A recent conversation among my fitness peers revealed that many of us at one point or another struggle with wasting food.  This isn’t the type of wasting food that comes from forgetting leftovers in the back of your fridge.  (black beans are the worst)

What we were talking about is the struggle we’ve faced to not finish the last few bites our kids leave behind. We simply dislike watching good food go to waste. But is there more to it than that? Yes, and we’ll uncover more in Part 2.

My son never eats his pizza all the way to the crust and sometimes he leaves a chunk of donut behind.  If I said I wasn’t guilty of finishing it off for him, that’d be a big fat lie. Oh, and that 2nd muffin he can’t finish…allow me to help with that…

The list of things mentioned that we’re most guilty for finishing include (but is not limited to):

Pizza Crust
Pop Tart Crust/Corners
Uneaten chips/goldfish/graham crackers
Pancakes, Sausage
Macaroni and cheese
Uneaten chicken nuggets
Fries, Tator Tots
Muffin or biscuit halves
Cake,brownie, donut “crumbs”

Well if you’re sitting there thinking  “Ya I do that, so what?”  Well maybe it’s never been a concern to you or perhaps you’re already good at creating balance in your week.  That’s awesome!  But, for the sake of the blog post, it appears many I coach and talk to are trying to adopt better eating habits, lose or maintain weight, and those pesky leftovers can be haunting. It’s simply a habit we want to have better control over. 

So here’s where the mantra “Pennies and Crumbs” comes in play:

First let’s look at what pennies refers to:

Based on conversations I’ve had, I can speculate that some people struggle wasting uneaten food (the “crumbs”) because they don’t want to see money wasted.  Yet another side of the struggle seems to be a deep-rooted  ‘clear our plate’ mentality we were brought up with… among other similar preached table manners. (And a third reason I’m saving for Part 2)

Now, I’m not suggesting you abandon your budget or change your parenting ways.  Simply that when trying to refrain from eating the “crumbs” it helps to put it in perspective that it’s just pennies.  

It cost you pennies to throw away that pizza crust.  Pennies to toss the last fries in the trash.  Pennies to scrape a few bites of macaroni and cheese down the drain.

Again, this isn’t referring to uneaten MEALS left behind at restaurants or perfectly good partially eaten food that can be put away for later.  I’m talking CRUMBS that are worth PENNIES. 

A few “crumbs” here and there are probably pretty meaningless.  I mean what’s life without a few bites of  leftover macaroni? Or sampling that cookie your kid didn’t finish?  But if it’s habitual overeating after you’ve already consumed your meal, that is the concern. Like eating 3 slices of pizza and being content, but then going on to polish off the crust on your kids plate. 

Let’s look at one more scenario often played out in my family:

Large family gatherings tend to leave a lot of leftover food.  But there’s usually a few things lingering that don’t warrant enough to dirty a tupperware container.  So we plead with everyone to make room and just finish these last few pieces of XYZ.  Why? We simply don’t want to waste it, so SOMEONE should eat it. 

Well you ultimately decide…  

If you’re struggling in this area or having trouble seeing results, then try telling yourself it’s “Pennies and Crumbs.”  

fitness quote mantra

 

***Part 2 will dig into the science/evidence based studies on hunger and the #1 thing you can do to help stick to your diet goals. 

 

NUTRITION/MACROS

Carbs.  I’ve encountered so many people lately that believe carbs are their enemy.  What’s worse is they ban particular carbs.  You know the kind: breads, pastas, wheat products, rice.  Somewhere they’ve read and believed that going low carb is THEE ticket to losing weight.

IT’S A MIRACLE!

No, really it’s not a miracle.  I’m just a fun-loving sarcastic person.

Before moving on, this is not addressing those with a doctor diagnosed medical issue in regards to your dietary intake of carbs or any other nutrient for that matter.

Let’s go back to the basics, shall we?

Consuming more calories than your body needs = weight gain/surplus

Consuming less calories than your body needs = weight loss/deficit

Our calories come from 3 macro’s (4 if you count alcohol) broken down from protein, fats and carbs.  Getting a proper balance to these in regards to your lifestyle is what’s important to help you reach your goals.

