Creating a lifestyle around healthy eating doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey! You need to train your body and mind to develop consistent habits.
First, you need to get the nutrition basics down, then you can start walking through the necessary steps to fitting those basics to YOUR life and creating YOUR healthy lifestyle.
Don’t skip steps. For example, if you are just starting out make sure you have a good basic understanding of balanced nutrition to stand on. Without that, it makes no sense to start counting calories. Another (often neglected) major part is understanding your current habits before you can create new ones.
The goal is to create a lifestyle centered around balanced nutrition, regularly making healthy choices without having to "go on a diet".
Here's how you get there...
Stage 1: Practice the Basics
In this stage you will answer the following questions:
There are so many complicated diets and crazy "easy" recipes made with the new super food of the week. I know those had the opposite effect on me. I got overwhelmed and then had a bowl of cereal for dinner. Nutrition can be really simple! Start by putting your foods into 4 different categories: Carbs, Protein, Fat, other Vegetables.
Carbs: Grains, Fruits, Starchy Vegetables
Protein: Meat, Dairy, Eggs, Fish
Fats: Oils, Nuts, Cheese
Carbs should make up 45%-65% of the calories in your diet, Protein 10%-35% and Fats 20%-30%. It's important to note that fats pack a bigger punch with 9 calories per gram instead of the 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates and protein. Even though fats make should make up a decent part of your diet, their portion sizes should be a lot smaller.
For help with this step, download my Balance Meals for Busy Mom’s Cheat Sheet, if you haven't yet. It includes example foods for each category, appropriate portion sizes, and a handy dandy flowchart to help you apply the simple formula over and over again!
Stage 2: Become Intentional
During this stage you will answer questions about your own personal habits.
Start a journal. Throughout the day, EVERY time you eat something (even if it’s 2 little cheddar bunnies from your 3 year old's snack bowl) recognize it and write it down. Include whether it was a planned meal/snack, something you just grabbed quick because you were hungry, or mindless eating (see cheddar bunnies above). Be honest, this is just between you and you ;-) Try a food diary like this for a few days then look back at it and ask yourself a few questions:
Use these questions and your diary to identify your habits. Specifically look at the mindless eating and the hangry eating. Do your best over the next few days to eliminate those from your day while still writing EVERYTHING down. Your main goals at this stage should be to:
The first two stages are is the focus of the IGNITE, my 4-week kickstart program. TRANSFORM-you, my 1-on-1, complete personalized coaching programs uncovers all three stages tailored specifically to YOU!
For many people Stage 1 and 2 are enough to create a healthy lifestyle. The goal is to train yourself to integrate everything you learned into daily habits. Once you regularly do this without thinking about it you are in Stage 4 (yay!) which is what I call Mindful Eating.
Ummmm, then why is there a Stage 3?
Sometimes, however you need to get a little bit more specific in order to reach your goals or if you want to reach your goals more quickly.
Most importantly, I believe everyone should go through Stage 3 once in their lives. It is important to put a number and understanding to exactly how much you should be eating, all together and of each nutrient group. Women especially, find they are not eating enough protein. Don't let that be you! Insufficient protein consumption will put the breaks your progress.
Stage 3: Measure and Track
In this stage answer the following questions:
Once you have a good understanding of the major food groups and you can successfully eyeball portion sizes, then you start tracking your nutrition by numbers. Use an app, like MyFitnessPal, to track your intake and look at how many calories you are consuming AND where they are coming from.
I usually break this part up into two phases. First, track the habits you already have. Eat like you were in Stage 1/2 and track for 3-5 days. Then, establish your calorie and macronutrient goals, compare your data from those 3-5 days to your goals, and adjust accordingly.
How do you establish your goals?
Your goals are specific to you. They are based on your body and your activity level. Bear with me here, this part involves some math (math I do for you in and tailor it more specifically to YOUR life and YOUR goals in my TRANSFORM-you Program - formerly Body After Baby).
I’m going to use Mary as an example as we walk through all the parts. Mary is not one of my clients, she a made up person, but is a lot like many of the women that I coach. In case you were wondering, I chose the name because it’s my mom’s name :)
First you need your calorie goal:
Step 1: Establish your basal metabolic rate (BMR).
Essentially it's the total amount of calories you would expend in day if you laid in bed and did nothing.
Health Style Hub has a great calculator will tell you your BMR and do some of the calculations below for you too! Click here to find out your's.
