Here at The Fit Life, one of the prime objectives we have with our coaching is to develop better nutrition in a sustainable way.
If you aren't able to sustain better nutrition, you could follow the world's best training plan to build strength and lean muscle, but you won't see noticeable changes if you're constantly yo-yo'ing or having to 'start again'.
In order for anything to be sustainable, it needs to be both achievable and enjoyable. You needn't suffer to get great results!
Think about it: if you feel your nutrition is a healthy and enjoyable part of your lifestyle - the far likelier you are to buy into it, stick with it, and reap all the benefits it brings.
On the flip side, if you feel your nutrition restricts the foods you enjoy or is 'life vs diet', you won't stick with it for very long at all.
This is why we always adopt a 'Flexible Dieting' approach to your nutrition - and you should too.
Put simply, Flexible Dieting means you can eat whatever foods you like, as long as you stick to your targeted calories (or calorie range).
If you absolutely love chocolate, for example, what's the use in denying yourself the occasional bar if you feel rubbish without it? If you want it, factor it into your food diary for the day - and enjoy!
Craving 'bad' foods can be overwhelming and really detrimental to your mindset if you cave in. Giving yourself permission to eat the things you like means you're far more likely to stick to better nutrition overall.
So, if you have calories to use up that day, weigh out that chocolate so it fits within your calorie target, sit back and enjoy.
Good vs Bad Foods
Let's myth bust here: there are no 'good' or 'bad' foods or meals - only good or bad diets.
Are you having a slice of pizza when catching up with a mate in town, or are you ordering a large Dominos to yourself twice a week?
Too much of any food will have adverse effects - no matter if it's egg whites or burgers.
It's possible to have a good diet that contains 'bad' (or 'less nutritious') foods - and vice versa. Take a moment and think of some 'good' and 'bad' foods. It's probable the 'bad' ones you're thinking of are simply less nutritious than the 'good' foods. There's nothing wrong with consuming less nutritious foods sometimes - provided they don't become the bedrock of our diets or make up the majority of our calories.
There are plenty of people out there who will advocate different approaches (paleo, raw fooders, clean eaters, and so on)...but having an all-or-nothing mentality is exactly what results in people yo-yo dieting, bingeing and feeling like failures.
Flexible Dieting is an amazing long-term approach - and we still get to enjoy the foods we love without any guilt. It'll breed healthier eating habits, a better mindset around your foods and drinks and you're way more likely to meet your dietary goals in the long run.
The 80/20 Method
The Flexible Dieting approach is measurable.
Within all coached Fit Life programmes (as well as The Fit Life Plan), you'll work towards ensuring that between 80-90% of your total calories for the week come from 'nutritious foods', with the remainder coming from any of your favourite treat foods.
Nutritious foods are nutrient-rich wholefoods - containing good vitamin, mineral and fibre doses. Examples include:
Vegetables (not boiled)
Low GI carbohydrate foods/meals
I also count any Fit Life recipe and low calorie non-alcoholic drinks (as the caloric impact is minimal) in this category.
In contrast, there are 'less healthful foods.' Examples include:
Processed foods/meals (including packet foods)
Most restaurant dishes/meals
Foods/meals high in sugars
Foods/meals high in sodium
Most foods/meals with high fat proportion
High GI carbohydrate foods/meals
The lists above are a general guide - and you'd use food labels and your coach to guide you on choices you're unsure about.
The 80/20 Method is a step up from 'IIFYM' (If It Fits Your Macros) - which some people take as an approach to believe they can consume anything they like, provided it hits their macro targets. 80/20 ensures you obtain necessary micronutrients, fibre and negate any adverse physiological implications IIFYM may bring (particularly true for endomorphs). It's the smarter method.
It's also a step up from 'clean eating' - as it's far more sustainable in the long-term and less pressured. Studies have actually shown that there are no difference to health markers between those who follow a diet comprising 100% single-ingredient whole foods vs those who follow the 80/20 method. Eating 'clean' isn't a magic bullet.
For those on coached Fit Life programmes, your coach may set you the '80/20 Challenge', where you'll work to ensuring that your food and drink consumption reflects a minimum of 80% of total calories. You'll only be set this if you are keeping a regular food diary on MyFitnessPal (not following the Hand Portions method - as this doesn't measure calories).
Your nutrition is a vital part of your life. With better nutrition, you'll train better. You'll feel better. You'll be comfortable with your decisions when in social setting. You'll reap all the benefits better nutrition brings.
We need to allow for spontaneity, buying meals on the go, a social life and be able to fully immerse ourselves in and enjoy experiences.
Healthy eating habits go farther than 'eat this' or 'eat that.' It's about having a balanced approach - and Flexible Dieting is a proven method for instilling the right habits, thought processes and mentality. It provides the framework upon which you can base your entire nutritional mindset around, and allows you to meet every dietary goal you have.
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