Troubleshooting real-life scenarios in real time to get amazing results in the long-term
We all know eating healthy is the bedrock of better health, performance and body composition ( body fat vs lean muscle). Yet, as North American’s we still have a difficult time doing what we know. Don’t be short-sighted though, there are many factors outside of willpower that can contribute to the difficulty of adhering to a certain meal plan or lifestyle. For example, your own biology and environment can be contributing factors.
Let’s face it. We all have radically different lives that involve different obstacles to overcome when it comes to eating “healthy” with the purpose of achieving a certain weight loss goal, body type or level of athletic performance.
What I have found though; as unique as our individual problems may seem, they can be compiled into 5 distinct areas. Each with its own set of strategies to overcome them.
Obstacle #1: EATING OUT FREQUENTLY
This might be due to occupation, traveling habits, or personal preference, but a large percentage of North Americans eat their meals in restaurants. While there is nothing wrong with this, many of us may have difficulty in making the right food choices when eating out.
These following strategies will help:
- Choose custom meals: Instead of carb-heavy, sauce-laden, or no-veggie fare, you should look for meals that are compliant with your current goals, habits or practices. Most restaurants offer such meals.
- You can order items that aren’t on the menu. You will most likely need to decrease carb portions, increase veggie and protein portions. So, you can ask for extra meat, no starchy carb (rice, potatoes, bread, etc.), and double the veggies.
- Make sure to ask your server exactly what you are getting. Many meals can contain unexpected breading, sauces, added sugar, etc. These can really drive the calorie count of a meal through the roof.
- Ask yourself these 5 questions at your next restaurant meal: Am I eating slowly and only until 80% full? / Where is my lean protein at? / Where are my veggies at? / Where is my good complex carbohydrate at? / Where are my healthy fats at? These questions will direct you to a better meal choice.
- Choose compliant restaurants. Before going to a particular part of town, search for and pick 4 restaurants in that immediate area (2 fast food, one medium-priced restaurant, and one higher-priced restaurant) that prepare meals in a way that conforms to your nutritional plan. For example, Wendy’s makes chicken salads and chili that you can eat when you’re on the go. You can then choose a medium-priced restaurant like Apple bee’s for a better quality menu, Finally, you choose a higher-priced restaurant for a romantic evening, or for a business function. In this way, you choose healthier fast-food or restaurant meals that conform to your meal plan when maybe you don’t have the “time” or money for a meal.
Obstacle #2: BUSY LIFE; LITTLE-FOOD PREP TIME
Ever wake up late for work and have to rush out without even a shower, not to mention eating breakfast? Ever have to work through lunch and skip hitting the local restaurant where you get your daily chicken salads? Ever get invited to a lunch by your boss and consider it rude to skip the invitation in favor of microwaved chicken and veggies?
These following strategies will help:
- The Sunday Ritual. This is what you typically think of or see when someone makes a post and is all like “#mealprep” or “#mealprepsunday”. This means setting aside 3 hours or so (any day of the week works, but most consider Sunday’s the easiest), writing out a menu, shopping for the week, and then preparing the meals for the week. Don’t get to complex here. The idea is to keep it simple to make the rest of your week easier by doing a little prep work up front. So follow this:
- Sit down and come up with a meal plan and needs for the week
- Calculate roughly how much food you will need and generate a shopping list
- Go shopping and put that list to use
- Get home and start cooking for the week. Some will choose to prepare all their meals on Sunday’s, while others prefer to figure out which meals will be easy to cook just prior to mealtime and save them for later, prepping only the meals that will need to be eating during work hours or busy times. Regardless, two-three daytime snacks and lunches are the ones usually prepared in advanced.
- The Breakfast Ritual. (Coach Jeff’s personal favorite) So, rather than preparing your food, you can just prepare a little food each day. Simply perform your cooking for the day each morning. Since you have to prepare breakfast anyways, you can get a couple of other meals going as well. Skipping a meal isn’t the end of the world. Indeed, obsessive preparation can sometimes be just as bad as no preparation. The key is to simply make healthier food choices when confronted with an unexpected scheduling twist.
- Pre-cooking Protein. Another way to save time in the kitchen is to pre-cook your protein for the week. A George Foreman grill or crock pot are amazing for this. You can also roast, oven-broil a big batch of chicken breast, turkey sausage, or lean beef. Perhaps you can do this on shopping day while chopping the veggies and then refrigerate them.
