So today I don’t want to discuss what diet is best or what foods you should be eating. Instead I want to discuss HOW to start making changes toward a healthier diet.
I also want to make note that when I say “diet” I don’t mean a fad or a restricted eating program. By diet I mean “The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.”
When you want to change your lifestyle, there isn’t just one way to do it. Every person has to make healthy lifestyle changes in their own way.
But I have found that there are two basic diet approaches that work best for most people.
The ALL OR NOTHING APPROACH:
With this approach, you create a meal plan with everything planned out so that you know exactly what you are eating and when you are eating it. You may even cook and/or prep everything for the week on Sunday so that it is all ready to go.
This is great for people who don’t like having to make decisions. For many, having to figure out what to eat at the end of a long day, or when they are hungry, leads to disaster and binging. Having everything set out ahead of time helps alleviate the stress of making decisions and allows them to more easily instill new habits.
They also don’t mind eating the same thing numerous times a week and do better when they don’t have a ton of different options around the house.
I’ve found this works best for people who are triggered to binge by having “a little” of a food that tempts them or reminds them of old eating habits – this works best for people who think about their new diet as the foods that they CAN HAVE not the foods that they now CAN’T or SHOULDN’T HAVE.
This may also be a great option for someone who is trying to lose weight fairly aggressively for a specific event (while I don’t like when people crash diet for events, sometimes a big push to get the momentum going can help lead to a long-term commitment).
THE TORTOISE APPROACH:
The all or nothing approach doesn’t work for everyone though. Many feel very RESTRICTED when they have a set meal plan because all they can think about is the foods that AREN’T on the schedule.
So the other approach that I often recommend to clients is what I call the Tortoise approach.
This is honestly my favorite way to make diet changes when dealing with clients who are trying to make an overall lifestyle change.
I call it the TORTOISE approach because it reminds me of the story of The Tortoise and The Hare. Slow and steady wins the race. For these people, sprinting ahead on a meal plan or with very strict guidelines, leads to binging and ultimately to failure. They can’t keep up the pace or feel like they are so ahead that they can rest for awhile…just like the Hare. They do much better with a slow steady pace that allows them to adapt to each change before making the next one. The slow steady pace helps them stay on course the entire time and achieve their ultimate goal…just like the Tortoise.
For people like this, having basic guidelines to follow while being able to eat technically whatever they want allows them to never feel deprived (even if they never actually indulge) because they have the OPTION of eating something if they really want it.
So now the question is…Which way will work best for you?
Unfortunately, no one can answer that but you. And maybe you even need to give both a shot for a month or two to figure out which works best.
But before you choose an approach ask yourself two important questions:
- Do you feel deprived and only think about the foods you CAN’T eat? (YES, then you are a Tortoise because meal plans make Tortoise feel restricted. They like to feel like they can eat anything while staying within basic guidelines.)
- Do you get completely derailed by even just a bit of a food you don’t want to consume on a regular basis? (YES, then you are an All or Nothing. All or Nothings can’t have just a little of something and stay within guidelines. Just a little leads to binges that won’t stay within guidelines.)
Made a successful lifestyle change? Which approach did you use? Or did you maybe even combine them?
(I have had people do meal plans to get things going and then ease off to guidelines once they’ve gained some momentum.)
So with all of this wonderful summer weather, all I can think about is working out outside. And while I love hiking and biking and sprinting and stand up paddling as my outdoor “workouts,” I also do enjoy doing more “traditional” workouts outside.
And while basically any bodyweight move can be done outside, here are my 10 favorite moves to do because they are super challenging with only body weight. Some do require a bit of “equipment”…aka playgrounds or possibly stairs…or comfy grass…but all don’t require any additional weights.
Outdoor Workout Moves:
- Monkey Bars – So the monkey bars aren’t a move really, but they are a wonderful tool for any outdoor workout. I love to do pull ups off of them or even just swing across them. You can even do a pull up hold on them. (We have numerous different ways to use the Monkey Bars in the video below.)
