How to Lose Weight Eating Normal Foods!
Hey, Paul here.
So the other day I get an email for a long time reader and one point she says…
“The thing I most need help with is menu planning. I just really would like someone to tell me what to eat and when to eat it. I know that is silly, it isn’t that hard to pull out a spreadsheet or use a tracker. But, I really hate that and just want three days of healthy inexpensive food that won’t make people at work look at me weird when I pull out my lunch.”
So I thought… healthy normal foods?
So I contacted my good friend Sumi Singh from ShailaFitness and asked her if she could put together a simple 3-day meal plan with healthy, inexpensive, NORMAL food to help her out.
Sumi graciously agreed to help out.
BTW, Sumi is a genius with this stuff – she does diet counselling, meal planning all that stuff for a very reasonable fee, and if you want a custom meal plan and be treated very well in the meantime, please visit her web site at ShailaFitness.com and connect with her.
I’m handing the mic over to her now. Here’s Sumi…
First of all, congratulations on deciding to take control of your health!
Getting Started: Pick a Goal & a Date
The first thing you’ll want to do is set a goal (weight, size, circumference measurement, etc).
Once you’ve decided what your weight goal is, pick a date to achieve it. The more weight you have to lose, the longer you’ll need to achieve it and diligently stick to a nutrition program.
If you half-ass your effort, it will show.
I’ve heard it generally takes at least 3 weeks of repeated effort for something to sink in as a habit. So if after the first 3 weeks you find yourself saying, “hey this isn’t so bad!” you’ve very likely replaced an old behavior with a healthier one.
Aim for 80-85 Success
Stick with the meal formats at least 80-85% of the time.
As Alan Aragon and Lou Schuler puts it SO well in the book, Lean Muscle Diet, aim for the 80/20 rule for meals and meal planning.
Never heard of it?
“Eat 80 percent of your diet in whole and minimally processed foods that you like. “Whole” foods are ones that look like what they started out as: meat, fish, eggs, milk, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and beans. The exception: Protein powders are highly processed, but they’re still a great way to consume the protein you need to make the plan work.
Eat 10 percent in whole and minimally processed foods that you don’t necessarily like but don’t hate (say, Swiss chard and lamb). This is intended to expand the range of nutrients you’re eating.
Maybe you’ll even learn to like a food, which means you’re less likely to suffer from diet burnout.
Eat 10 percent in whatever the hell you want.
Consider this your reward for faithfully embracing the two previous categories. Use this bonus however you’d like: Have a small indulgence every day, or save up for a bigger weekend junkfest. Even if it includes Cheesy Gordita Crunches.”
Most people do well following this structure as best as possible, “breaking form” for a few meals during the week. In this way (by sticking to your nutrition program), you’ll know if it’s working or not. Are you seeing a consistent change in your body (mirror or clothes, scale, calipers, etc) week by week as you follow the program? If you’re sticking to the program and seeing results, you’ll know it’s working.
The problem of NOT following a nutrition program as “strictly” as possible (closer to 80-85%) initially, is that you’ll never know what a potential offender is. Consider:
Does including wine in your meal cause you to make poor nutritional choices for that meal?
Does beginning your meal with a greasy appetizer cause you to abandon portion control when you’re snacking on chips?
I’m NOT saying chips or wine are “bad” or “good” in a diet. I’m just saying, eliminate “XYZ” for now, and gradually reintroduce some of the other items in a sensible manner.
OK, onto a basic meal plan…
You might want to familiarize yourself with programs like myfitnesspal.com or eaththismuch.com if you want to make equal caloric substitutions for the items mentioned. Food preferences, likes, dislikes, allergy histories should be considered, and this is where the services of an online coach (like yours truly) can help if you need something specific to you.
6 Ground Rules for Success
1. Replace soda, juice, or your daily caramel macchiato with water. It’s a simple way to cut calories without really noticing a difference. Instead of the juice, have the fruit, instead of the designer coffee, drink coffee with a splash of milk or plain, and avoid excess sugar.
2. Cook your own food, using cooking methods that are simple and don’t require much oil. Baking, grilling, steaming, slow cooking, roasting in the oven, using a non-stick pan or use Pam sparingly, an olive oil spritzer (sparingly as well), or a similar product. And don’t forget, lots of things can be eaten raw (vegetables and fruits), which brings me to….
