The new year is in full swing and we’re in our third full week of 2020. As we’ve entered the new year all the New Year resolutions have begun. Maybe your gym has been more crowded. The produce section has more people. More people are resharing and engaging with nutrition and fitness related posts. I personally have noticed significantly more engagement on my social media in addition to a ton of nutrition related questions and not from any current clients.
As I was taking my mid-day break earlier this week, I came across a quote that really resonated with how I feel about this 2020 year so far.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but your diet doesn’t have to have a name. You can just be normal and eat.” – Jill Coleman
At the top of each new year, you’re guaranteed to face whatever new fad diet is out. This year, it’s the plant-based diet. Last year it was Keto. The year before that was intermittent fasting. The year before that was Paleo. The year before that was vegan.
What do all of these diets have in common? They just have a name.
I’ve gotten a ton of questions lately about the plant-based diet and what my thoughts are on it. That’s not what this article is for, so I won’t say much except to say that it is just another fad diet with a name. It will come and go, just like the rest of them and probably in 4-5 years will make another appearance.
The biggest problem related to these fad diets is that most people don’t know any other way. The issue with the Gamechangers documentary is that the people who need the most help are going to watch it and think that the plant-based, vegan diet is the only way they’re going to be able to love their bodies and love what they see in the mirror.
The plant-based diet could very well be the magic diet out there. The diet that everyone NEEDS to follow to lose weight, stay healthy, build muscle, live longer, you name it.
Now let me be very clear that it is NOT that diet. There are plenty of studies proving vegan and plant-based diets do not improve longevity. They don’t magically help you lose weight. They do result in loss of muscle mass and strength. They are not performance-based diets.
BUT if it was proven WITHOUT A DOUBT that it was the superior diet, it wouldn’t matter!!!
Because humans are rebellious and going to eat the foods they’re going to eat, plain and simple.
Here’s some better examples. We know, for a proven fact, that smoking is bad and causes cancer. We also know not wearing sunscreen puts you at risk of cancer. We know wearing a helmet WILL protect you from a head injury. We know that wearing a seatbelt is a law and will likely save your life.
But do all humans listen? NO. People still smoke. People still refuse to wear sunscreen and get burnt. I live in South Carolina. I’m guaranteed to drive 5 minutes down the road and see a person on a bike (road bike or motorcycle) without a helmet (it’s not illegal). I fought with my best friend every time she got in my car since we were 15 years old until she put on her seatbelt (I usually threatened to call my mom to beat her up, which usually did the trick).
Same with diets. These diets with names aren’t the magic secret to success and if they are, it wouldn’t matter. If you like carbs, you’re going to eat carbs so you will fail at the keto or paleo diets. If you like animal proteins, you’re going to eat them at some point regardless of the plant-based diet.
SO instead of worrying about whatever named diet is famous this year, just “eat food and be normal.” Change the habits you need to change to be “normal”.
Instead of following some fad diet, here’s 5 things that’s missing from your nutrition to change as you head into 2020. I decided to make this article to address the 5 most common mistakes I see in people’s nutrition, or just overall life. Fixing just ONE of these will put you 100x more ahead than if you were to go all in on some named, fad diet that you’ll give up on in 4 weeks.
So without further ado, let’s get into it.
SLEEP MORE. This has been the number one mistake I’ve seen in clients since I started this business nearly 2 years ago. Clients are getting injured at the gym, constantly fatigued, craving sugar and alcohol, and think the answer is in the multivitamin or the macro prescipriton I will inevitably give them.
Sure supplements can help. My macro prescription will definitely help.
But if you’re not sleeping, you’re not addressing the root cause.
I’ve recently ramped up my Ironman training. I went from MAYBE 1 cardio session per week up to 5 (2x swim, 1x run, 1x bike, 1x bike+run) sessions. This is on top of 3-4 lifting sessions per week.
I’ve increased my sleep to 2 hours more per night to account for the added stress and inflammation created by my training sessions. Up until I made this change, I was bloated, experiencing worse PMS symptoms, had terrible brain fog, and was sick constantly. Once I added sleep and made it a priority to get into bed at 8:30-9pm every night (waking up at 6am), all of my problems went away.
If you’re sleep deprived, you’re increasing stress, cortisol, and inflammation. Cortisol leads to stubborn belly fat, hormone issues, and cravings. It also makes sleep even worse because it inhibits the release of melatonin. This causes you to spend MORE time in sympathetic fight or flight mode and LESS time in parasympathetic rest and digest mode. It becomes a nasty cycle.
