A Better Quality Diet

Once I decided to do this 12-Week Challenge, the obvious question I asked was, "So just how do I reduce my body fat?" I found myself reflecting back to 2004-2006 (wish I blogged then), the formative years of my life change to a healthier, active lifestyle and the building a leaner, stronger me. I noted 2 key things that I focused on back then that I haven't done much of recently:

1. Strength Training (I'll talk about this tomorrow.) 2. Nutrition

Before I fully bought into the theories of this book, I consulted with Danielle, my nutritionist. She wasn't familiar with the book so she did some research on it before our monthly session last Friday. She gave it a thumbs because it's based on science, and now some fad or gimmick.

During our discussion, I found that her advice to me on how to drop body fat aligned with the fundamental principles advocated in the book.

Improve the Quality of My Diet

While I don't have an awful diet, for the sake of this specific goal, there are some definite changes that I need to make.

I am a snacker, and chips and pretzels are my "go-to" snacks of choice. But as Danielle pointed out to me, while they may be low in calories, they are starchy and have very little nutritional value.

I should be eating high quality natural foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, etc. and avoiding low quality processed foods like sweets, fried/fatty foods and baked goods.

Makes sense, right?

Balance Energy Resources

There is no such thing as proper "low carb" or "low fat" diets. Our bodies, especially endurance athletes, need a balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats.

Many of my meals usually contain a main dish and a side of some kind of carb like brown rice, roasted potatoes, etc. I don't always take the time to make a fresh salad or vegetable dish. The one thing she told me I *have* to do is to have vegetables at every. single. meal.

Time Your Nutrition

When you eat affects your body as much as what you eat.

It's easy to get caught up in the workday and forget to have a snack, or even lunch. Sometimes weekends can get so crazy that I don't have lunch until it's almost dinnertime. Then it throws off what time we eat dinner. Not good for maintaining a good metabolism.

I actually have time blocked out on my calendar for a mid-morning, lunch and mid-afternoon snack. Then, 15 minutes before the scheduled time, a notification pops up in my Outlook reminding me that it's time to eat.

Track Your Progress

I've always loosely audited my diet by keeping a food journal. Gauging my calories helps me with portion control, because my eyes are always bigger than my stomach.

A few weeks ago, I had a Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) tested again (I get this test done every 6 months) to find out what calorie ranges I need to stay in for weight loss/management. Knowing this number and visually tracking my calories helps me make good decisions on the kinds of food I should eat.

From previous experience I've learned that once I'm in the habit of tracking my calories, I do a better job of planning and balancing my meals.

And these days, it's a lot easier to do so. I use MyFitnessPal, which also has an iPhone app so I can add my meals at any time. I've made my profile public so feel free to check-in and keep me honest!

The one thing I've been laxed on is weekend eating. I almost always blow my diet on Saturdays and Sundays, and consequently all the hard work I did during the week. And I never record those meals because I don't even want to see how much I've blown it. Reality check perhaps?

Additional Tips

Being that adding vegetables and snacks are my biggest challenges right now, Danielle offered me these tips:

Snack Ideas: • Cherry Tomatoes (which I love) • Cucumbers • Fresh fruit (so many good things in season right now) • Nuts (I love almonds) • Greek Yogurt

Recipe Suggestion for adding vegetables:

Shrimp Fajitas - Sautee onions and peppers, then add shrimp, mushrooms and spinach. Season with chili powder - Eat with 3 corn tortillas - Add half an avocado

It's only 2 days into the week but I've already • Packed a garden salad with cherry tomatoes and sprinkled slice almonds for lunch • Replaced snacks with sliced apples, strawberries and blueberries • Discovered Chobani Greek Yogurt and added sliced almonds to it. • Made the shrimp fajitas - so easy and so good!

By making these simple changes and eliminating the chips and pretzels I've already saved myself an average of 400 calories each day, while still staying within the 1800-1900 calorie range, exactly where I want to be.

It is not easy. My first impulse coming home from work today was to grab the bag of tortilla chips and plop down on the couch with it. Instead, I drank water and realized I wasn't even hungry; it was just a bad habit that needs to be broken.