So What Do I Eat?

After losing 80 pounds and keeping it off over the past year, I get asked questions about what I eat all the time.  The plan I will describe below has worked wonderfully for ME and is not a one-size-fits-all approach.  Individual people will have different elements of any plan that may or may not work for them.  What I can say is that I have tried many things and lost, and gained a lot of weight since high school.  This lifestyle approach has brought me the most success versus anything else I have tried.

First step to losing 80 pounds is that you must have 80 pounds to lose….Ba-dump-pa!  The second step for me was finding a good nutritionist.  I started working with a woman in Pasadena that literally changed my life.  I walked into her office in July of 2010 feeling like a relatively fit 253 pounder.  My goal was to lose 20-30 vanity pounds and get down to a slimmer 220 pounds.  Keep in mind I am only 5’9”.  That would have still had me a 40” pants.

We spent an hour together and in that time we developed some rules of the road.  We created some guidelines on how to eat, what to eat and how often to eat it.  I walked out with a shopping list and a plan to reach what I see in hindsight was a pretty modest goal – 220 pounds.

Since that first visit we connect about every 2 months and fine-tune the program based on my current weight, race goals, and activity level.  Sometimes it is just a simple check-in.

Today, I am eating what I would describe as a low starch, low carbohydrate, high protein diet.  To get of the first 50 pounds off, I rarely considered carbohydrates in the form of fruits of vegetables.  My primary concern was starch.  I avoided refined sugars, breads, grains, rice, pasta, etc.  My food plan was anchored around three meals per day with three small snacks.  I would estimate my average calorie intake to be around 1500 calories per day. 

Each meal/snack featured a lean protein (I didn’t eat any red meat) and a fruit or vegetable, but generally it was fruit.  As a result of the high fruit intake, generally apples, pears, grapes and berries of all kinds, my daily carbohydrate intake was around 150 grams with a protein goal of 150-200 grams per day.

Fast forward to today, and I am eating very similarly, but I have greatly reduced the fruits.  Now that I am leaner, I have needed to reduce the fruit and veggie based carbs.  Rather than 4-6 servings per day, I have reduced that amount to no more than 2 fruit servings.  I also look for fruits and vegetables that are lower in carbohydrates.

A Couple Guidelines

No Free Food – Nothing you get for free in a restaurant is any good.  It is always bread, chips, nuts or something else you don’t need.  And, they add up fast.  Take my advice and stay away from anything “free”.

Protein – I look for proteins where the amount of protein is at least double the fat.  More than that is even better.  I generally focus on leans meats, egg white, ect.

Net Carbohydrates – This is the number to focus on from a carb perspective.  Net Carbs = Total carbs – dietary fiber – sugar alcohol.  Net Carbs is the primary tool I use to evaluate a protein bar or other packaged food.  Many of them offer dietary fiber and are high in sugar alcohol for taste.  I strive for 70-80 net carbs on exercise days and 60-70 net carbs on rest days.

Ratios – I try and understand what that protein is costing me in terms of calories.  Meaning when I put calories over protein in grams, I would like a low number.  I consider anything under 8 to be a “clean” protein.  More then 8 and you are getting a lot of other things in addition to protein.

No Drinking – I cut out all alcohol three years ago.  That means no beer or wine either.  It is just empty calories; it slows your metabolism and lowers your will power.  That’s the reason Taco Bell is open all night.  Some plans suggest a drink or two per week, but I say abstain.  Honestly, do want a drink per week or do you want to fit into skinny jeans?

No Dairy – I basically pass on most dairy, but I will once and a while have a little low fat string cheese or cottage cheese as a snack, but I would say that I am pretty much off of moo juice and its derivatives.  I even switched to black coffee, which took some getting used to, but now I really appreciate it.

Protein Bars – Not all bars are created the same.  The vast majority of them are candy bars enhanced with protein.  Don’t be fooled.  Here is where you really need to be a savvy label reader.  You want high quality protein.  Casein will get you lean and comes at a caloric bargain.  Then you want to apply your Net Carb Math and chose the right bar for your net carb daily budget.

The balance – Once you strike a balance you can play with your carb intake quite a bit.  But, you need to make some choices about how Fat, Starch and Carbs play together.  If you want more fat, like red meat, mayo, cheese, then you need fewer carbs.  If you want starch, which are carbs, but not all carbs are created equally, then tread lightly on fat and portions.

Lean Protein – I try and focus on keeping fat out of my protein.  So, I am pretty much eating things with either fins or feathers.  I know “they” say things like almonds and certain beans are sources of protein, but the ratio to fat and the calorie bargains just aren’t there for me.  Leave those to the vegans.  Animal protein will get you leaner and strong when you choose the right ones.

So what do I eat?

The “average” day for me likes the following.  I have been eating this way for almost three years and I rarely very from it if possible.  Yes, life gets in the way, but for the most part I try and make choices that will make me faster, stronger and fitter versus happy.  Did I just say that?  No, this makes me very happy. 

7:00 AM – Breakfast

  • 1 scoop of egg protein with with 8oz of water
  • 1 piece of low calorie, light wheat bread toasted with sugar free jelly
  • 500ml of water

9:30 AM – Morning Snack

  • ½ protein bar or small handful of turkey jerky
  • A pickle or radish or celery or a pealed and sliced cucumber
  • 500ml of water

12:00 PM – Lunch

  • Generally a 6” sandwich from subway, Jersey Mike’s or made at home
  • Key is no cheese or mayo
  • MUST have double meat.  You need the protein
  • 1 apple or cup of grapes or small salad of mainly lettuce
  • 500ml of water

2:30 PM – Afternoon Snack

  • Other ½ of protein bar or more jerky
  • 500ml of water

5:00 PM – Dinner

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast or piece of fish
  • Green Salad
  • Cup of mixed fruit – berries, grapes and pineapple (I avoid all forms of melon)
  • 500ml of water

8:00 PM – Late Night Snack

  • Scoop of protein (either Casein or Egg) with 8oz of water
  • 500ml of water

Of course I cheat or make a bad choice from time to time.  The key is winning the war, not every battle.  Be consistent over the long term and focus on your goals.  It will happen.