1. Drink a Green Smoothie Every Day
Why I do this: The fiber in a smoothie has wonderful benefits for your digestive system. Also, I don’t love cooking greens all the time, and it can be tough to get enough greens in on a daily basis. Making a smoothie gives me the opportunity to create a mini meal, plus greens.
Best Practices: Regularly rotate your greens and ingredients for the greatest nutrient variety. When it comes to what to put in, imagine the ingredients on a plate, like a big salad and if that would be a fulfilling meal.
What could you add to increase the protein, fat and carbohydrate profile? I add things like protein powder, hemp seeds, sweet potatoes, quinoa, peanut butter, etc to my smoothies
2. Include Protein with All of Your Major Meals.
Why I do this: When I decide what I’m going to eat at any time of day, whether I’m at home, in a restaurant, or at the grocery store, the first thing I think about is what protein source I’m going to include.
Building the rest of my meal is easy once I figure out the protein. That’s because protein is the foundation of every vital function in our body, and I’m not going to make the mistake of leaving it out!
Eating protein is not going to “bulk you up.” It’s an important nutrient that’s responsible for multiple body functions. It is even more satiating than fat or carbs, and it can boost your metabolic rate while lowering your appetite. If you’re constantly craving sugar or sweets, it is important to take a look at the nutrients in your daily dietary intake to see if you’re getting enough protein, fat and complex, wholesome carbohydrates.
Animal protein is generally a complete protein (meaning it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs) while plant protein (with a few exceptions) is generally incomplete. However eating a combination of plant foods can make a complete protein. I eat a mixed diet, and include grass-fed whey protein powder or sprouted plant based vegan protein powder several times a week to ensure I’m meeting my needs without having to cook EVERYTHING.
Best Practices: The “right” amount for each individual is going to vary depending on your activity level and goals – just like any other nutrient. Just like most body tissue, muscles are in a constant state of breakdown and repair. To gain muscle, you have to eat more protein than your body is breaking down.
For people whose goal it is to gain mass, increasing protein intake will help build muscle and strength (in conjunction with a fitness regimen of course).
For individuals who want to hold onto the muscle they have while losing body fat, an increased protein intake is also appropriate as this increase spares muscles tissue while losing weight.
A common recommendation for gaining muscle is 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, or 2.2 grams of protein per kg. This estimate is a bit high for those in maintenance mode or general fat loss (while active and maintaining muscle).
It’s hard to give an exact figure because of how much conflict there is in studies but it’s safe to say 0.7-1 grams (give or take) per pound of body weight is a reasonable estimate.
3. Properly Prepare and Include the RIGHT Carbohydrates
Why I do this: Carbohydrates are basically sugar and starch. Apples, blueberries, sweet potatoes, quinoa, oats ― they’re all carbs. So are cookies, pastries, soda, candy, and chips. Your body breaks carbohydrates down into glucose molecules.
Those molecules are ideally used as either immediate energy fuel for your muscles and brain or converted to glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles as reserve energy. Your body can store about a half-day supply of glycogen.
Being active and exercising means you’re going to go through your reserves faster and will want to replenish them. But overeating – or choosing the wrong kind of carbs – will cause weight gain. If and when your body has more glucose than it can use as energy or convert to glycogen for storage, the excess is converted to fat.
I do not recommend a no-carb or low carb diet for any length of time. Long term carbohydrate deprivation leads to a complete depletion of your body’s storage glycogen levels, depression of your immune system, decrease in metabolic function, and a host of other issues.
Best Practices: Making your baseline a good variety of complex and simple carbohydrate foods provides your body with the nutrients, vitamins, and fiber it needs without spiking your blood sugar or overloading your liver. I’m talking about easy stuff like quinoa, brown rice, and baked sweet potatoes, sprouted grain bread and overnight oatmeal. Fruit is a wonderful quick-digesting carbohydrate, but will not give you the same long-lasting energy as oatmeal for example – so go for variety.
Keep in mind that soaking, sprouting, or fermenting grains is always the best preparation method that breaks down the protective outer coating of the grain and the gluten protein, and allows your body to get their full nutritional benefit.
