12 Week Meal Plan
5 egg whites
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup brown rice
4oz sweet potato
When you read the above, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
I mean, aside from this:
|“Five spears of asparagus, how many times a day??”
The meal plan listed above is what many people envision when they think of a diet plan. Somehow, certain foods have become known by many as having magical fat-melting properties. Egg whites, protein powder, chicken, oats, sweet potato, brown rice, tilapia, cod, broccoli, and asparagus have developed a reputation as the only foods that will land you in Shredsville.
Spoiler: that is false.
Yes, those foods will work in the right quantities, but it’s not the only way, and it’s certainly not an enjoyable or sustainable way for a long – or, really, any – period of time.
Brace yourselves, my friends. I am about to lay down a cold, hard fact that will rattle the dieting world right down to it’s protein-powder-filled core:
There are no magical fat-loss properties in any single food item that some coaches are forcing down their clients’ throats.
Years ago, I thought the above diet was The Only Way, too. As a matter of fact, the menu listed above looks nearly identical to the diet I followed for 18 weeks (!!!) for my first Figure show, and it’s extremely likely that most physique competitors have followed something incredibly similar.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the foods listed above if you tolerate them well, and enjoy eating them – most of them are great, and nutritious! I’m also not arguing that eating those foods in the correct quantities for your body will get you leaner – they will.
However, you don’t have to eat those foods in order to lose fat. It’s not the only way, and, I’ll happily argue that there is a better way if you don’t genuinely enjoy those items.
You want to lose fat, but you hate cod and broccoli with a vengeance? No biggie. Eat something else.
Eggs make you gag? No problem-o. Eat something else.
I’ve had clients tell me that their past nutrition coaches have told them that there aren’t substitutions for chicken. Chicken. Or oatmeal. OATMEAL.
Riddle me this: What if you don’t have access to chicken or oatmeal? More importantly, what if you vehemently despise chicken or oatmeal? Or what if, like many people, oatmeal doesn’t digest well for you, making it miserable to eat?
You’re supposed to – what – eat it anyways?
No, no, no.
“But, Jen, I thought I had to have protein powder post-workout because of it’s bioavailability?”
If you like protein powder post-workout, then have it. However, if you don’t like it, or it upsets your stomach, or it doesn’t satisfy you, or for whatever other reason it doesn’t totally float your boat, then eat real food that contains protein post-workout. Problem solved.
I now interrupt this blog post with a short story:
A couple of years ago, I overheard a conversation between a trainer and his client at the gym, and the client was telling him that she hated protein shakes. She told him that the taste grossed her out, and she never found one that she liked.
His response: “Well, you’re just going to have to deal with it.”
If you hate protein shakes, you don’t drink them. For anybody. Ever. Also, fire that trainer immediately.
“But, asparagus is a natural diuretic.”
Groovy. You don’t need a natural diuretic at several meals each and every single day, for 18 weeks straight.
Or, at least, you shouldn’t.
I understand that some coaches still do water manipulations with their physique clients during the final week of dieting leading up to a show. This is a topic that is worthy of a post all on it’s own, but even if you choose to take diuretics and eliminate some extra water for a show, you sure as hell do not need to start at 18 weeks out by scarfing down asparagus by the truckload.
Some coaches are saying that it can not be kale, brussel sprouts, swiss chard, or any of the other beautiful, nutritious green vegetables that are available; it has to be asparagus.
I love asparagus, but if you force me to eat it several times per day for weeks on end, I will likely end up hating it, for eternity. I refuse to do that to myself, or any of my clients.
I Won’t Tell You Exactly What to Eat
For years now, I have been running a very successful nutrition coaching company, and I’m going to unapologetically toot my own horn: I am really, really good at what I do.
I am positively elated to have the opportunity to guide, coach, encourage, and cheer people to success in order for them to become healthier, happier, compete (powerlifting, weightlifting, physique competitions, and other sports), or change their body composition to boost their confidence.
There is just one stipulation when it comes to my services:
I don’t – and won’t – tell my clients exactly what to eat.
I do not give food plans laid out like the one at the beginning of this article, telling them precisely which food to eat, and when. As a matter of fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I despise those types of plans, because they are removing, and therefore disabling, the client from the decision making process, which is crucial for their long-term success.
Let me repeat that: specific diet plans that lay out exactly which foods a person needs to be eating, and when, is taking all of the power away from the client, leaving them totally dependent on the coach.
The entire purpose of coaching is to guide and teach. A good coach gives the client the tools to succeed, guides them to make the decisions that will set them up for sustainable success, and then sets them free.
It’s like that old saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
I’m all about teaching people how to fish. I help them figure out what works best for them, get them more in tune with how their body is reacting to certain things, we make the necessary changes, and it’s magical. There is no requirement to scarf down 17 pounds of chicken per week, or a pallet of broccoli, nor cartons of egg whites. Everybody is happy.
