The ideal for ANY fitness and health goal is to eat as little processed food as possible, or aim for minimally processed. I’ve had a larger challenge than usual in this in recent times: I am currently (but temporarily) working a seven day week. My hours on the weekends are LONG. I have had to fit my workouts where and when I can, but of course I don’t have much time (or any time) for cooking.
So what’s a health nut to do?
Time is the biggest lament, and I’m glad that I’ve had the chance to “test run” this scenario, as I often get a LOT of clients who have careers, kids, often multiple jobs, and very little time to do much of anything. Convenience foods, take out, ordering in…and bad habits and food choices can happen.
Here are my tips for how to cope with making smart choices:
- For frozen meals, look for entries that have a reasonable amount of sodium. I would aim for 600 mg or less. I only pay attention to sodium, total fat, and total calories. I pretty much ignore the rest. The best options I’ve found are from Amy’s in both low sodium and Light & Lean.
- For pre-prepared foods, I highly recommend Ezekiel 4:9 bread, Engine 2 brand foods (sold exclusively at Whole Foods), and bagged salads/lettuce mixes. Engine 2 has no added oils or any sort of crap; their hummus and veggie burgers are my staple.
- Bento boxes! Toss in the bagged salad mixes, cook your veggie burgers and take them to work with some hummus, etc.
- Meal bars are fab, but you HAVE to watch the sugar content on those. They can be brutal. My favs are Vega One, Luna, and Cliff Builder bars. NuGo is also organic and very good.
- Smoothies are king. They have been my breakfast food for YEARS because they are fast, healthy, and nutritionally dense. I highly recommend giving Shakeology a try as it is nutritionally dense, all natural, no added sugars beyond what comes from the fruit, and is the best bang for your nutritional buck. It beats the crap out of Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or McD’s ANY day and cost about as much if not less. Toss in your favorite form of milk and/or fruit and you’re good to go. While my blender is going, I toss in what I need for my lunch into my bento boxes, which go into my lunch bag.
If you want to give some Shakeology samples a try, contact me! I sell them for $5 a piece plus s/h.
I once did a blog post on plateaus and how to break them. Today I’m going to expand upon that and give more tips:
- Move more! Find ways to squeeze in an extra 5-15 minutes throughout your day versus one long, crazy workout. You’ll be less likely to overtrain and get injuries this way, too. More tips on increasing physical activity here.
- Log EVERYTHING. Use sites like MyFitnessPal.com and cronometer.com to track food intake. Make sure you’re getting enough nutrition.
- Consider getting a device such as a Bodymedia or FitBit to track calorie burn. You may be under or overestimating calorie burn, which can affect your performance and how valuable your diet is.
- Change up your routine! Avoid steady state cardio and try new ways of burning calories.
- Pump that iron! Try heavier weights or mix it up.
If your problem is motivation, consider getting an exercise buddy, join a fitness club, or consider one of them many online communities. I’m also available to you as a coach to help you with your fitness goals.
On the go, on vacation, or otherwise am forced into eating out? People reference this as a super clean-eating killer. Here are my tips to minimize the damage that dining out can do to your fitness goals:
- Pick food that’s been steamed or grilled versus fried or sauteed.
- Research your restaurant! Some places offer more healthy options than others.
- Don’t be afraid to create your own entree! And tip well.
- Watch those salads! Dressings which are creamy and for those of you who are not vegan, cheese and other forms of animal protein can sneak on a lot of unnecessary fat and calories in the form of marinades and other hidden additives. Some salads at fast food places have as many calories and fat as a Double Whopper and with not much in the way of nutritional value to offset that. Also, ask to have the dressing on the side.
- My advice for soups is similar to salads: avoid bisques, anything creamy. Also be cautious on added sodium.
- Double up on vegetables! They’ll fill you up faster.
- When in doubt, see if the menu has something that’s indicated as “lighter fare”.
- Avoid the bread basket!
- Eat slowly! Frequently restaurants will give you too much food. If you have some leftover, it’ll be yet another delicious meal.
