Getting Started with Nutrition

Matt & Niki talk to Gillian about getting started with nutrition: identifying your goals, understanding where you are now, and implementing sustainable, realistic nutrition plans.

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Getting Started with Nutrition

Gillian is a great simplifier of complex information and focuses not on the science of nutrition (though she knows it) but rather behavior changes and how to best modify clients’ actions to meet their goals (for the action both to occur and move them toward their goals).

A client must first acknowledge a need to make a change, understand why he or she wants to change, and have an idea of what direction he or she wants to head. You don’t need to have a SMART goal, but you need to understand WHY you want to make a change.

Next, tell the truth with yourself (and maybe your coach), so you can understand your current behaviors. An accurate picture of your actions enable you to identify a plan that will actually work for you.

Once you know where you are, think about the things you want to include in your plan (your non-negotiables). What are the things you DON’T want to give up? This might be a nightly dessert or alcohol, eating out at a restaurant with your family on Saturday evenings, or Sunday morning pancake breakfasts. It doesn’t mean you won’t modify this at all (if you’re eating 5000 calories of pancakes, we might need to reduce that). Still, this helps you identify and maintain things that actually bring you value.

Now you can triage. This is identifying the behaviors that can be addressed to yield results. You’re looking for the most-bang-for-your-buck changes. So what can be changed relatively easily while enabling you to work toward your goal.

For example, you may identify that eating certain foods triggers a cascade of bad behaviors for the rest of the day.

You next plan & prepare, which does not necessarily mean meal preparation and weighing and measuring. It could be identifying days or meals that will be challenging. How aggressive do you want to be around these? Might you address the meals leading up to or after these meals or attempt to keep this goal fairly healthy?

So, if you start implementing a plan and it’s working, where do you go next? First, if something is working and you enjoy it, keep doing it. Like MED programming for training, we don’t need to diet hop. Small changes to avoid boredom and continuing to triage can work and continue to further you toward your goal.

Getting started with nutrition requires some work, but it doesn’t mean no joy, eliminating macronutrients or your favorite foods, or chicken and broccoli – it’s about identifying & making the changes that best move you toward your goal. It’s about creating habits that last – that you can live with.

New Years & 123s

A more recent idea Gillian has taken from the heavy, light, medium training idea is 1, 2, 3 dieting. These correspond to aggressiveness or difficulty level and the benefit is the quantification can help give you a quasi-objective (like RPE) data point (so if your week is a 21, you expect to see progress; if it’s a 7, you don’t).

1 is maintenance, in which you’re not trying hard. This should be easy. You’re at basecamp, walking on level ground. 2 is working toward goals but not aggressively. You’re walking up the mountain, but you’re picking flowers, you’re chatting with others, you’re enjoying the view. 3 is all out, aggressively pursuing your goals.

Why not just pursue 3s every meal, every day, every week? It’s not sustainable. You don’t actually want to live at a 3 all the time. You also likely need a relatively near-term motivator, as (I’d just like to be thinner) probably won’t sustain a month of all 3s.

Gillian also addresses why New Year’s Resolutions often fail, because it’s a false motivator. You feel as if you should ramp up your nutrition, but you might not want to. Beach season is still too far off to motivate. Furthermore, it’s a cold, dark time of year for many, and the motivation to clamp down on nutrition is realistically not there. This might be a time to go at a 2 pace and identify a goal you can put on the calendar later in the year that might motivate a 3.

It is critical to understand what keeps you motivated. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, because you really have to question yourself and understand your motivations deeply. Once you identify this, identify some ways to measure this as best you can (if you don’t care about the scale weight, why is this your primary metric).
So, if you’re thinking about getting started with nutrition but don’t know where to start, check out this helpful & practical discussion.

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