Introduction – On the General Importance of Adopting a Lifestyle of Good Eating
Greetings, American Partisans! Sorry once again for the lag in posts. I’d love to write more often, but June was very busy. But I’m back with more good information and tips on how to get lean n’ mean! For this second installment in the How to Get Lean n’ Mean series, we’re going to get into quite a bit more important theory to support Partisan efforts at getting their eating together and leaning out. After having read Parts I and II of this How to Get Lean n’ Mean series, the Partisan reader will be mentally prepared to grasp and utilize the specific details of optimizing his metabolism, as well as be able to make better food choices for best health and fitness results; posts on specific methods will follow. Once you understand and then harness the power of good eating, it’s quite amazing how many benefits you gain in the physical fitness, health, and tactical readiness realms!
For the most part, I will assume that Partisans who are still following along with my series so far have understood and embraced the need for being lean and for getting their eating habits together to achieve maximum health, fitness, and tactical readiness. That’s a great starting point! So, what’s next? The next thing that has to happen for Partisans going through this physical fitness evolution is to understand the difference between going on a “diet” to lose weight, and adopting a “lifestyle” of healthy eating habits in order to get fit and lean FOR LIFE; understanding the difference between a “diet” and a “lifestyle” of good eating habits will greatly help the American Partisan save time, money, and effort in improving their state of health and fitness. Now, not all habits define a lifestyle, but the way we eat is just such a fixed and vital part of each day of our lives, that it goes well beyond mere habit. For example, a person may have a habit of looking frequently at their watch. But this habit doesn’t necessitate orienting a whole day’s schedule around it; it takes around 1/2 a second, and you just do it and then continue on with your business. The American Heritage Dictionary Online defines a habit as “a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition.” Note the “often unconscious” aspect of a habit – many habits don’t take much (or any) consideration; you just do them, oftentimes mindlessly.
On the other hand, a habit can also be very deliberate, making it a rather different creature than a mindless, almost reflexive type of habit (like looking at your watch). For example, you may have a deliberate habit of kissing your spouse whenever you leave the house. Going even further with the notion of a deliberate habit, a “lifestyle” is another type of a deliberate habit or set of habits. The American Heritage Dictionary Online” defines lifestyle as “a way of life or living of a person or group”. Even though the dictionary doesn’t specify it, one of the implicit features of a lifestyle is that it is a type of habit (or group of habits) that is observed consciously and purposefully (i.e., deliberately). For example, a practice of going to church every Sunday is indeed a habit, but unlike the mindless habit of looking at one’s watch often or even deliberately kissing one’s spouse on the way out the door, the habit of going to church takes a good deal of planning and some accommodation or even sacrifice in order to be realized. Going to church every Sunday requires you not just to clear pretty much your entire Sunday morning for the church service, but also requires that you take into account the time it takes to assemble your family and get them ready to go (which means waking up early enough to squeeze breakfast in and get everyone appropriately freshened and dressed up); the time it takes to commute to church (church may be a significant distance away, and is also a round-trip); and the time spent in the actual church service and post-service fellowship. And after church, it often takes some transition time to get on with the rest of your day. Because of all these requirements needed to make good on a Sunday church habit (and there are probably yet more considerations that I didn’t cover), we can justly say that going to church on Sundays is a proper lifestyle. You could be doing lots of different things on a Sunday morning, especially if it’s a day off, but you nevertheless take the time and make the sacrifice to have a family visit to church in your life each Sunday. Many find the sacrifice and lifestyle to be too burdensome and don’t even bother, but you do; attending to your (and your family’s) relationship with the Almighty is a major priority, and so you make it happen! Any sacrifice and inconvenience in this noble way of life is of little relevance to the faithful.
The main takeaway here is that the American Partisan’s approach to GOOD eating needs to resemble the religious Christian’s lifestyle-based (e.g., “way of life”) approach to going to church; “good eating” is a non-negotiable priority that requires time, attention, consideration, work, and at least some level of discipline on an ongoing basis… as a way of life. But, just like the vast spiritual rewards offered for your efforts by the church-attending lifestyle, so too are the rewards of the “good eating” lifestyle worth sacrificing for – BIGTIME!
And now, exactly what is the “Good Eating” Lifestyle? For the purposes of this post, let’s specifically define the “Good Eating” Lifestyle as a sustainable habit of carefully selecting high-quality foods for consumption, as well as a sustainable commitment to eating less and to strictly observing chosen mealtimes each day, as a way of life. That’s pretty much the “Good Eating” Lifestyle (“GEL”), in a nutshell. The next few posts after this one in my How to Get Lean n’ Mean series will get into the more practical, actionable details about what foods are recommended, as well as more details on the best timing of meals, since each of these aspects of “good eating” merits its own consideration. But for now, on the theoretical level, the American Partisan must grasp and accept the simple fundamentals (heheh, there’s that word again!) of the “Good Eating” Lifestyle, as presented just now, and as will be detailed more below. Like I am always saying, concepts and directives in fitness (including “good eating”) should be simple to understand and follow, or they’re worthless; paring down the practice (lifestyle) of “good eating” to those simple fundamentals cuts to the chase on the general requirements of realizing a “Good Eating” Lifestyle.
