5 Ways To Make Meal Prep Easier
When I was ten, my mom taught me basic culinary skills. I learned how to whisk eggs, prepare chicken, and even bake things in the oven. Some nights when mom would work late, she would call ahead and ask me to bread the chicken cutlets or put something in the oven. She was a single parent, working long hours, and didn’t always have the brain space to do it all. It’s only now, as a father, that I can see how tired she must have been, and I can only imagine how much my making a few chicken cutlets helped.
I am grateful that my mom took the time to teach me the basics of cooking. While in college, I cooked most of my meals and packed my lunch. Today I work as a nutrition coach and do all of the cooking for my family. All of this is thanks to my mom teaching me how to crack a few eggs.
My mom and countless clients I have worked with have inspired this article, and I promise after reading it, you will have five ways to make meal prep easier.
Meal prep is a skill that takes practice, but it is one of the best ways to make better choices in the kitchen. Imagine if you could open your refrigerator and grab a quick, balanced meal that would leave you feeling satisfied—grabbing other snacks or meals that aren’t balanced decreases if you have your meals prepared. For many of my clients, this is a good enough reason to at least try meal prepping. Also, when you cook, you save money, and you are aware of what ingredients you are using, which is helpful when trying to lose weight or gain muscle.
Even with all the benefits of preparing your meals, there are roadblocks that people can face.
3 Reasons Why You Aren’t Meal Prepping
You don’t know what you enjoy eating. When teaching a client how to meal prep, I ask, “what do you enjoy eating?” Nine times out of ten, they will struggle to find an answer, and that’s why meal prep seems impossible.
If you don’t know what you enjoy eating, it becomes harder to prepare your meals ahead of time. It’s like getting in your car and driving only to remember you have no idea where you are going. So, take a minute and think about what type of meal you would enjoy. This is a great starting point that can inspire someone to try a new recipe or revisit an old favorite.
You don’t feel confident in the kitchen. It’s ok if you don’t feel confident in the kitchen; everyone has to start somewhere. If the thought of being in the kitchen is overwhelming, think about starting small. Making hardboiled eggs might be more accessible, and you will have protein for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Instead of becoming the next Iron Chef, focus on making something easy that you can grab when you are in a pinch.
You are setting excessive expectations for yourself. No one expects you to have seven days’ worth of perfectly prepared meals in fancy containers. Simply making an extra portion of a meal and enjoying the leftovers the next day can be classified as meal prep. There is no need to go out and buy new cookbooks or try and make everything look Instagram-worthy. When someone attaches themself to an excessive expectation, it often leads to perfectionism which is genuinely just the art of practicing quitting frequently.
My mom asked her ten-year-old son to help her prepare dinner. It made it easier for us to eat at a reasonable hour and not need to order take-out. Make it easier for yourself and understand that you are on your own wellness journey. Hopefully, the following pointers can help you become an absolute meal prep master.
5 Ways To Make Meal Prep Easier
Make the shopping list. Sometimes you get caught up in how hard you think something will be. Remember that it’s essential to know what you enjoy eating. Make a shopping list once you have an idea of the meal(s) you want to eat. Having a list makes it easier because you will know what you need to make your meals.
I know that this seems very easy, but you would be surprised by how many individuals skip over this step.
- Write your list
- Go to the store
- Cook the food
- Eat the leftovers
Pick one meal to make for the week. Don’t get caught in the perfectionist trap of trying to make five different meals. I know that you have good intentions, but if you are struggling with meal prep, make it easier by picking one meal to make for the week.
For instance, if you struggle to eat breakfast during the week, try making overnight oats. You can batch enough to last all week, and it takes less than five minutes.
Here’s a quick recipe that I make for my family every Sunday.
- 4 cups rolled oats
- 2 cups almond milk
- 4 tablespoons chia seeds (fiber bonus points 🕺)
- Sprinkle coconut flakes
- Mix all together and make sure the milk is covering the oats.
- Place in the fridge overnight and enjoy in the morning.
Another option is to take a meal you are making and double or triple the recipe. For instance, if you make chicken, buy extra and cook it for the week. This little trick makes it easier to grab something from the fridge to enjoy for lunch or dinner. You can apply the same tactic to make your side dishes too!
Create a fail-safe menu. This menu is a game-changer if you deal with decision fatigue.
Decision Fatigue – the idea that after making many decisions, your ability to make more and more decisions over the course of a day becomes worse
✅ The Fail-Safe Menu is built on the staples you have in the kitchen.
1) Create a breakfast and lunch menu with your favorite go-to meals that you can make with those staples.
2) Write up the menu.
3) PRINT IT OUT and put it somewhere you can see it in the kitchen.
4) Use it. (Seriously. USE IT)
🍳 🌯 Breakfast and Lunch are the main focus because if you eat both meals, the brain fog will lift, and the likely hood of you picking something balanced can increase.
😉 As a bonus (fail-safe), When in doubt, you can always have something off the menu for dinner too. A lot of my clients love this and swear by it.
Buy pre-cut veggies and fruit or premade meals. Cutting up your vegetables makes it easier to grab them when you are on the go; however, spring for the pre-cut vegetables and fruit if you have it in your budget. No one is judging you for saving time and making it a little easier to make better choices in the kitchen.
One of my clients works 50 hours a week and hardly has time to sit down to eat. When they go food shopping, they buy prepared food at their grocery store. Buying a rotisserie chicken is a great option and can be split into several meals. The same goes for purchasing side dishes too!
Also, don’t forget that buying canned or frozen fruit and vegetables is an easy way to add nutrient-dense options to your meals. Sometimes they can be cheaper, and it’s unnecessary to buy organic.
Use a meal prep service/order meals for the week. After reading all of these tips, you might consider a meal prep service if you still feel overwhelmed. It depends on your budget, but if you order your meals, then you don’t have to buy all of those ingredients at the store. It might end up costing the same or possibly cheaper. Of course, this all depends on the person and how many people they are feeding in their family.
