What does healthy mean to you?
A web search will pull up many different results but for the sake of discussion (and because this is a fitness site), let’s define “healthy” as something that is beneficial to your body in the nutrition or fitness aspect.
Getting healthy doesn’t just mean achieving and maintaining a proper weight. It’s so much more than that.
For example, cardio strengthens your heart. Strength training prevents early onset of osteoporosis. Eating the rainbow of fruits and veggies provides the wide variety of nutrients that your body needs. Including more fish in your meals provides Omega-3s which are good for your heart, skin and nails.
Getting healthy isn’t just about weight, though maintaining a healthy weight can prevent a multitude of diseases. Healthy is a mindset. It doesn’t mean forgoing dessert for the rest of your life, it means indulging when appropriate and not to excess.
Healthy means taking care of your body. So let’s take a look at the main three things that it takes to get healthy.
What if I told you that getting fit is a mental battle? Seriously.
Most people are told to get healthy and they drag their feet, just knowing that their life will suck from here on out. Or the opposite happens, and they make a commitment to work out 2 times a day, 6 days a week while on a juice fast. Both are the wrong approach.
Getting healthy is a process. It’s a choice that you make everyday, that builds on itself over time. It doesn’t stop when you reach the point where you aren’t out of shape anymore. Getting healthy is a long term lifestyle change.
All scariness aside, it’s manageable. You don’t have to change everything at once, but you can start breaking your bad habits and replacing them with good ones that will last. You don’t need to stick to your diet 100%, but know that every deviation will detract from your results. Healthy doesn’t have to be all or nothing, you can incorporate it without sacrificing your quality of life.
Start by only eating at the table. Snacking while watching TV promotes mindless munching, so the next time you’re hungry at night, make your food and eat it at the table with plenty of water. I’m sure that you can identify your unhealthy habits (like getting snacks from the vending machines during work) so start replacing them with healthy habits one at a time.
What you eat is the single most important factor in regards to how you look. It’s simple math that determines if you gain or lose weight. No matter how much you exercise, you cannot lose weight if you aren’t eating the appropriate number of calories.
This isn’t to say that the quality of your food doesn’t count. Trust me, it does. Although you could lose weight by only eating cake, you would feel like crap and your body wouldn’t be getting all the nutrients it needs.
Focus on eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Eat REAL food, not processed snacks or frozen meals. Don’t go out and buy a bunch of “diet food” because that won’t help you either.
Cook good meals that are full of cruciferous and starchy vegetables (there’s plenty of recipes on this site!) There’s lots of ways to cook without adding unnecessary calories. Try steaming, baking, broiling, roasting, grilling, and frying without adding oil to your proteins and vegetables.
You know what junk food is. Put it down.
Choose whole grains like quinoa and beans instead of processed white bread and sugars. Pick healthy fats like avocados, almond butter, coconut oil, flax or olive oil.
If you want to lose weight, you need to log your food. Many of you might think that it doesn’t apply to you, but it does.
Tracking your food is one of the most important steps to accomplish your body goals.
Most people who are trying to lose weight consistently overestimate how much food is on their plate and forget about all the snacks or bites here and there. Tracking keeps you accountable and motivated. It’s quantifiable and removes any guessing from the equation.
If you have a significant amount of weight to lose, it’s going to take a while. Don’t feel pressured to lose it all right away. Any success stories you see on TV regarding quick weight lose are usually false claims. Keep it slow and steady, be consistent and the weight will come off.
Calorie Intake and Logging your Food
1. I recommend that you set up an account on MyFitnessPal. It’s the easiest app to use that I’ve found so far and is available on the iPhone, Android and Windows phone devices.
2. Next, you need to visit IIFYM Calculator. This tool will calculate the calories you need for fat loss or muscle gain and attributes an amount of protein that ensures you preserve muscle mass while eating in a calorie deficit. I firmly believe that eating a diet with 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is the best tool for weight loss because it’s filling, satisfying and studies have shown that it preserves muscle mass while eating fewer calories than you burn.
3. Enter your weight, height, and age. Click calculate TDEE and then select “Suggested 15%” under the Fat Loss category. Safety and sanity are incredibly important when dieting, which is why taking a conservative approach is best. Try this for at least 10 days and if you have no issues with hunger, then you can bump it up to 20%.