Having defined “lifestyle” and “good eating” in a basic sense for the purposes of our post here, let’s first look at the often misguided process of “dieting”, and how it’s different from a well-considered “good eating lifestyle”.
“Dieting” – A Deprivation Process Doomed from the Start
For the vast majority of people seeking to lose weight, the first thought that comes to mind is “time to go on a diet!”. So, what exactly is a “diet”? Back to the dictionary: the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online has several definitions for diet, including some that look rather like the definition I provided above for the word lifestyle: “food and drink regularly provided or consumed”, as well as “habitual nourishment”; for example, “fish makes up a significant portion of the Japanese diet.” But more often than not, when most Americans hear the word diet, the first thought that most likely comes to mind is Webster’s third definition of diet: “a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight”; this is the definition we’ll stick with for the purposes of this post.
When I was a young boy back in the 80’s (ah, those were the good old days…), I used to read Garfield comics in the mornings while eating my breakfast cereal; Garfield was about the day-to-day life of a fat, lazy, good-for-nothing cat. Garfield’s owner was constantly putting him on futile diets, which made Garfield the cat very unhappy and anxious, and which would always end in failure. On one occasion of the imposed diet, Garfield exclaims, “Do you know what a diet is? It’s ‘die’ with a ‘-t’ at the end of it!”. Even over 35 years later, I still remember that particular line for being both funny and 100% true, probably because I reluctantly attempted numerous diet phases myself as a boy. Being a chubby kid for pretty much my entire boyhood/youth, my dad used to sound the alarm (at least someone did, eh?) and demand that I eat less and get my weight under control. So I’d go through a (very) few uncomfortable token days of consuming less of my potato chips, Slim Jim’s, cookies, ice cream, candy, and soda, and I would lose a couple of pounds until my dad was off my case. And each time, upon ditching the calorie reduction efforts (that is, the simple diet), I’d just get right back to where I started, only to have the ball-busting by my dad repeat once again.
Does that futile scenario appear familiar to anyone? And my own diet approach back then was just a simple, commonsense “diet” based on portion size reduction, making sure the number on the scale went down, and nothing else. These days though (and this has been the case for decades, by now), a person can’t do any grocery shopping without seeing all sorts of magazines and publications highlighting some type of “latest n’ greatest” complex diet program (especially the women’s magazines). Dieting is clearly big business, which is a reality that goes hand-in-hand with the absolutely dreadful state of health and fitness for most Americans. So-called “fad diets” – the popular, flavor-of-the-moment diets that come out of the woodwork like cockroaches – are a fixed part of our modern American “culture”, and the sad thing is that there are just too many suckers out there who, in their desperation with fighting the “battle of the bulge”, spend the money and attempt the fad diet. There are just soooo many fad “diets” out there that it can make your head spin; for example, “The Beachbody Diet” is a very popular one – just pay the fee (of course), get your videos and materials, and you’re already 3/4 of the way to a “Beachbody” (whatever that is…)! Many fad diets even claim to allow for eating whatever you’d like, making the diet a painless matter! One feature common to pretty much all such fad diets is the promise of spectacular results. For example, “lose 10 lbs. in 7 days!” Certainly, “fitness” magazines of all sorts are a chock full o’ diet program advertisements filling their pages. And we won’t even get into “diet pills”, which make even more (absurdly) spectacular claims: “forget dieting or exercising!”. Really?
Putting aside for a moment the ridiculousness of the claims these diets and diet pills make, the main question that should come to mind is “what happens after I get off the diet?”. I mean, you can’t seriously expect to be on a restrictive diet forever. Most diets will necessarily include some type of caloric restriction or limits on intake by their nature, and often below the number of calories needed to maintain a particular body weight – and that means you’ll probably be hungry, often. Caloric restriction is very, very basic; if you eat less, you’ll lose weight. TA-DA!! No sexy diet name, complex methods, special foods, or marketing needed – just eat less! And if the dieter can actually lose the weight successfully by eating less and whatever else, then the way forward to keep the weight off becomes the next issue to deal with, and this… is where people invariably fail. Thus, the main problem with any effective diet is one of sustainability. Sooner or later, caloric restriction and/or eating from a reduced selection of foods (and in some cases, even eating foods you hate in order to make good on the diet program’s requirements) is going to wear on the dieter, and it’s really just a matter of time before he drifts back into the same old state he was in before the diet. In fact, in my 22 years of personal training, I’ve seen all too many cases of people who ended up even FATTER than when they started their fat loss efforts, in something of a “blowback” fashion; they just couldn’t take the restrictions anymore, and ended up not just erasing their progress, but rebelling and gaining even more weight! Now, how bad is that? Not only is being overweight bad in and of itself, but the so-called “yo-yo effect” of losing weight, only to gain it back, and then try losing it again, only to gain it back again… is really bad news for your self-esteem (feeling like a failure is no small affair) and especially for your metabolism (= “how the body handles food”), while at the same time, being very good news for the fad diet industry, wouldn’t you say? They are profiting handsomely off of manipulating weaknesses in human nature, weaknesses which they’ve certainly identified and studied extensively for exploitation. It’s despicable.
