There is a notion within the health and wellness world that you need more variety, more spice, more special flashy things to get where you want to go with your goals.
And while I do think some variation may keep you from wanting to put your head through a wall I’d like to offer a slightly contradictory take as well.
I think you just need to get boring with your plan.
Let’s start with diet.
All too often, I see clients look for myriad of ways to get fancy with their meals. They look for skinny versions of less healthy meals, they search for lower calorie options of desserts, and they’ve even found ways to get vegetables to replace starches (cauliflower pizza, anyone?)
And it’s not that I think those are bad ideas. I just don’t think a lot of people struggling to lose weight should start there.
I’ve found that initially clients seem to do better when they strip their diets down to some bare essentials and just get painfully consistent with them.
This was something I discussed with Rob Dionne on our podcast together released just a few weeks ago. You can listen to that episode HERE.
Rob took it a step further and believes you can get really great results with about 10 different meals. I completely agree even though you might be able to do it with slightly less or just a pinch more.
When I sit down with new clients during consultations, I find that many people are simply creatures of habit. They tend to work within a small template of meals for at least 1-2 meals each day anyway. So, someone might have basically the same breakfast Monday through Friday. Or maybe the lunch rotates between one to two different options. Where things get sideways is at dinner and beyond.
This is where I find that too much variety can make things messy when it comes to portion control and just having variety for the sake of having it.
I would encourage you to make things simpler.
Find one to two options you can rotate out for breakfast and lunch. Add a third option for dinner.
What does this look like in practice?
Maybe something like this:
Breakfast Option One: 1 serving oatmeal with 2-3 eggs
Breakfast Option Two: Protein smoothie (1 serving protein powder, 1 serving fruit, 1 serving milk or dairy alternative)
Lunch Option One: 1 serving turkey breast on low carb tortilla with veggies of choice
Lunch Option Two: Grilled chicken salad over spinach with strawberries and low-cal vinaigrette
Dinner Option One: Grilled chicken with 1 serving veggie of choice and small baked potato
Dinner Option Two: Slow cooker chili
Dinner Option Three: Shrimp Stir Fry with broccoli and 1 serving rice
With your dinner options, find a meal that you could reasonably eat leftovers of (slow cooker options tend to work well due to portion sizes.)
The goal here is simplicity. Get predictable enough that your meals are not surprises and plot them out over a given week. If you’re heading into your next week and you can’t stand the thought of eating oatmeal that week, simply switch it out for a whole grain toast or something else that would be roughly the same in terms of calories. The same goes for any other meal that you have picked. You want just enough variety to stay to the plan and as few deviations as possible.
Stick to this until you have some good momentum with weight loss and determine if you’re in a good place to add more variety as you see fit.
The same principle applies to your exercise.
There are some basics that apply to strength training and assuming that your body will allow you to perform them, they’ll give you a well-rounded approach to training: squat, hinge, push, pull, carry.
You’ll notice there may be some things missing like: curls, dips, crunches, etc. It’s not because they aren’t effective but if you want the bang-for-your-buck exercises, they will generally come from the first list instead of the second.
Next, find a training program that incorporates most (if not all) of those principles. They don’t have to all be represented in each workout but you do want to see them throughout a given week of training. Most of these principles are adhered to with the way we structure workouts for our clients.
When you can nail the basics and get really good at them, you’ll find that they complement the accessory lifts well also. If we can keep those 5 basic lifting principles in a given client’s program, then we add more variation with their supplemental exercises.
And to be fair, I’ve heard it before that some people say: “But it sounds boring, I feel like I need more variety to stay engaged with my exercise or to stay on plan with my diet.”
To which my response is: But are you seeing progress?
Typically the answer is “No.”
When you have variety for the sake of variety, you run the risk of having no quantitative data to show progress. You just have a hodge-podge of meals or exercises that have just been thrown out with no rhyme or reason.
That’s all fine and good if you have no goals.
But if you want weight loss, I’d encourage you to get just boring enough with your meals.
And if you want strength, I’d encourage you to get just boring enough with your training.
Get the meals in, get the reps in, get boring and get the results that have eluded you thus far.
Once you’ve locked the basics down, you can determine how much style, flair and flash you want to add later on.
For now, there’s plenty of beauty in simplicity.
“We Make Great People Greater”
(Here’s our Katie with a grinder of a PR for 305×1)