A while back, I wrote a piece that discussed how to stick with your nutrition while you’re on the road. You can check it out here. Whether you’re traveling or just going out to a restaurant for a quick bite, I provided some tips and tricks to adhere to help preventing you from falling off track.
It’s just over a year later now and my perspective on nutrition has changed a bit.
That’s not to say that the first article is incorrect; for those who are working toward a fitness goal, the aforementioned advice will help tremendously with increasing dietary adherence.
But I was missing a big piece of the puzzle.
I overlooked the #mindset part of this whole fitness thing.
And at the end of the day, if you don’t have the right mindset, your chances of long-term success are compromised, aren’t they?
Yes, it’s true: you always have a choice. It’s also true that portion control is your friend.
If you don’t go into this whole thing with the right frame of mind and the right attitude, though, what’s the point?
Listen. Fitness is not about following a strict set of rules and having a panic attack anytime you deviate ever so slightly. It’s not about putting the rest of your life on hold while you spend six hours figuring out how you’re going to navigate your way through your vacation while staying on plan.
Can we all just agree to stop trying to control every little crumb that passes our lips and just freakin' relax for a bit?
Of course. We can relax. And by relax I mean completely lower our inhibitions and stuff our faces with everything we see, right?
Relaxing when it comes to your food doesn’t mean that you throw caution to the wind and eat until you’re stuffed to the gills. After all, squirming in extreme discomfort from the colossal amount of food you just ingested is far, far from relaxing.
Rather, stop worrying about macros for once. Seriously, if you’re going out to eat with a girlfriend, how about shifting the focus away from the size of that chicken breast and simply enjoying your evening?
Who cares how much oil is in that salad, and is it really that critical to know if there was any butter cooked with that fish?
One meal of mindful, not-counting eating is not going to destroy you.
In fact, one week of that isn’t going to hurt you either.
(To be clear, neither is not counting macros ever.)
I used to be proud of myself when I’d pack an entire bag full of pre-packed food whenever I’d go to on vacation. Cans upon cans of tuna, ziplock bags brimming with almonds, protein powder perfectly portioned out, and sleeves of rice cakes.
I was prepared for success, I would tell myself. I was the Control Queen.
But what I didn’t realize then that I was missing the whole point of a vacation.
Stop. planning. everything. and just let things unravel how they will.
Harboring a fitness mindset 365 days out of the year doesn’t mean that you’re always armed with emergency macros. That’s all fine and well, but that detracts from what’s really important.
In the same way that I don’t believe in prescribing meal plans, I’m also a proponent of experimenting with different nutrition protocols to find the guidelines that work best for you.
What science deems optimal is important, sure, but it’s irrelevant if you can’t apply that consistently to your own life.
After all, just because I do well with consuming four meals a day doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the same for everyone else.
It’s worth taking the time to develop a set of
(not rules, since that implies black-and-white adherence) when it comes to your eating. These guidelines should apply to any and all circumstance and should be independent of what situation you’re in.
In other words, whether it be a birthday party, a night out on the town, or a week-long getaway with your lover, these Golden Guidelines should remain intact.
Listen to your body. Pay attention to your cravings. Take note of what foods make you feel your best and in what quantities.
Trust that, even without knowing exactly when, where, and how you're going to get your next meal, you're going to be okay.
Because you know what’s more important than reporting a 100% dietary adherence? Living. Enjoying your every day. Trying that fried peach cheesecake at that one restaurant by the river during Restaurant Week.
As for me? I love just about anything fried. Fried calamari, in fact, is my favorite appetizer, followed closely by buffalo wings. You can bet that when I go out to a restaurant that offers either one of those items on the menu, I’m game.
I’ve outlined my personal set of Golden Guidelines that I’ve developed over the years. You can feel free to copy, borrow, and steal any or all of them if you feel that they cater to your personal preferences as well.
- Slow food over fast food.
- Opt for a protein-heavy meal – most of the time.
- Wine is fine – but don’t chug the whole bottle.
- Only turn down dessert if you truly don’t want it. Otherwise, savor a few bites and be done.
- Eat just until you’re satisfied, not until you’re stuffed.
- Stop eating as soon as the food is no longer delicious.
- More is not better; “just enough” is best.
- Don’t worry about macros or calories.
- Focus on the company around you, not on the food.
As you may have noticed, #mindfulness is the common unifying theme amidst all of the above guidelines. Note that mindfulness is distinct from self-control, the latter of which implies self-restraint (which is exhausting) and white-knuckling (which is no fun).
I’ve found that it’s difficult to veer too far off track when I adhere to my Golden Guidelines. Very rarely do I go overboard on calories and, even though I may find myself under on protein and over on fats, it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day – because damn it, I had fun!
I hope that you can take a step back from the minutiae of protein, carbs, and fats every now and then and remember that food is meant to be enjoyed; life, even more so.
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