I do not use a meal prep service, and for my clients, we tend to use google and find a local one. So, use google and find one that has good reviews and meals that align with your particular goals.
Maybe you have a favorite restaurant from which you can order a few meals for the week. That is a great option, and when clients do this, we “meal prep the menu .” Look at the menu before ordering and think about how you might portion out the meals for the week. Maybe the portions are large, and you can split a single serving into two. Think ahead before ordering, and things work out in your favor.
Meet Yourself Where You’re At
Remember that you are trying something new, and sometimes that means you won’t want to prepare your food for the week. I’m a busy day who runs his own coaching business, and the last thing I want to do is spend a few hours cooking on Sunday. When I feel that way, I use the same tips I just shared with you. 😉
Give it a try, and if you need a few more tips, book a nutrition strategy call.
Give it a try, and if you need a few more tips, book a nutrition strategy call.
Are Your Physique Goals Worth The Price?
When I was 19 years old, my one fitness goal was to look like a Marvel superhero. My workouts were from muscle and fitness magazine, and my nutrition plan was to eat more. During my summer break from college, I trained six days a week and ate three to four thousand calories a day.
That September, I returned to college 35 pounds heavier with a newfound passion for fitness. At age 32, sometimes I wonder if I could do that again. It is a bit of a loaded question because I’m not a movie star, physique competitor, model, or athlete whose paycheck depends on how they look or perform. There is a lot that goes into transforming the way you look.
So the better question to ask is, are your physique goals worth the price?
I wish I could tell you about a top-secret superhero training plan that would cause you to gain muscle and lose fat, but there isn’t one… well, maybe there is.
If you are new to the gym and have never lifted weights, you might experience a quick increase in muscle and strength, AKA “Newbie Gains .” This is due to the body’s response to a new training stimulus.
A male might gain 15-25 pounds of muscle in their first year of training, and a female may gain about half of that.
The magical phase of newbie gains will last through your first year of training. That’s why doing something is better than doing nothing. Of course, you can get very specific with your training plan, but your consistency is more important in the beginning.
Beyond the first year of training, your muscle gain and fat loss rates will vary. Also, as you age, the variation in hormones such as testosterone will affect your ability to gain muscle. Does that mean you can’t gain muscle? No! It just depends on where you are in your journey and your expectations.
What about newbie gains and fat loss?
Someone new to weight loss will also find that there can be “newbie losses.” It is vital to understand that it is not a linear progression when it comes to fat loss. If you eat in a calorie surplus to gain muscle realistically, you will gain a little fat. If this sounds like you, then you might be considering body recomposition.
Body Recomposition – Training to lose body fat while gaining muscle simultaneously.
Before jumping down the google worm-hole to find a new training plan, let’s consider what you can expect for weekly fat loss and what’s required. Please remember that the only way to lose weight is through a calorie deficit.
Calorie Deficit – Consuming fewer calories than you burn.
There are three levels of weekly fat loss:
Easy: .5 – 1 pound per week.
Medium: 1-2 pounds per week
Hard: 2-3 pounds per week.
To put things into perspective, losing 2-3 pounds per week would require about 95% adherence to your plan. The more consistent you are, the quicker you will lose weight and see progress. However, someone can make small changes, lose half a pound a week, and be consistent without extreme lifestyle modifications. One is more sustainable than the other. 😉
Just as a reminder, your weight will fluctuate week to week, and that’s why noticing trends and using weekly averages can be a big help. In the end, your goal is to see a downward trend and make adjustments along the way.
Creating a more significant calorie deficit is easier when you have more body fat to lose. If you usually eat 4,000 calories a day and start eating balanced plates, you might find you’re eating 3,000-2,500 calories. That deficit can lead to fast weight loss, and like your newbie strength gains, your weight loss will slow down at a certain point.
The human body is amazing and will adapt to your deficit (hello metabolism). You will eventually burn fewer calories exercising because you become more efficient at the movements.
Hitting plateaus is normal, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you should stop what you are doing, but you should consider the expectations you are setting for yourself.
Reaching and maintaining 5% body fat is not realistic. Yes, you might have a six-pack and look like Thor, but it comes at a cost. Precision Nutrition has an excellent resource on body fat percentages.
Most of my clients would be thrilled to be at around 10-12% body fat.
When some clients start working with me, they want to be closer to 5%. They don’t consider what changes are necessary and what they might sacrifice.
Most celebrities don’t want to undergo the changes required for their movie roles. Also, once you’re over the age of 40, the likely hood of you maintaining hulk size muscle status isn’t feasible without the help of certain substances and fantastic genetics. 😐
GOOD QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
It’s your choice, and it’s essential to clarify why you are focused on making any change in the first place. Do you want to be able to pose on social media shirtless, or do you want to be able to go for a walk without getting winded? One goal isn’t better than the other because who am I to judge someone for wanting to make a change in their life.
Instead of shaming someone for trying to lose weight, what if we looked at answering a few questions.
- Why is this important?
Why is this change necessary? Think about it, and when you have your answer ask yourself why again. Do this a few times, and you might find that your response has nothing to do with getting a six-pack.
- Are you aware of what you will give up?
It depends on your starting point, but it requires precision for someone to look like a Marvel superhero. Meals will need to be on point, and tracking your calories will be necessary. You might be the person bringing Tupperware with you to parties or skipping dinners with friends and family. You will need to exercise, not skip sessions, and possibly train for more extended periods. Oh, and don’t forget about sleep because 8-9 hours is required to aid in recovery and muscle growth.
- Are you aware of what you will gain?
Pause and think this one over for a minute or two. What would you gain by trying to make any sort of change? Let’s say, for some reason, you never reach 5% body fat. Does that mean you should regret trying in the first place?
I would say no because you will learn a ton of information, such as:
- What works
- What doesn’t work
- What do you enjoy doing
- What you don’t enjoy doing
- What you are willing to change
- What you are unwilling to change
- What is sustainable
- What is unsustainable
- How to ask better questions
- What an actual tablespoon of peanut butter looks like (😉 )
This information is priceless, especially when you consider yourself someone concerned about their health and fitness. Maybe your value system has changed, and that’s pretty impressive.