And let’s even forget about fad diets for a second, as much as I loathe them. Even the super-simple, time-tested approach to losing weight by merely reducing consumption and doing nothing else, as I used to do, is typically bound to fail sooner or later. Why? Because the discomfort of food deprivation, of being hungry more or less all the time, simply guarantees the eventual quitting of the diet. This is the underlying cause of pretty much all failed diets, and of the ridiculous “yo-yo effect”. While I confess that I am a proud discipline fanatic and I feel discipline is an indispensable virtue for fitness (and much more), I actually don’t blame failure in dieting on a lack of discipline. You see, hunger and eating are just so primal in ANY animal, that to have to deny one’s self food in an ongoing way is destined to failure; we just need and like to eat too darn much, to say nothing of the fact that so much socialization (another primal human need) involves food consumption. What is one supposed to do? Be on some form of calorie restriction for months on end, or forever? Good luck! Even a discipline fanatic like me would eventually give in. And that’s why we see so many people fail diets, and why there is this grotesque proliferation of fad diets – because people just can’t say no to food (especially the foods they love), and this is the guarantee that the diet industry can depend on to roll out their next big lie in sexy packaging. You’d almost think… that the food industry (“Big Food”, which provides the fattening poison junk) and the diet industry (which churns out fake, yet highly profitable methods of losing weight) conspire with each other, along with some generous help from the pharmaceuticals industry (“Big Pharma”) to then provide the “magic” pill or barbaric surgical procedure that will let you carry on with that unhealthy cycle and self-delusion. Hmm… could it be? Something to think about.
Within the broader discussion of diets, though, it is important to note that dieting does have its place! However, the role of a proper diet is a very narrowly defined, purpose-driven matter. As far as my personal perspective on proper dieting (take it as you will!), a diet is merely a tool for losing weight for some limited, specific, and defined need – usually for maximizing one’s physical appearance for a specific occasion, or for maximizing fat loss in a “quick burst” fashion. For example, I’ve dieted at various times in the past in order to take a beach vacation and look my very best (without the silly-ass “Beachbody Diet”, mind you) for at least the first day or two of the beach vacation (back when I still cared), so that I could take some pictures of my peak form for posterity; once this was done, I would then rebel with extreme prejudice against the diet, and would start pigging the hell out, at which point I could finally start enjoying my vacation LOL. Or, a competitive wrestler or bodybuilder will often have to diet in order to make a weight class or be stage-ready. In the same vein, an actor may have to diet in order to play a particular role in a play or a movie. As a final example, the APO that is super-fired up about positive lifestyle change and losing weight after reading these posts may deliberately choose to go through a calorie-depriving diet in “quick burst” style for a limited period of time in order to get the fat loss ball rolling more quickly and lose an impressive 20 lbs. in the first month of a lifestyle change effort. The common element in these “spot diets” is that the diet period ends after some specific event occurs or specific goal is met, and the dieter goes back to their general eating lifestyle (which is hopefully a good one). This type of proper of dieting as a useful fat loss tool is not an open-ended misery process by any means; again, take note of the limited, finite duration and intent of the diet; it’s a means to an end, and once the end (usually, appearance-related) is achieved, the diet is over.
So to conclude, the main point about dieting is this: diets are just not the way forward for the serious American Partisan Operator (“APO”) seeking to get his health, fitness, and leanness in order, and this is because restrictive/reductive diets are not sustainable. Sooner or later, we all crumble to the desire to eat what we love in quantity, especially when we are restricted. It is vital that the APO understand and embrace that by leaving diets behind (except as noted above), so that they don’t waste precious time and energy on an effort that is guaranteed to fail over time. There’s no sense investing in a losing strategy when there is a better way. So what is the better way forward? The “Good Eating” Lifestyle, that’s what! It’s time to take a closer look.
