When people start their weight loss journey they often begin by completing overhauling their food. This is a sure way to exhaustion and defeat. If you’re not eating foods you enjoy, you won’t be able to sustain the change and you’ll end up failing. The key to sustainable and realistic change is to make small habit changes that have big impact.
If you’re looking to lose some fat and improve your overall health, start with these 5 habits first:
1. CHOOSE LEAN MEATS. Switch your ground beef to 93/7 leanness. Yes, it’s typically more expensive but if you bulk order through companies like Zaycon Fresh, it makes eating lean meats more affordable. Choose boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pork tenderloin (also available through Zaycon Fresh). Steak cuts like sirloin or filet are leaner options. Incorporate lean seafood like shrimp and white fish. If you switch up your main protein source, you’ll automatically cut out wasted calories and fat.
2. EAT LEAN PROTEIN AT EACH MEAL. When you’re trying to lose fat, making sure you eat enough protein will help preserve your lean muscle mass as well as help you feel fuller, longer. Being set in a caloric deficit makes adequate protein intake even more critical. Women should aim for at least 1 palm-sized serving at each meal, while men should have 1-2 palm-sized servings at each meal. Protein is absolutely essential for maintaining muscle while losing fat.
3. ADHERE TO THE 80/20 RULE. What are whole foods? They are foods that are minimally processed, “closer to the ground.” Think fresh fruits/veggies/whole grains, beans and legumes, lean protein, nuts/seeds, eggs, etc. Minimally processed or packaged foods are also good: canned tomatoes, frozen veggies, bagged frozen shrimp, etc. There are no hard and fast rules about what constitutes a whole food. Think about what you can realistically change in your diet and start with those changes. Be a critical consumer. Avoid assuming that food is “healthy” simply because it’s packaging says “natural”, “organic”, or something similar. Aim to eat 80% whole foods this week and 20% or less of processed!
4. DRINK CALORIE-FREE BEVERAGES. If we try to drink calorie-free beverages, we can automatically improve our nutrition and cut out excess caloric intake. It’s really easy to take in a lot of unwanted calories with drinks. We often don’t really think before ordering our “regular” – coffee with extra cream, frappe-mocha-chino-latte from the corner coffee shop, sweet tea, regular soda, wine, beer, mixed drinks…whatever your beverage of choice might be, if it’s loaded with calories you’re likely spending quite a chunk of your daily caloric intake on beverages that provide little to no nutrition or “value” to your body.
5. EAT AT HOME. When you eat at home you’re able to control the components of your meal and how they’re prepared. Eating at home is nearly always a better option than eating out, even when you’re eating basically the same foods. Consider this: you’re out and about and stop on the go at Panera for dinner. After all, Panera is healthy, right? You skip checking out nutrition information online and opt for the Roasted Turkey, Apple & Cheddar Sandwich on Cranberry Walnut bread. You have food at home but this is just easier. And it’s turkey – it’s healthy! It’s also 710 calories: 32P/62C/32F. You could make a very similar sandwich at home for literally half the calories, carbs and fat. And you might even enjoy it a bit more and feel greater satisfaction knowing you’d be losing fat and feeling great while eating foods you enjoy! So much in life is out of our control. Life is crazy but we almost always have a choice. Choose wisely. Choose your health over convenience. Control your ingredients. Enjoy your food. Eat at home.
Start with these 5 habit changes and I guarantee you’ll start making progress towards your goals. Eating more nutritiously can come with a price – it can increase a grocery bill, require you to shift some unhealthy habits, requires intentionality around what you’re eating and why, and requires time. But it has tremendous benefits – losing fat, improving your overall health, spending less money on eating out, spending more time together at home.
If you’re looking to achieve sustainable change when it comes to losing weight, start small!