(When you see pizza and looking good naked in the title, you know it’s worth a 5 minute read).
That’s what my friend said when the instructor asked him what his goals were. It’s one of the most intense and competitive Crossfit gyms in the nation. I’m sure that the instructor had a puzzled look on his face while simultaneously thinking, “What the fuck are you doing here?”
Of course, the trainer didn’t say that. But you have to wonder …
Even if he did though, my friend wouldn’t care. He wants to get a good workout in and look good without a shirt on. And be able to eat pizza.
That’s the dream.
Honestly, the instructor shouldn’t care either. Let’s face it, if you’re most guys you aren’t trying to be the next “fittest guy on earth”, or even super ripped. Most guys want to eat beer and wings with their buds. If they have to take their shirt off at the beach the bar is set at, “whatever hot chicks will notice”.
I’m not saying that Dad bods are cool, just that you don’t have a have an absurd six pack to be healthy. But also not saying that it’s bad to want a six pack.
It’s just that when it comes to most health advice, you can’t eat beer, wings, or pizza when you’re eating healthy. And you have to strive towards being ripped. That type of thinking leans towards one extreme. You want flexibility in what you can eat while still being healthy. And you probably don’t need or want, a chiseled six pack. But props if you get or got one.
Sometimes I want, like a couple of slices with extra cheese. Maybe sprinkled in with a little pepperoni and sausage. Maybe I was drunk at the time. Is that so bad?
According to most health advice, yeah, it kind of is.
You can work out all you want but abs are made in the kitchen. So you have to watch your diet. Which is true. Now whether you want abs, a flat stomach, or just want to lose weight, you can still get away with eating food you want.
But most diets don’t prescribe to that type of thinking. The common perception of healthy eating and diets is that:
- You have to count every single calorie.
- You have to exclude certain types of food.
I won’t accept it. Neither should my friend. And, neither should you.
Is counting calories and excluding certain food groups bad?
Depends on your goals. If you want to get ripped, you’ll probably have to incorporate some type of calorie counting. Getting in the single digits of body fat is a different game than just eating healthy.
But, most guys don’t track their food or calories because it’s an extra step. I’m not against it, just think that there are other principles that are easier to adhere to first and foremost.
Working out is all a part of this too, but that’s a topic for another day.
So anyway, what’s the best approach for a dude who works a busy job and wants to eat right? Well, it’s a little bit counter intuitive of an approach but it goes something like this …
- Learn what to eat, like good, unprocessed food
- Systemize your eating and food choices
- Eat food you enjoy (like pizza)
Healthy eating can be complex. But learning what to eat that is healthy is simpler.
Learning What to Eat
Everybody talks about eating good food. That’s about the best advice guys get when it comes to eating healthy.
But what is good food?
And what about food that everyone thinks is healthy, and actually isn’t. Like that protein bar loaded with sugar. That “healthy” whole grain pasta. Those fruit juices/teas that have just as much sugar as a can of soda.
There’s a lot of nutritional advice out there that’s simply not true. You can blame it on marketing by food companies or just longstanding myths. All in all, learning how to eat healthy doesn’t require a Ph.D. in nutrition. It can require much less than that, like no effort at all, you just have to cover some ground first.
When it comes to eating right, all you need to worry about are two things:
People worry about over eating. But when you’re eating foods that are nutritionally dense and full of fiber, you won’t.
The key here is knowing where to find unprocessed foods. The best rule of thumb is to shop at the ends of grocery stores. Think produce, meat, dairy.
And what about foods not in those sections, are they unprocessed?
Well, read the ingredients😃
If there’s a ton ingredients that sound like they come from a lab, or you can’t pronounce – put it down. A good example is something like peanut butter. Unless the only ingredient is peanuts, it’s processed. And look, keep it within reason, I love Cholula sauce for example. It’s got xanthan gum in it, but I’m not going to freak out. The point of the exercise is to look at your diet holistically instead of calorically, while still giving yourself wiggle room on certain things.
If I could eat hunt, kill, and, grow my own shit I would. But I’ve got a job. I’ve also got a life. And you probably do too. So it’s realistic to limit processed foods. Sometimes you don’t have the option of eliminating. Do your best to make choices that strive towards the latter to the best of your ability.
And the easiest way to knock out processed foods? Plants. Veggies and fruits. Eat them. A lot of them. They’re good for you. Always include them with a meal or snack.
No doctor, no nutritionist, and no health professional ever, in the history of humans will tell you that plants are bad for your health. It’s the one thing that everyone universally agrees upon when it comes to eating and being healthy.
