Eat More. Be More.

Do You Even Know What You’re Eating?

Do any kind of research and you’ll find people everywhere that claim whether trying to lose fat or gain muscle, 80% of your progress is made in the kitchen. Exercise is important for many reasons, but diet is often much harder. This is more true when weight loss is the goal.

You eat several times every day, while you probably only workout a few times per week. And it doesn’t matter how hard you workout, if you keep shoving buckets of crap into your face, you’re not going to get the results you want.

Flickr image by Abd allah Foteih

Flickr image by Abd allah Foteih

Don’t Dig Your Grave With a Knife and Fork

I started cleaning up my diet on a Monday (of course) and starting working out on Tuesday, jumping in with both feet. Maybe you’re not ready to commit to an exercise plan. That’s okay, though you’ll drop weight exponentially faster if you do. Without exercise, the weight loss won’t be as fast, but if you have to choose one, go with the diet first.

Log What You Eat

There is a common axiom in business that “What gets measured gets improved”. The same is true with diet and exercise. From day one I’ve used MyFitnessPal to track what I eat. The first 3 weeks are shocking. One of the best things I did at the beginning was input a bunch of the things I used to eat. If today is Tuesday or Wednesday and you’ve decided to start your diet next Monday, go ahead and eat normally the rest of the week, but log everything. After doing this for a few days I was surprised I didn’t weigh twice what I did.

Tips For Sticking To Your Diet

First of all, you’ll know you’re serious when you realize you aren’t on a diet. True change that will last comes with the realization that you are making lifestyle changes. You wouldn’t quit smoking until the cough goes away, so why eat right only until you lose weight? This is a change you make from this point forward. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever have another chicken fried steak with gravy (man, it’s good to be from the South!), but it should be a rare occasion, not the norm.

During the first month you absolutely need to do this: Before you go out to dinner, decide on the place, then pull up their menu online. Most chain restaurants post nutritional information on their website. You can also find many restaurants in MyFitnessPal as well. Use this information to choose what you are going to eat before you ever leave the house. This helps in a couple of ways:

  • It will shock you what the nutritional content of some of those “healthy” meal options
  • You won’t be tempted by the “specials”
  • Those glorious food porn pictures will be less tempting
  • The decision making process is done before you get there

Restaurant Specials Are Bad

This isn’t always true, but it’s a good general rule. Often the specials or items with the mouth watering pictures in the menus are specifically selected based on profit margin. These selections are often less expensive items because they generally have crappy nutritional content. If you’ve ever switched from buying processed foods to fresh food, you know how much more the ingredients cost. Same thing here.

Pictures Are Worth 1,000 Calories…Or More

Not only do the menu items with pictures have less quality nutritional content, but they tend to be more comfort food focused. This draws you in emotionally. If you’ve had a rough day at work, which are you going to choose by picture? Option one is a grilled chicken salad with lite dressing, or the breaded Chicken Parmesan on a bed of pasta covered in sauce? With garlic bread. Your calorie count just doubled or tripled.

You’ll Get To Eat Faster!

If you already know what you want when you get there you can place your order faster which means getting your food faster. Reason enough to employ this strategy. It’s also helpful if you’re in a hurry to get to the movie or concert.

Making decisions in advance can also help you resist temptations when you’re trying to decide. It’s easy to choose something bad out of habit when you feel rushed because the waiter has been by three times to take your order and you begin to wonder if she’ll spit in your food because you’re slowing her table turn over rate.

Skip The Bread

I know, blasphemy, right? One of the hardest things to do is not eat the whole loaf as an appetizer. So why is this a bad thing anyway?

Carbohydrates produce an insulin response. Carbs, whether sugars or starches, are turned into glucose. The pancreas then produces insulin which carries the glycogen to your cells. Your muscles and liver store this glycogen for fuel. This is why you hear of athletes “carb loading” before endurance exercise. They want their body to store as much fuel as possible. And they will be using it, so it won’t be turning to fat.

Yeah, any excess glycogen that your muscles and liver can’t store once they’re full, they turn into fat for long term energy storage. But you probably already have fat stored that you are trying to burn off now so don’t add to it!

Track Your Macros

Macros are your breakdown of protein, fats, and carbs. All of your calories will come from one of these sources. Proteins and carbs each have 4 calories per gram, while fats have 9 calories per gram. So while keeping your calories in check, you need to also watch their source.

Tracking Allows For Experimentation

By knowing what you’re consuming each day, you can adjust the percentages of each to see how it affects your body and weight loss. When I had no idea what I was eating, I also had no idea how minor diet changes affected my body. With consistent monitoring I can now see how one or two “cheat meals” can derail that week’s progress. I can almost tell you to the half pound what the scale will say on Tuesday based on how I ate over the previous week.

This lets me add and subtract from my meals to see the effects. When my weight loss slowed after the first two months, I adjusted my carb percentage down and I’ve been maintaining a steady average loss since then. It also helps me make decisions about what I eat. I still have the bread, but I also understand the consequences and can make an informed decision.

What is the hardest thing for you to resist at a restaurant?