(1) Drink More Water
By drinking more water, you will feel better in many ways. For instance, you may feel sluggish, fatigued, or have brain-fog. These could be signs that you are dehydrated. Once you start drinking water, you notice how much more alert and focused you are. You will probably gain a new level of mental clarity. We are made of water about 60% according to Google search, therefore it only makes sense to put more of it into our bodies. Try to aim for 8-10 glasses a day, or 1 gallon of water. It will be hard at first, and you may run to the bathroom more often, but your body will adjust in time. Be patient.
(2) Stop Drinking Sugar
Sodas, sweet tea, and most fruit juices are made of mostly sugar and do not provide any nutrients for your body. You must stop drinking them and do not switch to diet drinks, because they are even worse for you! Do not use artificial sweeteners! If you want to sweeten your water, tea, or coffee use sugar in the raw, honey, agave or some other natural sugar source. When it comes to fruit juices make sure that you are consuming 100% juice and check all labels and ingredients before purchasing! Be extremely cautious of high fructose corn syrup, because it is very harmful to you. It is in most sodas and juices in today’s super markets! Try new beverages such as hot teas, which also aid in digestion, help energize the body, and give you mental clarity. Another fact is that caffeine helps boost metabolism, which allows you to burn calories more often. If you are trying to loose weight, try drinking green tea, or coffee. (Watch what you add to your coffee, because putting too much sugar or cream does more harm than good. I am down to one sugar packet and one cream and when I refill, I don’t add any additional.)
(3) Zero Tolerance for Food Fast
Stop eating at all fast food places immediately! These places use cheap ingredients, generically modified food, and contain zero nutrition for your body. Do your own research if you don’t believe me. You get what you pay for, so don’t try to convince yourself that you are doing the right thing when you pull up at the drive-thru. This step is critical to becoming healthier and feeling more alive. Fast food contain obsessive amounts of sodium, sugars, and calories. There isn’t a way to justify going to these food places in the slightest. Keep healthy snacks in your car to avoid getting the urge to stop at these places after-work or on road trips.
(4) Eliminate Processed Foods
You know those favorite chips of yours that you love snacking on? They have to go, because they don’t contain any nutritional value what-so-ever for you. Another thing you must avoid are those prepackaged frozen dinners. Yes, even pizza rolls 😦 These food choices contain tons of preservatives, chemicals, and great amounts of sodium. Avoid them at all costs! You must be aware of packaged food such as hamburger helper, pop tarts, granola bars, and oatmeal. Again, things have been added to these items, depending on the brand, and may cause more harm than good if consumed. Basically, eliminate most prepackaged foods and you are good to go!
(5) Incorporate Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
Try visiting your local food stores and/or farmer’s markets. You will find the healthiest and freshest choices there. If you can’t make it to one of those locations, be sure to visit your produce section in the grocery store you go to normally. You body is able to absorb more nutrients when you eat fresh fruit or vegetables opposed to digesting frozen or canned options. Also, some fruits are canned in sugary syrups, therefore you should steer clear from them. Canned vegetables, do not have much value to your body, and usually have a high levels of sodium. Your taste buds may have to adjust, but making this switch is required.
(6) Limit Alcohol Intake
Drinking large amounts of alcohol can be toxic to your liver, cause dehydration, and of course blur your judgment. Therefore, you can’t make conscious healthy food choices. What bar has healthy options? Actually, you don’t want any carrots or sauteed chicken when you are drunk; you go for the greasy fries or chips and dip. Also, drinking beer can lead to weight gain, and cause bloating, which isn’t going to help us get those abs we have been dreaming of. I like to compare myself to a blow-fish, during the period where I was consuming beer on a nightly basis. Mixed drinks should also be avoided. They may have a fancy name, but I can promise you that they will contain more sugar than you think. A lot of bars and restaurants may use prepackaged solutions such as sweet and sour, that again may contain high fructose corn syrup. I would recommend drinking a glass of wine or trying a local brew over the other options. Lastly, you should definitely eat before you go out so that you are less tempted by the unhealthy foods available.
