A Day in the Life of Spring: Diet
I’m not going to lie. I’m a lazy cook. I eat the same things over and over. I like my routine and I like my meals to be simple. When I come home from the gym at 8:00 pm and have a household of people to feed I don’t really care if my meal is gourmet. What I do care about is feeling good about myself, being healthy and feeding my family healthy foods. Here is a glimpse of what I ate today:
I always start my day with lemon tea because I simply find it delightful. Then I snack on raw veggies while I cook my eggs. I love snacking on veggies while I cook because it helps boost my micro nutrients and carb intake. Then I eat eggs and toast. I cook my eggs in a separate pan from my kids' eggs because I eat 1 whole egg and 1/3 measured egg whites every morning. (I’ll usually make protein pancakes once a week instead of eggs.) I add a 1/2 of apple to my breakfast to boost fiber. Then I eat 4 oz of plain chicken. I nibble on the chicken while I prepare my kids’ lunches. While I prepare my kids’ meals I also mix ½ cup of instant oats with hot water in my Foogo thermos. (I simply pour boiling water over the oats and screw the lid on.) Then, I sit with my kids during lunch and eat my oats. I top my oats with ½ oz. measured walnuts and ½ a banana. Before the gym I eat my third meal. Today I ate 4 oz. ground turkey, ½ cup measured rice, and green beans. Then I work out. After my workout I drink my BCAAs, glutamine and creatine (if I’m using creatine at the time) and eat ½ of banana. Then I drive home. Once I get home I start preparing dinner. Tonight I ate chicken, ground turkey, and cashews over a bed of greens. I end every day with protein pudding. I mix 1 scoop of casein powder, 1 scoop of glutamine, 16 g of peanut butter measured, and slowly add water. I chill in the fridge while I read to my kids then I eat my pudding laying in bed. 30 minutes later I usually turn off the lights. This routine changes slightly from day to day, but I stick to 80% of this plan 6 days a week.
I teach my clients that diet is the most important aspect of changing your physique. Exercise makes you fit, but changing how your body looks is 100% diet. If you want to lose weight or gain muscle you have to eat properly. (You don’t have to eat as strict a diet to simply be healthy. But health and actually changing how your body looks are different goals.)
You don’t have to eat exactly what I eat. In fact, every healthy person has their own unique eating style. My favorite meal is going to be different than yours. But there are four things that are important to changing your physique.
Eat whole foods all day long
The typical American diet is not healthy. The veggie delight at Subway is not a healthy option! The side of veggies at Applebee’s is covered with butter! If you want to change the way you look then you have to look outside the American paradigm for eating.
You need to fill your day with whole, unprocessed foods. Rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, veggies, lean protein, avocado, nuts, eggs, oatmeal…
Most people have an easier time transitioning to a healthy breakfast and dinner. I find, lunch and snacking is where most people have a challenge. Most American lunches are refined and fried. Sandwiches, fries, taco shells, and chicken tenders are not the best options for your health or your waistline. Does this mean you can never have a sandwich again? NO! Of course not. This means that if you want to change your physique you shouldn’t eat sandwiches every day. Lunch needs to be filled with veggies, lean proteins, and complex carbs.
Snacks are another part of the American paradigm that need to change. I always ask my client why they snack at 3:30 pm? Every time they answer, “I was hungry.” If you are hungry then eat a full meal. Don’t waste your time nibbling on carrot sticks when you are going to be starving again in an hour. This leads to hunger-induced cheating.
We’ve all been there. We are hungry, but it’s not time to eat yet. So we get a snack to hold us over. That snack of a few carrot sticks, ballooned into three pieces of cheese, a handful of nuts, a few pretzels, and finally a piece of chocolate. All those snacks equaled 300-400 calories! Those calories could have been spent on a full meal! So instead of snacking in the afternoon change your routine. Add a fifth meal to your day and you will find that you rarely feel hungry.
My suggestion: Your lunch needs to look more like dinner and your snacks need to become meals.
Eat according to your goals
My meal plan consists of 5-6 high protein meals a day. I eat a high protein, clean diet because I want to change my physique. I want to gain muscle and my lifestyle reflects my goals. If you want to lose weight or run a marathon your diet needs to reflect your specific goal. If you have aesthetic goals you have to eat clean!!!! There is no way you can change your body long-term without clean eating.
You may say to me, “I have a friend who lost weight with exercise alone.” Yes, that is possible if you are new to working out. The body responds to stress by adaptation. That is what weight loss and muscular development is all about. New exercisers will achieve adaptation by simply putting their body under a new stress, creating the need for the body to use more energy (aka calories.) But your body will eventually reach a point where the aesthetic adaptations plateau with exercise alone. Once your body reaches an energy balance your diet needs to create a caloric deficit to lose weight or a caloric surplus to gain muscle. Without caloric manipulation you cannot excessively change your physique.
In addition, exercise and caloric reduction stress the body. Eating clean ensures that the body is receiving all the micronutrients it needs to function properly while under stress. Sure, you can lose weight with 1500 calories of fried food and sugar. But you won’t stay healthy for very long. You will get sick, need bed rest and most likely continue this cycle until your body is given the nutrients it needs to repair itself.
