Thoughts on dieting…
Diet tends to be a pretty hot topic this time of year. Between my job as a wellness coach and the gym, I talk to a variety of people with a variety of goals. In my experience, most of these can be concentrated into one of 3 groups – weight loss, mindful eating, and performance. Success comes from knowing what you want to get out of your diet, and then sticking with it long enough to see the results. Distraction can be just as much of a problem as self-control. Here is an explanation of each group:
- Weight Loss – This is someone who is looking to lose and and/or improve body composition. This is a “diet.” It involves restricting calories in an effort to lose weight – namely body fat. Performance is not a priority, and sacrifices must be made to reach this goal.
- Mindful Eating (often called Intuitive Eating) – This is a person who wants to develop a better relationship and outlook on eating (i.e. no off limits foods, or punishment for eating certain things). This type of diet is based around learning moderation and mindful vs. mindless eating habits. It teaches how to eat with attention and intention, use a 1-10 hunger scale, and learning to be satisfied but not full. It also includes learning to handle emotions without food. A great read on this topic is “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole.
- Performance – This is based on using food to fuel training and performance. It does not focus on quantity as much as quality. You want the right balance of nutrients to enhance performance and recovery, and are not limiting calories for aesthetics or body composition in any way. The goal is simply to perform well. This would also be an appropriate focus for someone who just wants to feel their best, have good energy, stay healthy, and avoid injury. Tracking your food intake can be useful here, since you will want a reference for what foods allow you to feel your best, as well as what aids recovery for you.
Here’s my best advice, based on what I have experienced. Before starting down any of these paths, make sure you are aware of how other areas of your life will be affected. If you are going to lose weight, know that you might be hungry or not perform as well during your workouts. If you are developing a better outlook on eating, do not continue to check the scale to see if you are losing weight. When eating for performance, don’t concern yourself with aesthetics.
It’s also important not to get greedy. Focus on the task at hand! Maybe someday down the road you want to adjust your goals or nutritional outcomes. That’s fine, and I feel it’s a healthy thing to do. However, I think 6-12 weeks is an appropriate amount of time to stick with one goal before moving on to something else. I admire lofty goals, but realistic ones are more helpful here.
The internet makes us think we can do it all. Don’t let those images fool you. That picture or post you see is one very small glimpse into someone’s life. It does not tell the whole story. Sure, sometimes when we learn to eat more intuitively we see weight loss, and a diet that fuels performance may help you look and feel leaner. While that may be the case, having that hope only distracts us from the goal at hand. Master one thing, then move on to the next.
With this in mind, I’ve been asked by a few people what a day of my eating looks like. Please remember that this is just an example of what I ate last week, and that my goals and nutritional needs (breastfeeding, moderate training) are likely very different from most others.
8 am – Dale Bar
10 am – Coffee with heavy cream
12 pm – Quinoa, egg whites, avocado, and salsa + 2 mini York Peppermint Patties
3 pm – Vega Protein and Greens mixed with water + a cup of coffee
4 pm – 2 rice cakes topped with almond butter and jelly
5 pm – Greek yogurt
8 pm – Sirloin, broccoli, spaghetti squash, and red wine
10 pm – Apple
9 am – Quinoa, egg whites, avocado, and salsa + coffee
12 pm – 2 rice cakes with almond butter and cream cheese + Cliff Kids Z Bar
4 pm – 1 rice cake topped with egg salad + celery and cream cheese + 1 mini York Peppermint Patty
6 pm – RX Bar
8 pm – Vega Protein and Greens mixed with water
9 pm – Pork chop + acorn squash
10 pm – Apple
My main focus is breastfeeding. As long as that’s going well, I’m happy. Eating healthy food can be very simple and satisfying. You have to find what works best for you and stick to your plan. We can help determine general macro recommendations, but if you are having trouble finding exactly what works best for you, I highly suggest working with a dietitian. (We know a few if you need a referral). Just like your workouts, your diet should be specifically tailored to YOUR needs.