“Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel.”
-Kevin Mark Trudeau
After the overwhelmingly positive results that my diet has generated and the heightened interest from friends/family/followers, I decided to pen a comprehensive guide to my fitness plan. There are five major tenants that comprise the plan that I have devised; here they are in detail with the research to back them up. I have:
1. Cut out red meat
From my research, red meat is a hidden threat that has flown under the radar undetected. I was unaware of the potential dangers of red meat until I began to do comprehensive background research. Similarly to dairy, red meat is high in saturated fat (which raises cholesterol) and can cause digestive problems. Many foods that come from red meat also contain preservative agents and astronomically high levels of sodium. I wasn’t aware until I began researching that certain grilling techniques can also increase the amount of carcinogenic compounds in red meat.
Protein is certainly an integral part of any diet. Instead of beef, I have been substituting turkey in many cases. Turkey burgers are a frequent favorite of mine. Turkey is high in protein and vitamin B and contains very little fat. Chicken is also a go-to protein in my diet (grilled or baked, never fried). When I’m not eating meat, legumes provide and excellent source of protein.
2. Cut out dairy completely
Dairy is notoriously hard to digest and many experts (including Harvard researchers and a former advisor to the Clinton administration) have, for various reasons, called its long-heralded health benefits into question in recent years. I don’t consider myself to be lactose intolerant; I can usually handle dairy in moderation with relative ease. However, I have definitely experienced gastrointestinal discomfort when I have gone overboard on dairy. It’s no secret that many dairy products are full of saturated fat that cause cardiovascular disease when not consumed in moderation. The various kinds of dairy that I would consume were never consumed in moderation; huge bowls of ice cream, coffee full of creamer, pizza with extra cheese, etc. Beyond the high levels of fat, I have also decided to eschew dairy in order to reduce my sugar intake (see #3).
As a child, we are told that we should drink milk so that we develop strong, healthy bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Some research suggests that a high protein intake will fortify bones in a similar manner.
3. Dramatically reduced my refined sugar intake
I shouldn’t even have to say this but I will: refined sugar is a detriment to health (one expert went so far as to call it a “toxin”). Refined sugar is addictive. Refined sugar raises cholesterol levels. Refined sugar puts you at greater risk for type 2 diabetes (but does not necessarily cause it). I have experienced first-hand the lethargic crash that comes after consumption of mass amounts of sugar, the sugar headaches, the insatiable cravings for sugar and I was sick of having to deal with them so I made the decision to remove refined sugar from my diet as much as possible.
This was probably the hardest part of my entire undertaking because I was addicted to refined sugars. I am not ashamed to admit that I love(d) chocolate, ice cream, cookies, candy and anything else that was full of sugar. Regardless of what any research suggests, I can say with personal, first-hand certainty that sugar is addictive. The first few days of my new diet were some of the roughest days that I’ve gone through in recent memory. I experienced headaches, dehydration, mood swings, fatigue and a general inability to function normally for almost four days after I cut out sugar.
Most experts recommend gradually waning yourself off of sugar to reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. Frankly, I didn’t trust myself to follow through with this and instead chose to go cold turkey and it was difficult. The psychological pangs and cravings were almost unbearable. The physical symptoms interrupted my daily life. I got through on sheer willpower and determination and I literally had to dedicate every iota of my being to not regressing into my sugar addiction. One stressful week later, the pangs and cravings are over and I frankly have no desire to consume sugar.
An important distinction must be made between refined sugar and natural sugar. It is unwise and impractical to attempt to completely cut out sugar because sugar, in its various forms, is present everywhere. The good sugars (fructose, galactose, etc.) are abundant in foods like fruit and are part of a healthy diet. I am mainly referring to refined, “white” sugar (sucrose, refined glucose and fructose) above.
4. Dramatically increased my water consumption.
Water is good for you and required for normal body function. Drinking water is good for your skin, kidneys, muscles and immune system, metabolism, body temperature and digestive processes. Failure to hydrate adequately has detrimental effects on all of the aforementioned organs and systems. I now carry around a one pint bottle of water and my goal is to refill it three times throughout the day (for a total of four pints of water consumed).
Under this plan, I pee frequently. Usually four to five times a day. Yes, it is annoying to always have to pee but this is a nuisance that I am willing to accommodate for the sake of fitness. Without water, your body simply cannot function and I would venture to say that any diet or exercise plan would be markedly less effective if insufficient amounts of water are being consumed.
5. Embraced whole foods & PRODUCE
The easiest way to control what is in your food (to keep in the good things and keep out the bad things) is to eat what are known as “whole foods”: foods that are unprocessed and unrefined before being consumed. Produce is my new best friend: instead of snacking on candy and chips, I now snack on fresh produce. You will always find me with snack baggies of celery, sugar snap peas, almonds, carrots, apples or berries. At least one of my meals every day is a fresh mixed greens salad with grilled chicken.