Everyone has their starting point, and for me, it was trying to look like a superhero. So, would I try to gain 35 pounds again? No, because I don’t value that right now. For me waking up and knowing I have enough strength to pick up my wife and son in my arms is more than enough.
I now realize that strength has more than one definition and doesn’t have one distinct look.
This is the stuff I help my online coaching clients with, and if you’re tired of guessing and feel a little stuck, click here to book a nutrition strategy call.
5 Ways To Stay Consistent
A lot is happening in the world right now and to be honest trying to stay consistent with your nutrition and training can feel like an up uphill battle.
I won’t sit here and tell you that it’s easy and you just need to work harder.
It’s not fair to tell someone to show up and get it done.
It’s not normal to say that it should work for you if it worked for me.
It’s not realistic to say everyone has the same 24 hours in the day.
Where your priorities lie depends on where you are right now in your own life. What was important to me at age 19 is entirely different from today.
Fitness doesn’t need to be complicated or fancy. It’s figuring out what’s important to you and showing up consistently.
My job is to help other people figure out why paying attention to their nutrition and fitness is important. In the process, folks get stronger and lose weight. That’s I decided to share five tips for staying consistent with your nutrition and fitness. These tips are the same tips I use for my clients, and the proof is in the pudding (such an odd saying).
5 Tips For Saying Consistent
👉 Make it easier. Make it easier and meet yourself where you’re at. Peel back the goal and look at what you can do to make it so easy it is silly not to do it. Didn’t make it to the gym all week? What about stepping outside for a 20-minute walk during lunch. It doesn’t need to be groundbreaking to work. Looking for the perfect circumstance doesn’t bring you closer to your goal. Go for the low-hanging fruit, and you can adjust along the way.
👯♂️ Join a community. Joining a gym is a beautiful way to participate in a community; heck, it’s why Crossfit is so popular. Maybe a gym isn’t your budget right now, and that’s fine! Call up a friend and become walking buddies or recruit your dog to remind you to go out for walks. And remember, it’s okay to tell your family and friends why you are focused on making these changes. It can be scary, I know, but if they are a part of your community, they will support you.
🤌 Habits are your friend. Take advantage of your current habits and add something that pushes you in the right direction. For instance, try making a habit of packing your gym bag before going to bed. Habit stacking is a game-changer, and I included it in an article I wrote for Authority Magazine.
🗓 Schedule it. If you take 5 minutes on Sunday to schedule your training sessions for the week or think about what dinner will look like, I promise you will have an easier time. Taking 5 minutes will bring you one step closer to your goal. Small steps → Action → Results → Motivation. Small steps are the secret sauce to making progress, and it’s easy to overlook when it comes to your health and fitness.
🎯 If you miss a few days, it’s okay; practice the art of getting back on track. This one takes a bit of trial and error, but the only way to get better is to experience it. You’re human, and missing a day or two doesn’t discount all your work. Perfect weeks don’t matter because they don’t exist. How you react to the usual bumps in the road determines your progress.
Above all else, remember there is nothing wrong with asking for help. If it’s in your budget, hire a coach or use google to learn more. Listen to podcasts, read books, and stay curious. If you are frustrated because you don’t see results fast enough, compare yourself with you six months ago. There’s a good chance you have made progress.
You can learn what works.
You can learn what doesn’t work.
You can learn what you like.
You can learn what you don’t like.
Above all else, you are getting a little bit better every day.
If you found this helpful, you will love my latest podcast episode. Check it out below and if you feel inclined leave me a glowing review and subscribe. 🙂
Ep 65: How Sore Should You Be? – Value Driven LifeHow sore should you be after training? Yes, delayed onset muscle soreness is normal; however, is it something you should chase during every workout? Give this a listen for the answer. Find Chris here: IG 👉 bit.ly/3EEA7zV FB Group 👉 bit.ly/3EChqgm 1:1 Coaching 👉 bit.ly/3Kx0kUZ Freebie 👉 bit.ly/3jmai00
FAQ: How Should I Warm Up?
I love this question and wanted to do something a little different to try and answer it. So I filmed a general warm-up for you to check out. Before getting to the video, read through all the goods first. 😉
Try to be specific with your warm-up.
Honestly, there was a period when my warm-up would take 30 minutes. I was much younger and was trying to do too many things. Save your time and energy.
Don’t spend 20 minutes warming up your shoulders if you are training your legs. 😉
You are prepping your body for the session. So, focus on what’s important.
Here’s a quick example of a general warm-up that you can use for any training session. You can do more or less based on your specific training day/needs.
👉 360 Breathing 1×10 breaths
👉 Arm Bar Variation 1×5 (per leg)
👉 T-Spine Rotation 1×5 (per side)
👉 Rocking 1 x 10
👉 Squat to Spiderman 1×1 minute
One final thought on warm-ups.
Once you finish the warm-up, get going, and don’t waste time sitting on your phone, that’s for between sets. 😅
In my experience coaching others and myself, you want to program the most demanding skill first. For instance, your heavy lift would go first and wouldn’t be a part of a conditioning circuit. If you are working on a specific skill such as the handstand or pull-up, that will go first, too!
You will adjust weights and movements as you move through your training session, taking them down a notch. This form of programming allows you to focus on strength and conditioning without running the risk of injury.
Learn from my mistakes. Your body will thank you.
Is Fasting The Answer?
Fasting is a popular topic, and some believe it is hands down the best way to lose weight and improve overall health.
So, the question is, does fasting improve your health, and is it the best way to lose weight?
The answer is… it depends on who the person is, their relationship with food, and their goals.
What is fasting?
There are several styles of fasting, which all depend on the period when you can eat and when you can’t eat. Here are a few examples:
Time-Restricted Eating: Fasting every day for a 12-hour or longer window of time and eating within the remaining hours. This could mean eating two meals or more based on your eating habits.
