Nutrition advice on the internet or social media often comes in sayings like:
“Just eat whole foods.”
“Only eat food that you can pronounce.”
“Eat more fat and fewer carbs.”
“If our ancestors didn’t eat it, you shouldn’t.”
It’s simple to create an elevator sales pitch for healthy eating, but this isn’t enough to help people fix their broken diets. As a coach that works with clients every day struggling with weight loss and eating habits, quick sayings like the ones above doesn’t help at all, there’s no tangible action plan.
Clients need empathy from coaches and meet them halfway from where they are struggling. Listening to their needs, what they want to accomplish, and most importantly discovering together what’s really important to them. This blog post is a three step process to help fix your diet, or at least get you in the right direction to finally beat the stagnant feeling of being stuck.
Step One: Figure out and remove any nutrition deficiencies.
So many people believe they have to flip their world upside down to see any benefit in their diet. Things like:
“I have to cut out sugar”
“I can’t eat carbs”
“I have to stay away from dairy”
“I should be eating vegetables like a bunny all day”
“I have to work out every day for the rest of my life”
Just writing that out made me exhausted, so I can only imagine how it would feel for someone under the impression that healthy eating should be this way.
Often, people struggle with how they look and feel because their physiology doesn’t work the way it should. This situation can be hormonal imbalances, but it’s more often dietary deficiency: not getting the right nutrients, in the right amounts, to get the best results. But are dietary deficiencies common today? A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed that it’s nearly impossible to get all the essential vitamins and minerals from food alone. This study analyzed 70 athlete diets. Every single diet was deficient in at least three nutrients. Some diets were missing up to fifteen nutrients!
What were the most common deficiencies?
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
No matter how good you think, your diet is, most likely you have a dietary deficiency. That’s a problem because when you’re deficient in key nutrients, your physiology doesn’t function optimally. Things like energy levels, appetite, strength, endurance, and mood all rely on getting enough of these essential nutrients. When you don’t get them, things break down.
That’s why when you decide to follow a strict diet, or go “clean” you still feel as lousy as before. You need to find some nutritional red flags and start eliminating them one by one.
Here are the most common deficiencies in the general population are:
- Vitamins and minerals
- Protein intake
- Essential fatty acids
A great way to figure all this out is to chat with our partnering Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Rory Gibbons as this is his wheelhouse.
Step Two: Food Intake and Food Type
Food intake is what I like to call calories and food type is what I refer to macronutrient breakdown. Calorie counting does nothing to help us tune into our own powerful hunger and appetite cues. By learning how to listen to our own bodies, we have better long-term success in healthy eating.
Calorie counting also doesn’t help us balance our health goals with our natural human enjoyment of food. In the short term, anyone can turn eating into a numerical and robotic exercise. But, in the long run, this strategy falls apart. I like coaching clients with hand portions as it’s easy to remember and your hands stay with you every where you go!
Here are some examples:
Two palms of protein dense foods at each meal;
Two fists of vegetables at each meal;
Two cupped handfuls of carb dense foods at most meals; and
Two thumbs of fat dense foods at most meals.
One palm of protein dense foods at each meal;
1 fist of vegetables at each meal;
1 cupped handful of carb dense foods at most meals; and
One thumb of fat dense foods at most meals.
This way of eating is a great starting point and can be easily adjusted as you go depending on your goals which takes us to step three.
Step Three: Fine tune as you go!
For years dieticians and nutritionists thought that the best approach to splitting up your daily food intake was to eat small meals frequently throughout the day.
In research, we assumed that this would speed up the metabolism, help control the hormones insulin and cortisol, and help better manage the appetite. However, research today like in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests otherwise.What this means is that as long as we eat the right foods in the right amounts, meal frequency is a matter of personal preference.
My advice to clients is to listen to your own body and apply, “How is this working for me?”
If you’re covering all your other bases and your current meal frequency isn’t working, then try switching it up. Experiment with fewer meals if you eat more frequently, or eat more meals if you eat less often. Each approach is valid; you’re free to find the method that works best for you. The beauty of sound nutrition is finding what works for you. You don’t have to follow a strict and rigid diet plan you found online.
Remember, remove the nutritional red flags, control your calorie intake by implementing hand portions, then fine-tune your way of eating to fit your lifestyle and goals.
Doing all of this consistently and long term will yield long-term results.
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