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Change the Way You Think About Food: 3 Key Insights

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Working with clients is such a rewarding thing, seeing them improve, grow and progress. But for me, it is in giving that I receive–the chance to get such awesome INSIGHT into how different people think about food. Here are examples of 3 different types of “eaters” and how we coach them at JillFit (and Metabolic Effect, for that matter) to interact with food. Which one are you? :)

1) The person who never thinks about food. Ironically, this is the person who is the least likely to even be reading this blog :) they are simply that uninterested in nutrition. It is usually only when they start putting on noticeable weight or have some medical condition come up that they even seek out someone to help them with their diet or training. These people tend to eat only when they are hungry or when food is put in front of them or is convenient. They are very unlikely to bring back-up snacks “just in case” and wouldn’t know the first place to find a lunch cooler. This client can be challenging because usually they have gained weight over the years without really paying attention, and yet on one hand, it can certainly be a good thing that they aren’t preoccupied with food, but at the same time, it can be disadvantageous not thinking about food, because then when you get hungry, you are at the mercy of what is around you. A certain consciousness around food is optimal in order to practice good food choices and preempt hunger to prevent binging or cravings from getting out of hand.  For more information about why I don’t think it’s a good idea to use hunger alone as a guide for when to eat, see this post. For this client, we usually suggest 3 things:

  • Begin keeping healthy options/snacks in your car, purse and office, like nuts, fruit and protein bars/shakes so that when hunger does strike, there are healthy convenient options available
  • Take the time to learn about your body and build consciousness around how your body responds to food–your cravings, energy fluctuations and track how long you are going between meals. Start to preempt hunger by eating healthier options more frequently
  • Understand your cravings and find alternative to them. Craving salty? Try salted nuts or beef jerky. Craving sweets? Reach for a chocolate protein bar or a piece 85% dark chocolate. Craving fatty? Choose turkey bacon, ground bison or a few bites of a hard cheese like parmesan.

2) The person doing the deprivation-and-binge cycle. I get emails all the time from women doing this, and of course, I have been there too.  This is characterized by a mindset of “Ugh, I am so fat, I need to get on a competition diet starting Monday” and then the immediate implementation of a 100% will-power-based strict diet, followed by the inevitable fall off the wagon by Thursday and vow to start again on Monday after overindulging.  This person is essentially the opposite of the first client and tends to be obsessed with food–they are planners, they are schedulers, they tend to be hard on themselves, expect perfection and can become remorseful and ashamed when they are unsuccessful. Many have done competitions or have been very lean in the past and are mad/upset/sad/miserable that they are not at that leanness anymore.  This is a tough place to be, and the journey out of this cycle is different for everyone.  Here are some tricks and tools that have worked with our clients:

  • Relax. I know I have said this before, but the more you worry/stress/beat yourself up about it, the worse it gets. Trying to be more gentle on yourself is difficult if your natural way of being is to expect physique perfection. However, it is essentially to breaking this cycle. So how do you relax about your body, you ask?  The most important insight is to stop putting so much emphasis on your physique, period. Aren’t you a smart woman? Aren’t you a loving, kind person with friends and family who adore you, not for your body, but for you? Aren’t you a successful mom/career woman/partner? Aren’t you someone with ideas, stories, jokes and interests? Yes, yes, yes and yes! The answer is to recognize all the other, deeper ways you are relevant, deserving of attention and wonderful. Do insane bodies get envied? Of course, but do they experience deep love, relationships, fulfillment, education and growth? No. A body is a body is a body. But YOU are everything.
  • Get rid of the idea of all-or-nothing. This simply does not work as a long-term way of eating. Learning moderation is key in the quest for physique progress.  Using preemptive cheats (lesser evils) to satisfy during the week will prevent the balls-out weekend bingefest. A spoonful of PB here, a piece of bacon there, a square of 85% dark chocolate after dinner. Small things that will not add up to much but will have you feeling more satisfied by the time the weekend arrives.
  • Realize that you have all the time in the world and that there is no time limit at which point you need to be 12% BF or else (unless you are doing a competition in which case this entire blog is probably not applicable :)). Fat loss is a journey and everyone is different. Start by setting realistic goals but also enjoy the journey towards the goal. It is in doing that we learn, grow and get better–not in the attaining.

3) The person eating healthy but not seeing results. Lucky for this person, they are the easiest to coach, because for them the only problem is usually that they don’t know what they could be doing better.  We have a lot of clients like this, who come to us who are aware of their nutrition and training, fairly educated and have a healthy relationship with food. They think about it *just* enough and are motivated, but just need to know-how.  Here are our tools for these clients:

  • Up your protein intake (recommended: 1g protein per pound of body weight). Often people can be eating healthy and balanced but not seeing results on account of too low of a protein intake.  Protein satiates, requires more calories for digestion and absorption, as well as increases the hormone glucagon, relinquishing fat and sugar stores for energy metabolism.
  • Check on sleep and stress. These are “x-factors” in the fat loss equation and if they are out of whack, can affect your ability to burn fat.  Sleeping by 10pm each night and getting 7-8 hours, minimum is key. Stressors can be far and wide–some steps to reduce the biochemical effects of stress include weight training, long slow walks (esp. in nature), cutting out caffeinated beverages, eliminating long-duration moderate-intensity cardio and choosing short-duration interval training 2-4x per week as well as eating regularly every 2-4 hours.
  • Decrease starchy carbs and any “wild card” foods like alcohol, nuts/nut butters, dairy, sugar-free items, bars/shakes, etc.  I usually advocate 5-6 meals a day with the last 2-3 meals being only lean protein + veggie.  Decreasing starchy carbs at night as well as moving to clean, hypo-allergenic carbs can help too–like oat bran, potatoes, starchy veggies like zucchini/squash/pumpkin and fruit.

And if you do not fit into any of these categories, then congratulations!  You are most likely on your way to becoming lean and mean, as well as having your mind right! Go you!! :) ox Jill

Related: 10 Things to Do Instead of Nighttime Eating

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