Discussing diet and health is becoming a lot like talking about politics and religion. People get super protective and preachy about which method; way of eating they prefer and the majority of the time try to persuade others to do the same – regardless of whether or not you want to hear it. Heck, I’ve done it before. I blogged about it before in Finding What Works. You change the way you eat and/or exercise, you’ve found what “works for you” and you want to tell everyone about it. That’s awesome; no problem, and yay for you! But remember what works for you doesn’t necessarily work for your best friend, mother, sister, or the stranger at the gym.

Talking to people about nutrition, fat loss, muscle gain, etc can be a very overwhelming subject. Because, let’s be honest – when it comes to people and their relationship with food, People. Be. Cray! It’s why I had to step away from creating personal fat loss/meal plans for a while. Answering questions like, “Can I eat asparagus instead of broccoli?” or “I’m still hungry, can I eat more almonds?” made me just want to say, “You’re an adult. Eat whatever you want if it makes you happy.” 
I see people posting on message boards all the time questions about whether a certain food is “compliant” or not based on that specific diet program’s protocol. How about asking yourself if it’s compliant with your body instead of some complete stranger. Plus, if you’re asking because you really want to eat it, and the answer is “no”, chances are if your heart is set on eating it, you’ll probably end up either hiding in the closet downing that “non compliant” food in one sitting or binge on it after the program is over.  Am I riiiight?
I’ve posted this list before but wanted to share it again in case some of you may have missed it. Before you start overwhelming yourself with whether or not you should jump on the bandwagon with that ripped lady at the gym who tells you to start drinking green juices daily and avoid all red meats, try seeing if you can set these habits in place first – and then tweak things from there. This is my own personal list of “Non-Negotiables” that I feel most people, regardless of their specific diet-dogma can agree on.
Photo Credit: caloriegate.com
1. Sleep.  Make no excuses, it’s one of the most important habits you can make for yourself in regards to feeling better, performing better, improved health, not to mention your results in the fat loss department. Adequate sleep falls within the range of 7-9 hours; preferably at least 8. “Sleep has the ability to “reset” metabolism impacting hunger hormones, stress hormones, and muscle building/fat burning hormones. Sleep is a prime determinant of whether you can maintain sustained fat loss. Adequate sleep quality and quantity allows the perfect situation for lasting weight loss: lower calories and hormonal balance” – Dr. Jade Teta.
2. Hydrate.  Drinking about half your body weight in ounces each day is a good rule to follow or simply aiming for 3 Liters of water a day. I don’t care if you don’t like water, if you don’t like having to go pee every hour, or if you just plain forget to drink it. This is a non-negotiable. DO IT ANYWAY. It really does help your body in so many ways. Here’s a simple calculator to determine how much water you may need: H2O Calculator.
3. Exercise.  Doing some sort of movement, activity daily or at least 4-5 times a week is ideal. That can be anything from walking, jogging, traditional weight lifting, yoga, pliates, CrossFit, kickboxing, running, cycling – or a combination of any of these. Basically, whatever you enjoy doing and that you’ll do consistently; DO IT. Physically moving your body, giving yourself a chance to breathe heavy, sweat, get your heart rate up, and use your body for what it was made to do: WORK. There’s no one magic exercise regime or routine. Stop analyzing what the “best” one is and just start by doing something.
4. Protein.  Eating a protein with every meal is important for a number of reasons. Again, let me stress that not one protein is superior to another – they all have their place in appropriate amounts in an overall balanced diet. Protein not only helps maintain your lean muscle mass but it also increases satiety, shuts down your hunger hormone ghrelin, and it doesn’t significantly increase your insulin as compared to other macronutrients – meaning; you’ll be fuller longer and have reduced cravings.
5. Fiber.  Fiber helps keep us fuller longer by slowing the secretion of certain hunger hormones after we eat, can lower cholesterol levels, control blood sugar, and helps maintain healthy bowel movement. Eating at least 30 grams a day is a great place to start. Preferably the majority of this would come from veggies, fruits along with whole, unrefined grains, and legumes. Obviously the more you fill up on fiber from veggies, the more vitamins and minerals you will also be getting and the less you will need from outside, fortified sources.
6. Processed Foods. This one’s easy. Buy less of them daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. Me telling you to stop buying them completely and going “cold turkey” would probably set you up for a bingefest later. But learning to ween yourself off sugar and packaged foods one item at a time is a fantastic place to start. Replace fresh foods (not out of a package or can) with one processed food item you typically eat, one meal a day and then increase from there each week and you’ll be making better choices before you know it!
That’s it. These are my “Non-Negotaibles” aka: “Big Rocks” that I suggest addressing BEFORE you start jumping to conclusions or overwhelm yourself with the small stuff . Once you have these habits in place and you still aren’t seeing the results you want; then I would encourage you to seek help or start implementing the next steps. Sure, there are a lot of other things I could have mentioned like, supplements and sugar intake BUT assuming that you are properly hydrating, getting adequate sleep, eating enough protein and fiber in your diet –the sugar should take care of itself.   Most of us turn to sugar because we are lacking in other areas of our diet and/or life. Master these basics. Once you’re ready to take it a step further, you can start tweaking things. And when you become frustrated with your progress; refer to this list again or reach out for help. I’m always an email away.
I also love this article written by Jade Teta from Metabolic Effect: The Gray of Fat Loss. Give it a read if you have time.