I cannot tell you how many times I have been approached in the gym by men and women with the same comments – “You must be able to eat whatever you want” or the ever popular “You train so hard you must burn off anything you eat and still stay fit!” I usually smile, look them straight in the face and say, “Are you kidding me?”
I do this politely of course, but it amazes me to see just how uneducated the general public is when it comes to proper nutrition. For anyone else out there who may have the same questions, the answer is NO! Like many other fitness enthusiasts, I have to watch what I eat and make conscious choices about what I choose to put in my body. I know it may be confusing to many of you, but in reality eating “clean” can be made quite simple and be an intricate tool in aiding to become a better you.
“Clean eating” is practiced by bodybuilders and health conscious people alike. So what is clean eating and what are considered clean foods? Such foods are natural, free of added sugars, hydrogenated fats, trans-fats and anything else that is unnatural and unnecessary. Many people use this type of diet as a way to lose weight. But used as a way of life, clean eating can make you feel healthy and full of energy. I remember my younger days as a professional model before I started the fitness industry. I had very poor eating habits. Not to say that I was eating too much “junk,” I just wasn’t eating much at all! I was 5’10″ and weighed 105 pounds, not exactly the body type I am today. I remember always feeling exhausted with no energy and I was always getting sick. Now that I eat clean and often, I have more energy, I’m rarely sick and I look fantastic.
So you might be asking yourself, how or where do I even begin to learn to eat clean? Well, I will give you some simple steps to follow to help you begin your journey to a healthier lifestyle.
- Be open to change and remember to be patient with yourself.
- Eat six small meals a day: Breakfast, lunch, dinner and three snacks. Try to eat every few hours to curb hunger and promote a higher metabolism.
- Choose whole grains and complex carbohydrates to give you more energy and keep you fuller longer. Remember that whole wheat is not necessarily whole grain. Look for breads, rice and pasta that are not just brown, but are also made with 100% whole grains. One serving is about the size of your closed fist.
- Leave calorie filled non-nutritional “junk food” at the grocery store. Look for fresh fruits, vegetables and lean cuts of meat. When you buy fresh foods, you eat fresh foods.
- Eat as many fruits and vegetables as you want. Try to add one serving (about a handful) of each per meal. Fruits also make great snacks because they are full of natural sugar and can help fight those afternoon cravings.
- Eat lean meats, like chicken and fish, whenever possible, staying away from processed and fatty meats. They will give you much needed protein with little fat. One serving is about the size of your palm.
- Read labels!!! Look at the calorie counts, but also look at the nutritional value and ingredients. Avoid foods with white flour, sugar, sugar substitutes, saturated fats and trans-fats.
- Take small bags of raw almonds and walnuts with you when you are on the go so you don’t get tempted by vending machines or the local fast food restaurant drive thru.
- Check sites, libraries and bookstores for recipes to keep your new lifestyle fresh and flavorful. I will be providing some recipes later on, plus some books you can purchase to help guide you.
- Give yourself a “cheat day” from your clean diet, but remember not to go overboard. Allow yourself a meal out with friends or a special food, but try not to undo all of your hard work from the rest of the week. I look forward to these meals especially when I am dieting hard for a show, it often keeps me mentally focused and recharged. It also helps keep my sanity!
So here you have it – some basic tips on how to get yourself started and begin your journey to a better you. You have to remember it is not just the time you put into the gym doing endless hours of cardio or weight training that helps build muscle or burn fat. Your diet has such an important role in how successful you will be in looking your best. The two must go hand in hand along with proper supplementation, which will be the topic of a future article.
Hope these tips help you achieve your goals no matter if you plan on competing one day or just looking like you do. The main objective is to be HEALTHY!!! Good luck!