So naturally if one eliminates something from their diet, especially a large food group, they’re most likely going to experience a calorie deficit.  

Quoting a study from Examine.com (highly trusted source that breaks down the science research done on nutrition and supplements)-“If you are obese, decreasing carbs and upping protein may lead to greater weight loss, but sticking to any diet that has you eat less will lead to weight loss.”

mmm, pasta!

So what’s the problem?

People blame the food and the food is not to blame (unless of course it’s a medical issue). I’ll use my name as a figurative example:

1. Beth cuts “all” carbs from her diet. No bread, pasta, rice, tortillas, cereal, pizza, etc.
2. Beth experiences a drop in weight over 2-4 weeks, let’s say 4 pounds
3. Birthday parties and cook-outs leave Beth no choice but to consume a few “forbidden” carbs
4. Beth is tired (physically and mentally) trying to avoid carbs, her energy level is a little low too
5. Beth slowly starts having more carbs in her diet, because Beth loves pizza and pizza is life
6. Beth notices her weight starts to increase
7. Beth blames the carbs
8. Beth assumes she’ll never lose the weight or get in shape because she can’t stay away from carbs

Can you relate? Does this sound like something you’ve heard or tried?

IT’S NOT THE CARBS!!!! IT’S NOT THE CARBS!!!! IT’S NOOOOOOOT THUUUUUU CAARRRRRBS!

You’re simply overeating.  Could you reduce carbs? YES. Eliminate them? NO. 

A lower carb diet has shown to improve certain health markers like insulin and cholesterol levels and blood triglycerides to name a few.  But that doesn’t mean NO-carb and it doesn’t set a required amount.  Rather the degree of reduction varies individually as one might assume based on the amount of activity exerted.

Carbs are the bodies preferred energy source.  Eliminating them while training would be counterproductive.  And everyone I’ve encountered that’s spoken evil of carbs is trying to get in better shape thus starting to move more!

As nutrition expert Alan Aragon states “Carb reduction can then be strategically positioned as a trump card.  In other words, carbs can always be incrementally reduced on an as-needed basis, depending on how results are proceeding.  Starting off with minimal carbs from the get-go leaves fewer options in the toolbox to break through progress plateaus once training volume is maxed-out.”

This time I’ll use myself as a real example:

*I’m currently coming out of a bulking cycle where I purposely ate more calories than my body needed to aid in muscle growth over the course of 5 months. During that time my carb consumption was around 300grams. Fat gain is inevitable during this time so I’m doing a slight diet to lose the fat I gained, while maintaining the muscle.  I’m currently eating 180-210 carbohydrates and losing fat.  I exercise 5 days a week, mostly weight training with 2 days of cycling for cardio.

Here’s a recent meal-diary breaking down the carbs I consumed at each meal (this is ONLY the carbs):  

Breakfast: 50g steel cut oats (a little over 1/4 cup dry) + 1/2 a banana
Snack: 1/2 protein bar (has 11 carbs)
Lunch: hamburger bun and strawberries
Snack: Kettle popped popcorn chips
Dinner: Green beans, mashed potatoes
Bedtime Snack: cinnamon raisin english muffin with greek cream cheese (small amount of carbs)

Here’s a higher end of my carbs in a day:
Breakfast: 2 pieces cinnamon raisin bread (makes the best egg and ham sandwich!)
Snack: Fig breakfast bar
Lunch: 1 cup quinoa and brown rice blend (costco!), green beans, kettle popcorn chips
snack: 50g steel cut oats, 1/2 a banana (pre-workout meal)
late dinner: 1/4 cup elbow macaroni (chili mac for dinner, yum!)

Oats, white bread, potatoes, rice, pasta…it’s all there. Even carbs after dark, gasp! (again, sarcasm)

While the majority of my meals are from home making it easier to consume more food and control what I eat… I also enjoy pizza nights, brownies, date nights, and epic sandwiches with fries and slaw.  

Helloooo Primanti Brothers! Welcome to Ohio.  God Bless the USA.   

So anyways, If I were to drastically cut my carbs, my energy would eventually tank when cycling or trying to keep weight on the bar.  That’s not ideal.  The goal is to consume the highest amount of carbs that still allow steady weight loss and adequate energy throughout the day. When I’m finished with my mini-diet I’ll increase my carbs another 50g-100g or so (especially over summer when I’m naturally moving around more throughout the day).

