Let’s dive right in. You want to look and feel amazing, and managing food are your biggest diet challenges. You’re busy balancing work, family and extra-curriculars. You get stressed out and experience powerful sugar, bread and pasta cravings. You’re always on the run and forced to eat at restaurants which completely destroys your nutrition plan for the day. And then there’s ice cream, which speaks for itself.
By the way, I don’t want to imagine a world without ice cream in it, but you can enjoy some ice cream, finally conquer the above challenges and get into the best shape of your life. I know it because I see everyday people do it on a daily basis. I also have faith in you. If you’re reading this, then you have made up your mind that you will make the necessary changes. If you haven’t made that decision yet, then you’re seriously thinking about it. Before you keep reading, go ahead and make that decision. After all, whether or not you become who you want to be depends on you making that choice.
Let’s get to the actionable stuff. I recently took the above three challenges to a group of my successful clients and asked for their input. Why? Well, I’m a lot of things, but I’m not a parent, I don’t travel the world for work, and I don’t live on the road (anymore). My clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and while working together, we have come up with some rock solid strategies for nailing down nutrition while still rocking all other aspects of life. So when I asked for their input, a food they responded with some brilliant, actionable and realistic solutions to your biggest diet challenges.
Sugar, bread, pasta…the cravings can get very real. One of the leading causes of cravings is fatigue. When you’re sleep deprived, stressed and worn out, the cravings can get very powerful. Instead of searching for a way to manage the cravings or food to help you fight them off, I recommend pulling this tree out by the roots.
Create a sleep schedule so you are properly rested. Take up a meditation practice, go on walks, or find another activity that manages stress and do it daily. Remind yourself that you’re on this tiny blue planet spinning around a medium-sized star, and no one else knows what’s going on here any better than you do. Whatever you need to do to get out of your head and stop taking things so seriously. Relax, rest and recover. You will develop a powerful command over your cravings.
Now, even if everything is perfect (and it won’t be), you will still experience some cravings from time to time. Here’s what my client Nicole does when she craves sugar…
“I have found that a protein powder with a sweet flavor will sometimes trick my brain if I’m craving something for dessert.”
Many people use sugarless soda’s to accomplish the same feat. What I love about Nicole’s protein powder strategy is it also boosts protein intake. Most people would benefit from more protein, and this kills both birds. It’s important to remember that we can’t avoid these foods we love forever, nor do we have to.
Susan, who is not only a client of mine, but a coach, mom, and triathlete, has some very specific advice for handling sugar cravings…
“I have had to normalize sugar. This took me a really really long time and even then I am not perfect but I couldn’t avoid it totally for the rest of my life so I had to stop demonizing it and make friends with it.”
1. Don’t keep it in the house. If you want a treat, make it a treat. Keeping Oreos in the house is a joke for those who have a sweet tooth. We all know what’s gonna happen. I do keep dark chocolate in the house but only since I have been able to not mow a whole bar down on a regular basis.
2. Portion it and be mindful. If you must keep it in the house, this is a time for individual snack bags of the portion on the package. Two squares of chocolate. Three Oreos. Whatever it is. Eat it slow. Savor it, lick it, whatever you gotta do. Stop doing the guilty “let’s eat as many as we can in a couple of minutes”. Just own the craving and control it. Also, it’s easier to count empty baggies
One final point regarding food cravings: initially, you will need to exercise some discipline. Cravings will hit, and no matter how badly you want the treat, the decision is yours. The more nutritious your diet becomes, the less you’ll crave junk, but to get there, you’ll need to put your foot down and make some decisions about what you really want.
This is one everyone can relate to these days. The 40 hour work week is dead, and the integration of work and life is at it’s highest point ever. Time is the asset, and it’s at a premium. Deciding what to do with your time is one of the most important decisions we can make.
Tyla, who we met above, knows exactly what busy looks like. She has found that the best way to manage her diet while extremely busy is to make deliberate decisions about what’s really important. Here’s Tyla with a dose of reality…
“Busy life? I choose the honesty route. I can’t claim that I can’t even take 2 hours a week to prep some meals and snacks. I have a 3-month-old, a 2-year-old and an 8-year-old. I know busy and I get 2 hours to myself each week. I’ve found that the only way I can overcome this is if I’m being truthful with myself. Either I’m going to do it or not, but I’m not going to blame it on a lack of time or convenience.”
