As I continue to learn more, I have changed my thought process on things related to training and nutrition, and in some cases, I’ve changed my mind more than a few times. I’ve used websites like myfitnesspal or the dailyplate to track food and count calories, trying to get people to stay under the recommended calorie intake for what their needs were calculated to be. I’ve even used services that generated meal plans for my clients, breaking it down to what and how much to eat for every meal, and generating a shopping list to take with them to the grocery store. That all sounds great, but none of those methods worked long term for ANY of my clients.
I’ve learned that it is best to keep it simple. Most importantly, I’ve learned that there is more than one way to fix someone’s nutrition habits. Not everyone needs to eat 5-6 small meals per day. Not everyone is hungry in the morning. It’s also ok to eat late, it doesn’t all turn to fat when you go to bed. In fact, eating some protein, especially with casein in it, can help you recover when eaten close to bed time because it breaks down slower and lasts while you sleep. You can buy casein as a powder, or it is naturally in foods like cottage cheese. To be honest, I was probably doing the whole square peg, round hole thing. Everyone is different. If you aren’t hungry in the morning, I’m not going to tell you to eat a big breakfast. If your schedule is crazy and you can’t stop every 2 hours to eat, then 6 small meals a day probably won’t work for you. I want my clients to learn to be intuitive with eating, listen to their bodies, know when they are actually hungry, and learn to stop at feeling 80% full. Sometimes when you feel tired, you might actually be dehydrated. Instead of grabbing a donut or an energy drink, maybe you just need to drink water.
I think the best way to start making changes is taking what a person is doing currently, and coach them to make small improvements over time. Behavior change experts have figured out that people who make drastic overhauls all at once, are less likely to still be doing those behavior changes one year later, versus people that change one behavior at time. If you want to see awesome results ASAP, like if you are getting married in 6 weeks, then short term fixes are ok. Just realize that you’re probably not going to keep that up. I want to help coach my clients to do the little things, so that they don’t end up yo-yoing.
“Practice daily to build skills. Build skills to achieve goals.” Success is the sum of several small victories. Try to think of process goals instead of just outcome goals. For example, focus on how you can get to your goal, instead what your goal may be. Keep the end in mind as your vision to keep you going, but the process is what you can control every day. Here are some examples of small changes/process goals:
- Practice eating slowly
- Recognize when you are actually hungry, not just bored or stressed
- Drink more water and less fruit juice, soda, and alcohol
- Eat more lean protein at each meal
- Eat vegetables at every meal
- Eat less processed foods
- Make your own food, rather than dining out.
All of the above are examples of process goals that will lead to you losing fat, gaining lean muscle (if you are weight training), and feeling better. Focus on eating slowly first for two weeks. Reevaluate to see if you are actually doing that. If you’ve mastered that, great, if not go back until you can master that one skill. Once you’ve mastered that, move on to the next skill. Keep working on these skills, and build your momentum. You’ll get on a roll and get one step closer to your goal every day.