If you want to maintain your weight you have more meal options. You can add a bit more fats and eat a few more treats a week. To maintain you need to eat the same amount of calories as your body burns. You still need to eat healthy but you don’t need to keep your body in an energy system where you are burning fat (vs. burning muscle) or gaining muscle (vs. gaining fat.) That’s also why eating clean is vital for weight loss or muscular development. When you want to change your physique you need to make sure to keep your insulin under control. You do this by eating a balanced, clean diet.
My suggestion: Have clear fitness goals and tailor your diet to meet your aesthetic and health needs.
Make it work for you
This one is easy. You won’t stick to what you don’t like. I once had a coach draft me a meal plan with hard boiled eggs, onions and avocado. I hate all three. I didn’t eat that meal plan once. If you want to change your physique you have to find meals that you like. Use a calorie calculator, like My Fitness Pal, and track what you eat. See what works and what doesn’t. What can you live without? What can you easily change? Eating clean is a process. NO ONE starts eating clean without trial and error.
My meal plan may look overwhelmingly bland to you. That’s because it is overwhelmingly bland. And I like it that way. I’ve never liked salad dressing, heavy sauces, or bold flavors. This works for me. I have a dear friend who loves sardines and red onions over sautéed spinach. Rock it, girl! I have another friend who loves avocado, tuna, and hard boiled eggs mixed with Greek yogurt and spices. That's a great meal! Even though we all eat different meals, we are all finding a way to make healthy eating work for us.
If you need more flavor play with seasonings, citrus, and spicy ingredients. Look up recipes or search #cleaneating on Pinterest or Instagram. There are countless meal options. It just takes some time to find recipes that you love.
In addition, what I ate today is what I typically eat. But it’s not all I eat. I have countless recipes that I cycle into my diet based on the season and my energy level. Sometimes I want to eat butternut apple soup. So I make it and enjoy it! And who can resist fresh tomatoes in summer?
My suggestion: Make a list of all healthy ingredients. Highlight what proteins, carbs and fats you love the most. Eat those foods!
Finally, I am successful not only because I eat clean, but because I eat clean 90% of the time. I am consistent. I have been consistent for a long time. Consistent clean eating is what facilitates the body to change. The body doesn’t change overnight. It takes at least 12 weeks to see change. And it takes 6 months to really change your physique. If you don’t eat clean and workout HARD for at least 6 months you won’t truly change your body.
Now, OF COURSE, these time frames will vary depending on your body type. I’m an ectomorph who wants to gain muscle. I need at least a full year to make significant changes. With consistent clean eating and exercise, an endomorph can probably gain muscle in a shorter time. But, with consistency, an ectomorph can probably lose weight faster than an endomorph. (Again, these results will vary!)
The point is you have to stay focused on YOU! Do not compare yourself to the person next to you. You are only allowed to compare yourself to who you were yesterday. Always try to be stronger – mentally and physically – than who you were yesterday. If you want to change your physique focus on the 24 hours in front of you. Focus on eating clean and getting your workouts in.
In order to be consistent you have to prepare. You have to meal prep. This is non-negotiable. If you don’t meal prep you will fail. You will eventually get hungry and succumb to temptation. Trust me. We’ve all been there. You need to set yourself up for success by making things as easy as possible. It’s easier to microwave the chicken and rice I have in my fridge than it is to order pizza. There have been so many times when I was craving pizza but my chicken and rice was an easier option. When you are hungry and tired what is easiest will always win, even if you are having a craving.
To be consistent you also have to keep your mental game strong. Feed your mind positive thoughts, constantly!!!! I journal, look at Instagram, and have an inspiration wall to keep my mind right.
We all have a “dark side” in our brain. There have been so many times when I ate an unscheduled cheat because my mind convinced me my goals weren’t important. The difference between me and other people though is:
a) That doesn’t happen often because I meal prep
b) It doesn’t happen often because I am ALWAYS filling my mind with positive thinking and have created a lifestyle with a positive feedback loop (workout, eat right, feel good, journal, repeat)
c) I get right back on the wagon when I do slip up
I don’t beat myself up when I eat a cookie (or 20 Oreos in a day!) I’m human! It’s completely unrealistic to think that you are going to start eating clean and then never eat a cookie again. This all or nothing approach is an impossible standard. You have to have a 90-10 balance with 90% healthy and 10% fun foods.
That’s why I have a cheat meal EVERY week. Friday is pizza night in my house. We drive to the pizza truck and get carry out. While we wait for our pizza my family and I walk over to CVS and we each pick out a treat. (fancy Fridays, huh? I love them though. =) My daughter has already told me she wants starbursts for her weekly treat! I usually get Lindts dark chocolate truffles. I share them with my kids, but I eat 6-8. I don’t care about the serving size. I have a cup of hot tea and I eat my chocolate. And it is wonderful. When I am feeling weak during the week I know that pizza Friday is only a few days away.
My suggestion: Meal prep, journal about your goals daily, and schedule a cheat meal.
Trust me, once you find your stride eating clean gets easier and easier. But remember, it is a process. So just keep working hard! With consistency you will be successful.
Spring Teller Fitness is a participant in the TigerFitness Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide means to earn fees by linking to TigerFitness.com. Please support STF by purchasing protein and other supplements with the link provided.