A popular example of TRE is the 16:8 fast which calls for fasting 16 hours a day with an 8-hour eating window.
A 24 Hour fast is simply not eating for 24 hours and drinking water.
Alternate Day Fasting is fasting every other day; it could be 24 hours or eating at most 500 calories on fasting days.
Any of these options result in weight loss due to caloric restriction. For example, if you are usually a late-night snacker but are following a 16:8 fast, you suddenly eliminate a chunk of extra calories.
Will this stop you from snacking all the time? No.
Will it help you stop late-night snacking if you stop fasting? No.
Fasting is just another method for reducing calories and if your goal is weight loss, then entering a calorie deficit and maintaining it is crucial. However, if your goal is to be healthier, should you fast?
Fasting and Your Health
Quite a few books and social media influencers claim that fasting will fix most of your nutrition and wellness problems. Ah…if only it were that simple.
Most of the research conducted has been completed using mice, and unfortunately, you and I are humans. What works for animals doesn’t necessarily translate into the human body. A 2015 review looked at intermittent fasting and metabolic health. It noted, “there are little or no published data linking intermittent fasting regimens with clinical outcomes such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, or other chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”
Research has looked at the benefits of alternate day fasting; however, most of those studies are too short to be conclusive, such as Ramadan-related fasting.
Another popular term lumped in with fasting is autophagy, the body’s way of cleaning damaged cells to regenerate newer, healthier cells. You can think of this as the idea of “anti-aging,” and that’s why it sounds so darn appealing. The suggested fast length to achieve the “best results” is around 2-4 days of fasting in animals. Reducing calories allows the body to undergo this process, and again many of these studies involved rodents. There are no conclusive studies on humans indicating an optimal fasting period to achieve autophagy.
Funny enough, autophagy is happening in your body right now, and doing health-promoting activities like exercising, eating a balanced diet, going for walks, and getting enough sleep all help. So, no need to do a multiday fast in your attempts to live longer. You can be pretty darn healthy without fasting, but what about weight loss?
Weight Loss and Fasting
There have been quite a few studies done trying to see if any style of fasting is more effective for weight loss. Like I mentioned above:
Fasting is just another method for reducing calories and if your goal is weight loss, then entering a calorie deficit and maintaining it is crucial.
A recent randomized study, “Calorie Restriction with or without Time-Restricted Eating in Weight Loss,” randomly assigned 139 patients with obesity to time-restricted eating with calorie restriction or daily calorie restriction alone. At the end of one year, they concluded: “a regimen of time-restricted eating was not more beneficial with regard to reduction in body weight, body fat, or metabolic risk factors than daily calorie restriction.”
In other words, your ability to adhere to a caloric deficit is KEY, and it doesn’t matter if you are fasting or not fasting. It just happens to be more challenging for someone to stick with restricted eating windows vs. finding balance and tracking calories.
Here’s why you might decide to fast.
👉 You don’t wake up hungry or enjoy breakfast
👉 You do a great job of eating balanced meals
👉 You do a great job of recognizing hunger and fullness signals
👉 You tend not to snack between meals
Here’s why you might not want to fast.
👉 You enjoy breakfast
👉 You have a hard time balancing your plate
👉 You frequently snack between meals
👉 You aren’t great at acknowledging hunger and fullness
There are pros and cons to any diet you might follow, and it’s essential to recognize what works for you. Does the thought of eating one less meal sound easy for you? Cool! Do you love breakfast and find you snack more if you skip a meal? Great, then don’t try fasting!
Biohacking is never going to beat finding balance. Most research has shown that all health benefits of fasting are pretty much the same as any continuous caloric restriction. This can be achieved through health-promoting activities that don’t require strict calorie counting. 😉
Something is better than nothing, but put balance before biohacking.
If you are tired of getting lost in the weeds of nutrition, click below to schedule your complimentary nutrition strategy 30-minute call. 🤓
Mindful Eating Is Helpful
Today is my son’s 2nd birthday. I can’t believe that my little dude is two; he is pretty cool and teaches me a lot about life.
I want to share the most valuable lesson TJ has taught me this year.
It’s important to enjoy what you eat and not ignore your hunger.
TJ is the cutest kid I know; however, if he is hungry, he turns into a cave person…oh, and if it is the food he isn’t a fan of, FORGET ABOUT IT!
Does that mean Maria and I only feed him peanut butter toast? No, of course not, but here is the approach we take.
On TJ’s plate, you will find:
- Protein (Usually 25% of the plate)
- Carbs (Usually 25% of the plate)
- Fruits and Veggies (50% of the plate)
- Fat (a thumb or two)
Does he eat all of it? HECK NO! But we make sure to keep things on the plate he loves, like fruit, cheese, and sweet potatoes. He is getting nutrients from the food, and kids have a funny way of knowing when they have had enough to eat.
The one thing that makes the most significant difference for TJ is eating enough protein. We ballpark it and consider that most of his food has enough protein for him. Worst comes to worst; I will make him a super smoothie:
- 1 banana
- 1 handful blueberries
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- 1 thumb of avocado
- 1 teaspoon of chia seeds
- 1/2 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
- 1 cup milk of choice
- 1 handful spinach
A great snack and an excellent way to sneak in some protein/veggies!
You and I aren’t too different from TJ. If we eat enough protein and get enough fiber in our diet, things tend to work out.
A common question I am asked is how much protein should I be eating?
It all depends on your goal, but a good rule for weight loss is about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
Another question is, what are some good sources of protein? I’ve got you covered.
Protein helps with:
😌 Hunger and fullness between meals
🕺 Strength development and recovery
🦴 Happy bones.
Plating a healthy portion of protein has been a game-changer for many clients, and it is something I have personally struggled with for a few years.
I was vegetarian/vegan for three years, and getting enough protein to support my activity levels and goals was a challenge, but eventually, I figured it out.
