I get asked this question often. This week I thought I would answer it honestly.
You may have decided to read this blog because you want to understand the right combination of foods to lose weight, or the key ingredient (no pun intended) to speeding up your metabolism, or to get the definitive answer about how much to eat and how often.
Well, I’m going to share everything. What I eat and what I’ve come to learn since deciding to change my diet 12 years ago with P90X, the Nutrition Guide and Michi’s Ladder of food that came in the box with those DVDs.
Here’s exactly what they look like: The good, the pretty good and the ugly days along with my top 3 lessons learned.
Lesson Learned #1: There are some foods that just shouldn’t be ingested on a regular basis. In fact, I wouldn’t refer to them as food. Examples: French fries, hot dogs, potato chips, candy, white bread. I’ve strung a few days of “ugly” together in this department for sure. The key is avoid them at all costs. Get them out of the house and don’t frequent places that sell them. Eliminating this stuff gives you the biggest bang for your buck. If you’re the type of person who ingests this stuff on a regular basis, once you do eliminate them, the weight will melt away like snow on a warm spring day. Your body is just not designed to eat or digest them and it will immediately thank you for not letting them pass your lips.
My GREAT day: I break off a row or two of a Stevia-sweetened dark chocolate bar and nibble on it after lunch or after dinner. PRETTY GOOD DAY: that chocolate bar plus another small sweet indulgence after dinner. UGLY DAY: I’ve had a scone or muffin with breakfast, the chocolate from that bar after lunch, and a few cookies after dinner. If I cheat I try to cheat on a snack and not blow an entire meal.
Lesson Learned #2: Think “whole.” You’ve seen a lot about this all over the internet. The “whole food diet” and related cookbooks have become very popular. This concept made sense to me and was do-able when I decided to change my diet 12 years ago. And, with time and patience, it worked. I didn’t want to count calories, calculate macros or weigh my food. I had a full time job and three kids under the age of 5 and measuring and weighing took time I didn’t have. Tony Horton told me this: “Look down at your plate at every meal and make sure everything on it falls into one of these categories: lean protein, vegetable, whole fruit, healthy fat or whole grain.” Okay that I could do. I soon became bored with the obvious choices that fell into those categories like chicken, broccoli, apples, brown rice etc., so I sought out cookbooks that had clean recipes using only the foods in these categories. It opened my eyes to using spices and healthy fats to make “boring” food taste better. It made me realize that healthy food really can taste good.
My GREAT day: Breakfast: one whole egg and three egg whites scrambled with spinach, red pepper, red onion and spices from Trader Joes with a side of berries and piece of Ezekial toast. Lunch: large salad of kale, spinach, chopped veggies, avocado and toasted pecans with homemade dressing. Dinner: a soup or stew I’ve prepped ahead of time or lean protein like chicken, flank steak or fish prepared with a side of quinoa and vegetable. Two snacks that might include apple with raw nut butter or cut veggies and hummus. PRETTY GOOD DAY: Typically involves similar clean meals but poor snacking in between meals. UGLY DAY: It begins with sugar like waffles or breakfast cereal with toast. Toast again later that morning. Lunch is a sandwich with grilled veggies or deli turkey on whole grain bread and I choose to have chips on the side. Dinner is cooking something quick like pasta with no vegetables or getting take-out from a place my teens love and then me searching in the pantry for something sweet later.
LESSON LEARNED #3: Learn how to cook, eat at home more often and when you can’t spend a little extra money buying prepared foods at healthy markets. I soon realized that if I was going to stick to a healthy eating plan I had to know what was in my food. The only way to know what was in my food was to prepare it myself. I am not a great cook and I don’t own a lot of “gadgets” to make food prep easy. I did invest in a few that have become huge time savers: a mini electric chopper to chop veggies, a Vitamix that does blends, chops, and mixes and better non-stick skillets and soup pots. I purchased just a few healthy cookbooks that have recipes that are easy to make and use all whole foods and spices. When I don’t feel like cooking or I don’t have the time I go to a few local farmer’s markets in my area that have prepared foods that list all the ingredients right on the label so I know what I’m eating. Last week for example, I was leading a two day seminar and the client was having lunch brought in. Panini’s, chips and cookies on the first day and pizza on the second. UGH! I went to my favorite market the day prior: Debra’s Natural Gourmet and purchased two kale salads and a side of their mustard chicken and packed them in a cooler. I ate these prepared meals for lunch each day. For dinner I ordered room service and just asked for what I wanted and the chef prepared a great spinach salad with veggies topped with grilled salmon.
IN SUMMARY: You may have read what I eat on my “ugly” days and thought to yourself: “That’s my good or pretty good day.” That’s okay. Guess what, in my teens, twenties and early thirties my ugly days included sugary drinks, pancakes, pasta and burgers… pretty often. I was lucky because the other big part of my life was exercise and yes, I was one of those people who could exercise her way through a poor diet. Not anymore. Not only does that kind of food put weight on me FAST, it also makes me feel like crud.
I post photos and videos of myself on social media exercising not to emphasize my biceps or my abs but so you can see MY SMILE. My smile represents how I FEEL as a result of my lifestyle. When I’m exercising regularly and fueling my body right I just feel downright better. I strive to find the right balance of foods that put me in the right mindset. Period.
When it’s time to work out I want to perform at my best.
When I need to make some serious headway on a project I’m working on, I want to be able to focus my mind on it.
When it’s time to go bed, I want to fall asleep easily and not wake in the middle of the night.
When I find myself in a stressful situation, I want to be able to work through it calmly.
Clean food enables me to accomplish all of the above. Sugar, fat and salt, on the other hand, wreak havoc on those goals every, single time.