Keeping Transformation Real
When it comes to transforming our bodies, we all expect results yesterday.
Sadly, we conveniently forget that it took us 20 years to accumulate an extra 30 lbs on our frame, and that the likelihood we can shed all the weight after just a couple of weeks of dieting is slim to none.
So what is the secret to getting (and staying) lean? I think we can all agree the best health and physique results come to those people who take full ownership of what goes into their body and eat clean, day in and day out.
Unfortunately, sticking to a clean diet is much easier said than done. Eating properly is particularly challenging in today’s day and age when we, as a society, are increasingly placing convenience ahead of making the right choices. And our collective health is suffering as a result.
That being said, we can take solace in the fact that although long-term body transformation requires a diet consisting of predominantly whole, natural foods, there is a time and a place for convenience foods.
But how can you tell how much or what types of convenience (ie. pre-packaged) foods are appropriate? By understanding these 2 powerful aspects of progression.
1. The rule of displacement
Basically, this rule is concerned with whether your convenience food is better than what you previously would have been eating. A perfect example of this are commercial protein bars. For argument’s sake, I will compare Supreme Protein Caramel Crunch to a Cadbury Caramilk Bar.
Supreme bar: 390 kcal, 15 g fat, 36 g carbohydrates (4 g of sugar) and 30 g protein
Caramilk bar: 260 kcal, 13 g fat, 33 g carbohydrates (23 g sugar) and 2 g protein
Clearly, the main differences between these two products are that the protein bar contains far less sugar and a good dose of protein (which explains the higher calorie count). Therefore, if your current afternoon snack is a chocolate bar, swapping it for a protein bar will result in a positive change in your health.
Now let’s be straight, commercial protein bars do contain a number of less than ideal ingredients (ie. high fructose corn syrup, sugar alcohols and soy protein isolate). Therefore, commercial protein bars should never be considered a true health food.
However, when attempting to institute a massive change in your approach to eating, using protein bars as a bridge to help wean you off of sugary-treats and onto ultimately healthier choices is often a step in the right direction.
2. Attempt progress in stages
This rule builds off the former. Perhaps the biggest mistake made by dieters everywhere is expecting we can go from having poor nutrition habits to 100% compliance to a perfectly clean meal plan.
Uh hello… don’t you think that if we instinctively found foods like spinach or tuna more appealing than chips and chocolate, we might actually already be eating them?
What do you mean french fries aren’t really a vegetable?!?
Although it’s great to have an idea of where you’d like to take your nutrition habits, the reality is that only a tiny fraction of all people can leap from terrible eating to clean eating overnight. Harbouring the “perfect meal plan” expectation is akin to a personal trainer expecting a new client to be able to learn and execute a powerclean during their initial visit; it’s just dumb, dumb, dumb!
Instead of continuing to berate ourselves for failing to adhere to meal perfection, let’s be realistic about the stages of behaviour change.
Let’s revisit our protein bar vs. candy bar example. Imagine a young male who enjoys having candy bars as a snack. Unfortunately, his daily candy bar habit keeps him sitting around 25% body fat. Now a reasonable goal might be for him to try and get that number down to 15% over the next 6-8 months. But how will he go about making the necessary dietary changes?
A reasonable place to start could see him swapping the candy bars for protein bars. Definitely a step in the right direction. However, this strategy might only get him down to 22-23% body fat. Remember, commercial protein bar consumption is not a habit that is conducive to optimal leanness.
To get down to below 15%, he’ll need to eat the way really lean people do (ie. tons of veggies, proteins and healthy fats). But jumping from candy bars to apples, almonds and tuna isn’t something that most people can buy into right away.
A more reasonable (and ultimately, far more successful) approach would be to approach it in the following manner:
As we can see, each step moved this young man forward in the quality of his food choices. We went from purely processed crap (month 1), to less crap (but still processed foods in month 2-3), to incorporating natural foods (in month 4-5) and finally ended up at month 6, with zero processed foods. Success!
Attacking nutritional change in this manner always makes for far greater compliance and ultimately, a far greater likelihood the end behaviour takes root. Humans are creatures of habit and comfort, which is why convenience foods are so appealing. Although it’s tough to argue for any processed food as being optimally healthy, they can be used to improve someone’s diet.
The key when using processed foods is to ask yourself if they are moving you “closer to” or “further from” your goals. If you ask yourself that question, deciding what to eat becomes relatively straightforward.
Notice, nothing about this approach suggests that results will magically appear overnight. But when you consistently make diet selections that involve making a better choice today than you made yesterday, everyone can ultimately attain their goals!