5 Reasons Why You Aren’t Losing Weight (But Think You Should Be…)

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Progress… At first it was continuous. Your weight was dropping rapidly when you first started dieting and exercising and it was easy! Your motivation was through the roof because you continuously saw that progress and you had a reason to get to the gym regularly and avoid junk food for the most part.

And then…all of a sudden…progress stops.

You tell yourself, “oh, I’m just adding muscle. The scale is a liar. I should just throw it away because it makes me feel bad about myself.” Seriously, we’ve all been there. But you know, just like circumference measurements, progress photos, and the numerous types of body fat testers out there, the scale can be a useful tool. It tells us part of the picture. And if you know you have some fat to lose, you want to see that number drop, at least a little!

So why is it that your progress has stalled? Why have you plateaued? Well, there’s many reasons why this could be happening. It’s important to remember that this is NORMAL. And for the majority of people, this doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with your body. Quite the opposite actually. Our bodies are masters at adaptation. They adapt to whatever you throw at them. Our bodies also don’t like to lose fat. They want to store it for times of possible cold and starvation and they’ll do just about anything to avoid losing it. Pretty smart, huh? But that’s not in line with our desire to look hot in a bikini…

I really don’t want to go into the technical and scientific side of things. I’d rather just give you some possible solutions to the problem, as I’m sure that’s also what you’d prefer to read about. So let’s do some troubleshooting…

    1. You’re eating healthfully, but you don’t know HOW MUCH you’re eating.

      Gradually swapping out most junk and processed foods for healthier and more whole foods is generally step one on your journey to a healthier you. But it’s still possible to overeat those whole foods or even add too many additional calories with condiments, sauces, oils and/or butter. Don’t even get me started on natural peanut butter… Just because it’s “natural” and it’s a “healthy fat” doesn’t mean it’s not packed with calories. Fruit is also a very healthy food and should be included in your diet, but it too can have a lot of calories.

      Solution: find a way to track, weigh, or measure how much food you’re eating and keep an eye on your overall calorie intake. You may find that you’re easily eating much closer to your maintenance calorie level than you thought. You don’t have to use a food scale (although, it’s my preferred method as it’s more accurate). You can also use measuring cups/spoons, or gauge the amount of food by comparing it to your hand. Just find an accurate system that you can easily stick to and gives you results.

    2. “Bites, Licks, and Tastes.”

      So maybe you are tracking your food intake somehow. You’re weighing… You’re using measuring cups… You’re counting calories… But did you count that handful of grapes you ate while cooking dinner? Did you consider those 5 french fries you stole from your kid’s lunch? What about the leftover peanut butter that you licked off the spoon earlier? I hate to break it to you, but these count! They may seem innocent and minuscule at the time, but over a course of a week they can certainly add up and kick you out of your fat loss deficit (or at least slow down fat loss so much that you can hardly tell you’re losing anything.) What’s even more frustrating is that often these “BLTs” increase as we diet because, well….we’re freaking hungry!

      Solution: Unfortunately, there isn’t one solution to this little problem. But here are some ideas for you:

      -You can simply become more conscious and mindful of what you’re putting in your mouth. I know… Easier said than done. This is a practice.

      -Eat more satisfying meals throughout the day. For example: Load up on those leafy greens at lunch. Include some starchy carbs in your diet. Or even build snacks into your diet that fit within your calorie allotment, but also tend to “take the edge off” for you. This may require some trial and error.

    3. NEAT Reduction

      Okay, maybe your diet is on point, buuuut you’re kind of feeling a little tired from the lack of calories. (This is to be expected, by the way.) Gradually and unknowingly you start to spend a little more time sitting, doing fewer chores, and parking a little bit closer to the store. These normal day-to-day activities are crucial to longterm fat loss and lead to a little phenomenon referred to as NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. While people tend to think that their workouts are key to their weight loss (and yes, they’re still important), you actually burn MORE calories throughout the day through NEAT. Consider this: maybe you exercise for about an hour a few times a week… There’s a whooooole lot more hours during the week that you’re not actually “exercising,” but your body is still using energy as it simply operates and to allows you to go about your day.

