A good nutrition program should seek to change body composition change (looking better naked), improve performance (crushing goals, weights, WODs) and achieve long term health (not being sick). This covers all the bases; you will look good, feel good and perform well.
So how come it isn’t so easy?
We all bring baggage of some sort with us to the table. In all the years as a personal trainer and here at CrossFit West Houston, I have seen lots of different types, from emotional eaters, to self-sabotagers, eating disorders, body image issues, excuse makers, hopelessly confused, those in denial… you name it.
I have seen every single one of these issues in my own behavior throughout my nutritional journey. I have eaten emotionally anything from pizza to ice cream and even drowned my sorrows in alcohol. I have self-sabotaged, getting to the brink of where I wanted to be, only to binge eat over a weekend and completely screw up any heard-earned results. I have often under eaten in a sorry attempt to overcome a bout of what I would call maybe not chronic, but at the very least disordered over-eating. I have looked in the mirror and wished I had abs like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. I have made excuses like “It’s my birthday” so I can eat at the Burger Bus AND eat a whole banana cream pie. With the continuous flow of conflicting information on nutrition, I found myself hopelessly confused on whether Carbs are the enemy, or is it Fat that is the enemy; nope it is definitely Protein that is the enemy. However, I do deny that I have ever been in denial. Just kidding… “denial” is not just a river in Egypt, I have been there before. Each of these things has affected the results I was looking for and have proven to be difficult things to overcome.
It happens to all of us. Even the super ripped, look- like-they-have-it-all-together, shredded, skimpy-clothes-wearing, Instagram folks. You know the ones who always have it together day in and day out. Guess what?! They struggle too. They just never show it on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or Facebook. So what do we do?
Start with Why
Recently, I have read Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why. This is a really interesting read that mainly deals with successful leadership, but in the end we are all leaders? Mostly, we are leaders of ourselves. In the book he references what he calls the Golden Circle which deals with what, how and why. When it comes to our thinking, the real easy questions to answer are what and how, but the most powerful question to answer is why. As it relates to nutrition and success with results, someone may know that they want to lose 25 lbs. Great! That answers what. They might even know that they need to make healthy choices, follow a specific meal plan, eat the right macro profile. Great! That answers how.
Armed with the what and how should be enough right? But even armed with a solid plan and great goal, they still fall short. They follow the plan for a day, a week or a month, but then fall right back to where they were or worse than they were. They get back into a viscous cycle of basically binging and purging. Why does this happen?
The reason is reason. They did not find their why. To answer the question of why you want to do something, you have to dig deep inside yourself to discover the emotional impetus for your goal. It’s deep-seated and it’s emotional. Only you can find it. You have to find a strong intrinsic reason for doing something. What is the reason for the underlying pangs that drive you to wanting “X” thing?
For instance, let’s say you are looking through a magazine at the grocery store. You see a celebrity in a bathing suit. They looked lean, healthy, and happy even ripped. You might say to yourself, I want to look like that. So you decide Monday (it is always Monday right?) you will get on track, you are going to rededicate yourself to getting in better shape. You get up Monday, get a work out in, eat a healthy breakfast, pack a healthy lunch, and eat a healthy dinner. Easy, right? On Tuesday, you’re up a little late, you are a little sore but you still work out, still grab something quick but healthy on the way out the door, you didn’t pack a lunch, but there is a Salata close to work; come home get a healthy meal. After two days of working out you are sore, so you decide you are going to sleep in. Your alarm goes off; still tired, you hit the snooze a couple of times. Shit! Now you’re really running late! No breakfast on the way out. Get to the office hungry and late. And, of course, someone brought donuts. You have just one, it is only one. And you have been pretty good the last couple of days. Still hungry, so you have another. You were so late you didn’t have time to prepare lunch. Ugh you can’t eat another salad, but there’s a Whataburger. You will just have the burger no bun. And so it goes, the slippery slope is starting to happen. Clearly this is an accelerated timeline. It has happened to all of us, and probably more than once or twice.
The why was not a strong enough reason to sustain the momentum of exercising and eating right. There underlying source of emotional distress wasn’t uncovered. What is the REAL reason for wanting to look like a celebrity. Admittedly, it is not easy. It requires looking deep within you to find the real and powerful reason. And once you actually find it you need to keep it top of mind.
In Precision Nutrition coaching, we talk about the 5 whys. Basically ask yourself why 5 times. This will help you get to a deeper introspection
Go deep. Look in the mirror. Ask yourself why!
Notice and Name
Have you ever gone completely off the rails eating? I have, most of the time it happens at a Mexican restaurant. Everything starts out fine but ends poorly with the feeling of eating too many chips, too much guacamole and an entire order of fajitas. Whether it is Mexican food, left over birthday cake, the tub of ice cream, it has happened to all of us. Sometimes it is because we are celebrating, or we are depressed, had a fight with our spouse, had a bad day at work, the list is long.
It mostly happens because we are not present with our eating. We have “checked out” and not tried to consider what is happening, why are we not controlling ourselves. In Precision Nutrition, we have a tool called “notice and name”.
To have long term success with nutrition, we really need to be present and figure out what triggers these episodes. The next time you catch yourself in the middle of an episode stop and take a minute or two to discover what is fueling it. The first step is actually noticing that you are in the middle of an episode. This is noticing that something is happening.
Next try to name what is going on. Are you eating ice cream because you had a fight? Are you drinking an entire bottle of wine on a Tuesday because you had a dreadful day at work and are worried about keeping your job? Did you eat the cake because you are depressed that you and your significant other had a horrible fight? It can even be as simples as being bored, or eating just because it’s there! Naming it will help you address the triggers that ignite a bout of poor food choices. Noticing and naming is not easy, but mindful practice of it can help you shorten the episodes, get back on track and eventually avoid them. As with any skill, you will get better with it over time.
Outcomes vs Behaviors
When thinking of changes in nutrition and fitness, people will come up with goals. Goals are great. They are specific, measurable, achievable, results oriented and time specific. The goals are things like “I want to lose 10lbs”, “I want to run a sub 7:30 mile”,” I want to have a sub 3 minute Fran time”. All great goals, however we cannot always control when these things will actually come to pass. We can however control the behaviors that will get us to the goal.
Make your behaviors match your goals. If you want to lose 10lbs, some really good behaviors to practice are prepare food for the week in the correct proportions, have a protein, vegetables and healthy fat at every meal, exercise often, and tracking the things you eat to make sure they are in the right proportions. Concentrating on the behaviors will guide you towards the end goal. After all if you are going to travel to a destination by car that you have never been would you go without directions, map or GPS navigation? You could and you might get there by complete accident. However, if you have a good map, directions and you consciously follow them you will get to your destination. And, the more detours you make, the longer it will take you to get there.
The amount of time you spend on the behaviors that help you achieve the outcome will determine your success. Set the behaviors and follow them. However, just know that as with any journey you are going to stumble, trip and fall down. It is ok. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and forgive yourself and get back on the road!
In fitness, nutrition and health, those that are the most consistent have the best results. Consistently train. Consistently make the best food choices in the right amounts; you will have the look and health that you are looking to achieve. Inconsistency leads to inconsistent results and despair. Be true to your goals and consistently practice the behaviors.
Knowing is half the battle. Know the intrinsic why of what you want to achieve. Notice when you are going off the rails and figure out why it is happening. Practice the behaviors that will lead you to the results that you are looking to achieve. Do these things you will struggle less, feel and look the way you want. Now go and conquer!