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Change How You Think About Nutrition

Diets are terrible. There, I said it.

Diets are terrible for 3 main reasons:

  1. They’re usually used as a punishment for something: “You can’t fit into those [insert any article of clothing]; you’re going on a diet!”
  2. They’re usually short term and you go back to your old eating habits once you’ve reached the milestone: “I’m going on a diet so I can fit into these clothes in time for our trip.”
  3. They require a complete overhaul of every single thing you eat, which makes you both mentally and physically want to rebel: “Stop eating what you’re eating, and replace all your food with this wheatgrass infused air sandwich.” (Okay, that example may be a bit hyperbolic)

Diets are terrible because it’s not the same thing as improving your nutrition. It’s a short-term fix for something that requires a long-term adjustment. I would challenge you to rethink how you look at nutrition through the following three areas:

MENTAL: Eating better doesn’t happen overnight

Contrary to popular belief, I can’t eat anything I want and still reach my goals. It took me roughly 6 months into my fitness journey to figure that out. Once figuring that out, I threw out everything in the refrigerator and bought all new food. That lasted for about…2 weeks. Then I went back to my old habits. Why? Because such a drastic change was a shock to lifelong eating habits.

Trying to improve your nutrition is hard because it requires:

  1. Forgiveness: Through this process, you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to occasionally slip back into previous habits, and that’s okay. Forgive yourself, and make better choices with the next meal. Don’t lean into that feeling of defeat.
  2. Intentionality: An intentional effort to understand what needs to be changed and to make the changes.
  3. Time: Building new habits takes time. Changing your eating habits takes time. Changing the way you think about nutrition will take time.

To adequately prepare to make changes to your nutrition, combine this mental shift with the following steps.

ACTIONABLE: Seek to Understand

“Cut down carbs to lose weight.”
“Okay, but why?”
“Because carbs make you gain weight.”
“That doesn’t explain why.”

I don’t know about you, but if someone is asking me to make a drastic change about something, I like to understand the ‘why’ behind it. Understanding the ‘why’ enables me to not only buy-in to the change, but also become an avid supporter of it. Making changes to my nutrition was no exception to this approach. When determining where to start to seek to understand how food affects my body, I started with these two formulas:

There are definitely nuances to those two formulas, but they gave me a great baseline to start from. I fully believe that if you can understand how proteins, carbs, greens, sugars (here and here), and fats impact your weight goals, it makes it much easier to make gradual, sustainable changes to your nutrition.

TANGIBLE: Track Your Habits

“Where do I start?”

That’s likely the question you’re asking yourself. A simple, tangible next step would be to understand what you’re eating now. Overall, we don’t spend much time thinking through our protein, carb, and/or fat intake. Instead, we think through what we’re going to eat next. If we want to make sustainable changes to our nutrition, we need to fully understand our current eating habits.

I would challenge you, for the next 2 weeks, to keep a journal of what you eat throughout the day. It could be something as simple as recording what you eat, before the first bite, on your phone, or you could carry around an actual journal and record after each meal. Additionally, there are smartphone apps such as MyFitnessPal that can help you record your meals. Find a system that works for you, and then use it to get a complete view of your eating tendencies. This will provide you a solid foundation to build on when you’re ready to start making intentional changes to track your protein, carb, and fat intake; most commonly referred to as your macronutrients.

We could definitely dig into each of these topics in a more detailed manner; however, my goal is to shift the mindset surrounding these topics to help you be more open to making the right changes. Though, if you’re ready to dig deeper into specific topics, I’m here to help however I can. Our next topic will explore changing the way you think about weightlifting.

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