It’s no secret that I spend most of my days talking about, thinking about and surrounded by some sort of exercise and nutrition.
Though I am constantly reading and learning about new training methodologies, diet cults and all the gear and gadgets that are sure to bolster performance, by-and-large, the questions I am asked most frequently are the same.
What do I need to do to lose weight?
What do you eat?
Both are simple questions, but they are not that simple to answer.
Let’s dive into the first one.
What do I need to do to lose weight?
You’ve heard this answer before, burn more calories than you take in. That is certainly true. But, frankly, there’s more to it than that!
Here are a few actions you can take:
Set process goals. A target weight is great, but how are you going to get there? Set goals that propel you into action.
I am going to eat 2 extra servings of vegetables every day
I am going to prep all my lunches for the upcoming week every Sunday
I am going to exercise “vigorously” at least 30 minutes on Mon/Wed/Fri/Sat
EAT! Starving yourself is a great way to confuse your body, not a successful strategy for weight loss. At first, the numbers on the scale may change, but your body composition is not following suit. When under-eating, your body will hold onto fat and instead use muscle for fuel. Additionally you are sabotaging your natural metabolic rate which is dictated by the amount of muscle mass that your body has. With a reduced metabolism, you are even more prone to adding fat to the fat you’re storing. Not eating enough calories does one thing: it makes you a fat making machine.
Get in touch with your body and establish personalized training zones. Stop relying on the numbers you see on cardio equipment, the calorie burn is rarely accurate. Instead of relying on a machine to tell you how hard to go, you need to learn how hard you can push your body. Using heart rate zone training is a great method to achieve the results you want. You won’t ever have the body you want by training at your 100% maximum capacity all the time, nor will you get it if you never get your heart rate higher than 65% exertion. The body responds best to variable training, so get a heart rate monitor to track your heart rate zones.
Get enough SLEEP! Saying you can “get by” on 5 hours is a lie. You might be able to function, but your body and mind need 7-8 hours of sleep (at least) to function optimally. Major body replenishment happen as our bodies sleep, among them, the delicate balancing act of leptin and grehlin. Leptin, our appetite satiety hormone, is produced during sleep. Not enough sleep, not enough leptin, and, as a result, weight gain. Grehlin on the other hand makes you feel hungry; it grows your appetite. Those who don’t get enough sleep naturally have higher levels of grehlin and lower levels of leptin. To realize not only your weight loss goals, but to more importantly achieve optimal health, it is imperative to have appropriate levels of leptin and minimized amounts of grehlin. Sleeping more really does help you lose weight.
Stop lying to yourself and making excuses. Start writing down your food and exercise and hold yourself accountable.
Develop your self confidence and learn to love your body unconditionally. Having the perfect body at the perfect weight will never bring you lasting happiness. Stop obsessing on how you look compared to someone else, on how certain mirrors or lighting warp your reflection, or on how others might perceive you based on how you look. If you want long-term weight loss, then obsess about the right things. Identify what makes your heart come alive and go chase your dreams.
Be consistent. It might seem mundane to meet your friend for a run every morning at 5am or eat the same thing for lunch every day. But there is success in simplicity and adopting healthy habits that are easy to maintain.
And now, on to the 2nd question.
What do I (Sarah Barkley) eat?
I eat real, unprocessed food that is sourced locally and organic whenever possible. I rely on seasonal produce, high quality protein and nutrient dense healthy fats to round out a balanced diet.
Once a week I plan my meals and do as much prep work as I can so that when I’m super busy, refueling my body is easy and enjoyable. I do this process backwards from the traditional method and do my shopping before my planning. Instead of having a fixed idea of what I need to fulfill recipes, I buy what looks the most fresh and flavorful at the store or farmer’s market and develop my meals and recipes once I know what my available ingredients end up being.
Outside of my daily nutrition, I do utilize supplements to maximize my training and racing.
My breakfast almost always involves:
Greek yogurt, plain, full fat or 2%
Fresh berries or fruit (cherries or chopped apples and pears are especially yummy! Thank you CMI)
Rolled oats or granola
My lunch almost always involves:
Farm fresh or organic eggs
Dinner almost always involves:
TONS of veggies
Ambrosia (or other sweet, crunchy, delicious variety) apples w/ sharp cheddar
Apples (or a spoon) w/ black magic peanut butter
Pears w/ lavender honey goat cheese
Veggies w/ plain greek yogurt or tzatziki
Nuts w/ dried fruit
As always - Train hard, live well and have fun!