4. Eat Your Good Fats to Stay Lean
Why I do this: If you think you should skip eating fat to lose weight and build muscle, think again!
Fat is the preferred fuel of muscle tissue at rest (make sure you get plenty of sleep to maximize this benefit), AND it protects your muscle’s valuable protein stores while being burned for energy along with glucose and glycogen during exercise.
Eating fat provides your body with the means to absorb the micro-nutrients in foods like vegetables and greens by shuttling and dissolving their fat-soluble vitamins and phytochemicals (making it a powerful ally in optimal health).
You won’t get the maximum benefits in all those green smoothies without the inclusion of fat in your diet.
We lose out when foods are stripped of their natural fat (like making yogurt fat-free for example) because the healthy, fat soluble vitamins they contain are lost along with the fat.
Keep in mind that a pound of fat and a pound of muscle might weigh the same, but their appearance is vastly different – muscle is far denser than fat, so as you lose fat and gain muscle, your body composition will change and your clothes will fit differently – but your weight on the scale may not move!
Best Practices: Balance is key in fat consumption; eating enough of the good stuff (nuts, avocados, flax, salmon, etc.) promotes weight loss and weight maintenance. Eating too much of the bad stuff (ice cream, cake, pastries, pizza, etc.) promotes weight gain.
5. Take an “NSA” (No Strings Attached) Approach to Special Foods and Occasions
Why I do this: One of the reasons it’s so hard for most people just starting out on a health journey to stay on track is that it seems so overwhelming to stop eating ALL the delicious treats, give up cocktails and desserts and easy to grab salty snacks.
I find this “all or nothing” approach is a primary culprit in why I haven’t been able to stick to things myself – it’s really hard to be “perfect” all the time, and it’s really NOT FUN either.
It’s one of the reasons I don’t advocate counting calories or tracking all of your macros endlessly – doing this as a check-in and from an educational standpoint is one thing, but relying on it forever takes a lot of the enjoyment out of eating, and lessens your ability to listen to your body and your own intuition.
Best Practices: I could tell you to 80/20 it, but that might not be the right ratio for you week to week. Try to prepare most of your own food, and stick to my guidelines above when you’re eating out for the most part. But also let yourself live.
Birthday parties, special occasions, a Saturday night out – enjoy yourself! Don’t force yourself to stick to your super clean foods – they’re hard to find in restaurants, and at certain relatives we visit If you’re in charge of what you’re putting in your body when you’re home, it’s okay to let yourself take a night off. Sometimes it might be two.
You’ll notice how your body feels and responds to these things and it will be easier to choose when to do it – because you’ll know what the consequences are. As long as you’re making an informed choice, you can’t get it wrong.
6. Set Yourself Up for Eating Success
How I do this: The cornerstone of my success these past several years has been applying the nutrient information I shared with you above in a meaningful way; choosing recipes and meals that include all the essential nutrients from the best food sources and setting myself up an efficient plan.
I hate eating boring and bland food, so I always am making fun pestos and spreads, combining simple spices and fresh herbs to bring out the best in my meals.
I also try to choose recipes with complimentary foods so I don’t have to buy a ton of random ingredients I’m not going to use. A little planning goes a long way.
Best Practices: A great way to get started is to think about 2-3 breakfast options you like (for me it’s eggs, oatmeal and smoothies), your favorite entrees that could double as dinner or lunch – and I just think of what proteins I want to base them on, then what carbs, and finally what fats would work well (as simple as olive oil or hemp seeds or avocado).
I fill that in with a couple snacks like home made pumpkin protein muffins or an easy to make trail mix, a couple staple sides I would want on hand daily like a big mixed greens salad and some rice, quinoa or pre-made easy to grab sweet potato chunks – and make my list and pick my recipes around that.
Please do use my extensive blog post on this with an entire sample of meals, recipes and daily menus to get you started
7. Create a Morning Routine
Why I do this: One of the biggest game-changers for me over the past year has been establishing a morning routine. I have a few different practices I rotate through in the morning depending on how I feel, but being consistent about setting aside time for myself before I pick up my phone and start reading emails or jump into my work day is so important for how productive and balanced I am able to be throughout the day.
