Shape Up: Three Keys To Success - Nutrition

Hey what’s good everybody, once again it’s Darrell Butler, your fitness specialist. Before we can cook up your sleek new physique, we first need to go over the primary ingredients involved. Those key ingredients are a combination of cardio, strength training and the subject of today’s column: nutrition. You may have noticed that I chose the word “nutrition” over the word “diet.” This is due to the fact that I’m promoting healthy changes to the way that you already eat over crazy fad diets and quick fixes. There’s a reason why the first part of the word diet is die – many of these plans are extremely dangerous and sacrifice your internal health for the sake of your outward appearance.

Many of these plans are also just too unrealistic to continue for the rest of your life. Sure, you may shed a few pounds by only eating grapefruit or by guzzling some nasty liquid concoction for 10 straight days, but once you go back to eating normally, you’ll most likely gain it all back…and more! For an example, look no further than Oprah’s struggles with her weight over the years due to her initial reliance on fad diets.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a solid theory behind many of today’s most popular diets; some just need a few minor tweaks here and there to make them more practical. For example, the Atkins plan requires dieters to eliminate virtually all carbohydrates from their menu and exist almost entirely on meat and proteins. Why does this work? The primary “fuels” for your body are sugars, carbohydrates and stored fats – in that exact order. Once your body has burned through all of the sugars and carbohydrates in your system, it will be forced to burn off stored fat already on your body. So by eliminating the amount of sugars and carbs that you eat, your body will be forced to burn fat.

It’s a sound theory, but like I said, there needs to be a few minor changes to this plan to make it more practical and realistic. For example, carbohydrates are also your prime energy source, so without them you’re going to feel sluggish and unable to focus throughout the day. While protein is great for helping to build muscle, it still has to be prepared in a healthy manner. You can’t expect to eat Slim Jims and bacon every meal and not end up with high cholesterol and blood pressure issues.

Another popular diet that’s been around for decades is the Slim Fast plan, where participants drink a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch and have a full sized dinner. Once again, this is a sound theory based on portion control, but the plan is backwards. How so? Because most of us are more active during the day so that’s when we’d need more fuel for our bodies. In this plan, the smallest meals are breakfast and lunch, then you load up on calories for dinner only to park your body on the couch to watch tv and fall asleep. What kind of sense does that make? Besides, who wants to drink two shakes per day as a meal for the rest of their lives?

The most successful long-term weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig are based on real foods. It’s much easier to stick to a routine when you have more options and actually enjoy what you’re eating. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that you run out and join these programs – the theory behind them is actually quite simple and can be replicated at home. Here’s how:

Step 1 – It’s time to bust out your calculator so your first step is to grab that. Choose a realistic weight that you’d like to be and multiply that number by 11. For example, if your goal is to weigh 150 pounds, you’ll multiply 150 by 11 for a total of 1650. That is approximately how many calories you would need to consume each day in order to reach or maintain that weight. I said approximately because there is always a human element to this formula, so that number may need to be adjusted slightly for your particular needs. This figure also doesn’t factor in calories that you may burn off during the day due to cardiovascular activity (walking, working, etc.) so if you’re an active person, you can raise that number.

Step 2 – Your next step should be to spread these calories out over five or six meals/snacks each day. The American tradition is the eat three meals per day, so if this is what you’re used to, try cutting those meal portions in half and turning them into six. Your goal should be to eat every few hours before you get hungry. I know that may have thrown a few of you off, so let me repeat that – you should be eating before you are hungry. Hunger is actually a sign from your body that it’s requiring more fuel, and you should have eaten already.

Your metabolism increases every time that you eat, so by doing so every few hours, you’ll force it to speed up. Many dieters are under the impression that they’ll speed their metabolism by not eating at all, but that is actually wrong on multiple levels. Yes, it is true that you will lose weight by starving yourself, but you’ll also lose muscle and possibly damage internal organs.

