I am not a hyper lean or crazily jacked human, just in case anyone was wondering. I like beer, pizza, and burgers with a fried egg on top. I’m a pretty normal guy from that standpoint.
Over the last month, I lost 6 pounds while not only maintaining my strength, but I got stronger. My training and sleep stayed consistent. The only thing that changed is I didn’t eat out.
This isn’t a humble brag by any means. It just reaffirms to me, again, that fat loss is a lot about calories in versus calories out. That’s not the whole story, but it’s a lot of it. While saying, “Just eat less,” is a simple solution in theory, it’s not very practical without taking the right steps to set yourself up.
Taking in fewer calories is all about having the right strategies in place so you don’t have to think about eating the right things. Here are the top 5 that I use myself and with clients to lose fat and keep the process from getting overly complicated.
Make your meals at home using real food
We make our own pizza on Friday nights in the Hansen household. We use pepperoni and real cheese too. (I didn’t realize just how many variations of vegan cheese there are until I moved to California, and now I feel like I have to clarify that it’s real cheese that we use, even though I shouldn’t have to.) And we use a white dough. Even so, it still has a gazillion less calories than the neighborhood pizza shop that’s got a gallon of grease on it. The majority of nights, though, it’s barbecue chicken or steak on the grill with veggies and roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes. That stuff is really hard to overeat, no matter how much you like it. And for breakfast, eggs and fruit is hard to beat, and isn’t very high in calories, although it’s loaded with the good stuff that you need to thrive.
Keep a food log
If you want to save money, you need to keep track of your spending. If you want to lose fat, you need to know what you’re taking in. MyFitnessPal is great for this. Don’t worry about counting calories, but just audit it each week to see your habits. If you see that on Friday nights you’re hitting the drive through because you’re out of groceries, you can make the adjustment earlier in the week to hit the grocery store again so you have things at home to make. If 3 days a week you’re going out to lunch, well have some patience and see strategy 5 below. Knowing your personal tendencies will allow you to find the right strategies to keep you on the right path.
Include vegetables or fruit at every meal.
Fruits and vegetables have a ton of great stuff in them, aren’t very calorically dense, and help to keep you satiated. Load up on these and you’ll be less likely to crush a pint of Ben and Jerry’s when The Bachelor comes on.
Only drink water, coffee, and tea.
Sugar laden drinks are calorie bombs that have little to no nutritional value. (Those coffee drinks with 9 squirts of flavoring count in this category.) Feel free to use normal half and half but keep the sugar to a minimum, or use a natural sweetener like Stevia. The small amount of cream you use in your coffee is not going to be the make or break point for getting leaner, so stop stressing about it and enjoy your cup of Joe.
Bring your lunch to work.
Every Sunday evening, I cook 2 1/2 cups of rice, brown a few pounds of ground turkey, and rinse a can of black beans. Then I split it up in 5 bowls. Throw a little salsa and avocado in, and it’s amazing. It literally takes 30 minutes, and I don’t have to worry about lunch all week. Every day, people wonder what they’re going to eat around midday, and when you mix in the daily stress of work and life, you’re setting yourself up for making a less than ideal choice. Plan a little bit, and you’ll have one less decision to make in the day.
I get that nutrition is a very polarizing topic, and it can get quite complicated. Keep it as simple as possible and realize that putting the right strategies in place will go far further towards getting leaner than any fads or short term crash diets. Of course, the leaner you get, the more in depth manipulating nutritional variables gets, but for most of us that aren’t below 8-10%, you’ll see significant improvement just using these simple strategies.
This stuff isn’t sexy, and seems almost too simple, but it works. Stressing about how many times a day you should eat, what the optimal amount of protein you should eat at each meal is, and panicking if you don’t suck down a protein shake within 10 minutes of your last set is just a waste of energy. In the big scheme of things, if you follow the above strategies, it all works out. Simple and sustainable is the key to most things in life, and this is no different.
If you want to go out to dinner, go for it. It doesn’t mean that you blew your diet and need to beat yourself up over it. Enjoy the meal, and keep your strategies in place going forward. Just don’t go out several times each week crushing nonsense because you’re too tired to plan or haven’t gone to the supermarket. Plan to go out and enjoy yourself when you do. After all, life is meant to be enjoyed.
Simplifying your nutrition simplifies your life, and making a few small changes will reap big rewards over time. Don’t get bogged down in the minutia, hammer the basic strategies consistently, and you’ll keep getting better.