For the longest time, I’ve been trying to break through plateaus in my own health and fitness journey. Although I’ve made a good amount of progress the last couple of years, it’s definitely been a roller coaster with a handful of ups and downs.
Compared to my college self a few years ago, I eat better, have more energy, and I’m stronger than ever before. Four years later, however, I’m still not where I want to be.
While some of the obstacles I’ve faced were logistical, many of them were my own mental barriers and self-defeating narratives I’ve been telling myself.
“I live too far from the gym”
“It’s too hard to wake up so early to go to the gym before work”
“It’s too crowded to go to the gym after work”
“I don’t have a workout buddy to keep me accountable”
“I love desserts and sweets too much to say no”
“I eat healthy (mostly) but I don’t see any results!”
Like most people, I have to keep reminding myself that these are just lies I’m telling myself. They’re excuses to justify my lack of resolving to achieve my goals.
Last week, I finally committed to a new gym membership and joined a weight loss accountability group at DietBet, something I’ve wanted to try for a while now. In a nutshell, you put a specified amount of money committing yourself to hit a target weight loss goal, and winners split the pot.
These new actions spurred me to step up my nutrition game, so I’ve added my own salad concoction to my existing meal plan.
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, spinach, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper
Lunch: spicy marinated skinless chicken thigh, steamed broccoli, guacamole dip
Salad snack: romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, sliced almonds, croutons, olive oil-mayo, olive oil
Whenever I post about my meal prepping, I usually get asked a handful of the same questions about nutrition, diet tips, and general advice on how to eat healthier.
The piece of advice I give out the most is to start small and work your way up. Don’t be too ambitious to start which could reduce your ability to maintain your diet and increase your chances of burnout.
A good meal plan that you can stick with is always better than a great meal plan that is hard to follow.
This time, I’ve compiled some of the best principles and tips I’ve learned all in one spot.
Nutrition Tips & Principles
The following are some of the ideas I’ve learned myself and have implemented the last few years on my health and nutrition journey.
1) Instead of adding, start with subtracting
Start by removing one thing from your diet at a time every couple of weeks. This way it won’t feel like such a huge shift in your eating habits. You’ll feel amazing over time as you slowly get rid of these from your regular diet.
Food to remove from your diet:
- desserts / sweets
- added sugars and simple carbs
- processed and refined foods
- packaged foods
- fast foods
- soda & juices
- artificial sweeteners
2) Add in more veggies and other alkaline foods
Reduce your acidity by eating more alkaline foods and your body will thank you later. We all know vegetables are good for you. The trick is figuring out how to work them into your diet without them becoming your least favorite part of your meal. Experiment with easy recipes and different ways to cook your veggies. Figure out which veggies best compliment the type of food you’re making.
3) Try blending smoothies
I know plenty of people who have had great success with blending smoothies. It’s fast, convenient, you can effectively control what you’re eating, and cleanup is easy. I highly recommend Body Reset Diet as a great resource for getting started. It’s a fantastic guide on making perfect smoothies, and the writer is a well-known celebrity nutritionist.
I used to work at Jamba Juice for three years in college so I’m no stranger to making a good smoothie at home. Breakfast smoothies on-the-go were great, especially whenever I was short on time and knew I would be stuck in traffic.
4) Drink way more water
Your skin will thank you, your digestive system will thank you, you’ll have more energy, and your immune system will be stronger.
5) Track what you eat
I once lost 5 lbs experimenting with just tracking what I ate, without working out or changing my diet much. I’ve been using the MyFitnessPal app on my phone and logged all of my meals for over a year now. This small addition to my daily routine has been a game changer. Not only am I more aware of how much I eat, but now I know what is in my food. It’s easy to track your food with the barcode scanner function.
There are many benefits to knowing what goes into your body. More accountability and awareness is always better than less. Remove the temptation to hide behind “ignorance is bliss” when it comes to what you eat.
6) Notice how certain foods make you feel
Another nutrition-related breakthrough that has significantly helped me stay away from junk food is associating the food I eat with how it made me feel afterward. Once I was consciously taking notice, I realized how lethargic I felt after eating candy, chips, and other packaged snacks at work. Fast food always made me break out, carby foods made me feel painfully bloated, and high sugar reduced my energy and made me crash.
On the flip side, noticing how energized and light I felt after eating more vegetables and natural foods helped me associate those foods with feeling good. This association has helped me avoid unhealthy foods and gravitate towards these nutrient-rich foods.
