If you’re in the process of trying to glow up, transform your body, or simply trying to improve your health, this article is for you. I am calling this the Glow Up Diet, but in reality, it’s not a diet at all. Instead, I have put together a list of small but powerful changes you can make when deciding what to put (or not put) into your body.
Why should you listen to me? Because I did it. I glowed up—I lost twenty pounds, transformed my body and went from lacking confidence and being overweight to becoming a model, personal trainer, nutritionist, business owner and completely reinventing myself without spending a dime on cosmetic procedures. And most of my “glow up” transformation happened before I even set foot in the gym, it was primarily fueled by what I ate. (I now have a very consistent workout regiment that has offered its own array of benefits, but more on that in another post.) For me, changing how I ate and my relationship with food was one of the most important parts of my journey, so I am here to share what I did and what worked when nothing else did.
This Glow Up Diet, is the key to changing your lifestyle and sustaining healthy eating habits over time.
In this article I am going to explain the power that a single meal has on your health and appearance, and the compound effects that happen when you consistently make better choices over time. This article is also going to give you the ins and outs of navigating the grocery store, tell you what to eat more of, what to eat less of and tips to make it easier to change. I also have put together a comprehensive Nutrition Guide and 7 day meal plan that you can download and have to reference.
The Power of Food
Before you can begin the Glow Up Diet and start transforming yourself, you must understand the power that food has on your overall wellbeing and appearance. It turns out the expression “you are what you eat” tends to have more validity that you may have realized. While of course, there were many things that played a toll in my glow up journey from dressing better, taking better care of my skin, to changing my routines and lifestyle, but if I had to choose one thing that had the most influence, it would be the changes I made in my diet.
I was blessed with good jeans and surrounded by family members who were all slim and fit. For this reason, I assumed that I would always look good regardless of what I ate (although, I discovered in my early twenties, that this was not the case). So I developed a terrible relationship with food, I would eat whatever I wanted with zero consideration of what it would do to my body. After educating myself on nutrition and changing the way I ate, I was able to completely transform my body, improve my complexion, have more energy, be more productive, feel better, and so much more—without traditional diets or calorie restriction.
Below are some of the things that food can do:
By eating the right foods, you can experience the benefits on the left, while eating the wrong foods can have the adverse effects. So what are the right foods and what are the wrong foods? We will go through it later in this article.
1. Change the Way You Think About Your Body
The first component of the Glow Up Diet is changing the way you think about your body. You will never be motivated to change what you eat without regarding your body as what it is, the vessel that carries you. I think we have a tendency to overlook the truly incredible capabilities our body has when given the proper care. Your body is the battery that powers literally everything you do and it’s the only body you will ever have. But as the famous saying goes, you get out what you put in. If you put junk into your body, you will get junk out of it and it will translate into your appearance, mood, energy, brain functionality, and physical performance.
2. Change the Way You Think About Food
Eating the right foods can help you look fit, fight disease, stay young and make your skin radiant and clear. Unfortunately, many of the wrong foods are loaded with addictive additives, refined sugars and harmful ingredients that are designed to reward your brain for eating them. This creates a vicious cycle where your brain craves terrible food and is rewarded for indulging in it.
Instead of thinking about food as a way to satisfy your brain, think about it as a way to satisfy your body—which unfortunately, can’t always tell you what it wants or needs. It will take some repetition but if you continuously let this new way of thinking dictate your food choices, you will begin craving the healthier options and begin finding the unhealthier options less and less appealing.
3. Use Each Meal as an Opportunity to Improve
Every time you eat, you have the opportunity to either improve or worsen your health and wellbeing. One good meal can supercharge your metabolism, sharpen your mind, boost your immune system, improve your energy, clear your skin, lower your cholesterol and more. Of course, the compound effect of consistently healthy meals creates substantial impact, whereas the effects of one meal are comparably minute. But nonetheless, one meal can help you improve and take you closer to your goals.
