This is part 1 of a 6 part series on meal prepping. A lot of clients and potential clients ask me about meal prepping and I want to give as thorough of an explanation as I can. Over the next few weeks, I will be covering how to eat, how many calories you need to eat, calculating your macro requirements, finding good recipes to use, making your grocery list and shopping it, smart ways to prep a week’s worth of food and other shit I know to be true. I will illustrate as much as I can with my real-life meal planning/prepping processes so hopefully it will make more sense. Along the way you get to enjoy my wit and my foul mouth.
I also want to go ahead and state that while I am a certified personal trainer, I am NOT a certified nutritionist. I can give you tips on eating better and point you to FDA guidelines, but unless I’m married to you I can NOT make custom meal plans for you. Not even if you pay me or send nudes but thanks for the offer.
Moving on now. This post is about:
Finding an Eating Philosophy That Isn’t a “Diet” and Finding a Reason to Follow It
I find this interesting ‘cause in the end they’re all just words; you give them power when you cower, man, it’s so absurd.
In this lyric, English rapper Scroobius Pip discusses the importance of using certain words in your song to get a rise out of people. He claims that if he says “fuck” then he may gain more attention from the public and if he says “cunt” then he’ll cause tension among some listeners. Words are very powerful in that way. If you’re an umpire, a single word can send a player back to the bench. If you’re a dog, a single word can force you to stay in your spot for what seems like an eternity. And if you’re the president of the United States, a single word, when shared with the enemy, can cause the majority of the civilized world to call for your impeachment.
Words are a big deal.
Words I like include velutinous, schmoozing and gelatinous.
Words I don’t like: tatts, Kleenex and wipe.
Yet among all words there’s one that creeps into the minds of our society and puts a serious emotional hurt on them. A word worse than moist. A word people are more afraid of than ISIS or effort or love. It’s a dangerous four letter word that has created millions of books, hundreds of millions of web pages, a bazillion checkout-line magazines and has probably obsessed your mother’s mind for her entire adult life…
I heard you groan. Don’t act like you didn’t.
People associate the word diet with having to buckle down, count calories and turn their lives around. People hear the word and immediately start thinking of their shortcomings, how far off the track they’ve gone or how long the road ahead of them is. People hear the word and immediately tune out because it often involves removing comfort from their lives in the form of delicious sustenance.
Despite evidence that Americans are less interested in dieting now than ever before, the diet and fitness industry is (still) booming. Everyone is always on the lookout for the next big thing, the big secret, the missing link or the perfect plan. And everyone that has something to sell you has that big thing – has that big secret – has that missing link – has that perfect plan. They’re citing science and including graphs, they’re using big words and referencing before-and-after photos. These people have put a lot of effort into these projects, they’re great business people and they likely have a ton of charisma — hell, they may even be wearing a lab coat.
But here’s a secret:
They’re. Full. Of. Shit.
Write that down somewhere. It’s true.
They may have put together a great diet for you to follow that’s going to show you a lot of results. You’ll burn fat, you’ll lose weight and you’ll feel really good about yourself.
For a little while.
And then you’ll gain it back. And that weight that comes back? It will likely bring friends.
I’m sure you know someone that has preached the gospel that was the Atkins Diet, the Whole30 Diet, the DASH Diet or the Mediterranean Diet. I bet it worked for them while they were doing it, too.
But, I would bet the farm they didn’t stay on it. I’d bet two farms they reversed their results faster than you can say “carbs are the enemy.”
These are crash diets. They’re designed to make you lose weight in a hurry. They’re designed to sound good on paper. They’re designed to sell books. They’re designed to screw you over. What they’re not designed to do: be healthy or sustainable. If you can crash diet for a month or more, gods bless you. You can temporarily follow that, but it ain’t a life. Constantly living in fear that you’re eating something that isn’t on the list or calculating points or being an anti-social dickhead not eating the treats your coworker brought in ain’t a life. If eating is something that worries you — not something you enjoy — that ain’t a life.