The Fundamentals of the “Good Eating” Lifestyle, in Detail
Good Eating Lifestyle, Fundamental #1: PROPER FOOD SELECTION – Nutrient-Dense and Low-Processed Foods
The first requirement of the “Good Eating” Lifestyle is pretty straightforward and should be obvious: “good eating” clearly depends on eating mostly high-quality foods that are “nutrient dense”. That is to say, calorie for calorie, the food you’re eating is composed of mostly (if not entirely) REAL nutrients – vitamins, minerals, good fats, plant-specific nutrients, and/or protein, and in as close to the raw from in which God made them as possible. Like I mentioned in my previous post, a calorie is just a unit of measurement that doesn’t reveal what comes with it. What COMPOSES the calorie… is the main concern here; you can probably intuitively grasp that a calorie of frying oil (say, canola oil) is not the same thing whatsoever in nutrition profile as a calorie that comes from a piece of raw spinach, right? The highly-processed frying oil calories (very high calorie count per unit of oil weight; 1 tsp/5 ml of canola oil has ~40 calories) have next to no real nutrition, and are composed entirely of heated, damaged vegetable fats, which are quite awful for human consumption, tasty as they may be. On the other hand, the raw spinach calories (very low calorie count per unit of spinach weight; 7 calories per cup/1.1 oz.!) come packed to the brim with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and plant nutrients that are VERY beneficial to human health.
As a further example using the same foods, there are 75 calories contained in one POUND of spinach, while there are 243 calories in one OUNCE of canola oil. Obviously, most normal people are probably not going to eat that much spinach or canola oil in one sitting, but you should readily get the picture – not all calories are created equal. The APO does have choices though (this is an important idea), and so the smart money in this example will be on conscientiously choosing low-calorie, super-healthy spinach to satisfy your hunger and gain the great nutrition contained in it, while ditching the the canola oil altogether in order to avoid the toxicity built into this caloric, highly-processed, low-nutrition slop. In other words, you can eat quite a bit of super-healthy spinach healthy to satisfy hunger, and still not be consuming a lot of calories; conversely, you can eat very little canola oil, and still be consuming a lot of calories, with their attached toxicity to boot. The choice is yours, and so the GEL-oriented APO should make himself fully aware of what’s inside his consumed calories so that he can make better food selections. Of course, that just might require some research, or at the very least, require reading the nutrition labels that are very frequently found on food packaging or by consulting the internet for easily obtainable calorie counts and nutritional profiles of common foods (Calorie King is a good starting point); taking the time to become familiar with the nutrition content of the food you consume is non-negotiable and absolutely essential to the GEL. After all, you’re putting this stuff inside the SACRED space of your body; aren’t your life and health worth the time of some research? Eventually, you’ll become familiar enough with what’s what, and you will be able to settle on a GEL formula that works for you so that you won’t need to research as much, but in the beginning, it pays to invest the time in knowing the composition of what you’re putting inside yourself. We will get into some general guidelines and helpful suggestions for good food selection in future posts on this subject.
Another very important consideration when it comes to proper food selection for the GEL is to stick with foods that are either raw/unprocessed, or as low-processed as possible. Any food worth eating should be as close to its original, raw, and natural state as possible. The reason is simple: processing destroys nutrition even under the best of circumstances, as I alluded to in my previous post. Some preparation/processing is often necessary for most raw foods in order to increase their palatability, but you should buy raw foods and prepare them yourself (this is the best way, where possible and practical, in order to be in full control of the processing) as minimally as is feasible, or you should buy foods that have had as little adjustment made to them as you can find (not an easy thing, and pricey too – quality costs money!). This low- to no-processing consideration pretty much rules out the majority of boxed, packaged, bottled, canned, or wrapped foods, as well as fried and completely artificial- or man-made “foods”. Boxed / packaged / wrapped (etc.) “foods” necessarily require a good amount of processing to increase their shelf life (meaning they may very well have some toxic preservatives in them), which makes them “edible garbage” packed with “zombie calories”, and renders them unsuitable for the GEL. That’s not to say that processed foods don’t have their place; the APO needs to be smart and flexible when necessary. For example, when I took the Brushbeater Scout Course, I had no choice but to eat highly processed, freeze-dried foods, but whatever – it was a limited-duration deviation from my GEL for a specific and very worthy need, and so the freeze-dried food was perfect. The same might apply to, say, a camping trip or an emergency situation. But for the day-to-day LIFESTYLE under normal conditions, the APO should ditch the processed foods as much as possible, and make his own high-quality food or buy it, where available and worth the price.
Finally, and no less relevant, DRINK ONLY WATER! Water (either distilled or spring water, preferably), made by God, is the ONLY thing your body truly needs to hydrate itself. Leave behind all the so-called “vitamin water”-type products, electrolyte drinks (like Gatorade), juices, and whatever else; these beverages (defined by Merriam-Webster as “a drinkable liquid”, i.e., not water) are often either highly-processed and/or high in calories, and offer very little nutrition in compensation for the calorie load, processing, and cost. There are far better (and cheaper) ways to obtain vitamins and electrolytes than by drinking the said beverages; just stick with plain old, un-glamorous water for slaking your thirst and powering your body. Your wallet, waistline, and health will thank you for it! And I won’t even get into drinking soda – this is the ultimate “edible garbage” consumable, and should be avoided entirely for “Good Eating” Lifestyle purposes.
Remember, healthy, low-processed, natural foods lead to satiety much faster and in a natural way with far fewer calories vs. processed, caloric, man-made foods, which often promote overeating. The end result of informing yourself about food quality and then selecting high-quality foods for regular consumption is that your body will get satisfied faster with less food that is of much higher quality, and you will also become leaner this way, in addition to increasing your health. It’s a win-win!
