I can remember when I first started getting into this health and wellness thing at the ripe old age of 18…
Ahhh… those were the days weren’t they?
At this point in my life I was always comparing myself to others. If I saw a dude with a lean muscular physique I wanted to know what he was eating, how he was training, and everything else under the kitchen sink.
I was doing what I like to call nutrition and training hoping. I would get advice from someone or read something somewhere and jump from one training program or way of eating to the next.
I never really stuck with any one thing long enough to see any significant progress.
But the truth is I could pretty much get away with eating anything and everything that I wanted and still stay in great shape. Hell, I remember being out all night drinking with my buddies, sleeping 2-3 hours, and hitting the gym with the smell of vodka coming through my pores.
I apologize for that image I just generated for you.
Lets flash forward a bit. I’m about to turn 33 (November 22nd if you must know (Feel free to mail any gifts or money to…. 😀 just kidding) and even the thought of trying to pull something off like that now makes me exhausted.
But I’ve come to find as I so gracefully age; how I eat, sleep, exercise, and maintain relationships has become increasingly more difficult but also more important.
My once wannabe philosophical brain soaked in cheap beer and liquor from a plastic bottle (don’t judge… you know what I’m talking about) to my once young athletic physique energized from 2 hours of sleep in someone’s front lawn and filled with cold pizza… or was it junior bacon cheeseburgers from Wendy’s?
Has now given way to bulletproof coffee and water flavored with lemon, a bedtime before 10PM (on most days), and meals consisting of grass-fed beef, mixed vegetables, and coconut oil.
Sorta sucks how it works like that doesn’t it? 🙂
I guess my point here is that in life you have to be willing to make changes. To be able to see that you might not be able to do what you once did and that the changes you may have to make are for the better.
One of the biggest changes I’ve made in my life was by way of nutrition and the foods that I eat.
I believe it was Hippocrates that said the following:
Let food by thy medicine and thy medicine be food.
I couldn’t agree more with that quote. My personal relationships with food has changed from…
See food – Eat food
and essentially entirely based on pleasure and consumption; to…
Food is the fuel that allows me to get out of bed and make the most out of my day.
Generic nutrition advice sucks
I was working out with my man Ami the other day and at the end of our training session he wanted to know exactly what I eat.
My answer was that I just eat as much real food as my body tells me it needs. I could see the look of disappointment on his face with that boring and generic response. He wanted to know what specifically I was eating.
I love receiving emails from the Limitless community and always encourage communication with me. When I got home that night I had an email from two people asking me what I ate on a daily basis.
Funny how the Universe works that way.
When it comes to nutrition advice you’ve probably heard some of these generic words repeated a lot.
- Just eat more protein
- Don’t eat after _______ time
- Eat less carbs
- Don’t eat processed foods
- Just eat less and exercise more
- Or my favorite, “eat whole foods.” WTF does that mean?
These responses often lead to more questions than they actually answer. Advice like this doesn’t take into consideration things like your goals, lifestyle, values, or vitamin and mineral needs.
So instead of answering their questions generically like I had for Ami I decided to write this post and get a little more specific.
J.E.R.F: Just Eat Real Food
Ok, you caught me as the headline to this section is totally generic but let me get a bit more detailed here.
What is real food? (Take a look here)
Well, it depends on who you ask. A vegetarian might consider real food one thing, a vegan another, and a Twinkie and coke lover even another.
But to me I consider anything with one ingredient or not created by man to be real food. Now I do realize that some of our foods can be a little tainted (covered in this post) so please take that info into consideration.
A few examples of what I mean by real food.
- Grass-fed beef (1-ingredient…beef)
- Wild Salmon
- Broccoli (1-ingredient… broccoli)
- Sweet Potato
Now this one gets a bit tricky because most of the extra healthy fats you can consume are typically manufactured and packaged with a label on them. It’s best to avoid oils with modifiers like “interesterified,” “hydrogenated,” “modified,” “partially hydrogenated on the label.
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado (1-ingredient…avocado)
- Loose leaf tea
You won’t see any labels on the items mentioned above that contain these common additives to our food (and if you do run)
- High fructose corn syrup
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Sodium benzoate
- Titanium dioxide
- Interesterified fat
- Red #3, Red #40, or some other color and number
Real food simply has one ingredient… what ever the heck that food is and that’s it.
