‘Food is fuel’ is really only a relevant statement for the caveman days, athletes or people with specific body composition or performance goals. Even still, these extremists should have periods in the year where food can be enjoyed, untracked and seen as a pure indulgent!
As usual, the fitness and health industry likes to take things to the extreme. We changed from eating poorly, to educating and understanding food and how to eat better, to now excessive eating habits.
We are constantly trying to achieve something with our diet and training. Everyone is either in a ‘bulking, shredding, competing, reverse dieting, going keto, vegan, fasting, intermittent fasting or detoxing. What ever happened to just living? Sometimes I feel like if I don’t have a specific body composition or performance goal.. I need to make one because without it, I’m not into my health and fitness.
I too forget that it is not necessary to have body composition goals all year round, for the rest of your life. Sometimes, it’s great to have a specific goal to push towards, but it’s also ok to train and eat well just for health too. For energy, heart health, fitness, mobility, and clarity – these should all be a big enough motivation within itself to keep your training up.
Don’t get me wrong, the amount of research we have now behind these methods of dieting is remarkable and beyond helpful for achieving our fitness and physique goals however, I do believe people misunderstand that these methods are not always necessary.
Sometimes it’s healthy to just .. live. To take a break from counting calories and seeing food as something more than numbers. Something you’re allowed to indulge in and not feel guilty about. Food IS an experience, where some of our best memories are made around and spent. Food is much more than just fuel.
My job as a coach is to educate people on nutrition and all the methods I know. To trial and test and then be educated enough to know when and HOW to implement these methods correctly. People are just jumping from phase to phase. Cutting calories, playing around with macros with no real long term strategy or understanding as to why you’re doing these things.
I want everyone to be in a place where you look at food without anxiety. You can eat without tracking and your daily food choices doesn’t consume your life and thoughts. Where you have created such a great relationship and understanding of food that you are able to adapt to any situation without the anxiety of missing your meal and busting over on calories.
To be able to choose your food freely but choose the healthy option more often than the bad. To have a varied diet, on where you are not restricted but also fueling yourself with enough nutrients and to remain at a stable weight for an extended period of time is a true reflection of understanding your body, nutrition and how the two work together.
So how do we get to this point and educate yourself the right way.
Step 1: Invest in a coach
Investing in a coach not only will guide you in the right direction of information, they will teach you lessons you can take away for life. A good coach to me, is someone who can teach their client enough so that they can carry on with their life without you after a certain period of time. You should gain enough education from your coach but choose to stay on board as a client as you want to continue learning and developing the great relationship you have. I have coaches to push me, and encourage me to try different methods I wouldn’t do on my own.
Step 2: Invest your time into researching the fundamental basics to nutrition.
Learn the basic understanding to calories and macronutrient breakdowns. Next time your doing cardio, pop a podcast in your ear and start learning! These lessons will stay with you for the rest of your life so its worth the time investment.
Step 3: Create and follow a meal plan.
With your coach, create a meal plan tailored specific to your current stats and goals. The meal plan should reflect your expected calories and macros. I prefer my clients to follow a meal plan before going straight onto flexible dieting as I want you to understand food and how to fill your targets correctly. Understand why your eating those foods, when to eat them and this gives us time to figure out what works best for your body.
Step 4: Graduate to IIFYM
Now that you understand what foods work for your body and the targets you need to hit, you can now play around with how to fill those targets and start tracking via MFP. The more you play around with this, the more you will start to understand different foods and the breakdown of them.
Step 5: Intuitive eating or what I call the ‘Negotiation Lifestyle’
I am an advocate for not tracking anything. Coming from a seasoned competitor background this may sound a little strange, but I just do not believe we need to be tracking everything we eat all year round, 365 days a year.
You see I don’t believe I have ever tracked a dinner out. Ever. Why? Because I simply eat well enough, for majority of the time, that even if i bust over calories at dinner, it’s an occasion and one that I earnt and wont effect me as much as you may think. The more consistent you are over the years, the more you understand that they body does not gain weight from the occasional day busting over calories. Weight gain only happens when you are doing this consecutively for an extended period of time.
I personally take a break from tracking completely for 3 months of the year. Could I be as better athlete if I didnt? Sure. Would I be excited and motivated to jump back onto a ‘shred’ phase if I have been counting my calories all year? Probably not.
I truly believe the most powerful diet is the one you can keep on track.. With out tracking because let’s face it, are you really going to be tracking for the rest of your life?
Myself included often forgets food isn’t just calories and macros and it isn’t shameful to enjoy it. It’s not abnormal to over eat, over indulge and crave certain foods. I am a professional athlete, a health advocate and personal trainer, yet I still prefer a pizza over a salad and I don’t believe that’s ever going to change. It’s just that I have found a way to have both without compromising my health for it.
Food is an experience, a way to bring people together. Eating and drinking is something we all do to create some of the best memories you will ever have. It’s about sharing, bonding, catching up and indulging with one another. Food IS comfort. A way to connect with your partner, friends and family. The best excuse to get dressed up and have a night out. You need to find a way to create a healthy relationship with food as it is such a big part of all our lives. I am all for putting in the work where necessary, calculating what we need to achieve the results we want but I also encourage you to give yourself a break sometimes.
See food as food and not a macro or a calorie. Be smart about your choices and simply negotiate with yourself daily about how you will fit things in. My ultimate goal for my clients is to get them to a place where they no longer need to track 24/7. They know how much their body can consume each day without pushing the boundary. That they know when treats are warranted and when they are not.
Step 1; Educate yourself on calories in versus calories out
Step 2; Educate yourself on macros
Step 3; Trial and test different macros and methods that best suits you
Step 5; Find that happy medium and learn how to eat in that target without actually tracking it.
Step 6; Find the foods that agree with your body, that you enjoy and find easy to digest
Step 7; Now enjoy your life and eat accordingly.