Death to the Nutrition Plan
There are many well known myths around nutrition, and I’ve been a sucker for all of them at some stage.
‘You must eat first thing in the morning.’
These probably sound familiar to you too, and thankfully over the years they have been successfully de-bunked. The truth is, they were wrong. There is however one traditional myth that I still see people falling for, and that is - you must follow a ‘nutrition plan’ to be fit and healthy.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
It used to be one of the most common questions I got from new clients starting on my coaching programme – “when do I get an updated plan, Ru?” The fact is - they didn't. That’s because I see little value (nor results from those people following them) in nutrition plans. Let me explain…
There are a number of key problems I commonly see from those trying to constantly adhere to set nutrition plans:-
1. It's not flexible
Nutrition plans are too rigid and are unnecessary for someone simply trying to improve their body and health.
They are classically used by athletes, be it physique, sports or endurance, and these guys are not the norm. They are therefore too strict and ‘set in stone’ for most people and they result in a high failure rate. Many also lack variety, which can quickly lead to undernourishment, cravings and diet boredom.
2. It's not a long-term solution
If you become reliant on following a nutrition plan to eat better, than you become dependent on that. What happens when you are found in a situation that you can’t stick exactly with your plan – like eating out?
You’ll probably deviate from what you perceive as ‘healthy eating’ because it doesn’t match your plan, kick starting a spiral of frustration and anxiety. The result is, you say ‘screw it’ and begin eating everything you like.
Over time, this creates a poor relationship with food. You’re either ‘on’ your plan or ‘off’ your plan.
3. You learn nothing
By simply following a nutrition plan, be it a ‘cookie cutter’ one from a magazine, or a personalized one from your trainer, you’re not learning anything. You’re just doing what someone else thinks is right for you.
The result is that you fail to tune into your body and listen to the feedback it is giving you. Instead, your plan tells you to eat ‘x’ food, in ‘y’ quantity at ‘z’ time – but is that really what your body wants and needs? Probably not.
I’ve given nutrition plans a hard time up to now, however I do see a few key benefits worth considering:-
1. A short term aid
Many people just never manage to get started on better eating. A nutrition plan is an effective tool to get this process going. It can be the catalyst to someone making those first steps to good nutrition.
2. It shows the ideal
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the fine details such as what foods, how much, when and where, when first starting out for the first time. A good nutrition plan collectively summarizes all of the information into an easy to follow guide. It can therefore provide you with the ‘ideal’ world.
3. It provides a structure
Many people lack any structure or consistency in good eating habits, and a good nutrition plan will provide this from the outset. Until you learn what your body is asking from you, staying consistent to a good structure can be beneficial.
The most important factor in getting long term success with nutrition is EDUCATION.
A nutrition plan may therefore help kick start some better eating habits, but it’s clear you’ll need something much better to achieve long term results. Here’s what I suggest:
1. Get educated
The most important factor in getting long term success with nutrition is education.
Start off by understanding my 10 HPL cornerstones, which highlight the importance of single ingredient foods, hydration, sleep and stress. Over a period of time you must learn how these factors work with your individual body, which will also in time give you the confidence to break free from nutrition plans and rigid eating templates.
2. Find your limiting factors
Most nutrition plans completely overhaul someone’s diet, particularly if not created to fit with their existing dieting habits or routine. Most of us have bad habits, and we practise these daily. Find your key bad habit within your current diet, then put a strategy in place to improve it. Do this consistently each day and soon it will no longer be a bad habit.
Then find your next key bad habit, or limiting factor, and get to work on that. This could be skipping breakfast, eating to much junk food, drinking too much caffeine. You now have a personalized approach and one that doesn’t require a complete diet overhaul to see results.
3. Understand how diets really work
Once you have the basics nailed down, you’ll need to understand how diets really work. The food you eat provides nutrients to the body, which in turn provides energy known as calories. The calories come from the protein, carbs and fats in our foods. Most foods also contain vitamins, minerals, fibre and water, which are all important to us.
Learn how each of these factors can affect your body and health, so that you can manipulate this to assist you in making further progress.
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