People like to talk about food and diets. When you're a fitness coach, it matters on so many levels how you approach food. These next 3 blogs will contain my personal views on eating, research I've done to come to conclusions about healthy food, and questions I still have about the human diet and its role.
Everyone has different dietary and mental health needs. (Yes, mental health and diet are connected.) I am not a dietician or a physician. So, here I am going to focus on my experiences with dialog around food and my personal views as a certified personal trainer: strength and conditioning, yoga, and sports nutrition coach.
When people find out that I am a fitness coach, they often share their desires of weight loss and struggles with food and exercise (usually of the cardio variety), I listen. And when I listen, I hear these words mixed in with their narratives: "should", "too much", "very little", "not enough time", "too lazy", "junk food", "cheating on my diet", "cheat meals", etc... Usually, negative judgements.
My coworkers are "trying to be good" by getting a low carb option in the cafeteria. My friends are reducing temptation by avoiding anything with sugar. My relative was a "bad girl" this weekend because she ate what she wanted. AND another coworker had a "cheat meal" with some deliciously dripping fatty meat and cheese sandwich on (gasp!) carb bread.
The narrative continues...
I went gift shopping for my sister last September and wanted to select some chocolate for her birthday. So, talking out loud, as I tend to do, I asked this very important question: "Which should I get the caramel or the toffee?" A woman behind me overheard my conversation and said "Oh, get both; you're skinny enough." I just smiled and nodded. I wasn't even getting it for myself and the person who I'm giving it should have this delicious caramel no matter what she weighs.
So, what's the skinny on nutrition?
As a coach, people want support in the realm of nutrition. I have access to the general guidelines that most everyone has. Most people know vegetables are good for you and eating too much sugar can lead to tooth decay or weight gain, and perhaps diabetes. Despite what some gurus want to say, there is no magic formula (at this time at least) for every person to live young and fit forever.
I am lean, though. How do I look like this in my mid-thirties whilst eating ice-cream and French fries?
Here are some thoughts that help govern my "relationship" with food:
I eat what I want and try to eliminate guilt.
I try to be mindful about what I eat in regard to my health goals and physical needs. I don't "watch what I eat".
Nutrition is foundational to health and there is a prioritization of the elements of food.
Eliminating guilt is difficult when you feel like only skinny people deserve to eat. First of all, erase that from your mind. Enjoy food and savor; Savor, don't just consume. If you're going to eat a piece of chocolate cake: it is neither good nor bad. Maybe your mom made it. It's delicious. Maybe you want a glass of milk to go with it. Before this begins to sound too much like a children's story in which you'll end up needing a napkin and realize you have to clean the whole house only to end up hungry again... I want to say, "keep it simple". Comfort food is a real thing.
Remember the study on chimps that you learned in psychology 101? The chimps were given 2 surrogate mothers: one to cuddle and one that was wire and provided milk. The baby chimps needed both a comforter and nourishment. At infancy, we are given both comfort and nutrition at the same time. I don't think that is a bad thing. But include mindfulness.
Moving on to being mindful about food, I don't "watch what I eat" like a policewoman or a drill sergeant ready to dish out push-ups and laps. When I know I am going on a long run, I prepare with a good size breakfast. When desiring muscle growth, I see about adding more protein to my meals. Some vitamins are fat soluble so eating those alongside fats can be of benefit. Other vitamins are water soluble. Including fiber in your diet can help with digestive health. These things are a balance. Without over thinking it, I try to have a variety of foods.
Nutrition is foundational to health. On a very basic level: you have calories. You need calories to exist because everything uses energy. Next level is macros: protein, fats, and carbs. The macros are needed for processes in the body including protein synthesis and carbs in glycolysis. And you also have micronutrients that make your body work better, heal, resist disease, etc.
There are people in the world who are starving, and calories are a priority to them. Athletes might focus on surpluses as well as various macro balances for performance. There are people who have health conditions like osteoporosis, who think more about the micronutrients needed to help.
I think about food in light of what I enjoy and what fits my goals for fitness and health.
Any questions about food or weight loss, please contact me. I can also get you in touch with some dieticians for more specific needs.
Let's go you Autonomous Person You!