No Cheat Days
Three months. That’s the challenge. Can you get eat clean to get lean in three months?
Depending on where you’re starting from, you might not have the perfect beach body, but you can lose weight, be healthier, and build strong muscle.
It starts by understanding some basics of eating and weight loss.
Calories, calories, calories
No one likes to count calories. It’s annoying, filled with uncertainty, and takes lots of time.
Rather than count calories too much, we’re going to put together some simple rules you can use for the next 90 days.
Consistency is good
It might seem strange, but consistency with your food is good. That will convert food from being an unknown activity to simply the planned fuel you need to keep going… for now.
This doesn’t mean that if the goal is to lose weight, you can’t continue trying new foods and experimenting with taste.
Calories are the key, but the biggest problem is hidden calories. A venti nonfat latte from Starbucks is about 170 calories (about 14 minutes of running). A venti mocha is about 310 calories (about 25 minutes of running). 170 calories might not sound like a lot, but when your allotment of calories for the day is about 1,800 calories, that’s about 10% of everything you can eat for the day.
Meanwhile, an entire head of leafy green lettuce is 53 calories (about 4 minutes of running). No, it doesn’t have a fun Fritalian (French and Italian) name, but you could eat three heads of lettuce for the calories in one drink. You probably don’t want to, but that’s the calorie exchanges you need to think about for the next 90 days.
By the way, a cup of black coffee has 1 calorie. One lonely calorie. You can even use a little creamer and push that to 10 calories (about 1 minutes of running) and still be great. And it won’t cost you $5 for a cup of hot milk and coffee.
Many foods have hidden calories. Sugar is added to almost anything, adding calories and ruining your diet.
Watch for calories in soda, condiments, and sauces. Something that seems as innocuous as barbeque sauce if really a lot of sugar. Even sports drinks and “healthy” drinks can be filled with calories. Read labels and pay attention to what you’re eating.
Switch to herbs for cooking and non-fat sauces like soy sauce to put on your food, so you don’t need as many sauces, like barbeque sauce.
Wait! Don’t go!
We’re not going to send you to walking in the desert all day. There’s no need for a spin class morning, noon, and night.
The exercise plan that has become considered the best is, wait for it, consistency. That’s right. A walk, lift, swim, bike, hike, jog, HIIT, CrossFit, or Bodyweight exercise every day can help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, and help you feel calmer.
Try to walk 30 minutes a day. You don’t need any fancy equipment. A pair of comfortable shoes and sidewalk will do.
If you need to use a treadmill, that’s good too. Just walk, you don’t need to run. You don’t even need to work up a sweat. Just walk and relax. Your body was literally made for this exercise more than any other. It will know what to do.
Taking a friend can make it even more fun. Walking the dog will make sure you’re the most popular person in the house. A set of headphones and an audio book, and you’ll be super-smart after 90 days (about 3 months).
If you want to do a spin class or go for a run or join the local swim team, that’s fine. If you exert yourself, balance your calories, but don’t go crazy. A 30-minute spin class doesn’t entitle you to a large pizza.
Once progress is made then it can be time to learn more about proper exercise for your desired physique. We have to put in the effort to reap the rewards.
The Meal Plan
There is no meal plan. It seems like everyone has a diet that restricts calories and helps you lose weight. Choose the one that fits your personal tastes best.
We don’t want to presume to tell you what to eat, just some ideas of how to eat.
The mission is to eat clean. Eating clean means knowing everything that’s in your food because you can identify all of it. If you choose a premade, frozen meal, it’s too easy from someone to slip in hidden sugars and fats. If you make the food yourself, it will help you to know your food and enjoy it more.
Below you’ll find a list of ingredients to choose from. Mix and match them to make a meal plan that suits your tastes. Add others that meet your choices and the basic criteria.
Most of us will be at around 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day to lose weight. If you’re larger, taller, or working out a lot, it’s worth looking at how many calories you should consume and add a few. You don’t want to starve, but you should make sure that you’re eating fewer than you need to maintain your weight. No saturated or trans saturated fats.
The good folks at the Mayo Clinic have created simple calculator to give you a sense of how many calories you should eat in a day: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/calorie-calculator/itt-20402304 As they point out, everyone calculates their activity levels differently. It would be better to be more conservative and assume you do less than you think than to exceed it. You don’t want to eat an extra 500 calories (about 40 minutes of running) a day when you’re trying to lose weight.
Lean pork chops
Lean ground beef
Textured vegetable protein
You can eat almost any vegetable, but beware of starchy vegetables, like potatoes. They can add up very quickly. Go for lots of leafy greens and fresh vegetables.
