The number one complaint I hear from people who are trying to get in shape is “I’m having a hard time sticking to my diet. I do great then _____________ always screws me up”.
School. Work. Travel. Your in-laws that use pasta as the base for every meal. The coworkers who think being nice means bringing a box of Krispy Kremes for the office.
No matter how great your nutrition plan is on paper and how meticulous you are about tracking your macros and measuring portion sizes, there will always be potential landmines throughout the day that can knock you off track and delay your progress.
That is, unless you have a solid plan in place to sidestep them before they can do damage.
I’m not worried about the specifics of your nutrition plan - there are many diets out there that will work if you stick to them - I’m talking about a solid strategy that can fill in the gaps for when your “perfect” meal plan comes face to face with the not so perfect reality of your busy everyday life.
Let’s go over some possible scenarios and tips that'll help you avoid the typical landmines lurking beneath the surface of your day.
For the STUDENT:
Student SCENARIO #1:
You have trouble waking up early enough to eat breakfast before class starts
Solution: As tempted as I am to just give you my standard answer of “well then go to bed earlier and set your alarm”, I realize that sometimes unseen forces (schoolwork, significant others, binge watching Game of Thrones reruns, etc.) conspire against you to stay up way to late making each extra morning minute of sleep that much more crucial.
We all know how important it is to start out the day with a healthy breakfast, how about cooking it the night before? You can save major time in the morning by rolling out of bed and simply reheating your “leftover breakfast”.
Easy Baked Eggs
6 whole eggs
1 carton egg whites
Vegetables such as spinach and mushrooms
salt, pepper, parsley, basil
Preheat oven to 325. In a large bowl, whisk together 6 eggs and the carton of egg whites. Season with salt, pepper, basil and parsley. Mix in spinach and sliced mushrooms (can omit or substitute). Pour into a greased (olive oil) lasagna pan and top with tomato slices. Cover with foil and bake for roughly 15 minutes then remove foil.
Check every few minutes for doneness after foil is removed. Makes 4 servings. Reheat one piece each morning then get your butt to class.
Student SCENARIO #2:
You need to eat small meals throughout the day to keep the metabolism going but have large stretches of time between meals.
Solution: This one is super simple. Keep a bag of almonds, walnuts or cashews in your locker or book bag. Snack on 1-2oz at the midway point between breakfast/lunch and lunch/end of school day.
Student SCENARIO #3:
You have sports or other extracurricular activities immediately after school, and will not be home to eat until very late.
Solution: This is an all too common problem. You can have all the good intentions in the world but sometimes a hectic schedule late in the day will push dinner time to right before bed time.
I can remember being in high school and starving by the end of last period. Since I had wrestling practice right after school, that kept me from eating…and often we would stay to catch our schools basketball game after practice. Before you know it I would find myself eating dinner at 9pm, roughly 10 hours after my last meal.
Not only was this schedule counterproductive to my metabolism, I was also missing out on the nutrients to repair and rebuild after lifting and conditioning. The simple solution? Keep a jug of protein and a shaker cup in your locker. Have a shake after school and immediately after your workout/practice. Stay away from the junk food in those school vending machines.
For the 9-5 Workplace Warrior:
Worker SCENARIO #1:
You’re simply not hungry before work.
Solution: Let’s face it. Sometimes you’re just not hungry in the morning. My favorite solution is to get the metabolism roaring with some cardio. I typically drink a cup of coffee with coconut oil and then do 10-20 minutes of intense cardio (see my M&S article “Coconut Cardio” for some great examples), before eating my first meal of the day.
Cardio, then a protein shake or minimalist breakfast (grapefruit and turkey) before leaving for work is a good start to any morning.
Worker SCENARIO #2:
Your coworkers always bring cookies, cakes and donuts to the office.
Solution: Ok, I get it, they think they are being nice, but you have to remain mentally strong and recognize that they are trying to (perhaps unintentionally) sabotage your goals. What you need to do is stay focused on your goals, and the best way to do that is a visual reminder.
Place a list or picture of your goals at your desk in a prominent place. Whenever you start to reach for that cupcake take a good hard look at your goal list and see if that treat helps get you closer to them, or makes that list more of a remote fantasy.
Worker SCENARIO #3:
Your boss or coworkers are always “forcing” you out with them to happy hour for a liquid dinner topped off with Nachos Grande.
Solution: Come on. It’s 2016, every bar/restaurant on Earth has a grilled chicken salad at the very least. Order healthy. And I know it’s considered rude to turn down yet another round of drinks or shots, but unless you truly have something to celebrate let your boss know that you plan on working really hard tomorrow on that big project and need to be clear headed.
If that doesn’t work, simply state that you refuse to drive after drinking. Everyone has to respect a statement like that and it may even force them to look in the mirror at their own habits. Now, I can’t tell you what to tell the gyro cart guy on your way out the door, but good luck with not eating one of those.
Worker SCENARIO #4:
You are always traveling and find it hard to avoid fast food.
Solution: The "Wandering Warrior" survival pack can be purchased at any gas station or airport news stand. I purchase 1 piece of fruit (apple or banana), a pack of beef jerky, and a sleeve of almonds and I’m good to go.
A few more all-purpose tips:
- Drink plenty (roughly 1 gallon) of water during the day. People often mistake the sensation of thirst for hunger.
- Plan and meal prep ahead of time. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
- Use the “one ingredient” rule when eating out. If it isn’t comprised of a single ingredient (comprised of several single ingredients like a salad or sautéed vegetables) don’t order it.
- Snack on low glycemic vegetables late at night. Celery makes a better cure for late night crunch cravings than potato chips.
- Avoid “white” carbs - pasta, bread, potatoes. Get your carbohydrates from Brown Rice, Quinoa, raw Oats, Fruits, and vegetables. These tend to have more fiber and will help keep you satiated throughout the day.
Now you have some solid strategies for staying on track. Stay tuned to Muscle and Strength for more of my training ideas, follow me on Instagram @coachmyers_gutcheck, and if you want an inside look at what I eat over the course of the day ADD me on snapchat @coachmyersosg where I post a lot of my meals and recipes.