Eating 300g carbs is fun.  Seeing muscles develop is fun. Feeling happy and healthy and inspired is fun.

Reconcile your friendship with carbs. They’ve missed you. 

Questions? Hit me up.

NUTRITION/MACROS

I like to believe this notion of “clean eating” started off with good intentions.  At least it did in my case when describing previous recipes I’ve posted here on the OSH blog (though I believe I’ve gone back and corrected most).

At the surface clean eating was trying to imply what our diets should be focused on: lots of whole foods from as close to nature as possible- fruits, veggies, protein (animal or plant based), whole grains, nuts, seeds, and good oils.

But there’s a few problems with this phrase I’ll address:

PROBLEM #1

There is no clear way to define what “clean eating” is.

Recently I’ve read a lot of science-based articles that exclaim food is neither good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, clean or unclean. 

It took me a while to truly wrap my head around this line of thinking, but as one article noted  It’s impossible to judge a food in isolation without seeing the big picture from the rest of the diet.   Now that makes perfect sense.

Instead what we do is clump everything that’s not “healthy” into an “unhealthy” (and vice versa) category casting judgement we derive from our own definitions. Different foods have different pros and cons depending on the individual and circumstances.  Period. 

I’m not going to split hairs over proper terminology.  I’m totally guilty of using the phrases “healthy and unhealthy” when describing food because it seems universally recognized.  So, what is most recognized in regards to eating healthy:

1. Eat Mostly Whole, Minimally Processed, Nutrient Dense, Satiating Foods

2. Eat a Variety of Fruits and Vegetables

3. Eat Enough Quality Protein

4. Eat a Variety of Animal Products

5. Eat within Your Calorie and Macronutrient Needs

This is not terribly complex if you peel back all the marketing and hype streaming daily across social media.  Focus on the 5 key points above and enjoy whatever else you like that fits within your goals.  

PROBLEM #2

This phrase has taken on a misguided meaning in regards to how it can change our body composition (chasing after the overrated 6 pack for example).  There are COUNTLESS articles and books, even food blogs now, dedicated to preaching that “clean eating” is the only way to reach your fitness goals.

Eat to Perform posted an article What Food Freedom Means to Me in response to a Whole30 instagram post. I recommend you read the whole thing (it’s short and amusing), but here’s a highlight:

Food Freedom is about eating real food, paying some attention to the amounts and portions, and having choices. That way, if you are gaining fat, you have some idea why. If you are losing muscle, you also have some idea why. If you are just reliant on a food list with no information to back it up, that’s not freedom, that’s confusing as hell.

Instead this is what most are doing….spinning their wheels, trying to find a “clean eating solution.” Shakes, elimination diets (unless for food intolerances/allergy issues), pills, detoxes, etc. are not optimal for weightloss because they teach you nothing about how to maintain your weight or eat for your goals in a healthy sustainable and lifestyle way.

diet wheel

Most will experience weight loss after adopting one of the above mentioned methods from being in a calorie deficit but it’s not sustainable and the cycle continues.  And that weight loss was most likely fat and muscle which is not ideal either!

PROBLEM #3

Orthorexia nervosa- An obsession with dietary perfection, a phrase coined by Dr. Bratman.  Perhaps you’ve never put your diet on a pedestal but someone around you has, making your choices appear less than acceptable.  This food shaming mentality is different from finding something gross based on personal taste. It refers to a pathological fixation on eating strictly clean and unprocessed and feeling guilty or ashamed for straying off course.

If someone strives to consume 0% of calories from any food that’s been processed or refined from its original state, then that’s perfectly fine – as long as this is the person’s genuine preference, and not a painful battle of will. (Well said Mr. Aragon!)

Talk about an enormous amount of will power and determination not to mention STRESS for the majority of the population.  I believe we all want to focus more on nutrient dense foods vs. focusing on the higher sugar and fat content items. But creating an environment of restriction is not ideal and sets many up for failure.

