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  • Writer's pictureAlex Martinez

I didn't need a gym subscription; I needed motivation, discipline, and a dietitian.

Last year I started a series of articles called "Gym Diaries" where I talked about my experience at the gym. It didn't take long before I bailed 😄 You can read why I gave up on the gym here. Well, it did take a while. I lasted like 4-5 months going to the gym, but I didn't see many results tbh.

This time, I've been working out (at home) for almost 2 months and I've been on a diet since July and NOW I'm seeing results. Let's talk about what happened.

So I was really invested in finding an activity to get me to do more workouts, since going to the gym didn't really work out. I looked into dance classes, martial arts, and even manual labor 😄 but nothing really caught my attention that much. I tried to cycle more, skate, and walk my dog, but nothing really kept me engaged or consistent.

I started reading some articles and watching gym rats on TikTok to see what they were doing to stay fit. In the end, it was my wife who told me the big secret: having a good and consistent diet is 80% of the work; exercise is just a plus. This was absolutely mind-blowing for me. I had never thought about it. I thought working out was good enough to lose those extra calories, but it becomes impossible if your calorie intake is WAY more than what you're losing with exercise.

I got a nutritionist/dietitian (I'm not sure what the difference is between those two) that would make a personalized diet plan for my specific needs. I told her I first wanted to lose my belly. I wasn't really interested in losing weight because I am actually at a healthy weight -- I used to be under the healthy limit before I gained weight. BUT I did want to have a more fit figure and be able to gain muscle. So we started talking and working on the plan. We had to achieve some goals first:

  1. Get used to eating meals at specific hours

  2. Understand how food equivalences work

  3. Learn to read products' Nutrition Facts table

  4. Get rid of junk food/food I was addicted to

  5. Learn how to "responsibly" break my diet sometimes

At first it was SO HARD to keep it up, but it became easier and easier with time. Let me explain some of these a bit more.

Get used to eating meals at specific hours

I used to eat whenever I felt like eating. This was very bad for me because sometimes I wouldn't even be hungry but I'd feel the munchies. So, I'd go to the kitchen and get some chips or sweets. Sometimes I even felt anxious if I hadn't had chocolate in a while 😄

So we tried different eating schedules for several weeks until me and my body started feeling comfortable. Now I know when I should be eating and I start getting hungry near that time. I also now know I only have 3 meals a day, and I don't really need more because my body already got used to that pace. It took some weeks to define this schedule! Because my body wanted to eat at all times. But every time that happened, I got distracted doing something else so my body would stop getting anxious.

Now I just eat at

  • 12pm (lunch)

  • 5-6pm (meal after work)

  • 9pm (dinner).

This is my personalized schedule, tho! Because I normally drink a cup of coffee in the morning so I don't really get hungry until it's lunchtime. Some people do have breakfast, or some people go to sleep earlier, and so on. Everyone's schedules are different!

I also have some (small) snacks at

  • 3pm (mid-work)

  • 6-7pm (before workout)

if I get hungry in-between meals. But all of these were carefully planned by my dietitian so I'm still within the daily calorie-intake limit.

Understand how food equivalences work

My diet works by assigning food equivalences (not sure if this is the right term but let's just go with it) instead of having fixed dishes. What do I mean by this? For example, my 12pm meal can be something like:

  • 4 portions of protein

  • 1 portion of carbs

  • 1 portion of oil

  • Unlimited vegetables

Based on that, I'm free to choose what to eat.

For example, 1 portion of protein can be:

  • 1 slice of ham

  • 1 can of tuna

  • 30g of chicken

  • 30g of beef

If I can eat 4 portions of protein for this meal, I could eat a sandwich with 4 slices of ham, or a tuna with mayo, or 120g of chicken, and so on.

The same thing applies to carbs, oil/grease, vegetables, fruits, etc. I have all my food equivalences so I know how much of each thing I can eat and when. My dietitian designs the portions and gives me the equivalences for my specific plan. This can change for everyone depending on your weight, your goals, your metabolism, your food preferences, and so on. We also got to these measurements because I don't feel hungry afterward. If I was still hungry, we'd need to readjust them.

