Monday, May 19, 2014

How I Changed My Lifestyle

Me on left in 2005, right before I decided to change my life. Me now on the right. 

Often times I am asked to outline a meal plan for someone because they are looking for help. I get it. I was there before. I actually can't even count how many times I reached out to people who I thought had all the answers. When I was replied to, I was usually given the standard "cookie cutter" plan. 

For example:
Breakfast- Oats, Eggs whites, Grapefruit.
Snack- Almonds
Lunch- Chicken with a spinach salad and a sweet potato
Snack- Protein shake
Dinner- Tilapia with broccoli and sweet potato

Okay, while I KNOW deep within my heart and brain that this is no way to LIVE and learn how to eat for the rest of my life, I couldn't help but think, "well, it worked for her, so it must work for me." 

Well, here's the thing; some people are born with killer genetics, some people have eating disorders, some people are living in pure misery, some people are f*cking liars, and some people don't even know that this road is leading the to a world full of problems. Problems that are so severe that many people need therapy and must work with dietitians to get their body's back to normal. These people have suffered severe hair loss, loss of menstruation, rapid weight gain, and so much more. 

Okay, so what do you do? To be honest, there are many ways to go about a lifestyle change and not one of them is the ONLY way to do things. However, since I have been doing this whole thing since I was 18, have my personal training and nutrition certifications, and hold my Bachelors of Applied Science in Kinesiology, I can offer a decade worth of experience and education. BUT if you are looking for a more scientific evidence approach please take a look at Layne Norton and Bret Contreras's sites. They both offer a lot of peer reviewed articles and both offer a lot of free information out there for my fellow science geeks. What I am going to offer you is an idea of how I have changed my own lifestyle. 

1. I am a stay at home mom, or as my husband calls me, the Chief Operations Officer (COO). Being a stay at home mom, one of my most beloved duties is cooking for my family, but more specifically, dinner. And coming from a background where Italian, Irish, and Mexican food was VERY abundant, you can imagine the meals that come along with that. So, when I was feeling really Martha Stewart-y, I would throw down in the kitchen. For example; tacos (sadly most of the time with pre-packaged seasonings) with homemade spanish rice, refried beans, chips, salsa, guacamole, the works! Being able to deliver a wonderful home cooked meal for those I love brings me so much pleasure in life but NOT so much pleasure to our waist lines. So, what did I do? I altered it! Use ground chicken (I don't really care for ground turkey) or a lean ground beef like bison. Instead of sour cream, use plain greek yogurt for more protein (even mix in a little of your favorite hot sauce!). Use the spices in your cabinet and create your own taco seasoning. This way you will have WAY less sodium and other "stuff" added in to your mix. I usually just use a blend of the following: chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Yep, simple as that! If you really have a taste for beans, have a little side of black beans. I prefer to use Mission tortillas; but sometimes I would rather made a taco salad and load up on my meat and veggies. The main idea here is that I have altered so many of my favorite meals, that it never seems like I'm eating "clean" or "healthy."

2. Drink more water. I know it sounds repetitive and you read it just about everywhere, but seriously, drink more water. Not only does it fill you up but it also aids in weight loss! 

3. You know the saying, "breakfast is the most important meal of the day?" Well, it's true. I used to never eat breakfast due to lack of time management skills and my forgetfulness which I can most likely attribute to my poor diet back in high school. Once I started incorporating a REAL breakfast into my diet (not just a bagel and cream cheese on the go) I started to see serious changes. Instead of falling asleep on my morning "L" train commute, I was vibrant and actually appreciative to take in my surroundings without feeling like a walking zombie. My typical breakfast is a simple protein shake: 1-2 scoops of Optimum Nutrition Whey chocolate protein, 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk,  1/2 of a banana, 1 TBSP peanut butter, and a handful of spinach. Yep, that's it! Simple and freaking delicious! It also happens to be my sons favorite, but he thinks its a "Chocolate Milkshake." If I'm not having that then my breakfast is usually 2 eggs over medium, 3 slices of real bacon, and a side of fruit. Simple, easy, nutritious and really set my energy into high gear for the rest of the day. Oh and how can I forget my Starbucks House Blend Keurig Coffee with 2 Tablespoons of regular cream and 1 teaspoon of pure sugar!

4. Aside from protein which is the hardest for the majority of people to get in their diet, don't forget about fat. Fat actually AIDS in weightloss! It wasn't until I started tracking my macros that I realized I was barely getting in any fat on a daily basis. Of course, if I had a half bag of Doritos I would have NO trouble getting in two days worth of fat, but I'm talking the good stuff. Fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, canola oil, peanut butter, avocado, nuts, cheeses, and fatty fish (salmon)! Oh the yumminess. Make sure you're getting those babies in. I actually like to use avocado on my sandwiches instead of mayo, or throw some oil and avocado in a steak salad. And truth be told, other than Whey Protein, a fish oil pill is probably the only other supplement I would use. Life and your brain is so much better with healthy fats.

5. Don't make drastic changes. I know it seems hard, especially when you're all gung-ho about finally losing those 10 pounds you gained 10 years ago! Monday rolls around and you're like, "Okay, no cookies, no sugar in my coffee, I am only going to have plain chicken and fish with veggies for dinner, I HATE tuna but I'm going to make myself eat it, I am going to have these two shakes a day with some almonds, I'm going to go on a juice cleanse, I'm never eating chips again, I can't go to Johnny's party because there will be food and alcohol there, I'm not drinking alcohol anymore, instead of drinking my usual 5 cans of pop a day I'm not drinking any, and I will go to the gym twice a day and do an hour of cardio each time." Dear lord, how much more NEGATIVE can it get, right? No wonder Monday never comes, you are setting yourself up for failure. Stop treating yourself so poorly. THIS should actually be number one because I preach this one the most. DON'T STOP EVERYTHING AT ONCE. Repeat after me! You drink 5 cans of pop a day, okay, cut out 2 of them to start. You don't like tuna? Don't eat it! You get an extra large coffee with extra cream and sugar? Order a large next time. You are only doing cardio? Add in some weight training! So you have like 10 beers and like 6 shots when you go out? Have half! You want chips? Eat them, just not the whole bag. This is the concept where we need to understand that moderation is key. THIS concept is what got me to lose my initial 35 pounds back in 2006. 

6. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Do the people in your life place value on their own health? Are they trying to make positive changes? If the answer is no, I urge you to re-think those relationships and to go out there and make new friends. This doesn't mean completely cutting off those important relationships to you, unless they are drowning you. Unless they are the chains that bind you. Let them go and set yourself free. 

These are all certainly beginning steps but these are the ones I feel are most important in building your foundation of a real lifestyle change.