Ok. It's officially time to stop avoiding this one. Yeah…I'm talking to YOU.
You've tried just counting calories. It didn't work for long. Now you're stuck. You have taken your stab at high carb, low carb, paleo, weight watchers, intermittent fasting, clean eating, more cardio, less cardio, more lifting, no lifting…and that was just last month. You have probably tried EVERY trick in the book, but progress is a no-go.
How do I know? Because I am you. Not being the biggest protein fan, I've struggled most of my fit-seeking life trying to find any way of eating that would get me results…without having to establish the one habit I needed most: eating enough protein.
Protein tends to be one of the often ignored elements – the one that most of us have heard about, but keep downplaying. Protein is the cornerstone to the most successful diets, and is one of the most agreed upon proponents of fat loss, muscle gain AND a healthy metabolism. It's a total no brainer, yet many of us totally dismiss its importance – in our constant pursuit of shiny (and quick!).
Those of us who have accepted it, still shrug off the concept thinking that we probably eat “enough” protein already. Maybe. Maybe not. I fooled myself for years thinking that I was eating enough for my goals…even though hitting 100g on a good day was tough for me. I thought that having some protein at every meal was sufficient. As I hit the research a bit harder, I discovered that despite all that I'd accomplished, I wasn't even coming close. Finally accepting, and attempting to truly step up my game has been a game changer.
My clients now know that before tackling ANY other area (including lowering cals), they must exhibit the ability to hit their protein goals consistently. I tell them plainly, that if they can't hit the protein goal eating at maintenance, there's no way they'll be able to eat enough with even less calories. Since protein needs increase as calories decrease, skipping this step is devastating to progress.
The 7-Day Protein CHALLENGE
I learned a few tricks along the way, that can help ANY carb queen (or king) become a Macro Master (title claimed by my hubs when I taught him these same tactics). I've picked the top seven and turned them into a 7-day challenge that you can do as many times as you like, until the habits form. Habits that will ultimately catapult you to the next level. The challenge also includes a 16-page guide to help you nail your goals any time, anywhere. The goal: to get to the point where you are applying ALL of the tips effortlessly as a part of your new lifestyle.
Eating a higher protein diet is a huge key to the FAT (vs WEIGHT) loss puzzle.
Many of you have already signed up and stepped up to this challenge. The rest of you…what are you waiting for? If you find it impossible to even consider eating 1g per pound of bodyweight (150+ pounds and still struggling to get in 100g? Not gonna work), this challenge is for you.
If you think that you need implement multiple changes, I encourage you to first get yourself to the point where you are hitting your protein goals every week (based on your weekly average) for at least 6-8 weeks straight. Then if you need to change something else, go for it (but keep the protein at that level).
Until then, come join us!
We'll be using the hashtag #em2wlproteinchallenge to share and hold each other accountable. Come on…you can do anything for 7 days!
A food tracker can be a powerful weight loss tool. When used correctly, it can give you a ton of data about your eating patterns and caloric intakes. For many, tracking food can mean the difference between eating enough calories and eating the right kinds of calories. However, the ultimate goal for the majority of #crushers is to be able to live and eat without the aid of a food tracker.
Intuitive eating vs. Food tracker
The goal to stop tracking comes with an important caveat. You have to actually track your food for a period of time in order to stop tracking later. So for many, this means understanding that if your goal is to stop using a food tracker, then you must be able to perfect intuitive eating, by knowing how your food choices line up each day.
By tracking, this allows you to see each day where your calorie intake actually hits, and where your macros fall in. This allows you to make notes of what you need to eat daily, and how your choices affect your macros for each meal. Paying attention to your daily food habits will set you up for success when the time comes to stop tracking. Your understanding of how to hit that protein goal becomes apparent after you track consistently.
Another good reason for using a food tracker is seeing if there are patterns in your moods and hunger cues. By tracking your moods daily using the notes section of your diary, you will be able to see if there are patterns to certain issues. Things like skipping breakfast causes you to binge eat later in the day. Or a pattern in eating a certain food brings on the bloat or gives you headaches/migraines. These cues can tell you a lot about your eating habits and how to troubleshoot them long after you stop tracking.
Finally, tracking your food allows you to be self aware. It keeps you accountable to your daily required calories, and hitting those macros. Both are necessary for fat loss. It also gives you the stepping stones to make these changes in your food a habit. Habits which need to be solid before you begin intuitive eating.
The goal for everyone is to eventually stop tracking food. But take the steps now to track so your foundation is solid in the future.
In order to plan for success in the fall, dieters need to focus on preparing for changes than happen after summer. Fall is usually a time when school is back in session and colder weather emerges. Holiday seasons also begin to race into high gear. There are two reasons why you tend to fail in the fall: You don't have a plan, or your plan is not realistic. Regardless, planning is even more vital in the colder months than it ever was during the warmer ones.