Use the default values from the tool to determine the amount of carbs, protein, fat and calories you need. Meeting these macronutrients is important and next we’ll input these values in to MyFitnessPal so that you can be accountable to them.
4. On the homepage of MyFitnessPal (you have to do it on their website, not through the app), click “Goals.” Scroll down to the bottom and click “Change Goals.” Select “Custom.” From there, enter the new number of calories that IIFYM Calculator recommended. Then play with the percentages to get close to the recommended grams of macronutrients. Since they are in 5% increments it will be hard to get it exact, but get as close as possible.
Ignore the rest of the fields. You only need to focus on grams of protein, carbs and fat. Click “Change Goals” at the bottom to save.
Voila! The easy part is now done! The hard part is living it in day to day life.
Every day you need to hit your macros. Coming up short and under calories isn’t a positive thing either. This formula estimates how much food you need and undercutting your body isn’t going to help you lose weight. In fact, I’d rather you go slightly over (less than 100 cal) and meet all of your macros than come up short.
I find that most of my clients eat too many carbs and not enough protein. It can be hard to get in enough protein, especially if you aren’t used to it. Try adding in eggs for breakfast and weighing the amount of protein you eat at lunch and dinner. Shoot for 3-4 ounces of chicken, lean beef, fish etc.
Fiber is important because it slows digestion, moves bulk through your intestines and increases satiety. Have you ever eaten a big salad with lots of fresh vegetables, beans and meat? It’s really filling! And it keeps you full for quite a while.
I typically end up going over my allotted fiber from the IIFYM calculator, which is totally fine. If you are eating the recommended amounts of protein and fats then you won’t face any issues.
Drinking a lot of water is really important when you are consistently working out or trying to lose weight. Not only does it help keep you full and move all that fiber along, but it will improve your skin!
When you calculated your calories above, what was your activity level? Most people live sedentary lives. We work on a computer then come home to watch TV on the couch. Exercise requires effort and it’s not always easy.
Fortunately for you, I take care of creating the workouts, all you need to do is get up and do it a few times a week.
Women especially are guilty of heading straight for the cardio machines at the gym. The next time you’re there, take a look at the percentage of women to men on the ellipticals, treadmills, stairclimbers etc. Let me tell you a secret.
Cardio doesn’t change your body
Though cardio is great exercise for your heart and burns a lot of calories, it doesn’t change the shape of your body. It can make you a smaller version of yourself, but that means you end up smaller with the same percentage of body fat.
I’m not saying cardio is bad. I am saying that cardio is not the only solution to losing weight.
In fact, you can lose weight without hopping on any of those cardio machines.
I prescribe my personal training clients two days a week of cardio, whether it be sprints, a steady state walk or jog or plyometrics.
If you want to change your body, say get rid of the flab on the back of your arms or have more definition in your abs, then you have to do strength training. By building muscle, you displace fat and lessen the jiggle. There’s a lot of other benefits too, like being able to get that big bag of dog food out of the car without hurting yourself.
Building muscle gives you more energy and helps you to feel strong throughout the day.
There’s a lot of ways you can build muscle without the gym. Bodyweight exercises are the perfect way to start before progressing to the weight room. You can even jerry-rig some homemade weights like filling a milk jug full of water or putting books in a backpack.
Personally, I weight train 4-5 days a week, though three days are all you need to build and maintain muscle.
If you’ve never exercised before, start slow. Try this SIMPLE BEGINNERS workout a few times first to acclimate your body to exercise. Form is important for preventing injuries or muscle strains so pay careful to attention to any movement descriptions. Start going for easy walks or jogs around the block.
If you aren’t new to exercise, I encourage you to push yourself. Your body doesn’t change unless it’s forced to, so work hard, let those muscles burn and get out of breath. You can read more about why you need to push yourself in this article.
What it all boils down to…
You should be getting healthy for you and for your family. You’re only given one body, so take care of it! Start exercising, throw out the junk food and let people know what you’re trying to accomplish. Chances are they might join you and cheer you on.
It’s a journey, not a destination. That means you need to have patience and get consistent with your nutrition and fitness efforts.