In the last month or two, several people have asked me about being a vegetarian. No big deal, except for the fact that I am perhaps the biggest meat eater I know. I eat lots of beef, bison, chicken, pork, and fish. Protein and veggies are the centerpiece of most meals I eat.
So why all the vegetarian questions? As it turns out, many friends and colleagues assume I’m vegetarian because I’m into fitness. When I tell them I eat lots of meat, they seem surprised. But you’re so thin and healthy!
Now, don’t get me wrong—if being vegetarian works for someone, I think that’s awesome. In fact, I’ve grown from thinking there is one “right way” to eat to believing there are endless options and combinations that can work wonders. And of course, vegetables ARE healthy. Isn’t it interesting that veggies are the one nutrition topic almost everyone agrees on? This is true even for diet trends that are otherwise completely opposite, like veganism (which calls for no animal products of any kind) and paleo plans (with lots of meat and eggs). Both are centered around veggies.
After lots of experimentation, I’m very happy with my current approach to food and nutrition. I think of it as the Don’t Worry; Eat Protein and Veggies Plan. I boil it down to a few simples rules:
- I always first think of protein—chicken, beef, fish, eggs, etc. — and veggies of all types. That’s my foundation.
- I eat small amounts of other stuff. I find I really need some starchy foods, like rice, quinoa, oatmeal, or potatoes – about 1/3 of a cup or so at most (but not all) meals. Because if I don’t, I crumble. But that’s me. I also eat small amounts of fruits, nuts, and good fats.
- I eat small amounts of flavorful foods like bacon, cheese, butter, barbecue sauce, ketchup, etc. Because yum!
- I enjoy whey protein shakes after workouts.
- I eat a “cheat meal” when the mood strikes—maybe once a week. Pretty much anything goes, though I often find I don’t stray too far from my regular diet because my daily habits feel so good.
Most of the time, I don’t worry about anything else because I’m tired of worrying. I spent far too many years chasing perfection, and now I focus my energies on being sensible and happy. Plus, it’s possible to get way too carried away with this stuff. Did you know there is now an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive interest in “healthy” foods? Yep. It’s called orthorexia nervosa.
The bottom line here—the Fit Life Essential, if you will—is to find what works for you. Experiment, simplify, and enjoy, I say. Give yourself permission to find what works and declare victory!