(8) Consume More Protein
Protein allows us to remain full longer, helps repair body tissues, and aids in muscle growth and recovery. Protein can be found in any animal products and grains such as quinoa and lentils. Also some green vegetables such as kale and edamame contain higher levels of protein. You can also buy protein supplements at stores such as GNC, Whole Foods, and Vitamin Shoppe. Again, check the ingredient and watch for added sugars/chemicals. By adding protein to your diet, you will feel stronger and your body will benefit in many ways.
(9) Lower Your Carbs
Most people consume way too many carbs, causing them to hold on to excess body fat. Cutting down on your carbs is an easy way to trim your waist and see quicker results in the gym. If you think about it, most carbs you should avoid are going in prepackaged foods or sugary drinks. Carbs from natural sources, such as oatmeal and other grains are healthy for you. One thing I have done personally, is eliminate white potatoes from my diet, because I found they caused my stomach to bloat. Not to say, they are bad for you, but try replacing them with sweet potatoes and see what it does for you. Not everyone is going to have the same results. Also, limit bread and pasta intake, because they are loaded with carbs and again can cause discomfort in your stomach and fatigue in your body. Be smart with your carbs and you shouldn’t have any worries.
(10) Portion Control
Forever, I am sure you have heard that we should eat three times a day. I have found that eating smaller meals have helped my in my fitness journey towards abs and decreased bloating. Overeating can cause us to get too full and result in bloating, which is very uncomfortable and can be confused for weigh gain. Watching you portions will trim your waist in time, because you have stretched you stomach by eating too much! Most of the portions at restaurants are way too much for you. Try to share meals with someone else if you choose to go out to eat and make smaller meals at home. For example, eat breakfast, then a snack, lunch, a snack, and then dinner. By eating more frequently, you will start to notice many positive affects in your body.
(11) Try Organic
I know going organic can be expensive and put a dent in your bank account, but the benefits will be well worth it. By replacing even a few items such as eggs, meat, vegetables, and fruits will reap greater health benefits. The differences between organic and regular food items are huge! Most food we consume contains chemicals, preservatives, genetically modified ingredients, and harmful pesticides. Most of those things are linked to cancer and cause health problems. Look for the USDA organic label and shop in at natural health stores or in the natural section of your grocery store. Also, visit international markets and farmer markets for more options. You will also notice a difference in how things taste and how your body reacts to these foods instead of the normal options. There is not a thing negative about making this switch! You can start off small or get rid of everything in your pantry and start fresh.
(12) Read Labels on Everything
You have to realize that these food companies are out to make a profit and do not care about you or your health! They use cheap ingredients, GMO’s, and dangerous chemicals/preservatives that have been linked to health problems and cancer! I have a few quick tips for you, so that you can see through their manipulation strategies. Just because the label says natural, doesn’t mean it is natural! Also, if it says diet, do not buy it! If you don’t know what an ingredient is look it up, do some research or completely avoid it all together. Some ingredients I avoid are BHT, high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame, Acesulfame-K, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), and many others. Just a head’s up many of them are in prepackaged foods, frozen dinners, fast food,added food coloring such as Red 1, and diet-food options. An easy way to stay on the right track is to minimize your diet, keep it simple, and use fresh fruits/vegetables and meats.
(13) Start Meal-Prepping
Set yourself up for success by choosing a day to shop and prepare food. Map out exactly what foods you are going to eat, go buy them and cook them that day! This ensures that the foods do not go bad,that you actually eat them, and that you don’t forget about them. Research recipes and meals ahead of time. Prep food for the week, you can decide how many meals you want to make at once. I would recommend about 4-5 days, due to the fact food may go rotten if stored too long in your refrigerator. Also, you want the food to be as fresh as possible. If you have foods already prepared you are able to stick to your healthy eating and avoid cravings or purchasing food from a restaurant. I have found that it is much easier to stay on track by doing this. One of my mindsets is if it isn’t prepared then I’m not allowed to eat it, this helps me avoid unhealthy foods that still remain in my kitchen. Also, you may not feel like cooking all the time, especially if your job is physically demanding. Having these food prepped ensures you will have a quick, healthy meal at all times!
