It’s that time of year again where you have likely made a New Year’s Resolution to lose or gain weight, improve your performance, to look good in your swimsuit this summer, or maybe it’s just to be a healthier version of you! Whatever your goal may be, you are going to need a well thought out plan to get you there!
One of the biggest struggles is honestly just getting started. There is so much information on “diets” it can be confusing! What can I eat or not eat? When do I eat? When do I exercise? Do I eat before or after I exercise? And then combine all of these questions with our busy lives and it can be overwhelming. If you are like me, my anxiety is out of control just typing these questions! The first step in starting a new nutrition routine is to understand it is a lifestyle and you are making these changes for the long haul. Think of this nutrition plan as a marathon and not a sprint. You can’t change years of certain eating habits in one week – and if you think you can, well you probably won’t make it past that week. What is the saying, “One Cheese burger won’t make you fat just like one salad won’t make you healthy”? Here are some tips to help you start off strong and stick to your plan!
Plan & Be Intentional
Behavior changes can be difficult, you are going to need a solid plan in place. Don’t rush your planning or make it a stressful thing. Allow a few days to sit down and really think about it. At Foundation Fitness we focus on social, mental, physical health together. You don’t want to neglect any of these when you create your nutrition plan. If you enjoy date night, Saturday golf and beer with the guys or Sunday brunch and mimosas with the girls make sure you include these special dates in your nutrition plan. Think ahead of special moments coming up that you want to allow yourself to enjoy to be social and to keep you mentally sane! Also think about what types of foods you like and make a grocery list ahead of time catered to your preferences and your healthy options. Also, think about any time constraints with meal prepping. Have you set aside a dedicated time to do this? Try to include a few “grab and go” items such as protein bars or shakes for when you don’t have the time. Be prepared.
A Little Less Talk, and a Lot More Action
Take that plan and put it into action. On our Foundation Fitness website you will find a nutrition blueprint. It has 3 basic categories: weight loss, weight maintenance and weight gain. Weight loss is obviously going to be some type of calorie deficit while weight gain will be a surplus, and maintenance (well you guessed it) is maintaining the calorie balance. You will want to choose your goal and calculate your calories and macronutrients to achieve this based on your current weight. The biggest piece of advice I will give when creating a nutrition plan and calorie goal is that less is not more. Don’t think a larger restriction will get you faster results – while this may happen at first, your performance and energy will likely decline along with your metabolism. This is actually the opposite of what we want to happen so please be kind to yourself and select a reasonable calorie goal. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends gradual weight loss of 0.5 - 1 pound per week to minimize muscle loss with fat loss. If one pound of body weight is 3500 calories and you follow the guidelines conservatively with a goal of 0.5 pound loss per week that is only 250 calories less per day than you are currently consuming. The deficit, maintenance or surplus needed with be different for everyone. Finding the right balance can be trial and error so be patient with yourself and reach out to a Registered Dietitian if you aren’t quite sure where to begin.
Break it Down
So, you have a calorie goal picked out, your macros calculated and a grocery list, now what? Break down your big goal into smaller steps to make it more achievable. Any lifestyle change, including nutrition, starts with changing that behavior. Start with one or two small steps that you feel you can achieve easily and add these to your nutrition plan.
For example: You are super busy in the morning getting the kids off to school, you travel for work and almost all of your lunches are fast food or restaurant foods. How do you make this fit your macros? Look at online menus for places that have healthier options and plan what you will have or prep meals ahead of time so you can grab them on your way out the door.
Let's say you enjoy a few drinks to wind down at the end of the night. Could you decrease the amount per day or maybe set a goal to only have a drink 2 days/week instead of 5 days?
This works best if you choose one or two to focus on for a while, once you feel you have adopted these behaviors into your new lifestyle you can set a new goal.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Step on the scale, take some measurements or some “before” pictures. Tell a friend or family member your goal so you are committed. If social media is your thing, keep progress pictures or posts to update those who may be going through the same thing. Foundation Fitness is a great place to connect with others who may be following a similar nutrition/training plan to keep you motivated.
One thing I will HIGHLY recommend is logging your daily intake. You can use apps like My Fitness Pal, Calorie King, or Cronometer for free. The Renaissance Periodization app is great but not free. You can also just write it down, bring it to Foundation Fitness and check in with an actual RD or Lifestyle Expert.
Since weight gain, loss or maintenance is math, it’s pretty important to be accurate for optimal results. You can only do this if you have a good idea of the calories you are actually consuming. A study from Nutrition Research Reviews found that the prevalence of underreporting caloric intake ranges from 18-54% and can be as high as 70%. This is one of the fundamental obstacles preventing collection of actual dietary intake. This is why tracking in an app or keeping a written log can help hold you accountable and can help give you a more accurate reference point when trying to find your deficit/surplus or maintenance needs.
Remember Your Why
There will be days when you are not motivated. There will be days when the initial progress starts to slow. Weeks may go by and you have only lost 1lb or you haven’t set a new personal best on your squat in months. This is when it’s difficult to stay motived. This is when you must rely on your discipline and the lifestyle you have created to get you through. I promise, because I have been there myself, if you continue your lifestyle and you continue to hit those macros MOST days, you will eventually lose that extra pound and you will eventually get that personal best. So, remember why you wanted to set this nutrition plan in motion and remember that good things take time. Think about WHY you wanted to change your behavior and adopt a new nutritional lifestyle – to BE BETTER!
Written by: Clara Morrell MS RDN LDN