On days I’m very short on time, I grab my 5-minute journal (available in hard copy or as an app) and quickly write down what I’m grateful for, 3 things that would make my day awesome, and my daily affirmations.
Affirmations are an awesome daily practice, however you incorporate them – because actively THINKING about what you most want the outcome to be for yourself in any given situation helps you take more meaningful action to achieving that goal.
On days I have a little more time, I do my 5-minute journal, I do 10-20 gratitude burpees (that’s where I think of a person in my life I’m grateful for with each burpee) and then I sit and breathe quietly for 5 minutes or more. Sometimes I’ll listen to a guided meditation, like one of these from Tara Brach who is a wonderful mindfulness practitioner.
About once or twice a week I’ll have time to go out for a 30-40 minute walk, which I absolutely love doing. I like listening to an inspiring podcast while I’m walking to get me thinking outside the box and inspire me creatively.
8. Make Time to Exercise 3-5 Times a Week
Did you know that the main reason they get patients up and moving after an accident or injury as soon as possible is because the lymph, the body’s immune fluid, doesn’t have its own pump like the blood has the heart? The only way to circulate the lymph is to move – so not only does exercise provide you with strong bones and sleek muscle, it also keeps you healthy.
I love having a plan to follow, which is why I write workout programs and create challenges – I am always looking for inspiration and the opportunity to make my body as healthy and strong as it can be.
I use both bodyweight AND resistance type exercise training styles. Sometimes I focus on one or the other for a couple months, and sometimes I combine them. There is not a wrong way to do it, what’s right for you depends on your goals, your lifestyle and your time availability.
Best Practices: Always make time to warm up your muscles. Use a Foam Roller to care for your muscle tissue and prevent massive soreness.
- Here are some resources:
30-Day Bodyweight Challenge (home)
- Home Workouts on the Blog
- Gym Workouts on the Blog
- 90 Day Transformation Challenge (home, comes with meal plans and a 12-week home workout plan)
- Lioness Strength (8-week gym program with meal plans)
- Hot Abs Plan
9. Be Present to Your Workout
Why I do this: During any workout session, it’s so important to be IN your body. That is the BEST way to a) prevent injuries and b) get the fastest results.
Engaging your mind with the muscles you are working and focusing on what you are doing will 100% make those muscles work harder, and allow you to get the maximum benefit from your session.
So stay off your phone. Stay in your breath. Stay present to your body – what it’s doing and feeling.
One of the biggest mistakes I see clients make is taking a look at a workout and trying to get through their reps as quickly as possible, at the expense of their form – and, quite frankly, their enjoyment of the workout.
It’s not about “getting it done,” it’s about how well you do every single rep if you want to see great results.
Best Practices: It’s more effective for your body to do less sets or a shorter workout with great form and 100% focus than it is to do a longer workout where you’re trying to do everything in a rush.
10. Avoid Overtraining and Include Rest Days
Why I do this: Don’t allow your internal dialogue to dictate that if you don’t work out every single day you’re going to look different or lose ground. We are all our own worst critic. Before you get hard on yourself, know the facts.
FACT: Muscle is NOT growing while you’re working out. During a workout, your muscle fibers are actually going through a tear down, and your body is using the nutrients you’ve consumed to provide you with energy for your workout.
FACT: Muscle building occurs when you stop working out, rest, and allow your body to enter protein synthesis: utilizing the nutrients you’ve consumed to repair and build new muscle.
Best Practices: Include and look forward to recovery days as a chance to get other things done – like your food prep or taking a yoga class, or going for a walk, or doing things with your friends. Active recovery is great – that’s when you’re moving but not with intensity.
11. Get Backup: Seek Regular Care from a Sports PT, Manual Therapist or Sports Chiropractor
Why I recommend this: One very common complaint I hear is “I have pain in my hip/shoulder – should I keep working out? I don’t want to miss my workout!” This attitude that we should “push through the pain” and it will “heal on its own” is a fallacy.
Please work with a licensed practitioner who can support your body. Exercise can be the cause of or exacerbate certain structural misalignments that are very common, especially in the hips and shoulders.
I see a sports PT every 2-4 weeks. I’ve had multiple bike wrecks and car accidents in the past, and while regular training supports strong muscles and bones, if I were training and lifting weights on a misaligned skeleton I’d continuously be in pain.
