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Get Fit the Right Way: Killing Fat with Food

Marines too often get the wrong impression of what it means to be “fit.” However, a proper understanding of what your body truly needs and eliminating what it doesn't are the keys to weight loss and healthy living. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Cassandra Flowers/Released)

Marines too often get the wrong impression of what it means to be “fit.” However, a proper understanding of what your body truly needs and eliminating what it doesn’t are the keys to weight loss and healthy living. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Cassandra Flowers/Released)

I grew up with a mom who was personal trainer and fitness expert. In our house, “junk food” was a few pretzel sticks, and maybe if we were lucky, a few graham crackers.

I envied the other kids in school for their Lunchables and Snak Paks, but when I was 17 and was introduced to fitness competitions, I began to appreciate my healthy upbringing. I went on to compete in three National Physique Committee competitions and placed first in two. This introduction to fitness changed my approach to healthy eating forever.

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Since enlisting in the Marine Corps, I’ve seen it all when it comes to fitness. Unfortunately Marines too often get the wrong impression of what it means to be “fit.” In the Corps there are: the rabbits, men and women, who do nothing but run; the meatheads, who just lift and eat protein powder; and the junkies, who fuel their bodies with energy drinks, beef jerky and the occasional pizza.

It’s safe to say most Marines want a high PFT/CFT score and to look good in their uniform. It’s the pride of being a Marine, but unfortunately these results don’t happen overnight, and Marines are (typically) impatient. Fad diets, diet pills and high-tech garbage bag running suits can be a quick way to see the number on the scale go down, but the inside of your body will be screaming for help!

According to Navy and Marine Corps  Public Health Center, the problem with these types of fads is that they force your body to give up water weight, which allows the consumer to see a bit of instant satisfaction in their waistline, but the results won’t last and there is no change in your body composition. FAIL!

In order to properly burn fat, it’s necessary to eat more. This idea sounds crazy, but by allowing your body to “trust” that you are consuming enough nutrients, your body will slowly start to get rid of the bad fats. Also by drinking a sufficient amount of water, your body will begin to “trust” you’re getting enough water intake, and release unnecessary water weight.  The human body is a genius system — if you nurture it, it will respond.  But it will not allow you to starve it.

So if we need to feed our bodies, what are the right foods?  The word “diet” is a no-no in the fitness world, there is no magic diet that can work perfectly for everyone. Fitness is a lifestyle change.  The body needs an appropriate amount of protein, complex carbohydrates and vegetables in order to run as efficiently as possible. It’s our job to fuel our bodies with the correct food. Proteins like chicken, fish, eggs and beef; complex carbs like brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa and sweet potatoes; and vegetables like broccoli, spinach and green beans are all great examples of the fuel our body needs. Probably not what you wanted to hear, but the truth hurts. Click here for more information on healthy food options and meal planning ideas.

Here is where dedication steps in; shaping and training your body to be what you want it to be is no easy job, it requires pre-planning and persistence. This is the part that trips up most people. It’s easy to run to your local food court for lunch and grab a so-called healthy chicken salad, which could run you up to about 600 calories with those fancy croutons, cheese and robust dressing. Not so healthy, huh? Or grabbing a piece of fruit, and thinking, “Oh, I ate healthy today.” Wrong! The body needs meals, not pieces of meals. Meals consist of different food groups — a protein, carb and vegetable preferably.

It goes back to the trust theory — when you’re eating clean, lean foods, your body will metabolize these meals quicker, making you feel more hungry in probably a shorter amount of time. This is good— this means your body is working properly. And the good news is that you can eat again in about two to three hours. Amazing isn’t it? You can eat every two to three hours and lose fat; the only catch is that it needs to be the right foods. Think about it. Ever notice after you eat healthy you feel energized and chances are you’re hungry in a few hours, but if you eat fast food you feel sluggish and probably won’t be hungry for maybe four or five hours? Listen to your body — it’s telling you exactly what it wants.

Once you’ve figured out how to listen to your body you will have mastered one of the hardest parts. What’s not easy is pre-planning your meals at home ahead of time. Home-cooked will always be better than on-the-go food. This is because you can control the amount of sugars, salts and fats going into your food. This is where restaurants often fail. Even though they may advertise a healthy meal option, chances are these meals contain high levels of sodium and fats, which will only bring your body down. Healthy doesn’t have to be boring, there are a variety of spices, peppers, herbs and even a few low calorie substitutes that can give you the party in the mouth that you’re looking for. The problem comes in when there is no planning, and you’re stuck and starving, so you swing through a drive-thru or the closest vending machine. Sound familiar?

