This post isn’t for you if the thought of eating a french fry makes you sick at the impurity of it all. I’ve been mocked for stating it’s fine to eat candy, that carbs can help you lose weight, and that six-pack abs aren’t necessarily healthy.
I’m not flawless in any way. My family eats frozen (sometimes more). The world’s clean eaters are probably thinking I’m unqualified to give health and fitness advice. I understand if that describes you.
But pay attention to what I’m saying. I’m 44 years old and trying to figure out how to raise two active kids with a husband that travels on a weekly basis. I spend my weeknights driving to tutoring, dance, and guitar lessons. In addition, I’m juggling the pressures of working and building a freelance business.
I’m equally as busy, stressed, and fatigued as the people I work with. I wish I could claim I consume kale smoothies and fresh salads on a regular basis. I’m afraid I can’t. Despite the fact that I don’t always get things perfect, I manage to stay in shape. I’ll never guarantee that anything will work for you just because it worked for me. But here’s how I handle things.
What I get mostly right with food
I follow a flexible diet, which means that nothing is off-limits, but I keep track of my daily calories. I keep track of how much protein, fat, and carbs I consume. When I’m on vacation or for a particular occasion, I don’t keep track.
I set a goal of 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. This means I consume a lot of chicken breasts, eggs, turkey, and lean ground beef (all of which I enjoy). I also eat a protein smoothie every now and then to fill up the gaps.
I presently consume between 220 and 240 grams of carbohydrates per day. My carbohydrate intake will fluctuate depending on my workout volume and objectives. I’m currently trying to reduce a few pounds gradually. I’ll cut my carbs to roughly 150–180 if I want to lose weight quickly.
White rice, Dave’s Killer Bread, fruit, pasta on occasion, and veggies make up the majority of my carbs. In fact, I don’t consume nearly as many vegetables as I should, so I use Athletic Greens to make up for it. I also consume V8.
To keep my hormones in check, I maintain my fat grams over 50. I’ve now gone up to 70–80 grams. I use olive oil in my cooking. I enjoy dark chocolate and eat a small amount every day. The remaining ingredients are eggs, butter, milk, and cheese.
What about those frozen meals? I’m not sure what to say. Stouffer’s lasagna is perfect for some nights. If we want fast food, I try to order the healthiest option available (although I can never bring myself to order the salad). That’s usually a grilled chicken sandwich or a hamburger for kids. I almost never order fries. I focus on eating slowly and thoroughly, so I’m satisfied when I’m done.
We have potato chips and sugary cereals in the pantry (gasp! ), but I don’t find them appealing. My children eat them because I want to teach them about moderation rather complete avoidance. I weigh out a single portion and stop there if I do consume them.
You won’t have moments where you want to eat anything and everything in sight if you aren’t hungry and are consuming enough protein and fat.
I also limit myself to one or two days of drinking per week. And, because hangovers are so unpleasant at this age, I rarely overindulge.
Food tracking isn’t glamorous, and many individuals find it dull and annoying. It helps to take pauses now and then, and when I go out to eat, I make estimations. As I already stated, it is not ideal, but it is realistic.
I use an extended fast to promote metabolic flexibility
Simply said, metabolic flexibility is the ability to switch between fuel sources (fat and carbs) based on the intensity of your activity and the time since you last ate. Your body favors fat for fuel whether you’re at rest or doing low to moderate-intensity exercise. Carbohydrates are burned immediately after a meal or during high-intensity activity.
When we don’t exercise, consume too much and too often, or are under a lot of stress, we can compromise our metabolic flexibility. Our bodies become lousy fat burners as a result, and we struggle to lose weight.
I fast once a week from dinner to dinner (usually around 24 hours). Going without food for an extended period of time educates my body to use fat as a source of energy. It also allows me to have a low-calorie day once a week (I break the fast with a normal-sized dinner).
I attribute my weight stability on weekends to the fasting day, when I am prone to eat and drink excessively.
If you wish to try an extended fast, start slowly. Begin by delaying your regular breakfast for two hours. The following week, add two more hours, and so on. It takes a lot of work to be able to go that long without gnawing your arm off. I also suggest that you consult your doctor first.
I stay active
I’ll start by saying that I’ve always been active. I used to dance many evenings a week as a youngster, was on the high school dance team, raced marathons in my 20s, and now I lift weights and run.
Most of the time, I feel as if I’m being propelled by an internal motor. I also have the benefit of working from home, so finding time to work out isn’t a problem for me. I understand if that isn’t you. Anyone can benefit from stepping up their game from their current level.
After dropping the kids off at school, I go for a two-mile walk around the neighborhood to start the day. When I have a thought to ponder, I listen to podcasts or switch them off. One of the finest things I do for myself goes for a walk first thing in the morning.
I go to the gym three times a week for a strength workout: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. These take about 45 minutes on average. I run 45–90 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday. I’m not quick, but I’m dependable. On Saturdays and Sundays, I make it a point to walk, and if I’m not exhausted from the week, I’ll add a quick spin class.
I rarely compromise on sleep
I rarely stay up past 10 p.m., much to my husband’s annoyance (he’s a night owl). I attribute my capacity to recuperate from exercises and manage stress to my 7–8 hours of sleep per night. I’m also irritable when I don’t have it.
I believe that the total amount of time you spend sleeping is more important than the time you spend sleeping. Some folks, no matter how hard they try, are unable to fall asleep early. Our internal clock and genetics determine our sleep and wake times preferences.
What matters is that you prioritize your sleep.
A lot of exercise and nutrition advice is nonsense in my opinion. Some of it is incorrect, while others are destructive, and some advice is sound but practically difficult to follow if you have a life. I want to throw a shoe at my computer when I see headlines promising to speed up your metabolism by doing these five things and luring you with simple solutions to lose body fat.
I studied for years under a fantastic exercise physiologist. I’m well aware that there are no shortcuts. There are no magic medications or cleanses that can help you reset your metabolism. I make the best of the cards I’m dealt. I also understand that just because something works for me does not necessarily mean it will work for you.
If I wanted to get to 15% body fat and ripped abs, I’d have to be much more disciplined. I ponder going there every now and then. But then I recall that I’m content with my situation. I occasionally eat fast food and drink beer. Pizza and margaritas are two of my favorite foods (not every day).