After 26 weeks of dieting, I thought I would share some of the practical things that I have learned about the nutritional side of dropping fat, remaining consistent and actually reaching that final goal.
My Fitness Pal
Without fail, I weigh and log my food on this app every single day. My food is custom set to my own personal goals and whatever I eat, I weigh. Yes I weigh my apples and my raw meat and there is no guess work apart from the occasional meal out here and there. From a nutritional stance, during those 26 weeks of prep, there was no chance of me failing to drop body fat because my logging ensured I remained in a calorie deficit.
Sure it’s a little bit time consuming scanning labels and weighing food, and there are some people that say it’s not healthy to live a life obsessed with weighing food but I tend to disagree. I see it as a choice of either spending 20 minutes over the course of a day logging your food with guaranteed results and the satisfaction of success or not taking that time, not getting the results you want and then feeling miserable and hating on yourself for days and weeks because the scales aren’t showing you the results that you want. I personally believe that the mental health and negative thought processes day in, day out from not being successful, are far more detrimental than tracking what you eat.
I believe in this approach to dropping body fat even more so now I have completed my comp. For a large part of my prep I was eating a variety of food with 80-90% of my daily food choices coming from wholesome nutritious food but to stop myself binging or falling off the wagon I allowed a small amount of more relaxed food choices such as chocolate, chips and ice cream into my diet so long as I logged it and it was accounted for as part of my daily macros. Did it hinder my fat loss… Absolutely not!
And now here’s the bit that’s really hit home. In the final 4 weeks or so I did tighten up on my food choices a little to ensure I wasn’t eating anything that was impacting my gut health and I stepped away from processed food. NOTE: I didn’t stop eating these food choices to drop more body fat but to ensure by the time I got on stage I had the aesthetic hard look required for my category of bodybuilding. Instead, I ate entirely wholesome food choices, with barely a treat in sight. And you know what? By the end of that 4 weeks I was craving chocolate and chips and I was feeling deprived. All I wanted was what I’d told myself I could not have. I had a list of restaurants to attend, a million hours clocked up looking at food on Instagram and cravings that would have hands down seen me win a “man vs food” challenge. After my comp I had 2 days of freedom, nothing logged, eating for enjoyment but now as I start my reverse diet, whilst my boundaries are firmly in place, my food choices have now relaxed. My biggest surprise is now I could have anything I like I don’t actually have those cravings for junk as much. I think this just proves that if you have foods on your banned list or you associate chocolate with guilt or a non diet food then you are more likely to fail at a long term fat loss goal. If nothing is “off limits” but there are firm boundaries to remain in a calorie deficit and you allow a small treat here or there you are, in my opinion, less likely to ruin your efforts.
Preparation and organisation is key
I know it’s been said a million times before but it is the single biggest tool you can use to ensure you succeed when trying to lower body fat.
“Failing to plan, is planning to fail.”
For me this involves doing the weekly food shop when I’m not tired or hungry or in a rush so that I am better able to make sensible choices. I also find I am more restrained with my choices when I grocery shop immediately after training because I’ve just spent an hour focused and thinking about my goals.
I also on the weekend spending a couple of hours cooking up a supply of sweet potato and grilling some chicken tenderloins to keep me covered for a few days. Keep a pantry stocked with microwaveable cups of rice, tins of tuna and have some frozen veggies in the freezer ready to go. How many people think on a Saturday night I don’t want to eat crap but I just don’t feel like like cooking? Having the basics in the fridge already cooked so you can walk in the door and hit reheat on the microwave will help avoid falling victim to eating a less desirable food choice.
Be organised for the day ahead, don’t leave it to the last minute before bed or even worse the morning of. For me this often takes a hour or two every night; lunch boxes, school bags, after school activity bags, my food, my clothes, my gym bag, run the dishwasher, gather the dirty clothes, tidy the house… The list is endless!! If I don’t have my busy life in some kind of order and use some forward thinking about what life has in store for the next 24-48 hours, the first thing to fail is my nutrition, the second is the quality of my training.
For me, tiredness and lack of sleep equates to disaster in terms of nutrition! When I’m tired, I crave salt and sugar ALOT!! And once I get a taste of it, I don’t have the mental willpower or self control. The only way I can manage it is to make sure I get 8 hours or more sleep every night. Set a bedtime and make it non negotiable. Record your favourite show and watch it the next day. Be organised and prepare everything you need to the following day. I get up at 4.45am every morning and often work until 8pm which means if my to do list isn’t completed by 9.30pm when I go to bed I am either so disorganised the next day that I am short of time and stressed or I don’t go to bed until 11pm and then without fail come mid afternoon and into the evening I start looking for sweet and salt. One taste when I’m tired and I find it hard to stop. Tiredness on many occasions saw me eating the kids left overs, the one big thing I hear so many mums say they struggle with too… The food is there and it’s convenient after a long day. Fruit herbal teas, extra water and eating your own evening meal early with an early bedtime worked best for me.
And finally here are a few extras and a few brands I learned about along the way:
- Cinnamon and Queens sugar free maple syrup makes EVERYTHING OK!
- You CAN go into a restaurant and order something that is off menu. Ask for no sauces, or your food to be grilled and not cooked in oil. Remember, You are the paying customer!!
- Find yourself sat at the pub, starving and everyone around you ordering burgers and hot chips? Want to stick to your diet but feel like your head will fall off if you don’t eat? Order a side of veggies (which always taste better cooked by someone else) and add just a little bit of salt and pepper and plough through that instead.
- Safcol Lite Chilli Tuna is addictive, beware!
- There are lots and lots of foods beginning to spring up that have sugar free alternatives. Fountains now do tomato sauce and brown sauce sweetened with stevia instead of sugar. I can’t taste the difference!
- Never underestimate how good a piece of fruit is – an apple sliced or cooked and stirred through anything is amazing. Added to egg whites with cinnamon and sugar free maple is even better!
- Sunrice – Brown Rice, Jasmine or Basmati are an essential in all pantries
- Baby Kale in pre washed bags is so much nicer than the wired oversized large leaves you see people cooking on TV shows.
- Walden Farms sauces, dressings marinades, jams and the person who created them should all be carved in gold. Calorie free, sugar free, fat free, carb, gluten and dairy free make them invaluable when dieting but still looking for flavour.
- Broccoli and Asparagus will never taste any good unless covered in a low calorie sauce in which case then it’s amazing and I could eat it all day, and in fact now do!.