How to Be the Best Version of You; Part 2 Nutrition

Food, food, glorious food! Of all the things that we enjoy, it is the wonderful morsels that delight our taste buds that are one of our favorites. It is also food that seems to get us in trouble. For our nations finest who serve in law enforcement, food combined with job stress and long periods behind a desk or in a car, has caused a true health epidemic. In 2014, the FBI reported its findings that 8 out of 10 of law enforcement officers are overweight. To add to that, the Wall Street journal issued a report that 40% of police officers, firefighters, and security officers are obese. This is such a serious issue that researchers have reported that law enforcement personnel are 25 times more likely to die from weight released cardio vascular disease than the actions of a criminal. Sadly, you cannot always control the actions of a criminal, but you CAN control your own actions when it comes to your nutrition and body weight. I’m going to tell you how, and remind you that you can, and you should.

As I explained before the three building blocks of becoming the best version of you are sleep, nutrition, and training or quality of training. I wrote to you about sleep first because if you can get enough good quality sleep, then it honestly is easier to tackle changing your eating habits and start a workout routine or changing to a more effective workout routine. I know these changes are hard, but I promise it is worth it. You are important remember? We need you and depend on you. So let’s talk about this whole how to eat issue.

When I help most people lose weight, I am usually coaching people with “normal” lives. Yes, they have jobs, families, stress, and limited time, but I am understanding that many of you in law enforcement have all of those same things only it’s more difficult. I understand that you may work rotating shifts, double shifts, and overtime. This is a huge contributing factor to lack of sleep, stress, and making poor eating decisions. I also understand that whether you are an officer on patrol or a detective, you sit for long periods of time, which can lead to boredom. I also understand that many of you have a dangerous job exposing you to dealing with the worst parts of humanity like domestic violence, death notifications, suicides, homicides, and many other serious crimes. I also understand that you also go on calls where you must be prepared to encounter life-threatening situations, which cause significant levels of stress. All of these factors contribute to having to eat on the run, eating for emotional reasons, and choosing foods that have very low levels of actual nutritional substance. I’m saying I understand because I want you to know I am empathetic, however I also want to you to do better. I believe in you remember?

Before we start, I just want to tell you a few of the amazing things that happen when you drop that weight. First, losing weight will result in better sleep, I already told you how important sleep is, and you need it. 18 million Americans are suffering from sleep apnea, which has a direct relation to being overweight. Sleep apnea disrupts your sleep by not allowing you to drop in to deep sleep leaving you feeling exhausted, so lose the weight and sleep better. Next, losing weight will result in better hormonal balance. Ridding your body of excess body fat will help your hormones balance out which is important to many functions in your body like thyroid and metabolism just to name a few. Speaking of hormones, fellas this is for you. Weight loss is linked to boosting testosterone levels and increasing libido, need I say more? Other benefits of weight loss result in better mood, less joint pain, clearer healthier skin, better immune system, and a big increase in energy! One last huge benefit of losing that extra weight is less prescription medications or dropping them all together! Losing weight results in normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels in the majority of people. Ditching those meds because you were able to get yourself healthy again will also save you money!

Now here comes the how to eat and how not to eat part. Nobody likes this part because going on a “diet” is not fun. I’m going to give you some GREAT news before I tell you what you need to give up for a while. Cakes, cookies, ice cream, donuts, chocolate, candy, milk shakes, fried foods, casseroles, cheese, and all the other yummy tasting foods are not going to disappear off the Earth or get banned from ever being made again while you give them up for a little while! So don’t panic that it’s game over for your taste buds! While we are at it, you’re not going on a diet, your making changes in your eating habits in order to get yourself healthy again. One more part, yes it’s going to be hard at times, but I have the most confidence in you because I know you have done MUCH harder things in your life. So turning down certain foods in order to choose other foods is something you are capable of. Plus remember, your favorites are not going to be made illegal while you give them up for a little while, so no big deal! Keep reading, you don’t have to breath in a paper sack, you can do this!

