Have you ever said to yourself the following phrase when it comes to fitness or your nutrition journey:
“I just don’t know where to start?”
The problem isn’t often the what. We all know what we should be doing when it comes to a healthy diet: fruits, veggies, high quality proteins, whole foods, sleep, drink water, limit sugar and processed foods, and exercise. IF that was all you needed to know to be successful, I wouldn’t have a job and no one would really struggle with their nutrition journeys.
The problem is HOW.
How to implement the “what”.
How to apply it to your life.
How to get started.
How to continue when you mess up.
How to factor in breaks and vacations
How to make it long-term.
The toughest part is how to get started. I remember, before this was my full time job, and career, that it just felt like a million rules and facts and whatnot were weighing me down. What was the most important piece to start with? Should you start with macros? Calories? Portions? What about exercise? Cutting? Bulking? There was often SO much information that I was overwhelmed, shut down and gave up for a few months until I was ready to attempt the whole process again.
You’re not alone! This is one of the HARDEST parts! JUST getting started. Getting past that bump.
So today’s blog is going to teach you just how to get started. After reading this blog, apply here for a free strategy call to help you get started!
Step 1. TRACK
You can’t do anything until you track your intake first. Awareness precedes change. How can you change your habits without knowing what those habits are in the first place?
Are you under-eating? Overeating?
Do you eat enough veggies?
How do your weekends compare to the weekdays? When are your biggest cravings?
How spaced out are your meals?
How much protein do you eat? Carbs? Healthy fats?
What’s your food quality like?
A doctor doesn’t just dive into surgery without being aware of what’s going on in the first place. Even exploratory surgery has direction based off of an initial assessment phase.
You don’t have to track for a long period of time to get started. The more days you DO have, the more data you have but you can get away with 4 days logged. You do need at least one day on the weekend. I generally recommend 5-7 days. You can do this easily with apps like MyFitnessPal or pen and paper [although you don’t get the numbers like calories and macros as easily as pen and paper and may need a professional with experience to look it over].
Step 2. GAME PLAN
Next, you need a plan. Again, you can’t just wing it. Those habits got you to where you’re at now...which is in need of a change. Those habits are going to need to change. You don’t have to be obsessive with this plan, but you still do need a plan based off your assessment of step one.
This is where the individualization comes in and where working 1:1 with a coach for a few months may pay off in the long run (you hire a mechanic to fix your car, don’t you?)
First you need to assess your food log. Where are major gaps?
After analyzing hundreds of intakes, there are generally a couple directions to start with.
Undereating (<BMR) – you need a reverse diet first where you slowly and incrementally increase your intake, starting with protein first
Food quality – you need to increase your overall quality of food, aiming for 80% of your intake to come from whole food sources, your food in as close to it’s natural state as possible, but still leaving 20% for freedom and enjoyment.
Low veggie and protein intake – protein and veggies at every single meal, non-negotiable
Overeating – bring it back, reducing liquid calories and processed calorie-dense foods and adding lower calorie fruits and veggies
Real quick, to figure out an appropriate range of calories you should be eating, take your bodyweight and multiply by 10 and that’s roughly your BMR. Next for your range of calories, multiply by 12 and 14 for your lower and upper limit of calories, respectively.
Based off of what your intake looks like, create a game plan.
Decide whether you’re going to continue to track or not. If you’re tracking, decide on an appropriate macro/calorie approach. Start working with ranges or tracking just protein and/or calories first. If you’re not tracking, decide on a meal frequency (4 is my preferred frequency) and create meals and plans to get protein and veggies at every one of those meals. Sprinkle 2-3 handfuls of carbs over your day (as a baseline) and 1-2 handfuls of healthy fats over the day (oils count).
If this is overwhelming, hire a coach! This is what we do!
Step 3. IMPLEMENT
Next, put it into practice! Dive all in. Don’t half-ass it. Remain committed. Do a pantry-sweep to avoid temptations. Plan meals ahead of time. Pre-log and track your meals before the day starts. Make it a priority!