- Knees to elbows or Skin the Cats – A great way to work your core, grip strength and upper body. You even work your quads and hips doing either knees to elbows or Skin the Cats. With these two moves, you hang from the monkey bars. With knees to elbows, you simply tuck your knees up to your elbows. You will need to pull up a bit with your arms and lean back to truly get your knees and elbows to connect. With Skin the Cats, you will actually bring your legs up and through your hands. You will then straighten your legs and reach your toes to the ground before coming back and up through your arms to return to the starting position.
- Crawling – So many people are embarrassed to crawl, but it truly is one of the freaking best moves out there for full body strength. Plus it is a great way to get in a bit of cardio. You can crawl forwards and backwards. Or side to side. Or even in circles. You can do bear crawls, table top crawls, crab crawls or even my new favorite…GORILLA crawls!
- Push ups – So outdoors you can do incline push ups off a bench (so hands on the bench) if you can’t do a full push up yet. Or you can do them from your knees. Or flat on the ground. Or you can even make them harder by elevating your feet to do a decline variation. Check out the video below with for some different push up variations!
- Stair sprints – Climbing stairs sucks in general. But if you want climbing stairs even harder, do it quickly. Sprint up the stairs or try even taking them to at a time. There is nothing worse/better than running stadiums! (And if you don’t have stairs but instead have a really big hill…Well that will do too! Hill sprints or even sprints in the sand are another way to up the intensity of your sprints. And each have different added benefits! Like extra glute work…)
- Bench jumps – So if you are a beginner, you may want to start with bodyweight squats or even jump squats. But if you done some jumping, you can make the move harder by jumping up onto a bench or piece of playground equipment. You can do forward jumps, lateral jumps or even rotational jumps up to the bench! To make them easier, step down after jumping up. To make them harder, perform them as quickly as possible!
- Bench step ups – Step ups are another great way to work the booty without any weight and without laying on the grass to perform glute bridges (I get a bit too itchy when I lay on the grass when I’m super sweaty so prefer to save my glute bridges for inside). You can use a bench or steps or anything that is a challenging height. The higher it is the more challenging it will be. Make sure though that you aren’t compensating as you step up by pressing down on your other leg with your hands or by pushing yourself up with the foot planted on the ground instead of just using the foot on top of the box. To make this move harder, you can also make it plyometric. So instead of just stepping up, powerfully step up so that you actually jump up a bit off of the box. You can either stay on one side with this move or alternate legs. You can also perform both variations of the step ups laterally!
- Swing/Bench balance lunge – So set up in a lunge position with your back foot up on a bench or a swing (the swing will be tougher). Lunge down toward the ground and return to the starting position. Make sure that as you lunge, your front knee is not going over your front toe and that your front foot stays firmly planted on the ground with the heel down. Keep your chest up tall and don’t lean forward. You actually almost want to “sit back” while performing this move. You should also feel a nice stretch in the hip and down the quad of the back leg
- Swing knee tucks – So set up in a push up position, with your feet up in the swing. You are then going to tuck your knees into your chest, controlling your legs in and out. This is a more advanced move. If you find it to challenging and feel it in your low back, start with mountain climbers on the ground. You can also progress this move by doing a pike tuck (bring your feet in toward your head keeping your legs straight) instead of bending your knees to bring them into your chest.
- Pole/Rope/Swing Climb – So this move can be made into either a vertical or horizontal pull. To do a horizontal pull, you can set up on the pole, rope or swing chain like you are planning to do an inverted row. You will then walk hand over hand to pull your chest up to the pole, swing or rope before lowering yourself back down. Or you can kneel at the bottom with your hands on the pole or rope or swing chain. You can then climb up to the top of the pole before sliding back down. Either way you do it, you are in for a challenge!
Runners up: So while there are a ton of other bodyweight moves I love, like split squat jumps and sit thrus…the only other move I was tempted to put on here was jump rope…I love jumping rope. I feel like a little kid again when I do it!
Anyway, here are some other great moves that Ryan and I did a few summers ago on the playground to help get you motivated to workout outdoors this summer!
So yesterday at work one of the other trainers asked me a few “would you rather…” questions.
One was about which piece of equipment I would choose from the gym as a weapon if a zombie apocalypse happened…
And the other was about which I would rather give up, nuts or dairy.