Let’s return to Mary as an example. Mary is 32 years old, is 5’5” tall and weighs 150 pounds. Using the calculator, Mary’s BMR is 1,391 calories/day. Therefore, if Mary laid in bed all day long and did nothing (you wish), she would burn 1,391 calories.
Step 2: Adjust for activity.
Since it’s likely that you do not lay in bed all day, you need to then adjust your goal for activity.
You account for activity using one of the following mulipliers:
BMR x 1.2 If you are sedentary-you do little or no exercise in a day
BMR x 1.375 If you are lightly active-light exercise 1-3 days/week
BMR x 1.55 If you are moderately active-moderate exercise 3-5 days/week
BMR x 1.725 If you are very active-hard exercise 6-7 days a week
BMR x 1.9 If you are extra active-very hard exercise & physical job or 2x training per day.
*Most people overestimate their activity. Be cautious here! Also, as a side note, be careful not to double count your activity in MyFitnessPal (or the app of your choice). If you already chose a multiplier that includes your exercise DO NOT enter your exercise into the app. If you do, you will be double counting your activity and grossly overestimating your daily calories burned*
So, back to Mary. Mary is a busy mom, chasing a toddler around. She is a member of my TRANSFORM-you Program exercising 5 days per week. I would put her at the 1.55 multiplier. Therefore, her daily calorie expenditure would be 1,391 x 1.55 = 2,156 calories. This is total energy expenditure (TEE) the Healthy Style Hub refers to.
Step 3: For weight loss, establish a calorie deficit.
1 lb of fat = 3500 calories. Therefore,
To lose 0.5 lbs a week cut 300 calories a day.
To lose 1 lb a week cut 500 calories a day.
To lose 2 lbs a week cut 1000 calories a day.
*A weight loss goal of more than 2 lbs per week is not recommended. Remember, we are focused on developing sustainable habits. Also, calorie consumption less than 1200 a day is not recommended. Beyond that point your plan would have to be determined and overseen by a medical professional.*
Annnnd, back to Mary again. Let's say Mary has a goal to lose 20 pounds by her anniversary vacation which is 5 months away (approximately 20 weeks). That would require a 500 calorie deficit per day. 2,156 - 500 = 1656. Therefore Mary’s should consume 1,656 calories per day to reach her goal (remember she is also exercising 5 days per week).
Where should those calories come from?
Any caloric distribution that falls in the ranges above qualify as a “balanced diet.” However, for tracking purposes it’s best of know the total number of grams of each macronutrient (protein, carbs and fat) you should be eating.
A good starting point for a split is 30% protein, 40% carbs and 30% fat. Bear with me for some more math; I’m going to use Mary again as an example.
We established Mary should should consume 1,656 calories per day to reach her goal.
30% of the calories should come from protein (4 calories per gram).
1,656 x 0.3 = 496.8 calories from protein
496.8 / 4 = 124.2 grams of protein per day
*Often in this step many women find they are not getting enough protein each day*
40% of the calories should come from carbs (4 calories per gram).
1,656 x 0.4 = 662.4 calories from carbs
662.4 / 4 = 165.6 grams of carbs per day
30% of the calories should come from fats (9 calories per gram).
1,656 x 0.3 = 496.8 calories from fat
496.8 / 9 = 55 grams of fat per day
Once you’ve established your goals. Go back and look at your food diary and nutrtion breakdown in the app of your choice. Were you getting enough protein? Were you consuming enough/too many calories? What did your carb/fat numbers look like relative to your goals?
Make small adjustments daily while you continue to track your intake. Do this until your regular food intake matches your goal.
Stage 4: Mindful Eating
Once you know what to eat, know how much to eat, and create sustainable habit around your life you have reached mindful eating. This means no diets, no tracking, just knowing what goes in your body and how it affects your goals.
However, the final stage is not really the FINAL stage. I hate to break it to you but the journey is more like a cycle. Sometimes we need to revisit Stage 1, 2 or 3. Holidays come around, vacation time hits us, a new baby comes…. There can be many things that knock us out of our routines. Just dust yourself off, check in with what you need and revisit the stages above. You should have learn A LOT about yourself in the journey the first time so the second time (or third, or twentieth will be easier and faster).
Consider joining my TRANSFORM-you where personally coach you through all of these steps 1-on-1! You'll receive customized nutrition goals AND workout plans tailored specifically to YOUR life and YOUR goals. You will have 1-on-1 feedback and accountability from me. Together we will create lifestyle that will last a lifetime!