7) Cook Your Own Food
Food Rule #63 believe it or not, and we don’t mean microwave — I don’t even own one actually. I would have put this as #1 myself, had I written that book.
In 1995 we spent about a twenty-seven minutes preparing and four minutes cleaning up after our meals.
Compare that to forty-four minutes preparing and twenty-one minutes clean-up in 1965. It’s clear that North Americans spend a lot less time preparing their own food than ever before.
Not only will you know what went into all the food, but also the likelihood that you will use whole foods in your cooking drastically increases.
The other perk is that even if you do want bread, or desserts, when you make them yourself, you value the time it takes to make it.
This makes it feel like a real treat so you’re less likely to overeat them. You’re also less likely to consume them because of all the time it takes to make.
When you make stuff yourself, even sweet stuff, most of the ingredients are still closer to whole than the MSG or other unpronounceable ingredients that appear in commercial food as preservatives.
Many people use time as an excuse when it comes to fitness and health. Yet I ask, what is more important than the food you consume and the body you live your life in?
8) Eat Lean Complete Protein with Every Meal
This one comes down to the thermic effect of food. When you eat protein in conjunction with other foods (starchy carbohydrates, or healthy fats) you slow digestion, make yourself feel fuller for longer and burn more calories in the digestive process.
Your insulin levels won’t spike as much and you consequently won’t pack on fat in the same way.
This strategy also impacts your eating behaviors; you are far less likely to reach for a donut or sweet muffin as a snack if you know you have to eat some lean protein with it.
You can swing this if you’re a vegan, a vegetarian or a plain old omnivore. Don’t think this means just lean meat.
Rice and Beans are a lean complete protein source, so is tofu and quinoa. There are options available to you, no matter what style of eating you follow.
A lean protein serving is about the size of your palm and 3/4 of an inch thick.
9) Eat Vegetables with Every Meal
If you choose to eat 3 meals a day, this means 2 servings of veggies with each meal. If you eat 6 small meals, this means 1 serving with every meal.
Get your 5-10, there are numerous strategies to make sure this happens for you.
How much is a serving? Think at least the size of your fist, or about a cup. Leafy veggies you may need more of because they are not as dense.
Personally I love to have a giant salad sprinkled with some lean protein, almost daily. The veggies, keep me healthy, the protein keeps me feeling full.
Vegetable consumption contributes to many bodily functions in ways we don’t even fully comprehend yet I’m sure.
They have been shown time and time again to influence the weight loss process, and may even manipulate your metabolism.
They are also nutrient dense but calorically sparse, so they add a ton of healthful stuff without the excess energy.
10) Reserve Starchy Carbohydrate Consumption for After Workouts/Exercise
The best time to eat those beautifully satisfying carbohydrates is immediately after exercise.
I give people a 3 hour window, but the shorter, probably the better.
Post-exercise is when your body can tolerate a spike in insulin, instead of shuttling excess calories to your fat stores, it shuttles them to your glycogen stores in your muscles and liver.
This, ironically, is also probably the best time to eat the sweet stuff in your diet. If you can’t live without a chocolate bar or donut daily, or some other sweet delectable treat, the first strategy may be just to make sure you eat it only after your exercise (deliberately) before making any drastic changes to your potato chip habit.
This strategy often means move past the habit so it happens only a few times a week, then we work towards once or twice a week, then once or twice in a blue moon.
There are other nutrient timing tricks like this, but this is perhaps the most important for weight-loss and weight-maintenance in some folks.
11) Eat Health Fats Daily
I’m not saying at every meal but healthy fatty acids like olive oil, fish oil, most seeds, and most nuts should contribute to your diet on a daily basis.
I don’t mean ALL of them at once either, but pick a few.
Maybe that means you take 3 grams of fish oil a day (a weight loss strategy that is remarkably effective actually especially in combination with deliberate exercise) first thing in the morning, or 2 tablespoons of crushed flax in a salad at lunch, maybe you stir-fry in a little grape seed oil or have a handful of almonds with some cottage cheese as a snack.
The key with this one is moderation. Serving sizes for healthy fats are small, about 1-2 tablespoons usually or a small handful of sesame seeds or walnuts — or about the size of your thumb.
And I think I’m going to stop there. Please, Please, Please, Please, Please try to adhere to only one of the last 5 strategies at a time, until they become ingrained habits. Then choose to move on to a new one when eating a certain way for a percentage of the time (strategies 3-5) becomes easily done.
Which one do you start with?
I can’t over-estimate the importance of strategy #1. Strategy 3-5 are all usually one strategy but I separated them today, so you got the scope of perfectionism vs reality.
However, you need to start what you feel you can commit to accomplishing at a high level. Assign each of these strategies a number value on a scale of 1-10. Ten being ‘hell ya I can do that easily,’ one being, ‘no way jose.’ Start with the one you can commit to at a level of 9 or higher, and if there is a 10 in there, start with that.
You will find that other habits appear easier after mastering one or two habits beforehand. Repeat the scale of commitment assessment, after you feel you have mastered something but before starting a new strategy. Exclude the strategy you think you’ve mastered at that point, but you may want to return to your foundation every now and then just to refresh yourself.
These are my foundational nutritional components. If you want a more in depth look at eating strategies again, I encourage you to read the book ‘Food Rules’ by Michael Pollen. Follow strategy #1 though, as you read through the book, and again I highly recommend you use my ‘Scale of Commitment Assessment.’