Everyone falls off the wagon. Stress, work, and vacation can dismantle the healthy habits you’ve tried to build.
Maybe this is your first time focusing on improving your health through nutrition. That’s great! But where to begin?
When it’s time to build (or rebuild) your nutrition habits from scratch, here’s the step-by-step guide to getting back on track.
There is a simple hierarchy to improve your nutrition. Work through these stages one at a time. Seriously.
When a person builds one new habit, the average compliance rate is 80%. When a person tries to add a second habit, the compliance for BOTH habits drops to 20%.
Each habit must be completely established before moving on to the next.
Stage 1: The Obvious Junk
Everyone lets their favorite unhealthy food creep back into your diet. Sometimes, unhealthy favorites become your whole diet. This is the low hanging fruit that can make a huge difference quickly.
Start with the obvious junk food. Cut back on the soda. Stop hitting the drive through. Candy isn’t a snack. Do all the things you would tell children to do in regard to food.
This may take practice. If you can’t cut out the junk food cold turkey (and 95% of people on Earth can’t do that sustainably) take it one step at a time. If you have gotten in the habit of driving through Wendy’s 3 times per week, only go twice this week. After a successful week or two cut it back to once.
Use this stepwise system to eliminate all the food you know to be unhealthy. In the future, we’ll find a time and place to enjoy these foods on your own terms, but not for now.
You will be blown away by the difference this makes. It seems like such a no-brainer that it can’t be significant but it really is.
Stage 2: Total Calorie Intake
Getting a grip on how much you eat is hard. Average American meals are gigantic. Two regular sized entrees at a U.S. restaurant would feed 4-5 people in most countries. That’s largely (pun intended) why America is #1….in obesity.
Calculating your calorie intake is sobering. Log everything you eat or drink for a week and review it at the end. At a bare minimum, log 2 weekdays and 1 weekend day. I recommend using MyFitnessPal for this exercise.
This will give you a good idea of how much you actually eat. I still do this exercise 3-6 times a year. It is always shocking.
Your goal decides how many daily calories you should be taking in.
Gain Muscle: Bodyweight (BW) x 16
Maintain: BW x 14
Lose Fat: BW x 12
Gain Muscle: Bodyweight (BW) x 14
Maintain: BW x 12
Lose Fat: BW x 10
These, like every calorie calculator, are starting estimates. You’ll have to make adjustments every 2-4 weeks as you measure your progress.
I bet what you logged in MyFitnessPal is much higher than your target.
Step 3: Protein
Protein builds and maintains lean mass. Proteins and amino acids have dozens, if not hundreds of roles in the healthy functioning of the human body. Getting adequate protein is important.
Men should aim for 1g of protein for every pound of their bodyweight. Women should aim for .75g per pound.
Use lean protein sources like chicken, turkey, and lean beef. Fish is also a phenomenal protein source. Not only is it high protein but it also has Omega-3 fatty acids that are grossly lacking in the standard American diet.
Try to get some protein at every meal. Eat a higher amount of protein after your workout when it's easier to synthesize.
Stick With It
Once you have these 3 habits locked in you are officially back on track. You are able to effortlessly avoid junk food, eat reasonable portions, and get adequate protein.
Now just keep the habits going.
Aim for 90% compliance to your new habits. You don’t have to deprive yourself of foods you enjoy, just plan them ahead of time and know how much will satisfy you without knocking you off the wagon again.
In spite of your best efforts, you will slip up from time to time. That is normal and expected. Just don’t let one accidental off-plan meal to throw you off for a whole day. When you hit a pothole you don’t shrug and drive your car into the ditch, right? Don’t do the same with your nutrition.
For more help with habit forming, for nutrition or other healthy habits, please reach out to us. We absolutely love helping people identify and overcome the limiting factors that keep them from the healthy lifestyle they want.
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