And you got a lot of livin’ to do.
In my opinion (and experience) the reason fad diets don’t work is because they’re impossible to stick with at all times. Let me tell you a story…
On our last trip to Florida for Thanksgiving, we drove through Alabama on country roads and passed a very random drive-thru museum. Just out in a field. A giant barn with a lot of gaudy art and strange items strung about. It was something I would be way into but we had a ways to go and the sun was starting to go down. I didn’t want to drive somewhere new after dark if I could help it, so we skipped it and I vowed to return one day.
I’m still mad about that.
When potential clients tell me their road is too long to even start down, I always tell them that ideally the road never ends. There’s a common misconception among the inexperienced that says there’s a beginning and an end. Like there’s a point that when you reach your goal, you no longer have to work anymore. It’s all over and it’s back to normal. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. When I’m told the road is too long, I tell them that fitness is something that becomes a part of you. It’s not a road with a beginning and an end — it’s a road with a beginning, no end and a ton of really cool roadside attractions along the way.
If you’re going to be on this road for the rest of your life, why be in a hurry? You’re going to miss something. Kind of like how I missed that drive-thru museum. And you’re going to be mad at yourself in some way.
That’s silly; don’t do it.
If wellness is going to be a part of you for the rest of your life, you’re going to have to feed yourself in a way that requires the least amount of worry. Something that can easily become a part of you so you’re no longer thinking about the “cans” and “can’ts” of the diet. Something where you don’t have to use a pocket reference book every time you sit down to eat lunch. Something that can be easily modified should you go out for Mexican with your bros on lunch break and it not totally crash you.
You don’t need a diet; you need an eating philosophy — a way of eating that isn’t based on rules someone gives you but is a way of life, modified for you and your health (and your sanity).
This isn’t to say that some of these strange diets don’t have merit or that they aren’t decent places to start. Let me tell another story…
A few years ago when I was super overweight and had a laundry list of medical issues going on inside me, I was thinking about my upcoming physical and didn’t have a worry in the world. We were sitting at a table at Cracker Barrel and the only thing I was interested in seeing at my physical the next day was my doctor’s signature on my insurance paper that said “He’s been here, now give him a discount.” A few minutes later, my food came. It was a country fried steak with gravy, hash brown casserole and a side of dumplings. I’m sure I had two or three biscuits on top of that.
And it was good as hell.
When my doctor told me I needed to make some changes, she suggested the Mediterranean diet. I took her seriously for a while, even buying a cookbook that explained the ins and outs of the diet, and I started bookmarking things I’d actually want to eat. In the end, I had bookmarked very little. The Mediterranean diet makes sense and it’s full of great food, but honestly, the theory was there but my desire to practice it wasn’t even close. I like seafood and I like most vegetables but the way these were prepared just didn’t appeal to me. I was also in the habit of cooking enough food for four people for dinner, then splitting the two leftover servings for Erin and I to take for lunch the next day. Seafood is not an option for this method. Ever.
So I needed something different. Something that would require a bit of commitment but also something that didn’t suck to commit to. I knew that if I chose an eating plan that required me to eat shit I don’t like, then that plan wasn’t going to last. I also knew that there was no plan that included country fried steak and gravy, unfortunately.
I didn’t do a lot of shopping around, honestly. I’ve always had the same shitty attitude toward crash diets my whole life so I already knew those were no-gos. Fortunately for me a lot of the food blogs I was already following had jumped on the Paleo bandwagon and I knew the roundabout idea of how it was supposed to work. If you want a more in-depth look at how Paleo is supposed to work, Google that shit or check out this post from NerdFitness. This isn’t a post about converting to Paleo, however, I can summarize it for you thusly:
If it’s food: eat it.
If you don’t know what it’s made out of: don’t eat it.
This is simple as hell but there is a bit of effort involved when you consider everything you already eat that has “stuff” in it that isn’t real food. This eliminates all pre-packaged processed foods, “normal” bread and fast food as well as normal “diet” no-nos like sodas and sugary sweets.
