If you thought you could achieve your dream body by working hard in the gym that’s really just half the battle – and usually the easiest as well. Well, it is for me. The part I struggle with is learning how to eat (and actually following through) so that it’s possible to lean out. You can build all the muscle you want but if there’s a layer of fat over your muscles, your hard work will never show. “Great abs are made in the kitchen” comes to mind and it’s so true.
If you’re somewhat new to the eating clean concept it’s basically all about consuming foods that are closest to their most natural state (think produce section vs aisles at the grocery store). Tosca Reno has written books on the subject that are fantastic. Basically most of your calories should be from things like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains and lean meats. Avoiding processed foods as much as possible should be a top priority if you really want to eat clean. It’s up to you to set your own “rules” when it comes to how you want to eat and what you’ll eat and what you won’t.
Since the “dieting” aspect of getting in shape can be a struggle, here are a few simple strategies I’ve been using that may help make eating clean easier for you too.
- Make small changes. Don’t try to overhaul your diet overnight. It’s best to ease your way into eating clean rather than jumping in with both feet. If you dive in right away and immediately avoid most of the things you’re used to eating, it could easily backfire, make you frustrated and make you want to quit. The slow and steady method will help you in this “race”.
- Set small goals for yourself. Goals are great for keeping us focused. If you want to make the transition into eating cleaner, try to set a goal. For example, if you’re just beginning to change your diet, make it a goal to eat clean 50% of the time. Gradually increase this number as you get more comfortable.
- Prepare meals ahead of time. If you’re serious about eating healthy preparing meals ahead of time saves you both time and money. Many fitness models and competitors choose to prepare meals for the week on a designated day (usually Sundays) and it’s something they actually look forward to doing. We try to do this as often as possible and it really does make a huge difference. Cooking, preparing and baking things in batches can not only help to ensure you stick to your diet but it’ll also save you a TON of time. Once you’re finished preparing the food, divide each food item up into servings. The simplest way would be to use some kind of tupperware or even plastic containers with multiple compartments. They can be stacked in your refrigerator for easy grab-n-go or heat-n-eat. Preparing meals ahead of time also takes the guesswork out of “What should I eat?”.
- Limit liquid calories. Liquid calories can add up very quickly. The biggest culprits? Beverages like juice, milk, soda and alcohol. Try to drink water as often as possible. If you’re a tea person, tea would be a good alternative as well. That is not me, haha. You can literally cut out hundreds of calories by eliminating high calorie, sugary drinks. If you are used to consuming soda or alcohol on a fairly regular basis, try adding in a glass of water in between each drink. You’ll still be enjoying what you’re used to having, but you’ll consume less and be more hydrated too.
- Don’t ban your favorite (“unhealthy”) foods. Sometimes people think they need to ban certain foods (like donuts or cookies or ice cream) to meet their goals but it’s really not necessary. Who says you shouldn’t be able to enjoy these fun treats? The trick to having your cake and eating it too is to eat pretty clean most of the time and indulge sometimes. This way you won’t feel deprived. Sometimes banning certain foods will just make you want to eat them even more.
- Don’t give yourself a cheat DAY. Cheat days can be pretty reckless. I believe this to be true because if you eat whatever you want for one whole day, it’s very easy to overdo it. Instead, my advice is to opt for one or two cheat meals per week. When you have a cheat meal, try to keep that meal in roughly the same caloric range that you’re used to. If you’re used to eating 300-400 calories per meal, stick to that same caloric range for your cheat meal. If it’s a monster chocolate shake, so be it. And enjoy it! This way you can still happily consume your favorite foods without it hurting your progress. Everyone has their own views on cheat meals vs. cheat days. If you prefer to eat super strict for 6 out of 7 days, going wild on one day might be your thing. If so, do it! Ultimately you need to do what works best for you.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to eating clean(er) is that you don’t have to be perfect. How boring! Give yourself a break sometimes! If you’re the type of person who hates working out just remember this: The more consistent you are with clean eating, the less amount of time you’ll have to spend in the gym to sustain what you’ve achieved!
Q. What helps you to eat (mostly) clean?