I, like most of my clients, had a weight goal I wanted to hit. In my case it was to lose 3-4 lbs by May 8th for the StrongFirst Kettlebell Instructor certification I was working toward (my kettlebell weight would be based on my bodyweight). Any other day of the year I wouldn't even know what I weighed on the scale, I would simply want to feel confident in my own skin. May 8th was the first day in my adult life that a number on a scale would actually matter.
I sat down with my coach (because every coach needs a coach!) to craft my master plan. I already knew counting calories made me INSANE so we decided to use hand measurements and a food diary instead. I only had three weeks to lose these last few pounds so my guidelines were far more strict than how he or I would normally coach clients but after our meeting, I knew exactly how many veggies, lean proteins and good fats I needed to consume for breakfast, lunch and dinner on days I didn't train, on moderate training days and on hard training days. I would have absolutely nothing processed, zero added sugar, zero alcohol. CLEAR RULES. I can follow rules in my sleep!
But FOOD. I also love FOOD. Once I left the gym, I got a little sad as I immediately started thinking about everything I couldn't eat: Cake or chocolate (or even fruit), bread, creamy sauces, glasses of wine. I knew I had a lot of travel and big networking events right before my certification that would involve all of the above and I just cringed.
But then a Valerie Waters quote came to mind: "The rules are not meant to make you feel deprived in some way. It's exactly the opposite -- it's your ticket to freedom." (This is from the foreword in Josh Hillis' book Fat Loss Happens on Monday) Suddenly, I started to think of all the recipes I had on hand (on my Pinterest page) that fit all of my requirements and it turns out I had tons of options! Deprivation, be gone! I went home and wrote out a weekly food plan, went to the grocery store and executed. (And to those of you who, like me, are mega tight on time: I made one-pot meals and had a lot of the same food every day but that was OK because my goal was important enough for me to do this for the short-term. You can't imagine the amount of spinach I went through...).
So, OK, it's one thing to follow the rules at home. How on earth could I follow them on the road? Well, let me tell you!
First I went to Louisville, KY for a two-day meeting. I decided to drive which allowed me to pack lots of healthy snacks to have on hand to make sure I didn't get to a point where I got so hungry I'd cave and reach for all the donuts in the world. Going out to lunch and dinner with my colleagues was a little challenging, sure, but since I knew the rules, I knew what to look for on the menu: Lots of veggies, a lean protein and a healthy fat. (If you're curious I had turkey slices, hardboiled eggs and cherry tomatoes for breakfast; a field greens salad with salmon for lunch; and a bunless burger with avocado, lettuce, tomato and a side of grilled asparagus for dinner the first day of meetings and all of that food was awesome and tasty and I was absolutely satisfied).
The following week I was in Kansas City, MO. I flew but rented a car at the airport so I could drive to a grocery store and get some breakfast items and snacks to stay on track (because I find that the absolute toughest meal to get right on business trips is breakfast). I was already ahead of the game in terms of losing those last few pounds at that time so I reassessed the way the rules were laid out: I decided to loosen the grips just a little bit (my coach is going to cringe...). I knew ahead of time this might mean not losing anything for that week but getting to eat awesome BBQ while hanging out with some super rock stars in the fitness industry was well worth it. The key was keeping the rules in place (including the protein portion sizes for the BBQ in question) instead of leaning on the all-or-nothing mentality of, "Well, I already messed up so I'm just going to keep eating crap because I'm doomed." Yes, I had BBQ with lots of sugary sauce and that was a conscious choice but I also had loads of veggies on the side, thankyouverymuch.
Does this regimen work for everyone? Hell no! And the only reason it worked for me this time was because I knew it was short-term. If you take nothing else away from this post, please cut this out and put it in your pocket: Whether you have one food or exercise habit to work on or five, the takeaway is the same: When you have your rules and habits in place that you feel confident following, they should free you from struggling to make food/exercise decisions or shooting in the dark to see if something works. You are set free to execute the plan and live the rest of your life!
If you're curious, I lost those last few pounds successfully and passed my certification (subject for another post). This entire experience has not only made me physically stronger but I think it's also made me a better coach. And I'm honored to get to share some of what I learn with all of you!
Please feel free to leave comments, ask questions or simply "like" the post!