When it comes to fit living, I’ve found that training consistently is usually not as challenging as eating clean consistently. For years, that was certainly the case for me. I would spend tons of time working hard in the gym and not see any change in my physique, because my diet was a mess. But, after years of successes and failures, I discovered what I believe to be the keys to mastering and maintaining a clean diet. I’m excited to share these with you, as I KNOW these will help you on your mission to become your best:
1. Always have a plan.
This will help you guard against life’s demands, emotions and old bad habits that threaten your progress. The best-intentioned people may wake up one morning and commit to eating clean. Then, before the day ends, stress or the inconvenience of eating right veers them off course. Or, after having a little weight loss success, individuals who started following a plan can get comfortable, start improvising and migrate back to old patterns.
MAKE IT HAPPEN:
- Write down your meal plan for the week, including food sources and portion size.
- Address how you will stay on point through all the hustle and bustle of your week: lunch meetings, dinners out, travel, etc. I typically do this every Sunday before the week begins. For tips on how to do this efficiently, check out a previous YOUR BEST titled, “Get Packing!”
- Prepare and pack the majority of your meals on one day to ensure that you are set up for success the whole week.
- Always bring one more meal than you think you will need when you leave for the day.
2. Have a plan you can stick to.
People ask me all of the time, “What is the most effective diet for weight loss?” My response is always, “The one that you can stick to.” Whether you follow a bodybuilding diet, the Paleo Diet, the Zone or the chocolate milk diet (please don’t do this), you will lose weight if you are in a calorie deficit. The trick is to adopt a plan that you won’t abandon so you can reach your fitness goals AND form habits that will enable you to be fit for life. Otherwise, you will be back to square one before you know it.
MAKE IT HAPPEN:
- Adopt a plan that mimics how you can realistically live and eat for a lifetime— rather than a quick fix or trendy diet. I personally believe in following a balanced diet of clean, whole foods with room for treats every once in a while.
- Don’t restrict your calories too much too soon, as this often leads to binging. Instead try cutting your calories by about 250 per day, initially. Then if needed, slowly decrease your calories in small increments (100-200 calories at a time).
3. Have a zero tolerance policy for spontaneous cheating— at least initially.
It’s true that “one bite won’t hurt,” but it’s a slippery slope. If you can justify one bite, you can justify many. (Believe me, I’ve been there.) Also, by giving in, you are reinforcing bad habits rather than bolstering your new, good ones. Good habits are essential to long-term fitness success, as they pull you through moments that would otherwise challenge your resolve.
MAKE IT HAPPEN:
- Move or remove temptations. We all have those guilty pleasures that can get the best of us. For me, it was peanut butter. When I was initially changing my diet years ago, I moved the PB jar out of my sightline, so it wasn’t tempting me every time I opened the pantry.
- Stop focusing on everything you can’t have and focus on all that you can. In the beginning, I would literally force myself to think about how much I loved veggies, sweet potatoes, oats and fish when I would begin thinking about or craving things that did not fit into my new fit life. This helped me to re-train my brain.
- Keep T.A.B.S. on your emotions: Before you let your emotions drive you to a carton of ice cream, ask yourself if you are Tired, Angry, Bored or Sad. If you are, disrupt that craving with a positive distraction— something that you love to do other than eat.
4. Don’t rely on cardio to make up for cheating.
This is a tremendous waste of your precious time, and it gives you a false sense of “permission” to overindulge. Plus, the math does not usually work in your favor: burning 300 calories during cardio will not erase 600 extra calories of junk. Always remember: the shortest distance between you and your goals is a consistent, clean diet.
5. Focus on all that you will gain rather than how much you have to lose.
Always keep the reasons why you want to achieve your fitness goals top-of-mind, so you can remind yourself why you sacrifice when temptation strikes or motivation wanes.
MAKE IT HAPPEN: Write down in great detail why you want to achieve your fitness goal. Focus on how you will feel, how you will live differently and what it will enable you to do once you reach the goal. Print it out and place it on the fridge, in your purse, in your office, etc. Before you get out of bed each morning, remind yourself of your goals and why they are important to you.
6. Keep Believing.
If your results don’t come fast enough, it’s easy to lose confidence and motivation— two keys to making your goals a reality. However, no matter how discouraged you feel, you must keep pushing and maintain an optimistic attitude, as your thoughts create your reality.
MAKE IT HAPPEN: Crowd out negativity with positive and encouraging thoughts like “I am strong and disciplined” or “Win the moment— Be YOUR BEST.” Repeat it in your mind and, even better, out loud to keep negativity at bay and your motivation up.
7. Stay Accountable.
Commit to measure and track your progress at regular intervals. Doing so will keep you focused on your goals and aware of your progression and regression. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, people who weigh themselves at least once a week are more successful in keeping off the pounds.
Push Toward Your Best
Clean eating is central to living fit and lean, but it’s difficult. It’s not always convenient. It doesn’t always hit the spot. But the truth is that no chocolate treat (or whatever your culinary pleasure) is as delicious as sweet taste of success! So always honor your goals, and go be YOUR BEST!
Speaking of sweet success, here is a recipe to my clean eating, guilt-free Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls to satisfy your cravings without going off track.
Keep pushing–your best is waiting.