How to be your own nutrition coach
Forget spending a fortune on diet and nutrition coaches... you can do it all yourself! All it takes is a bit of time, practice, determination... oh, and the correct knowledge, which Lois (one of CFTD members and a qualified nutrition coach) is going to give us right now! In the words of Lois...
My coaching principles centre around setting small daily habits which eventually build up to make bigger lifestyle changes. In this article i’m going to give you the lowdown on:
What successful diets have in common
How to set yourself goals to keep you motivated and how to build in habits that will help you reach that goal
General top tips on how to improve your nutrition.
As a coach I don’t really believe in “diets”... instead I recommend focusing on sustainable lifestyle changes to help you reach your goals. Our lifestyles centre around hundreds of tiny habits so making changes to these are a good way to reach our goal.
“What about all the complicated diet plans we see online?” I hear you say...
ALL diets, no matter how fancy they sound, do the same thing – control the quantity or quality of food that we eat. For a “diet” to be successful it just has to:
1. Control energy balance
2. Address nutrient quality
3. Be sustainable
There is no magical scientific reason why ONE of these diets is any better than the others – the best diet for you is the one that you can sustain! The three most IMPORTANT things, no matter what your goals are, are SLEEP, CALORIE AMOUNT & CALORIE QUALITY.
Work out your “WHY”...
Having a strong purpose or “why” helps us stick to our plans when things get hard... So let’s do a short exercise:
Think of one goal you have in health/nutrition/fitness AND WRITE IT DOWN! (EXAMPLE – “Lose 10kg”)
Now I want you to write down WHY that goal is important to you (EXAMPLE – “Lose 10kg, so that I can be healthier”)
Again I want you to then write down WHY that last part is important to you – keep going until you get to your CORE “why” (EXAMPLE – “Lose 10kg, so that I can be healthier, this means that I will be able to run around and play games with my children)
As you can see, this last part holds a lot of value personally and will serve as greater motivation. When finding your “why” try to link it to something intrinsic - externally linked “whys” tend not to serve as much of a driving force (eg Lose 10kg so other people think I look good). It might be that your goal is not what you thought it would be after some soul searching!
Once you have your “WHY” write it down and stick it somewhere that you can see it when times get tough or motivation is low
Now that you have your goal and your "why", you need to outline some new habits - research suggests that it takes around 3 weeks of repetitive behaviour to create a new "habit"... Write down a few things that you could change to reach your goal, again, using the example of the individual who wants to lose 10kg... these could be:
-eat more vegetables
-drink less alcohol
FIRST. Pick the habit that is going to be EASIEST for you to stick to – we need to build momentum by giving ourselves
NEXT. You need a way to track the habit – I like to use a calendar – each day I hit the habit I get a cross on the calendar, once I see the crosses stack up its hard to break the habit. Another good way to do this is using an app at the moment I really like the Tappsk app!
If you want to know a little more theory behind building habits, I can recommend a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear.
General top nutrition tips for any goal
I'm gonna wrap this up with a few easy tips that have really helped me on my way to creating a diet that works for me...
Learn to cook your favorite meals from scratch and make healthy swaps – this can be as simple as reducing oil, changing cooking method to baking rather than frying etc.
Eat more fruit and veg! If you often feel hungry, increase the size of your meals by adding more veggies!
Make each meal balanced by including protein, carb and fat at every meal
Make sure you are always ADDING to your diet and not taking away - if you want to reduce your alcohol consumption then don't word your habit as "stop drinking", rather "Have a couple of glasses of wine on a Saturday".
The easiest macronutrient to over eat is fat as we cannot always see hidden oils/sauces on our food so be mindful of this
If you order food or eat out regularly ask for sauces on the side so that you can control how much goes on and pay attention to cuts of meat and cooking method (ie grilled will probably contain less oils than pan fried)
PROTEIN is probably the key to most people’s goals, make sure you eat some protein at EVERY meal this can range from meat to yogurt and beans and lentils for vegans.
Eat mindfully – learn to listen to your hunger and fullness signals. To do this never eat in front of the TV or whilst working at the laptop – focus on your food! Another good tip is to eat slowly by putting your knife and fork down after every bite.
Keeping a food journal for a week or two is a good place to start if you are looking to make changes to your diet – it makes you more aware of what you are actually eating and how that food made you feel. This can enable you to see where you may want to make changes and it can also allow you to identify any behaviour triggers you may have
REMEMBER... the key to success is finding out your "why" and making lots of little lifestyle changes, one by one, over an extended period of time - don't make dozens of strict rules for yourself that are not sustainable or realist