Today I go over a great and easy way to start getting healthier. Knowing your natural healthy posture is absolutely essential for a long, healthy fitness career. Practice it now and you'll both look and feel better than ever.
It's no lie that healthy food is bland. Not loaded with sodium and preservatives, it just doesn't have the "it" that junk food has. And yet, we're expected to eat these things to stay healthy. But there has to be a way to make these foods taste good, right?
Must Love Fat
The reason virtually all of these healthy foods - from chicken to brown rice - taste so bland to us is because they lack the fat content other foods have. American diets are very high in fat. Because it's so calorically dense, our bodies reward us with happy tastebuds and a feel good sensation. To suddenly change this means a body that is less than pleased.
Other things missing include high amounts of sugar and low to no salt. Put this together with almost no fat and you're left with foods that have far more muted flavors than our beloved junk food. And so we have to adapt.
Absence Makes the Taste Buds Fonder
Luckily, the longer you go without junk food, the more these individual flavors stand out. Veggies soon share with your their distinct flavors, with most of them actually being kind of sweet. Eventually, junk food becomes too intense, leading you to turn back to fruits and whole grains.
The Spice of Life
Yet even with the individual flavors, it's still not enough. This is why it's important to rediscover the ancient practice of adding spices and herbs. Depending on what you add and how much you add, you could turn your chicken and rice dinner into and Indian feast or a Japanese medley without needing to alter how you cook your food.
Spices you need
Spices that are optional
Where to get them
Bulk bins. Unless you want to buy spices in containers so you have containers for later, bulk spices are unbeatable in terms of price. For mere cents you can have months worth of garlic or rosemary. Whole Foods and Fred Meyer do this for sure. If your local grocery store doesn't do this, stop by the ethnic food section. In many of the Spanish sections, there will be baggies of spices for only $0.99.
How to use them
Step one: Add a bit of salt. Taste. Not enough? Add a bit more. Taste. Repeat until it's at a quantity you like.
Step two: Do step one with the rest of your spices.
If you're not sure what spices work well together, there are numerous cheat sheets out there that group spices by region so you know the flavor type you'll end up with.
Where to Start
Spices are scary. There are a lot of them, many with names that you're not quite sure how to pronounce. However, now's not the time to be scared. Now's the time to reward your taste buds for switching over to healthier foods. For that, I suggest starting with a mix of:
With as crazy as "diet" plans can be, it's no wonder why so many of us fall off the wagon time and again. I hear tales of 1200 calorie liquid diets or diets that cut fats or carbs completely because of supposed vices. Then we start to feel pains in our guts, happily that this feeling is hunger, and the longer we ignore it, the more weight we drop. But this pain is not hunger. It's starvation.
So how do you tell the difference when you cut calories?
Starvation is painful. Your stomach will feel like it's cramping. You might even feel sharp pains through the gut. It interferes with your ability to work at max efficiency. After a while, you'll begin to feel extremely lethargic.
Hunger, on the other hand, is more like a little nagging voice in your head. You may have some rumbles, but it's not painful and you can easily focus on other activities.
And hunger is what diets should cause. It's a natural response to dropping weight. Suddenly, your excess energy stores are being depleted. Clearly there's a famine. Better make you crave everything edible you come across so you can outlast these lean times. Our minds overreact as they are prone to do. But if you cut in small steps, the body has time to adjust, making the desires manageable.
Unfortunately, many aim to lose 2-5 pounds per week. But this is just too much to handle mentally. If you think the brain overreacts to 0.5 to 1 pounds lost weekly, just think of how crazy it will go dropping more than double. It's like expecting yourself to be able to run a triathlon even though you've never once run a mile. You can't consume 3000+ calories per day and then expect to be able to drop down to 1800 without some serious blow back. On top of this, there's a good chance you'll be dropping a serious amount of food without taking nutrition into account, resulting in legitimate starvation.
Weight loss, like all other things in life, is slow and steady. You have to learn how to identify hunger and you have to learn how to control this very basic urge. That's why it's best to take weight loss in 0.5 to 1 pound weekly increments. There's no threat of starvation therefore you can learn what healthy hunger is. It also keeps you from associating the pain of starvation with eating less. And with all things, this takes practice and time -- two things "diet" plans will try to convince you aren't necessary.
CALORIES are how big or small you want to be.
Eat more, gain weight. Eat less, lose weight. Just be careful to never eat too little. For women, never go below 1200. For men, never go below 1500.
MACROS and EXERCISE are how you want your calories to look.
Macros are the nutrients you need a lot of - protein, fats and carbs. Exercise determines how these nutrients are used within the body. Think of the nutrients as building materials and exercise as an architect.
MICROS are how healthy you want your diet to be.
