By Kristin Burgess, RD
Eating Healthy Doesn’t Have to Be a Chore. You Can Start Making Healthy Commitments TODAY.
You Can’t Out-Train a Bad Diet. Thankfully, You Don’t Have to!
There’s a popular saying that “abs start in the kitchen.” This means any results you see from your fitness journey will be significantly impacted by whatever food you decide (or decide not to) eat along the way. You can spend six days a week at the gym, but you’ll see limited results if you’re immediately eating back your calories with takeout. Likewise, even a modest exercise routine will produce fairly consistent results if you’re mindful of your nutrition.
Although it can be easy to get lost in the world of celebrity weight loss tips and fad diets, the reality is that you can get started making smart nutritional choices TODAY—and immediately start seeing benefits from doing so. Let’s look at four important things to consider when deciding what sort of nutrition is best for you.
Understand What CICO Means (and Why You Shouldn’t Try to Cheat It)
The term CICO stands for calories in, calories out and it’s considered gospel in the fitness world for a reason. Simply put, if your body is in a deficit (where it’s burning more calories than you consume daily), you will lose weight. Conversely, if your body is at a surplus (where you’re consuming more calories than you consume daily), you’ll gain weight.
At the end of the day, any nutritional changes that help you lose (or gain) weight will invoke this principle somehow. Intermittent fasting, paleo diets and restrictions like keto all revolve around one thing: creating a caloric deficit. No matter how much a dietary program promises miracle results, it’s still beholden to the laws of physics.
It’s also worth noting that gaining weight isn’t necessarily a negative thing. In fact, it’s required if you want to start bulking up those muscles! Doing so involves eating at a surplus that’s around 10% OVER the number of calories you need for the day.
Tracking Food Helps a LOT
One of the first things most personal trainers and dietitians recommend doing is to get in the habit of tracking your food. This can mean different things for different people: some people like to keep detailed notes of every single thing they eat, while others use intuitive apps like MyFitnessPal to log how many calories they consume.
When you’re ready to start making intentional changes to your nutrition, there’s no substitute for doing this. Keeping an actionable log of your food is vital in understanding how many calories you’re currently consuming, where they’re coming from, and what sort of nutrition they’re providing. Many experts advise that you shouldn’t even worry about making changes for the first few weeks: just get in the habit of being informed, intentional and accountable about what you eat—even if it’s just keeping a log.
This information is vital when it comes time to start making decisions about what you’re going to change in your eating habits. Over time, you’ll find yourself starting to develop a lot of shorthand knowledge, and you can start making pretty accurate guesses about what you’re eating in a day—and what benefits you’re getting from that food.
People See the Best Results by Approaching Nutrition Like a Designer
Not every nutritional plan is going to work for every person. Factors like allergies and preferences can mean different people see vastly different results from eating the same foods. Being happy with your meal plan is also vital to long-term success, and that can mean looking for places in your daily calories and macronutrients for your favorite foods.
One of the single most valuable things to remember when making decisions about your nutrition is that not everything is going to work, and that’s okay! Your long-term fitness success isn’t measured by how well you can tackle the very first thing you do. It’s a measure of how well you can commit to the journey and make informed changes along the way.
There’s a lot of value in approaching your nutrition like a designer. If you’re tracking your daily food intake, then you’re free to start experimenting to find new things that work.
Remember, eating intentionally doesn’t have to mean giving up the foods you like. There are plenty of athletes out there who make a point of saving room for dessert, and you’re not likely to commit long-term to a meal plan that’s not meeting your emotional needs. Instead, look for intentional ways to move foods, eating times, or portions around to find the pattern that works best for you.
After all, no matter what sort of gym gains you get from eating 1,600 total calories of chicken and rice every day, you’re not likely to maintain those gains if you’re absolutely miserable doing it.
Above Everything Else: Give Yourself Grace
No matter how committed you are to eating constructively and intentionally, you’re not going to get it right on your first try. That’s not meant to be a put-down; it’s a simple fact of life. That’s okay!
Your fitness journey isn’t going to be decided by any one particular day. Rather, it’s the sum of ALL the decisions you make over a long period of time. There are going to be days when you cave and go utterly over your daily calories and that’s okay too. What’s important isn’t that you stick to your meal plan 100% of the time, but rather you can pick up right where you left off after a rough day, a cheat meal or an indulgent evening out.
By recognizing your journey WILL have its ups and downs, you can make sure the downs don’t define it.
For more advice on how to create healthy eating habits, contact Kristin Burgess, RD.