Don’t forget lifestyle factors.
Drink half your body weight in oz of water as a bare minimum (add 15oz/hr of exercise)
Get 7+k steps/day – MOVE
Exercise – follow a lifting routine
Know, too, that after about 2-3 weeks, motivation is going to drop and what’s left will be discipline and habits. EXPECT THIS and plan for it. Use that 2-3 window to dive into those habits.
Step 4. MAINTAIN VS. ADJUST
When should you change and adjust? About 2-3 weeks without change.
It’s important to note that this first period shouldn’t necessarily be about weight loss. This first 2-4 weeks, realistically sometimes longer is about two important pieces of the puzzle that’s often neglected: habits and biofeedback.
You need to develop those habits that will take over when you lose motivation, when work is stressful, when your life becomes crazy, etc. Motivation-driven plans don’t last and leave you yo-yoing between progress and stagnation. HABITS and DISCIPLINE are what last and make a program and plan work.
Next, you need to be healthy for any real body composition change. You need to be sleeping through the night, energized through the day, not in need of millions of mg of coffee, crushing it in the gym, having regular and solid bowel movements, managing stress, etc. IF any of these are out of whack, it won’t matter what calorie deficit you’re at, inflammation, stress and whatnot will affect your ability to lose weight.
After those initial habits are set and crushed and after you’ve addressed any gaps in biofeedback, give yourself 2-3 weeks for progress to be made. If something isn’t working (even in the realm of habits and biofeedback), give it time first then make 1-2 adjustments. If you’re struggling on the weekends, create 1-2 habit changes. If you’re not getting protein at each meal, figure out what proteins you can eat. If you’re meal frequency isn’t working, adjust accordingly. Don’t neglect this phase.
DON’T LET WEIGHT BE THE ONLY FACTOR HERE. If you’re reverse dieting or practicing habits, the weight might jump. DON’T panic and react by giving up. Stay off the scale for 2-3 weeks, take progress photos, and measure biofeedback.
Step 5. SET ACTIVE TARGET GOALS
Only after step 4 is accomplished can you strive for active targets.
If you’re reverse dieting, this step might be a few months away until you get up to maintenance calories and hold steady.
If you’re practicing good habits and meal quality and you’re seeing results, don’t rush into this phase! If you don’t have to cut calories, then don’t!
If you were overeating and now just eating roughly at maintenance and you’re seeing results, don’t go further into a deficit. Let what’s working work!
NOW if you’re striving for body comp changes, decide first your goal: lose weight or build muscle. These are two different goals that require two different methods.
Lose weight = calorie deficit
Start first with a 10-15% calorie deficit (why eating as many calories initially is ideal). Keep protein where it’s at and cut carbs and/or fats.
Build muscle = calorie surplus
Start with a 5% surplus and optimize your training program to build muscle. You need to be lifting weights...and they need to be heavy. Limit all the cardio you’re doing or shoot for just lower intensity cardio.
Then enters step 6.
Step 6. WAIT.
You need 2-3 weeks after making a change or hitting a plateau before adjusting. TIME is important, here. IF you keep making change after change each week because the scale hasn’t changed, then you’re never going to see what is or isn’t actually working. There are many reasons the scale could plateau or hold steady: sodium, workouts, carbs, stress, hormones, the weather, hydration, etc. Don’t let one data point throw a wrench in the system. Give it time.
Be honest with yourself. Are you doing everything correctly? IF the answer is yes, then you just need time. The more beat up your body has been in the past—from overtraining, dieting, etc.—the longer you’re going to need to see change and results. Our bodies are smart! They have a better memory than we do! They remember every crazy fad diet you put it through and will be resistant to start.
Then rinse and repeat steps 4-6 as you continue to crush it and make progress.
Resources and Coaching:
Online Coaching here.
[Free] Nutrition Guide here.
Recipe & Macro Guide here.