Often times, I found myself frustrated and down about not reaching my goals. I thought I was covering everything I needed and addressing the right areas.
I wanted to develop a writing habit, a salsa dancing habit, a meditation habit but I couldn’t achieve my desired outcome (despite my effort).
But as I found out, I wasn’t focusing on the important metrics for my desired results.
I was overlooking the basics. We know the basics are a priority, but how many of us are actually following this advice?
Only once I started to truly focus on my fundamentals before anything else did my productivity and results follow suit.
This same philosophy is pivotal in fitness. If your results are lagging despite your perceived effort—odds are you’ve gotten ahead of yourself and didn’t master the essential behaviors for a solid and sturdy foundation.
Dieting doesn’t need to feel like a roller coaster where you’re holding on for dear life.
Weight loss without strict dieting and uncomfortable restrictions are possible and it starts by implementing these five steps.
1. Perform a dietary audit
All jobs need auditing and assessment for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
The same task is needed with your nutritional habits. If you start a diet on Monday; then take a break the next three days; then you’re back on for a day; then off until Monday—your diet severely needs an audit.
When you’re attempting to lose weight—the initial actions for many are to start counting calories, decide on a particular diet, and maybe quit some food groups altogether.
Counting calories are useful, but it’s a useless skill if you don’t know what healthy foods are. If you aren’t making healthy food choices on a daily basis, don’t bother counting calories just yet.
Healthy eating begins with making quality food decisions.
These food decisions lead to getting quality nutrients to help your metabolism, help build lean muscle, and help fight off diseases.
A great way to start is by taking the healthy eating quiz (just useful as a general baseline—not the final word).
Afterward, review and begin to focus on the quality of your food choices and daily healthy habits before micro-managing tactics that aren’t in your 80/20.
Long-term changes in the quality of your diet are equated to keeping the weight off for the long-term.
2. Develop love, admiration, and respect for micronutrients
In my book, Body Architect, one of my favorite chapters discusses micronutrients and how they’re often treated as the supporting cast compared to the main actors (carbs, fats, & proteins).
But just as in any quality movie, without a solid supporting cast, the movie isn’t going to be good.
The same holds true with your nutrition.
Focusing only on the big three macros may grant you an aesthetic masterpiece, but without proper micronutrient intake—your internal health and daily energy levels are going to be less than optimal.
The majority of your micronutrients are from your fruit and vegetable intake.
A study with more than 130,000 adults discovered that those who increased their intake of fruit and vegetables over four years lost weight.
Your micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) help with supporting a healthy functioning metabolism (thyroid hormones), and prevention and treatment of diseases just to name a few of their many roles.
3. Don’t drink your calories
I’m a fan of making the easiest changes to your diets before anything else. One of the first rules I have my clients and workshop groups I speak with is to eliminate or at least minimize drinking calories.
Sugar-sweetened beverages don’t have their calories hidden, but many people often disregard or forget to count their drinks into their caloric intake.
Drinking your calories is a deceptive way to rack up your calorie count and other associated issues. It’s not just 1 soda a day that can increase your risk for diabetes— it’s sweet tea (my weakness), energy drinks, and other sugary drinks.
The next concern may be how to get your vitamins if you skip out on the multiple glasses of orange juice or milk and that’s where your fruits and vegetables come into play. Increase your fruit and vegetable intake to get these nutrients along with a decrease in calories and sugars.
4. Focus on your portion sizes
Michael Pollan sums it up perfectly in seven words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.”
If you head to restaurants that offer larger portions, you’re going to consume more food and calories (no shock value here). There’s more research which states that offering larger portions to adults and children leads to extra calories and inevitable weight gain down the road.
An easy way to practice healthier eating is to make half your plate vegetables, then one-quarter of the plate for protein, while the rest is for carbohydrates or healthy fats depending on your specific dietary plan.
5. Be wary of food triggers and environments
Everywhere we turn, it seems we’re seduced into eating and drinking. Food billboards, signs on buses, signs at the subway, tv ads, and vending machines.
These triggers and discreet psychological cues lead us to have cravings and mindlessly eat. Eating even when you’re not hungry is a common symptom of these cues and a big reason for obesity.
When you’re in these types of environments and feel food urges, stop and ask yourself “why do I want this food” three times before indulging.
Also, don’t head to the grocery store empty handed—always have a list. Eat a filling meal before heading out to sporting events or movie theaters where less-than-ideal food is being served.
This post was originally published over at The Art of Fitness & Life—for more information like this and to get a free 5-day course on how to fail proof your fitness—check it out here.