For many of us, myself included, that initial step to get started with diet is so difficult. It freaked me out.
I remember the first time that I said I was going to do this. You get a plan and that plan just had a bunch of numbers on it and I was immediately pretty freaked out. Like, “What do I do?” I know I’ve had some clients that I’ve sent their plans to and they’ve actually had that same deer in the headlights looks.
What I want to do today is give you three easy steps that we can take to just get moving in the right direction so it’s not overwhelming. You know the journey of a thousand miles starts with one step but sometimes that first step is the most difficult. I’m going to go over today three steps. Just three things you could do in your own time to get started and make your diet work for you. Put your goals into motion. Once they’re in motion, then we can build some momentum.
When I started getting interested in the whole prospect of nutrition, I found that the most difficult part was actually finding nutrition facts, figuring out the calories of something I was going to eat, figuring out the macronutrient breakdown, the protein, the carbs, the fats, the fiber. Because my first plan had a list of macronutrients on it. That list seemed daunting at the time because there were endless possibilities, unlimited food choices.
Step 1: Start Tracking
What I did was I simply started with tracking. This is step one. The first step in this process is simply going to be to track what you eat for an entire week. A lot of people, when they have to track what they’re going to eat for an entire week their mindset immediately shifts to, “I have to eat right. I have to eat healthy. I can’t eat that Snickers bar that I eat. I can’t have an entire pizza. I better drink diet soda or water instead of regular soda.” This is the first mistake. There’s no stress here. This is not information you have to share with anyone else. Simply stated, you must get a realistic picture, be very self-aware, be honest with yourself, because no one’s judging you based on this information, this is just simply the facts. What are you eating on a typical week?
Now, if it’s Christmas or the holidays and you’re going to be eating a non-typical diet because you’re traveling, maybe this is not the best time to track, but if you go to work on a daily basis, you tend to eat the same things, you tend to go to the same restaurants, you tend to have the same desserts, then this is what you want to track. The first step is simply picking an app that you want to use. The most popular app would be My Fitness Pal. The reason it’s very popular is because it’s very easy to use. My problem with My Fitness Pal is that it tries to tell you based on your age, your weight, your activity level, what you should be eating.
For the purposes of these three easy steps, do not follow that. Do not pay attention. Simply track what you eat. Simply plug things in. There are other websites like FitDay. My favorite app for anyone that’s interested is called My Macros+. This is a little more advanced of an app but when you get started with this tracking you’ll realize why it’s so great. It does not tell you what to do. It allows you to have as many meals per day, as many food items. The commons things between these apps that make them so useful is that it makes tracking really easily.
If you go to a restaurant you can type in Chili’s Cheeseburger. It will have that in there. You can just add it to your day. If you go to the grocery store and buy something, take it home and eat it, you can scan the barcode and it will have that information in there. It will pull it up. You can add it to your day. These things make it very easy. My Macros+ also has these features. What’s most important is that you track it. Don’t get stressed in being exact because what can happen is you go look something up, like “Oh, I had grilled chicken,” and you realize there’s 30 different entries for grilled chicken. Just pick one. Pick one that you like that makes the most sense and use it every week. It’s more about being consistent. Don’t get stressed in which one is exactly right, which one is perfect, that can come down the road if you’re really concerned about that.
The most important thing is just getting started. Just start plugging things in. Just start plugging foods in and looking at that information. Once you have done that for an entire week, then we can move on to step two. Again, step one is simply track what you eat for a week and I don’t care how you do it. I don’t care if you write it down on paper. I don’t care if you enter it into an Excel spreadsheet. I don’t care if you put it on Notes in your phone. Maybe you put it all into the app at the end of the day.
Maybe you put it into the app as you go. Once thing I have found is that although it seems overwhelming, once you get used to putting food in your app or entering it into a website, it becomes second nature as it only takes a moment because we are creatures of habit and we tend to eat the same foods over and over.
After a week or so, you’ve pretty much entered everything you’re going to eat except for things that if you go out to eat and you don’t have on a regular basis but then you’re only adding say one or two items a week to your food list so it builds over time. What really makes it nice is if you eat the same things over and over, these apps recognize that and you have a list of recent foods or frequent foods to choose from to add to your daily list so you’re not constantly searching for things. It builds a personal food library for you.
That’s a little more advanced. That’s not something I’m worried about. If you’re serious about improving your situation with your diet for one week, have an honest assessment. Write everything down, enter it into a food website, enter it into an app. Apps, for those of us that are good with the phone are much easier. Websites can be cumbersome on your phone but if you’re on a computer on the day or prefer to be on a computer with a big screen then websites work just as well.
Step 2: Change Macronutrient Ratios
All right, so we’ve had a full week of tracking our diet and we have some data to look at. With step two, we’re simply going to change your macronutrient ratios for better body composition. This doesn’t mean we’re going to cut a bunch of calories out. This doesn’t mean we’re going to make wholesale changes to your life. I don’t want these three things that you have to do to feel stressful at all. It should not feel stressful. It should feel like a fun little experiment.
Let’s say you plugged in all your numbers. We’re going to look at these calories. Let’s say we’re taking in 2000 calories but the bulk of those calories are coming in the form of carbs and fats. What we want to start to do is shift our macronutrient ratios. Before we worry about reducing any of your calories what we can usually do is adjust your macronutrient ratios and immediately see changes in diet habit, satiety, energy, and your ability to not overeat. What we want to do is take the calories that you’re taking in and look at the totals and what I would like you to do is get an estimate of your lean body mass.
