While I am detailing what works for me, and while it might vary from person to person, I find that what I do simplifies my eating and takes very little thought, is extremely convenient, and has allowed me to achieve and sustain my ideal body composition. While my body fat percentage could be a little lower, I have absolutely no intention of doing what it takes to get there as I enjoy food and like to live a little, and I am very comfortable with my appearance. Most important of all, I feel amazing. If I were to drop to a lower level of body fat, my training and overall fitness level would suffer, as would my sanity.
Here are some simple tips that I follow:
1) Protein Matters
I make protein the focal point of all of my meals and snacks. Protein is a macronutrient that is required for the structure, function and regulation of the body's organs and tissues. Basically, if you are not consuming enough protein, your body will break down and will not function properly. And you will feel like a lethargic sloth. In addition to this, protein keeps you full and plays a huge role in preventing you from overeating.
It doesn't matter where I am, or what I am doing, I eat the same way every day, and do so 365 days of the year. I allow myself to indulge on a daily basis, and don't change the way I eat just because it's the weekend. As I like to say, it's better to be consistently good than it is to be sporadically perfect.
3) Manage Your Macros
Generally, if I eat a meal that is extremely high in carbohydrates or fat, I will make sure that my remaining meals and snacks are lower in these macronutrients. I don't count my macros or calories, but I find that this strategy helps keep me in check. As I mentioned, I base all of my meals and snacks around protein.
4) Enjoyment and Education
I have come up with, or have discovered many healthy meals and snacks that are extremely delicious, give me energy, and are convenient. I refuse to eat food that I don't like, so I took the time to educate myself. As I see it, if I enjoy everything I eat, I'll be less likely to crave junk and overeat. I can't recall the last time I've had a craving.
5) Avoid ''fake'' junk food - If I want to treat myself, I will treat myself. I don't do diet or bullshit ''healthy'' versions of junk food. I allow myself to indulge, but in moderation.
6) Read labels - Many people make the mistake of ignoring labels, and as a result, consume far more sugar, calories, etc, than they are aware of. Many food companies intentionally market their products as ''healthy,'' yet they are absolutely flooded with sugar, calories, trans fats, etc. I always make sure I know exactly what I am eating/drinking.
6) Avoid getting excessively hungry/''hangry'' - I never allow myself to get extremely hungry. If I am very hungry, I crave foods that I would normally never eat or want. I remember one time after a soccer game, a teammate and I went to the supermarket and attempted to go grocery shopping but ended up stopping in the bakery and were obsessing over all of these random items that we would usually never crave. It was pretty funny and highlights my point that good judgment goes out the door when excessive hunger is present.
7) Eat nutrient dense foods - Unless I am intentionally treating myself, I make sure that everything I eat is nutrient dense. This keeps me full and energized. Many people eat an abundance of food that is completely devoid of nutrients, and as a result, are never full, lack energy, suffer from endless cravings, and usually end up binging on junk.
8) Just say no to detoxes/cleanses/fad diets - I do not condone any detox/cleanse, fad diet, or extreme. Bottom line, they do not work and are not sustainable.
9) If you lead a healthy lifestyle, there is no such thing as ''cheating'' - I do not do ''cheat meals,'' nor do I recommend them. For one, I don't like the terminology. It implies that you are being bad. Many people struggle to establish a healthy relationship with food, and using these words is not helpful. When it comes to eating, I don't like to think of it in terms of being good or bad. I like to think of it as having a healthy lifestyle that allows for some flexibility. Also, having cheat meals can create the ''all or nothing'' mentality. Many people who use these meals deprive themselves all week, only to binge when they cheat. This can lead to poor results, and a very unhealthy relationship with food. Like I said, this practice works for some, but I'm not a fan of it.
9) Don't be fooled by ''healthy foods'' - I am not under the illusion that gluten-free, Paleo, organic, vegan, etc are healthier and lower calorie options. Quite often, companies use these labels to dupe their consumer into thinking that the product is healthier than it actually is. Many of these products are actually higher in calories, sugar, and fat than the regular versions, and cost an arm and a leg more.
10) Be flexible - When it comes to my nutrition, when I am out and am in a somewhat of an uncontrolled environment, rather than being hell-bent on ''needing'' to eat a specific food, I follow a nutritional blueprint that is etched in my mind. Using this tactic makes staying on track very simple, and reduces the anxiety that some people might experience when they are out and are not preparing their own food. For instance, say I am out for dinner and want to have chicken, but the only item available is turkey, I will choose that. Some people are so rigid and set in their ways that they panic/make poor choices if they are forced to alter their routine. Flexibility, not rigidity, will lead to sustainability.
As I mentioned, these tips have been very effective for me, and have allowed me to achieve a healthy lifestyle that is mindless, enjoyable, and sustainable. Figure out what works for you, and make it last a lifetime.