Real food is:
- Whole, unprocessed and unrefined: If it comes in a box or a bag, don’t eat it.
- Pasture-raised, grass-fed, and wild: These foods are higher in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, lower in toxin producing omega-6 fatty acids, and more nutrient dense
- Local, seasonal and organic: 25% higher in 11 essential vitamins and minerals (1)
Why diets don’t work
Most “diets” automatically make you think about all of the food you’ll be having to cut out or all the ways in which you’ll have to restrict yourself.
Instead of focusing on what you don’t get to have, try to think of it in a way that emphasizes what you do get to have. You’ll be getting to eat so much real food that you won’t have enough room for the junk.
You can use this same theory of thought with other areas of you life as well. From your career to your personal relationships. Consider the things you’ll be gaining as you begin to make positive changes with them.
The word “diet” in and of itself has taken on an entirely new meaning. Instead of the customary food and drink of a culture, a person, or an animal. It is often used to describe a temporary plan of action when it comes to a nutritional approach.
- “I can’t right now, I’m on a diet.”
- “I’ve got go on my diet for beach season.”
- “I’ll just try this diet so that I can….”
What happens when you start eating more real food?
For one when you start to add more real food to your diet and crowd out the kibble you’re likely to notice a few changes.
1. Your appetite improves: One way in which appetite is often controlled is by the volume of food that you eat. This means that more food volume that passes through your digestive tract the more satisfied you will be.
The average American eats about 3-5 pounds of food per day in order to feel satisfied. So if you are constantly complaining about being hungry take a look at the quality of food that you’re taking in.
4 pounds of vegetables doesn’t just look different physically from 4 pounds of ice cream it looks different calorically as well.
Serving Size 64 oz (1813 g)
Per Serving % Daily Value*
Calories from Fat 40
Total Fat 4.032g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.016g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 262mg 20%
Carbohydrates 74.589g 20%
Dietary Fiber 36.287g 141%
Vitamin A 363% · Vitamin C 242%
Calcium 40% · Iron 101%
Ice Cream, Vanilla Bean
Serving Size 64 oz (1814 g)
Per Serving % Daily Value*
Calories from Fat 1789
Total Fat 199.073g 302%
Saturated Fat 123.476g 605%
Polyunsaturated Fat 7.56g
Monounsaturated Fat 52.918g
Cholesterol 806mg 277%
Sodium 1462mg 50%
Carbohydrates 428.385g 151%
Dietary Fiber 12.6g 50%
Vitamin A 151% · Vitamin C 25%
Calcium 227% · Iron 0%
It’s pretty easy to see the quality of calories that you’ll be getting dramatically shifts into the negative if you go for the four pounds of ice cream. Not to mention the 3,200 extra calories you’d be taking in.
One of the better books I’ve read on nutrition is Perfect Health Diet. If you are looking for a way to add more real food to your diet they have this terrific info graphic featured below.
2. Your blood sugar and insulin get managed: More glycemic index and glycemic load friendly foods are included and less sugars, processed carbohydrates, and artificial sweeteners are used.
If you experience any of the following:
- Intense sugar cravings
- Energy dips — especially after meals, or in the late afternoon
- Light-headed, dizzy, jittery or shaky
- Anxious or agitated
- Brain fog and difficulty concentrating
- Extreme hunger (i.e. feel like you’re going to die of you don’t eat)
You may benefit from a switch to more real food in your diet. For those with high blood sugar the naturally lower carbohydrate approach to a Paleo and real food eating style will benefit you. If you tend to have lower blood sugar more frequent feedings (every 2-3 hours) with extra protein and healthy fats might be what you need.
3. You get more nutrient density: When your body isn’t taking in the vitamins and minerals that it needs to run at peak performance it will crave energy and unfortunately the cheapest and quickest form of energy is high processes, sugar loaded, and high fat junk foods. They enter the system quickly and trick you body into thinking it is getting what it needs… for the meantime at least. A better approach long-term is including real food which will provided you with
Most of your nutrient dense foods will be found in vegetables and some of the best are:
Grass-fed or wild animal proteins like buffalo, fish, and cattle contain high doses of essential B-vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids and are also excellent choices that will help meet your protein needs.