No matter your dietary choices, remember that balanced plates are good, and so are all the food groups.
So should you always eat when you’re hungry?
Hunger is a part of weight loss. It varies from person to person, but weight gain is caused by eating in a caloric surplus. Of course, this might not be true for everyone, but it is for the majority of people.
Health-promoting activities and eating in a caloric deficit are your best bet to lose weight. To achieve a deficit, you will be reducing the amount of food you usually eat and possibly replacing some of the calories with nutrient-dense whole foods.
You will be eating less, and you will experience moments when you are hungry. Hunger isn’t going anywhere, and it is an important cue that has kept humans alive for a long time. So, in other words, it is normal; however, you shouldn’t be hungry all the time.
There are a few reasons you might be experiencing frequent hunger.
The caloric deficit might be a bit too aggressive. It depends on your current weight and the amount of weight you are trying to lose. Aggressive low, calorie dieting makes it easier to gain the weight back due to hormonal adaptations from rapid weight loss. Slow, sustainable weight loss is a better choice. You can achieve this through health-promoting behaviors like:
- Sleeping 7-9 hours
- Drinking more water
- Eating balanced plates with carbohydrates, protein, vegetables/fruits, and fat
- Going for daily walks
- Daily dance parties…or exercise, whatever you want to call it. 😉
You might not be eating enough protein. Protein is your friend and aids in recovery between training sessions and overall fullness between meals. Aiming for 0.7-1.0 g/lb of protein in your diet is safe. You can try to add 1-2 palms of protein at every meal. Here’s a helpful protein guide!
If you eat balanced meals with healthy portions of protein and are frequently hungry, it might be an emotion, boredom, or exhaustion.
A client told me, during a recent coaching call, “I believe overeating is the crux of my problems. It doesn’t help that I am constantly rationalizing things in the moment “It’s just too good.”
There are a few ways to start exploring the comfort of being overly full. One that can help is giving yourself the chance to slow down. It takes time to recognize you are full, especially when eating quickly.
There are two guidelines that you can experiment with:
During meals: Put your fork down between bites.
Putting your fork or hand-based food (sandwich)down between bites allows you to slow down and enjoy the food.
The next time you pick up your fork would be after chewing and swallowing your food. Other options are to take a sip of water between bites or to talk with a friend/family member between bites.
During meals: Pay attention to the food you are enjoying. Practice Mindfulness.
Try picking one thing to notice about your next meal.
- Sound even works, especially if you’re having rice crispy cereal. 😉
Mindfulness helps you distinguish between being in love with the taste vs. being full. Research has shown that you are more likely to snack or eat more at the next meal if you don’t take the time to be aware of what you are eating.
The biggest thing to remember is that you will need to practice, which implies you will make mistakes which is a good thing. You will learn what works and what doesn’t work.
You will figure it out along the way, and the more you practice, the more self-compassion you can develop.
Many of the issues surrounding the ability to recognize hunger and fullness cues is a deep connection between finding comfort in food. To help you dive in and better understand stress eating, I want to share my stress eating e-book. It’s free .99; all you need to do is click below.
Should You Weigh Yourself?
Written by Chris McMahon
“Should I weigh myself?” is a popular question, and my honest answer is: It depends.
It depends on your relationship with the scale.
It depends on your particular weight management goals.
It depends on if you even own a scale. (You can use the gym or borrow a friend’s, but they might want it back at some point. 😉)
This article will dive into the reasons behind weighing yourself and what you can do if you choose not to use scale weight as a metric.
Knowing your starting weight is a helpful metric if your goal is to lose weight. According to the National Weight Control Registry, the most extensive prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance, 75% of people who maintained their weight loss for 5.5 years or longer weigh themselves at least once a week.
The N.W.C.R. has tracked over 10,000 people since 1994 who’ve lost significant amounts of weight and have kept it off long-term. So, some might suggest using the scale can be helpful for weight loss/ weight maintenance.
But maybe you’ve had a complicated relationship with the scale in the past.
First and foremost, let me tell you that you aren’t alone. Many of my clients, family members, and friends have expressed their scale-based worries; after all, I am a nutrition coach and trainer 🤓 .
Why does the scale Fluctuate?
The scale can fluctuate for quite a few reasons; however, a weekend of cutting it loose does not cause you to gain 10 pounds of fat. It’s impossible simply because 1 pound of fat contains 3,500 calories. To gain a pound of fat, you must eat 3,500 more calories than you use or burn in your daily life.
Consider the following:
Your basal metabolic rate (B.M.R.) is the number of calories your body burns at rest. Don’t forget to add your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (N.E.A.T.), all of the calories your burn during the day from doing activities that aren’t exercise. Please don’t be mad the next time you have to chase your toddler around or take the dog for a walk because it all counts. Also, consider your total daily energy expenditure (T.D.E.E.), an estimation of how many calories you burn when exercise is taken into account.
Again, to gain 1 pound of fat requires a 3,500 calorie surplus above your B.M.R., T.D.E.E., and N.E.A.T.
So, if you step on the scale after a weekend at notice, you’re up 5 pounds, and you think it is all fat, that means you would have to eat an extra 17,500 calories. Unless you compete in several food-eating competitions, I doubt you have eaten that many calories.
The scale can fluctuate because of the following:
A boost in carbohydrate intake. If you consume smaller portions of carbohydrates during the week and eat a few carb-heavy meals on the weekend, your body retains water. Roughly 1g of glycogen, the energy form of glucose and carbohydrates, allows the body to store 3-4g of water.
Don’t worry; everything evens out when it comes to water weight—no need to avoid carbs, especially when it is a meal with family or friends.
A boost in sodium intake. Sodium, AKA salt, causes the body to retain water. If you enjoyed some fried food, the scale might reflect it. But again, it’s water and not fat.
Exercise. You might notice the scale jumps up after a training session, and that’s completely normal. When you train, you create tiny tears in your muscle fibers, and your body goes into repair mode leading to inflammation. This is good because your muscles are growing, and the inflammation can lead to extra water retention.