      Solution:  Remain conscious of your overall activity through the day. It might be helpful to invest in a Fitbit or pedometer to make sure that you’re making an effort to maintain movement throughout the day.

    4. Still Doing the Same Ol’ Same Ol’?

      Now I’m a big fan of choosing a program and sticking to it, but as you progress you will need to make some tiny changes to continue to see progress. This could simply mean increasing your intensity by lifting heavier weights, reducing rest times, running faster, or whatever. You could also add in a bit more cardio (A BIT!!!) or slightly reduce your calories. Overall, something needs to change. Like Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”And trust me, dieting the same way and training the same way forever without seeing any results WILL drive you insane! So find a way to change things up to get that fat dropping again!

      Solution: Again, just change things up a bit. Don’t overhaul your whole training program or diet. Just make some tweaks (like those listed above) and see if that gets things moving again!

    5. Maybe you need a break?

      This may sound counterintuitive, but if you’ve been dieting for 3-4 months and progress has stalled or slowed (again, NORMAL!), maybe it’s time you give your mind and body a break from dieting. This doesn’t mean to go back to your old ways of eating whatever and not exercising. It just means taking some time off to reset your body so that when you do get back to dieting, your body responds more like it once did when the weight was dropping consistently.

      Solution: After 3-4 months of dieting, it’s always a good idea to take a diet break. To do this, you slowwwly raise your calories back up closer to your maintenance calorie intake. Stay there for a month or so (longer if you’ve been dieting for a really long time…). This will give your metabolism a little boost and give your mind a bit of a break from dieting, because let’s be real, dieting can be a bit stressful even when you’re going about it pretty moderately. During this time you can expect your energy and strength levels to increase, your sleep will improve, and some dieters’ moodiness to dissipate. Not bad, huh?

    I hope these tips were helpful for you. Plateaus are pretty much guaranteed in fat loss. This is why we don’t start off dieting at 1200 calories and doing an hour of cardio 6-7 days a week. Instead, we incrementally make changes as progress slows. I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to diet on as many calories as possible while doing as little cardio as necessary while losing fat!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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Protein: It’s Not Just For Bros

For most of my life I didn’t know or care about how much protein I was eating. Like, who could give a shit if there was no meat on my pasta, right? I was relatively thin during most of those years and despite having taken a single nutrition course in college, it just never dawned on me how important protein is. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that muscle meant anything to me. Before that I just wanted to be “smaller” and lighter, but I never really got any more toned…which made me think that I needed to be even SMALLER. At that time I thought I could just eat less…and less…and less…and I would eventually get “there,” wherever that was!

Nowadays my goals are completely different and I’m in love with the hunt for muscle, as are many other women. But often they don’t realize just how important nutrition is when trying to meet physique goals. It’s not just how MUCH food you eat, but WHAT food you eat.

If there’s any one macronutrient that most women are definitely not getting enough of in their diet, it’s usually protein. Protein is a major building block of our muscles and bones, and even our skin, hair, and nails. So when trying to build or maintain muscle we especially need a large sum of protein.

While I don’t prefer to prescribe specific nutritional programs for my clients, I like to advise them to eat approximately 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. This amount would essentially help to cover all your bases for building and maintaining muscle and help a bit with satiety when dieting. This amount is a lot more than the average woman is getting from her morning energy bar and scoop of peanut butter she’s slathering on her afternoon celery sticks. (By the way, peanut butter is not a great source of protein… Sorry to break it to you. It’s a great fat source though!) So since this recommended amount of protein is so high, and because protein is such an essential building block, we MUST prioritize it in our diets and we MUST be conscious of how much we’re eating.

I like to tell my clients to structure all of their meals around their protein source. Carbs and fats can fluctuate as needed, but protein should always be a constant. I would advise spreading it out evenly throughout the day. Say you like to have 3 full meals and 2 snacks a day, take your weight and divide it by 5. That would give you the approximate amount of protein you should have per meal. For example: for a woman who weighs 130 lbs., she would do the math as such…

130 ÷ 5 = 26 grams of protein per meal

This is one reason why eating many meals a day is preferred, as sometimes it’s hard to get in so much protein in a single meal.