Good Eating Lifestyle, Fundamental #2: EATING LESS IN GENERAL – Skipping Breakfast (Yes, really), Strict Observance of Mealtimes, and No Snacking
In addition to eating high-quality foods, another vital part of the “Good Eating” Lifestyle is to eat less by reducing the number of times a day that you consume food or have a meal; eating less is supported in great part by eating better food, but there’s more to it than that. When most people hear the word “mealtime”, they probably think of breakfast, lunch, and dinner – the old “three squares a day” (please note: for the purposes of this post, “mealtime” is generically referring to a meal of the day, like breakfast/lunch/dinner, and not a specific time of the day). Nothing too horrible about the “three squares” concept, but the truth is, there ain’t nothin’ too good about them either! The “three squares” are arbitrary mealtimes that are more culturally- and commercially-based than they are functional. The body just does NOT need three meals a day, and certainly doesn’t even come close to needing the amount of calories most people regularly consume; one look around will confirm this reality. To illustrate this point: who HASN’T heard the saying, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”? But is it really the “most important meal of the day”? Further investigation will show that this super-popular saying about breakfast’s importance is actually a marketing slogan invented in 1917 by a dietician who was an employee of Dr. John Kellogg. Does that name sound familiar? Oh yeah… the breakfast cereals (a multi-billion dollar industry, i.e., “Big Food”), which Kellogg helped popularize! And the fact that we still hear and blindly repeat this slogan over 100 years later is a true testament to its catchiness and marketing success.
But is breakfast truly the most important meal of the day? You’re not going to get a straight answer in most corners, since so many entities supporting that notion are on the take. For example, even WebMD (effectively owned by “Big Pharma”, of course), along with a slew of other “respectable” institutions, supports the notion of breakfast being the most important meal of the day. From the WebMD website: “Breakfast kick-starts your metabolism, helping you burn calories throughout the day. It also gives you the energy you need to get things done and helps you focus at work or at school. Those are just a few reasons why it’s the most important meal of the day.” Now surely, the medical gods in the crisp white lab coats and stethoscopes draped around their necks couldn’t possibly be wrong, and would never lead us astray, right? So let me get this straight… eating caloric, low-nutrition, highly-processed slop like cereal, fried eggs, and hash browns (and believe me, I love these foods just as much as anyone!) is somehow going to help you burn calories? Huh?? That sounds like a steaming crock to me, even if I’m not a godlike doctor. Well, here’s a better idea to kick start your metabolism and burn calories that should make ready sense to anyone with a brain: work out first thing in the morning (that will REALLY ramp up your metabolism while burning calories too), eat NOTHING until you’re actually very hungry later in the day, and watch what happens! I think you’ll be pleased, even if you take no other steps towards increasing your health.
I could go on and on from a metabolic perspective about the pitfalls of eating breakfast at all (and this will be discussed at a further point, since this is important), but the main point to consider for our current purposes is that the APO should ditch culturally/commercially-imposed mealtimes (where possible – some situations or occasions may make this difficult, particularly when family is on the “three squares” pattern), and choose his own eating times. As an example of this, I’ll share that I rarely ever ate breakfast in my adult (18+) life. Now, I really do love having myself a big ol’ steak and eggs with hash browns (or even a bacon double cheeseburger with 4 scrambled eggs, toast, and hash browns at my favorite restaurant, Waffle House!), but I almost never indulged in breakfast even before I got into fitness; I was just never hungry in the mornings, and often didn’t have time to fit breakfast into my schedule. So I would just skip breakfast, “important” as it supposedly is. Nevertheless, I felt just fine with no food in my stomach all the way until around the early afternoon, at which point I’d eat some type of meal (call it lunch, I guess), let it digest, and then eat a big dinner much later in the day. I was totally habituated to this pattern, so I was almost always doing just “two squares” a day, and I felt perfectly fine and sufficiently energetic without “the most important meal of the day” and its “benefits”.
That all being said, the first thing the APO should do when seeking to get into a “good eating” lifestyle is to skip breakfast altogether. There are a few compelling reasons for this seemingly radical – even heretical – suggestion. First of all, breakfast is just TERRIBLE for your metabolism! Why? Because sometime between the last bite of your previous night’s final meal and the time you wake up in the morning, your stomach empties out of food, and your body necessarily switches into a fat-burning state. After all, there’s no more solid food to burn, and the body constantly needs energy for fuel from somewhere, so it is forced to switch to burning stored body fat for energy. That’s a great thing, I think you’ll all agree. So, like… why stop the fat burning process dead in its tracks by eating (in most cases, at least) processed, caloric, low-nutrient junk like cereal, juice, or fried eggs? How is that a good thing? It’s not. By eating breakfast, you’re deactivating the body’s fat-burning chemistry, and instead activating body chemistry that leads to fat storage, particularly when your breakfast is composed of fried food and/or sugar/grain-based food (like bread and cereal). In other words, “the most important meal of the day” is making you fatter, and even setting you up to be hungrier later on in the day – the body will want more inputs once the stomach goes empty and the sugar and fat of breakfast are digested and burned up/stored away. On the other hand, delaying your first meal far beyond wake-up and staying in the fat-burning mode you entered the night before burns more body fat, and also helps control hunger by NOT activating at all the sugar-burning chemistry that leads to hunger (more details on this soon). Plus, you’ll save money by eliminating an entire (unnecessary) meal from the mealtime lineup.