(14) Discover Alternatives
Most of the time, there is going to be a healthier, more nutritious choice for you than what you are eating now. Here are a few examples of my personal alternatives.
White Potatoes –> Sweet Potatoes
Milk Chocolate –> Dark Chocolate
White Bread –> Wheat/ Whole Grains/Zero Pasta
Fruit Cocktails –> 100% Juice
White Granulated Sugar –> Raw sugar/Coconut sugar/Honey
Peanut Butter–>Organic, 2-Ingredients:Roasted Nuts/Oil, No added Sugar
Jelly/Jams–>Whole Berries/Fruits, No Added Sugars
Regular Eggs–> Brown eggs, Cage-Free, Grain-Feed, Free-Range, Local
Regular Meats–> Grass-feed Beef, Lean Turkey, Kosher, Wild-Caught Fish, Local
Dairy Milk–> Coconut/Almond/Hemp Milks
Snacks–> Fruit, Vegetables, Smoothies, Protein Shakes,
Granola Bars–>Organic, Simple, Protein, NATURAL sugars( honey, brown rice)
Canola Oil–>Sunflower, Safflower, Peanut, Olive
P.S PB& J’s are one of my favorite snacks, although the bread isn’t good for me, something I must find an alternative for due to the brand I use. Sometimes, it is difficult finding an alternative, do not be too hard on yourself while making these changes.
You may be feeling very overwhelmed by this list and even stressed or fearful. Please understand that making this switch is a process and will take months or even years to do successfully. We are not perfect by any means, and because these food choices are so available it will be a struggle to resist them at first. Also, realize that since we were born, we have be accustomed to eating unhealthy. Mainly, because the information wasn’t out there about the foods and drinks we have been consuming our entire lives. You will notice that you will only be shopping in a limited area of the grocery store, and that the middle section of the store is filled with most of the items you should eliminate. Your taste buds are not going to like this new lifestyle, because sugar has been added to practically everything we have been eating since day one. Give yourself some slack, slowly ween yourself off sugar by using smaller amounts, eventually you may not even want to add any at all, or use natural alternatives. Random tip: Be aware of colors, the more color you have on your plate, the greater chance you have of being on the right track with your nutrition. Again, be patient and stay consistent, you will get there! The generations before us didn’t have the same mindset as we do today, therefore we are one step closer to becoming a healthier society as a whole.
If you are serious about your food choices, which I assume you are if you read this entire article, and realize that your journey has already begun! You have obtained knowledge you may not have previously had. It’s time to start your fitness journey by getting in the mindset and realizing that you are not alone!
My Personal Journey With Food
I have known about the dangers of food since I was about 16, so about seven years now. That is how long it has taken me to get to where I am mentally and physically. It doesn’t happen overnight and not everything you try to do is going to be successful. I have failed many times at eating healthy. You have to put it in your head that this isn’t a diet, this is a lifestyle. There is no such thing as giving up, because you can only benefit by researching and gaining more knowledge on nutrition and fitness. I am not going to pretend like I have lived by this list day in and day out, but I do make much more health-conscious food choices now. You have to remember that you are what you eat, therefore eating is probably the most important thing that you do. I have experienced more mental clarity, enhanced focus and increased energy, better mood stability, less anxiety and depression, and physically I am in the best shape of my life. I have watched many documentaries, read countless articles, practiced trial-error with different foods, and discovered healthier options by going to natural food stores such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Turnip Track, GNC, Vitamin Shoppee, Publix, Kroger, and local farmer’s markets. I have failed more times than I can count. I have eaten cookies for dinner. I have been that person pulling up at Cook Out’s drive-thru window. I have been stressed to the point of where I didn’t want to eat at all. I have accepted that I am going to make unhealthy food choices, but I am going to thrive to do better every single day.
“If you are tired of starting over, then quit giving up!”