Many people seem baffled when I tell them how much protein they should be eating to help them reach their goals, and one reason is because they just don’t know WHERE to get that protein from! They often automatically assume that they need to start chugging shakes, but that’s not the case and it’s also not where you should be getting most of your protein from. Real food is generally preferred.

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Now I apologize in advance for not having many vegetarian friendly options listed below, but that just isn’t my expertise. I am definitely an omnivore, as are most of my clients, so I generally get most of my protein from meat (chicken, beef, turkey, pork, fish, etc.), eggs, some dairy (like yogurt, milk, or cheese), and then supplements of course.

People often ask me about my opinion of certain protein powders and when to take them. First off, there is no magic to using protein powders. They are simply a supplement, and what I mean by that is, they are used in place of one of the more traditional forms of protein I listed in the paragraph above. It’s not always easy or convenient to bust out a chicken leg after a workout, but a shake can totally fill that gap. You can have a protein shake at any time during the day to replace a meal or just the protein source of that meal. I generally have one after my workout and sometimes I’ll have one before bed if I need to get my protein numbers up for the day. Again, anytime is A-OK!

Many women seem to be afraid of protein shakes because they think they’re going to “bulk” them up or something. Here’s the deal: the only thing that is going to “bulk” a woman up is excess calories, so avoid “mass building” protein powders that are chock-full of calories. These are specifically designed to help individuals build mass; fat or muscle. Stick to the powders that are less than 150 calories and have 20+ grams of protein per scoop. This will leave room for extra calories from fruit or milk (or whatever!) in case you want to make a full meal-replacement shake.

One of the most common questions I get is “what is your favorite protein powder?” My favorite powder is Trutein by Body Nutrition, and it has been my favorite for several years now. Tons of flavors and I haven’t had a bad one yet. Plus, the macronutrient profile is perfect. Lately I’ve been purchasing it through Best Price Nutrition as they seem to have the ‘best prices.’ And as for protein bars, you just can’t beat a Quest bar. Damn, they’re good! So good that I eat one every day and always look forward to it.

I hope that cleared a few things up. Please don’t be afraid of protein! It’s way too hard to go overboard on it and it’s really your best friend when you’re trying to build or maintain muscle OR lose fat!

Stop Eating Like a Child

It’s time for some hard talk you guys…

At some point you have got to grow up and take responsibility for yourself.

Are you still wondering why you haven’t “lost the weight?”

Well, have you tried?

I mean, have you REALLY TRIED?

You know what you need to do. It’s not complicated.

Losing fat is actually really damn simple. It may not be easy per se’, but it’s simple as hell. 

Now, I’m not talking about going from 18 to 15 percent body fat (for women). That might be a whole different story as it can be quite a challenge. But getting from 30 to 20 percent body fat… That’s not complicated.

Let’s go over the two basics:

1. Eat more quality food.

2. Eat fewer calories.

Boom. Done. That’s it. I’m setting exercise aside for this discussion. You can be one hell of a skinny bitch without exercise. You might not have much muscle “tone,” but you can be thin.

You’re an adult. Stop feeding yourself like a child. That sugary breakfast cereal is not serving you and you KNOW that. That McDonald’s hamburger and fries you had for lunch aren’t serving you either, and you KNOW that. But maybe you don’t want to admit it because then you might have to change and do something about it. This is the time to be a grown ass adult and make the decision that best serves you, your health, and your goals.

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Me…as a child…chowing down on ice cream…

Want my advice? Start food journaling. Write down everything you eat. Every damn bite. You don’t have to tie emotions to these foods, but you do need to think about them. What’s serving you? And what is doing a disservice to you? Does this food make you feel full and satisfied? Or does it leave you wanting more?

Stop looking for the magical diet that will change everything for you. Come up with your own diet. That’s the only one that’s going to work for you in the long run. You know what all diets have in common?  They all pretty much cut out certain food groups and/or force you to increase your intake of higher quality foods, thus you’re inherently cutting back on calories. Yep. So any diet will work as long as your calories are reduced and you’re eating more protein and fiber.