It’s obvious this is no easy task, but that’s the point. It’s not for everyone. Some people don’t have what it takes to remain consistent and stick with a meal plan for more than two weeks, but that’s what separates the weak from the strong. If change is what you want, the groceries and information are there waiting for you to sink your teeth into.  Accepting that there isn’t a quick fix to get your dream beach bod is step one; step two is planning your meals; step three is eating ALL of those meals; and step four is sticking to the plan. No, you don’t need a trainer. And you don’t need a nutritionist. What you need is a strict grocery list, a gallon of water and little bit of motivation. 1, 2, 3 … GO!

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  • Joshua Palmieri

    Healthy meals will almost always contain more protein and fiber than a “fast food” meal. Healthy meals will leave you feeling fuller longer. Higher protein content means higher satiety and increased fiber will slow digestion. Plenty of science to back that up. You have it backwards.

  • Marine Cwo

    Amen sister!

  • Jessica Smith

    That was the point of this article. Eatin burritos and pizza everyday is not being “fit.” You can be skinny and not be fit. This was the ignorant thinking she was trying to point out in her article. Marines….sheesh….

  • CFPOG

    This is a great article, now address how we as Corps fail our Marines by sending them to the chow hall 3 times a day. How does the average Marine living in the barracks comply with this? It is beyond hard and almost unreasonable when they have nothing to cook on/in other than an old microwave. Yet, McDonalds is right across the street with a nice warm meal. We try as leaders to address this, but the fact of the matter is we don’t do enough. The meat at the chow hall is essentially chemical ridden garbage, not grass fed non-hormone or antibiotic free. The veggies are not organically grown. So how do we fix this? How do we as a Corps get past the big money contracts paid to vendors and get with the program? How do we change the ease in which Marines can access the fast food on base? Why do we not have non-processed food at the PX or 7 day store other then fruit? This is a lot larger problem than most Marines realize.

  • Cara Miller

    thanks for the kick in the head! obvious….but not so… :)

  • Eddy

    Sgt Flowers this is awesome advice, but I don’t feel its the beset approach for the majority of Marines. For someone who grew up eating almost strictly health foods, sticking with what you consider ‘healthy eating’ will be a breeze. For the rest of young men in America who grew up on cereal and pizza, it won’t be as easy. Switching from eating whatever you want, whenever you want, to a strict meal plan just because it ‘separates the week from the strong’ is a recipe for disaster. The majority of Marines will fall of that plan within a few weeks, especially grunts who go into the field for weeks at a time, which then come back only want to smash the guts out of a pizza.
    There is no question that you will reduce your calories if you start to eat ‘cleaner’ because the volume of food that you’re use to eating will be the same but your calories will be less. The subsequent calorie deficit will cause you to burn fat. The problem is most people get emotionally connected to the foods they enjoy and will eventually go crazy without them, then blow up their diet.
    What actually needs to be focused on is improving your weaknesses. If you’re weak, lift heavy compound movements and eat more. If you’re slow, run more. If you’re fat, EAT LESS!! You can eat less in whatever way is easiest for you. You can intermittent fast and eat one huge meal per day, 8 meals a day, all clean food, paleo, vegetarian, low carbs, pizza every day, burritos every day, crushing the chow hall, it doesn’t matter as long as your calories are below what you burn in a day you WILL lose fat. Google how many calories you burn in a day, then Google how many calories your favorite foods are, do some grunt math and make sure you eat less than you take in, do this consistently over months, don’t worry about falling off a weekend here and there, and you will lose weight, also take a good multi-vitamin cause you probably aren’t getting enough vitamins and minerals. All Marines should be well balance military athletes, so shape your workouts around your weaknesses, don’t just do what you’re comfortable with cause you’ll never grow. That is the easiest and best way to become fit, not with overly evolved meal planning which will eventually beat your soul into the ground. Semper Fi.

  • Nicholas

    It is kind of hard to “cut fat” and eat healthy when you are being forced to eat at the chow hall. I have requested multiple times for there be more than just salad as a healthy selection at every Marine Corps chow hall ive been to. But was told that there is nothing that they can do, because Head Quarters Marine Corps Master Menue doesnt support healthy selection, and that there must be high percentages of fat on everything they serve.