You might notice this happens after a HEAVY leg session. So, enjoy the delayed onset muscle soreness and understand the scale can reflect the inflammation. So, it’s not fat. It can be muscle, but more likely, it’s water.
Water intake. This is pretty straightforward; however, if you are exercising or trying to stay hydrated, the scale reflects it.
Your body knows how to find a balance with water, so don’t fret.
Bathroom break. It takes roughly six to eight hours for your body to digest any food you have consumed.
If you weigh yourself in the morning and haven’t gone to the bathroom yet, your weight will be up. You can try getting on the scale before going to the toilet, and after, you’ll see a difference.
So it could just be poop, and it’s not fat.
Hormonal Shifts. If you are about to get your period or finishing your period, you may notice a different number on the scale. This has a lot to do with your hormones.
Estrogen levels are higher right before you get your period. Higher estrogen levels can lead to water retention. The hormone progesterone spikes toward the end of your cycle; this too can lead to water retention.
Supplements. Certain supplements such as Creatine are associated with water retention. This particular supplement can draw water into your muscle cells; however, after a few weeks, it should balance out.
These are just a few reasons the scale can fluctuate; and some might be from a weekend out, and others are just a part of life.
If You Want To Weigh Yourself, Try The Following
Randomly stepping on the scale won’t help you determine if what you’re doing is working. As you can see, many factors affect the scale’s number. I focus on using weekly averages for clients who are ready, willing, and able to use a scale.
By using weekly averages, you can notice trends, and it will give you more data around if what you are doing is working. If you want to give this a try, I suggest weighing yourself at the same time every day. Many folks prefer first thing in the morning after going to the restroom.
Write down the number and repeat it daily. You can add all the numbers together on Sunday and divide by seven to give you your weekly average. I suggest practicing this particular habit for 30 days or longer when looking for trends.
The hope is that tracking your weight can be viewed as a data point. It can help determine your plan needs an adjustment; however, it’s not for everyone.
Specific clients have a complicated relationship with the scale, and I would never force someone to do something they weren’t ready for, especially if you have a history of disordered eating or eating disorders. In that case, I suggest working with your doctor to find the best plan of action.
If that isn’t the case and you are frustrated by the scale, here are a few options to measure progress.
You are noticing When You’re Full. If you recognize when you are full and decide to stop eating, you are heading in the right direction. When you practice health-promoting skills like adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet, you will have an easier time recognizing fullness.
You can practice tracking how many balanced plates you eat during the week. As that skill improves, your weight might change.
The Way Your Clothes Fit. I love getting messages from clients about how their favorite pair of jeans fit. This might seem minor to you, but for someone who has struggled with yo-yo dieting, seeing and feeling good about the clothes you are wearing is something worth celebrating.
It can mean having pants that you discover are now too baggy
or filling out a baggy t-shirt because you have been working hard on gaining muscle.
Side note: If you no longer fit in your clothes, consider donating them. It’s a good deed, and seeing bags of clothes that are a few sizes too big can be motivating.
Your Sleep Schedule. Sleep is a significant indicator of how your health-promoting behaviors are working. Your training intensity, food choices before bed, and bedtime routine are working!
And just because it’s worth the reminder: eating after 8 PM doesn’t cause you to gain weight; eating in a calorie surplus does.
Your Energy Levels. When you eat a well-balanced diet, you will be surprised by increased energy levels. You are taking in enough calories and getting enough protein, fat, carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables to keep you moving.
It is interesting when a client takes an extended vacation and feels slightly more sluggish than usual. This is due to the change in their eating patterns, and when they come back from vacation, things balance out after a week or two.
The energy levels are essential, especially if you have a young son who likes to use you as a human jungle gym…just me?
Your Consistency In The Gym. Your ability to make it to your training sessions and learn new skills deserves celebration. Consistency is crucial and often gets overlooked.
You can’t measure progress by perfect weeks. Progress is hitting speed bumps, learning, and making adjustments.
Your Ability To Not Feel Restricted. The ability to not feel trapped by a rigid diet is what all of my clients strive for, and I hope you can experience this too.
All of these health-promoting behaviors do not exist in a bubble. You are a human, and you can not live or die by your exact macro calculations. That type of pressure creates a system of diet rules. Rigid diets might be why you have a complicated relationship with the scale in the first place. Learning to have flexibility is a skill that’s worth practicing.
Whether you choose to weigh yourself or not, it is essential to have some habit tracking to know what you can work on and what is going well.
I want to share the habit tracker I give to all my clients. It works pretty damn well, and I even have a video teaching you have to use it!
How To Track Your Macros
By Chris McMahon
When you eat, you are taking in energy. While you go about your daily life, you are burning that energy.
Energy balance plays a role in your weight management. This concept is referred to it as Calories-In, Calories Out.
- If you take in more energy than you use, you can gain weight. (Energy Surplus)
- If you take in less energy than you use, you can lose weight. (Energy Deficit)
- If you take in the same amount of energy as you use, your weight will stay the same. (Energy Balance)
There is more to weight loss than “eating less and moving more.” That phrase often can do more harm than good and overlooks the bigger picture.
Here are a few things that can affect Energy Balance
I’m diving into tracking calories because it is a part of the weight-loss equation. Of course, many other factors affect the CICO model, and you don’t necessarily have to track calories; however, clients and folks on Instagram ask about it. So, here’s how you can approach calorie tracking.
How To Track Calories
In this example, we will be looking at someone who has the goal of fat loss. Fat loss does require you to be in a calorie deficit. So here is a quick way of determining the estimated amount of calories your body needs while losing weight.
Step One: Use the NIH Body Weight Planner.
Step Two: Enter the correct information as seen below:
Step Three: Choose the correct physical activity level. Be conservative with this number.
Step Four: Enter the goal weight and goal date.
Step Five: Review the results.
