Talking to fitness and nutrition expert Natalie Jill, you get the feeling that anything is truly possible. Even those elusive six-pack abs she’s known for.
Scrolling through her Instagram feed, which is full of short workout videos and verdant smoothie bowls, it’s clear that Jill doesn’t just walk the walk. She’s a living, breathing example of how eating whole and unprocessed foods (combined with a few high-intensity workout sessions a week) really can transform your body. After gaining 50 pounds while pregnant, she decided to take her health and wellness into her own hands—and just a few years later, she’s gotten those enviable abs back and grown an impressive and loyal following of millions in the process.
Though well-known for her fast, simple exercises, Jill’s own journey really began when she started eating well. That’s why “Natalie Jill’s 7-Day Jumpstart,” her brand new book, focuses on exactly how to “unprocess your diet” and adopt a healthy lifestyle. With 83 easy recipes, seven at-home workouts, and tons of nutrition tips, the book has everything you need to start feeling good. To celebrate its release, we chatted with Jill about her top five must-know wellness secrets—including how coconut oil might finally get you those washboard abs!
Counting calories doesn’t really work
“There’s no accurate way to count calories,” says Jill. “Take apples. Not all apples are the same—they might be different sizes, different varieties, be more or less sweet—so they don’t have the same amount of calories. There are too many variables that we can’t control.” And most people overestimate how many calories they’re burning during their workouts and underestimate the calories they’re ingesting—a simple mess-up that easily leads to weight gain. So focus less on calorie-counting, and more on eating good-for-you foods most of the time.
There is no “best” diet, but there is one thing that works for everyone
Although she has Celiac disease and eats a gluten-free diet, Jill doesn’t necessarily recommend that everyone quit gluten. “It’s great that there are so many new food options for people with Celiac or a gluten intolerance, but some of those foods are just as bad for you as the stuff with gluten!” Reason being, everyone is different. Our bodies have unique responses to food, so it’s not feasible to say that there’s one diet that everyone should be on. What does make an impact, according to Jill, is cleaning up your diet and ditching all processed food. “Across the board, it always works, and it’s the first place to start,” she says.
Crazy-long cardio workouts are kind of overrated
“Sure, you can do tons of cardio every day and eat only chicken and spinach if you want to see your abs,” says Jill. “But does that work in the long run? Not exactly!” Instead of wasting hours on the treadmill, Jill puts in a few high-intensity workout sessions a week and focuses on efficient ab exercises. That means ditching crunches for planks. “Any plank-based move, when done correctly, is going to work your abs, lower body, and help with lower-back pain,” she says. In terms of form, Jill has two specific pointers: “Make sure you really tighten your core as you do it and keep your hips from sagging!”
Zero-calorie sweeteners aren’t helping you
One big reason low-calorie diet foods don’t help keep off the weight in the long run? “The body doesn’t know the difference between fake sugar and real sugar—it still craves and wants that stuff.” she says, adding that artificial sweeteners can also cause bloating and water-weight gain. So skip the Splenda in your coffee and avoid foods with artificial sweeteners added; the latter are often pretty heavily processed.
Eat your way to better abs
“I eat so much protein and fat—I even eat carbs!” says Jill. “Getting abs really boils down to your body’s ability to burn and store fat, and picking the right kinds of protein, fat, and carbs is important.” Once again, Jill champions whole, unprocessed foods. Even when they have a little more fat and calories, like coconut oil or almonds, they give your body the nutrients it needs to burn fat and build lean muscle. “When we’re eating junk food, our bodies don’t work optimally. On a clean diet, your food starts to taste even better, you get satisfied and full more quickly, and you end up eating less,” says Jill.
At the end of the day, Jill doesn’t care if you have rippling muscles or not—she just wants you to feel your best. “I wish everyone knew how amazing they’d feel if they started eating better and moving more.” she says. “You just need to start realizing what’s possible.”