Nine steps to eating yourself lean

Staying lean is not all genetics. Learn the lean tricks and lose some inches.
You've stuck to the meal plan, worked out faithfully three times a week, and you're looking trimmer and tighter. You're tucking your shirts in, maybe for the first time in years. We salute you.

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

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:

  • In a restaurant: Don't even look at a menu. Just order something you know is low in fat and calories: a bowl of soup (clear, not creamy), a turkey or ham sandwich (no cheese or mayo), and a salad (light dressing on the side); or broiled fish, a steamed vegetable, and a plain baked potato.
  • At the drive-through: Instead of a combo meal, order one or two plain burgers (no cheese). Other good bets: grilled-chicken sandwiches; baked potatoes stuffed with broccoli; garden salads with low-cal dressing.
  • At Vinny's: Ask for a thinner crust, more sauce, and half the cheese.
  • At the Chinese takeout: Find a place that offers steamed entrees or a place that will steam them without the greasy sauce if you ask. If they won't, order a big container of hot-and-sour soup and some steamed vegetables instead.


    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.


    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:

  • A half-cup pile of cooked pasta is the size of a tennis ball.
  • An ounce of hard cheese is the size of a golf ball.
  • A 4-ounce hamburger patty fits inside the lid of a quart-size mayonnaise jar.
  • 3 ounces of meat is the size of a deck of cards.
  • 1 cup of beans or breakfast cereal is the size of a baseball.
  • An ounce of potato chips or pretzels will fit in both your open, cupped hands.
  • An ounce of nuts will fit in the palm of one hand.
  • 2 tablespoons of salad dressing will fill a shot glass.
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter is the size of a large, unshelled walnut.


    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...

  • Instead of potato chips, candy or cookies from the vending machine, eat pretzels from the vending machine.
  • Instead of bacon or sausage, eat canadian bacon.
  • Instead of anything fried, eat anything broiled or grilled.
  • Instead of whole milk or cheese, eat one percent or skim milk, low-fat cheese.
  • Instead of ice cream, eat this nonfat frozen yogurt or frozen fruit bars.
  • Instead of creamy salad dressings, eat this fat-free dressings, or creamy dressings diluted to half strength with vinegar.


    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.


    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.


    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."


    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.


    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.

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