If you sleep less, then that also means you’re awake for longer, giving you MORE time in the day to eat. When I have to coach at our gym in the mornings, I have to get up at 4:40am (almost 1.5 hours earlier than usual). To keep routine and my circadian rhythm balanced (and also keep calories in check), I wait until my usual breakfast time. Most people tend to eat more food when they’re sleep deprived simply because there is just more time in the day. Even worse, your inhibitions are slightly lowered so you’re decision making into the TYPES of food probably isn’t great.
Make it a goal to get a MINIMUM of 7 hours of sleep per night. That’s a minimum. If you can sleep closer to 8-9 hours, you’re only doing yourself a favor.
#2. Meal timing and frequency
This is one that is often last to focus on, but I’m mentioning it at the top for several reasons. It’ll also tie with #3.
One of the biggest faults in many people’s diets is following the 3-meal per day plan. If you eat only a breakfast (7am), lunch (12pm), and dinner (7pm), you’re going anywhere from 5-8 hours without food. This leads to cravings, binges, poor decisions, grogginess, brain fog, lack of energy, hunger, you name it.
One of the best things you can do in your nutrition is increase the number of meals. Even if you’re just adding a 4th meal somewhere into your day, you’re going to see a ton of results. You’re going to find that it’s easier to increase food and reach your macros (because you have less volume at each meal). You’ll find that you’re eating every 3-4 hours, instead of 6-8 hours. You’ll feel like as soon as you’re done eating and hungry, it’s time for the next meal. You might NOT like this at first but doing this means you’re less likely to fill that time waiting for your next meal with junk food and sweets. That wait for more food becomes way easier and more manageable.
This will prevent energy crashes. It’ll make your workouts flow better. It’ll be easier to increase your protein and veggies, something you probably are struggling with. It’ll improve adherence. It’ll prevent brain fog and improve mental clarity.
Secondly, evenly space out those meals so you create a routine...this is going to be carried over in #3.
Routine and consistency is key. Your body thrives off of habits and routines. You may say you’re a whimsical person and do better with spontaneity but I guarantee you that if you’re NOT happy with where you are at, that this is only the identity you’ve created for yourself out of convenience.
Eating meals generally at the same time lets your hormones adjust and adapt to a certain routine. Think of a time you had a late, really big meal like a work lunch or a holiday dinner. Say it’s 2-3pm. You’re absolutely full. There’s no way you’ll be hungry in 2-3 hours when it’s normally time for dinner, but like clock work at around 5pm you start to get hungry. Your stomach growls. You may attribute this to the poor food quality in that meal, but in reality, your body is used to eating at the same time so it knows when to produce the hunger hormone indicating “hey it’s time to eat!!”.
Start getting consistent, in meals, in sleep, in habits, in every aspect of your life. Go to sleep and wake up at the same general time. Eat meals at the same time. EVEN ON WEEKENDS! Wonder why weekends feel awful? You’re off on your routine.
If you struggle with consistency, set timers in your phone to remind you. Create habit trackers that let you check off when you do a desired habit. Create reward systems. Each time you go to the gym, drop $5 in a jar. If you consistently go to the gym 4x per week for three months, you’ll find that you have $240 in that jar that you could use on a fancy outfit or meal or a small vacation.
Someone has to be holding you to something. Think back to your school days. If you didn’t have a teacher collecting and grading your homework, would you have done it? Or would you have done it well? Likely not.
The most underrated part in changing your nutrition is having someone keep you accountable.
It’s a lot harder to want to binge and go crazy on the weekends when you’re checking in with a coach Monday morning. It’s miserable to answer “NO” on the question “were you successful for the week?” in my check in form I send to all of my clients to fill out weekly.
I DO have space for clients to enjoy their weekends. I don’t ask them to avoid alcohol or fun times, but generally having someone to answer to just inherently improves consistency and adherence.
I know from experience!! I have had either a nutrition, training, or business coach since 2016, purely for the accountability.
If you’re ready to hold yourself accountable, apply here for coaching.
You have to be eating enough calories.
Plain and simple. If you’re eating close to or under your BMR (bodyweight x 10), then you’re screwing yourself over and will not see actual, sustainable results until you reverse yourself out of that hole.
YES IT SUCKS. YES IT TAKES TIME.
But guess what. It’s your only option and you likely put yourself in that hole to begin with. You’re not that special person who just magically can thrive off of lower calories. It sucks to hear that, but it’s true. Take the responsibility and increase your intake. Your metabolism will thank you. Your energy will thank you. Your hormones will thank you. Your sleep will thank you. Your friends will thank you. Your muscles and bones and joints will thank you. The only thing that MIGHT not thank you is your wallet, but ya gotta do it.
Take it slow. If you are in a place where you know you need to increase your caloric intake, I highly encourage you to find a coach, even if that coach isn’t me! If you were to email me and ask me who I’d recommend that isn’t me, I still would do that because I understand and firmly believe in the importance of a coach.
There you have it.