About 3 years ago I realized I was spinning out of control with my nutrition. I would workout each day but I put on a lot of weight and despite my regular exercise, I threw it all away when it came to nutrition. I had to figure something out. I had all the tools, I had a lot of knowledge about nutrition heck, I even helped hundreds of my clients lose weight and get in great shape. I could not help myself!
Finally I decided to spend more time focused on nutrition and meal planning. I knew that was the missing part of the puzzle. The problem is I could not find a system that would work for me. What was working for my clients was just not doable for me. My clients wanted flexible plans and food lists yet I needed a more structured approach. I found some keys to my success that I am going back to after 3 years. I need to regroup a little and get my nutrition plan (and mindset) in the right spot. I lost over 68 pounds in about 1 year following simple steps combined with support. Here is what I did to regain control of my nutrition!
Keep it Simple
There are a lot of meal plans out there. There is also a lot of research out there. My advice is to find something that speaks to you and go with it. Do not keep looking for the latest thing or the trick. I will tell you that based on my 8+ years experience as an online fitness coach that there is no trick and no one magic answer. That means STOP LOOKING for it. Follow sound principles like eating real whole foods. Eat organic when possible and find brands and stores you trust and can rely on to have what you want.
To keep it simple, I used the resources I had and that I trusted. I 100% trust Beachbody programs (that is why I recommend them all the time). I know the research is sound and the guidance is spot on for their fitness programs. Each fitness program comes with a nutritional guide. Being a coach for so long I have just about every guide there is. Now we have on demand so you can find all the classic program guides online too!
So what does that have to do with keeping it simple? Well, I found that I did not do well personally with nutrition plans based on food choices and building my own meals. I needed a list of complete meals to choose from. I do not like figuring things out that I do not need to. The guide I turned to was for ChaLEAN Extreme and also Les Mills PUMP. These guides had a lot of choices for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and snacks.
I kept it simple by looking through the guides and picking my favorite meals. I sat on a Sunday, and wrote out the meal choices for the week based on what was in the book and my calorie bracket. I made my shopping list as I was looking at the meals and then I prepped whatever I could for the week and put each meal in containers.
I thought of it as if I were in a test group. Beachbody tests all the programs and I know that when launching a new program, they have participants literally come to a location each day for the workouts and then give them a bag of food for the day. When you eat what is in your bag, you are done! I wanted to replicate that simplistic approach. Having it all written out also made it more structured for me and made me want to stick with it. Over time I got used to the meals and planning but I kept writing them out anyway. it was a key to my success!
Keep it Functional
By having my meal choices selected it became easy to just “Eat what was in my bag” If I plan things I am pretty good about sticking to it. Yes, I used a support and accountability group too. I would post my meals in the group and go on an chat with other people so I would keep my mind on my goals but also be able receive and GIVE motivation and tips to the others in the group.
I did struggle a bit with tracking. I tried apps, websites, the beachbody online meal planner and just sheets of paper. Then it hit me. Something so easy and that costs pretty much nothing to use. I did have the meals locked in however I still struggled with choosing what to eat when. That sounds so silly but when I prepared all the food sometimes I would not want to eat it or I ate it plus more. I found what worked for me was planning it out even further. I used a simple blank calendar and hand wrote what I would eat each Day for Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, Snack and dinner. It took all the guess work out. I could also swap out meals if I did not feel like that particular selection that day but for the most part I found it easy to juts read the chart I made and eat what was there.
I am a single father of 3 young kids. the fact that I limited the guess work for my meals and made it so functional for me also saved me time and energy each day. My meals were in containers and ready for me. I still took the food out of the containers to heat it up and sit at the table as a family to eat but everything went in a container when I prepared for the week. Those stacks of containers also helped me keep to my food budget. I would eat what was prepared and not buy needless items!
Here is what a sample of the calendar page would look like for a planned week. (I typed it for you so you did not have to read my handwriting but I found it easy to just write in the meals each Sunday for the week. You can get fancy and create whatever version you want or add color, markers, graphics etc. for some that makes a big difference. for me I wanted Basic and boring 🙂 The meal is listed with the page number form the guide I got it from. This list is from ChaLEAN Extreme for example. I also put some reminders on there for when I scheduled my meals. I think when getting control of your nutrition you have to plan a lot at first. Then you can ease off as you learn what your body needs. I found it best to set times on my phone calendar for meals. this way I knew it was time to eat and I would not get so hungry that I blew it come dinner time or late afternoon.
What about Variety?
Looking at what was functional for me, may not be what you need. Maybe you need more variety. The guidebooks are LOADED with recipes, ideas and even food lists. I typically eat the same thing for Breakfast and a few choices for lunch and a few choices for dinners. Snacks is where I tend to switch things up a bit more. I like the same things all the time. I can eat something everyday until I get sick of it and then I do not have it for a while. That is the benefit of planning meals weekly. I can change it up whenever I wanted. I also see the week at a glance so if I see too much of something I do not want or know I will be traveling or at an event, I can adjust the plan to fit that in.
A tool I did not have was the portion fix system. Now almost all the meal plans that come with the workout programs have the portion fix (container system) built in. You can use the pre-planned meal option or the food list option. I still prefer meal ideas but for times that I want more variety or need a change I now have the food list and I know what color containers I can use for the meals. When I use the containers, I just write the number of daily containers I am allowed on the top of the calendar as a reminder. I eat all my yellow and purple containers before dinner (carbs and fruit) and then I know I have the optimal balance for my fat loss goals. You can also keep it simple and functional while adding variety by listing the containers out by meal. Then juts pick from the food list for each color container (or spoon). This system is really connecting with people. I still like my meal ideas but I do admit, reading the food list and just sticking it in a color coded container is VERY Easy!
These simple habits and steps of writing out my plan and packing things up so it was grab and go is what helped me drop over 68 pounds! I followed the workout plan and stayed connected to my accountability group and partners. It is not complicated and it works for me.
Other keys to my success was to also do EVERYTHING the program said. Once I got in the right mindset of following the guide and plan as if I was in the test group, it just clicked. The guide said to take measurements and pictures, so I did. My accountability group said to post the pictures in the group. I was terrified of that but I did it. I learned so much and am now able to help even more people because of these experiences.
I hope this helps you and maybe you will need more structure maybe you will need less. they key is to try something and adjust. Seek some help and advice but then apply what you know. The more research you do and the more you wait to get started (or if you try something wacky like the, only eat cotton balls and salad diet) the father from your goals and true fitness level you will become.