are a perfectly acceptable option, and keep the bingeing at bay. The more you find yourself eating clean, the cleaner your “cheats” become. Your body naturally adapts to the healthier lifestyle and doesn’t crave the nasty crap nearly as often. It is key to find what works for you. Find your trigger foods (foods that push you to fall off the wagon) and avoid them completely. Once you figure them out, find a healthier alternative to replace them with (I’ll list quite a few later on). Find out what your favorite, yet possibly not quite as clean, foods are, and make a mental list of them. These foods can be your cheats. Eat them in smaller portions, maybe as a snack instead of a meal, or right before or after a workout while your metabolism is still in attack mode. Research what others are doing and how they are doing it, and don’t stress about it. Your eating habits should be something that you don’t even have to think about. They should be just that – habits. Not something that you constantly have to track, and count, and read, and update. Find what works for you and stick to it.
Just because a food is low calorie does NOT mean it’s healthy for you. As I said, I could make you lose weight on donuts and McDonalds!!! But you’ll be skinny, fragile, and starving. And then the bingeing begins. When I am eating my cleanest, I am eating twice as many calories as all those fad diets tell me I should be eating. Things like artificial sweeteners and non-fat foods are the biggest lies in the weight loss industry. Not only do they do the opposite (they will actually cause you to GAIN weight), they are extremely unhealthy for you. Most of the healthiest foods are extremely high in calories, and high in natural, metabolism boosting fats. Do not be afraid of calories! Just be sure you are getting them in a healthy manner.
So, of course, the big question most people ask me after all of the information above is “what can you actually eat?” It seems to most that I’ve eliminated everything edible! But not quite 🙂 So here’s MY lists of Do’s, Don’ts, Cheats and Alternatives. Again, I have had a year to figure this out for myself, and find what works for my body. These lists, coupled with a fitness routine (which I will also address), are what have caused the best results for me, and many others I know.
1) Wheat (cereal, pasta, bread, crackers, chips). Whole wheat, whole grain, sprouted wheat, organic wheat… just don’t do them. They are one of the highest sugar intakes out there, and although switching to “whole grain” seems like a healthier option, that’s like saying “I’ll just stab myself with a smaller knife, it won’t hurt as bad.” It is still an unnecessary and unhealthy sugar intake that your body doesn’t need. Sugar turns to bad fat. And if you’re trying to lose weight and tone up, you don’t want bad fat in your diet. Wheat is also a primary cause of bloating, and as a woman, I definitely do not need yet another thing causing me to retain water. There are plenty of other options, and I’ll discuss them when I talk about alternatives.
2) Red Meat (beef, pork, other “big game” animals). Now, this is simply personal preference, and a health issue for me, more so than a weight issue. Red meat is too high in fat, cholesterol, calories, and protein. It is a “heavy” food. No food that makes you feel that full and weighed down should be put into your body. My dad almost had a heart attack before he was even 60 years old, and after having open heart surgery, was told to cut back on the red meat. Since cutting it out of my own diet, I have noticed a tremendous difference in the quality of my skin, I do not tend to get sick as often, and I am much more energized. I find that I tone up much quicker, and get faster results when I need a quick tune up before an event, or a big night out.
3) Dairy (Milk, Most cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, cream, yogurt) Ew. I avoid most animals and animal products for the simple reason of how they are made. If you were to really study how dairy products were made, I think you would be just as disgusted as I am. I really don’t want to put that kind of mold and bacteria into my body. Not to mention the fat content and cholesterol in these foods are over the top. And remember – NON-FAT is even worse!! The fat is just replaced with sugar, which turns to fat anyway once it’s being digested, and now you’ve just triggered your body’s sugar reaction, which means you’re going to have the crash and the cravings that go along with it. There are a few exceptions I do make for myself, and I will get to those in a bit.
4) Rice. Rice is an empty carb much like wheat. It will add to weight gain and bloat. I occasionally make an exception for brown rice, as long as it is Basmati or Jasmine. Otherwise, no rice.
5) Processed Sugars. This is self-explanatory. Just stay away from pre-made food in general. Spices, box meals, any of the flavored rices that you just microwave or “just add water” to. READ YOUR LABELS. If it says “sugar”, don’t buy it! What if it doesn’t say “sugar”? Sugar goes by a plethora of other names!! Check it out:
- barley malt
- beet sugar
- brown sugar
- buttered syrup
- cane-juice crystals
- cane sugar
- carob syrup
- corn syrup
- corn syrup solids
- date sugar
- diastatic malt
- ethyl maltol
- fruit juice
- fruit juice concentrate
- glucose solids
- golden sugar
- golden syrup
- grape sugar
- high-fructose corn syrup
- invert sugar
- malt syrup
- raw sugar
- refiner’s syrup
- sorghum syrup
- turbinado sugar
- yellow sugar
Do any of those look familiar? If you see these on the list of ingredients, then steer clear. You are killing your goals by eating anything processed with sugar.
