Whether it’s in sports or at work, the superstars in any area are those that are excellent at and have perfected the fundamentals. To be your own nutritional and health superstar, you must have a solid understanding of the basics, including how to work toward losing weight.

Without these ground-level principles in your routine, it will be more difficult to progress and reach your goals. So, let’s cover the necessities of a balanced and effective weight loss plan that will lay the foundation for weight loss success, including how and what to eat to have a flat belly.

Eat in Reverse

There’s a old standard that people followed in their diet which was primarily based on eating economically. But it also applies to your nutritional health. It goes like this: “Eat Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince, and Dinner like a Pauper.” The point is, that you should eat your largest meal of the day early in the day, at lunchtime cut back, and then have your smallest meal as your last meal daily.

The old axiom that breakfast is the most important meal of the day cannot be overemphasized. Your body after sleep is hungry for nourishment, so feed it and it will more effectively use that as fuel for your day. In fact, you will find that higher calorie foods will be more efficiently used if consumed early in the day rather than later. Then as your metabolic needs scale down at night and toward bedtime, you should scale down your meals as well.

Unfortunately this simple philosophy for healthy eating goes against society’s norms if you work during the day and have a family. It is no wonder that we have the obesity issues we have in society. Many busy people either eat a sparse breakfast if they eat one at all, lunch is somewhat whatever is available, and then the largest amount of calories are consumed at dinner within 3-5 hours of bed time, when our body doesn’t have the chance to utilize those calories and then converts them to fat rather than needed energy.

An added bonus: typically nutritious breakfast foods are less expensive than dinner foods, so you can not only eat to provide power and health to your body but also save a few bucks.

Cheat the System

Because food is an emotional topic for most of us, any kind of diet or nutritional plan you have is subject to how you feel at any time. You are stressed at work and just want something sweet to soothe your anxious mind. You feel tired due to a late night so you grab an expresso or coffee to amp up your energy. The key to a sustainable, healthy eating plan is to allow indulgences, but only when they are planned and you can fully enjoy them.

One very easy plan to implement is to eat as healthy as possible and then allow one day a week to eat whatever you want. There are several reasons this works well to help you:

You don’t feel cut off – We never want to not have options. If you feel like you are completely closing off your ‘circle of choice’ then we tend to gravitate toward cheating. But if you plan it and allow yourself to be ‘bad’ for one day, you aren’t as tempted to cheat more often or go off your plan.

It won’t hurt your progress – one bad meal or one day of eating whatever you want will not destroy your progress, it will simply give you a break to continue being good. It didn’t take one day or one meal to get you to where you are now, and one day now will not kill your hard work.

It will remind you of your changes – As you begin seeing results from your healthy eating in terms of more energy, lost weight, and feeling better, you will feel a difference after a cheat day. It will help you appreciate the positive changes you have made and how much you are becoming a healthier, smarter eater.

A River Runs Through It

You will hear from just about every health or fitness expert that you should drink more water. It is the basis for your digestive system to nourish your body and for your metabolism to run optimally. So why don’t we get enough water in our daily routine?

Usually there are two reasons: you normally drink enough liquid but in the forms of coffee, soda, or other sugary drinks that negatively affect the healthy body’s insulin levels, which profoundly influences how your body breaks down food (into energy or fat) as well as how you feel; and, just don’t feel like downing 64 ounces of water per day.

That’s why establishing a habit of sipping water throughout your day is the easy solution. Check out our water intake calculator to see how much water you should be drinking every day – you’ll be surprised!

I’ll give you a few reasons this effort to consume enough water daily is entirely worth it. First, without water your system doesn’t work the way it should. You could exercise daily, eat well, but if you are not drinking enough water you are only getting a portion of the benefit from your hard work.

Secondly, even if you slip up and eat unhealthy stuff, if you are well hydrated your system can more easily flush it out quickly. And lastly, you will feel more energy and overall feel better when you are well hydrated.

Dehydration even in mild form can bring on headaches, fatigue, and other health issues. So, make drinking at least 8 8 oz. glasses of water every day.

Natural foods contain large amounts of water, and only when they are preserved or processed is this natural water taken out of it. So the more natural or organic foods you consume, the more water you are adding to your diet as well.

Food is Fuel

Part of conditioning yourself to eat a more healthy diet is to change your mentality toward food. One of the most common challenges you may run into is “emotional eating”, or using food to soothe yourself during a stressful time. After all, there is an entire style of food known as “comfort food”. But you can take control over this aspect of your nutrition by adopting a more productive mindset.

The basic way the human body works is to use what you consume as fuel. Once it has consumed enough of the right nutrients to fuel your normal daily needs, it uses the rest based on its nutritional value. So if you eat an abundance of natural foods like fruits and vegetables, it will use that to bolster your immune system and fortify your blood. If instead you eat additional fats or sugars or refined carbohydrates, it will convert those into fat and slow your metabolism.

If you consider your body to be an engine, then why wouldn’t you feed it the best fuel available? And when you look at food as simply fuel, you respect the nutritional value of everything you eat. Ask yourself whether what you are eating will benefit your body or slow it down.

Willpower is enough – Almost

For most of us it isn’t that we don’t know what to eat, but more that we haven’t conditioned ourselves to be a successful eater. So we decide we will clean the kitchen out of junk food, fill it with healthy foods and smart choices, and endeavor to change our habits. Then a week later something happens and throws off the best of plans, maybe working overtime or an illness, and we fall off the wagon. Eventually we revert back to old habits. But there is a formula for overcoming this.

The reason any attempt at changes lasts less than a week is because we are relying on willpower to get over our challenges. Willpower is a great way to start making a change, but it does require a large amount of effort and energy. More than is possible to sustain for an extended period of time, it usually only lasts about a week, maybe two. In that time you must take steps to establish a habit that doesn’t demand the intense work that willpower does.

Once the habit takes over, which can happen as quickly as 2-3 weeks, then you will have made more permanent changes and it becomes easier to continue eating a healthy diet. Once you understand this, you will be able to navigate your way through to a successful healthy lifestyle.

Condition Your Tastes

Your current food decisions are based on both logic (what is good for you) and emotion (what you enjoy eating). And that is perfectly normal. One of the joys of food is that you can enjoy preparing or eating a well prepared dish that tastes good. Part of the challenge is that with fast food and portable meals being a normal part of the average person’s diet, we have allowed our tastes to be conditioned to that level of food. Highly processed foods no longer offend our food sensibilities. But you can take control of what food means to you.

As you eat more healthy, good for you foods, you will find yourself enjoying them more, and over time your taste buds will become more attuned to good, nutritionally dense food rather than quick but less quality food. You won’t imagine that broccoli tastes like chocolate cake, but you will appreciate more and more the natural sweetness of fruits, the complex natural tastes of vegetables, and learn how to use spices (not sugar or flour) to increase the flavor of your dishes.

Along the way you will also find new solutions for healthy snacks like nuts and dried fruits instead of candy and chips. Once you get in the habit of eating this way, it’s easy. In some cases your willpower will be not having the bad foods around but only the good choices, then you aren’t tempted. Eventually you will not even crave foods that don’t benefit you.

If you have to walk before you can run, these are the essential steps to walk with confidence and be ready to run. They will give you the tools to lose weight even if you have tried before and failed. Master these basics and you will be well on your way to reaching your weight loss goals.

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