In order to unlock your true fitness potential, you must first get your mind ‘unstuck.’ There are layers to progress when it comes to your body, and any skipped steps will result in eventual relapse.
Building a strong, resilient mind is critical for overcoming emotional turmoil, unwarranted feelings of failure, and the all-to-common self-sabotage. Without taking care of this part of your ‘self’, you will never make lasting dietary changes. ‘Cracks’ in your mindset and emotional sensitivities will result in overeating, constant grazing, late-night snacking, and other binge behaviour.
Once you strengthen the mind, you can finally make your diet ‘stick.’ Once your diet sticks, your exercise performance, commitment, and return will skyrocket. The results and feelings of positivity and progress will feed straight back into your mind. Your mind, in turn, feeds back to the body.
Many of us attempt to do this in reverse. We try to out-exercise poor eating behaviours. We get frustrated, sad, angry, and anxious when we can’t put our diet together. We mentally suffer as a result and become less and less resilient to the inevitable hurdles between us and peak health.
Work in reverse. That is the key to success.
When it comes down to it, the most potent factors that determine success or failure in your fitness intersect at pain and impulse. The more pain you are in, the more time you will spend distracting, numbing, and stimulating your mind. You will do this with food, alcohol, technological distraction, and other forms of ‘laziness.’ The greater your impulsiveness, the quicker you will turn to these forms of self-medication, and the less resilient you will be with different kinds of emotional turmoil. The pain-free, low impulse individual can quickly extinguish fear, sadness, anger, and disgust. The high-pain, high impulse individual, will be quick to escape and avoid the emotions that s/he is sensitive to. Weight gain is not the only way we show our pain, but obesity is the most wearable and one of the most highly stigmatized expressions of a person who is struggling.
When you see someone with a lot of weight to lose, you are not seeing a person who is lazy, uncommitted, or who doesn’t care about her health. You are seeing someone who is wearing her troubles from the superficial and meaningless to the incredibly deep and painful.
There are many reasons a person may struggle to make healthy meals for him or herself. Lack of cooking skills, motivations for unhealthy eating, and even confusion about what constitutes healthy food can all play a role. The truth is that formulating healthy meals that work for your body is quite simple, and in this post, I will break down the ‘big rocks’ of healthy eating at main meals.
1. Maximize protein: protein (particularly animal protein) has become the butt of a lot of fear-mongering. Media hype and interest groups have done an excellent job of making manipulated data look like a smoking gun. The truth is that animal protein is not only safe for consumption, but it is essential for peak health. That isn’t to say that you can’t live a healthy life on a plant-based diet, but in my opinion, you will suffer at some point without the ease and richness of animal foods. In any event, I’m not here to argue that point. Protein is the most satiating, nutrient-dense, weight loss and performance-friendly foods you can consume. When you skip or skimp on protein, you are much more likely to overeat starches, sugars, and fats. It’s not that there isn’t a place in your diet for the nutrients mentioned above, but they are easy to overconsume and more consequential for fat gain when compared to protein. There are even some studies that show when we overconsume protein, we have a difficult time converting the excess to body fat. If fat loss is at the top of your list, you should be eating at least a fist-sized portion of protein, preferably from animal sources at each meal. It would be best if you also aimed to eat your protein first.
2. Get your low starch carbohydrates: Low starch carbs can be classified as vegetables that grow above the ground and (occasionally) berries from the fruit family. Contrast these foods with stuff like root vegetables and high sugar fruits like bananas. It’s not that the latter food groups are unhealthy, but if fat loss is what we are after, it would be wise to eat the most nutrient-dense plant foods. That means low starch and sugar with a reasonable amount of fiber and a high amount of nutrient density. I want to caveat that I don’t believe fiber is essential or all that helpful. But if you are reducing sugar and starch matter in plants, something has to be leftover. That’s where fiber comes in. Low starch carbs do the same job as protein in terms of appetite control, but the satiety factor has a shorter half-life- so LSC’s will keep you full in the short term, but you require protein (and some fat) to keep your appetite down in the long-term. Aim to get 1-2 fists of low starch carbs at each meal and eat them after your protein serving. If you have digestive issues, it is best to thoroughly cook your vegetables and feed on the lower end of the serving size index.
3. Manage your starches and fats: starch and fat both have a place in a healthy diet, but these are nutrients that you should manage when trying to burn fat. When I say starches, I am referring to whole food forms like root vegetables, some fruits, and occasionally something like rice or even pasta. I believe that grains are going to do you more harm than good, but if you can keep in under control, the occasional indulgence isn’t going to hurt you. When I am talking about fats, I am referring to plant matter and extrinsic fats: the fats we add to our food or fat that comes from plant sources (as opposed to naturally occurring lipids in our protein sources). Think olive oil, butter, ghee, avocado, fatty nuts, etc. Fat should be kept consistent and moderate throughout your meals. One to two thumb-sized servings of extrinsic fat is what you are going to want. Starches should align with your level of exercise. The more intensely active you are, the more starch you can have. The more sedentary you are, the less starch you should have. A palm-sized serving of high starch carbohydrates is fine for most people to have once per day. If you want more than that it should be earned with a reasonably intense bout of exercise.