You might be thinking that you’ll have to count macros to control intake. You can if you want, but focusing on the basics is a much bigger win. Focusing on eating unprocessed food and plants will make you much more successful in the long term than counting calories. It’s something you can always fall back on without an app or food journal. And it’s sustainable, which is more important than one off’s and eating healthy every once in a while.
Now once you learn to eat right, you have to actually do it.Yet another problem. A lot of people think that they don’t have the motivation or will power. Not true.
Willpower & Decision Making
But it’s tough to say that you don’t have the motivation or will power because when you get home after a long day of work your evening goes something like this: You’re exhausted. Cooking anything, all be it healthy, is the last thing on your mind. There’s a slice of pizza, or two, and boom – pizza for dinner!
Is eating pizza bad? No. Is eating pizza all the time bad? Yes. Cheese, bread and tomato sauce are not part of a healthy diet.
Everyone has been talking about willpower since like 2010. I won’t beat a dead horse here. But the bottom line is that we all have limited decision-making abilities, or will power, in a given day. And though most people know about it, they don’t know how to manage it.
But you shouldn’t manage your eating, you should systematize your eating. Systems help you think less and do more. It’s all about auto drive. Instead of thinking about what to eat that’s healthy, set up a system that allows you to select only healthy food.
Here’s how to set up your system:
- Pick 3 places that you can go grab lunch, or even dinner, around your office or at home. For dinner or lunch, this is if you haven’t done your grocery shopping. I’ll be coming out with some material on bringing your lunch, but most people I see don’t do that.
- Here are places near my office that I go to eat healthy:
- Just Salad
- Whole Foods
- Pick 2 “go to” dishes/plates at each place
- I normally just get greens and protein. Since some places are pay by the pound, load up on leafy greens & plop on the protein.
- At Chipotle, I sometimes leave out rice. I always ask for a little bit of beans & brown rice (if I feel like it), and load on the fajitas.
That’ll take care of variability in case you get bored. Sometimes it can be boring, but you’re saving the good stuff for the weekend. Like pizza.
It’s also a system I follow myself. Been eating healthy and not thinking about since 2010. What up.
Eat foods You Enjoy
There’s no point in eating healthy if you can’t live a little. And by living, I mean eating pizza. Maybe ice cream.
Because what’s the point of eating right when you can’t enjoy the little things in life. Like a slice of heaven right out of the oven. Maybe a couple of slices? Extra cheese? If it sounds like I’m obsessed with pizza, or I have a problem – it’s because I do.
You understand though right? I know there’s some type of “unhealthy” food that gets you every single freaking time. For me, it’s pizza. For you, it might be something else, like chips and salsa … which just so happens to get me too.
Thing is, people get REALLY obsessive when approaching healthy eating. Obsessively counting calories, staying away from certain foods, even the ones that they enjoy!
There’s no need to do that. You should eat the foods you enjoy. Just not all the time.
All you need to do is stick with the 80/20 rule.
- Eat 80% or more with unprocessed foods, fruits, & veggies.
- Eat 20% or less with foods you enjoy (i.e pizza, wings, chips & salsa)
- Don’t binge
Say that you eat 21 meals in a given week. If you follow the 80% rule, you’d eat about 17 meals w/ unprocessed, fruits, and veggies. Then you’d eat 4 meals with whatever you please. I’d suggest that you use those 4 for the weekend though!
Now you’re probably going to over do it sometimes, and that’s okay. Just don’t purposely go into a meal where the goal is to feel like you’re going to explode after.
Everyone gets sucked into bad health and diet advice. Like, you need “x” amount of protein. No carbs! Don’t eat any junk food or sugar. But no one pays attention until it matters.
Like summer and the holidays. All of a sudden it’s May and you got to go on a low carb shred diet for MDW. All the while being fucking miserable during the process. Then you gain the weight back quickly after that weekend.
Not cool, not healthy, and not sustainable. It’s all about the long term game when it comes to health and fitness goals.
When it comes to eating healthy, you shouldn’t be concerned about every calorie, if a certain food is good or bad, or feel guilty after eating an indulging meal. Enjoy the wings, beer, and pizza. Indulge during the holidays and weekends. Don’t feel guilty.
Instead, worry about learning the right foods to eat. Set systems up so it’s not a tedious or too much effort for you to eat healthier. And most importantly, include foods you enjoy.
What I’m telling you isn’t new either. Like I said before, people say “eat clean”. Which is true, but there’s a lot of other factors that go into it. A lot of people know to eat clean, but don’t know what that means or how to execute it successfully. They just chase tactics instead of setting up a strategy for success.
So while everyone is cramming like crazy to get lean muscle with quick schemes for the rest of the summer – you’ll be relaxing knowing you can look the way you want to look and eat the foods you enjoy too.
As for my buddy … this slice is for you.