Thursday, January 20, 2011

I’ve got a few more weeks of the LE program.  Yesterday Krista posted about the secret to lean eating being about our relationships with food. 

Wow. We're here. Can you believe it?

We've been together for an amazing, life-altering journey.

I hate to sound cheesy about this but it's true. This has, for many of you, been a life-changing experience, just as my own journey has been for me (and it's still ongoing).

Now I'm going to share the secret to good nutrition, fat loss, and overall wellness.

Had I told you this at the beginning of the program, you would not have believed me. Here it is -- tra la!

It's almost entirely NOT about the food.

To lose body fat (or accomplish any nutrition goal), you don't need a "new diet".

You don't need a special fancy kibble.

You need a new relationship with food.

People often say they find good nutrition "confusing". A trainer friend of mine tells a story about this:


A couple of years ago, during an interview with a popular fitness magazine, I was asked, “If you were to write a book on nutrition, what would it be like?”

My answer was simple: “It wouldn’t be a book at all. It could be a pamphlet.”

People often claim to be “confused” about what an intelligent eating plan should look like, and assume they need to turn to a nutritionist or a 400-page diet book to clear things up. I hear it all the time when I sit down and have my initial nutrition pep talk with a new client: “I have no idea what I should be eating. I’m sooo confused.”

That’s when I like to jerk their chain a bit.

On a piece of paper, I scrawl out an ersatz cheque for $5,000. The client’s challenge -- in three minutes or less -- is to make a point-form list of ten concepts they think would qualify as good nutrition principles. It can be anything that comes to mind. If they score an 80% or higher grade, they’re allowed to “cash” the imaginary cheque.

After three minutes, typical answers I get will include “Eat more vegetables”, “Cut back on bread”, “Eat smaller portions”, and “Cut out juice and pop.”

Out of all the folks who’ve played this game, I’ve yet to meet a single person who has failed to win the $5,000.

The job of a nutritionist or dietitian is primarily to answer the “what” question: What to eat, and what not to eat. But are you absolutely sure you don’t already know this stuff? Is it possible that hiring a nutritionist might just be a form of procrastination, or a way of transferring responsibility to somebody else? Be honest with yourself.

Unless you have very specific dietary concerns (such as serious food intolerances or allergies, or specific medical issues), or you’re preparing to step onstage at a bodybuilding contest within a few weeks, it’s pretty unlikely that the question of “What to eat” needs the intervention of a nutritionist (who, by the way, will more than likely just hand you a printout of the Food Guide/Pyramid, and then try and sell you some outlandishly expensive supplements).

So, if it isn’t the “what” question that’s tripping you up, maybe it’s the “how”: How to make good nutrition fit into your time-strapped life.


I'll go one step further.

It's not just about the "how". It's also about the "why".

Why are you doing this? What do you hope to accomplish? What is the meaning of what you are trying to do?

Here is another secret:

Your relationship with food mirrors your relationships in the rest of your life.

Think about your life as a whole.

  • Are you an anxious, rushed person? Then you will probably rush your meals.
  • Are you a person who craves immediate gratification? Then you will seek that in your food as well: a sugar high, a caffeine fix, a chocolate rush.
  • Are you someone who focuses exclusively on others' needs? Then you will neglect your own until your body gets its revenge by pushing you into the kitchen late at night, after the kids are asleep.
  • What are your core beliefs, values, and assumptions? Are you afraid of wasting things -- so you finish off your kids' plates? Are you afraid of disappointing people -- so you worry about how your eating looks in front of them, or eat certain ways in order to fit in? Are you afraid you aren't "good enough" to succeed, or afraid of what you might have to deal with if you do -- so you sabotage yourself?

Be aware of how seemingly "non food" elements in your life affect the "food" parts of your life. This includes:

  • the people around you
  • your own assumptions, priorities, values, and mindset about food and life in general
  • your daily habits that you do automatically
  • the structure of your daily routine
  • the physical layout of the space you live and work in
  • etc.

Nothing is inevitable. Anyone can change.

But change requires self-awareness and a sustained, holistic commitment to doing things differently.

JB likes to say that our goal is threefold. We want to eat:

  • the right things
  • at the right times
  • in the right quantities

I'd add one more:

  • for the right reasons

The food itself IS important. We are a collection of chemical processes occurring simultaneously. Nutrients have particular effects in our body. They can harm or heal us.

But the food itself is perhaps 10% of the equation.

The other 90% is the other domains of our existence: intellectual, emotional, spiritual, etc.

I came across an interesting study recently. Amenorrhea -- the cessation of menstruation -- can be caused by dietary restriction. This is common in over-dieting young women and female athletes.

But many other studies have shown that amenorrhea is also correlated with "cognitive dietary restraint". In other words, thinking and worrying about food. Even in women whose actual food intake was normal, CDR was correlated with amenorrhea.

That's right: regardless of the real food intake, their mindset and intellectual experience of food -- their food relationship -- affected their body.

I encourage you to listen to an interview I did with psychotherapist Erin Byron for a PN blog a while ago. I think it coincides nicely with this stage.

And here are my "final" mindset thoughts (which are really the beginning thoughts for the next phase):

If you want to make change, of course start with "new" foods. We all need to eat fruits and vegetables, lean protein, fish oil, cut out junk food, etc.

But don't stop there. Ask yourself:

  • What are your relationships with food like now?
  • What do you want them to be?
  • If food were a person, how are you interacting with it, and how would you like to interact with it in future?

If you want to make true, meaningful, sustainable, lasting change, you need new food relationships.

Here is how I responded:

  • What are your relationships with food like now?

My relationship with food has changed dramatically. I have found that I don't NEED to binge to feel satisfied. I can have the foods I crave IF I stop eating before I'm full. I will still enjoy myself.

I can identify foods that will trigger the binge reflex, though. For example, refined sugar sends my mind into a tail spin. I want more. I want to not stop. I can have maple syrup & honey without that problem. I had Kashi waffles with maple syrup this weekend without coming unglued. However, I also had that Almond Joy bar & found myself foraging in the cabinet for something more to eat 5 minutes after eating it. I DID NOT EAT! I recognized what had happened & got a mug of green tea instead!

  • What do you want them to be?

I want them to be right where they are only stronger. I want it to be second nature to eat well and not binge. I don't want to think about it.

  • If food were a person, how are you interacting with it, and how would you like to interact with it in future?

If food were a person I am holding it close. Controling it. Being obsessive. It's still a co-dependent, abusive relationship.

I would like the relationship to be loving. Where I love food but am not obsessed with it.

I think I'm getting there. I need to enforce the positive habits I've learned & soldier on!

WENDY: the workouts I’m doing this week call for hip thrusts on the ball.  Guess who is doing hip thrusts with a 115 lbs…If you guessed me you would be right!  I’ll be increasing my weights again next week.  It’s making my glutes & hammies fire like crazy!  LOVE IT!





Wennndy said...

This is what I see as the focus of my future coaching, the whole changing-your-thinking thing. Because it's the key to everything. In fitness, but mostly in life.

Kim said...

Great post! Thank you so much for sharing it. It all boils down to bridging the knowledge & action gap. So simple yet so challenging at times. Congrats on the glute and hammies fire! Love it!

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