Now, it's time to ride without the training wheels. To keep growing leaner and stronger, you'll have to start putting together your own lean, healthy meals.
To help you do this, here are nine basic rules to keep your eating on the lean and narrow. They come from the true experts: men we know who are greeting middle age still wearing size-32 Levis.
Nine Lessons From the Eternally Lean
1. KNOW HOW TO EAT OUT.
Lean men don't treat eating out as a free-for-all. When faced with a diner menu of fries and fat burgers, they can still find something healthy to eat. Here's how:
2. DON'T EAT ON AUTOPILOT.
Fit men know not to eat anywhere but at a table, sitting on a chair. If you eat in front of the TV, in bed or over the sink, you're probably shoveling it in without thinking, said Dr. Peter Vash, executive medical director of Lindora Medical Clinics, based in Costa Mesa, Calif.
3. KNOW WHAT A PORTION LOOKS LIKE.
Eating huge amounts of anything will eventually return you to the aisles of the local Big & Tall. Here's how to eyeball what a reasonable portion looks like:
4. KNOW THE FAT TRAPS.
There are a small handful of foods out there that are responsible for 80 percent of John Goodman. If you've read Men's Health for more than 10 minutes, you've heard this before, but it bears repeating...
5. CHOOSE FILLING FOODS.
That means foods that are high in fiber, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fiber makes you feel fuller longer, and helps you eat less throughout the day.
To work fiber into every meal, have whole-grain cereal for breakfast, or sprinkle some All-Bran over your Lucky Charms. Have sandwiches on whole-grain bread, stuffed with salad-bar vegetables like tomato, cucumber and peppers. At dinner, have a bowl of black-bean soup or chili, or a salad with vegetables and a tablespoon of low-cal dressing. Skip the potato salad, ranch dressing and bacon bits.
6. COUNT LIQUID CALORIES.
Beer, sodas, juices, and sports drinks are all high in calories. "I worked with a car salesman from Kentucky who drank 13 or 14 big bottles of soda a day," said Dr. Michael Hamilton, medical director of the diet and fitness center at Duke University. "That's more calories than some people eat in an entire day." You can save mega calories by sticking with no-calorie drinks: water, seltzer, plain iced tea or diet soda.
7. KNOW WHEN YOU'VE HAD ENOUGH.
Men want to be lean and emit satisfied beer and pizza belches. The good news is, you canas long as you learn to recognize when you've had enough to eat, as opposed to eating until the pizza box is empty.
"Men need to learn to differentiate between hunger and fullness," said Leslie Bonci, a dietitian. "A lot of men eat beyond fullness to discomfort. Learning to identify when you're satisfied really pays off in the long run."
8. DON'T USE FOOD TO FEEL BETTER.
When faced with a stressful situation, a thin guy doesn't turn to food for solace. "He has learned to use coping mechanisms other than eating," said Vash. So when you're pissed, take a long run, play a violent computer game, or put on a death-metal CD. Remember, eating a whole can of Pringles won't do jack to alleviate your stress.
9. DON'T GIVE IN TO A BINGE.
For a lot of men, a night of overindulging can easily turn into an entire week of gluttony. You figure you've already blown it, so you might as well eat whatever the hell you want. This is what shrinks call "all or nothing" thinking, and it's been the downfall of many a fitness program.
And it won't help to try starving yourself the following day; you'll just end up hungry and judgment-impaired. There's only one way to get back on track after a gluttonous rampage: "Wake up, have your usual breakfast, and continue as if nothing happened," said Vash.