Recommended reading: Everything you need to know about healthy fats.
4. Your body knows what to do with real food: Most of us have a hard time with gluten, certain dairy products, and man-made industrial seed oils. If you want to start eating more real food eliminate your consumption of food toxins.
The worst contributors are as follows:
- Cereal grains (especially refined flour)
- Omega-6 industrial seed oils (corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean, etc.)
- Sugar (especially high-fructose corn syrup)
- Processed soy (soy milk, soy protein, soy flour, etc.)
Recommended reading: Chris Kresser, Don’t eat toxins
Recommended reading: Limitless365, Paleo and why no grains, dairy, and legumes
5. You’ll save time: Yup, I’m serious. You won’t be wasting time having to read food labels. What you’ve got in front of you is what you get.
Some tips to start eating more real food today
There are no rules or specific diet that you need to follow. It really comes down to the lifestyle you want to live and what you’re comfortable with. The cool thing about nutrition and your diet is that you ALWAYS have a choice of what goes in your mouth. If a certain approach makes sense to you then go for it. If you’re getting the results you want, stay with it as there is no need to tweak. However, if you’re not seeing the results you desire, getting sick, feeling sluggish, or having other issues it may be time to change it up.
To me, the easiest way to change it up is by eating more real food.
1. Don’t get wrapped up in an overhaul: You don’t need to completely change over night. What is one small step you can take right now that leads to you eating more real food on a daily basis? Maybe it’s not drinking your calories and only taking in water. Or maybe it is including a vegetable source with each meal.
2. Focus on the right stuff: Thinking about how many carbs, how much protein, healthy fat, water, and calories can be exhausting (and drive you crazy with all that calculating). Think of eating by focusing on improving your hydration and nutrients. When you start thinking about including more vitamins and minerals in your diet you’ll naturally start to make more nutritious choices.
3. Don’t buy the bad stuff: Perform a kitchen makeover and get rid of the junk. After that head to the grocery store and buy the real food. If the crap is in your house eventually it will get eaten, it’s as simple as that.
4. Think about how you’re setting a good example: Do your kids need to be eating fast food, candy, and drinking soda? Set a good example and help them improve their eating habits. You will be the biggest influence in their life. Even if you don’t have kids think about the good example you’ll be setting for your friends and family members. Once they start seeing your results I guarantee they ask what you’ve been doing.
As promised here is an example day of eating for me.
- Bullet proof coffee (2 tablespoons grass-fed butter, 2 tablespoons MCT oil)
- 1-2 palms of grass-fed beef
- 1-2 fists of mixed vegetables
- 2-4 tablespoons of healthy oils (mostly coconut or olive oil)
Meals 2, 3, and 4 are pretty much the same thing. I may change my protein sources and use salmon, lamb, or buffalo but primarily stick with grass-fed beef (85% fat, 15% lean). I’ll use sodium free spices to create some variety in taste but outside of that this is pretty much it for me.
After hard workouts I usually include a fist sized serving of sweet potato or plantains (or another safe starch/carb found on the real food chart).
Absolutely, but it works for me. It makes food preparation easy and fast, I never am worrying about what I am going to eat, and recipes typically confuse the heck out of me and take to long. However, if I do have some time on the weekends I will take out a cookbook and prepare something a little special.
Favorite cookbooks at the moment:
Now this approach works for me. You may need more variety, recipes, meals, etc… Regardless, just remember to eat more real food. When you do that your energy needs will be met, you will feel full, you’ll get the nutrients that you need, you’ll be able to burn fat and build lean muscle, and you’ll be much happier overall (AWWWWWWWW :D)
Did any of this not make sense? Have any questions about how to incorporate more real food into your diet? Lets hear from you in the comments below.
21-day transformation challenge and live limitless toolkit
Build a body and life you’re proud of without the gym, kitchen, or overwhelming fitness bullshit taking it over.
As a bonus you’ll get access to my best 12 strategies for living a limitless life.