Legumes, or beans, should be a staple of your diet. They’re high in fiber, high in protein, low in fat, and cheap. Watch for premade beans though. You might be okay with canned refried beans, but baked beans are filled with sugar.
Experiment with making your own beans at home. You’ll be surprised at how amazing homemade kidney beans can be with a little seasoning or garbanzo beans can with a some spinach.
Avocado (These are high in fat, but it’s good for you. Have half at a time.)
Citrus fruits (While they might have a lot of sugar, they are worth it.)
Banana (Bananas are very sugary. In small quantities, they’re great, but they can become too much quickly.)
Whole grains are great. Quinoa, oatmeal, and other whole grains are awesome. Many are high in calories because they’re high in carbohydrates. Use sparingly. Beware of breads and pastas; even the whole grain version is very processed. Opt for grains that you need to cook from scratch.
Fats get a bad rap. You need fats in your diet to build cells walls and keep your body alive. Look for healthy fats, like avocados and fatty fish. For cooking, use olive oil or any other healthy oil, but only as little as you need. A spray will usually do the trick for most cooking.
Get your sugars from the whole foods you’re eating. Anything that has sugar added is probably not good for you. Even “alternative sugars” like agave and maple syrup, are still sugar. They count as sugar as far as your body is concerned. Honey is a good sugar to use, but you need extraordinarily little, and it also comes with its own calorie content.
Those are the food suggestions, so now what?
Making a Menu
Make a menu of the foods you like. If you like oatmeal, include it in your diet. You might prefer to eat eggs most days. Do that.
The problem with most diet plans is that everything is complicated by the fact that you might not like everything on the menu. If you’re not a fan of egg whites, a menu that includes them is going to turn you off.
Creating a balanced meal is a matter of matching up the fats, proteins, and carbs.
According to Prospect Medical, the goal when you’re trying to lose weight should be “10-30% Carbohydrates, 40-50% Protein and 30-40% Fat.”
Setting up your menu can seem like a chore, but it’s not hard. There are lots of nutritional machines online that tell you what you’re eating and how much fat, protein, and carbohydrates are in it.
Set up a seven-day menu that meets your needs. Everyone is a little different. For example, someone from a Japanese heritage might consider putting fish on the breakfast menu, while most Americans wouldn’t think of it.
Remember: Repeating your menu every week will save time and make it easier to lose weight. This can be your menu for the next 12 weeks, 90 days. Bonus: It makes grocery shopping much easier if you’re buying the same things every week.
The Two Step Scale Method
At the beginning of the challenge, step on a scale and see how much you weigh. Write it down someplace where it can be found easily. Then pack the scale away for three months.
The problem is that a scale is not a good representation of how fit you’re getting. One reason is than muscle weighs more than fat. If you’re building muscle and losing fat, you might end up weighing more, but still be more fit.
Second, often people weigh themselves every day. They’ll vary their routine to try to encourage more weight loss. This is a bad idea. Stick with these principles and you’ll lose weight.
Create a menu for yourself that’s healthy and hits your calorie target. Exercise every day. You’ll get in better shape if you stick to the plan.
What if you decide that the exercise thing feels great, and you really want to go even further. You’d like to start lifting weights or really exercising hard.
That’s great. Go for it. Add in the calories you need. Make sure you stick to whole foods, though. It’s tempting to grab a protein bar and consider that the extra calories. It’s also a lot of processed ingredients and junk your body doesn’t need.
If you want to add those calories in bar form, make your own. Use oatmeal, peanut butter, and maybe some flax seed or nuts to make bars that packed with protein and fiber, but don’t have a lot of artificial, processed ingredients.
Let’s Do This Together
We chose three months because that’s a good length of time to give yourself to make changes.
People gravitate toward “7-day weight loss” or “lose 20 pounds in 30 days.” Those plans aren’t going to give you sustainable weight loss. They don’t help you build the lifetime of habits that will ensure that you stay fit and healthy your entire life.
As you age, your body will change. Losing weight will take longer. That’s okay. The most important thing is that you lose weight, get in shape, and stay that way. That the shape is a little different every ten years is not a big deal.
Together, we can use the next 90 days to get in shape. Even if you’re reading this blog after it was published, do the challenge. The whole goal is for you to look and feel great, not for anyone else to have a say in what happens. Jump right in, mark your calendar, and prepare to celebrate your success.
And when the 90 days are up and you’ve been successful, treat yourself to whatever you want. Maybe you want a manicure or a massage. It might be a night on the town not thinking about your meal plan and working out. Anything you want. Reward yourself.
Then, the next morning, get right back to it. You deserve it.
Challenge a Friend!
Don’t let that summer bod go away for the winter. Let’s keep the progress year round. Share with a friend a tag or tweet @raamnutrition. Enjoy, RAAM!