7) Cook Your Own Food
Food Rule #63 believe it or not. I would have put this as #1 myself, had I written that book.
In 1995 we spent about a twenty-seven minutes preparing and four minutes cleaning up after our meals.
Compare that to forty-four minutes preparing and twenty-one minute clean-up in 1965. It’s clear that North Americans spend a lot less time preparing their own food than ever before.
Not only will you know what went into your food, but it’ll slow down how much you can eat and you’ll eat more whole minimally refined foods.
The other perk is that even if you do want cake, cookies or other desserts, you learn to value the time it takes to make it yourself.
This makes it feel like a real treat so you’re less likely to overeat them. You’re also less likely to consume them because of all the time it takes to make.
When you make stuff yourself, even sweet stuff, most of the ingredients are still closer to whole than the other unpronounceable ingredients that appear in commercial food as preservatives.
Many people use time as an excuse when it comes to fitness and health. Yet I ask, what is more important than the food you consume and the body you live your life in?
8) Eat Lean Complete Protein with Every Meal
This one comes down to the thermic effect of food and satiety. When you eat protein in conjunction with other foods (starchy carbohydrates, or healthy fats) you slow digestion, make yourself feel fuller for longer and burn more calories in the digestive process.
Your blood sugar doesn’t spike much and you consequently don’t pack on fat in the same way. Also called ‘Nutrient Partitioning‘ or how your body organizes intake.
Attaching lean proteins to every meal makes you far less likely to reach for a donut or sweet muffin as a snack.
You can swing this if you’re a vegan, a vegetarian or a plain old omnivore. Don’t think this means just lean meat. Meat eaters would do better to eat a few more servings of beans in a week anyway.
Rice and Beans are a lean complete protein source, so is tofu or quinoa. There are options available to you, no matter what style of eating you follow.
A lean protein serving is about the size of your palm and 3/4 of an inch thick.
9) Eat Vegetables with Every Meal
Space 5-6 servings out amongst your meals.
If you choose to eat 3 meals a day, this means 2 servings of veggies with each meal. If you eat 6 small meals, this means 1 serving with every meal.
How much is a serving? Think at least the size of your fist, or about a cup. Leafy veggies you may need more of because they are not as dense.
Personally I love to have a giant salad sprinkled with some lean protein, almost daily. The veggies, keep me healthy, the protein keeps me feeling full.
Vegetable consumption contributes to many bodily functions in ways we don’t even fully comprehend yet I’m sure.
They have been shown time and time again to influence the weight loss process, and may even manipulate your metabolism.
They are also nutrient dense but calorically sparse, so they add a ton of healthful stuff without the excess energy.
10) Reserve Starchy Carbohydrate Consumption for Activity
The best time to eat those beautifully satisfying carbohydrates is on days you do deliberate exercise. Frankly if you’re not exercising then a lower carbohydrate diet will probably do you some good.
Note that I’m not saying a low carb diet, which often means less than 100 g of carbs per day. I’m saying moderate or lower compared to active people.
I like using a 3 hour window after training, but some active people need more so you might also include it at other convenient times like breakfast or before bed (they can help you sleep). In our coaching program we dive deeper into this skill.
Post-exercise is when your body can best tolerate a significant spike in insulin, instead of shuttling excess calories to your fat stores, it more likely shuttles them to the glycogen stores in your muscles and liver. Exercise improves carbohydrate tolerance in general by improving insulin sensitivity. If you’re not as active, it’s definitely something to focus on.
11) Eat Healthy Fats Daily
I’m not saying at every meal but healthy fatty acids like olive oil, fish oil, most seeds, and most nuts should contribute to your diet on a daily basis.
I don’t mean ALL of them at once either, but pick a few for the day, maybe one or two for some meals.
Maybe that means you take 3 grams of fish oil — a weight loss strategy that is remarkably effective actually especially in combination with deliberate exercise — first thing in the morning, a tablespoon of crushed flax on a salad at lunch, maybe you saute some vegetables and protein in a little olive oil at dinner or have a thumb sized serving of almonds with some cottage cheese somewhere as a snack.
The key with this one is moderation, fat is calorically dense so it’s easy to overdo. Serving sizes for healthy fats are small, about 1 tablespoons usually or some sesame seeds or walnuts that are about the size of your thumb.
And I think I’m going to stop there…
Please, Please, Please, Please, Please try to adhere to only one of the last 5 strategies at a time, until they become ingrained skills. Then choose to move on to a new one when eating a certain way for a percentage of the time (strategies 3-5) becomes easily done.
Which one do you start with?
I can’t over-estimate the importance of strategy #1. Strategy 3-5 are all usually one strategy but I separated them today, so you got the scope of perfectionism vs reality.
However, you need to start what you feel you can commit to accomplishing at a high level. Assign each of these strategies a number value on a scale of 1-10. Ten being ‘hell ya I can do that easily,’ one being, ‘no way jose.’ Start with the one you can commit to at a level of 9 or higher, and if there is a 10 in there, start with that.
You will find that other skills appear easier after mastering one or two skills beforehand. Repeat the scale of commitment assessment, after you feel you have mastered something but before starting a new strategy. Exclude the strategy you think you’ve mastered at that point, but you may want to return to your foundation every now and then just to refresh yourself.
These are my foundational nutritional components. If you want a more in depth look at eating strategies again, I encourage you to read the book ‘Food Rules’ by Michael Pollen. Follow strategy #1 though, as you read through the book, and again I highly recommend you use my ‘Scale of Commitment Assessment.’