One of the toughest things for our clients to handle when beginning something like a new fitness program is switching around their nutrition. If you've been eating a certain way for years and all of sudden try to switch ALL of your food over to chicken breast, broccoli, spinach, and quinoa, chances are you aren't going to be successful.
Now, this isn't the case for everyone but honestly, some of the clients that we have seen come through take this "All or nothing" approach have failed more times than we count. So, rather than trying to strictly follow a meal plan to the T, it might be easier to approach your nutrition in stages versus going from Level 1 to Level 5 right away (level 5 being totally clean, nutritious eating and 1 being the typical Standard American Diet).
So what would something like this look like when we put it into action?
Let's say your daily meals look something like this (this is starting right out of the gate resulting in low energy, lots of processed carbs and meats, fast food, etc).
Breakfast: Coffee, cream, sugar
Lunch: McDonald's Big Mac, Diet Coke, Fries
Dinner: Frozen Pizza
Late Night Snack: Beer
Honestly, that's what my meal plan looked like before I got started doing this and it resulted in my gaining over 30 lbs after college. Those $1 McD's Chicken wraps catch up to you (because they are only a $1 and frankly aren't that filling... so you end up having 3... ish ;)
So, approaching this in stages we'd start off looking where we can take out some processed meals and adding in some more lean protein, and maybe just changing one meal the 1st week. So since breakfast kind of sets the tone for the day, let's make it easy and teach our client how to make some easy scrambled eggs made from 2 eggs, a few eggs whites, a slice of whole wheat toast, some turkey bacon, and coffee without cream or sugar.
And then we can let him continue on with the rest of his day and then he can see how one simple can start leading to other changes.
The following week we'll continue on with making a change to lunch. This time we'll let our client simply try a salad from McDonald's 3 times per week and then the other two days he's allowed to have a burger, but instead of a Big Mac, he'll only allow himself to order the Cheeseburger, the fries, and the Diet Coke. What will that do, you ask? Check out the Nutrition Facts here and you'll see while the Big Mac has a whopping 530 Calories, the Cheeseburger has 290 calories. That's saving him 240 Calories those 2 days and he's still getting his burger so he isn't going crazy!
The third week we'll start making the change to dinners. Instead of a frozen pizza we'll simply take some whole wheat english muffins, spread some tomato sauce on there, add some fresh broccoli and cooked chicken breast, top with some shredded mozzarella or parmesan cheese, bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, and voila, some fresh pizza! Plus the family will love them as well!
What about cheat meals
Ok, so what about that nightly beer, Bryan?
Good question! So do you need to go without it all the time? Well, no not necessarily. I'd cut back at first to 4 times per week (especially if you used to having it everyday), then 3 times, and then keep it twice per week.
I'd also select something that is lighter in calories but still tastes great. And frankly, I love the craft brews so I have a hard time going back to the typical "light" beer so I enjoy the good stuff but just have less of it. A lot of the times it's made with more pure ingredients versus the stuff from the larger companies anyways ;)
So to recap...
We took what we were already doing and following a four week plan we:
1. Made a healthier change just to breakfast for the first week.
2. Week 2 we added in some healthier options for lunch the second week (so now half of our meals are more on track).
3. Week 3 we made some healthy changes to dinner, again, not changing anything drastically just finding healthier versions of what we were already accustomed to eating.
4. Week 4 we started finally cutting back on some of the negative habits we've had, such as the late night snacking or limiting some of the drinks that we have in the evenings.
reasons to try this versus going cold turkey
So many people try making drastic changes in their diets and fail miserably by the end of the first week because it's just too much to take on at once. Start with making just some simple upgrades week by week and you'll be much more consistent.
What some one-on-one help with ideas for making simple upgrades to your meals? Post your typical day's meals (or even just one meal) as a comment below and I'll help you out with some upgrades you can make to start seeing some differences right away!