6) Corn. Now, I’m not going to tell you that corn is unhealthy. However, it has been proven that corn in the most genetically modified food, and it also provides no health benefits. So, for my own health reasons, I generally avoid it.
7) Soda. I shouldn’t have to explain myself here. Excess sugar, acid, artificial color and sweetener. Enough said.
8) Salad Dressings, Spices, Dips. They all have added sugar, salts, chemicals. Yuck.
9) Soy. I do not eat unfermented soy anymore. That means no soy milk, no edamame. This is more for health reasons than weight reasons, and this is the one “don’t” that I only follow about 50% of the time. If you want the details, google it. There’s a mountain of information out there on it, including the negative effects of soy on women particularly.
Now… After all that, what CAN you eat? The simple answer is anything with 1 ingredient. But I’ll go over what I’ve found works.
1) Chicken. It’s a good, lean protein, without all the extra fat that red meat tends to have. Just don’t fry it 🙂
2) Fish. Again, good, lean protein, added omega 3’s. I tend to eat it only when I have sushi, however grilled salmon or tilapia is fantastic as well.
3) Cottage Cheese, Feta, Parmesan. These 3 are typically the only dairy products I eat. They are high in protein, mostly low in fat, and cottage cheese is a great metabolism booster and calcium intake. Also, keep in mind that the harder the cheese, the lower in fat it is. So I DO eat those, but they are not typically found in an every day grocery store, so they are not a consistent part of my diet.
4) Fruit. Can’t go wrong with fruit. Granted, keep an eye out for how your body reacts to the sugar intake that fruit provides. I love fruit, and have found that despite the sugar intake, it works well for me, because it’s other benefits outweigh it’s tendency to be high in sugar. I use bananas as a sweetener, instead of sugar, even. A healthy alternative 🙂 Apples are high in caffeine as well, for those of you addicted to energy drinks.
5) Veggies. Just remember, no corn. You can eat as many fruits and veggies as you want!! Most are calorie free, have endless health benefits, and most are natural metabolism boosters.
6) Quinoa and Spelt. Two grains that ARE ok to eat. They are high in protein and fiber, low in sugar, and are awesome alternatives to bread, pasta and rice.
7) Eggs. I love them. Yes, I eat the yoke and the white. I just never eat them raw, unless they are in raw cookie dough.
8) Coffee. What a lifesaver!!! I am still learning to drink it black, but even so, it is a great alternative to soda or juice. It’s all natural and calorie free, with the caffeine you need to get you through.
9) Plain Greek Yogurt. And when I say plain, I mean it! Nothing but the active cultures and milk. No added fruit, no added flavors, no added sugars. Great protein source, and great to cook/bake with!
10) Beans and Nuts. For the most part, I try and eat my beans and nuts RAW. They lose most of their nutrients when they are cooked. They are high in protein and fiber, and are great to cook with just about anything. Nuts are an amazing snack on the go, as well.
11) Peanut Butter and Almond Butter. I avoid regular butter as much as possible, and just stick to peanut butter and almond butter. Make sure when you read the ingredients, however, that the ONLY thing listed is “peanuts” or “almonds” and that they are raw. These are filled with protein, great for cooking, and healthy, healthy, healthy!!
12) Olive Oil. This is a healthy fat!!! I use Olive oil instead of butter for all of my cooking. The mono-unsaturated fatty acids found in this are crucial to weight management and your health in general.
13) Water, Water, Water!!! Enough said 🙂 Water helps break down the food you eat, and boosts your metabolism. What better weight loss aid is there??
14) Power crunch Protein Bars. These are WHAT WORK FOR ME. I encourage people to try them and find out if they work for them. Some people can’t handle the soy/whey/sugar combination, but I LOVE them. I eat one every morning, and I’m good until lunch. They are the only bars I can find that have a distinctively higher protein count than sugar, and yet still settle lightly in my stomach.
As I explained early on, I do allow myself “cheats”, and I usually have one or two a day! They help me maintain a consistent healthy lifestyle, curb my cravings, and keep me from bingeing.
1) Red Meat. This is a rarity for me, but I do occasionally splurge on a steak. I’ll order a lean cut, and order it rare/medium rare, and usually with little to no sauce or seasoning. The best red meat you can choose, is elk meat. It is naturally very lean, and I have found it to be the lightest red meat. Pork is one that I try to entirely avoid, with the very rare occasion of having bacon for breakfast. This is probably one of the hardest foods for me to avoid.