I know I’m coming off as mean or harsh, but sometimes we all just need a bit of a reality check. You have to stop this incessant hunt for secret information. You already have it all. You just need to start acting on it and putting what you know to use. It’s seriously not complicated. You just have to want it bad enough to feel a little hungry here and there and eat things that MIGHT not taste as good as Ben and Jerry’s 90% of the time. You can totally go for the Ben and Jerry’s the other 10% of the time. Got it? Good.

My 3 Rules for Dieting and Exercising “On The Road”

April was a whirlwind of a month. If you’ve been keeping up, you may know that I was traveling for the entire month; visiting North Carolina, New York City, and Boston along the way. For someone who loves their gym-time and normal diet, you can imagine that this had the potential to be quite a scary ordeal. No regular gym. No regular diet. Ugh.

But hey! I survived AND I came out of the month mostly unscathed! So how did I do this while actually enjoying my month-long vacation? I made some rules for myself that allowed me to come out at the end of this trip mostly looking and feeling like I did when I left. I didn’t feel bloated and miserable. I essentially felt like my normal self! And that was the goal.

So here are the 3 rules I came up for myself:

  1. Workout when you can. I didn’t make it an overarching priority to workout every. single. day., but I did workout when it made sense and when I could easily fit it into my schedule. In other words, I wasn’t scheduling my day around my workout, I was just fitting something in when I could. In my normal day-to-day life I would prioritize my workout. I have a specific time I like to train and it generally doesn’t move much. But if I’m on vacation, it’s just not going to be THAT important to me. I also decided to allow myself to take this opportunity to let my body rest a bit. I kept most workouts less than 30 minutes and generally opted for full-body, dumbbell circuits. I also did A LOT of walking. A LOT! Some days we walked over 12 miles, like in Boston and New York. So I wasn’t so concerned about getting in a workout on those days.

    ICYMI on Facebook, here’s one of the workouts I did a few times with the 25lb dumbbells I brought with me:

    Perform 5 rounds, resting as needed.

    A1. DB Overhead Press x10
    A2. DB Romanian Deadlift x10
    A3. DB Plank Row x10
    A4. DB Squats x10
    A5. Push-Ups x10
    A6. DB Glute Bridges x20
    A7. Oblique Crunches x20 (one side at a time)
    A8. DB Swings x20

  2. Eat healthy when you can. Eating while on the road can definitely be a challenge. You don’t have your kitchen with you. Getting to grocery stores isn’t always easy or a priority. Means of refrigeration and cooking are not always there. So you have to make due somehow. My plan was to “navigate the middle.” I would focus on mostly eating as healthy as I could but I also wasn’t going to absolutely deprive myself of the “fun” stuff.

    Because we ate out so much, I often opted for high protein meals with lots of veggies and minimal starchy, ‘bready’, or sugary carbs. Hyooooge salads were a favorite go-to of mine when I could get my hands on them. If we ate out for breakfast, I would opt for an omelet most of the time (except for that one time I had greek pancakes in Astoria, NY…) And if we were staying with our parents and our moms wanted to cook something awesome for breakfast or dinner, you know there was no way in Hell I would turn that down! I would just watch my portion sizes.


    I also kept Quest protein bars on me all the time for snacks or even for breakfast on busy days. And in the car I tried to stick to jerky, fruit, and nuts.
    BUT I also had a couple burgers along the way. And pizza. And cupcakes from Magnolia’s Bakery. And NY bagels… Lord, I know there was more fun food along the way and I don’t regret a bite of it. Don’t judge.

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  3. Don’t stress over it! You’re on vacation DAMNIT! This rule is pretty self-explanatory, right? Show yourself some compassion. Life is not about dieting and working out. It’s about experiences, memories, friends, family, and all that good stuff. Eating well and exercising just helps to improve your quality of life (unless you’re the type to let it run your life…)

Sounds easy enough, right? And it was! Exercise and eating healthy have really just become part of my lifestyle and I don’t physically feel good when I can’t get some exercise in, or if I’m not eating well.  But I also didn’t over-burden myself with it. I didn’t want to stress over it, so I simply didn’t. And you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed myself and had a great time! BUT I was also really excited to get home and get back to the routine that I love and have built for myself.