- One trick I use not to eat too much is to eat food that’s not too bland. If there’s a lot of flavor I feel like I’ve eaten more and I don’t eat it as quickly. If you don’t have much of a spice tolerance, this trick won’t be good for you however.
- Drink plenty of water, and avoid soda, juices, and alcohol. Tea and coffee (without milk and sugar) is fine.
Feel free to share your own tips in the comments!
People first starting a fitness journey tend to look at their end goal and get overwhelmed. It seems like a lot to accomplish! This is where people can screw up; often times people will overdo it in their impatience and wind up either burning out, overtraining, getting an injury, or getting sick. Or they think that they’re not accomplishing anything and quit way too soon. That’s NOT the appropriate way to join Team Happy and Healthy, folks. Here are my suggestions on starting out:
- Make substitutions. Do you normally eat fast food or pizza for lunch? Swap out fries for a garden salad, soda for seltzer or plain water.
- Start increasing your physical activity. Park further away from your job, consider walking, biking, or taking public transportation, take the stairs as opposed to the elevator or escalator, etc.
- Keep motivated! Read books, magazines, and blogs which inspire you and make you feel better about obtaining new, healthier habits. Watch movies, YouTube videos of motivational speakers. Listen to audio. Keep pictures around your desk, on your computer, or on your cell phone which make you smile and keep you focused on your goals.
- Stay positive. Tune out absolutely everything which causes you to doubt or feel bad about yourself. Mental health is every bit as important as physical health, and each contributes to the other. Torturing your mind and/or body will not bring you success.
- Be patient! “Rome was not built in a day, and neither was your body.” -Tony Horton You are not in this for a quick fix, a “diet”, or what-have-you. There are no magic pills to pop. You are in this to build good habits to carry you through the rest of your life, and by doing this you will improve your quality of living in ways you may not even realize yet.
- Celebrate small victories. In Team Happy and Healthy, there are no small victories. Can you do one more pushup on your knees than you could a week ago? Celebrate! Are you taking the time to get some extra walking in? Celebrate! Did you turn down that lunchtime cookie for a salad instead? Celebrate!
I’ve often found that it’s easy to stay healthy and happy if you have a routine and you stick with it. But what happens when life changes, injury, or illness get you out of your routine?
Everyone goes through it: something happens, and it sets you back. Sometimes your clean eating habits are affected. Your workout schedule is impacted. Suddenly you’re not on top of your game anymore. What do you do?
- First of all…do not beat yourself up over it. If you are unable to continue working out for any reason, continue to watch your eating habits and make sure that you’re not tempted to slide further backward with bad eating choices.
- Secondly…take time out for yourself in a way that’s positive and productive. Find something you CAN do in the meantime to stay motivated in a way that’s positive and healthy. Read good books which inspire you, meditate, whatever. If you have the capacity to do ANY physical activity, do something like gentle yoga. Even a sun salutation or two could make the difference.
- Thirdly…watch out for bad habits creeping back up on you. Stress and illness can influence our decisions, and it’s often tempting to treat oneself when you’re feeling miserable. Whenever I got sick as a kid, my mom would run out and get me my favorite fried fast food meal. The programming of “bad food treats will make me feel better” has followed me into my adulthood (sorry Mom, not your fault! I still love ya!) and it’s something I’ve had to actively resist against. I now have myself at the point where the idea of juices and smoothies seem far, far better to me when sick than french fries, especially those covered in Daiya cheese. As a result, during the last time I was sick it was the first time I did not have to shed 10-15 pounds afterward! Bonus!
- Fourthly…take it easy. You don’t need to jump back into your normal routine, guns blazing, in order to get back on track. Listen to your body. Be gentle with yourself to start, take at least one more rest day than usual. You’ll know you’re back to your usual self when you have plenty of energy.
It’s far too easy to get down in the dumps and feel hopeless when you have setbacks on your fitness goals. Just remember that you’re on Team Happy and Healthy for life, and that your usual workout is waiting for you for when you’re doing better. If you can survive the lows, then the highs will be even better!