The impact of one bad meal
On the contrary, one bad meal can have the adverse effect and even undo some of the progress you’ve made with your healthy choices. One bad meal can cause a chain reaction in the body that involves a blood sugar spike, a frenzy of insulin and an excess of available energy that ends up being stored as fat. The blood sugar spike caused by the bad meal will also lead to a crash which will result in cravings and escalated hunger later in the day which makes it more likely that you will overeat and make other bad choices later in the day.
The impact of one day of bad meals
According to this study by scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder, one day of binge eating can cause 1/5 a pound of fat to be gained and a weekend of eating what you want can gain you 1/2 a pound of fat. How about a week of bad meals? According to the same study you can expect to gain as much as 1.5 pounds of fat.
Now perhaps 1/5 a pound of fat doesn’t sound too bad, but let’s put it into perspective. Below is a picture of a single pound of body fat. To think that one fifth of that can be gained in a single day, and one and a half times that can be gained in a single week…
To burn off one pound of fat you must burn 3500 calories or be in a 3500 calorie deficit. This means either burring 500 calories a day for a week or eating 500 calories less every day for a week.
It’s easy to dismiss a meal, after all, “what’s one McDonald’s burger going to do.” but a week of “I’m on vacation”s or even a day of throwing your regards out the window can have a pretty big impact.
Now, of course, I am not going to sit here and tell you that I am perfect. I certainly have had my fair share of unhealthy indulgences, and I try not to prohibit myself from enjoying the finer things in life. There are times where I just really want the lasagna instead of the whole grain pasta, and days where I just want to order a pizza rather than putting together an elaborate meal. And I think it’s important to treat yourself. But many times, the bloat, fatigue and other side effects of a bad meal hangover are not worth the few moments of indulgence.
If you are going to indulge
While I believe the key to making this Glow Up Diet work for you is being consistent, and thus, avoiding binges and unhealthy meals as often as possible, there are times where it’s going to be unavoidable. And I understand it’s not realistic for most people (including myself) to be 100% healthy 100% of the time. Whether it be a family gathering, a holiday, a barbecue at the neighbor’s house, a party with pizza or damn it, you just want to have dessert tonight. That’s fine, allowing yourself some variety will promote longevity. If you are going to have an unhealthy meal, there are some hacks that can mitigate the effects.
When I do make the decision to order pizza or give in to the cheese board I take two things beforehand:
When I can, I take a shot of apple cider vinegar and mix it with water and drink it before my bad decision. The additional acidity helps your body break down the food more effectively and various clinical trials have linked vinegar consumption with reduced CVD biomarkers. Additional trials have found a positive association with vinegar consumption, BMI, hip circumference, and adiposity index (fat mass). There are some other benefits to drinking apple cider vinegar daily but be careful not to drink it straight as it can damage the enamel on your teeth.
Another way to mitigate the effect of a bad meal is to take some digestive enzymes right before eating it. These enzymes can help jumpstart the digestion of your meal and can even reduce the impacts of common allergens like lactose (keep reading to see why I opt for these before I indulge in a dairy-rich meal.) For this reason take one or two of these digestive enzyme pills (depending on how bad the meal is) and it helps your body better break down and digest the food. It also can slow the digestion which makes you feel fuller quicker.
4. Eat More Vitamins and Antioxidants
It’s no secret that we should eat more fruits and vegetables, you’ve been told it since you were a kid (hopefully) and I am not here to preach what you already know. However, I will kindly remind you why you should eat more fruits and veggies. Obviously fruits and veggies are fairly low in caloric density which means they are great for losing weight and keeping you slim—they can give you the feeling of fullness without all of the additional calories. However, the real benefits from fruits and vegetables comes down to the two things they are all rich in: vitamins and antioxidants.