Seasonal habits need changing
During the summer months, many dieters believe that it is easier to plan to stick to your eating habits and workout routines. Hot weather can drive gym goers inside for air conditioning, and swimming and water sports become more prominent. We also tend to wear less clothing in the heat, which motivates us to look and feel our best. Fresh produce is in abundance, making it very easy to find healthy options to eat. So with the heat, we tend to eat better and are more physically active than any other season.
Somehow, the minute the colder weather starts to set in, our habits also seem to freeze and a stale mate begins with our routines. Generally, routines should be easy to keep. But many underestimate just how busy they tend to be come September and there is no consideration for the mental space that takes up.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail
It is important that you have plans in place for when the weather changes. School begins and kids tend to take up all our time, with extra curriculars and events. If there is no plan in place for how to deal with the change in schedule, then failure is inevitable. We know these things come every fall, so plan ahead of time for how you will fit in your workouts and gym time. Colder weather tends to make us want to hide indoors and not go out. So a plan needs to be in place for how you will handle poor weather conditions. This might mean having some gym equipment at home for the days you don't want to travel. If you are a home gym user, then proper scheduling of your time needs to be considered.
Fall often brings a change in food options and eating habits. Fall and Winter are “Sweets and Junk” season. Football and Hockey season brings out all of the tailgate type foods, that are high fat and high sugar. This makes way for holiday season, which – for many – is a general “free for all” in eating options. There are less fresh produce options in the colder weather, which can make it difficult to have healthier options.
This is not something to beat yourself up over, attempt to “white knuckle” through, or throw your hands up in defeat (until the New Year) – instead, think ahead and arm yourself with a plan!
Planning ahead for the colder weather with a decent food plan can make or break your fall season. Utilize tools like a crock pot or instant pot to help make meals ahead of time. Plan out a few meals in advance and freeze them so you always have a good food option ready to go rather than grabbing take out. It is also important to allow yourself the ability and freedom to still eat some of the less healthier options. Framing your goals during the colder months can help keep you on track, and upbeat about your progress.
Know what your natural patterns are in the fall season. Know that you will tend to want to move less and eat more. Have a general plan in place for how you will combat the colder weather. Have both a workout plan and an eating plan in place. These things will allow you to continue to make progress in the colder months, and your next spring and summer to go as planned.
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Although more women are paying attention to their macronutrients, fiber is a micronutrient that most people tend to ignore. Fiber is important as it aids in digestion and helps lower glucose and blood cholesterol levels all while keeping you feeling full and satisfied. Power Eating author Susan Kleiner, even goes so far as to say that increasing fiber intake by just 5% would help most people improve fat loss results.
Fiber is not available via fat or protein, which means that eating carbohydrates is key to getting in enough fiber. So if you're carbophobic, but always coming up short on this micro, it may mean that you have to get off that low carb train in order to do it!
Great Fiber Sources
Fiber is best in its “natural” form. Supplements like Metamucil and the like can certainly come in handy, but it's best to get your intake in from eating real foods. Some of the best options are:
Eating carbs may be scary for some, but have no fear. Focusing on higher fiber choices will help guide you in eating the right kind of carbs for your goals, round out your diet, and compliment your other macros.
While the recommended intake is about 25-35 grams, most women are lucky to get in about 15 grams in a day. This is one element of your diet that you want to increase very slowly (and with lots of water!) to allow your body time to adjust.
Water is essential to increasing your fiber! By not drinking enough, your digestive system will essentially create concrete making it very hard to pass through your bowels. Give your stomach a chance to adjust and increase very slowly.
When increasing your fiber, remember that some choices may work better for you than others, or rather that some will give you more bang for your buck. An apple or orange have about 3 grams, but a cup of raspberries has about 9 grams! So look at your fiber options and how you can get the most out of your choices. Celiacs (or anyone for that matter!!) can opt for grain options like millet or brown rice rather that oats and barley, the key is to adopt the habit AND make it work for you.
If you are new to increasing fiber, try to break up your meals and aim for about 5 grams per meal (5g x 5 meals = 25g/day). If you're eating fewer meals, then you'll want to work up to more fiber (ex. 7-8g) per meal to help you get it all in. Again, take your intake for these goals up slowly and increase your water accordingly!
Which is better?
Counting calories has been around since the dawn of dieting, and the awareness of “macros,” or macronutrients, has dramatically increased in recent years. With the explosion of the expression “If It Fits Your Macros” (and the subsequent websites, social media pages, and FB groups that inevitably followed) the public has become more interested in “hitting macros” in pursuit of building muscle and consistent fat loss.