This is great advice, and should be step one. Understand that there is no such thing as spare time. If you put preparing high-quality meals under the ‘when I have time’ list, it won’t get done.
Much like scheduling workouts into your calendar, I recommend scheduling meal prep in as well. Tyla takes two hours a week, many people only take one hour per week. Either way, batching your meal prep will actually save you a ton of time during the week, whether or not you eat at fast food joints or eat at home. If time management and productivity are valuable to you, food prep is your new best friend.Not to mention, it helps you accomplish those other things you value, like getting lean, strong and healthy.
Sometimes the time spent food prepping needs to be maximized, and Nicole has found a way to spend barely any time at all.
“With a busy work life, my crockpot saves me. I throw in a double batch of chili and I’ve got lunch for a week. Another load with meatballs, tomato sauce, and spaghetti squash and I’ve got supper for a week.”
The beauty of using a crock pot to cook your meals is, you can drop the food in and walk away. You don’t need to hover over it to make sure it doesn’t burn. In fact, you can drop in a meal before you go to work or to bed and let it take care of itself. If you don’t have one concentrated block of time to batch-cook a bunch of meals, the crock pot is a great alternative. This way you can simply put your foods in each night or morning, and come back to it 8 hrs later with 3-4 ready to rock meals.
On The Road and In the Air
Preparing meals is tough when you live in cars, planes and airports. Like any challenge, it isn’t impossible. It simply requires a resourceful mindset. Look for the solution instead of the next problem, and you’ll suddenly see all those walls disappear.
Tyla provides a solid go-to solution for those who find themselves on the road and unable to prep food each day.
“On-the-go is pretty easy, small coolers are not hard to find and you can pack a lot in them. My favorite is tuna in a pouch and some cut fruit and veggies and cashews whenever my husband brings some home and if I can keep the toddler from dumping them on the floor and stomping them with her cowgirl boots.”
Sure, I didn’t need to include that bit about her kid stomping her cashews with her cowgirl boots, but the picture in my mind makes me laugh, so there it is. Her advice is sound. I used to live on the road, 20 out of 30 days of the month. My cooler was my best friend during these times. Living on the road and in hotels presents some real challenges that you just don’t face at home. The key here is working with what you’ve got and doing your best. Just because you’re in a hotel doesn’t mean you automatically need to eat out. Pre-made food at the grocery store may not be perfect, but it beats the chips, queso, and tacos you were going to eat instead. Look for pre-made salads, chicken, fresh fruit, protein drinks, hard boiled eggs, and pre-cooked meals. In some cases, sandwiches will also do in a pinch. The grocery store along with your cooler bag will allow you to stay on track no matter where you are, or how much you travel. If you find yourself in a situation where you absolutely must stop at a fast food joint, opt for the grilled chicken salad or sandwich, sauce on the side, and unsweetened ice tea or water with lemon.
Remember, this isn’t about perfect or nothing. This is not black and white, it’s a gray area. Too many people see a scenario as imperfect, so they throw in the towel and trash their diet. Do your best with what you’ve got, keep a resourceful mindset, and remember that you’re in the drivers seat. The decision is always yours.
No matter what challenges you’re faced with, whether it be time restraints, travel, or food cravings, it all comes down to what you decide to do. If this feels like a sacrifice, then it may not be something you stick with. Take some time and evaluate why this is really important to you. Why do you want to become this new person you visualize on the other end of this journey? When you realize why this is so important, these decisions become easier. Instead of it feeling like a sacrifice, it becomes your mission.
What are your tips to sticking to your diet no matter what? We’d love to hear your tips in the comments below.
By Fitmo Coach, Mitch Heaslip
Mitch is going to get you into the best shape of your life! But what’s his secret? Mitch has developed solid methods that work for both men and women in losing weight and building muscle. With his very flexible approach, Mitch can tailor his methods to anyone. When it comes to building strength, muscle, and losing fat, his approach is second to none!
Learn more about Mitch, and working with him via the Fitmo app here.