The number one question when it comes to nutrition is “Where do I even start?”
Let’s answer that.
This is the series that is going to begin “Clar-e-ty in YOUR Diet,” where I provide much needed clar-e-ty on how to set up a healthy and sustainable diet while achieving your goals. I’ll work through everything it takes to do what I do every single day so hopefully, you can take my lessons and cater them to your life.
Don’t be fooled, though, I will be providing you the tools for you to apply to your life to set up your diet. What I won’t be doing is giving you a formula, some calculation to plug and chug, or a template. This is because what I offer is individualized nutrition coaching. Not one person is the same. Our DNA is different, that’s what makes us look, feel, sound, smell different from everyone else. Our nutrition is no different. The diet we all need is unique to us. This is THE worst part about nutrition: it all depends. I swear when I got my certifications, that is all they would say. Someone would ask a question:
Person 1 (the most common question): “I weigh _________, am _________ tall, and ________ years old. How many calories should I eat? What is my macro breakdown?”
Jason (head of my certification course): “It depends.”
Person 2: “I’ve got a client that wants to lose weight, I should put them in a 300 calorie deficit and monitor biofeedback, right?”
Jason: “It depends.”
I hate those two words. About halfway through the certification course, I said to myself ‘am I even learning anything???’… but then I started doing this for myself. I started answering my clients’ emails and questions. Friends would ask me scenarios similar to the ones above and I was saying those two dreaded words, “It depends,” because it’s 100% true.
You have to take what I’m providing here and apply it to YOUR life.
I will give you the tools to figure out how many calories you should be eating every day, but again this is just a suggestion. I should be eating 2400 calories according to the “calculations,” but I eat 2600-2700 and feel 10x better and don’t look or weigh any different. But what I won’t tell you is how to consume those calories in your 24-hour window.
Everything with nutrition depends on your life and your preferences. I’ll give you the best example that demonstrates this: meal timing. There are two types of eaters in this world. The first type (Group A) doesn’t like breakfast, doesn’t mind skipping meals, even experiences mental clarity when they do, and isn’t hungry halfway during the day in between meals. The second type which includes yours truly(Group B) needs breakfast to get moving, is starving after 3 hours (let’s be honest…more like 2), experiences real and dramatic hanger episodes (sorry mom… and anyone who has endured one of my hanger attacks), and experiences fatigue, fogginess, and a lack of mental clarity when skipping a meal.
Some nutritionists/dieticians/coaches try and make these two different types of people fit a certain template or style of eating. “Eat 2 meals/day.” “Eat 4-5 small meals/day.” “Don’t eat breakfast.” “Do eat breakfast.” “Eat a small breakfast and a large dinner.” The list goes on and on.
We have no business telling Group A to eat 5-6 small meals/day or Group B to eat 2 meals/day. Enter the new field of individualized nutrition coaching. I tell both groups to get their food in with what works for them (often with a confused look because they’ve never heard that). I give suggestions and recommendations as to when to eat around training times, but other than that, the day is theirs! I find so many people are relieved when we get to this point. They’ve been pushed their entire life to be like the other group and have always hated it and felt terrible that they just can’t do it. Now Group A people have the mental freedom to skip breakfast, try intermittent fasting, or consume large yummy meals they’ve always dreamed about and still see progress in the gym or in their body composition. Group B people don’t have to be so dang hangry all the time (win/win for everyone) or be guilted that if they eat more than 3 meals/day they will gain weight. They can plenty of yummy meals and see the progress they’re desiring as well.
So back to the first question. Where do YOU start?
Lesson #1. Compliance is key. If you don’t have compliance, you 100% do not have a sustainable, lifestyle approach. By compliance, I mean sticking day in, day out to your plan. This means designing a plan that works for you and your preferences. Now we just have to decide what those preferences are!
Make a list. Write them down. You have to decide:
1. What are YOUR goals? Both in and out of the gym (i.e. a “performance” or “aesthetic goal” and a lifestyle/mindset/personal development goal. I find you need both. If you only strive to look a certain way or perform a certain way at the gym, but lack any goal outside of that realm, then when you achieve your first goal, you won’t really be satisfied.
2. What are YOUR non-negotiables? These are things in your life that you refuse to give up. I refuse to give up tacos, sweet foods (we will get to this eventually), and an occasional gals’ night. Common ones are date nights, weekend adventures, going out, family meals, not tracking over vacation, etc. There are no bad non-negotiables. Want to drink and party with your friends? Great, let’s actually account for that and allow you to do just that.
3. What are YOU looking for in a diet and in a nutrition plan? Do you like just a couple large meals or more little meals during the day? What are past diets you’ve tried before? Did they work? What was wrong with them? How long did they last?
4. What is YOUR daily schedule like? Are you in a profession that doesn’t allow you to eat 5 meals/day? This is important.
Decide these. Write them down. Next step, we will actually start setting up a diet!