For more seasoned dieters, the question eventually asked is “Which is better, counting calories or macros?” The truth is that neither one can exist without the other and both do matter in terms of fat loss and muscle gains.
Both terms are merely ways to count food, however they analyze that food in two different ways.
Counting Calories Or Macros?
Calories are the total overall amount of energy in a food. In the dieting world, people are trained to eat LOW CALORIE, which means low energy. By doing so, the dieter is not focused on the quality of their food choices, but rather how much food they're eating.
Our unhealthy obsession with reducing cals is what led to the 90s low-fat craze (fat = double the cals of protein/carbs). Dieters started reaching for processed, high sodium/high sugar/low nutrient food options simply because the fat (and subsequently, caloric level of the food) was low, not realizing that a higher calorie, more nutrient dense, whole food option could be a better choice.
For instance, the food industry started selling “100 Calorie Snack Packs” which were usually some processed bar, or cookie or cracker product. However an ounce or two of whole, unsalted nuts would be a far more satiating food choice (keeping you fuller, longer) even though containing a few calories more. In many ways, the diet industry continues to push the low-cal agenda, sending dieters down the rabbit hole.
Macros (or Macronutrients) are just a way of looking at the breakdown of those calories. In EM2WL we focus on the three macros – Protein,Fat, Carbs (with carb emphasis on fiber). When you concentrate on the macros of your food choices, the quality of your food will inherently be better. It also makes it harder to overeat and still hit your macro totals.
The key is to balance both the calorie amount AND the macro breakdown for your goals. If you are hitting your calorie amount, but your macros are all over the place, the quality of your food suffers. And if you concentrate on hitting your macros but can't hit your calorie total, then your body is not getting enough energy to do its job.
Both are important and both matter to your overall goals. Focus on using both of them to increase your quality of food, and ensure you are eating enough food as well.
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We know by now that the style of eating that we can stick to for the long haul, is the one that we can count on for results. But what happens when you just can't stick to ANY diet or style of eating long enough for those results to show?
The thing about habits
The reason progress seems to elude most of us is because we won't create the habits needed to sustain them. If habits don't change, neither will your results (in the long term). Habits are the key to lasting change. Just think about it, why is it so hard to stick to a New Year resolution, organizing system, diet/exercise plan, or even weekly date nights? Even the very things that we know would bring more joy and peace to our lives are just plain hard to stick to.
Well as you well know, when the little gem called “life” kicks in, everything goes out of the window. And what do you fall back on when life happens? Your old habits. The only way to cancel out the old habits that aren't getting you anywhere is to create new ones that crowd/balance them out. Though most of us know and agree with this deep down, we still spend a heck of a lot of time trying to find the diet or exercise plan that will solve all of our problems. But diving into a full blown “plan” with 105 different rules to remember is going to be impossible to keep up long term, because you're changing too many things at once. The minute you're not following the plan perfectly, you fall off, lose hope, and feel like you have start all over again.
The thing about complication
Sometimes having lots of rules make us feel safe. We feel like the more complicated the plan, the more real and official it is. Simplicity scares us. We think “that's all? must be more to it than that?!”
Against popular demand, EM2WL prefers a real-world, no-nonsense approach to fat loss. We have no desire to get you all hung up on the little tweaks that are unnecessary for most, and not required until the vanity pounds stage (read: four pack, yet desiring six) for others. We make it a point to only emphasize to you the aspects of the journey that are most important for lifelong success. Take those basics, put your own spin on it, and proceed to enjoying your life without complication.
This technique is known in the industry as “best practices” – and it's the backbone of any successful endeavor. Attempting to take what someone else does, and imitating it exactly is a setup for failure because it misses a crucial element: you.
The thing about perfection
A perfect plan that you can't keep up long term, will never trump the slightly flawed one that allows you to be consistent. Any style of eating that allows you to remain consistent in the basics, without feeling like a failure for “cheating” is essential to long term progress. This means that it will take a little bit of work on your end to make sure that the way you choose to eat/workout for fat loss has YOU written all over it. One of the first questions I ask ANY new client is:
“What aspects of your current lifestyle MUST be included in your journey to make it realistic and sustainable for YOU? (food/type of exercise/habits, etc)”
I encourage you to ask yourself this very question as you scour the net for the be-all-end-all of diet plans. (Hint: there isn't one…until you create it). No matter how promising something seems to be — or how many people are raving about it — if you can't see elements of you in it, some tweaking may be required. If it requires a perfect adherence to the rules, with zero leeway for the things you love, don't be tempted to try to force it to work for you.
Have a great week, Fam!
PS. If you're needing help establishing essential habits, and conquering the basics on YOUR terms, try our 7-day protein challenge.