With summer right around the corner, its time to talk about achieving a body you love. A body you feel confident about when you are at the pool in a bikini or at the beach in your board shorts. Whether you are middle-aged and trying to stay ahead of gravity and a slowing metabolism, in your 20s and 30s but have always battled with that last 5-10 pounds, or in high school struggling under the tremendous pressure to look like the airbrushed models in magazines, I would like to share what I have learned about weight loss and health over the last 15 years. I don’t claim to be an expert, but after over a decade of studying and trying every diet and exercise program under the sun, I finally found what works for me. I am here to tell you that you CAN change your body no matter how long you have been unhappy with it, and you can get to a place where you effortlessly maintain a figure you feel confident about. You can eat the foods you love and throw away your fat pants for good. I understand not everyone has Giselle’s proportions or genes, but with a few subtle shifts, you can transform your body, stop the yo-yo, and finally feel good about the body God gave you.
Like many freshmen in college, I didn’t have tons of money or time to purchase and make healthy food. I was on a budget, on the go, and a $2 slice of pizza or box of Kraft Mac and Cheese became my daily bread. The beer and the cheese sticks dipped in ranch at 2 am after the nightly frat parties did not help my case either. I had grown up playing high-level soccer year round and was able to consume donuts, In-n-Out burgers, and chocolate shakes to my hearts content without an ounce of fat sticking to my active little bod. When I stopped playing soccer, continued eating crap, and added drinking to the equation, I quickly grew into a stay-puff version of my formerly lanky self. I remember the exact moment while studying abroad in Spain that I saw a picture of my super puffy face popping out the top of a turtleneck sweater. Yes, apparently I wore turtlenecks in college. In that excruciating moment, I knew I had to change my diet and get my ass moving again. I forced myself to adopt the local Mediterranean diet consisting mostly of veggies and fish or red meat. I stayed away from cheese and bread and walked 45 minutes to school and back every day. Within three months I dropped all the weight and felt great.
Over the following decade, in the pursuit of an acting career in LA, a protective layer of about 8 pounds creeped it’s way back onto my body. Despite the many spin classes, hundreds of miles I logged running down the San Vicente greenbelt, and lunches that consisted of only carb-free frozen yogurt, I found myself struggling with an “athletic build” that magnified even more so on camera. Not only was I a little heavier than I wanted to be, I was exhausted all the time. Desperate to crack the code on vitality, I took a yearlong course in Integrative Nutrition online. I was also voraciously reading self-help books on manifestation and other self-realization topics. I began meditating to relieve stress and quiet my over-active, analytical, and harshly self-critical mind. I was determined to find answers. It wasn’t until this year that I finally achieved a body I love and figured out the keys to effortlessly maintaining it.
Below you will find a Readers Digest version of what I have discovered on this roller coaster of a journey over the past 15 years. It turned out to be a long post, so I have broken up the information into 6 subtopics that I will post consecutively over the next 5 days. Smaller bites, easier to chew, so to speak. Again, I don’t claim to be an expert, I just want to share with you what works for me in hopes that something resonates.
As I write this I am drinking a Bulletproof coffee, complete with a tablespoon of ghee(clarified butter) and a tablespoon of coconut oil, then blended for a smooth texture and taste. I am no longer afraid of high-calorie healthy fats like coconut oil, crushed olive oil, fish oil, grass-fed butter, avocados, and raw nuts. Our brains, skin, and digestive systems absolutely thrive when fed high-quality, beneficial fats. After years of trying low-fat diets, vegetarian diets, the Atkins diet, and other fad diets, I have come to the conclusion that a calorie is not a calorie. I’ve discovered nutrition and toxicity matter most when choosing foods. I just started reading Grain Brain by Dr. Perlmutter, and it’s frightening to see the effects a low fat, carbohydrate heavy diet has had on our health. The Paleo diet makes a lot of sense to me, but I’ve been putting off educating myself because I am completely incapable of giving up pizza for good. Im sure it will change as I continue my education, but below are some general rules of thumb I follow. Some of these might be obvious, but I feel it’s important to reiterate and set a foundation for your food choices.
*Eat a diet that consists mostly of healthy fats, lots of veggies, and natural, organic lean protein. (Vegetarians/vegans can skip the meat, but at this point in my life, I find my body does better with a lil’ grass fed beef 1-2X a week)
*Avoid sugar as much as possible. Get your sugar from natural sources like organic apples and berries. Avoid high sugar fruits like bananas and mangos until you achieve your ideal weight. And even then, limit these sugar-packed fruits.
*Avoid packaged and processed foods as much as possible. If you can’t pronounce it or don’t know what an ingredient is on the label, it is most likely toxic and detrimental to your system.
*Avoid dairy as much as possible. I drink the cleanest almond milk I can find, and try to stick to imported grass-fed cheeses when possible.
*Avoid white or enriched flour at all times.
*Avoid all artificial sweeteners. I use Stevia if I must sweeten something.
*Don’t drink soda or diet soda. The artificial sweetener in diet soda will make you fatter than the sugar in regular soda. But both are extremely toxic to your system. If I am craving bubbles, I drink sparkling water or Kombucha. Eventually your body stops craving the soda.
*When wanting to lose weight, avoid white flour, grains, and starches like rice, cereal, potatoes, pasta, and bread as much as possible. Eventually, you will be able to add some of these back in depending on your gluten sensitivity. Mana bread and Paleo bread found in the frozen section at Whole Foods or your local health food store are good options to substitute when craving bread.
*Drink an antioxidant packed protein shake in the morning for a powerful, healthy way to start your day. Below is a sample of what I make myself for breakfast most mornings:
- One cup of almond milk or 100% naked coconut water
- A cup of frozen berries, preferably organic wild blueberries and raspberries
- A few leaves of kale or handful of spinach
- A Tbsp of coconut oil
- Two tsp of Flax meal
- A tsp of bee pollen
- A tsp of Spirulina
- A scoop of non-toxic protein powder. Not all protein powders are created equal. Look for ones from plant or whey sources made with the most natural ingredients.
- Half a packet of Stevia
- A tsp of Maca or Cacao
- A handful of ice.
- Optional additives: almond butter, avocado, frozen and no-sugar added Acai, etc…
- Play with amounts to achieve your desired texture. I don’t measure, I just eyeball.
*Eat organic, whole foods as much as possible. Watch this quick lil video to learn why!
*Only eat organic, free-range, hormone and antibiotic-free poultry and eggs. Only eat grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic-free beef. If you don’t understand the importance, watch the Food, Inc. documentary immediately.
*Avoid sugary juices. Stick to fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit if you must have juice. But when wanting to lose weight, skip the juice.
*Avoid salad dressings and sauces that you buy off the shelf or are offered at restaurants. Including “fat-free” dressings. These contain many preservatives and toxic chemicals that screw up your hormones and cause you to store fat. (See section on toxicity). Better to use olive oil and vinegar. Or better yet, fresh lemons and olive oil. A restaurant’s only goal is to get you to come back by offering delicious food. They aren’t worried about your health, so always cut the sauces and dressings in half, or order on the side.
*Drink fresh pressed green juices as often as possible.
*Stay hydrated. A lot of times when you feel hungry, you are actually dehydrated. At first sign of hunger, drink a glass of filtered water.
*Follow a 90/10 rule. If you eat clean, nutrient packed food most of the time, allow yourself to eat exactly what you want 10% of the time. (See the intention section)