In this example, this person wishes to lose thirty pounds in six months. That gives them roughly 1,528 calories per day. It’s important to note that once they reach their target weight, it is suggested they move calories up to 1,997 calories per day. You can’t remain in a deficit forever.
Let’s chat about Macros.
When tracking, it is essential to consider your macronutrient intake: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. If fat loss is your goal, then paying close attention to your protein intake is vital due to its ability to help with controlling hunger and maintaining muscle mass.
A good rule of thumb is to consume about 0.7-1.0 g/lb of protein in your diet.
The main goal is to look at total calories and protein intake, which means you can play around with carbohydrates and fat. The essential factor is adherence, which means if you can stick with a low-carbohydrate diet, give it a go. Remember that if you are trying to preserve muscle mass or gain muscle, this might not be the best choice.
Carbohydrates can range from 0.3-3.0 g/lb for fat loss, and fat intake can range from 0.3-1.0 g/lb. It depends on preference and doesn’t matter so long as you stay within your calorie target and stick to the plan.
Let’s continue using the 1,528 calorie example with a target weight of 120 lbs.
Target weight x Macronutrient g/lb = Macro Target
We want to be getting enough protein:
120 lbs x 1.0 g/lb = 120g protein
For fat let’s try being right in the middle:
120 lbs x 0.6 g/lb = 72g
We will wait on carbohydrates until we figure out the exact calories we are using.
Protein has 4 calories per gram, and fat has 9 calories per gram.
Calories for Protein: 120g x 4kcal = 480 calories
Calories for Fat: 72g x 9kcal = 648 calories
Protein and fat together equal 1,128 calories.
Now subtract the total of protein and fat from the total target calories:
1528kcal – 1128kcal = 400kcal
Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, so to determine your total carbohydrate perform the following:
400 ÷ 4kcal = 100g
Macronutrient breakdown for 1,528 calorie goal:
120g Protein 72g Fat 100g Carbohydrate
Now that you know the numbers, you can start tracking using MyFitness Pal or Cronometer.
But, wait a minute…what if you don’t enjoy tracking?
What skill level are you?
Before you start tracking, you must consider your current skill level. After all, many people do track and still manage not to lose weight. It usually has more to do with inaccurate tracking and nothing to do with calorie deficits not working.
Tracking calories takes work and, to be honest, can be a lot of effort, so before meticulously weighing your chicken breast, ask yourself the following questions.
- What’s my goal?
- What do I know?
- What can I already do well?
- Realistically how consistent can I be?
Answer these questions, and you will have a better idea of where to start.
If your goal is to feel better and lose weight, your practice skills will be slightly different from someone competing in a sport or physique competition.
Different options to use:
This is what you have been waiting for, right? Before going any further, I want to remind you of the two big goals that anyone focusing on weight loss can benefit from following.
During Meals: Recognize when you are full and stop eating.
Between Meals: Distinguishing hunger from emotions, boredom, or exhaustion.
If every person practiced these skills, weight management would be easier. Keep both of them in mind as we move through different tracking options.
Level 1: Taking Pictures of all meals and snacks
This is a fantastic starting point for anyone working on accountability and tracking. Think of it as dipping your toes in the water of consistently tracking. Also, there is no excuse not to take a picture; your phone is usually nearby.
Clients send me pictures all the time, and it is an excellent way to talk about how they might adjust their balanced plate. Taking a picture of your snacks helps you recognize what you are grabbing. Consider anything you are eating between meals as a snack. As in the skittles a co-worker has on the desk or a handful of chips from the closet.
Level 2: Using hand measurements
Building a balanced plate is an essential part of weight management and using hand measurements is another way to track and be aware of how much you are consuming.
Protein ✋ The palm of your hand, roughly 20-30g of protein
Carbohydrates 🤌 A cupped handful, roughly 20-30 g carbs
Fat 👍 A Thumb length, roughly 7-12 g fat.
Ideally, the plate would start with 50% fruits and vegetables; most folks aren’t getting enough of these food groups and need the added fiber. From there, you can structure your plate using the hand portion guide.
If we use the macro split from our example, that would be:
40g of protein for three meals (✋ or ✋✋ per meal/ 6 palms per day)
33g of carbohydrate for three meals (🤌 per meal/3-4 cupped hands per day)
24g of fat for three meals (👍 👍 per meal/ 6 thumb lengths per day )
If this seems like too much to eat in a single meal, you could try having more meals throughout the day. It all depends on what works for you.
My clients track their protein, carbohydrate, and fat using a simple tally mark chart. After two-four weeks, we check and adjust portions based on weight loss/gain and overall feeling. Nutrition requires adjustments along the way. That’s why rigid diets don’t work long term.
Level 3: Weighing and measuring food with a scale, cups, and table & teaspoons
Measuring, weighing, and tracking your food intake is not inherently wrong and can be a beneficial tool depending on your goals. Some of my clients aren’t ready for this, and it’s ok.
You might be someone who loves numbers, can stick to a plan, and geeks out over data points. Level 3 might be right up your alley.
What’s the best option?
The best choice is the one that allows for consistency. All three levels will enable you to track and notice trends as you work toward your weight goal.
Being aware of your choices is a big step forward. Creating plans that work requires flexibility and self-compassion. If that’s what you are missing in your effort to lose weight, I do have slots open for 1:1 nutrition coaching.
No matter what, remember it boils down to what works for you.
Weight Loss By The Numbers
Weight loss is a numbers game. I am sure you have heard this expression before, and if not, there’s a first time for everything. My thoughts on this expression have ebbed and flowed throughout my career.
When I was new to fitness and coaching, I believed it was more important to eliminate the temptations and stick to a rigid plan—technically speaking, you could estimate there are 3,500 calories in 1 pound of fat. So, if you wanted to lose one pound a week, it would require you to consume fewer calories at a deficit of 500 calories per day.
500 Calories X 7 Days = 3,500 calories
Tracking, measuring, and adhering are par for the course; however, it is usually more complicated and not easy.
There are many layers of Diet Culture, and many of them have to do with restriction.