While each vitamin offers something unique to the body, adequately consuming the key vitamins can:
- Reduce your risk of disease including cardiovascular disease and cancer
- Look younger
- Have more energy
- Stay healthy
- Have clear, radiant skin
- Reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Improve brain function and sharpness
- Lower your blood pressure
- Boost your metabolism
- Reduce blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol
- and much, much more
While there are many micronutrients that we should account for in our diet, I chose to highlight a few key ones below. Below is an infographic I put together that highlights the benefits of the 5 key vitamins. For more details on vitamin and antioxidant rich food, download my free nutrition guide.
Note that there is considerable evidence that show that eating your vitamins in food versus relying on supplements is a far more effective method to reach recommended micronutrient intakes. For this reason, you should try to eat a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients (fruits and vegetables) instead of relying on supplements. Although, incorporating a multivitamin into your diet is not going to hurt you.
5. Drink Less Alcohol
Cutting back on alcohol can have a huge impact on your overall health, body and skin. When I looked my worst, I was in my early twenties. I was going out all the time, drinking too much and it definitely had a toll on my appearance, my productivity, and more.
We all know that drinking in excess can have a terrible effect on you in the long term—from potential addiction to cancer, liver disease and more. But even if you don’t have a drinking problem, drinking too much can prevent you from reaching your goals. It can cause liver stress, dehydration, dull skin, and additional pounds of fat, not to mention the dreaded morning-after hangover.
While moderate drinking has not been shown to have negative side effects, (the CDC classifies moderate drinking as one drink a day or less for women, two drinks a day for men), every drink brings extra calories into your diet without added nutrients. This can obviously lead to a calorie surplus which can lead to weight gain.
For instance, one long island iced tea has as much as 780 calories!
If you don’t believe me, next time you go out drinking, try logging each drink in MyFitnessPal and seeing the total calories you just added to your day. Besides, alcohol is after all, a toxin. For this reason, it’s best to try and cut back.
6. Drink More Water
The next ingredient in the glow up diet is good ol’ H2O. Water can have many benefits on your health and appearance—some examples include: helping maximize the impact of vitamin and nutrients, aiding in digestion, helping with weight loss, reducing bloating, improving your skin, and increasing your energy. If you exercise regularly, adequate water consumption is even more important (as additional fluid can be lost during exercise.)
How much water should you drink?
The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine suggests 2.7 liters for women and 3.7 liters for men. Although, on the glow up diet, I suggest drinking even more than that. Try to drink your body weight in ounces.
For instance, if you weight 130 pounds, you should aim to drink 130 fluid ounces of water each day.
Tips for drinking more water
I acknowledge that drinking a gallon of water is easier said than done but here are my top tips for making sure you are staying hydrated:
- Keep a 26 ounce thermos on your desk at all times
- Drink a glass of water right when you wake up
- Keep a thermos of water by your bed
- Use reusable straws
- Track your water intake
- Drink herbal tea
- Eat a healthy variety of salty foods to provoke thirst
- Drink when you’re thirsty
My favorite thermos: Yeti 26 ounce Rambler
My favorite reusable straws: silicone straws
My favorite herbal tea: Buddha tea turmeric ginger tea
7. Eat More Fiber
Fiber is one of the most important nutrients in the glow up diet. Fiber can help reduce your body fat, improve digestion, control your appetite, reduce your blood sugar, and increase your lifespan. While I could get into the technicalities of soluble vs. insoluble fiber, I figured I’d spare you the gruesome details and instead suggest that you eat a healthy variety of fiber-rich foods, which will help ensure you are getting both.
Fruits, veggies, legumes and whole grains are excellent fiber-dense options. Check out my nutrition guide for more details on the foods that contain the most fiber.
8. Eat More Lean Protein
If you are undergoing a physical body re-composition—whether that be inducing fat loss or promoting muscle hypertrophy, it’s a good idea to up your protein intake. After all protein and its respective amino acids are the building blocks that make us. Sufficient protein intake can promote satiety, sustain muscle mass, promote muscle growth and help with various other functions including immunity, endocrine function, and nutrient transport.
