March 22, 2011

bene-fit Your Diet: Nutrition Tips That WORK

As a bene-fit personal trainer (and, full disclosure: not a registered dietitian - and the difference here is very important), it is astounding how many questions I get from clients and friends alike about nutrition and healthy eating.

Again, as a bene-fit personal trainer and co-owner of a fitness consulting business, here's some more disclosure: I love exercise.  I do not, however, love deprivation, dieting, or food restrictions.  And so I often struggle with clients who decide to engage in crash diet fads, very low calorie diets (VLCD), overzealous supplementation, skipping meals, and (shudder) the many "cleanses" made popular by celebrities and the fitness industry.

If you're seriously looking to "cleanse" your body, eliminate animal products for one week.  Subsist on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans, and cut out sugar, dairy, refined carbohydrates, meats, and eggs, all the while drinking 80+ ounces of water per day.  Without pills, powders, or potions, I have a hunch you'll feel fantastic - if you can stick to it for all seven days.

That said, you don't need to cleanse the body if you're actually eating clean in your daily life.  bene-fit recommends the 90/10 rule for our clients and in our lives.  The theory is easy: if you eat well and exercise 90% of the time, you can afford a splurge (or a day off!) 10% of the time without major detriment to your health and fitness goals.

Now, think about this in considering 90/10: in a hypothetical sample of 10 days, that's ONE missed workout.  ONE ice cream sundae.  ONE late night out with a few too many alcoholic drinks and a few missed hours of sleep.  If your indulgences are exceeding a realistic 10% of your lifestyle, it might be time to reevaluate what is "normal" and what's a "splurge."

There are easy ways to ensure that your diet stays clean most of the time, and the #1 strategy is to plan ahead.  As the saying goes, "failing to plan is planning to fail" - and nowhere more than in balanced nutrition does this saying apply!  That's where bene-fit professionals are here to help you - free of charge.

Conceptualize your meals weekly (versus daily, or worse, meal-to-meal).  Make a list of what you need to buy, and buy only that - no extras, no sweets, no "bonus" calories.  Use everything that you buy, particularly the fresh produce, and be creative with leftovers.  A steak grilled on Sunday becomes a steak wrap when refrigerated and thinly sliced on Monday.  A rotisserie chicken on Tuesday gets shaved into a chicken Caesar salad on Wednesday when mixed with some greens and low-cal dressing, while a big batch of brown rice cooked up on Thursday can supplement a halibut filet that night, get mixed into a fish gumbo on Friday, and even form the base for a filling frittata on Saturday brunch.

Want more proof that whole, unprocessed food - besides being naturally delicious - is also the best fuel?  Rachet up your workouts during your cleanse and/or clean eating week by adding distance, intensity, time, or weight to your regular routine.  Known as the FITT principle (frequency, intensity, time, and type), these simple changes can make a years-old exercise routine feel like something new - and challenging.

Eat well, move more, and take the extra step toward finding your bene-fit this week!

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