There’s no doubt that what you eat can have a massive impact on your health, performance, and body composition. However, there’s no evidence you can’t achieve all of these things while still enjoying any food you like.

BOTTOM LINE:

We must know ourselves first and establish what our goals are. By learning how to listen to our own bodies, we will have better long-term success. Unfortunately, most don’t know where to begin so they turn to guides and shakes and lists of approved foods for a quick-fix not understanding the implications (see problem #2).

The point is to gain a general awareness of your overall calorie consumption and appreciation of macronutrients.

If you feel like your nutrition’s off track, you’re not reaching your goals, or you’re just clueless where to begin…

Start with food journaling to get a big picture of your overall intake.  Are you consuming a balanced diet of protein, fats and carbs? Do your portion sizes meet your goals and activity levels?  How can you start getting more strategic about your overall calorie intake?  What will benefit your performance or body composition? What foods become a disappointing calorie bomb after just a few bites that perhaps is consumed too often?

I’ll leave you with this nugget of awesomeness from an interview with Alan Aragon:

Practically speaking, do your best to dominate your carb choices with whole and minimally refined foods, while keeping the low-fiber/refined flour foods and added sugars to a minimum. Keep your fat intake dominated with intrinsic fats (pre-existent within whole foods) rather than added fats. Of course there are exceptions such as olive oil, but that’s the general rule.

Foods on their own cannot be good or bad. What matters is their relative contribution to the diet. If you dominate your diet with crap, then you have a crappy diet… Diet quality matters, and it always has. However, a healthy diet can indeed contain the crap, but obviously it must comprise the minority of intake in order to preserve the overall quality of the diet.

 

Still clueless, shoot me an email and I’ll do my best to help or point you in the right direction.

 

Referenced Links:

*Complete Human Performance– “Started by Alex Viada and Kelly Bruno in 2012 with one goal in mind –– to cut through the misinformation about training and nutrition and to create simple, customized, and highly-effective training plans to help athletes of all levels reach their full potential. They have a combined 38 years of strength and endurance training and are both experienced having both competed in Ironmans, ultramarathons and powerlifting.”

*Alan Aragon “is a nutrition researcher and educator with over 20 years of success in the field. He is known as one of the most influential figures in the fitness industry’s movement towards evidence-based information.”

NUTRITION/MACROS

It’s no secret that I’m a fitness addict and find joy in eating to fuel my workouts properly.  Follow me on Instagram and you’ll see video clips of my workouts and the occasional post of what I eat throughout the day (see below).  Consider it my open journal to inspire others, hold myself accountable, and stay creative with meal planning and workouts!

*

**update since original post: I tried her method of the 4×4 diet cutting starchy carbs in the evening for about a 6 week period.  What I noticed the most was my lack of energy to fuel my workouts (3 days strength training and 2 days HIIT) by weeks end.  My body required more rest days than I was previously taking and determined this approach was not suited for me.  It’s simply a myth. Thankfully I learned dropping carbs in the evening was not going to help me reach my goals faster! In fact it slowed me down.

I firmly believe in longterm adherence.  Cutting starchy carbs at night was not as easy as it sounds and cutting anything from your diet just means you’re setting yourself up for failure (unless for allergy purposes)!  Cutting anything from your diet is doing nothing more than allowing a calorie deficit which can be done without eliminating (or working around mythical time frames) and is better for longterm results.  I love what Alan Aragon writes HERE : “There are no night-time insulin fairies ready & waiting to store carbs in the fat tissue — at least not at any greater rate than they would do so during the day.”

I’m also getting better about not labeling any food as “bad” or “good” and even try not to call things “healthy” or “clean” anymore because it’s all arbitrary.  Everyone’s macro needs are different based on several factors and it’s a moving target based on your overall fitness. Eat whole foods as often as you can but don’t go bat-crazy trying to create an environment that you can’t sustain longterm….

————————————————————————————————————————————–

So…what is a 4×4 diet?

Erin Oprea, personal trainer (Carrie Underwood being one of her clients, mkay…) and author of “The 4×4 Diet- 4 Key Foods and 4 Key Exercises” developed this program.  Her program is a simple two-part philosophy, eat clean and get lean.  Eating clean consists of four key habits and getting lean consists of a four minute style tabata workout.