Now, before you reflexively dismiss or deny the validity of my suggestion to skip breakfast (I’ve even had people tell me, “I’d die without breakfast!”), just give skipping breakfast an honest shot for a few weeks. The body can get used to just about anything, and it’s not as if I’m suggesting to starve yourself here; I’m merely suggesting to remove a mealtime (breakfast) that exists solely out of habit, not need. After you habituate your body to not eating breakfast, trust me, you won’t miss it one bit and you’ll be wondering why you hadn’t done it sooner! And as an added bonus (a huge one, at that), you’ll find yourself MORE energetic when you DON’T burden yourself with a heavy caloric load first thing in the day. I know it may sound incredible and even fantastical, but this is how I’ve lived my life for decades, and I have also had great success on this no-breakfast directive with my pool of personal training clients over time. Even for those of us who do some type of labor for a living, you’ll be shocked at how much energy you can derive from stored body fat; even with no breakfast, I am able to spend 6 hours mowing lawns and doing yard work nonstop in hot weather, and while I may feel a bit tired from the physical work, I still don’t feel bushed or hungry. The truth is, stored body fat is a very powerful source of energy, and it’s there just waiting to be used. Skipping breakfast and waiting at least several hours to eat your first meal will help make your body that much more efficient at mobilizing powerful and plentiful stored body fat for energy, and that’s exactly what you want!
The way to get into skipping breakfast is easy: just don’t eat it, and push your first mealtime as far forward into the day as you can. See if you can make it all the way to lunch (let’s say, around 5 – 6 hours into the day) without breakfast; make sure to have some green, leafy vegetables at the ready to take the edge off your hunger and hold you over during that post-wakeup period, if needed. Again, you’ll be delighted with the results – a smaller waist and flatter stomach, more energy, and more money in your wallet (especially if you eat breakfast from a restaurant). Thus, my fellow Partisans, I can now say with full conviction that breakfast is the LEAST important meal of the day, and hopefully, you are starting to see that for yourselves. If you can narrow your consumption down from three to two meals a day, you’re already doing much better for yourself both metabolically and financially. Even better, see if you can make it all the way to dinner without eating, as a proper lifestyle. Just think about all the fat you could burn this way! This great prize is possible and is not as hard as you’d think; I’ll discuss this lifestyle concept in more detail soon.
The other main point here, aside from the important step of skipping breakfast, is to stick to fixed mealtimes – and the fewer meals, the better. Period. Once again, the APO must seek to eat LESS in order to improve his health and fitness, and that means… NO SNACKING IS PERMITTED when pursuing the GEL! When I say “snacking”, I am specifically referring to ANY eating outside of fixed mealtimes. That directive may come as yet another unwelcome suggestion to some readers, but mark my words: snacking is the ENEMY of health and fitness, no matter what claims the snack food manufacturers or corrupt medical institutions may make (are you really going to trust “Big Food” or “Big Pharma” anyway?), and no matter how harmless a snack may appear to you. I know this may also sound radical to the reader, but again, this is MY take on health, fitness, and nutrition, and it is based on my own personal experiences and research, as well as my professional personal training experiences over 22 years. I will justify this statement by saying that, if nothing else, snacking adds calories (usually junk, “zombie calories”) and makes the body stop burning stored fat, and this should make intuitive sense to anyone. By snacking, you are sending the wrong signal to your body: “you don’t need to burn fat anymore”. Snacking triggers fat-storage chemistry while at the same time initiating the generally demanding chemistry of digestion, which itself requires energy and precious resources from the body – all for the sake of digesting what is often low quality shit to begin with. Is what you’re eating worthy of all that downside? Probably not!
Snacking and snack foods are sadly such a hardcore, fixed part of the American lifestyle, and this is mostly due to the vast control and relentless advertising/marketing by “Big Food”, together with the relatively low cost of most snack foods; the American people are the willing dupes and funders of Big Food’s vile profit-seeking motives. We’re made to think that we can eat as much as we want without consequence, especially if the food is marketed as “healthy”! What’s more, mass-produced snack foods are often developed in ways that are scientifically designed to stimulate yet more hunger. And even non-mass-produced snacks (for example, an apple or a piece of homemade bread) are simply sending the wrong chemical signals to the body, as described above. So in the final analysis, snacking is just not good for you. Sorry.