And since you might be interested in having some proof of whether my plan worked out or not, here’s a photo of me exactly one week after arriving home. After one week of being back in my routine and eating ‘normal’ (for me), this is where I’m at. Yeah, I’ve been leaner, but not without striving really hard for it and fixating on it. Right now I feel healthy, happy, super feminine, and generally more balanced. This is where I’m at today and I’m okay with that. 😉

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4 Unconventional Tips for a Healthy Mind and Body

I recently shared on Facebook that my husband and I essentially split an entire pizza in one night. Yes, I ate my fair share of it, and guess what… No guilt! I’ve honestly been eating A LOT of fun food since he’s been home from a recent deployment. We’ve really been enjoying ourselves, to say the least. But again, I really don’t feel guilty about it. I eat normal or relatively healthy most chances that I get, but if the husband wants to go out for lunch one day, you better believe I’m not going to argue with him.

 I really haven’t been surprised by my feelings towards food lately, as I’ve had this mindset for a while now. I have to admit that it has taken a while for me to get here mentally. Generally, when people start off on a health and fitness journey to lose fat, build muscle, and what not, they tend to really dive in and anything that might possibly hold them back (according to some lore they once heard) from reaching their goals will be shelved. Sometimes people even cut out all fruit and dairy, which seems insane to me unless you genuinely don’t like fruit or dairy, or they cause you discomfort. 

Despite all this “fun” eating, I haven’t gained a pound. 

Yep. 

Not a single pound. 

My skinny jeans and workout clothes all fit exactly the same. Now, I haven’t exactly lost any weight either, but considering all the yummy foods and drinks I’ve been embibing in, that’s of no surprise. But it’s also not the goal right now. 

  

So how did I get here? How have I become more physically and mentally stable with regards to dietary changes that at one time would have made me feel disgusting and bloated, along with making me feel guilty and undisciplined? 

1. I built a ton of muscle. Okay, Jess. What the hell does that have to do with anything? Well, 1. I weigh a lot more, which means I can get away with eating a little more without negative repercussions. And 2. The large amount of muscle I carry has greatly improved my insulin sensitivity. In lieu of getting into the science of how this works, I’ll just get to the good stuff. Training hard allows your body to UTILIZE food better, rather than just allowing it to…cling…and become fat. 

2. When I expect to eat a “fun” meal, I try to make it a priority to get in some challenging anaerobic activity. High volume weight lifting, sprints, and metabolic conditioning all improve insulin sensitivity. So while I may have been eating a lot of good food, I’ve also been putting it to good use by getting in some hard training sessions. 

3. I have stopped viewing food as something I need to “burn off.” Notice how I said in tip #2 that I’ve been putting my food to “good use?” I like to view my food as an awesome, tasty fuel. I view it as something positive rather than a scary thing that causes me issues and makes me fat. Food doesn’t make you fat in itself. But if you take in more fuel than your body requires from day to day, you might eventually create some problems for yourself. So if you’re planning on indulging, prep your body for it by improving your insulin sensitivity and get your lift on! Or, on the back end, put that fuel you ingested the day before to work. That’s a much more positive mindset than “burning off sludge,” right? 

4. I eat moderately all the time now. Life is just too short to cut out all the foods I love 100% of the time. I love a good burger… Pizza… Wine… Desserts… To me, life just isn’t worth living without them! But I also know how to keep it in check. I don’t eat those things every day, but they’re also never off-limits. Putting foods “off-limits” just makes you want it more, so when you finally take the opportunity to indulge in that slice of cake, it can be quite easy to say “eff it” and eat the entire cake instead! So rather than just indulging in an innocent piece of cake, you have overindulged and probably now feel guilty and extremely full…and utterly crappy. Now, if you allow yourself to have bits and bites of delicious things on a more regular basis, accidents like that are a lot less likely to happen. For example, I’m currently on the road and traveling. I’m having a great time visiting friends and family, but I haven’t really felt the desire to overindulge in anything because I honestly don’t have any cravings for anything! Why? Because I allow myself to eat delicious food all the time. AND I manage to stay lean while doing it because I never overdo it. It’s really a win-win situation. 