If you do these three things, you will be making the most of your meals. So remember to always:
1. Get your protein
2. Get most of your carbs from Low Starch sources
3. Moderate your starch and healthy fat intake
If you need further help in this area, consider purchasing the MetFlex-Rx Ultimate Fat Loss Guide here. It’s only $5.
‘Fit’ people often see an overweight individual and make classic assumptions. This person must be weak, uncommitted, and clearly does not care about her health. This is an uneducated judgement. A judgement that can only be made by a person who does not understand even himself. Sick people want to be healthy. Poor people want financial stability. Drug addicts want to be clean. When the acute inner pain a person is facing is more powerful than the long-term dream of change it is almost impossible to make right decisions. If this was not the case the world would be full of fit, successful, well adjusted individuals. Stress, trauma, and emotional burden pushes individuals to self-medicate with food, alcohol, drugs, laziness, and technological distraction. Everyone has his or her pain, and everyone has his or her medicine. When you have to wear the effects of your self-medication, you are the first to be judged.
Since the world began to change a few months ago, the average person has found it increasingly difficult to stay healthy. You start going to bed a bit later, drinking a little earlier, and grazing on whatever you can get your hands on all day long. Combine those issues with a fleeting motivation for exercise, and the future of your waistline does not look so good.
During times like these, we dwell on our current lack of motivation. Home-based exercise has always been a challenge for most people. Similar to the common issues found in working from home, when you are in a familiar, comfortable, unstructured environment, things just don’t get done. You don’t have anyone to hold you accountable, and you are missing the critical transition that moves you from one frame of mind to another. For example: when you leave your house, arrive at the gym, put on your fancy gym clothes and meet your coach, you prime yourself for exercise. When you’re at home, there are many competing primers to sit, eat, watch T.V., or do some busywork.
The keyword here is ‘primed.’ People believe that motivation is a trait. Some people are motivated, some people are not. We view a lack of motivation as a character flaw. The truth is that (much like willpower) motivation is an unreliable source of productivity. It is weak, sparse, and finite by nature. Especially when it comes to routine acts that can be monotonous at the moment and have a long lag between action and outcome (like flossing your teeth), motivation is not the correct fuel source. What you need is discipline, and this is where ‘primers’ come in.
People also wrongly believe that discipline is a character trait. You are disciplined, or you aren’t. That belief is incorrect. Discipline is simply a combination of knowing yourself and organizing your life in a way that decreases your chances of messing things up. For instance, it may be your intention to wake up at 6 AM each morning and exercise before the kids wake up. That’s a nice thought, but what usually happens at 6 AM? You wake up, you look at the clock, you think of the ten reasons why staying in bed is better than exercise, and you go back to sleep. Or perhaps you wake up and tell yourself that you’ll just work out after lunch (which you never follow through with). Or maybe you get out of bed and meander around the house for 45 minutes, drinking coffee and staring at your smartphone. Then when the kids get up, it’s too late to exercise. These examples are not issues of motivation. These are issues of a lack of calling yourself out and being prepared.
If I want to work out during a time when I historically find endless excuses not to, my goal is to make those excuses nearly impossible to access. If I were to set the alarm on my phone, I wouldn’t just ‘set the alarm’. I’d add a note to it (a feature available on any smartphone) that said something like ‘hey, don’t even think about going back to sleep. It’s now or never’. I’d put my workout clothes on the floor, likely beside my bathroom door so I’d have to step over them in the morning, literally. Then I would make sure to prepare my water, music, and everything else I needed. That way, I can just go downstairs and get to work. That is all discipline is composed of. Know yourself, anticipate the future, and set primers to keep you from being yourself.
If you drink too early in the day, set a strict limit on your start time and even put a note on the wine fridge if necessary. If you snack on chips and crackers excessively into the evening, get that shit out of your house- or at the very least- appoint a snack bowl of a specific size that you mentally commit to as your single evening serving. If you spend too much time on your smartphone, download an app that gives you a single session or total daily reminders when you’ve hit your screen limit. These interventions sound silly to people, but they work.
Being a disciplined individual is not a complicated process requiring David Goggins or Jocko Willink on your speed dial. Discipline is knowing yourself + implementing silly primers that keep you from being who you usually are when you fail. Think about where you fall short and get creative with your commitments. Implement strategies that will hold you to the promises you make for yourself and see just how ‘motivated’ you can become.