But that’s ok, because you really don’t NEED snacks – again, the body has PLENTY of fat to burn, even for lean people! By not snacking, you’re maximizing the efficiency of your body’s fat-burning chemistry. So how do you avoid snacking? The best way to avoid snacking is easy, at least conceptually: whenever you feel “hungry”, exercise a bit of discipline by pausing for a moment before you instinctively go for that snack food, and analyze your hunger by asking yourself, “Do I REALLY need to eat right now?” The answer should be either “yes” or “no”. My rule of thumb regarding determination/analysis of hunger is this: unless you’re sluggish, irritable, and brain-fogged due to perceived hunger… then you don’t need to eat! Nice and simple, like everything else. Within this discussion, it’s also equally important to understand that the logic of “hunger analysis” applies not just to snacking, but really, to any eating in general, even for “established” mealtimes (as the breakfast example above illustrates). As Americans, we’re so freakin’ accustomed and commercially hustled to eat “three squares a day”, to snack, and to overconsume in general, that the sensation of hunger – an important physical animal survival mechanism in its true form, turns into a grotesque, artificially-induced, psychologically-based drive to overeat that is born strictly of habit and not real need. The body obviously does need food energy, but not very much! This needs to be duly understood so that you can overcome “fake” hunger.
And so, the more you can properly analyze your hunger (psychological vs. actual) to avoid eating, the better you’ll become at it and the better off you’ll be in your health-boosting efforts; don’t hesitate to skip mealtimes altogether if you’re not hungry! There’s nothing wrong with that; you’ll empower yourself and thrive for it. Too few people stop to think at all about the nature of their hunger, so they just go with the artificial eating impulse like slaves to food, and their waistlines and health suffer accordingly. Snacks (and any unnecessary consumption) are the enemy! However, if you do find yourself simply unable to overcome your hunger (whether psychological or genuine), and you just HAVE to eat something, well… nothing says you HAVE TO eat a typical snack food. Instead, my recommended go-to foods for satisfying a snacking compulsion are green leafy vegetables of any type, or broccoli/cauliflower. You’ll be amazed at what a few pieces of broccoli or romaine lettuce will do to stave off any hunger pangs you may be feeling, while also boosting your energy and helping you get along with your day. And eventually, if you exercise care and honesty in your use of hunger analysis, you’ll be able to liberate yourself and skip any unnecessary food consumption in between meals or at all; that’s where you want to be!
Good Eating Lifestyle, Fundamental #3: SUSTAINABILITY – Carefully Choosing Foods and Mealtimes You Can Stick With Indefinitely
Briefly touching back on the section above about dieting, we need to get back to the concept of “sustainability”. ANY (and I really mean, ANY) worthwhile effort or improvement the APO makes towards increasing his health and fitness (and this includes the “Good Eating” Lifestyle) needs to be cemented into the lifestyle. This is why I so particularly use the word “lifestyle”. Every new lifestyle evolution or improvement worth your efforts that you make in your fitness regimen should become permanent – it should become part of your way of life! Otherwise, there is really no point in bothering with an attempted adjustment. Fixing to start working with weights to get strong and be a better American Partisan Operator? Well, you can’t just work out once or twice, and call it a day; strength training needs to be put into a place in your life and schedule in a way that you can keep doing it, forever (i.e., “sustainably”). That means you have to assess your life’s routine, your work schedule (etc.), figure out when it would be best to schedule your 2x / week one-hour workouts, and then stick to that pattern faithfully and indefinitely. Anything less would be pretty pointless and/or ineffective. And who has time to waste, right?
And so, the exact same notion fully applies to the GEL. It is because diets simply cannot be made a permanent fixture – because they are unsustainable – that I dismiss diets as ineffective (as explained in detail, above). The good thing is, the APO seeking to increase his fitness by adopting the GEL doesn’t have to jump whole hog into the new lifestyle. I mean, you can if that’s your style (that’s my style), but a slow, deliberate approach works too – as long is there is constant progress/improvement, and these improvements are sustained. Again, the main thing to remember is, make sure that any lifestyle adjustments you make are adjustments you can commit to. There are enough options and variations available for the GEL (as I hope to lay out in more detail in future posts) so as to allow for customization to suit your preferences and needs and to maximize the chances of you sticking to it; the GEL doesn’t need to be – and indeed, must certainly not become – a virtual fitness dungeon. A combination of determination, a solid understanding of the justifications of the GEL (which is the purpose of this post), some motivation, and acceptance of high-quality food substitutions to replace the low-quality food you’re consuming, will help you stay the course and thrive, despite the deviation from old ways of eating whatever, whenever. Get a little leaner on the GEL, and you’ll be fired up to keep going! And once you’re fully into the GEL, a bit of “cheating” is ok too! A person pursuing the GEL in an entrenched, continuous fashion can guiltlessly deviate from the GEL on planned occasions, and get right back into GEL gear in a hurry; again, I’m not a fitness monk, and that’s how I live my life. Indulging every now and again is important too! But the main concepts to understand with sustainability of the “Good Eating” Lifestyle is that you should choose healthy foods you can enjoy or at least accept eating continuously, and establish fixed mealtimes that work with your routine and that you don’t deviate from, once set. That’s a sustainable lifestyle that can then be developed or improved yet further as you go. But just start somewhere!
