Archive for month: July, 2014

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A while back, I wrote a piece that discussed how to stick with your nutrition while you’re on the road. You can check it out here. Whether you’re traveling or just going out to a restaurant for a quick bite, I provided some tips and tricks to adhere to help preventing you from falling off track.

It’s just over a year later now and my perspective on nutrition has changed a bit.

That’s not to say that the first article is incorrect; for those who are working toward a fitness goal, the aforementioned advice will help tremendously with increasing dietary adherence.

But I was missing a big piece of the puzzle.

I overlooked the #mindset part of this whole fitness thing.

And at the end of the day, if you don’t have the right mindset, your chances of long-term success are compromised, aren’t they?

Yes, it’s true: you always have a choice. It’s also true that portion control is your friend.

If you don’t go into this whole thing with the right frame of mind and the right attitude, though, what’s the point?

Listen. Fitness is not about following a strict set of rules and having a panic attack anytime you deviate ever so slightly. It’s not about putting the rest of your life on hold while you spend six hours figuring out how you’re going to navigate your way through your vacation while staying on plan.

But shit.

Can we all just agree to stop trying to control every little crumb that passes our lips and just freakin’ relax for a bit?

Of course. We can relax. And by relax I mean completely lower our inhibitions and stuff our faces with everything we see, right?

Not quite.

Relaxing when it comes to your food doesn’t mean that you throw caution to the wind and eat until you’re stuffed to the gills. After all, squirming in extreme discomfort from the colossal amount of food you just ingested is far, far from relaxing.

Rather, stop worrying about macros for once. Seriously, if you’re going out to eat with a girlfriend, how about shifting the focus away from the size of that chicken breast and simply enjoying your evening?

Who cares how much oil is in that salad, and is it really that critical to know if there was any butter cooked with that fish?

Grilled Romaine salad, no doubt prepared with some oil. But who. cares? It was scrumptious.

Grilled Romaine salad, no doubt prepared with some oil. But who. cares? It was scrumptious.

One meal of mindful, not-counting eating is not going to destroy you.
In fact, one week of that isn’t going to hurt you either.

(To be clear, neither is not counting macros ever.)

I used to be proud of myself when I’d pack an entire bag full of pre-packed food whenever I’d go to on vacation. Cans upon cans of tuna, ziplock bags brimming with almonds, protein powder perfectly portioned out, and sleeves of rice cakes.

I was prepared for success, I would tell myself. I was the Control Queen.

But what I didn’t realize then that I was missing the whole point of a vacation.

Stop. planning. everything. and just let things unravel how they will.

Harboring a fitness mindset 365 days out of the year doesn’t mean that you’re always armed with emergency macros. That’s all fine and well, but that detracts from what’s really important.

In the same way that I don’t believe in prescribing meal plans, I’m also a proponent of experimenting with different nutrition protocols to find the guidelines that work best for you.

What science deems optimal is important, sure, but it’s irrelevant if you can’t apply that consistently to your own life.

After all, just because I do well with consuming four meals a day doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the same for everyone else.

It’s worth taking the time to develop a set of 

Golden Guidelines

(not rules, since that implies black-and-white adherence) when it comes to your eating. These guidelines should apply to any and all circumstance and should be independent of what situation you’re in.

In other words, whether it be a birthday party, a night out on the town, or a week-long getaway with your lover, these Golden Guidelines should remain intact.

Listen to your body. Pay attention to your cravings. Take note of what foods make you feel your best and in what quantities.

Trust that, even without knowing exactly when, where, and how you’re going to get your next meal, you’re going to be okay.

Because you know what’s more important than reporting a 100% dietary adherence? Living. Enjoying your every day. Trying that fried peach cheesecake at that one restaurant by the river during Restaurant Week.

restaurant savannah

Okay, so admittedly this fried peach cheesecake was out of this world. I enjoyed a decant two bites and that was more than enough for me.

As for me? I love just about anything fried. Fried calamari, in fact, is my favorite appetizer, followed closely by buffalo wings. You can bet that when I go out to a restaurant that offers either one of those items on the menu, I’m game.

I’ve outlined my personal set of Golden Guidelines that I’ve developed over the years. You can feel free to copy, borrow, and steal any or all of them if you feel that they cater to your personal preferences as well.

  • Slow food over fast food.
  • Opt for a protein-heavy meal – most of the time.
  • Wine is fine – but don’t chug the whole bottle.
  • Only turn down dessert if you truly don’t want it. Otherwise, savor a few bites and be done.
  • Eat just until you’re satisfied, not until you’re stuffed.
  • Stop eating as soon as the food is no longer delicious.
  • More is not better; “just enough” is best.
  • Don’t worry about macros or calories.
  • Focus on the company around you, not on the food.

As you may have noticed, #mindfulness is the common unifying theme amidst all of the above guidelines. Note that mindfulness is distinct from self-control, the latter of which implies self-restraint (which is exhausting) and white-knuckling (which is no fun).

I’ve found that it’s difficult to veer too far off track when I adhere to my Golden Guidelines. Very rarely do I go overboard on calories and, even though I may find myself under on protein and over on fats, it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day – because damn it, I had fun!