You can go on the internet, type in your height, weight, just look up a mean body mass calculator and we’re going to set our protein to be at 1 gram per pound of lean body mass. If you have 150 pounds of lean body mass and eat 1 gram per pound for protein, you will have 150 grams of protein per day while you used to be having 16. That 150 grams of protein is going to be roughly 600 calories. Now, if you have a 2000 calorie diet left, you’re going to have 1400 calories remaining for your day after the protein.
What I’d like you to do next is take your fats. Your fats should be for this purpose roughly 25% of your daily calorie intake. That’s going to be 55 grams for a 2000 calorie diet. Now we have 150 grams of protein, we have 55 grams of fat, the remaining calories for that day, which is roughly 900 calories is going to come from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates get a bad rap but they’re very useful, especially if you’re active. What we want to do there is fill the rest of those caloric needs with those carbohydrates at 225 grams roughly. You’re diet on a 2000 calorie diet would look something like this, 150 protein, 55 fat, 225 grams of carbs.
Now, does that mean if you are off, you’re bad? No, you don’t have to be exact. I don’t even care if you’re over or under. All that I care about is that you’re now aware. You’ve taken what you were doing and you’re starting to shift your habits. The next time you go to eat and you look at your daily intake and you’re kind of aware, you’re going to think, “Well, this meal needs to be a little higher on protein. Well last meal was a little higher on fats so I’m going to have a little bit less fats with this meal. I haven’t had enough carbohydrates today but my fats are pretty high so where am I going to get my carbohydrates from while avoiding fat?”
These are the kind of questions that a flexible dieter begins to understand and starts to look at food differently and realize there’s no bad foods. They don’t exist. There are only foods that don’t fit your goals for that day, for that week, for that month, for that year. That’s what I want to do. I want to give you three easy steps to learn how to diet in a manner that fits your lifestyle.
We’ve done two steps. Track for a week, adjusted our macronutrients, and this doesn’t have to be in asingle day. This can be over the course of a week, two weeks, three weeks, you just start to shift your focus on your daily eating habits and understand that you want to actually hit some macronutrient goals.
Step 3: Planning Ahead
So now you roughly know what your calorie intake is per day, you know what your macronutrient goals are that you want to hit, and you’re going to have some trouble. It’s going to be tough to continue doing things the way that you’ve been doing them and have success in hitting your macronutrient goals. Even your daily calories with consistency.
Step three is actually planning ahead. Now you understand a little bit about what you eat on a daily basis, what your body consumes, what you need, what you’ve adapted to and now you understand what you should be doing more ideally for macronutrient ratios to put you in a place where you can have more lean body mass, feel better, fuller, more energy, actually start to improve and set some goals for yourself. The next and final step for this process is to just plan ahead.
You see when you start looking at what you’re eating on a daily basis and when you’re eating out, what you’ll find is you’ll have a shift of perspective. “Okay, well why am I going over my fats by 50 or 60 grams for the day?” Then you’ll do a food recall. You’ll look at it and you’ll realize, “Oh, when I went out today I had a hamburger for lunch. Next time I go out maybe I’ll get the chicken sandwich. Less fat.” Maybe you get a hamburger but it’s lean ground beef instead of full ground beef. There are things you can start to do to change things. When you eat your breakfast in the morning, when you have whole eggs maybe instead of all whole eggs you have a couple egg whites instead. Instead of full fat cheese you have low fat cheese in your omelet. Instead of syrup on your pancakes you might just have low sugar syrup on your pancakes. This way you save carbohydrates for the day.
You see, there’s lots of little tricks like this. The great thing about dieting and understanding is that when you go to the grocery store you start to realize there are replacement foods for anything that you like to eat. You don’t have to completely change your lifestyle to a bland diet with broccoli, tilapia and chicken
every single meal. No, you can still eat your chocolates, your pizzas, your treats, things you enjoy. But there’s a way to work smart, you might have to make your own pizza with low-fat cheese, with carb friendly pizza sauce, with low carb pizza crust. These things exist.
I know that a lot of people are immediately going to say, “Well, they taste terrible.” Well I can confirm that taste buds are adaptable. The first time that you realize that you’re getting 200 grams of sugar a day from soda . The first time that you actually switch to a diet soda, it’s going to taste terrible. I don’t drink soda that has calories. I drink all diet sodas if I have a soda at all. What does that do? It now tastes normal to me. If I pick up a regular Coca Cola, it tastes disgusting. I can even tell if I get it at a restaurant instead of my diet soda. Taste buds are adaptable.
Yes. Some things are going to taste better no matter what you do. Diet foods aren’t always going to taste as good as the real thing and there is certainly a place for the real thing in your lives. I’m not suggesting that you never eat that again. All I’m saying is by planning ahead, you can start to have things in your life that you like, keep your traditions. If you like to have ice cream every night while you watch your TV show. Well, when you’re dieting it might not be real ice cream anymore. It might be a small ice cream sandwich with lesser calories or when things get really rough it might just be a Yasso bar. There’s options out there and whatever makes sense for you is what you should do.
For now, start with these three easy steps. Track your diet for a week, look at your macronutrient ratios, start to adjust them, and then start planning ahead.
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