There’s a lot of back and forth in the Paleo community regarding a few specific food items — namely rice and potatoes — that I think is silly. One could easily argue the cavemen that supposedly inspired this way of eating could’ve had access to both of those things had they known how to harvest them. One argument against them that I often see is they’re not allowed because they’re just high in calories.
I say fuck that because with a justification like that you’re flirting dangerously close to crash diet territory and I’m not having it. Any of it. The fact is rice tastes good and it isn’t bad for you. Potatoes taste good and they’re not bad for you. Alcohol tastes great but a moderate amount isn’t bad for you. See also: Oreos, oatmeal cakes and the occasional bowl of Fruity Pebbles.
So I eat all of that. I stick with Paleo as a guideline, but if I want something that doesn’t fit, I’ll have it.
I feel like I need to include a few disclaimers here:
First, yes, I am encouraging you to not follow diet plans exactly as they’re written. But for Christ’s sake be smart about it! If you eat Paleo one day of the week and then go off the rails every other day, you can’t blame Paleo for you sucking at wellness.
Next, don’t use the term “cheat.” I’m talking “cheat meal,” “cheat day,” or anything of the like. “Cheat” has a negative connotation and eating normal food or going out with friends aren’t negative things. You’re not cheating, you’re being a person. Stop using that word and stop using all related and equally negative words. Example: “I’m being bad.” No you’re not. Being dumb, maybe, but not bad.
Finally, if you’re new to cooking, please don’t be afraid of trying new shit. If you’re an experienced home cook, don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone in the kitchen. There’s a modified version of almost everything out there and in many cases, it’s really good. You just need to not be afraid to modify an old favorite recipe and have the balls to make a cauliflower pizza dough or a fully Paleo version of country-fried steak and gravy — which I did and it was wonderful. Will it be the same as the old heavier versions you’re used to? Probably not, but it will certainly get cravings out of your system without wrecking your progress.
Here’s what I want you to take away from all this:
- Don’t think of “diet” as something you have to dread.
- Never eat shit you don’t want to eat.
- If an eating philosophy doesn’t appeal to you, maybe don’t do it. But be honest — ask yourself “Is this really not sustainable for me, or am I just being a little bitch?”
- Always keep in mind that this eating philosophy is just like your spiritual philosophy. It’s really just between you and your gods. In this case, your gods are your food choices. And your gains. Your devils are your old ways.
- If you choose Paleo (or Keto or Mediterranean or whatever else) and you enjoy (in moderation, of course) food that isn’t “allowed,” (or demonic, just to stay with the metaphor) do it and enjoy it. Don’t worry about what the popes and street preachers of your chosen philosophy have to say on the matter. They’re full of shit and they’re going to food hell anyway.
- Learn to cook and don’t be a punk ass in the kitchen.
- Maybe don’t order the country-fried steak at Cracker Barrel the day before your next physical.
Take some time to find an eating philosophy you feel comfortable following and read up on it. Figure out what you’re going to be good at and what you’ll need help with. I’m also open to questions at any time so let them fly.
Next week’s post is going to be all about figuring out how many calories you’ll need to eat during the day if you want to lose, maintain or gain weight. We’ll even get geeky with macros!
Justin, Nice to see a post about this. As a group-ex instructor, I get nutrition questions from time to time as well. I agree with your general advice. I always tell people to 1) Consult your doctor and 2) Do what works for you and is sustainable. That part 2 always gets ’em. Yes, shredding weight like a UFC fighter the day before weigh-in will cause pounds to drop, but that is not sustainable. As you point out, most of us do not have full time fitness jobs, so your diet has to work for your lifestyle. It can take a few weeks or even months to sort out. Even things as basic as changing the time of day you consume carbs vs. proteins or the ratio of each in a given meal can make a big difference. Again as you state, the road never ends, and sustainable healthy eating is just part of the journey of knowing yourself.
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