One of the most challenging parts of embarking on any kind of wellness change is navigating the noise in the health and fitness industry, don’t you think?
Everywhere we turn, there’s a new right, a new wrong, a new fad to follow, a diet that’s old news, and a new magical superfood that will turn us into superhumans.
My clients often come to me saying that it feels nearly impossible to know how to separate fact from fiction. All the diet “rules” contradict each other, and everyone has their opinions on what’s THE most effective way to eat, move, sleep, and even breathe! Us busy women, we don’t have the time to spend weeding through all this information.
We have other sh*t to do, and we just want to reach our fitness and fat loss goals in a way that feels simple!
Because one of main goals as a coach is to help busy women cut through all the confusion and overwhelm and instead replace it with confidence and clarity, and because I know this time of year can be CRAZY with the fitness industry pouncing on our post-holiday vulnerabilities and optimistic resolution setting, I’ve decided to compile some nutrition tips and strategies that will help keep things SIMPLE.
Below are what I feel are the most important nutrition nuggets to keep in mind for anyone trying to make changes to the way they eat.
My Top 10 Nutrition Tips to Help Simplify Healthy Eating
1. Don’t force foods you don’t like.
Figure out what nutritious foods are more enjoyable to you than others. Hate broccoli, but love spinach? Don’t force the damn broccoli just because “they” say it’s good for you. TASTE MATTERS, so don’t settle for straight up lettuce with a drizzle of lemon on it, plain chicken breast, and unseasoned steamed veggies if they just make you dread your meals. Figure out how to prepare healthy food so that it tastes good. Add flavor, protein, crunch, color, or whatever will help up the satisfaction factor of your meal, all in moderation of course. Actually ENJOYING your food is precisely how you can sustain your healthy eating habits for the long-term.
2. Food has no moral value, therefore no foods are bad or off-limits.
Think about how many times in your life you’ve said or heard someone else say something like “I’m trying to eat clean!” or “Ugh, I’ve been so bad lately.”
Comments like these nudge us into a good versus bad food logic. Whether I’m good or bad shouldn’t depend on whether I eat a salad or sandwich for lunch or choose to have a glass of wine with dinner. If I’m good, it should be because I’m being kind or empathetic, and if I’m bad, it should be because I’m being condescending and rude.
When we give food moral value, we allow food to have more power over us, and it perpetuates an all or nothing mentality. When a food is labeled bad, it feels “off limits,” and so we deprive ourselves and white-knuckle our way through the week until our cravings are through the roof and we give in and binge.
On the flip side, when we allow ourselves to indulge every so often, and we do it mindfully, we are less likely to polish off an entire bag of chips or the whole sleeve of cookies in one sitting with a big side of guilt.
Which brings me to…
3. Learning how to actually eat mindfully is game-changing.
Everyone says to eat mindfully, but what does that actually MEAN?
Mindful eating is learning to get in tune to what our bodies tell us. When we listen to our bodies, we are able to actually recognize our hunger and fullness cues. When we eat mindfully, we are aware of not only WHAT we put into our bodies, but WHY we’re eating the food we’re eating and HOW the food will make us feel if we choose to continue eating it. In order to eat mindfully, it’s important to slow down and give ourselves time to savor the flavors or what we are eating, ask ourselves if what we’re eating is satisfying, and make a choice that’s in line with our goals.
This takes practice, but eventually becomes more automated and is *the* single most helpful tool that I help my clients master for sustainable fat loss.
4. Commit to 1-3 simple habits per day.
My clients know that I refer to this as defining our daily definites! Committing to 1-3 healthy actions on a daily basis can help automate our eating so we don’t always have to be thinking about it so much.
Our daily definites should be no brainers: things that already come pretty easily to us and don’t require a ton of effort so they are super simple to implement.
Some examples of nutritional daily definites might include always drinking one full glass of water with lemon before you have your morning cup of coffee, always carrying a protein bar in your purse in case a craving hits, or to always have one huge #SaladThatDoesntSuck with a ton of veggies in it for at least one meal.
5. Food tracking is only effective for the short term.
Food tracking can absolutely be a helpful tool for making us more aware of how much we actually eat. Tracking can also be a very effective means for noticing patterns in our day: becoming a snack monster when we get home from work, eating something sweet during a daily afternoon slump, etc. These patterns can then be used as data for goal setting and change.
