The CALMER Eating Method – Food Simplified
Let’s be honest, sometimes health and fitness are hard. Imagine finally committing yourself to a healthier lifestyle only to have to sift through a catalog of information, a lot of which is conflicting. Isn’t information supposed to be more readily available in this, the Google age? Yes! And that’s part of the problem. “How to lose weight”, “how to gain muscle”, and “what to eat in a healthy diet” are among the most frequently searched phrases in Google which assuredly yields tens of millions of results. This is especially true when it comes to the subject of food and, more specifically, what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat for a [healthier, better] lifestyle.
We’ve all heard that “abs are made in the kitchen”. For many of us, this statement isn’t pertinent to our health and fitness goals. That said, the food you consume on a regular basis has an important role to play. Naturally, that begs the questions of what, how much, and when to eat. Google says that you should eat 6 to 12 times a day, your friend Denise says that she’s lost a ton of weight on a ketogenic diet, your brother Ted says that you should gain muscle and that he’s been successful with carb-cycling. Wait, just the other day you overheard your colleague talking about intermittent fasting – what the heck is that? The result: information overload – a very good way to quit before you start.
Disclaimer: I am a fitness professional, not a nutritionist. The intention is not to tell you what to do but to summarize the information for you.
Below I’ll (really) simplify and group the most popular food programs. They are listed in no particular order and should be no indication as to my personal preference. If you’re not interested in rules and programs and believe more in instinct and intuition, jump down to “The CALMER Method”.
Ketogenic, Paleo, Atkins (low-carb): if you’ve started researching at all, you’ve surely come across these three eating programs. While they have their intrinsic differences, the three programs (and others like them) prescribe low-to-no carbohydrates. For sustainability, the primary source of energy comes from healthy fats (more on fats here). Acceptable carbohydrates typically come in the form of fibrous vegetables, i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
Vegetarianism, Veganism (meat-free): it may be a faux pas to some to categorize these two eating programs together. But, it’ll be done only for the purposes of simplicity. The two are sometimes regarded as “philosophies” as opposed to programs because their drivers may be for reasons outside of health, i.e. animal cruelty. Needless to say, no meat allowed. The main difference is the allowance of animal-derived products, i.e. yogurt, eggs, etc.
Carb-Cycling (carb-timing): while it may seem complex in application, it is simple in theory. The premise behind carb-cycling is to interchange low/high carbohydrates based on daily activity and training intensity. In this program, (healthy) fats have an inverse relationship with carbs, i.e. low-carb/high fats and vice versa.
16/8, Eat-Stop-Eat, Warrior (controlled-fasting): no, it’s not starvation – it’s eating within a certain “allowed” window. While they have their intrinsic differences, the three programs (and others like them) call for a set fasting window through which your allowable intake are no-to-extremely-low caloric beverages such as water, tea, and coffee – hold the cream and sugar. Outside of the fasting window, you are to consume your daily intake. Depending on the program, the fasting window can be several hours to several days.
The “CALMER” Eating Method
Yes, there are many options out there and the answer as to which will work best for you is… it depends. In theory, they all work. Each of these programs has success stories and failure stories. The point is, the program that will work best for you is the one that best suits your lifestyle. Notice that the word “diet” has not been used. If you’re like many, diets will serve you in the short-term but will fail you in the long-term. What works is an eating lifestyle, one that is designed to accommodate you.
Many are successful by simply trusting their instinct and intuition. They follow, what I call, the CALMER eating method: consistent, aware, lifestyle, moderation, easy and realistic. Perhaps it’ll work for you.
Consistent: whether it’s your sleep pattern, exercise program, or eating methodology, your body is functionally designed to adapt. So, whether you’re omitting meat, carbs, or breakfast, do it with some regularity such that your body knows where to draw its energy from. This also makes food planning much easier for you.
Aware: more so than anything else, being conscious alone will take you far. For the most part, you already have an idea which foods are good and which foods are bad for you. You don’t need Google to tell you that fruits and vegetables are generally good for you – eat them. You don’t need Google to tell you that you should eat until satisfied and not until bloated – that should be intuitive. You don’t need Google to tell you that you should drink water (more than you probably do) – just do it.
Lifestyle: your eating patterns should match the demands of your daily life. If you’re constantly on the go, it’s a good idea to have snacks in your car, in your purse, or in your briefcase. If your team frequently meets through lunch, have emergency ingredients at your desk or in the fridge; maybe that’s raw oats, yogurt, chia seeds, veggie sticks – you decide. I’ve found that most of the time I’m hungry and scrambling for food, I buy food that I’m fully aware is not the best choice or just don’t eat (just as bad).
Moderation: don’t go overboard on either side of the spectrum. Eat “too” healthy and run the risk of temptation. Eat “too” unhealthy and… well, it should be obvious. If you make good choices – and you generally know what they are – most of the time, a slice of cake, a donut, or a bowl of ice cream won’t derail your progress; the whole cake, the whole box of donuts, or the whole tub of ice cream will.
Easy and Realistic: you know what you’re doing is working if a) you see progress and b) it’s generally effortless. If you have a collection of recipes that you like, use them and use them often. If you know that going carb-less is not feasible long-term, don’t do it. Remember, this is not momentary, it’s for a lifetime.
There’s nothing special about The CALMER Method. In fact, it’s nothing more than a soothing acronym to remind you of things you already know pertaining to what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat for a [healthier, better] lifestyle. It’s the simplest way for you to succeed without being restricted by a plethora of rules and guidelines – we already have enough of those elsewhere. Should you choose to learn more about things like macronutrients, we break them down for you here; carbs, fats, and protein (coming soon).
Educate yourself within reason but also trust that you already intrinsically know a lot of the answers. Unlike everyone else, I’m not telling you to research and choose what’s best for you. I’m telling you that, sometimes, Google doesn’t necessarily know what’s best. You do – it’s just the simple matter of execution.