Micros are the nutrients you need in small amounts - vitamins and minerals. These keep your body running at peak efficiency.
Where do you start?
Step 1: Find a calorie total that leaves you with a look you're happy with.
Before you can do any of the specifics, you have to understand the general concepts. For calories, this means finding a general daily calorie count you like. Should you aim for a goal weight? I would argue for you to aim for a weight range based on your height and gender. This is a pretty nifty tool. Once you find a place within that range you're happy with, you've found your calorie total. And never be afraid to adjust this. Your calorie total is not set in stone nor should it be.
Step 2: Research athletic body types.
If you want a certain body type, then you need to do the exercise regimes that corresponds to getting said body. Swimming and lifting produce very different results. Running will never result in Mr. Olympia. This series of photos is a great place to start. See a body you like? Research their routine. If you can't do that routine specifically, look for alternatives.
Step two: Mess around with your macro totals.
Now that you've got the general stuff down and you're using exercise to distribute your calories, it's time to get a bit more specific with your macros. Ideally, keep protein around 25-30% since any higher is wasted by the body. For carbs and fats, that's up to you. For simplicity's sake, assume that the percentage of fat you eat will be the percentage of fat you have on your body. This is why bodybuilders only eat about 10-20% fat in their diet. During each change, give yourself about two months so you can note any differences.
Does it matter what you eat?
Are sugars/fats/carbs/sodium evil?
No. In moderation, they are necessary and enjoyable.
Does it matter when you eat?
The holidays have long been used as the last fling before the ring. You gorge yourself with the knowledge that come 2016, all the sweets and treats are out the door. This mindset, though, is incredibly detrimental to not only your body but your mind.
Be healthy and enjoy the holidays this year!
All or Nothing
You've started your New Year's diet. It goes great for a little bit but then the cravings set in. You start losing your mind because you can't have one cookie. Eventually you snap and have a cookie. But it's not just a cookie. It's a cookie that comes with the belief that you are a failure. You can't stay with this diet. Who are you even kidding? Might as well bring in a few more treats and a few more and a few more until, by February, you're back to square one.
This is extremely unfair to yourself and your potential. The reality of the situation is that you have spent that last two months (counting down from Halloween) shoving your body full of decadent sweets and rich foods. Your body has adapted to expect these foods. Suddenly, you rip away them away, replacing them with veggies and lean protein. The body overreacts, wrongly assuming you're going to starve. How do you survive this starvation? Seek out calorie-rich foods, thus triggering the cravings.
The biggest problem this time of year is the mindset of all or nothing. You stuff your face with all because, come New Year's, you'll be going on the nothing diet. This is horrible for you. For one, it's an outright lie. You know damn well you'll be sneaking treats in the new year. Two, it allows you to excuse overeating.
The secret is moderation.
Instead of finishing off an entire half pint of eggnog in one sitting, space it out over the course of the week. Don't eat that entire tin of Danish Butter Cookies in two days, eat it in two weeks.
What if you already understand moderation? What if you're trying to keep relatively healthy at company holiday parties? What do you choose from the buffet?
Instead of CHOCOLATE, choose GUMMIES.
Gummies typically don't have high fat content because they aren't made with any kind of fatty products (whole milk, whipping cream, buttermilk, butter, egg yolk, etc.). Therefore if you want to have something sweet, gumdrops are your best option.
Instead of cookies, choose PRETZELS.
Cookies, again, have a lot of fat.
Drink more WATER than ALCOHOL.
No one is saying you shouldn't drink when you need to deal with those in-laws, but to avoid extra calories, water is your best friend.
For the birds, always eat BREAST MEAT.
Breast meat is white meat and therefore the lowest in fat. Now, no matter how well the bird is cooked, the white meat will be dry. To make it juicier, it's okay to use gravy, but keep this amount relatively small.
Instead of SWEETS, choose FRUITS.
Unlike gummies, fruits actually have good things for your body, ranging from antioxidants to vitamins.
Though nuts are healthy, they are extremely fatty and do not make the best snack choice despite what other sites will tell you.
Why limit fats and not carbs?
When you eat food, you consume fuel points.
1g of carbs = 4 points
1g of protein = 4 points
1g of fat = 9 points
That's a lot of calories for just a smidgen of fat. If you really want to eat a lot during the holidays without packing on too much weight, limiting fats means you get to eat more than twice as many carbs or more than twice as much protein before you even hit fat level points.
Red Bull. Rock Star. Amp. Nos.
These are only a few of the myriad of energy drink populating grocery store aisles and gas station refrigerators the world over. However, these energy drinks are far from energizing, leading, instead, to a laundry list of negative effects.
That being said, it's impossible to ban such a practice. In fact, imbibing some form of stimulant is simply a part of human nature. South Americans chewed coca leaves, Asians drank tea and coffee reigned supreme in the Middle East.
