One of my goals as a nutritionist is to always continue learning. I feel like almost every day I learn something new about the benefits of a certain food or supplement, hormones, counselling strategies, etc. That big stack of books I started out with in 2010 was just the tip of the iceberg in my nutrition journey.
Not only do I learn from reading books and research studies, and listening to podcasts and other nutritionists, I also learn SO much from my clients! Every so often I notice some common themes that come up in my sessions, and I find myself giving similar advice to different clients. I thought I would share a few of the themes I’ve identified lately. Maybe you can relate to one (or all!), and will appreciate the advice and recommendations that I’ve given my clients.
It’s Sunday morning, you went out for dinner the night before, and didn’t follow my recommendation: either wine or dessert or bread, but not all three. You had all three. You: I messed up last night, my weekend of healthy eating is ruined so I’m going to go out for brunch and have chocolate chip pancakes, and a couple mimosas. This mindset is called all-or-nothing thinking, and can be damaging when it comes to changing behaviour. My advice: nobody is perfect, and you shouldn’t strive for perfection in life or when it comes to eating. Everyone has an indulgent dinner from time to time. One night will not make a difference, but two, three, or four will. After your one dinner out where you had all the things, return to your healthy rituals the next day: have your lemon water, move your body, make a smoothie - get back on track and focus on your health victories - this will motivate you to continue having a healthy day.
It’s Friday afternoon, you’re reviewing your food journal, and you think, I nailed it this week! You exercised every day, avoided that leftover Halloween candy and Wednesday night wine, had salads everyday with lunch, watched your portions and you finished a big presentation for work. You’re polishing your halo and feeling good. Friday night rolls around, and the tub of ice cream starts to call your name. You think, I’ve been so good all week, I deserve a treat. Can you relate?
This decision to reward yourself with certain foods based on seemingly “good” behaviour is very common. I see this a lot in clients. That one bowl of ice cream on a Friday night is not a problem, it’s why you’re deciding to have it that matters: is it because you really feel like it, and are going to eat small portion mindfully, or are you making that choice because you think you “deserve it?”
Using food/drinks as a reward is a slippery slope, and can lead to diet/binge behaviour: if I can just avoid sugar and carbs Monday - Friday, then I can have it on the weekend as a reward. Instead, it’s better to have a dessert and/or pasta during the week if you really feel like it (remember proper portions with these types of foods), versus depriving yourself all week (diet behaviour), and going crazy on the weekend (binge behaviour).
The goal is to find your personal balance of food and drinks that makes you feel your best. No food or drink should be treated as a reward. Finding the right balance that makes you feel your best is the key to living a healthy balanced lifestyle. This journey of finding your unique amount of certain food/drinks takes time, trial and error, and making some mistakes along the way. It’s like I say to my kids, you learn from your mistakes.
This analogy may be a bit of a stretch, but we have so many squirrels around our house so they’re top of mind right now. Winter is coming, and lately I’ve observed the squirrels collecting nuts, and other bits of food (like my tulip bulbs - URGHHHH!!), and storing it away for later.
I’ve also observed this behaviour in my clients lately when they’re preparing for a party or dinner out. In an effort to "store away" calories for the upcoming event, they skip a meal on the day of. A good idea in theory, but I don’t recommend going into a scenario where cocktails, kettle chips, brie and other tempting treats are readily available when you’re starving. It’s a recipe for losing control and overeating. Instead, your day of eating leading up to an event should include a healthy breakfast (ie. eggs, smoothie, yogurt, avo. toast) and lunch that includes protein, fab fats and fiber (ie. tuna with salad & pumpkin seeds) and a healthy snack before you leave (ie. apple with nut butter, veg with hummus). Oh, and drink lots of water. I recommend a minimum of 2L on an average day, so try and up that amount to 3L. With the holiday party season around the corner, don’t be a squirrel!
If you’ve ever tried to make changes when it comes to your eating habits, you’ve likely had a week where you feel like giving up. Maybe the scale went up instead of down, even when you made changes to your diet (like cutting out wine a couple nights a week - that has to count for something right?!). Maybe something bad happened at work or in your personal life, and that eggnog latte or giant cookie from the coffee shop would just make you feel better about life. Maybe you’re just feeling blah, and don’t feel motivated to exercise.
Whatever the reason, here’s my advice to you (and many of my other clients like you!), don’t give up! Showing up, and continuing to try even on your worst days is the difference between succeeding and failing. I promise you, a good week will follow where you feel energetic, motivated and you see the scale moving in the right direction. When that week comes, you’ll be happy you didn’t give up the week before. Behaviour change is the opposite of a quick fix diet. It’s the combination of many many small changes that lead to big results over time.