I’ve not spent a lot of time discussing eating behaviors on this blog so I believe it’s time to turn things around. It is after all a major component to my pillars of fitness success.
My approach to nutrition is similar to my approach around fitness. It is really about foundational skills, habits, changing behaviors and finding ways for a multitude of them to work around various belief systems, allergies, or other blocks.
Most of what I do as a coach is actually problem solving, and if you want to change yourself you need to start developing your own problem solving skills too.
This is the short-form sequential guide to finding an approach to eating that works for you — I haven’t given it a fancy diet name yet, but am open to suggestions!!
It doesn’t cover every last detail of nutrition, in fact it doesn’t even address the cornerstone of most ‘diet plans;’ calorie counting.
What it does do, is identify the major psychological pitfalls of most diets and simplifies what most diets are about anyway — Eating Behaviors.
All without the hassle of trying to overhaul your complete eating routine at one time or telling you exactly ‘what‘ to eat.
These are strategies for eating better and getting better, longer lasting results. Remember that true change is about the journey or process:
The biggest mistake people often make is that they try to do way too much at one time. They get ahead of themselves.
They feel like there are 10 different things they have to change right now in order to find success.
You can start exercising and start changing your nutrition at the same time, but trying to change 3 different nutritional habits you’ve ingrained in your behavior, is a recipe for disaster.
Pick something you want to change, and focus on changing it every single day.
2) There is No Magic Solution
When looking at the psychology of a ‘magic pill solution,’ research has determined that 50% of people taking a life-inducing medication for a heart condition (i.e. one pill that is literally saving their life every day), don’t take it every day.
Even when we present ourselves with a magic pill solution, we’re not even likely to take it.
Changing how you do things is crucial for success, but it’s likely that there is no encompassing all-in-one solution that is going to fix a weight issue.
i.e. Cutting dairy out or starchy carbohydrates out for a month is an experiment, not a magic solution to lose 10 lbs.
The majority of ‘dieters’ yo-yo, in fact, a study at Tufts University a while back showed that a whopping 70% of dieters are unable to keep the weight off for more than a year with dieting alone.
There are too many factors at play, that we just can’t continue to ignore. Everything from social support and cultures to habit/skill/behavior development, their work environment, their belief system, socioeconomic status, financial status, etc…etc…
3) The 90/10 Rule
I’m a recovering perfectionist, so I feel I know a thing or two about this.
Ever get 100% in any of your classes in school. Elementary, High School, University? Do you know anyone that did?
It happens every once in a blue moon maybe, but how many people do you know where able to get 100% in math consistently for years and not just a 4 month semester?
I know of no one, but I do know a lot of people who were capable of maintaining 90% consistency.
Most people would think of 90% as being a freaking math genius right? Well what if you could be a nutrition genius?
If you stick to good nutritional skills 90% of the time and learn to worry less and less about the 10% of the time you slip-up, you will find massive, MASSIVE success with your nutrition.
It’s unreasonable to assume you have to be perfect with your diet (or anything in life really), because if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it and you as a person would have no where to grow.
You won’t be perfect with your diet, and that’s ok, it takes a big person to shake it off, dust themselves off and get back on the horse.
4) The 80/20 Rule
This is how I live my life today.
I’m 6’1” roughly 185 lbs (84 kilos) and have been for many years. For the most part I’m completely happy with my body image, composition and weight.
This puts me in the right mind-set I feel to dedicate more time to other things I need work on (like writing skills!).
80% of the time I eat what I know I should be eating, and this leaves 20% of the time for me to eat whatever I want.
This is more of a maintenance strategy in my opinion, but it can often be a great place to start for those people with a lot of weight to lose.
I don’t worry so much about the details, I follow some general concepts, but I regularly reflect upon what I eat throughout the day.
5) The 70/30 Rule
The bare minimum in my experience for maintenance. You may see some results here still, but probably less than stellar, obviously.
It’s still a great place to start or live your life from if you can’t actually commit to one of the above.
70% in school is still pretty good right? Every now and then I’m sure I dip down here (Vacation anyone?) and manage to pull myself out just fine every time.
The less weight you have to lose, the lower compliance you can generally get away with, I just hope you aspire to move up the ladder.
You don’t want to stay here too long, but it’s worth shooting for during down times.
6) Eat Whole Minimally Refined Foods
Ok now we’re getting into the specifics of eating.
Do you know of anyone who overeats chicken breast?
Know of anyone who eats so much broccoli that they pack on the pounds?
It’s just plain hard to overeat when you eat whole foods, even starchy carbohydrates that are often considered calorically dense.
Cooked brown rice for example is roughly 216 calories for a cup (195 grams) serving — arguably this is 1/4 cup more than a true ‘serving’. That means you’d have to eat almost 2 kilograms of it just to get 2160 calories, which is about where many average males are recommended to be around.
What exactly is a whole minimally refined food?
Sugar cane cut and cooked would qualify (if it were edible) but powdered sugar not so much. By minimally refined I generally mean most refining was done by you (washing/cleaning/cutting/cooking/etc…).
I know it’s probably up for debate, and maybe I’ll write a blog post about it in future.
In the meantime, if you want more guidelines to follow I highly recommend the book ‘Food Rules’ by Michael Pollen.
He put together 64 quick “rules” for discerning what whole foods are.
I think 64 may be a little extreme, but he sums up many of the good food rules I’ve heard from various people over the years.