As much as I truly cherish every opportunity to work with each individual, I do not want my clients to need me forever. My goal is to set them up to thrive on their own.
“Can’t You Just Tell Me What to Eat?”
Nope, and lemme tell you all of the reasons why not.
First off, you are an adult, which means you should have an active role in the decision making process regarding which foods you put into your body.
When I was younger, I remember sitting at the dinner table for hours while I stared at those cold, soggy little brussel sprouts, unexcused to leave the table until I finished them. I vowed that when I was an adult, I’d never eat those miserable mini-cabbages again! (Untrue. I love them now.)
You endured many adolescent years being forced to eat whatever was prepared for you, now you get to call the shots.
Good Food, Bad Food
When we follow a strict and narrow list of specific food items, we start to develop unhealthy thought patterns in regards to those foods, even if it’s subconsciously. The foods that are allowed become the “good” or “clean” foods, and the foods that aren’t on the list are considered “bad” foods, which leads to unexplainable and irrational food phobias, like a fear of fruits, or white potatoes – both of which can have their place in a nutrition plan for fat loss.
I could rattle off an insane number of foods that are both healthy, and conducive with fat loss. You are not relegated to a list of ten foods in order to get to your goals!
When you are told what you have to eat, the first week will be fine. The second week will be tolerable. After that, however, it can start to seem like punishment.
It’s almost lunchtime and you are hungry… until you realize that it’s the same old tilapia and broccoli again, which is the same thing that you have eaten the last 14 days in a row for lunch. Wah-waaaaah.
You start to think mean thoughts about tilapia and broccoli. You realize that you may actually now hate tilapia and broccoli, which is a shame, because guess what’s for dinner??
|Day in, and day out, for weeks a time.
Some people can develop food sensitivities if the same food is eaten over and over and over again. I developed food sensitivities to eggs, chicken, and almonds due to over-exposure because I ate an obscene amount of them over a couple of years. Variety is important. We need nutrients from a wide variety of sources.
Of course, we all have our go-to meals and foods – I certainly do – but it’s one thing to eat them because we enjoy them. It’s another entirely to eat the same ten foods over and over again because somebody is forcing you to.
Not only is food variety important for optimal health, but it helps ward off food boredom. Nothing will kill your ability to be consistent with a nutrition plan quite like being bored to death with the food that you are being forced to eat.
Food Rules for a Nutrition Plan
I hesitate to use the word ‘rules’, because I’ll be honest – I’m not usually a fan, but in this case, it’s justified.
Availability, and Substitutions
This is pretty self-explanatory. What you are going to eat needs to be available. If your plan says you must have chicken, and you don’t have any chicken available, that is going to be a problem. Your plan should have plenty of substitutions, so that you don’t find yourself stuck at a seafood restaurant, in a panic because they don’t have chicken breast, and that is the only thing your coach said will work. (Which again, is completely false and totally ridiculous, but I think I’ve made that clear by now)
It Needs to Sound Good!
We don’t always get to eat exactly what we want. If we did, I’d subsist off of filet, carrot cake, and whisky, but we all know that won’t cut it. However, whatever you are eating still needs to sound pretty dang appealing.
It Needs to Taste Good!
No doubt that you’ve seen somebody that is dieting sit down to a dry piece of meat that vaguely resembles chicken, and a big soggy pile of some unidentifiable green vegetable, and the look on their face screams killmenow.
If I had to narrow it down to the one spot where people get tripped up the most when it comes to trying to make healthier food choices, it would be that their food doesn’t taste good. Eating the same crappy, boring, bland, unappealing food is setting you up for disaster. You’ll end up eating the food that you didn’t want to eat in the first place, and then you’re left unsatisifed. This, in turn, leaves you ravaging the cupboards for something that does sound good, or, you’re just pissed off. Neither situation is desirable.
Food is not merely sustenance, and anybody that tells you that it is is either lying, or an automaton, and either way, be leery.
Food is glorious! It’s fuel, but it’s also social. There is nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to truly enjoying it.
If you are able to choose your own foods based on what you have available, and what sounds good, the chances of you staying on track are infinitely higher than having somebody dictate to you exactly what to eat. Additionally, this gives them all of the control, and that’s not fair. It’s your body, which means you make the choices of what you eat.
Fat loss does not only come from chicken and broccoli, or cod and asparagus. There is a wide variety of beautiful, tasty, nutritious foods out there that are fantastic for health, performance, and fat loss.
Learning to make solid choices on your own, and tuning in to how they make your body feel, the better your chances are for long-term success!
If you are interested in my nutrition coaching services, you can contact me at JenComasKeck@gmail.com