Maybe the all-or-nothig approach works for some people, but for me it doesn’t. I like the more moderate approach to eating as it makes me feel satisfied and fulfilled. I never feel like I’m “missing out” on something amazing. This approach may not work the best if you’re trying to drop the last few pounds for a fitness photo shoot, but how often in our lives are we really preparing for something like that? For most of us, not often. I’m finding this approach to be much more sustainable than the all-or-nothing approach. Both my mind and body are happier this way. There are never any weight rebounds, there’s less bloating, my thoughts about my body are more positive, and there’s less stress about food. Plus, I just find it easier to stay lean this way.

So for those of you who have found the all-or-nothing approach to be too challenging, go easier on yourself and try putting these tips to use. If you do try them out, let me know how it goes for you! I know I can see myself living this way forever. 

Most Women are Making This Huge Mistake…

You may have heard the phrase “comparison is the thief of joy,” and often it’s used when people are comparing themselves to others. But what if you aren’t necessarily comparing yourself to others… You are instead comparing your current self to your old self.

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As a trainer, I often hear something along the lines of “Oh, I was 10-15 lbs. lighter when I got married. I want to be there again.” Then I have to go into a lecture about how much their lives have changed in those 10+ years. Oh, you know, just reminding them about the numerous kids they gave birth to, the lifestyle changes, the cross-country moves, the stress of their jobs, the hormonal changes brought on by age…the list goes on. These are important factors that DO play into the current status of your body.

I also ask them how much they were working out when they were 10-15 lbs. lighter, and it’s usually a lot more than they are now! Why? Because it was easier to set aside more time for exercise at that point. They didn’t have a husband and kids to chase around at that time. They might have had fewer responsibilities with regard to their job at the time. Our priorities change throughout our lives, and getting to the gym is not always going to be #1. And you know what? That’s okay! And it should be that way!

Yes, staying healthy is very important. It’s important to keep yourself in shape so that you can bring your best-self to the world. Being healthy makes you a better spouse, a better parent, a better employee/employer, whatever your title is, it makes you better at it. By exercising and eating healthy you have more energy to push yourself through life. You’ll also have less stress and get sick less often. You’ll look and feel better, thus pushing your confidence through the roof. So yes, your health should be one of your priorities, especially since no one is going to take care of you better than you can take care of yourself. But at busier stages in your life, you may have to get a bit more crafty with finding the right balance of exercise + work + family + personal time + whatever.

I really think we should be more compassionate with ourselves. Many of the women I work with beat themselves up on a regular basis. Why aren’t they giving themselves credit for all of their accomplishments? They’re all intelligent, independent women but then they spend so much time talking crap to themselves in the mirror because of some extra fat on their stomach or thighs. I have to admit that I’m guilty of this as well. And I haven’t met a single woman that isn’t that way. But when you look at it as an outsider, it really does seem ridiculous. We’re way more than just our bodies. We have much more than our physical attributes to offer the world. It’s time to put the old you to rest and embrace the new you, whether you prefer its appearance or not. If you don’t like the appearance of your new self, then work to improve it, but there’s no point in comparing it to your old appearance. That’s just simply not fair to yourself and you’re not giving yourself credit for all the things that have happened between now and then.

We’re not plastic. We’re complex beings that are affected by age and we wear with life. Comparing ourselves to our 20 year old selves is just like comparing ourselves to 20 year old strangers. It’s nonsense and doesn’t do us any good. Where ever you are in life, you have to work with what you’ve got and just do the best that you can. Do your best to stay healthy. Do your best to stay strong. And do your best to stay happy, despite not looking like your 20 year old self. Besides, at this point I know I’m smarter, wiser, happier, and I have waaayyyy more muscle. 😉

 

