I was never a big fan of body transformations. The main reason for that? Because I thought that they encouraged unsustainable ways of eating. My preconception was that to make a big change in a short space of time, you have to eat in a way that’s unappealing and also unsustainable. I know that’s not the case because I recently completed a transformation programme that saw me go from being overweight to becoming a Men’s Fitness cover model in just eight weeks, and I did it by using a system that was both surprisingly simple and built for the long haul.
The system I used – outlined in detail in the New Body Plan book – has a simple but powerful concept at its heart. It’s flexible, which means you can eat the food you like, rather than having to shove endless florets of broccoli down your neck because the restrictive meal plan tells you to. And it doesn’t ban either whole food groups or individual foods.
If you’ve ever considered doing a body transformation but been put off because the food side of things is unappealing, you’ll be pleased to know that making a positive change to your body doesn’t have to make you miserable. To give you a flavour of what’s involved, I’ve outlined some the big-picture advice that I used to lose 10kg of fat in just eight weeks, as well as some other practical bits of advice that helped me to get a result than I never thought was possible. And if my experience inspired you to start your own transformation journey, please say hi at @JonLipseyMedia (on Twitter or Instagram) or @NewBodyPlan (Twitter and Instagram) on social and let me know how you’re getting on.
The aim of your body transformation is to simultaneously lose fat and add muscle, and the best way of doing that is to prioritise high-quality protein intake from meat, fish and eggs. From there you should add healthy fats (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated), which you can get from dairy, nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil, and fill in the rest with carbohydrates. There’s a comprehensive guide to how to eat in the New Body Plan book.
Don’t chase perfection
The better your diet, the better your result will be. If you can eat well all of the time, great. But if you sense that’s not realistic for you to stick to, it’s perfectly OK to use the 90% nutrition approach, where you eat well 90% of the time and take a more relaxed attitude for your remaining meals.
Booze contains plenty of calories but few useful nutrients from a body transformation perspective, so if you don’t limit your alcohol intake during the eight-week challenge then you’ll struggle to lose fat and add muscle. If you really want to drink, our advice is to stick to clear spirits or red wine instead of white wine or beer.
Eat carbs around training
Normally, for non-athletes, nutrient timing isn’t that important. But because your time and calorie intake are limited during the New Body Plan, it does become a significant factor. We recommend having a small amount of carbs a couple of hours before training to give you the energy to nail the session. Then have a portion of carbs alongside protein in your post-workout meal. We explain the Perfect Portion approach to building meals in the New Body Plan book.
Max out on veg
Vegetables contain lots of nutrients that will support your general health and immune system, which is crucial when you’re asking a lot of your body. They also contain fibre and water, which will help you to feel satisfied and stay feeling full after your meal.
Water, that is. Dehydration can easily be confused with hunger, so if you’re not drinking enough water that could lead to eating more than you need to. Water is also essential for all manner of physiological processes, so it will help you stay healthy throughout your transformation challenge.
How To Eat Smarter
Keep a food diary
Making a note of what you eat and when you eat it will help you to stick to the principles in the plan, which will have a positive impact on your transformation outcome. It will also help you to make the right adjustments as you progress.
Don’t sweat the slip-ups
During the course of eight weeks you’ll consume about 112,000 calories. One glass of wine is about 140 calories. A doughnut is about 280 calories. So, in the grand scheme of things, a slip-up is going to make no difference to your overall progress. In fact, you’ll probably do more harm by stressing about it or letting it sap your motivation. Of course, drinking alcohol or eating refined sugar frequently will derail your progress, but it’s important to maintain a sense of perspective.
Take your time
We live in a world where we do everything in a hurry but when eating, it pays to slow down. There are a couple of reasons for this. If you chew your food properly you’ll digest it more effectively and assimilate more of the nutrients – which is particularly important when every calorie counts. You’ll also be more receptive to your body telling you when you feel full, so you’ll feel more satisfied at the end of a meal and you’ll find it easier to resist the urge to overeat.
Don’t rush back for a second helping
How you eat, as well as how much, will have an influence on how full you feel. If you wolf down a plate of food, the chances are you’ll still feel hungry when you finish. This is because your body hasn’t had a chance to register what it has just eaten. So you go back for a second helping, thinking that you need the extra food. If you take your time, your satiety hormones will be able to work properly so you may not feel that you need a second helping. If you do feel hungry when you finish a meal, wait for ten minutes or so before deciding whether or not you want more. The chances are that your first portion will be enough.
Clean out your cupboards
We all have a finite amount of willpower, so there’s no point in wasting it. Let’s say that you’re used to cracking open an ice-cold bottle of beer when you get in at 7pm after a long and stressful day at work. If you start the plan and decide not to drink alcohol but you leave your nice cold bottles of beer lined up in the fridge, every time you open it you’ll get a reminder of the thing you’ve decided not to have. You’ll need to use up a tiny bit of willpower to resist the urge to reach for the bottle opener. But if you ensure there’s none in the fridge before you start the plan, they’ll be out of sight and, hopefully, out of mind. Use the same tactic for any other things you think might tempt you while trying to limit them during your transformation challenge.
Never say never
When you say that you’ll never do something, such as “I won’t have any ice cream during my body transformation”, you put a lot of pressure on yourself. Instead, try telling yourself that you can have it tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, the chances are you either won’t feel like it or you’ll be in a stronger position from a willpower point of view. And if you still feel like it, tell yourself you’ll have it tomorrow…
Prepare to succeed
If you want to stand any chance of eating well then, as a minimum, we recommend that you make your breakfast and lunch the night before so they’re ready for you to take out of the fridge in the morning. If you don’t have a fridge at work, buy a small cool bag. And aim to bulk-buy your food each week. It’ll save time and money.