As I did my post-workout stretch in the gym this morning, I couldn’t help but notice many of the same familiar faces stretching around me. There’s the baggy t-shirt girl — obviously trying to hide her jelly belly behind a tent of a shirt. The elliptical dude — never see him doing anything else but that machine. And the spin-crazy cyclist — dripping sweat in bucket-loads. What one thing do these three gym-goers all have in common?
They all work their tails off every week in the gym and they are all just as overweight today as they were when I first saw them last year. It hardly seems fair!
Some of you may recall reading about The Dieter’s Mistake. In that post, I review four common reasons most dieters fail. Enter: Mistake # 5, The Wheel-Spinning Hamster.
How is it that the stair-climbing girl beside you has not one bead of sweat on her brow but is a size two, while you are working at max capacity, busting your butt in a pool of sweat, and still a size 10?
I’ll tell you. Stairmaster girl doesn’t eat potato chips. And she doesn’t justify her poor eating habits by saying to herself, “oh, I can have this treat — I exercised today!”.
Oh sure — we could get far more scientific and you may try to give me a million excuses for why such a general blanket statement is wrong but they’re just that — excuses. Yes, if you’re obese, you will have a tougher time burning fat than her — but that’s because your poor diet has trained your body to rely on sugar as a fuel source, and not fat. But are you still eating potato chips? Or Starbuck Frappuccinos? Or two servings of dinner? Or sugary snacks in the afternoon? Or how about just not eating at all?
At risk of beating a dead horse, you all know how I feel about a nutritious diet — your weight loss goals are achieved through 80% diet, 20% exercise.
WARNING: I will now go against my personal rule and use all caps to deliver the next statement.
YOU CAN NOT OUT-TRAIN A POOR DIET!
You can spend hours upon hours of your time, leaving everything you’ve got on the gym floor, but if your diet is crap nobody’s going to know you spend any time in a gym at all. You might get stronger muscles and better cardiovascular health (which is definitely important — and also what makes you better than the skinny-fat girl beside you), but it will be covered up under a layer of gelatinous fat. And let’s be honest, we all want more than just strength and a good heart — we want to see some shrinking hips! Anyone else who says otherwise is a liar.
Quick Tips To Improve Your Diet
- Adding more fruits and veggies will make you less vulnerable to temptations. Wash your produce as soon as you get home (except berries, which should be cleaned right before eating) and chop them up into single-serving baggies so you can always “grab and go”.
- Replace your plain or flavored yogurt with plain Greek yogurt. It’s extremely high in protein and helps stave off hunger. It might seem like sour cream at first but mix it with fresh fruit or a bit of honey/maple syrup. I also hear that adding extracts (i.e. vanilla) is a great way to enhance it.
- Toss your breakfast cereals! Even the “healthy” ones are not giving you an optimum start to your day. Instead, make a pot of oatmeal. In the same time it took me to toast a piece of bread, spread on some peanut butter and eat it, I had cooked a pot of oatmeal for the entire family. It takes five minutes!
As soon as you put it on the stove, throw in some slivered almonds, raisins, cranberries, sunflower seeds…anything to up the protein and add more nutrition. Or add a spoonful of almond butter once it’s cooked. Sprinkle some shredded (unsweetened coconut) if you want a bit of crunchy sweetness or add a tsp of maple syrup. I also sprinkle on some chia seeds and ground flax — amazing for energy and digestive health! The possibilities are endless! If you’re overwhelmed, just try Tim’s tried-and-true recipe here.
- Sprouted Grain toast with almond butter/natural peanut butter + a banana
- A protein shake — if it comes down to eating a protein shake or nothing at all, I’d opt for protein shake. Better yet, throw some in the blender with some greek yogurt, almond milk, frozen berries and a banana. Smoothies can be calorie heavy but again, if it comes down to a fresh food smoothie or an impulse eat — the smoothie wins. Start researching “green smoothies” if you want to really hit it out of the park.
- Hardboiled eggs — something you can prepare ahead of time and have at the ready in the fridge, for up to a week.
- Clean and shredded lettuce and cabbage, ready for a healthy salad at a moment’s notice. Toss one of those hardboiled eggs on there for the protein punch.
- Unsalted Trail Mix (just nuts and raisins — unless you’re hiking and need crazy calories, don’t kid yourself having chocolate trail mixes)
- Larabars — be mindful of the 200+ (clean) calories but again, good in a pinch and minimal ingredients.
- Whole wheat or sprouted grain wraps — throw in some of that lettuce you’ve already prepared, add a few of your cut-up veggies, crumbled feta, a tbsp of dressing and voila! Lunch is ready. I love adding one of those hardboiled eggs or some nitrite-free smoked turkey breast (from Trader Joe’s).
Improve your diet and you’ll not only see those sweaty workouts begin to pay off, you’ll also enjoy having a lean, mean, butt-kicking machine of a body. Something that lazy Stairmaster chick knows nothing about.