However, food tracking is not a long-term solution in my book. Measuring food, counting calories, and counting macros gets cumbersome and stressful. It’s one thing to educate yourself when you get started, but at some point learning to eat a little more intuitively will be more effective. I don’t think anyone really wants to have to pull out their phone to log their food or bring their food scale to social gatherings just to stay “on track.”
6. Forget the rules and focus on the big rocks.
Some of the diet rules out there have been shoved in our faces for YEARS that the notions are engrained. We shouldn’t put creamer in our coffee. Buying organic vegetables is “better” than buying conventional. Butter versus margarine. Eating after 8pm is bad for us. Cooked veggies aren’t as good for us as raw one. These are all SMALL ROCKS in the grand scheme of our overall nutrition, yes? The focus should simply be to make sure that we are eating balanced meals! When you take out the stress of focusing on the small rock stuff, and instead just prioritize your #GoPROeats (protein/produce), things feel a whole lot easier.
7. Preparation helps, but over-preparation hinders.
To stick with your nutrition goals, it certainly helps to plan for your week, know what nights you will and won’t be around, get to the store to stock up on groceries, and do a little meal prep to have healthy food on hand. However, meal prepping every single meal and snack for your week will eventually become a mental drain, a huge freaking time suck, and a nutritional crutch. It won’t teach you anything about self-trust around food or getting in tune with your body’s natural hunger cues.
Use meal prep as a tool to make life easier for yourself. Use it to chop up veggies and have them ready to throw into the crock pot. Use it to have a casserole ready for the days and situations that need it most. Use it to have your breakfast ready to go if you are someone who has a rushed morning. Meal prep should not be something that immediately makes you feel off track if it’s not done. Remember that a nutritious choice can be made in any situation, whether you’ve prepped the food yourself or not.
8. Food is never the issue.
A lot of women tell me that they struggle with nighttime eating and feel like they have no control around food. This is because we reach for food for so many reasons outside of our hunger. We eat when we feel sad, overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, bored, tired, sick, lonely, happy, feel like we deserve a reward, don’t want to miss out, and more.
At the end of a long day, we might feel so stressed that the only thing that feels comforting is a bag of chips. Sure, eating the chips may bring relief in the moment. But after you’ve had a handful or two and continue to go back for more, how do you feel? Likely upset with yourself that you so many chips, maybe guilty if you didn’t even want the chips in the first place, AND you’re probably still super stressed because whatever is causing the stress is STILL out there somewhere and you haven’t found a viable way to address it.
Food is never the issue, avoiding our emotions is. Our emotions and feelings are going to come out in one way or another, and for many of us they present through food. If you can hit the pause button (see #3) when you feel the need to eat emotionally, you can think about what *actually* is going on for you and think of alternative solutions that aren’t food.
9. Approach food with an abundance mindset.
When working on a nutrition goal, situations like holiday eating, traveling, and social situations can stir up feelings of stress and anxiety about food consumption. What’s the best way to navigate the situation and still feel like you’re eating in line with your goals?
Just because there’s a bunch of food on a holiday table or cruise ship buffet, just because there are a million candy jars at work, and just because friends are ordering a ton of apps while out to eat doesn’t mean we have to eat or drink anything. We always have the choice about what we put into our bodies, and when we operate from an abundance mindset and don’t allow food FOMO to get the best of us, we understand that we’re not actually missing out on anything by leaving it behind.
If I really want something on the table after a holiday is said and done, what would stop me from buying it, making it, or asking someone else to make it later? Nothing. If I really want those hershey kisses that are in the candy bucket at work later that day, what would stop me from driving to the store and buying them? Nothing is scarce, nothing is in limited supply.
10. What works for one person may not work for someone else.
Don’t get caught up in what everyone else is doing. Nutrition looks different for everyone! Some people may love eating a yogurt bowl for breakfast in the morning, but others may not like the way it settles in their stomachs. Some of us are perfectly content having the same thing for lunch every single day, while others get bored and need the variety to keep things interesting. Some of us like to drink smoothies, while others prefer to chew their food. Some of us are more active than others, and therefore our carb intake is going to look a little different.
Would you say that any one of these choices is 100% definitively, without a doubt, right or wrong?! I wouldn’t. There is no one size fits all approach to health and wellness, and cookie cutter solutions do not work. They don’t take into consideration a single thing about us as individuals with our own life, schedule, and circumstances. YOU know yourself best, keep your eyes on your own paper!
Readers, let’s chat! Did any of these tips resonate with you more than others? Tell me in the comments!
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