If someone wants to lose weight, it is easy to view it as a subtraction game.
- Subtraction of favorite foods
- Subtraction of favorite restaurants
- Subtraction of free time
- Subtraction of social events
There are so many contradicting diets floating around the internet and bookshelves. A great meme from Dr. Spencer Nadolsky demonstrates you would eat nothing if you tried to follow multiple diets at once.
If you are trying to lose weight, you need to eat.
If you are trying to gain weight, you need to eat.
If you are trying to maintain weight, you need to eat.
The clients I work with who see the most progress are the ones who start practicing addition.
Don’t Skip Practicing Addition.
Look at what you are currently doing and then see what simple things you can add to your daily life. Throwing everything away in an attempt to have rapid results implies that you are doing everything wrong, and that isn’t a recipe for success.
Adding things in allows you to adjust and still enjoy the things you love.
I wouldn’t consider a single slice of pizza a complete meal; however, a piece of pizza with some carrots, cucumbers, and an apple would be a little more balanced. So here’s an opportunity to reframe it. You are adding more nutrients to your meal(s).
Adding protein at every meal
Getting 1,000 extra steps
Drinking an extra glass of water
Getting to bed 30 minutes earlier
Minor adjustments that can help you build momentum are lovely and work better than total elimination.
But, what if I am not eating clean?
Clean eating does more harm than good and usually shifts someone to start categorizing foods as Good vs. Bad. This form of thinking lends itself to disordered eating practices, and the goal is to maintain a healthy relationship with food.
It all boils down to balancing your nutrition practices, regardless of the goal.
I love to teach clients the concept of balancing a plate/meal because it is a nice entry point and teaches someone that every type of food can fit onto your plate.
Most individuals will benefit from protein, carbohydrates, fruit/vegetables, and fat in their diet. You spend days arguing about macronutrient ratios; however, none of it matters if you can’t even build a balanced plate.
It’s like worrying about hitting a home run and having never touched a bat before. Focus on the basics and then expand your skillset. Making contact with the ball is more important than the home run. OK, enough baseball references; the point is that balance is essential.
You need to meet yourself where you are and if that means picking up premade meals from Trader Joe’s, go for it! If it means you eat Wendy’s two times a week, go for it! You can use the balanced plate in both situations.
For instance, you could pick up a nutrient-dense salad from wendy’s and get your favorite Diet soda and small fries. This might be where you start, and that is OK. Protein makes a big difference in satiety and snacking between meals too.
Over time you might add apple slices and find you don’t want fries. Maybe you decide to have a seltzer instead of a Diet Soda. What truly matters is consistency and flexibility.
Build up over time, make numerous mistakes, and learn; it’s is the only way someone can make progress. After all, weight loss is a numbers game.
If you want to hear the audio version of this blog post click here!
Sugar Isn’t The Problem
If you don’t have time to read check out the full audio here.
Since the age of ten, I have been a type 1 diabetic, which means I have now been living longer with diabetes than with a properly functioning pancreas. People like to ask if I got diabetes because I overate sugar. Another favorite of mine is should you be eating fruit? There’s a lot of sugar in it, and you have diabetes.
Before diving in, I want to take a moment to remind you that I am trying my hardest to be unbiased when I say this. Fruit is good for you. The amount of research proving the statement I just made is astonishing. Such as a 2014 meta-analysis, which examined Fruit and vegetable consumption with mortality caused by cardiovascular disease and cancer, which concluded: “higher consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of mortality from all causes, particularly from cardiovascular diseases.”
There are a few reasons why adding fruit and vegetables to someone’s diet can be helpful. First and foremost, fruit is a nutrient-dense food source which means it contains the vitamins, minerals, and “healthy” carbohydrates our body needs.
- Fruit is lower in calories and harder to overeat
- Fruit contains fiber which helps keep your gut happy and helps slow digestion.
- Fruit helps you poop because…fiber.
In its unprocessed form, fruit is high in fiber, which acts as a gentle scrub brush to your intestines. Fiber expands in your GI tract, slowing the digestion process. This reason alone can be why individuals with more fruit and vegetables in their diets have an easier time maintaining or losing weight.
When you recognize you are full, it becomes easier to eat less, and when caloric intake decreases, it becomes a little easier to lose or maintain weight.
“But I eat a lot of fruit and can’t lose weight.”
Be aware of what kind of fruit you are eating. Are you eating a mango, or do you have dried mango? Are you having fresh-squeezed orange juice or a big old glass of Tropicana?
There is nothing inherently wrong with fruit juice or dried fruit so long as you know the portion size. Dried fruit and fruit juice tend to be lower in fiber, and additional sugar can be added.
Sugar isn’t the problem. The lack of fiber is the issue and the ease of overconsumption. If we look at intentional weight loss and someone is unaware of the extra calories, it matters.
So can someone blame sugar? I wouldn’t, and here’s why.
Should you blame sugar?
The short answer is no because it is far more complicated than we like to admit. It’s not simply eliminating an entire group or additive from your diet because you will always find something else to blame. Weight management boils down to calories, and with intentional weight loss, someone needs to be in a caloric deficit.
Sure, you can remove processed sugar from your diet, but if you are always hungry and don’t know how to manage it, is sugar really to blame? No, it’s the current ability someone has to cope with the stressors in their life.
Your ability to navigate your emotions, practice health-promoting behaviors, and make small manageable changes can lead to weight loss but, more importantly, is a sustainable practice.
Labeling food as good or bad does little to help you understand why you make certain choices. Instead of eliminating everything, I suggest answering the following questions for yourself:
- What are you eating?
- When are you eating?
- What were you doing before eating?
- How did you feel while eating?
- How did you feel after eating?
This might seem like a lot, and it’s ok. If you take the time to answer these questions, you’ll notice a trend that needs your attention.
Give it a try, and if you need some help, I wrote an ebook all about stress eating that teaches you more about the food you eat, the feelings you have, and why you make specific food choices.