General

Nutrition: You Are What You Eat

There’s a saying in fitness that abs are made in the kitchen. I think this is mildly understated, everything is made in the kitchen. You are what you eat. I didn’t know how much of a difference proper nutrition made until I really started focusing on it about 1 ½ years ago, about 6 months into my fitness transformation (Read More: One Step at a Time: My Fitness Transformation). This blog expands on my views about nutrition instead of a snazzy buzzword diet. It’s also a summary of what I did to change my relationship with food and beginning to eat to fuel life instead of for pure enjoyment. Hit the break to read more.

My View

People are always trying a new “diet”. Whole30, keto, and paleo are just a few of the ones I hear of people starting. This list could go on endlessly, but they hardly every lead to long term success. That’s because a “diet” by nature is a temporary thing. Most people don’t intend to keep them going for a long period of time. I found that focusing on the long term produces more consistent results.

This is why I view it as nutrition. My focus is on attaining nutrients from whole foods. Food from complete sources gives you a little more flexibility to not watch portions as closely. You can’t eat unlimited food all the time, but since the calorie yield of non processed foods is generally lower than the calories they actually contain the quantity isn’t nearly as important.

What I Actually Do

Very few things are off limits for me unless they are processed. The overarching themes I follow is minimally processed and avoiding empty calories. This means that I eat anything that is a whole food and avoid things that are high in useless calories or calories that don’t bring other nutrients. Instead of avoiding any one macro, I embrace them all if they come with a nutrient benefit. 

For example, consuming white bread is bad because it’s had all the blood sugar regulating fiber and most of the nutrients removed. It may be soft and fluffy, but provides no benefit other than a one time “this tastes good”. Instead I would go for a quality whole wheat bread which has a much better nutrition profile and lower effect on blood sugar. I now prefer the more complex taste and texture of quality whole wheat bread anyway. 

I believe the brain is hardwired to crave healthy food when you cut out food industry’s manipulation of it’s chemistry.  Eventually you start craving the things that make you healthy because you feel great every day. Food companies spend millions to make you crave their foods by adding salt, sugar, and excess fat in a perfect brain chemistry altering ratio. You could almost equate it to making you addicted to their food just like a drug. If you ever break out of this cycle you will likely no longer crave it. I find it just doesn’t provide the same satisfaction as a meal with quality wholesome ingredients. 

A Day in the Life

All this is easy to say, but what does a typical couple of days look like for me? I typically try to get in 3 things every meal, a complex carb, fibrous carb, and a lean/moderately lean protein source. Below is an example breakdown for what two days might look like:

Day 1

  • Breakfast: 3 Enhanced Omega-3 eggs and 4 egg whites scrambled with sautéed spinach, Large bowl of oatmeal with a banana and sweetened with a teaspoon of stevia brown sugar blend plus cinnamon and walnuts (make sure to beat the eggs well so they come out fluffy making oil or grease unnecessary)
  • Lunch: Cajun Chicken thighs pan seared, brown rice, sautéed green beans
  • Afternoon Snack: RX Bar (Available on Amazon)+ a slice of whole wheat toast
  • Dinner: Steak, baked sweet potato with cinnamon, roasted broccoli, Low cal cream with blueberries
  • Snack before bed: Low sugar cereal (kashi golean, regular cheerios, etc)

Day 2

  • Breakfast: 1 Enhanced Omega-3 egg and 2 egg whites scrambled with sautéed spinach, Kodiak cakes whole wheat pancakes mixed with 1 Omega-3 egg
  • Lunch: Flank steak, roasted broccoli, quinoa
  • Afternoon Snack: RX Bar peanut butter (Available on Amazon) sandwich (it has egg whites increasing the protein content)
  • Lunch: Flank steak, roasted broccoli, quinoa
  • Dinner: Salmon, roasted asparagus, Baked sweet potatoes, Low cal cream
  • Snack before bed: Low sugar cereal (kashi golean, regular cheerios, etc)
Below is a random assortment of pics I have gathered over the last few weeks

As you can see, I definitely do not starve and by many peoples account I eat like a king. I don’t eat salads all the time and most of these things taste really good if you learn to cook them that way and spend the time to make it. Minimally processed foods are more filling which will likely make you eat less without having to do anything.

Keep it Interesting

I try to keep my spice cabinet stocked with a variety.

If you don’t keep yourself interested, nothing will last long. This is why seasoning your food and switching things up is so important. While I do sometimes use cooking oils as part of seasoning mixtures, I gravitate to dry rubs/mixtures due to their lower number of empty calories. My spice cabinet usually has a sizable collection of spices that I throw together to spice things up.  Some of my favorites are smoked paprika and smoked chipotle pepper (jalapeno) due to their smokey flavor which adds a more complex element.

Salt is also critical to good tasting food. I’m fond of pink Himalayan salt because it is more than just empty sodium since it has other salts in the crystal making it more potent and nutrient dense. Pink himalayan salt gives a more complete flavor. Kosher Sea salt is also one of my gotos for things like cooking meats where large quantities of salt are needed. Don’t be afraid to salt food. Most of the sodium we are warned about with restaurants doesn’t come from the salt it comes from the preservatives. Salt your food at home, it doesn’t have to be bland, it won’t kill you. Pro tip: when cooking oatmeal make sure to add salt. It makes a massive difference.

Making it Last

The key to success is consistency. I like what I eat and most of what I eat can be had at nearly any restaurant. Many people go to a taco stand and order a taco with deep fried something because it’s a “cheat day”. I no longer like deep fried foods so I gravitate to something with what I like, generally something with contents similar to what’s above.

Cheat days aren’t in my vocabulary.  I eat something if I want it, but I have come to not want most of what we get marketed. I’ve retrained my cravings to want a new kind of food. I prefer cleaner foods, but these require more work to prepare. I’ve found I can easiest sustain this lifestyle over the long term. You just have to find the niche of minimally processed foods you can sustain as well.

I am now to the point that I avoid unhealthy foods due to the way I feel after eating them. Story time. A week or so ago I had pizza at a work event then went to eat pizza after work with a coworker that was leaving. The next day I literally felt hung over. It reminded me of what I used to always feel like, something I have zero desire to return to.

Conclusion

Time to wrap this up. If you are looking for a way to lose weight and keep it off you might give this a try. It won’t work by itself as physical activity is absolutely necessary to lose weight efficiently, but this will likely make you feel better if nothing else. If you give this try remember that this is a long term change that isn’t intended to give fast results. It’s intended to help over the long haul so it won’t happen overnight. The thing to remember is the best things always take time.

There’s a future blog post coming about my exercise routine so if you’re interested in that part too keep an eye out or hit the follow link below.

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