7 tips to eat better without becoming a social outcast
written by Philip Stefanov | APRIL 26, 2022
I’ve often said that fitness should add to your life, not subtract. In other words, the efforts you put into fitness should benefit you instead of imposing restrictions that can impair your quality of life.
A huge issue people face is balancing a social life with better eating habits, which explains why so many people feel like they have to give up their lives in pursuit of fitness. To that end, I’d like to share seven ideas on eating better while still having enough flexibility to enjoy your life.
1. Aim for a caloric range instead of an exact number
Doing so isn’t that different from traditional calorie-tracking, but it takes some of the pressure off and gives people peace of mind. Instead of worrying about a specific calorie goal (e.g., 2800), have a small range of around 200 calories (e.g., 2700-2900).
The only people who should be strict down to the calorie and gram of food are those preparing for a bodybuilding show. But, for general goals, a range will do just fine.
2. Track only your protein
Years ago, I would track my macronutrients religiously every day. Then, I decided to track calories, proteins, and fats. Later, I stopped tracking my fats and only tracked calories and protein. I realized something a few months later:
Not only did I feel happier and less stressed, but I kept making the same progress in the gym. So, I recommend tracking your calories, hitting your daily protein goal (0.7 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight), and eating a somewhat balanced diet. Your carbs and fats will likely sort themselves out.
3. Enjoy some of your meals out; it isn’t the end of the world
If your way of eating doesn’t allow for some freedom to eat out, you’re doing it wrong. Your nutrition should be flexible because that’s the only way you’re going to enjoy your life without feeling guilty over every bite.
So long as you’re somewhat mindful of what and how much you’re eating, you’ll do great.
4. Get most of your calories from whole, nutritious foods…
Base your diet around whole and nutritious foods. That way, you’ll cover your macronutrient needs and get a healthy dose of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which your body needs to function and stay healthy.
Here are some suggestions:
- Protein - meats (chicken, pork, turkey, lamb, etc.), fish (seafood in general), eggs, dairy, seeds, nuts, and protein powders.
- Carbohydrates - potatoes, fruits, veggies, legumes (e.g., beans), rice (and rice cakes), whole grain products (bread, cereal, etc.), oats, and quinoa.
- Fats - fatty fish, eggs, avocado, nuts, nut butter, oils (extra virgin olive oil, macadamia oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, etc.), dark chocolate, full-fat dairy, and chia seeds.
5. …but do enjoy some junk food here and there.
I don’t recommend removing your favorite treats from your diet, and I certainly don’t recommend forgoing social occasions to ‘stay on track.’ How can anyone stick with a particular way of eating in the long run if they never enjoy their favorite foods?
I recommend eating mostly whole and minimally-processed foods and leaving up to 20 percent of your daily calories for treats. Still, if you can’t eat a particular food in moderation and one bite always leads to the next, you need to be mindful. Here are some tactics you can use:
- Replace the food for another you can eat in moderation
- Buy limited quantities, so even if you eat the whole thing, the damage isn’t as big
- Enjoy your trigger food outside to leverage social pressure and avoid falling into a binge episode
6. Don’t obsess over meal frequency; do what works for you
We’ve slowly moved away from the obsession with meal frequency, but some people are still hung up on the idea of eating a specific number of meals per day.
Research shows that, so long as you get your calories and macronutrients in, how often you eat isn’t as important. So, rather than stressing over eating two, four, six, or ten meals a day, do the sensible thing:
Follow a frequency you can adhere to in the long run.
7. Learn how to cook
Knowing how to cook is not only a sign of maturity and independence, but it also means you care about your nutrition and can control what you eat. You decide how to prepare your meals, which means you can enjoy healthier foods and track your macronutrients more accurately.
The above isn’t to say that eating out is inherently wrong; it merely means that it is much more difficult to track your nutrition at restaurants because of the many unknown variables. For example, a simple salad with some oil, vinegar, and salt can be 50-100 calories. But, add more oil, dairy, or dressing, and the previously healthy salad can turn into a calorie bomb.
Thank you for taking the time! Until next week,
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