- Pre-chopping Vegetables. It’s best to chop veggies soon before eating them. They retain the most nutrients that way. If you are pressed for time, chop up of half of y our weekly veggie purchase, and then chop up the rest when your done eating the first half: 3-4 days later. This is where Tupperware comes in handy! Separate the chopped veggies by their type” green peppers in one container, red peppers in another, onions in another, etc. This will actually help you to increase your veggie intake. Each time you want a salad, veggie omelet, or a stir-fry, you’ll have a variety of pre-cut veggies just a container away. Fruits work the same way: Pineapples, mangoes. peaches oranges, strawberries – all can be pre-cut. Make sure to work up to 10 or so servings a day – no matter how slowly it happens).
- Liquid Nutrition. Have a blender at home and at work if possible. You can pre-blend shakes at home and take them to work. This will help you get a quick meal when you are on the go. Remember, shakes aren’t necessary. They are just a nice option when healthy, nutrient dense meals are not handy.
Obstacle #3: LOTS OF TRAVEL
Before I got back into coaching full-time many years back, this was so me. I used to have to travel all over the great state of Texas, but I never let that be an excuse as to why I couldn’t get into or stay in shape. I did so by mastering the below strategies.
These following strategies will help:
- Choose the best location. Whether hitting the road for business or fun, your first priority is to ensure that everything you need is in close proximity to where you will be working or playing. Location is key! For example, say you have to be at a week-long conference at a convention center. You need to first search the internet for hotels nearest the convention center. Then check a lost of hotels that are nearest to grocery stores, restaurants, and gyms. Pick the hotel with the best combination of resources. You can always work backward too (like I tend to do), and search for gym and grocery stores and then chose a hotel around there. Without these resources close by, you’ll have excuses to skip workouts, miss meals and make poor food selections while on the road.
- Choose a room with a kitchenette. This is critical for traveling nutritional success! I never choose a room without one. On the way from the airport have your Uber or cabbie drop you off at a grocery store (or walk to one once you have deposited your luggage). Once you are back to your room, you are able to eat as well as when you are at home. Even if my room didn’t have a kitchenette, I would always get a cooler and then just get ice from down the hall, and keep my produce and protein like lean meats cool.
- Bring protein supplements. Sometimes when you are on the road it’s impossible to slip back to your room or get to a restaurant. For times like these, a good protein powder and shaker bottle become a quick fix. You can also do the same for veggie intake. When being on the road, you will most likely be put into a position to drop below the 10 servings a day. So there are good geen+ products out there to help you fill that gap.
- Bring homemade bars. These are great snacks to bring with you. There are a number of fitness-friendly recipe books like Gourmet Nutrition that offer fantastic alternatives to the mostly low-quality, store-bought protein bars on the market.
Obstacle #4: BUSY SOCIAL SCHEDULE
Maybe you have a busy schedule of entertaining, entertaining social events, or maybe what the real obstacle
is too much finger food or too-frequent dinners eaten in uncontrolled environments.
These follow strategies will help:
- Eat before dinner. I am sure you Mom told you to never eat before dinner because it would spoil your appetite. In this case, it’s a good thing. Next time you’re invited to a dinner party or to eat out “pre-eat” a healthy selection of protein, quality vegetables, and good fats. Then once you get to the dinner party or restaurant, you won’t be very hungry and can choose to eat a small portion of calorie dense food versus a full meal.
- Bring some food. This was me for the first 4 to 5 years of my fitness journey. When dining at a friends house, bring good that fits into your current meal plan. This way, if there aren’t healthy options, you can snack on that instead.
- Become the host. If you typically find yourself at social gatherings with people that aren’t invested in a good nutritional lifestyle, you could begin to host your own events instead of simply attending. Now you control the food choices and portions
Obstacle #5: NUTRITIONAL BOREDOM
The reality is you are going to have to eat certain foods on a regular basis. There’s no way around that. To succeed in the long term, you need to keep your nutritional staples constant. The question is: “How I do this without getting bored?” You keep the staples constant while changing up your meals. There are dozens of ways to prepare lean meat, eggs, vegetables, and other healthy foods. So if you are getting bored with healthful eating, it’s time to learn to cook! You don’t need to go to culinary school, but you do want to educate yourself on flavoring and food prep.
Here are a few good resources for learning:
- Defiantly pick up anything you can from your Mother or Grandmother. Learn how they season and cook, which will help your cooking.
- You can go to a local bookstore or Amazon for basic cookbooks. Most meals can be modified to fit your current meal plan.
- Read articles online, and check out Youtube for videos.
So whether your current lifestyle is one dominated by being strapped for time, having to travel a lot, eating out too much, having to attend many social events or just straight getting bored of certain foods, there are several proven strategies you can use to overcome these obstacles and in the end prevail as victor and not a foe.
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