By Nikki H. Huang

Hello, readers!

This week, I’d like to address a topic I am often asked about: Diet. After putting up a question sticker on my Instagram story, I was astonished at the number of questions I received in relation to diet. People wondered how, when, and what to eat to achieve their fitness goals.

I’m not afraid to admit that I have had quite the tumultuous dietary journey. Due to the fact that I started dancing at a young age, I began dieting arguably too young, and in the improper way. I’ve tried so many diets: Keto, IF, low fat, pescatarian, vegetarian, blood type diets. Through it all, whether I lost a lot, a little, or even gained weight while trying a new diet, I’ve learned a very important lesson: The diet that will allow you to succeed is the one you are best able to maintain. It is one best suited to your preferences and lifestyle, because CONSISTENCY > PERFECTION, every time.

Amazingly strict diets like Keto, or (oh dear) Keto vegetarian only work as long as you are able to adhere to their tight, tight protocols. But do you really want to live the rest of your life unable to eat cake, have pasta, and just bond over food with family and friends? Obsessing over what you can and can’t eat?

Image 1 - Diet, Decoded

I know I don’t. A life of restriction is hard. It is unpleasant and isolating. And that’s not what your fitness journey should be like.

A truly “fit” life, readers, at least to me, is one where you get to proverbially have your cake and eat it too—stay in shape, look how you want, work out how you want, and eat what you want—all in moderation.

For today’s article, I sat down with Paul Garcia, my personal trainer-turned-life coach and confidant. Here, we answer some of your most commonly asked diet questions:

Q: Do you believe in doing diets as a way of weight loss? Like keto, paleo etc.

All diets work for the same reason: They induce a caloric deficit. Caloric deficit = weight loss. The key word when choosing what diet you want to follow is sustainability. Stick with the nutritional plan that you can sustain for a long period of time and your body will adjust accordingly. Jumping from one diet to another only confuses the metabolism and you end up with half baked results, or none at all.

Q: How do I get abs?

A regular resistance training routine (three to four times a week) consisting of mainly compound exercises and a healthy caloric deficit nutrition-wise. There are no shortcuts, and no secret formula. If you train abs every day but aren’t eating less than you burn, your abs will not show the way you want them to. Contrary to popular belief, abs will appear as a result of losing abdominal fat, and nothing else.

Q: Meal plan? Macros?

I use a 1:1 coaching service by Renaissance Periodization (@rpstrength) that has determined set amounts of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) that I must consume daily to reach my goals, and adjust them as I progress. I eat a high protein, moderate fat, and moderate carb diet. My diet is flexible, meaning I get to choose what food I meet my macronutrient requirements with!

Q: How long till you see the results following your exercise and diet?

Twelve weeks (three months AT LEAST), to see significant results that will last. Plan ahead and set a time table as to how long you’ll need to reach your goals.

Q: How frequent are your cheat days?

Every 10 to seven days. The less cheats you have, the faster you will reach your goals. But still, I have found that controlled cheats really help me stay mentally in the game!

Image 2 - Diet, Decoded

Q: Best diet for those who don’t go to the gym…?

Eat smart. Focus on whole food with the least amount of preservatives as possible. One does not need the gym to be physically active. Engage in a regular habit of physical exertion (walking, jogging, and sports) just to keep the body moving and burning calories.

Q: Thoughts on LCIF (Low Calorie Intermittent Fasting)?

As was mentioned before, if one can sustain it for a long period of time, then the results will show. It also depends on your level of physical activity in a day. I generally don’t fast because I’m up and active for a long time. When my blood sugar drops too low, I get dizzy. Although I also know many people who swear by IF! It’s about what works for you.

Q: Advice for girls who want to start with their diet and lose weight?

Set reasonable goals and a time table. Focus on a feeling of wellness even when weight loss is the aim. Don’t beat yourself up over “off days,” simply get back on track right away. Eat smart and stick with a nutritional plan that’s sustainable for an extended period of time. Remember, you can eat everything you want in moderation, and set a cheat day to unwind but not overindulge. Remember that a calorie deficit is the key for weight to be lost. Have patience. Lots of it!

Q: What do you eat?

Whatever I want, but within reason! I love to indulge when abroad or in special restaurants, but on a regular basis, I eat lots of produce roasted, baked, or stir-fried. I stick to lean meats (seafood, poultry, pork, and beef tenderloin) and enjoy sweet potato, potato, pumpkin and, rice as my main carb sources. I tend to avoid gluten as it gives me serious bloat. I also eat chocolate for breakfast every day!

Q: How do you control your appetite?

Having your goals as a constant reminder will motivate you enough to stay on track. Zero calorie drinks like black coffee, tea, and diet soda also help. Caffeine, consumed in moderate amounts, also makes for a great appetite suppressant. A high protein diet keeps you satiated, as do big loads of low starch veggies, like leafy greens, eggplant, zucchini, etc. as they are low calorie but will fill you up!

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