These words from the mythological Oracle of Delphi couldn’t be more apt today. Know ourselves. What a concept! It’s very simple, but totally profound.
We often try to force ourselves into a mold in some way or another. Think about it: We’ll often go after many diet plans, fitness regimens, clothing styles, and even behavior patterns that aren’t really… us.
And, while, obviously, we don’t have to be totally out there and non-conformist to be individuals, respecting certain little things about ourselves can make a huge difference in our productivity and progress.
For me, this has meant coming to understand what I need to do to see changes within myself, fitness-wise, while drawing from fundamental knowledge about health and fitness.
It really has been a lot of trial and error. And obsessing. And scrutinizing. But once you figure out what works for you – and I’m here to help you make that process easier! – you can really live the rest of your life feeling happy and confident about your health choices! How liberating is that??
Example. The last time I competed in a bikini competition, I had some serious fat-loss goals and no experience ever having done that before! So of course I tried the kind of plan that most competitors follow.
Couldn’t hurt, right? I thought the oatmeal-and-egg, chicken-and-rice, tilapia-and-asparagus, all-day-every-day diet was the only option for getting myself down to a lower body fat percentage, so I tried. I bought all the ingredients, set aside some time to cook and…. Immediately felt bored.
It’s not that I don’t like any of those items, it’s just that I love variety. I love cooking so much and I love the joy of eating what feels good at the time - not what is dictated by a strict plan - that I was miserable trying to follow the path that some of those others had.
Between the boredom and the fact that the typical high-protein, moderate-carb, low-fat approach didn’t seem to be working for me, I realized I couldn’t continue that plan.
I found that as long as I was eating whole and natural foods, fitting them into my macros (amounts of carbs, fats, and proteins) in the amounts that seemed to work best for my body (high fat, moderate protein, low carb), I would see results and be able to eat a lot more outside the box than my “prescription” diet.
Basically, what I’m telling you is that if you HATE broccoli, and you can’t stand running on a treadmill, but those are key parts of plan you’re trying to follow… you’re just setting yourself up for failure.
Think about what you like and what is most important to you. Is a life without cheese not worth living? Do you really need bread, or can you trade it out for something low-carb, like I do with my protein pancakes? Know that it’s possible to fit in some treats… if you do it right. (My low-carb protein cheesecake is one of my favorite things, and just another reason to love the low-carb high-fat approach!) Are you training for distance running and need the extra fuel from grains in your diet, or are you trying to become lean in a relatively short time, when grains can be a hindrance?
Once you have that in mind, you can start making your shopping list using this little guide! Make sure that you will have time, as soon as possible after shopping, to prepare all or most of your week’s meals. This will help you avoid waste AND get on track right away.
Finally, follow the Easy Meal Prep Guide to prepare yourself for quick grab-and-go breakfast lunches and dinners, because you know life can and will throw all kinds of curve balls at you. Trust me – this will win you a million life points and my loud applause. (Just imagine it being very loud.)
Simple Shopping Outline:
Vegetables. Buy 3 of your favorite vegetables, in fairly large quantities. (I usually get one head of broccoli, one bunch of asparagus, and a large carton of spinach just for myself.)
Proteins. Pick your top 3 sources of protein, and buy at 3-7 pounds – total – of that for just you, for one week. I love eggs, chicken, and fish – but you could do tofu, beans, and hemp protein powder, or some other combo! (I eat about 4 oz of whatever protein sources I choose per meal, for three meals. That means I need ¾ pounds of lean protein per day. Decide how much to buy based on your own protein needs!)
Fats. Know what your fat needs are and pick a couple additional sources of healthy fat* – especially if you’re on a high-fat plan like me! I just make sure I have a few easy sources at the ready, and may or may not need to buy more that week.
*“Healthy fats” are not just saturated vs. unsaturated. Forget that, and instead realize that fats are healthy based on what they’re from and how they’re processed. I make sure to have extra virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil (or olive or avocado oil), grass-fed organic butter (yes, animal fats can be healthy if sourced from healthy animals with a good diet! Think omega-3s!), avocados, olives, nuts, and even some grass-fed cheeses. I don’t forget to count any fat my proteins have as well.
High-Octane Carbs. If your carbohydrate needs are not met with vegetables, grab one or two sources of carbs. My most highly recommended ones for the best results would be sweet potatoes, beans, rolled oats, and quinoa. Pick your favorites. These can be stored over a week, so just make sure to have enough for you for one week around!
Pick out a few Favorite Condiments. Condiments are anything that add extra flavor to your food, and these can make a big impact on how happy you are with the foods you’re eating! I love using mustard, low-sugar ketchup, and pickles on my bunless burgers (on a bed of lettuce), Walden Farms zero-calorie pancake syrup on my protein pancakes, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar on my salads! A good mix of spices is also a must for flavorful food!
Leave out the Processed. Avoid stuff like breads, anything sugary, or packaged foods. Okay, yes… I admit, dark chocolate, La Tortilla Factory low-carb tortillas, and Quest Bars fall under these categories, and yet I still eat them.
I do think there is room for around 10% of calories to come from almost whatever you like, as long as you can fit them into your dietary budget and not set off a crazy-eating fest!
Easy Meal Prep Outline:
Start by cooking the vegetables. Having broccoli all chopped up and ready to go into a broccoli salad could also mean having some ready to roast, have as a side, and then even put into a frittata. A spaghetti squash can also be cooked and then divided up to make two different pasta-like dishes!
Marinade or otherwise prepare the proteins and carbs. Example: You marinade and cook your tofu so that it’s delicious even when plain (like in this recipe), and then you have it to add to salads, pizzas, frittatas, or anything! It doesn’t have to go in just one dish for the whole week!
Mix and match prepped foods to make at least 3 different ready-to-go meals for the week. This is where you do the actual meal-making. Example:
- You’ve cooked 2 pounds of chicken and 2 pounds of beef, as well as a head of broccoli and a spaghetti squash.
- Chop up and divide HALF of each into 3-6 oz (whatever you need) portions and divide among containers, with beef in some and chicken in others.
- Add your portions of broccoli to half the beef and half the chicken, and then spaghetti squash to the other half of the beef and chicken.
- Top everything with broccoli with Walden Farms zero-calorie barbecue sauce, and everything with spaghetti squash with light tomato sauce and a little mozzarella cheese.
- With your remaining veggies and proteins, make a frittata or a stir-fry (easy, big-batch style), and divide into portions.
- You can make as many dishes out of these ingredients as you want, but technically you could do this all with just a few main items and a few interchangeable condiments!
Divide whatever you can into portion sizes and refrigerate or freeze. Make sure the amounts in each container are what you need for a meal, and that the container is microwavable or freezable first, to make sure it’s not a hassle later, and you should be set to grab-and-go for your next healthy meal!