Though you shouldn't swear off stimulants entirely, here are the safer options to turn to for a quick buzz.
For thousands of years, tea has been heralded for its health benefits, however the best part is the variety. You can get Lipton or you can head on down to the local hippie store and buy mixtures of dried leaves and fruit. To sweeten, honey is your best option as honey also comes with health benefits in the form of antibacterial properties. Some also believe eating local honey helps with allergies because it gets you to ingest weaker versions of local pollen thus acting in a way similar to a vaccination. How truthful is this? I really couldn't tell you.
When I say coffee, I'm not referring to Pumpkin Spice Lattes or double whipped cream, whole milk dessert creations passed off as coffee. I'm also not referring to drinking only coffee throughout the day. I'm talking about the straight up black drink. While this one is a bit more debated currently in terms of health benefits, there's still reason to believe it does stave off certain negative health concerns. Again, like tea, there are many variations (though, to be honest, the flavor differences are not that dramatic). Instead of sugar, use honey. If you want, a bit of milk goes a long way to really take away the bitterness.
Your body needs water to run correctly. The less it has, the more gummed up everything gets. Think of it like oil in your car. This liquid collects debris while lubricating the engine for a smooth performance. If this doesn't get changed out, performance declines because more shit gets lodged in places it shouldn't. Keep it that way long enough and eventually you'll kill your engine. As for your internal engine, the less water you have, the more energy your body spends keeping you going. Therefore, if you drink enough water, your body will need less energy thus feeling more energized.
As water cleans out the body, sleep cleans out the brain. It's the same idea.
If you have more weight to carry around, your body is going to overexert itself. While you don't have to become an Olympic athlete, you should at least fall within a healthy weight category for you age and height.
A Note on Alertness
Never forget that you will always feel a little tired, especially as you get older. No matter how many coffees you have and no matter how much water you drink, there will always be a sleepy feeling, and this is okay. If you had your body and mind going at 100% all the time every day, you'd wear yourself down and not be able to outrun a predator. It's merely a part of your body's natural inclination to save energy for moments when you actually need it.
A huge thank you to Azax for prompting this topic!
I want you to take a look at these photos right here:
Who is Kimberlee?
This beast is my sister.
When were the photos taken?
The first photos are from March of this year.
The second of the first photo is from today.
The second of the second photo is from August.
How much has she lost?
24.5 pounds in 7 months.
As of today, she is 158.
What's her goal?
Hit 130 pounds. After that, who knows?
What's her diet?
Daily calories: 1400 - 2000
Macro split: 35% carbs, 20% fat, 45% protein
Has she mentioned any benefits?
She talks about feeling happier, healthier and having better posture.
What has she been physically?
Les Mills routines at the local YMCA.
Can I do this?
Yes. You can do anything you want so long as you have to courage to push yourself.
Even though she's been making stellar process for months now, there have still been moments of despair where giving up appeared more tempting than continuing. To help stay strong, she built herself an incredible network of support made up of family and friends. Apart from cheering her on, they've also provided some tough love when those dark days tried to move in. In the end, though, the support could only do so much. The ultimate choice to keep going has been in her hands this whole time. It's her that's had to push through and rise above, something that no amount of cheering can accomplish.
Kimberlee is a prime example of internal strength, discipline and fortitude. I am beyond proud of what she has done and am excited to see what she will do.
In every athlete's career, there will be stalls -- moments when even though you know you're following all the directions, you physically can't push yourself further.
Unlike plateaus, these happen as you work to advance from beginner to intermediate or intermediate to expert. For all intents and purposes, this should be time where you're seeing steady progress.
When you find yourself stalled, the answer to your dilemma is simpler that you'd think.
If you're shoveling protein down your mouth but can't seem to put on any muscle, chances are you aren't getting enough carbs or fats. Fats and carbs are what power your workouts. Protein is what repairs everything so you can go again. Without enough energy, your body will start eating the protein you've just eaten, rendering it useless. With those gone, your body has no more construction materials and the gains stop. Add more carbs to your diet.
On the flip side, if you know you're eating a lot of carbs, then your protein intake isn't high enough. Increase your daily intake.
A solid split is generally 40% carbs, 20% fats, 40% protein. Check your current split against this and see where your percentages actually are. Once you're making progress again, feel free to slowly adjust each percentage until you find a split that works for your body.
Not Enough Sleep
You fix yourself when you're asleep. You gain muscle when you're asleep. Without sleep, your body sort of repairs but instead of a beautifully patched hole in the wall that blends in perfectly, you've got lumpy, discolored plaster that doesn't even close up all the cracks. Even one more hour can make a world of difference.
In the end, though, sometimes the stalls are all in your head.
