The last key to Real Fitness may be the most important one. It can be the one that separates those who lose a few lbs. from those who truly transform their bodies and their lives. It not only impacts how you look but how you feel.

The Fit Truth: Diet foods won’t make you fit.

The 4th Key to Real Fitness is Food Quality.

Last week we talked about quantity. Balancing calories in with calories out is important. But so is learning about the quality of the calories consumed. A donut and a chicken breast may both have 240 calories but you will feel a whole lot different after eating the chicken breast than you do after eating the donut.

The clients who are the most successful, who show the best results in fat loss (which is different then weight loss, remember?) are ones who take the time to learn about food. They aren’t afraid to clean out their cupboards and start over. They embrace the idea of lean protein and stop being scared of carbs. Fats are no longer a four letter word.

I do have clients who try to slide by with 100-calorie snack packs and frozen meals to hit their calorie goals. In the beginning they do okay.  If you’re making better choices (after all a 100 calorie pack of popcorn is better than a bag of potato chips) you will see some progress. But eventually that progress will slow and frustration will set in.

Meanwhile, my clients who are getting in touch with real food are talking about how much food they eat. They don’t feel hungry.  They feel good! They have more energy! Their kids are asking for seconds! They are saving money since they aren’t eating out 3-5 times a week. Eating real foods is a win-win for your health, waistline and wallet.

They also allow themselves to have an occasional treat. This is the real world after all. We all have birthdays to celebrate and vacations to enjoy. But they are honest with themselves about what a treat is: not an every day occurrence.  A treat is something to be enjoyed once a month or even once a year, like your grandma’s chocolate pie that she only makes at Christmas. A true treat then should be enjoyed and savored. It should not be a source of guilt nor should it be saved up for or paid for the next day. This is not a process of deprivation and starvation but balance and being real.

Your food quality action plan is:

  1. Educate yourself. If you don’t know foods that are good examples of protein, carbs and healthy fats pick up a copy of Nutrition For Dummies
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    . I love the Dummies series of books because they break down potentially technical subjects into easy to understand chunks. Learn the basics.
  2. After you’ve got the basics, pick up a copy (or subscription) of Clean Eating Magazine
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    . Every issue has a variety of recipes plus snack suggestions in their meal plan. In my opinion it is the best source of healthy recipes out there. You’ll get variety and the recipes change with the seasons.
  3. Do a cupboard cleanse. Out go the snack packs of cookies and crackers. Dump the diet soda down the drain.  Check condiments, sauces, cereals and breads for high fructose corn syrup. If HFCS is there, in the trash it goes.
  4. Make a list of the clean eating staples for your next grocery trip. Include non perishables like natural peanut butter, oats, beans, lentils, whole grain flours, frozen vegetables, quinoa, whole wheat pasta and green tea.
  5. Shop once a week with a list and a plan. Weekly because you’ll need to pick up at least some of the perishable items (like bananas and eggs).
  6. It’s okay to take short cuts. Buy things like baby carrots, pre cut fruits (in their own juice only) and single serving bags of raw almonds if it’s going to help you make time for things that really require prep.
  7. Again, this is a process. It will never be perfect. Just do the best you can, making the best choice available in any given situation.

So that’s it. Those are the 4 Keys to Real Fitness. They aren’t sexy or earth shattering. There’s no promise of an easy button or super fast weight loss. It is going to take some work.

But they are real. It’s not a “diet”, a road map to fleeting weight loss that leaves you as soon as you return to normal. It is the road to a new normal. It’s a transformation, slow and steady over time, to a life focused on living and not dieting. It just takes that first step to start this journey. Are you ready to say goodbye to the diets and take the brave first step to a new way of living?

See all articles in the series The Fit Truth.

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