Using the Good Eating Lifestyle to Achieve Your Best Body and Health Ever: It’s Within Reach!
This (by now, very lengthy) post was intended to lay the conceptual groundwork for future action and success in getting lean n’ mean. Hopefully, if you’ve been able to make it through this post, you now have a much better understanding of how adopting a lifestyle of good eating, not dieting, is the way forward to improve your health, fitness, and leanness (together with a good workout program, of course). And at this point, you should also have a solid notion of what a positive eating lifestyle change requires in general terms (with important specifics to follow in future posts – I gotta stop somewhere for now LOL!).
To finally wrap this post up, let’s quickly recap. The “Good Eating” Lifestyle consists of:
- Proper Food Selection: Eating low- to no-processed foods that are dense in nutrition and low in calories; eliminating consumption of “edible garbage” whenever and wherever possible
- Eating Less (Skipping Breakfast / Strict Observance of Chosen Mealtimes / No Snacking): Pushing your first meal as far into the day as possible; reducing all-around intake of unnecessary calories and meals in general by means of better food choices; not snacking; establishing mealtimes and sticking with them faithfully
- Sustainable Eating Practices: Taking the time to find foods you like/can accept; taking the time to consider and then carefully select mealtimes that work for you; committing yourself to those foods and mealtimes indefinitely to form a proper lifestyle
The supreme beauty of the GEL is that it promotes health and fat loss as a built-in feature; all the American Partisan Operator needs to do is follow the GEL Fundamentals as detailed above. That is, when the APO focuses not on weight loss, but rather on developing sustainable yet objectively effective lifestyle practices of good eating (such as consistently eating higher-quality foods vs. “edible garbage”, while consistently avoiding breakfast and snacking)… your excess body fat will just melt away, almost effortlessly. And the more improvements the APO can commit to, the more pronounced the benefits of the GEL! Now, loss of body fat from lifestyle improvements is not an overnight process, and one shouldn’t expect instant gratification here (another plague on modern society); after all, I’m definitely not trying to sound like the marketing slogans of the disgusting diet industry by promising spectacular results. But even setting aside the immediate goal of losing weight/fat, the simple fact is that if you clean up your food intake by removing bad foods and substituting them with good foods, as well as deliberately eat less food as described (and also throw in some effective supplementation on top of that – more to come on this subject in future posts), and all this is done in a sustained way, then you’ll clearly be improving your health! And, a healthy body… is a lean body! So, you’re going to get leaner and healthier than ever on the GEL, but without even depriving yourself. That is the promise of the “Good Eating” Lifestyle: your best health, fitness, leanness, and battle readiness without deprivation or hunger, in exchange for some consideration and a bit of discipline; these obtainable and awesome rewards are the huge prize for the American Partisan Operator making the effort to practice the “Good Eating” Lifestyle. That is why it is so vital to work out a sustainable pattern of eating and mealtimes, so that you don’t feel deprived and then rebel.
Finally, it is absolutely critical to understand that, WITHOUT adopting and sticking with “good eating” as a lifestyle (as defined above in theoretical detail), the APO is simply not going to make any real progress in achieving that highly-prized state of physical health, fitness, leanness, and readiness. This is especially true for us APO’s out there that are in our middle years and beyond, or getting close to that (30’s). By a certain point in one’s life (usually in the late 30’s for most men, and even sooner for women), the accumulation of bad habits and poor lifestyle will very often manifest itself as chronic illness, joint pains, low energy levels, excessive body fat, or… all of the above. Without getting the full lifestyle together in a serious fitness and “good eating” direction, you are greatly increasing the chances of some catastrophic failure if/when the going gets tough. Like, having a heart attack while doing some labor around the yard or, worse yet, having that heart attack when the tactical action gets hot and heavy (we AP readers are counting on that, after all) – all because you disregarded the need for lifestyle adjustments. That is just not good to go, not for you, not for your fam, and not for your team. You are irreplaceable! And we don’t even have to be dramatic with talk of catastrophe; without getting the “Good Eating” Lifestyle together, you are voluntarily sentencing yourself to a life of looking and feeling poorly as a general condition – also pretty bad. So, it behooves the APO to start thinking RIGHT NOW in terms of “how do I make good eating into a lifestyle?”. The specifics of how to make positive eating lifestyle changes will be the subject of upcoming posts, so please stay tuned! For now, though, get yourself mentally ready to make lifestyle changes; it wouldn’t hurt to start researching healthy possibilities for foods you might eat, as well as start skipping breakfast to get that GEL ball rolling!
Whew! Another humongous post! Thanks for reading. I look forward to any questions or comments below!