She recently shared one of my workout videos on her Instagram feed…MADE MY DAY!! 

Erin Oprea 4x4 diet

 

I’m only going to touch on 1 of the 4 key food habits which is to cut out starches at night. Months prior to reading her book I was striving to make dinners less and less dependent on breading, pastas, and breads.  Carbs are not the enemy as she will also firmly tell you, but the idea of cutting them at night when we’re less active has proven results for her clients (I look at this as nothing more than a jumpstart…)

Pictured below is an example of my “diet” on a typical workout day (snacks not shown): 

Meal 1, Breakfast: 1 egg + 3/4 cup egg whites with 2 turkey sausage links and Trader Joe’s sriracha sauce-of course-and a side of roasted sweet potatoes seasoned with cinnamon, cumin and a bit of smoked paprika (I loooove roasted sweet potatoes). 

Meal 2, Lunch: Open face sandwich featuring Trader Joe’s sprouted wheat bread and pizza burger with 1/4 avocado and a salad with Bolthouse Farms Ranch dressing (love their dressings!)

Meal 3, Dinner: 1 large zucchini spiralized into noodles topped with my #1 Homemade Sloppy Joe recipe

Snacks included: leftover protein pancake with almond butter, grapes with nut thins and 2oz low sodium turkey, bedtime snack was non fat plain greek yogurt with a touch of honey and pistachios.

What's on my plate- 4x4 diet

And another example: 

Meal 1, Breakfast: 2 eggs + 1/2 cup egg whites with 2 turkey sausage links, Trader Joe’s sprouted wheat toast with 1/4 avocado schmear

Snack 1: Raw almonds with a few dark chocolate covered espresso beans

Meal 2, Lunch: Trader Joe’s no salt albacore tuna mixed with greek yogurt, whole grain dijon mustard, 1/4 avocado, a few chopped bread and butter pickles with a bit of Trader Joe’s Hot & Sweet mustard spread on a FlatOut Italian wrap + strawberries.

Snack 2, Mid-day: small green apple sprinkled with cinnamon and 1TB almond butter.

Meal 3, Dinner: Normally I eat more than this for dinner but it was a busy on-the-go-night! Costco cranberry chicken salad cup with 1 zucchini sautéed with thyme and smoked paprika.

Snack 3, Bedtime: Rice roller (bought in bulk at Costco) with 1/2 cup Trader Joe’s cottage cheese

4x4 diet meal ideas

 

The exercise portion of 4×4 is perhaps my favorite part!  I get SUPER bored REAL quick following any kind of exercise program.  You?   I love to implement some Tabata rounds after resistance training for a little finisher. 

Erin’s tabata style workouts consist of 4 minute rounds broken down to 20 seconds of intense work and 10 seconds of rest. I simply use a free Tabata timer on my phone set for 8 rounds (that’s 4 minutes), then hit repeat for as many total rounds I want or can complete! She explains it really well in her book and goes into a bit more depth but the idea is simple and you can adjust the workouts and rounds to meet your fitness level.

Here’s an example of a killer arm workout I created and shared on Instagram (see full description below video):

Lifting weights alone will get your heart rate up, especially Tabata style, but on arm day I like to throw in what I call a “finisher round” to really max out the intensity.

So the workout went like this:

-Tricep side push-ups (one side), 20 seconds/ 10 seconds rest

-Alternating up-up-down-down commandos (tight abs & straight back), 2o seconds work/10 seconds rest

-Tricep side push-ups (other side), 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest

-Bicep curl to press and twist, 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest

***Repeat 1 time through, so essentially 2 sets of each to complete the 1st 4 minute Tabata.  Repeat (4 rounds was enough for me!)

FINISHER ROUND: throw in 3 sets at the end or incorporate a set in between rounds if you’re getting fatigued and losing form! 

-Bent over row with twist, 10-12 reps each side + 30 seconds alternating high knees. Repeat x3.

And here’s a leg and heart burner:

5 rounds (20 minutes) and my legs were torched:

-Squats with dumbbells

-Curtsy squats

-Butt kicks with in and out arms

-Plie squats with dumbbells

NUTRITION/MACROS