As a general guideline, I try to eat as few packaged things as possible. While I do have a penchant for hummus, peanut butter and Special K crackers, nothing else that I eat comes from a sealed container or the freezer. I would say that 90% of the food that I am consuming is fresh and has a short shelf-life.
Those five main pillars of nutrition are my guiding principles but there are also a few other important things to mention:
Physical fitness is obviously contingent upon physical activity. Presently, I have chosen to complete another round of P90X. I had fantastic results the first time that I completed the program and was eager to have another go. I am generally loyal to the BeachBody brand; they seem to have their stuff together and produce quality, effective programs that are fun and engaging. If you are not ready for P90X, I would recommend trying out Power 90 to condition yourself for a more intense program (I completed the program myself and it got me into great shape). Friends of mine have had success with Insanity and Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred. To be honest, you really can’t go wrong if you are active for 30 minutes five times a week and alternate between strength training and cardio workouts.
Studies show that eating smaller meals more frequently are beneficial for metabolic function and overall wellness and weight loss. I am always eating. My meals are certainly smaller than they used to be and I now snack frequently between meals. On an average day, I will pack three or four different snacks (usually different kinds of produce) and have one between breakfast and lunch and the remaining snacks between lunch and dinner. I have found that this reduces my propensity to become excessively hungry between meals and overeat when I do get the chance to eat.
I also do not count calories. If I had to make an estimate, I would guess that I am probably consuming between 1500 and 2000 calories each day. When it comes down to it, nutritional value is of paramount importance; calories are irrelevant if the food that you choose to eat is full of chemicals and preservatives and devoid of any true nutritional content. Focus on eating fresh foods in moderation and you can’t go wrong.
In addition to drinking more water, I have also stopped using artificial sweeteners in my beverages. Unsweetened iced tea is my second best friend (beside water). I used to add Splenda to everything but so much research suggests that all of the artificial sweeteners are loaded with unhealthy chemicals whose risks outweigh the weight management benefits (although preliminary research suggests that Truvia might be the least harmful).
I cut out all soda and other carbonated drinks six years ago and haven’t looked back – my teeth feel better, my stomach is less bloated from the carbonation and I save a lot of money by refusing to drink soda.
If you choose to drink fruit juice, be careful: they are oftentimes hidden traps for sugars.
After reading all of this, you might be wondering why in the world I would put myself through such a strict and rigorous dietary program. The answer is simple: I want to be healthy. I was heavy through high school and never felt like I was good enough. After I graduated high school, I ate well and exercised frequently and subsequently lost over 40 pounds over the course of a year. I had never felt better: I was much more self confident, outgoing and social. I loved how I felt and how I looked and suddenly the world seemed wide open and full of possibility.
Over the last two years, I got away from my fitness ideals and significantly let myself go. Before embarking on this fitness adventure, I was skinny but I wasn’t fit and I certainly wasn’t healthy. This time around, I am making permanent changes. I know how it feels to succeed and I will do everything in my power to get back on top of my game.
I’ve only been on this plan for eight days but I am already noticing significant changes in my body. For starters, I have lost seven pounds and I am markedly more trim. My jeans are definitely feeling looser and my muscles are more defined and more prominent than ever. But beyond my superficial obsession with appearance, I feel better. I have much more energy, I can think more clearly, I am in a much better mood and I am much more productive. Perhaps most importantly, I am proud. I have shown myself that I can commit to something, achieve and succeed. There is no better feeling in the world.
The Long Run
Perhaps the best thing about this plan is that it is maintainable in the long run. My nutrition isn’t compromised if I slip some cheese onto my salad once in a while. To celebrate my getting through my first week, I bought myself and organic dark chocolate bar and I don’t feel guilty about it (to my delight, my taste for sugar has been significantly reduced!). A little red meat here and there is not going to end the world. My mentality is more about creating healthy habits I will keep with me throughout my life; a slip-up here and there is acceptable (and to be expected, maybe even encouraged!) as long as the habit remains unchanged.
I sincerely hope that my continued success with weight loss and overall fitness can motivate and inspire others to make healthy choices and affect positive change in their life. As always, please do not hesitate to email me if you have any questions.
If you like this article, please hit the Facebook Like button/retweet buttons below! Share with friends & family!
I am not a doctor or a medical expert. You should consult your physician before beginning any diet/exercise program. Everybody has specific, personalized nutritional needs that may or may not align with the goals of my program. Furthermore, nutrition is a heavily controversial field of study. I cited a lot of articles, journals and studies in this article and, in the process of my research, found just as many sources that contradicted the ideas that I am encouraging. There are very few definitive answers but I’ve done my best to sift through the noise and collect what I find to be the most sound and believable principles.