A Working Man’s Guide to Eating Well – Part 1

I’ve put together a multi-part series on my experiences with “dieting” (I hate that word) and other tips, tricks and methods that I’ve learned over the years that have made “dieting” something that’s simple and effective at least for me anyway. Hope you enjoy.

Before I go any further I want to clarify that I’m not here to tell you which method of eating is best; there are a lot of choices out there for managing weight that works. I’ve read a lot of books and blogs about eating clean, bulking, cutting, zone, paleo, carb cycling or any other number of methods. Rather than calling them all diets, I like to refer to a few “strategies” for eating well.  In the end it’s a mathematical formula that only you are able to solve for yourself, and that’s not the popular thing to say either. You must educate yourself about how foods affect you personally, how many calories certain foods contain and exactly how many of each macro you should be consuming in a week. More on all this later…

It’s A Formula Only You Can Solve

Most everyone out there wants someone else to tell them what to eat and when to eat it, because that’s easy. The less I have to move and think the better, right? Not quite.  If your making the effort to do 2-3 CrossFit classes a week then I know you have the motivation. Those workouts only add up to 3 hours per week though, all the real work happens in the kitchen!  The major investment in your fitness journey takes place over the stove and trips to the grocery store...

Strategy #1:

EXPERIMENT: Don’t look at a new way of eating as a diet; a much more accurate term is you are embarking on a sophisticated experiment where you are the test patient. Yes the books and people on TV talk about dieting (remember I HATE that word), but what you want to do is put yourself through a 6 week experiment. Try paleo or zone for 6 weeks and you will learn a ton about new foods and how you respond to it all. I’ve done a carb “back loading” method (which is pretty crazy) that calls for zero carbs, including fruit except for one night a week. That one night I was required to eat >800g of carbs all in one evening! Now this “back load” method taught me a lot, first the book I paid for was $95 and I’m still peeved about that. Second I realized that being off carbs and trying to manipulate my body to be ketogenic all the time really wasn’t effective for me. In the end the experiment was successful, I didn’t lose much more than water weight but what I learned about how my body reacts to utilizing only fat as an energy source was invaluable! So please don’t call it a diet, it’s an experiment!

Strategy #2:

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. The problem is most people have no clue how their bodies feel and react to food.  The first step to knowing how your body reacts to food is by getting your rear to the gym. If you’re sitting on the couch you will never know how your body is affected by food, but putting it under the stress of a demanding workout or a heavy 3RM, now that’s the only way to tell how your food is working for you.  For example, I have been plagued with the late night craving for cereal before bed! Most people would say their “diet” isn’t working or it’s so hard to stick with it….but I on the other hand look at the problem a different way. WHY am I hungry and craving cereal? After some thought I realized that my experiment perhaps has me eating too few carbs throughout the day than my body needs. So I started consuming a few more carbs at each meal (the same as a bowl of cereal) and all of a sudden I haven’t had a bowl of cereal before bed in two weeks! This strategy can only work if you are willing to experiment and learn; if you aren’t listening in the first place and blindly follow a “diet” then you will never get ahead.

Strategy #3:

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DO THE MATH. Alright this part is straight forward; find a website that calculates your macros for you – not your calories but your MACROS (protein, carbs, fat). There are any numbers of sites that can do Like ETP or If it fits your macros.  Play with the ratios and get as best a calculation as you can for your body type and fitness level. This strategy goes hand in hand with strategy #1, experimentation. My wife for example utilizes the “IIFYM” method and she is always experimenting with new macro ratios to really dial in what her body needs to optimize her fitness and lose a few pounds. But the only way this is effective is because she makes a point to do the math and follow through with it. Now doing the math will require the investment of time to track macros, calories and weigh to the gram what you eat, but if you don’t yet have a good handle of what different foods provide in the way of macros then you better start tracking everything you eat.  

I could probably go on for a while on this subject, but to recap Part 1 of the series…

  1. Don’t diet; instead experiment with methods of eating. No shorter than 6 weeks at a time.

  2. Make sure to listen and monitor how your body responds during the experiment.

  3. Start figuring out how much of each macro ratio is best for you and weigh your food!

 

See you on the whiteboard...

-Jon O.