All adults should eat at least 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. Although for active individuals, or those with body recomposition goals (especially when paired with a calorie deficit) this number should be increased to around 2.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight (or 1 gram per pound). Individuals in the deficit group should closer to 3.1 grams of protein per body weight to avoid the atrophy of muscle tissue.
Try to time your protein intake evenly throughout the day. In other words, try to consume even amounts of protein with each meal for optimal synthesis rather than eating all of it at one meal.
9. Cut Out Ultra-Processed Foods
Ultra processed foods including chips, candy, processed meats, and frozen meals can have adverse effects on your body, your skin and overall health. Eliminating these (to the best of your ability) from your diet can help transform your appearance and wellbeing.
Not all processed foods are equally bad for you. I have included some notorious culprits that you should do your best to avoid below. However, for more details on how to decipher bad and acceptable forms of processed foods and for my grocery shopping cheat sheet, check out my free nutrition guide.
10. Eat More During Your Meals and Less Snacks
The tenth step in the glow up diet is to eat substantial, planned meals rather than snacking throughout the day. While there are mixed opinions on this throughout the industry, this has been something that’s been effective for me. You often put more thought into your meals than you do a snack, so by having three adequate meals a day, you are more likely to make healthy choices.
I especially try to avoid eating after dinner. This is something that has been a bit of a challenge, since this is my husband’s favorite time to raid the pantry…
Tips to Get Started With the Glow Up Diet
Now that I have shared the ins and outs of the glow up diet with you, I want to give you some tips on how to make this lifestyle change as easy as possible to implement:
Keep healthy snacks on hand
If you eat three substantial meals, you should feel less tempted to snack during the day. However, the urge will inevitably arise. By purchasing healthy snacks to have on hand, you will have to reach for the carrots rather than the chips.
Shop on a full stomach
Eat before you go grocery shopping so you are not influenced to grab the frozen pizza when you stomach starts growling.
Plan your meals in advance
I love to plan my meals in advance and get all of the groceries up front. This way, if I work late or have a super busy day, I don’t have the excuse that we don’t have anything to eat. This also holds me accountable to my meal plan, because I already paid for the groceries. I use the app Mealtime to do this.
The app has hundreds of healthy and delicious recipes and you can pre-set your dietary restrictions. I have mine set to vegan. Choose which meals you’d like to make that week and the app will compile your grocery list for you. When you’re ready to cook, it will also walk you through the recipes.
Learn how to cook
To me, learning to cook has been one of the most fun ways to stick to the glow up diet. And by familiarizing yourself with cooking techniques and tactics, you can create your own delicious and nutritious plates.
Not sure what to make? I have included 7 days of ideas in my free nutrition guide.
Eat a healthy breakfast
The next hack I have that will help you stick to the glow up diet is eating a healthy breakfast. This is so important, in fact that I have included it in my morning routine checklist and my healthy habit tracker.
Not only is skipping breakfast heavily correlated with obesity, but your body metabolizes the food you eat early in the morning far more effectively than the food you eat in the evening. This is due to your circadian rhythm and your body anticipating more required energy expenditure throughout the day. Basically, your body converts more of the energy you consume in the morning into glycogen rather than storing it as fat. For this reason, you can see breakfast as having an additional calorie credit…basically you can eat more in the morning with fewer consequence.
By starting with a healthy breakfast, like a nutritious green smoothie, you will be able to front load many of your nutrients, reduce snacking and binging later, and also make healthier choices later in the day.
Make enough for leftovers
To eliminate the need to prepare an additional meal, I like to double the recipe so I have enough for leftovers. I then put the leftovers in two tupperware containers, one for my husband and one for me to eat for lunch the next day.
Ready to Glow Up?
Disclaimer: I am a certified nutrition coach and personal trainer, not a registered dietician or physician. The information in this post are meant to be for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Please consult a licensed professional for specific dietary guidance