7) Eating healthy fats vs unhealthy fats
Making the right choices in terms of fats will keep you fuller for longer. Since I’ve moved to a ketogenic diet, I’ve had fewer cravings for sugar. I no longer need to snack between meals to feel satisfied, and I’ve actually spent significantly less on food. Don’t cut out fats completely as this will make you hungry. Find the good fats and add those in.
8) Change up your diet once in a while
While you can change your entire meal plan in one night, what works best for me is to make incremental changes that I can get excited about, especially when I start to get tired of what I’m eating.
Changing up the vegetables or meats every other week helped out a lot. I tried experimenting with different sources of fats like oil vs butter in my veggies. Different types of marinated meats from HMart helped add variety. I’ve even discovered delicious new recipes for cooking fish like sriracha salmon or curry.
9) Skip the fads
You don’t need to follow any fad diets, pay for expensive juices cleanses, or go on crash diets. If it’s being heralded as the “newest, best thing,” it’s most likely just a fad. Weight-loss is no secret that has yet to be revealed.
We all know the training regimen that actors and actresses undertake when they need to get cut and look amazing for a superhero movie role:
1. They do insane workouts several times a week.
2. Eat vegetables, lean protein, and cut down on processed carbs.
3. They don’t make excuses.
It can be tempting to try and achieve your weight-loss goals with money or the latest, trendiest thing out there right now. However, there’s simplicity in the well-known truths about eating healthy and changing your physique.
10) Have a cheat meal
Having a cheat meal once a week helps keep you motivated and gives you more reason to show some self-discipline. I find avoiding the forced-fed donuts at work much easier when I have a planned AYCE KBBQ dinner on Saturday night that weekend.
Even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is LEGENDARY for his cheat meals.
11) Macronutrients, not JUST calories
Don’t be one of those people who gets a “light” Jamba Juice drink versus a regular one just because it has 100 or so fewer calories. There’s a difference between, let’s say, 500 calories of lean protein and vegetables, and 500 calories ice cream. One will give you energy, make you feel better, more satisfied, and your body will love you.
If you’re trying to lose weight, then you will need to reduce the number of calories you consume. At the same time, making sure you eat the right macros within those calories will prevent you from binging on junk food. When your body isn’t getting the right types of food, it reduces your ability to resist eating bad foods.
12) Be proactive with your food
When you’re in an environment where the temptation to eat junk food is real, like at my workplace, for example, being proactive with your food will help a lot. As the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. Being prepared for the temptations and cravings means having a healthy snack ready to eat and making sure your meals will satisfy you long enough.
One Step at a Time
Remember that you don’t get to the top of a mountain in one leap, you get to the top of it one step at a time. Eventually, people will look at you and see your progress as easy and instant.
They will say, “Well, it was easy for you because <insert excuse here>. But I can’t do that because <insert another excuse here>.”
However, you will know that months and years of hard work, discipline, and consistency went into creating your results. There’s no such thing as an overnight success.
I have to also keep reminding myself that I have to stick with my daily disciplines. While it’s good that I’m not complacent with where I’m at, I also need to celebrate my progress from where I was just a few years ago.
Everyone’s body is different, and so are everyone’s goals. Not every diet plan will work for you. The key is to inform yourself, to be aware of what you’re eating and different types of diets out there. TRY new things and experiment. As the old cliché goes, knowing and doing are two completely different things.
A healthy dose of willpower to start is needed to form the habit. With this habit, you can build it around your daily/weekly routine.
Your Next Steps
If you truly want to change something about how you look, how you feel, and how much energy you have, here are the next steps you can take:
- Figure out why you want to eat healthier.
- Find a starting point of what you want to do, such as choosing a specific diet plan.
- Pinpoint the small steps. Small, incremental changes every week or 2 weeks.
- Celebrate your consistency! Don’t focus on results in the beginning, they will follow eventually.
- Notice the subtle differences in how you feel, such as your energy levels, mental focus, digestion, etc.
- Share your journey and progress! People are the best accountability and will cheer you on, myself included.
Always remember that a healthier lifestyle is a commitment, not a race. Give yourself some slack if you don’t have the perfect week nutrition-wise or workout-wise.
Act into a feeling, don’t wait for a feeling to act.
There will never be a perfect time to start. Don’t rely on how you’re feeling to make a change. There will always be days when you don’t feel going to the gym or eating healthy. Don’t wait until the feeling is right to act, act into the feeling.
Motivation and inspiration can get you started but it’s necessary to put the systems in place to keep you consistent. Once it’s part of your daily or weekly routine, it’s yours. Good habits are just as hard to break as bad ones. Willpower is a finite resource, so don’t rely on it on a daily basis to get you to make the right choices.
Have any good health tips that have worked for you? Let me know in the comments! And if you got any value out of this post, share with others 👍🏼