A massage can be very relaxing, but a Swedish style massage is not going to address structural conditions in your body – though it can be wonderful for your ability to decompress, and improve circulation and immunity. There are other massage techniques and manual therapies that can treat structural and postural conditions, like trigger point therapy, Rolfing, myofascial release, and several others – an experienced therapist who specializes in postural correction is an asset to your complete self care routine.
A physical therapist will do some manual therapy, some adjusting and often work with you on exercises to help re-pattern movements in your body so you can exercise with proper form, and a chiropractor will usually work on your bones and realigning them.
One thing I learned from years of working with different practitioners and then becoming one myself was that you cannot just adjust one body system and expect everything to fall into line. Adjust the bones and the muscles will also need to be repatterned or they can pull the bones right back out of place. Just address the muscles and if the bones aren’t correctly aligned they’ll just get irritated all over again. So I suggest an approach that integrates both, and exercise with consciousness of your body.
12. Hydrate or Die.
Why I say this: Many of us are dehydrated and we don’t even know it. Water is necessary to the function of all our internal organs, our metabolic function and is vital in every body process. One of the most common causes of digestive problems, lymph congestion (your immune system), and the inability to naturally detoxify is dehydration.
If you exercise regularly, it is essential that you stay hydrated. Dehydration causes muscle fatigue and cramping, and the body’s ability to thermoregulate (maintain body temperature) is decreased. If you find yourself hungry or tired at odd times, it’s often because you NEED WATER.
My favorite water reminder lately has been this app called Water Minder. You can program it to pop up a notification on your phone at intervals throughout the day (I set mine to every 30 min) and it reminds me to pick up and take a sip out of my water bottle.
Scientific evidence shows that moderate caffeine intake does not affect athletic performance (and can in fact slightly improve it), but alcohol consumption can interfere with muscle recovery from exercise, and negatively impact a number of other performance variables. If you’re consuming alcohol regularly or drinking more than a cup of coffee daily, you need to be aware of the dehydrating effect they can have.
13. Make Sleep Sacred.
Why I do this: Studies show that getting enough rest allows you to perform better, regulates your hormones so you actually metabolize fats more efﬁciently, reduces stress, improves focus, creativity and memory and regulates and reduces inﬂammation.
Plus, having adequate rest will give you the energy to get to a workout at the end of the day if that’s the only time you can go, get you up and at ’em ﬁrst thing in the morning, and help you manage stressful things that may come up throughout the day.
Best Practices: Make sure your sleep environment doesn’t expose you to light. Light on your skin signals your body that it’s time to wake up. Use a sleep mask as needed for a really good sound sleep. TRY to go to bed early enough to get your 7-8 hours of sleep. Begin winding down from computer or phone use an hour or so before you’re planning to sleep. Keep in mind the light from TV’s and electronic devices disturbs your ability to rest.
14. Be Nice to Yourself
Why I do this: One of the least talked about and biggest culprits in why we don’t reach our goals is a sneaky saboteur called negative self talk. It’s something that we all have to deal with at one point or another, and something we must all ACTIVELY work to overcome.
How we think directly impacts what we say, and what we say is exactly what guides our actions…and has a big impact on the people we influence. So it is IMPERATIVE that we own and choose our thoughts with intention.
I know it’s easy to get frustrated with yourself for not doing your workout, for falling off your eating goals, for all the things you tell yourself you need to do more perfectly. But remember that we have to live in balance with ourselves, have fun, feel joy, be in the moment – and life isn’t about looking like someone else’s version of ‘perfect’ for 5 minutes in a bikini.
I used to talk down to myself SO much. I didn’t like how my butt looked or I beat myself up for how small my boobs were, or that I was pudgy in my stomach, or that my nose was kind of bumpy. I beat myself up internally for drinking too much, eating too much, getting a little crazy, not being able to stick to a plan 100% all the time.
What if instead I had embraced the things about me that made me unique? What if I could have those days and years back that I wasted hating myself for the most superficial reasons? What if I could have loved myself just as I was, the way I loved my best friends and my family members? Think about this.You deserve to enjoy yourself – exactly as you are right at this moment.