It’s also just not a good look since you’ll look worn down and unhealthy (anyone see those shots of Nicole Richie on the beach a few months ago? My point exactly…). Last but not least, not eating causes your metabolism to slow down, because your body realizes that it’s not getting enough food so it begins to burn through calories slower. That’s not something that you want to happen, because once you do go back to eating normally, you’ll end up gaining a ton of weight since your metabolism has decreased.

Spreading your daily caloric intake over five to six servings will also reduce the portions of each meal. Smaller portions are easier to break down, so your body won’t have to store as many digestive fluids and enzymes. That alone will begin to slim your midsection – portion control is the same theory behind gastric bypass surgery. This is how Star Jones and Al Roker slimmed down – it’s a risky procedure though and not for everyone.

Your largest meals should be in the morning, so big shout outs to all of you breakfast lovers. I also tend to throw in elements from the Atkins diet by eliminating carbohydrates throughout the day, resulting in my final two meals consisting primarily of protein and veggies.

Of course, we can’t be good all of the time, so I’d like for you to allow yourself at least one day that literally anything goes. My current day is what I refer to as “Fat Fridays” but feel free to pick your own - Sloppy Sunday perhaps? Bottom line is that you can’t eat perfectly all year. Trying to do so may result in binge eating or throwing in the towel completely, so please give yourself at least one meal or an entire day per week to reward yourself for being so disciplined the rest of the time. You may be so used to your routine by that point that you don’t’ want to take advantage of the full day, which is even better, but just knowing that you have that option will give you something to look forward to.

I know I’ve thrown a lot at you with this column - it’s a lot to digest, no pun intended. Before I let you go though, here are a few general tips to help you along your path to healthy eating.

1. If you know that a holiday or social event is planned, make that day your “cheat day” for the week.

2. If it’s not an “anything goes” day and you can’t fight the urge to cheat, try to have your slip-up occur as early in the day as possible so that you can burn it back off through cardiovascular activity before the day is over.

3. Never eat a large meal right before bed – try to remain active for at least an hour or so after your last meal.

4. Drinking water throughout the day helps boost your metabolism and can allow you to feel less hungry. This is especially true when combined with fiber since water causes it to expand in your stomach to make you feel more full.

5. In general, hot foods are easier for your body to digest than cold foods. Natural foods are also easier for your body to break down than processed man-made foods. By natural, I mean anything that is organically found on the Earth. That does not include Twinkies…

6. Always read the labels on your food carefully, many times the information provided is for a serving less than the portion actually provided in the package so you may have to break out that calculator again.

7. Try to substitute many wasted calories with something more nutritious. For example, instead of a doughnut, try a bagel. Instead of soda, try juice or water. Making subtle changes to what you’re currently doing may make this new lifestyle easier to pull off than you think.

8. Alcohol is fun, I know, but there are more side effects than drunk dialing your ex. It’s going to be hard to build a six pack if you’re also drinking one every other day so try to limit that as much as possible, especially beer. Don’t’ believe the hype, “light” doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good for you.

9. To really get an idea of how well you’re doing, try keeping a diary of literally everything that you eat and drink each day. Seeing it written out will help you stay on point more than you possibly realize.

10. Just because the restaurant serves you a giant portion, nobody is forcing you to eat it all. Feel free to take home what you can’t finish instead of forcing it down. Many restaurants are beginning to offer the number of calories on their menus as well. Check out your local bookstore for guides to how many calories are in many of your favorite restaurant’s popular dishes.

That’s a lot of info for one sitting so I’ll cut this here. Feel free to hit me up with any questions that you might have though. Bear in mind, this is not the only solution so you can also consult a dietician or your local physician to help customize a plan that will work for you. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss the second key element for building your new body: cardiovascular activity.

Until Next time be good…or be good at it.


Here is the MP3 soundtrack to go along with this edition’s topic:

"Soul Food" – Goodie Mob"Sleep For Dinner" (remix) – Lords of the Underground"Put It In Your Mouth" – Akinyele ft. Lil’ Kim

Darrell W. Butler is a certified personal trainer and strength coach with the American Council on Exercise (ACE). He is the founder of Industrial Strength & Performance (I.S.P Fitness) and has trained at facilities throughout the nation. You can find out more about his work at