2) Pasta. If you know me personally, you know that my favorite food in this entire world is pasta. I have found many replacements for it, thankfully, which I’ll list next, but I do on occasion still treat myself to a good pasta dish. The difference is, I usually order a whole grain pasta, and I no longer order Alfredo sauces, or spaghetti sauces. I top it with lemon juice, or an olive oil sauce.
3) Starbucks. I don’t need to explain this one 🙂 But I do find that if I start my day with a Starbucks coffee (white mocha, added shot, one LESS pump of flavor, no whip), it is easier for me to eat clean for the rest of the day, and not end up wanting another cheat. I order the extra shot for the extra boost, one less pump for a little less sugar.
4) ANY MEAL OUT. No matter what I order, even if it’s a salad, I consider it cheating. I don’t know how it was made, or what is in it.
5) Pepsi and Cream Soda. Now that it’s summer, these two are my weakness. During the spring and summer, I increase my work outs, and cut my cheats drastically. Soda is out entirely during the fall and winter, but I usually allow myself one a week during the summer. It’s nice to still be able to have your comfort foods!!! Find out what they are, and find out what you can allow yourself. I purposely cut out other cheats that I know I won’t crave as much, so that I can allow this one. Remember, it’s YOUR body. You can adjust your habits whenever you want to! For me, I don’t eat nearly as much pasta when I cheat during the summer, but I find that Pepsi is a good switch. Just be sure you remember that these are CHEATS. They should always be kept to a minimum.
We all have foods that are our weakness. They are the ones we know we should avoid as much as possible, but sometimes that is extremely hard to do if we don’t find a healthy alternative. The following are ones that I have noticed I love.
PASTA replace it with — pasta!! You can find pasta made of spelt, quinoa, artichoke, spinach. These are great! If you can’t find these, just pick up some QUINOA. It cooks similarly, can be topped with the same sauces and side dishes, and it’s even more filling than the same old wheat pasta. Also use it to replace RICE, and MASHED POTATOES.
BREAD replace it with — Spelt Bread. Some people advise you to cut out bread entirely because it is a processed food. And for some, you may find this helpful, and one day I may do the same. I, however, love spelt bread. It is high in protein, low in sugar, is typically made with honey instead of sugar (although honey is a sugar intake, it has health benefits that sugar does not. Google it.), and is more filling than other breads.
SUGAR replace it with — honey, bananas, stevia. Stevia is the ONLY no calorie, all natural sweetener. All three of these are fantastic alternatives for baking and cooking.
SODA replace it with — HINT water. You can find these at Whole Foods, Starbucks, Nugget Market, Trader Joe’s, anywhere that sells organic, natural foods. There are NO ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS, NO ADDED SWEETENERS. It’s just water that is NATURALLY flavored by fruits and veggies. It lives up to its name – just a hint of flavor. I LOVE these for when I need to kick a sugar or soda craving.
MILK replace it with — Almond Milk or Rice Milk. Both are still good protein sources, without the negative side effects of dairy, and frankly, they taste better, and do not turn bad as quickly.
SALAD DRESSING replace it with — lemon juice!! Make sure, of course, that you squeeze it yourself, and don’t buy it pre-made, but add some lemon or lime juice to your salad, with some salt and pepper, a little olive oil, and even some vinegar if you like it, and you have a great and healthy dressing without all the added crap.
Believe it or not, eating healthy like this is actually the faster, simpler way to eat. There is not nearly as much cooking and prepping as there is in meals that aren’t clean. 90% of your results will come from what happens in the kitchen.
Now we will deal with the other 10%… the workouts.
Everyone hates working out in the beginning, and for me, it’s extremely hard to find the time, or the money, to go to the gym. I force myself, though, to walk as many places as I can. When I do purposefully workout, I have a different routine now, than I did for my 15 or so years as an athlete. Cardio is no longer my focus, and unless you are still an active athlete, it should not be your focus either. Believe it or not, lifting is actually a better cardio workout, and for women eating clean, will LEAN AND TONE you, it will not make you bigger or bulkier!! The idea that you will look like a body builder if you start lifting is a myth, unless you are taking extra supplements and an have an over abundance of protein in your diet. An all-over, balanced lifting routine will get you the results you want twice as fast as any amount of cardio.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love my cardio. I always warm up for bit on the treadmill, and cool off on a bike or stair climber. However, during my actual workout, the only cardio you’ll find me doing is HIIT. High intensity interval training. Huh? Cramming as much of one thing into a short amount of time as you can, with very short rest periods in between sets. Sprints. Squats. Push ups. Crunches. Blurpees. Go hard for 30 seconds, rest for 30, Go hard for 20, rest for 20, etc. Get your heart rate up fast, and don’t let it drop much before you start up again. Find the rhythm and exercises that work for you.
The point is to get up and on your feet. If you’re eating healthy, you don’t need to spend an abundance of time in the gym. Once or twice a week is plenty!!