The best thing to do? Sit down and have a heart to heart with just yourself. Why are you holding yourself back? What is so bad that it's stopped your progress entirely? Face this fear head on and get back to gaining.
I Miss Bread
Of all the things I miss the most, it's bread, plain and simple. A nice sourdough. Perhaps a French baguette. Maybe even some nasty pumpernickel.
It Takes Serious Determination
In a world where carbs are everywhere, learning to say "no" has been a challenge. It's taken a huge mental shift from what I want now toward what I want to look like at BlizzCon. Luckily, the vision is crystal clear. Plus, when it's done, I can bulk again, so it's not like this is forever. Just like anything, it's preparation of a single moment of glory. If you're willing to sacrifice to achieve it, you will stand victorious.
It's Not Fast
When I look in the mirror, I don't readily see any changes. I see the same Kristen that's always been there. However, when I step on the scale, I have proof that I've shed weight. Gravity doesn't exactly fluctuate. All the same, it's taken precious weeks to get this far and there are still more weeks to go. By the time this is over, it will have been 8 weeks in order to (hopefully) achieve a specific look for two days.
Fats are Friends
When the carbs drop, the fats shoot up. Protein stays relatively the same, but in order to make sure you're still getting enough calories to get through the day without starving yourself, it's all about chowing down on some delicious fats. Nuts, seeds, olive oil, cheese, butter and anything else with more fatty flavor than carbs are reveled in. To be honest, this isn't really a bad trade off. It also means I can finally eat protein sources other than chicken and add mayonnaise to my tuna once more.
Veggies are Friends
Sure, you could sneak a piece of bread with a net 28g of carbs that's so small it barely takes up room on your plate or you could eat a bowlful of veggies and go to bed feeling stuffed. While bread certainly is easier and fulfills a much happier desire in my brain, while I'm on such a strict budget, my drive to feel satiated outweighs my love of bread. Plus, lots of veggies basically ensure you're getting enough vitamins and minerals to keep the body healthy.
I'm pretty darn proud of what I've accomplished so far. Being my first real cut, I don't expect to look as amazing as I will next year, but I've seen more results in my body composition in these past few weeks than in my entire life. It's basically sold me on the importance of understanding the diet.
I Need Bigger Muscles
The final bit of information I've pulled is that my muscles are a lot smaller than originally thought. Because of the body fat encasing them, they've seemed much larger than they are. Though my aim is not to reach Miss Olympia levels, I can certainly up my weights and am doing so now until BlizzCon. With every little step, I get closer to achieving the ripped body I've always dreamed of having.
It's bound to happen no matter how strong your immune system is. Some virus or bacteria manages to worm its way into your body and begins propagating like it's New Year's Eve. Though you may be tempted to ignore it for fear of the guilt that comes with not making a gym date, don't be stupid.
Remember that your body isn't going to just fall back into a mushy pile of fat. That takes as much time as getting ripped. Allow yourself to take off the time you need in order to get better. Fully healing and then hitting the gym will lead to far better gains than if you partially heal, workout and then succumb to the sickness again because you pushed yourself too hard.
Would you rather miss three days or seven?
That's the question it comes down to.
As for recovery, there are simple rules you should follow for those yearly flus and colds we all hate.
You'll no doubt sweat. Even when not sweating, your body needs water to function optimally. Do not deprive yourself of this liquid no matter how gross it feels going down.
Personally, I stock up on vegetable soups that don't have rice or noodles. The veggies are much better than breads (i.e. noodles) at keeping my nutrient levels high. As for sodium levels, go with what you feel comfortable eating. Even a veggie soup can quickly send your sodium levels sky rocketing. If you are worried about that, go with a low sodium option. Just don't skip out on salt altogether. When you sweat, you lose sodium as well.
Again, do NOT workout. Just lie down in bed and watch TV. That's all you should be doing. By resting, your body isn't forced to split energy in multiple directions. When you lie there, it can devote almost all of its resources to fighting whatever is invading, meaning you get better faster.
For many, you don't need crazy medicines to kill the invader. I always just take an Advil whenever I feel there's a fever that won't break. When I have a sore throat, I'll slowly lick some honey off a teaspoon. For an upset stomach, I get some ginger chews. Though I'm not a homeopathic devotee, I did work in one of those organic markets and tried a lot of different products for a lot of different things. Most, unsurprisingly, ended up being lies, but there were a few grains of truth hidden in there -- ginger and honey being two of them.
A Note on Medicine
As for stronger medication, that's completely up to your doctor. I have no medical degree and can only vouch for my own immune system and what works for it. If something doesn't feel right, go see your doctor. Better a $50 visit now than a $2,000 hospital bill later.
Co-host of HeroesForge, founder of Battle to Be Better, gamer, singer and all around happy person.