Yes, it’s ok to have goals and be striving to be healthier! Yes it’s okay to take pride in your appearance and want to look your best. But you ARE amazing. You ARE beautiful. Right now. And you MUST begin to talk to yourself inside like you talk to your friends.
Best Practices: Be supportive. Be encouraging. Say, “you can do it.” Remember who is watching you. If you have little ones, they pick up on that. If you have a partner who loves you, they pick up on that. It’s far easier to love someone who loves themselves, and it’s far easier for kids to value themselves when they see you do it.
Part of what helped me make that shift was becoming aware when I did it. And immediately saying something positive to myself. It didn’t take too long to completely reframe that pattern. And then I took it farther by doing a daily practice of affirmations. Every day I write down the things I believe I am, and the things I am in progress to becoming.
If you spent just 2 minutes writing down “I am patient and loving,” “I am beautiful,” “I am successful,” and more, you would start to make those words and beliefs the landscape your mind lives within on PURPOSE. And there really wouldn’t be room for the negativity any longer. It’s natural for things to pop up! But if you have an alternative, you can quickly catch them and choose something that feels a whole lot better.
15. Do Not Measure Your Progress By Your Weight on the Scale
Why I say this: Weight is a terrible indicator of body composition. Your weight is simply a number that tells you how much the combined tissues in your body weigh – but it doesn’t tell you the far more important thing, which is what those tissues are actually composed of.
Muscle and fat are very different creatures in your body. A pound of fat and a pound of muscle weigh exactly the same thing, but they take up very different amounts of space in your body (see above picture in #4).
So if you are adding muscle to your body because you’re following a consistent exercise program and eating in a way that supports that muscle and burns fat, you’re going to be gaining a little lean muscle and burning body fat.
This is what you were after in the first place, but what we sometimes forget is that this awesome change our body is going through doesn’t mean we’re going to suddenly lose 20-30lbs in 2-3 weeks.
What usually happens is that you’ll initially lose weight your body was holding onto from inflammation created from the junk in your diet, and then you’ll experience a more gradual weight reduction over the coming weeks as you stick to your healthy eating plan.
This is the healthiest and most sustainable way to change your body. When you combine that approach with an exercise program like the ones I create, you accelerate your results massively.
The mistakes I see people make are the following:
- 1. Getting discouraged because they feel they aren’t losing enough weight
- 2. Getting discouraged because they are comparing their body/result to other people’s – who they don’t actually know the health history, full story (like what happens 2-3 weeks after a rapid weight loss from taking diet pills or crash dieting)
- 3. Switching programs after a week or two because they don’t think they’re getting fast enough results which often causes an adverse physiological response and can increase weight gain as there is often a lag period in which the individual gives up before starting over – known as the bottom of the roller coaster.
- 4. Getting stressed about the expected results and how fast they’re going to happen causes stress hormones to rise, which promotes storage of more belly fat, decreases our ability to get good rest (another way to pack on more fat), and decreases quality of life and life enjoyment.
So….if this is you, or has ever been you, what I want you to know is that YOUR body is on its own schedule. It’s changing. Every choice you make creates a chain reaction that reverberates throughout your cells, organs, tissues and brain.
Remember that you may be dealing with a fatigued system, a system that has been inflamed for a while, a system with some hormone imbalances, a system that’s been under seige for possibly years with the chemical byproducts of processed foods that have short circuited your metabolism, screwed up your hormones and put you in a constant state of fat storing.
You can’t expect it to bounce back over night.
Best Practices: That’s why it’s important to pace yourself. LEARN the actual nutrition information that will help you make and stick to the kind of changes that are needed to produce STELLAR, long lasting results.
Let the food you’re eating teach you about your body, and let your body teach you about the food you’re eating.
BONUS 16. Stay Motivated by Sharing What You Know
Before I was Betty Rocker, I was sharing resources with my friends. I was teaching my little cousins how to bake healthy cupcakes. I was teaching my mom how to make a green smoothie.
Nothing is more motivating than wanting to see other people succeed, feel good, and be healthy – and if you care about your own health I bet you also care about the people you love. I know not everyone around you probably wants to do this stuff or is even open to it.