A common mistake on diets that I just found out while doing this is that you don't need to be hungry all the time. If you're hungry, that's not a good diet plan for you.

Learn to read products' Nutrition Facts table

Oh yes. We all know them but not all of us read them. I have to be honest, I didn't even know what these were before 😄 but now I really pay attention. I even look for how many calories something has on a restaurant menu, LOL.

I normally leave these readings to her, because she's the expert on it and she can tell me if a product fits within my diet or not, but I have now a better idea of what to look for and how to compare products. For example, some almond milk I found in the supermarket (from one brand) has way fewer calories than a different brand. This helps me to make better product choices.

But if I wanted to add a new product to my diet, I'd take a photo of this table and send it to my dietitian so she can tell me if it can be added and how many portions I'd be able to eat on a meal.

Thanks to this, I was able to add one specific beer brand to my diet (as a carb) if I really wanted to have it 😄 Just because it had way fewer calories than the other brands. And it has no alcohol, but I'll take the win 🤣

Get rid of junk food/food I was addicted to

Ok, this is the point that blew my mind. I knew I was kind of addicted to junk food, but I didn't know the extent! I mentioned earlier that my body started feeling really anxious if I hadn't had junk food in a while. Let me tell you, getting rid of it was SUPER hard. It was mostly a psychological struggle to learn how to calm the f down and not have an absolute mental breakdown over not being able to order pizza or fried chicken.

BUT the grass really is greener. Now I don't really have junk food cravings. I think it took around 1 or 2 months before I started actually not liking deep-fried food. Because I've stopped consuming so much salt (all my meals are home-cooked now), now when I try to eat junk food it tastes super salty! I was in shock when I tried to eat fried chicken wings after like 2 months and I didn't really like the flavor anymore. I can still eat and enjoy other kinds of fast food like hot dogs or hamburgers, but the deep-fried stuff not so much.

Learn how to "responsibly" break my diet sometimes

We are social animals. We experience peer pressure. We get hungry when we're outside our homes. It is OK to break your diet sometimes. In fact, it's gonna take months to keep a "perfect" diet, but it's never really going to be perfect because life happens and we're adults! The trick is to be responsible about it.

For example,

  • when I go out with friends and everyone drinks alcohol

  • when I go to the movies and everyone buys snacks

  • when I see a hamburger commercial

  • when I'm feeling sad and lazy to cook

  • or simply when I feel like breaking it

But I talked to my dietitian about all these specific situations and what kind of food is available for me. So, now I have plans to try to mitigate these as much as possible.

  • drink whiskey with mineral water instead of beer/cocktails

  • have a hot dog with little mayo and no cheese and make up for the additional carbs beforehand/later

  • eat the hamburger with no bacon, no cheese, and little mayo, and make up for the additional carbs beforehand/later

  • order some roasted chicken and don't eat the skin or order some steak

  • order something from the kids' menu so the portion is smaller and make up for it later

Of course, you can always choose not to make up for it before/after the fact, and just accept your weight/figure goal will take a bit longer.

As long as there are more good days than bad days and you're making progress, you'll get there eventually!

My advice for you

You don't have to change your diet/body if you don't want to. Before getting on this journey, think about why you want to do it in the first place. Is it for you? For your health? Because YOU want to? Or is it because someone else is pressuring you into losing weight or fitting stupid beauty standards?

I tried so many times before to get a fit figure but I always failed. I wasn't consistent, I didn't have a plan, I wasn't disciplined, and I eventually felt disappointed in myself and stopped trying. I can see now I wasn't in a good place to try in the first place. I was doing it for all the wrong reasons.

This time it's different because

  1. I have a plan now

  2. I'm way more informed

  3. I'm doing it because I want to

If I don't see progress in one week because I decided to have fun with my friends and break my diet, I don't feel bad about it anymore. I chose to have fun and accepted the outcome. I can keep trying later.

When I see myself in the mirror, I like who I see. With belly or with abs. I love the changes the diet has done for me, like reducing junk food intake, sleeping better, having more energy, and giving me the discipline to keep exercising.

I didn't need a gym subscription to achieve my goals. I needed the right motivation, the discipline to keep going, and someone to help me with a diet plan.

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