Which got me to thinking, isn’t a healthy lifestyle really all about “would you rather?”
I mean think about it…If you could eat whatever your favorite food is every day and look and feel great and be healthy, wouldn’t you? Would you really eat vegetables or cut out gluten and processed foods if you didn’t have to?
BUT that isn’t reality.
The reality of it is you are always playing a sort of “would you rather” game. Would you rather eat that pint of ice cream and feel crappy later or eat a natural, whole foods meal and feel energized and good later?
Would you rather eat pizza and chips and not perform well or eat a burger without a bun and a salad and get in a great workout?
I personally would rather eat well and feel great, be healthy and perform well. That is why I eat well most of the time. Plus I do find that I enjoy all of the whole natural foods that I eat. I love grass-fed beef and fish and fruits and veggies (especially cauliflower for some reason haha).
BUT there are those cheat days when I WOULD RATHER indulge and even risk feeling super crappy the next day than eat healthy.
Eating well is a choice and sometimes it isn’t always an easy choice. When you are stressed or pressed for time or put into situations where the EASIEST thing to do is cheat, you are more tempted to just give in without really thinking about the consequences of your choices (and how you will feel tomorrow about them).
Eating well and working out isn’t easy (yes it is easier for some people than for others), but it is a choice.
So think about it…What would you rather do?
So I definitely have solid views on nutrition, but I actually don’t vocalize them as much as you would think considering I rant and rave all the time about them here.
If someone asks me my opinion, I will tell them what I personally think.
Like yesterday, the volleyball girls asked me about post-exercise nutrition.
My answer? Eat a lean protein source and a simple carb. Those will be quickly absorbed by your body and used as fuel.
When asked what counted as a lean protein source or simple carb, I answered…
Turkey, chicken, whey protein, rice, potatoes, fruit.
Notice I didn’t say no gluten. Notice I didn’t say no protein bars. (Heck notice I didn’t even say, “Well honestly, I don’t even worry about pre and post workout nutrition…That is something that really only a top few elite competitors/athletes/bodybuilders need to worry about…That the most important thing truly is to eat a whole, natural food diet throughout the day and make sure you are eating when you are hungry!)
I simply listed things I believed are good – things that I would eat.
When asked specifically about bread or gluten or processed foods, I usually say, “Well I don’t believe in eating those things, but there are other people who do x, y and z and it works for them.”
I will almost always present the other side. (Except of course for here where I get to rant about the other side! YESSSS!)
Because it isn’t up to me what you choose. I can provide you with information about my reasons for my decisions, but I can’t tell you what is right.
Because it is a gamble. There are literally thousands of studies and people on both sides of the fat/gluten/carb/vegetarian fence.
Which side you decide to pick is ultimately up to you.
I’ve picked a side and am constantly doing research to make sure that I know WHY I make the decisions that I do.
Anyway, the reason I thought about all of this is because I’m writing up a “10 Healthy Lifestyle Tips” for this Heart Healthy Expo Jeff and I are going to tomorrow.
I was reading through a lot of the different heart-healthy tip things online and I couldn’t bring myself to provide people with recipes or tips that included canola oil and other such crap as healthy.
So below are the 10 Heart Healthy Lifestyle Tips I came up with. I managed to make the tips stay pretty darn mainstream WITHOUT going against my beliefs. I didn’t say not to eat whole grains…I just most definitely didn’t say to do it!!!
- Eat whole, natural foods and cut back on processed, pre-packaged food items. Processed foods are loaded with sugars and bad fats that cause inflammation.
- Use healthy fats such as olive oils, coconut oils and naturally-raised animal fats INSTEAD OF canola and soybean oils, which cause inflammation because they are loaded with omega-6s.
- Cut back on sugar and consume more complex carbohydrates especially fruits and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins and minerals that protect our health.
- Cook more meals. No matter how healthy the restaurant meal supposedly is, it never measures up to a home-cooked meal. Even with our busy schedules and long workdays, we can fit in time to cook. It just takes some planning. Find meals, like casseroles and crockpot recipes, which allow you to make huge portions all at once so that you have leftovers for all those busy days when you don’t have time to cook!