How I REALLY Feel About Meal Plans

In the past I’ve been on several meal plans designed by other coaches to help push me to meet some challenging goals. Generally, those who are held accountable by other people tend to be more successful in meeting their physique goals. I definitely learned a lot through working with other coaches but I recently came to the conclusion that meal plans just aren’t for me. Why? Well, I just can’t imagine following one for a long period of time anymore. The thought of that just sounds like a prison sentence to me. The food prep (bulk cooking)… The meal prep (measuring out into containers)… Packing food so you don’t (heaven forbid!) “miss a meal.” Doesn’t that sound exhausting? Is that really the way to live your life? And for what? Slightly smaller thighs? Slightly more chiseled abs? If it’s worth it to you, then by all means, go ahead! They can work well, provided you have a good and knowledgable coach and you’re willing to put in the hard work.  I just think I’m at a point in my “journey” where that just seems like nonsense and the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze. Maybe I’m getting old and stubborn? 😉

Before I go any further, I just want to clarify exactly what I mean by a “meal plan.” A meal plan is a formally designed planned with precise foods and measures of foods that one is to follow to achieve a certain goal. That goal might be fat loss, muscle gain, or even maintenance.

So let me tell you why I’m no longer a big fan of them and why I don’t prefer to provide them for my own clients…

1. No one really learns anything from following a strict meal plan. While yes, it may be nice that you don’t have to think about what you’re going to eat because it’s all laid out for you, don’t you think that you should have to think about what you’re eating? Don’t you think there is something important about making a conscious decision about what you’re putting into your body? I think it’s important for an individual to figure out what they like or dislike eating and what agrees or disagrees with their body, without the intervention of a coach telling them what is good, not-so-good, or “bad” even.

2. Freedom. As humans, we like to feel like we’re making decisions for ourselves. Once someone tells you what you can or can’t do, don’t you get a slight feeling that you want to rebel against that? That feeling is natural. If your coach tells you that you aren’t allowed to have cake, don’t you all of a sudden start craving some cake? Even if you don’t really like cake…? It’s silly, but our minds do tend to work that way. Put something completely off-limits and boom, ya want it!

3. Off-Plan Guilt. So when you finally decide to go for that amazing slice of cake, you have a tendency to feel guilty for having eaten it because it wasn’t “on your plan.” And now you have to deal with the consequences of that. Maybe your trainer will be upset with you (if this is the case, fire them), or you might become upset with yourself. Getting down in the dumps about eating a slice of cake is the opposite reaction you should be having! You just ate some delicious cake! You should be enjoying that experience to the fullest! Not feeling crappy about it afterwards. Yeesh.

 

So what’s my solution? How can you get around following a strict meal plan yet still achieve your goals?                  

 Count your calories and macronutrients.

“But Jessssss, that’s so neurotic and time consuming!” Uh… No. No, it’s not. It’s especially not as neurotic and time consuming as constantly cooking, constantly prepping, and constantly packing the same meals day in and day out. When I count calories and macronutrients I essentially eat like a normal person, varying my food choices from day to day, and just calculate my totals towards the end of the day or before my last meal. Then I just adjust my last one or two meals at the end of the day to account for more or less calories.

In case you feel like I’m leaving you out on a branch wondering what the heck macronutrients are, they’re proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. These make up the bulk of your diet. I like to vary these throughout the week to ensure that I’m getting a broader amount of nutrients. If you eat the same things day in and day out, you’re more likely to be lacking in certain important nutrients. And that’s no bueno.

So how do you know what your calories and macronutrient percentage should be? Well, that’s going to be completely individual. I don’t know you and I don’t know your goals, so it would be irresponsible of me to advise you one way or another. A good general starting place if you don’t know your current maintenance calorie level is to take your current weight and multiply that times 15. Eat that many calories for a couple weeks and see what happens. If you gain weight, you might want to lower those calories (unless weight gain is your goal.) See? It’s all trial and error anyways. You just have to tweak things as you go. I generally set my protein intake at 1g per pound of bodyweight or a little lower and fill in the rest of my calories with a good balance of carbs and fats. Easy peasy. I don’t get too crazy about it as I have no plans of stepping on a competitive stage in a bikini.

Have you ever followed a meal plan? How did it make you feel?