Yesterday I was having coffee with my friend Linda, who’s attempting to make some dietary changes. She has sent me some photos of the meals she’s proudly created. There’s eggs, avocado and bacon for breakfast. Roasting pans full of chicken and vegetables for dinners. Bags of sliced veggies and dried fruits for replacing candy snacks throughout the day. She’s really taking strides to eat more whole foods in an impressive way. I’m happy to cheer her on and encourage her journey.
But over coffee, Linda confessed that she was feeling pretty bummed out. Turns out she had a conversation with a friend yesterday. As she was proudly sharing her new breakfast choices, her friend told her not to eat avocados because the fat in avocados (but not other kinds of vegetable fat) is deposited around your waist.
And here, I thought I’d heard it all. Ha!
There is no shortage of bad nutrition advice, old wives’ tales, marketing propaganda, and unhelpful information in the world. Living in the Information Age does not give us an advantage over living in the Dark Ages if the information you’re bombarded with is composed of half-truths, misinformation and outright lies.
This is how your attempts at healthy eating get sabotaged. In our conversations about eating, Linda had pretty much nailed the basis of a healthy diet: lean protein with every meal, lots of veggies and fruit, some healthy fats and oils. Minimally processed foods, more cooking at home and planning ahead. She had a few questions about the details but mainly she needed very little advice from me, just some encouragement and brainstorming some cooking strategies.
I find this is the case with most clients who come to me. They understand the gist of eating well. They simply get stuck when trying to make it happen. Or they get so wrapped up with the little details that they just give up. And sure, your friends really want to help you, but…
You don’t need more information on what to eat.
I’m going to repeat that.
You don’t need more information on what to eat.
You know how to eat. You know carrots are healthier than a candy bar for a 3 pm snack. You know that drinking a six-pack of beer after dinner isn’t going to cause you to grow six-pack abs. You know 90% of what you need to know.
So why aren’t you eating better? The reasons you feel bad, or aren’t eating well, or can’t stick to a plan most likely have nothing to do with food. How’s your sleep? Stress management? Time management? Water intake? What other components of your life directly impact your eating habits? Consider that food might not be the issue at all.
But you really, really want to eat better. I’m with you on that. Maybe if you could just take control of this one piece of the puzzle, the other pieces will start to fall into place.
I’m not going to give you a meal plan. I’m not going to put up a list of “good foods” and “bad foods.” I’m going to give you a simple 2-step activity to figure out what you need to do about how and what you’re eating.
Step 1: Ask yourself one question:
What’s one thing I can change today that will help me feel better tomorrow?
Do you have an answer? I think you do.
Step 2: Do it. Every day for a week. Then ask yourself another question:
How’s that working out for me?
This simple framework might feel too simple. But stay with me. Simple means you’re very likely to achieve it. And taking action will lead to results. Thinking about something for 6 months, reading lots of articles on the Internet, and asking your buddy Paul about it will most likely lead to confusion, frustration, inaction and failure. Which route do you want to take?
This little exercise comes from the mindset shift I’ve had from studying several coaching platforms, including Precision Nutrition. The reason I chose to study the Precision Nutrition coaching system is that much of the material focuses on coaching, not nutrition science. Yes, we learned about carbs, proteins, fats and micronutrients. We learned about portion sizes and energy balance. But mostly we learned about change psychology and how to help people identify their needs and take small steps that lead to lifelong habit change. So instead of talking about meal plans, calorie counting, and other nutrition-oriented strategies, I talk a lot about things like:
- How much sleep are you getting?
- How much water are you drinking?
- How many meals do you eat at home?
- How much time do you set aside for a movement practice?
And so on. Because these things are way more important than whether you’re eating organic broccoli or conventional broccoli. Are you eating broccoli? AWESOME. Are you only getting 4 hours of sleep each night? Let’s talk about that.
This model, based on research and coaches working with LOTS of clients, is straightforward and fundamentally sound, albeit a bit counter intuitive to the average person. But I have found that it helps me tremendously with coaching people who live busy and complex lives. We are not robots who consume food pellets with ideally proportioned nutrients at certain times of the day. We miss the alarm, we overbook our calendars, we forget to stop by the grocery store, we get called into work for emergencies. We are doing the best we can with the knowledge and skills we have. Sometimes it takes a moment to stop and think about how things are going so we can make small changes that have huge impacts.
I encourage you to try this two-step exercise on your own. And know that, if you want more coaching, you can contact me to set up an appointment to see if we’d be a good match.
Trust your knowledge. Trust your insight. And be bold enough to ask yourself how things are going, even if you know you won’t like the answer.
Share your experiences with this exercise in the comments below. What did you discover? What small changes helped you impact your life for the better?