I hope that you can take a step back from the minutiae of protein, carbs, and fats every now and then and remember that food is meant to be enjoyed; life, even more so.

 

 

 

Tweetables:

[Tweet “One meal of mindful, not-counting eating is not going to destroy you.”]

[Tweet “You know what’s more important than reporting a 100% dietary adherence? Living. “]

[Tweet “Listen to your body. Pay attention to your cravings.”]

[Tweet ” Take note of what foods make you feel your best and in what quantities.”]

A really insightful post by Jen Sinkle on Men's Health. You may want to take a read.

This much I’ll admit: I like to look good naked.

I also openly confess that on some days, the only thing pulling me off the couch to get to the gym and train is the thought of building glutes, glutes, glutes.

And sometimes when I’m getting ready in the morning, I’ll sneak a peek at my abs in the mirror just to see how they’re coming along.

It gives me satisfaction to be able to slide on my favorite pair of jeans without a one-man fight. And to know that my mindfulness in the kitchen is paying off.

That’s just the extrinsic motivation, though. That’s the superficial, fleeting stuff.

Fitness should not be solely about getting abs.

Or glutes, or biceps, or what have you. If you train for aesthetics, that’s one thing. But if that is your singular focus and the only thing getting you to drink your gallon of water and consume sufficient protein – if this is you, you’re missing the point.

Forest for the trees, my friend.

What happens when we have a society obsessed with abs? Just take a look around.

Scroll through the plethora of Instagram fitness accounts nowadays and you’ll see tons of selfies taken in the bathroom, at the gym, at a restaurant, at the beach. All not-so-subtle ways to show off one’s chiseled abs or voluptuous derriere.

Hashtag belfie.
Hashtag gettinswole.
Hashtag straightflexin.

These people, they become Instagram famous. And then due to the influx of followers (who are there solely to ogle said selfies), they all of a sudden dub themselves fitness experts – certified by Instagram, of course. What happens then? They disseminate fitness information left and right – some correct, most grossly outdated – and eager fans eat up their words without a second thought.

It’s easy to mistake popularity for legitimacy. I get that. I also understand that people interpret looking the part to mean that you know your stuff. It happens all the time.

A really insightful post by Jen Sinkle on Men's Health. You may want to take a read.

A really insightful post by Jen Sinkle on Men’s Health. You may want to take a read.

But even beyond that, holy crap.

We’ve become a society of narcissists.

I understand that it must be very exciting to see your bicep veins popping for the first time in your life – and maybe you’ll want to snap a photo of that and share it with your social media network.

But does every photo have to be a selfie?

Do you really have to spend more than five minutes trying to catch that perfect lighting on your back muscles?

If you believe that fitness is all about the abs, you’re missing the point.

As a coach, my greatest gratification has come not from having a client drop several inches and pounds of fat over a few months’ time, but from watching his or her mental transformation.

It’s not about the abs; it’s about improving your quality of life.

It’s about letting go of the need to control every little iota of food that passes through your lips and realizing that your mental sanity is more important than breaking out the food scale at a restaurant.

It’s about turning the tables so that rather than building your daily life around your gym schedule, you fit in your training session around your job and your social schedule.

It’s about knowing when it is and is not appropriate to count macros and being able to not worry about calories when you go out to your best friend’s birthday dinner.

It’s about learning that one little slip up is not the end of the world and does not mean that you’re a screw-up; rather, you decide to adopt a proactive attitude and try to learn from your mistake.

Your self-worth is in no way, shape, or form tied to the number on the scale or on your bodyfat percentage.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with wanting abs.

Yes, they can make you look badass, and they are absolutely worth of admiration.

However.

Don’t overlook the importance of the journey. You’ll learn so much more on your way to your destination than actually being there.

Please don’t sacrifice your relationships for the sake of getting in your workouts. Be careful not to become so self-absorbed with yourself that you neglect your friends, your family, and your significant other.

Sometimes, a night at the movies with your best friends over a bag of greasy, buttery popcorn is totally worth the calories.

The gym will always be there.
Selfies are just a click away.
Macros? They’re not going anywhere.

But relationships – they are fragile.
Your mental health needs constant nurturing.
Your happiness is, above all, critical.

Fitness is just one small corner of your life.

It’s not about the abs.

 

 

Tweetables:
[Tweet “Fitness: it’s not about the abs. “]

[Tweet “Does every fitness photo have to be a selfie?”]

[Tweet “Your sanity is more important than breaking out the food scale at a restaurant.”]

I probably have a burger about once a month when the craving hits. The difference, though, is that I never end up polishing off the whole thing. #portioncontrol

I have a problem with the whole notion of “cheating” on your diet.

By “diet” I don’t necessarily mean “eating for fat loss”; I refer simply to the way that you eat on a day-to-day basis.

Some time ago, I made the decision to do away with cheat meals altogether. Since then, I’ve been able to maintain my level of leanness without the drastic fluctuations, and my relationship with food has improved dramatically.

In the same vein, I’ve witnessed friends and acquaintances over the years struggle with cheat meals, and I’ve come to develop an aversion to them over the years. Here’s why:

(more…)

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