Guest Blog written by IRON Personal Trainer, Evan Warren

Soda… Candy… Sugar… Pizza… Fast Food… I love all of it. And while having that stuff on occasion is absolutely fine, eating it all the time doesn’t support my fitness goals. Healthy eating for a picky eater isn’t easy, especially if you work in the fitness industry. It’s something that I’ve struggled with my entire life, with my fair share of success and failure. It’s something that takes conscious effort and planning, but is easier to accomplish if you set some simple guidelines that you feel that you can adhere to. Here are a few guidelines that I successfully set for myself when I was training for competitive Mixed Martial Arts.

1. Create a Fitness Goal That Moves You

This doesn’t seem obvious to a lot of people, but having a goal that inspires you, something that makes you feel, is a crucial factor for any person’s motivation. Oftentimes, we choose a goal based on what we THINK we should do, or based on what others are doing. But finding something that supports you and your lifestyle and dreams will make all the difference. For me, it was right after I had dropped out of college at 21. I had just gone back to coaching Karate and Kickboxing, when I made the decision to compete in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). I had wanted to become an MMA fighter since High School, when I watched my first UFC fight on TV. I felt that it was the next step in my training, as I was already working on my 2nd degree black belt, and I had been training martial arts since I was 5.

I started up at an MMA gym in Westwood, and quickly realized that I needed to step up my game if I were to ever compete with athletes at the top of the sport. The first thing I noticed was that I’d get sluggish very easily during a workout, and no wonder the reason. I had spent 3 years at college, gorging myself silly everyday at the buffet-style cafeteria in the dormitories. While eating 3-6 plates of pizza, burgers, quesadillas, french fries, and the random salad to ease my guilt felt great at the time, it didn’t feel great when I was gassing out too quickly in my workouts. I realized that I needed to change something. Besides diving into the vast world of fitness and training, I had to step up my diet.

2. Try one new vegetable

We tend to make eating healthy really complicated. We also think that it has to be all or nothing, but in reality, it’s the little changes that add up and make you successful. One new vegetable isn’t a lot. It’s just one! That’s what I committed myself to when I decided to improve my diet. I heard about how kale had multiple vitamins and minerals, and was more nutrient dense than lettuce. Since I already ate salads with lettuce, it seemed like the easiest step into easing me into newer foods. I started off with a kale caesar salad. It wasn’t fancy. In fact, it was drenched in dressing, the kale basically was swimming in it.
Long story short, don’t pour caesar salad dressing in a bowl of kale after Brazilian Jiu-jitsu class, but also strive to improve one thing at a time. In Karate when you correct bad form, you start with the foundations before moving onto small details. Within a year, I was regularly eating a few different types of vegetables.

You don’t need to eat every vegetable, just the ones you like. Don’t be afraid to try them, you may be surprised at what you do enjoy!

3. Learn to cook a meal

Before you think “i don’t cook!”, let me ease your worries. It’s not that hard, and if I can do it, anyone can. I’ll give you a few easy steps to follow.

First, find a protein. If you eat meat, you know what to do. If you’re vegetarian, vegan, or are just trying to reduce your consumption of meat in general, foods such as lentils, beans, tempeh, tofu, nuts, quinoa, spinach, and kale can be used in salads, or other recipes that will appropriately give you enough protein to meet your daily needs.

Second, choose a healthy fat. Healthy fats help with a number of vital functions in the body, and include foods such as avocados, nuts, fish, olives, olive oil (when it isn’t cooked), flaxseed, tofu, edamame, eggs, meat, and dairy products all contain healthy fats.

Third, choose a carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are important for healthy brain function, among other bodily functions, so foods like rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, fruit, berries, vegetables, oatmeal, and other whole grains are great sources of carbohydrates. My recommendation is mix 50/50 between starchy carbs and veggies to get a better mix of vitamins and minerals in your diet.

Fourth, put it on a plate. If you’re looking for recommendations on serving sizes, I will tell you to start smaller with each portion of the meal. When you have three or four different foods on your plate, it adds up quickly. You can always fill your plate up if what you grabbed wasn’t enough.

4. Rinse and repeat

Just as good technique for a martial art doesn’t come in a day, neither does healthy eating. Look at your goal for inspiration, add a new vegetable to your diet, learn to cook another meal. If you improve on these a little bit each day, you’ll see a huge amount of progress over the span of a year. As you get better and better at adding new recipes to your food dictionary, you’ll fall into a maintenance stage, where you don’t even have to think about it. But until then, we work.

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