- Plan in some “me time.” Too much stress can negatively impact our health. It is important to take some time each day. This can mean going for a walk with friends, reading a book or anything that allows you to relax for even just 5 minutes at the end of your day.
- Get more sleep! Those who average five or fewer hours of sleep per night have a far higher incidence of “silent” heart disease. In a study done, 27% of those who slept five hours or less per night developed calcifications that can signal heart disease after five years, compared to just 6% of those who slept an average of seven hours or more.
- Do 30 minutes of low intensity aerobic activity (walking, hiking, swimming, chasing after your kids on the playground) 2-3 times per week. Low intensity aerobic activity helps to strengthen our heart and burn fat.
- “Sprint” once a week. To sprint means to do short, intense activity once a week where you get your heart rate up and then let it recover before you go again. The intensity of your sprint will be dependent on your fitness level. A sprint should be between 8-20 seconds of intense work followed by a long period of rest (2 to 5 times the amount work).
- Lift weights! Too often we ignore weight training when it comes to heart health, but strength training is important! Resistance training has been shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure while improving cholesterol levels and glucose metabolism. All of which result in a healthier heart! Add in weight training 2-3 times per week.
- Skip the two a days! More time in the gym doesn’t always equal better health. Overtraining can actually have negative effects on your health. Your workouts don’t need to be more than an hour especially if they are super intense. So don’t worry about how long you workout for – focus on your intensity!
NOTE: I am not ashamed of my beliefs, but I do believe that sometimes if you are too vocal upon first conversation with someone who you can actually get them to shut down and complete tune out all of the good stuff you are saying. Sometimes if you ease people into the unknown they are more accepting of the things you have to say!
I’ve been asked this question numerous times recently when I’ve been lifting and have wanted to give up.
It always manages to amp me up just enough to push hard until the end even when I thought I had nothing left to give.
It even got me through my workout on Friday – and I literally almost skipped the workout because my body was just so tired.
I was bruised and beaten down. Just about every muscle was sore. I was on the verge of being completely overtrained.
And I talk a lot about NOT overtraining. But there are some points where you just have to give everything you’ve got and more.
There are going to be the rare times, like when training for competition, when you might have to overload your body to really get the results you want.
This overload isn’t prolonged. At most it is a couple of weeks. But still…those weeks leave you feeling destroyed and sometimes even emotionally drained.
But you push through knowing that the harder you work, the bigger the payoff in the end.
You push yourself because you know this isn’t the norm.
You fight even when you want to give up.
You prove how bad you want it.
Now I ask you, when is the last time you wanted something so bad that you fought through sweat, blood and tears?
When was the last time you pushed until you really had nothing left to give?
Well than maybe you just haven’t yet found something worth fighting for.
In my opinion though, being fit and strong and healthy is sometimes worth the pain. It is worth sometimes feeling like the odd man out because you aren’t indulging in junk food at the party. It is worth sometimes going to the gym even when you just want to go home.
It is worth a little sweat, blood and tears.
Do you love talking about health and fitness?
Do you love to find the latest trend and read about it and go all gung-ho for like three days and give up?
I feel like over the past few years I’ve met a ton of people who seem to like TALKING about healthy eating and working out, but that DON’T actually do it.
And those are the same people who wonder why they aren’t getting results.
Sorry but talking about being healthy doesn’t make you health.
You’ve got to actually WORK AT IT.
You’ve got to PRACTICE what you preach.
I don’t sit on the couch eating chips and bread as I tell you to eat only meat and veggies.
I don’t ask anyone to do something that I haven’t done before or am not willing to do myself.
I don’t try a new diet or workout program AND RAVE ABOUT IT only to give up on it a few days later.
Every guideline, every recipe, every workout or tip I’ve written about I’ve tried…And believed in.
As with everything, I’ve evolved. I haven’t given up…I’ve just found better ways of doing things.
So what I’m saying is…
For one, you’ve got to actually give something a try. You can’t just get all pumped about a new diet and talk about it to everyone. And rave about how great it is going for the first week only to give up because of some dumb excuse the next week.
