The winter often becomes a brutal time of the year, punctuated by taxes, crappy weather, and post-holiday blahs. Somewhere amid that struggle, our lean-and-healthy focus takes a backseat to the gazillion obstacles life throws our way. Impossible-to-follow exercise plans and radical dietary changes just don’t fit into an ever-growing obligations list.
Simplicity, not overly complicated regimens, becomes the key for long-term success. When I feel like I’m getting off track, I go back to these five back-to-basics tips that lay the groundwork for long-term fat loss and optimal health:
1. Make breakfast a protein shake.
In about the time you take to pour cereal and milk or some other high-sugar-impact catastrophe, you can whip up a fast, filling, nutrient-rich protein shake. Blend nondairy, non-soy plant-based or defatted beef protein powder with berries, kale, or other leafy greens, freshly ground flaxseed or chia seeds, and unsweetened coconut or almond milk to crush cravings and feel full for hours.
2. Eat by the plate.
Counting, sorting, and measuring take all the fun out of eating. Eliminate that meal guesswork with one simple plate rule. Fill about a quarter of your plate with protein, another quarter with healthy fats, about two-thirds with nonstarchy veggies, and the remainder with slow, low carbs like quinoa. This plan works beautifully at dinner parties and even less-than-ideal situations like fast-food restaurants.
3. Make healthy swaps.
Dutifully attempting to abstain from your favorite foods becomes a surefire way to eventually succumb to whatever high-sugar impact, fat-loss-derailing treat your coworker brought in. Lateral shifts, or healthier alternatives to your favorites, become a satisfying way to avoid deprivation. Dark chocolate with no-sugar-added almond butter curbs the sweetest tooth, kale chips with guacamole give you crunch without massive calories or food intolerances, and spaghetti squash with low-sugar marinara provide pasta’s satisfaction without those fat-storing empty carbs. Employ creativity and any favorite can fit into your healthy diet plan.
4. Eliminate food intolerances.
Even if you’re doing everything else correctly, food intolerances can derail your best fat-loss efforts. Eliminate gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, and other food intolerances for three weeks and see how you feel.
5. Become a sneaky sugar sleuth.
You know those peanut-butter-chocolate brownies become a sugar bomb, but sweet stuff under different disguises hides in not-so-obvious choices like fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt and salad dressings. Never assume: scrutinize ingredient lists and learn the many names for sugar. Here are a whopping 56.
Burst training or other exercise, optimal sleep, and controlling stress levels also factor into fat loss, but I want you to master your eating first. What one back-to-basics strategy would you add here? Share yours below.