If you’ve decided on a lofty number for weight loss, now is the time to ditch the idea that you can walk away the pounds by simply spending hours breaking a sweat on the treadmill. Because for us mere mortals, regular exercise, with great emphasis on balanced diet, surely make for the perfect game plan.
“If you want to transform your body, nutrition has to come first,” says American Council on Exercise Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist and Culinary Chef Jude Boo. “You can exercise all you want and see results, yes—but it’s not as good as when you prioritize your food intake.”
Forty-seven-year-old JJ Henson, who slashed 60 pounds off his weight in roughly a year’s time, can attest to this.
The dude has admittedly been a gym mainstay for years but it was only when he took his diet seriously that he won the battle with the bulge.
Entering his mid-40s, Henson tipped the scales at 200 pounds. His old clothes barely fit. So when faced with two options—either buy totally new wardrobe or take exercise and diet seriously—he chose the latter.
In terms of nutrition, Henson quit the “I-can-eat-a-lot-because-I-trained” mindset and instead became more conscious of the food served on the table. And to boost his weight loss? He invested on his diet by subscribing to a scientifically designed and calculated food delivery service.
Take a page from his diet notes.
For starters, Henson made sure he ate food that are high in protein and low in carbs without exceeding 3,000 calories a day. “I don’t believe in hunger. I believe in eating right, and eating until your body gets enough energy to spend on your workout,” he explains. “With my diet, I rarely had cravings because I easily get satisfied with the food I eat.”
Here’s how his usual meal plan looks like:
Breakfast - Omelette with salmon
Lunch - Grilled chicken and vegetables
Dinner - Pork afritada (less in salt) and black rice
Snack - A choice between a fruit (apple) or a protein-rich muffin
Depending on his preference, though, Henson would sometimes switch his meals on dinner and lunch—and Boo, who also happens to be the person planning the former’s food intake, sees no problem with this.
“Anyone can mix and match meals—for instance no rice for lunch, and there’s rice for dinner—as long as everything is accounted for, it’s okay,” Boo says. “At the very least, you should at least be aware of the calories of the food you eat so you won’t exceed your required daily caloric intake.”
Since Henson tackled his weight problem head on, he lived up to these principles:
On jumpstarting your diet: “You have to change your lifestyle, especially when you are in your 30s and above. You have to be more disciplined and make sacrifices, otherwise you won’t achieve your fitness goal,” he explains. “So if you love eating, you have to eat healthier food.”
On cheat days: “I sometimes get cravings—chips, white rice or sinigang on weekdays—and I satisfy these on weekends.” Surely, there’s no harm rewarding yourself after a week’s “hard work” by allowing for some cheat days.
On diet vs workout: “It’s never a balance between both. There’s always greater importance on diet, absolutely,” he says. “It’s definitely 80 percent diet, 20 percent workout.”
To eat your way to success, arm yourself with more nutrition tips from Boo.
Make your nutrition plan realistic. Yes, you need to find something that will work for you. “You need to choose a sustainable diet that will allow you to reach your goals. Other people become too restrictive that they eat the same things over and over again, and that’s when they fail.”
When hungry, hydrate. This is to avoid mistaking hunger with thirst, says Boo. “Before eating, try to drink enough water first. If you’re not really hungry, then the hunger will subside.”
But if you’re tummy says yes to hunger after hydrating, then Boo suggests to go for high-protein eats: salad with dressing on the side, or boiled egg, will do.
Cheat day is optional. “If you want to give in to your cravings, for instance on weekends, you can increase your food intake a little bit but not really splurge,” he advises.
While Henson opts to go all out during cheat days, Boo reminds that “cheat days are not advisable for all.” His diet plan might not have the same effect for everyone else, after all.
Know your body. By now, you’ve probably realized that no ultimate diet works for anyone, so choose what’s best for you. Boo says, “There are a lot of people who prefer eating small meals a day but there are also people who cannot eat small meal a day and would rather eat huge meals, that’s okay as long as you are aware of the enough amount of protein, carbs, and fat you need a day.”
Henson is at his healthiest today, but he's not one to stop raising the bar. To further improve his body, he is now active in dragon boat paddling while not skipping his regular sessions at the gym.