The most effective way of eating that I have ever witnessed with the most effective weight loss is basically clean eating similar to the Paleo diet. Now I will explain it, but I am going to add some foods for those of you with certain levels of physical activity. Also, I am not recommending this be permanent for the rest of your life. I recommend it to be pretty strict in the beginning to lose the weight, however once your weight is normalized I do recommend slowly adding certain foods back in with a new mindset on how to eat them with control. If you go right back to chaotic or out of control eating, well then the weight will come right back. Once you do lose the weight, you should keep many of these healthy eating habits. It is just good for you.

How do I eat clean? Eating clean means eating seafood (fish and shellfish), meat (red meat and white meat), eggs, all vegetables (corn, rice, and wheat are not veggies), all fruits, nuts and seeds (in moderation), and healthy oils (avocado, olive oil, coconut oil).

Eating clean means ditching sugar (yes basically all of it), gluten (bread, pasta, pizza), dairy (milk, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, ice cream), processed foods (chips, crackers, cereal), beans, corn, and white potatoes.

You can drink water, coffee, unsweetened tea. Specifically you need to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day. You cannot drink sodas, diet sodas (full of chemicals), sweet tea (sorry my southern friends), fruit juices (full of added sugar), and I recommend giving up alcohol.

Wait, don’t run away! Stop freaking out because I may have named off your entire daily food consumption on the “no” list! Stop crying! And don’t call me names!! Come on you are the toughest people in our country, you’ve got this! And besides, are you really going to tell me that you wouldn’t want a dinner plate with a beautiful steak and grilled zucchini and tomatoes? Or a pile of delicious grilled shrimp with a big salad? How about a juicy burger topped with bacon, tomatoes, and onions, wrapped up in Romaine lettuce? Seriously, you can’t tell me that you don’t want to eat eggs and bacon with orange slices and berries for breakfast, I said BACON twice now!! Ok, sit back down, let’s keep going.

Yes I did say I recommend giving up alcohol. Some of you think I am seriously crazy right now and yes I get that. However, remember I said this is temporary. Alcohols, like liquor and wine, have a high sugar content and contribute to weight gain. Beer is full of gluten because it is made from grains. We are trying to get rid of the beer gut right? Also, if you drink frequently, think of this as a way of giving your liver a little vacation, you need a healthy liver. Also, stopping drinking for a little while or even all together will also help you sleep better. No I am not trying to kill you, I promise. I am trying to help! It’s not forever, just for a while.

When you are eating clean, you are eating until you are satiated or comfortably full. That means your not starving yourself, and you get to eat, which is great. However, don’t stuff yourself to the point you have to go lay down with your pants unzipped, you know what I’m saying. You get to eat 3 meals per day and have snacks as long as all the foods are on the “yes” list. It is when we get really hungry is when we are most likely to mess up and eat the wrong thing or a lot of the wrong things. So don’t go hungry! Carry around snacks like apples, oranges, some nuts, carrots, or other foods that fit in the “yes” categories. You have to use your imagination a little bit at first, but you will get it.

Also, here is the best advice I can give about eating clean. You need to give up being so fancy with what you eat. We overcomplicate food these days with our recipes. If you will just go back to basics, which yes will be a little boring at first, you will be so successful and have the best results. Making or ordering in a restaurant, a very simple meal will be the best route. If you are cooking for yourself or your family, making simple basic meals will also save you so much time in the kitchen and keep everyone healthier. Less prep, less steps in cooking, making a good healthy simple meal, will lead to less clean up and that equals more free time, less stress, better health and successful weight loss.

No you do not need to buy different types of flours and agave nectar to cook clean/paleo friendly baked goods, like breads or cookies. Those are just pitfalls to messing up this whole weight loss plan. Spare yourself all of that stuff you saw on Pinterest, or what your know it all neighbor’s wife is trying to tell you. It’s so much drama anyway!

Yes you can use dried spices and salt to season your food. No you cannot drown your meat in ketchup, it is full of sugar. Yes you can use olive oil and balsamic vinegar with seasoning on your giant awesome salad you made or even lemon juice, but you cannot turn all those pretty vegetables you just cut up completely white by pouring half a bottle of ranch dressing or Caesar dressing on it. No you will not die without ranch dressing!