For two, once you give something a try…like really give it a chance to find out if it works, you CAN’T stick with it after it has PROVEN not to work for you.
Basically I’m telling you that you can’t just talk about being healthy or rave about something that isn’t getting you results.
And if you want results, you’ve got to give your diet and exercise experiments a chance to prove if they work. At least a month is needed of strict adherence to know if that program works for you.
On the flip side, if you want results, you also can’t stick with something that you’ve tried and hasn’t work. You can’t just stick with something because it worked for someone else. Don’t just keep following something like a drone. Think about it!
Anyway, the point is that you won’t get results by just talking about being healthy. You’ve actually got to go after it. You’ve got to try things…and I mean really try them. You’ve got to find things that work and things that don’t work and you’ve got to keep growing and evolving.
So stop talking about getting fit and start DOING IT!
Holidays are usually full of partying and bad food. The question is, “Do you cheat or do you stick to your diet?”
Both can work. And frankly what I do depends on the holiday.
On holidays where BBQ is common, like Memorial Day, the fourth of July and Labor Day, I find it very easy to stick to my diet.
So I do.
BUT on holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Ryan or my birthday, I find it much harder to eat well.
I don’t believe in all of those tips to keep the fat off during the winter holiday seasons. I mean seriously…get a smaller plate so you don’t eat as much?!?!
I would much rather just eat badly with family on those days and then go right back to my diet afterwards. I would much rather eat super clean before the holidays and super clean afterwards than deprive myself of food in a social environment that has so much meaning for me.
I don’t like having feelings of deprivation. That is why I eat the diet that I do!
So if I think I’ll feel like I missed out, I indulge. A little indulgence one day could keep me from binge eating for the next week or so.
But it is really up to you. The question I always ask myself way in advance is, “Will I feel like I missed out enough to make me want to cheat for the entire week after or will I be satisfied eating well?”
In Boston, all too often Ryan and I would spend time together by watching TV or a movie. We would do active things together, but not near as frequently as we should have.
Since moving to Cali, we’ve spent so much more time together doing active things – even just activities such as walking around a farmers market together.
There is something about being ACTIVE together that brings you even closer together. There is a bonding that goes on when you DO things together.
Like yesterday…We did a quick workout together then got some coffee and walked about 4 miles on the beach, watching the waves. We later put together some furniture. All active things. All times to bond.
There is just something about the bonding that happens during physical activity that is so different from the bonding that happens at any other time.
That is why I encourage all of my clients, friends and family to DO things together. Go paddleboarding. Go rock climbing. Go for a hike or jog or even do a workout together!
Yea there may be some competition when you do a workout with your spouse, friend or family member, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The fact that you are overcoming a challenge together will bring you closer. The fact that you are both talking and playing together while getting endorphins from the exercise will bring you closer.
Playing together will help you develop a stronger bond. A healthier relationship. And a healthier you.
So today…go play with your family and friends!
If you’ve ever pushed or pulled a sled, you know it is perfectly wonderful torture.
Tonight Ryan came in to the gym for a workout and I started our workout out with a sled pull (pull the sled toward you by pulling a long rope in) and then pushing it back to the starting position. (This was made even more torturous by the fact that you then had to bear crawl backwards back to the beginning.)
BUT tonight I’m not going to discuss how torturous the bear crawl was. I’m going to discuss the torture and the benefit of pushing and pulling a sled.
If you want to develop strength and power in your legs, you should be doing sled pushes. If you want to strengthen your core and your upper body, you should be doing sled pushes. Sled pulls are great too for the upper body, core and even the legs.
The sled helps you develop POWER and STRENGTH. AND it also helps you develop great ACCELERATION and SPEED.
Corey, one of the owners and trainers at Innovative Results, posted this article about sled training to our Facebook group a few weeks back and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
It is a very functional tool that can work your entire body.
So why aren’t you doing workouts with the sled?!?!
Add this circuit into your next routine:
5 rounds with a challenging weight on the sled:
Sled pull toward you for 20 ft.
Push it back to the starting position (20ft)
Then bear crawl backwards to your starting position at the rope (20ft)