3. Eat more fruits and vegetables, especially the latter. Vegetables and salads pair well with cooked meals, and are high in fiber, which fills up your tummy.
4. When shopping, leave the kids behind if you can, stick to the list, shop the perimeters of the store where the fresh produce is, and never shop hungry. Read the labels, and use common sense. If sugar, high fructose corn syrup, enriched wheat flour, and other typical offenders are at the top of the list, leave it.
5. Since we’re talking about action in the kitchen, start to weigh your foods (cooked proteins) and measure starchy carbs and fats. It sounds like the biggest pain in the rear, but the more practice you have the better you understand proper portion sizes. If you think you’re dieting, and you’re not losing weight, you’re eating too much. Portion control will fix that.
6. Prep food in advance, cook in bulk when you can, and schedule at least 2 hours twice a week to meal plan. You can cook up a batch of baked chicken breasts, or fix a lean pork loin on the grill, or make and set aside lean beef patties or cook enough lean ground beef so you can split it and use the rest with for pasta sauce or homemade tacos. And just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean it has to taste boring. There are a wealth of dry rubs, herbs, spices, vinegars (and lemons and limes) that make cooking and eating enjoyable and flavorful.
Stay away from fatty, creamy, prepared sauces.
Booo… Standardized Meal Plans
I’m not a humongous fan of standardized meal plans.
There’s no way to know if it’s enough food for someone, or if it’s too much.
That’s why apps myfitnesspal.com, eatthismuch.com, or even the FitBit, if you have one, can help you determine your average recommended caloric intake based on your activity.
But at best, these are estimates.
A larger sedentary female may burn fewer calories over the course of the day then a smaller, extremely active female. And a small, sedentary female might burn very few calories.
These plans assume your job is not one that is very physical in nature, that you are a sedentary adult following a fairly beginner exercise routine. Be sensible. If you feel like you’re starving and find yourself gnawing on your elbow, eat more.
Breakfast Meal 1 (Use Portion Control)
Any whole grain cereal marked at 150 cals/serving or ½ Cup dry measured oatmeal, with
½ to 1 cup fat-free milk, almond milk, soy milk, etc.
A hard boiled egg (makes meal prep easy)
1 cup fruit (any that you enjoy)
Morning Snack /Meal 2
1 piece of whole fruit (apple, pear, orange, peach, etc)
1 cup Non-fat plain Greek Yogurt or Regular Non Fat Yogurt . I like Dannon Light and Fit and Chobani) OR 1 scoop of Whey Protein Mixed with water
A small amount of nuts (like a shot glass full)
1 piece of whole fruit if you need/want it
3 oz any cooked lean protein (grilled, steamed, roasted, slow cooked), vegetarians could do a Morningstar Veggie Patty. I like Rotisserie chicken; super easy just make sure you practice portion control.
¾ cup cooked rice or any starchy carb you like (quinoa, corn, beans, etc, portion size matters!)
½ cup or more of any veggie (grilled, steamed, roasted, etc). I like Steamables! Pop it in the microwave and done!
Dinner /Meal 4
1 small sweet or regular potato or any 1 small tortilla (I like Flat Out, Tortilla Factory, but there are many such High Fiber wraps!) or 1/2 Cup cooked rice
4 oz any lean protein (grilled, steamed, roasted, slow cooked)
½ cup or more of any veggie (grilled, steamed, roasted, etc)
Tip: include a small sweet treat, something like a ½ C of ice cream or a little bit of chocolate, if you need it.
The Wrap Up
And there you have it, a super-easy, basic meal template that you can easily prep and shop for. You’ll just need some fruit, your favorite breakfast cereal, your favorite grains, lots of veggies or leafy greens, a convenient protein source (greek yogurt or whey protein), steamables, proteins you can easily cook (chicken, eggs, etc), nuts, and the dairy or grains that you love to eat.
Do the prep (measuring) at home, so you don’t look like a neurotic weirdo in front of your coworkers.
If you need more specifics, I offer nutrition coaching at the services section over at www.shailafitness.com.
I try to work with my clients to include all the foods they love, or that are part of their culture, so that they can still eat the foods they love, lose the fat, and have a life. Feel free to connect with me at any time, I’d be happy to hear from you.