Let me explain a little bit of what to expect. This will be hard during the first few weeks. You will crave the foods you have to give up, and it is always difficult to start new habits. It will take dedication on your part. However, after week 2-3, you will no longer be addicted to sugar. This is a game changer!! This will help you not crave a whole list of foods because you will actually be off that white rock that is literally as addictive as cocaine. Once that happens, you are over the mountain and all you have to do is dig in and keep eating clean, results will be coming quickly! You will notice your waistline will slim down, your clothes are going to be loose, and your face won’t be so puffy. Other people will see it too and comment or ask questions. This is good! Be a good example for them. Also, be proud of yourself when this starts to happen and know more weight will be gone soon.

For my highly active already working out people, you will need some extra carbohydrates. Let’s say this is for those of you workout or run more than 4 times per week and you only need to drop less than 10-20 pounds. If you want to eat this clean diet to trim off that extra weight, but you still need a little more carbohydrates for your workouts, you can still do this diet, but add some clean carbs. You can have one serving of rice per day with a meal, OR one serving of oatmeal at breakfast, OR one serving of a baked potato. Notice that I put “OR” between each of those items. Too many carbohydrates will stop your weight loss and possibly cause you to gain weight, so be careful there. However, healthy carbohydrates are necessary for energy production especially for very active people. Everyone can have one serving of sweet potato per day and I recommend that if you like them.

Let’s discuss a few things that will help. You can use stevia as a sugar substitute in your coffee or tea, but don’t go putting that stuff on everything. Since you have to give up dairy for a while that means no half and half, bummer I know. However you can use coconut milk creamer or almond milk, but no soymilk. If you have a sweet tooth that is talking seductively in your ear, here is my favorite healthy shake that honestly will do the trick! In your blender, add 10-12 ounces of coconut or almond milk, 1 banana, 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa, and add ice, then blend until smooth. It taste like a milk shake, but you can only have one of these, not multiples! Also, don’t go crazy on bananas all day. Try to limit yourself to only one banana per day, they have a high glucose level.

If you are able to pack your meals for when you go to work, that will help you so much. All it takes is some planning and organization. However, I know that is not always possible and there will be times that literally McDonald’s is your only choice. It can still be done, but you can’t get that Quarter pounder and large fries you really want to order. You can still eat clean at McDonald’s, I promise you can, if you can muster up that will power, and say “hold the bun” when you order. One of my clients traveled all the time for his job. He actually had to eat meals at convenient stores occasionally because that was all that was available to him. He stuck with it and lost over 40 pounds and was able to go off his high blood pressure medication. It can be done!

Lastly, I already know that sometimes you are going to mess up. It’s ok, I already forgive you. You and I both are human, we mess up sometimes, even when we try our best not to. If you do mess up and eat the wrong food or wrong meal, don’t quit! Just start back eating clean literally the next meal, and resolve yourself to do better. In one week, with 3 meals per day, there are 21 meals per week. If you eat clean 85% of the week that means that 18 out of those 21 are good clean meals, and only 3 of your meals were not. I would love it if you could eat clean 100% of your meals, and you would achieve the best fastest results. Yet if you are working multiple shifts or had other reasons that it became impossible to eat clean a few times in the week, I am giving you some grace and I want you to give yourself some grace as well. Just do your best to try to eat as clean as possible as much as you can. Don’t make excuses to cheat.

I know this was lengthy and I threw a lot of information your way. Just remember, this nation needs leaders. You are in positions of leadership and are role models for the youth of this nation. You have to be at the very best health and physical condition to perform the very important job that you fill. All of us appreciate you more than you know and I wish you could feel that appreciation more. Tackle this nutrition challenge I am giving you, and you will once again find yourself looking and feeling better than you have in a long time. Next up, we will talk all about training or switching up to training more effectively.

– Marjorie Greene, CF-L2, USAW, CF Kids