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07/29/18

Nutrition Is For Life

Over the past couple of months I’ve been preparing for a photoshoot. I’m not done with prepping, but I can finally start to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. And let me tell you, that light couldn’t be here soon enough. The one thing preparing for this photoshoot has done is make me think about food. A lot more than I normally do. In two ways specifically:

  1. About what exactly I’m going to indulge on after the shoot is over, which just so happens to be my birthday.
  2. My – and on a larger scale – our relationships with food.

You don’t know the true desire to want to naw your own hand off until you diet down for some sort of prep, be it photoshoot or contest or whatever. Most meals are unsatisfactory. You develop desires and cravings for things you’d never normally eat. It is a very interesting and eye-opening experience.

But probably the most eye-opening has to do with what happens after. The after-diet diet, so to speak. My head keeps saying, “Yeah, after this is over, I can eat what I want again and not track macros for a while and still look great.”

Which I know is complete and total nonsense. And yet that’s where my mind keeps going. Which got me thinking long and hard about why so many people bounce back after a diet and fail to maintain the progress they made and the weight they lost.

While on a recent trip to Vancouver to visit my friend and coach – who is one of the smartest and most practical people I know when it comes to training and nutrition – we talked a lot about not only my nutrition but nutritional philosophies in general.

As a coach, it’s always very interesting to not only get insight into how other coaches view nutrition but practice it themselves. During our talks, he revealed to me that he had been eating ice cream every day for the past few weeks, while getting leaner, and in his opinion, being in probably the best shape he’s ever been in.

As you’re reading this, your lie detector might be going off, and I wouldn’t blame you. For months the thought of eating real ice cream – not the fake diet stuff – never even crossed my mind. Well, it did – many times. But never within the context of my diet and continuing to progress towards my goals. Yet, twice while I was there, my coach almost encouraged me to have ice cream, so I did. I enjoyed it. And I was okay with it, knowing that it wasn’t hurting my progress because I was also still hitting my macros.

(He cooked for me, which helped as well.)

One of the biggest problems with dieting and trying to lose fat is far too many people look at it as a temporary thing. They look at it as something you have to do for a short period of time before getting to do what you want to do again.

It’s this thought process that ends up having so many people dieting over and over again – sometimes almost endlessly. The fact of the matter is, if you want to make meaningful, long-lasting, permanent changes to your physique, you need to make permanent changes to your lifestyle as well.

You cannot lose 5, 10, 20, or however many pounds you want to lose, and then go back to what you were doing before that. Not if you want to maintain the results you’ve achieved. The problem with dieting is most people think they can make temporary changes to achieve permanent results.

Wrong.

Permanent results require permanent changes. It requires you to change the way you live your life, the choices you make, and probably most importantly, how you look at food.

Dieting inherently paints a negative picture of food – at least the way we’re conventionally taught to diet. If you want to look better, food is the enemy. You need to restrict the amount of food you eat, eliminate all your favorite treats and goodies, and general feel miserable about eating.

While restriction of some kind is necessary for dietary success, it’s this conventional dieting wisdom that leads to both dieting failure, and post-diet rebounds.

Dieting creates such a negative picture that it almost makes us feel guilty for eating certain things; often our favorite foods. And it’s this guilt that often leads to binges, slip-ups, and overall “oh well” attitude.

But here’s the thing: Indulging in our favorite foods SHOULD be part of any diet. I’d go so far to say that doing so is required to make any diet successful for most people.

However, dieting creates such a negative image around food that if we do indulge, we feel like we’re doing something wrong; or that it’s something we only get to do once, so we better eat everything in sight, and shovel everything in our mouths that we can – like the candy store is having going out of business sale and everything must go, but you can only take what you can carry in your mouth.

The biggest problem with mixing dieting and indulging is a lot of us indulge like we’re never going to be able to indulge again…until a week or two later when we do again. Instead of just enjoying a modest amount of what we want and being okay with it, we gorge ourselves, feel guilty, ashamed, and that we failed; leading to more frustration and failure. It’s a vicious cycle.

The biggest lesson, and subsequent habit, we need to learn about dieting is how to gently tap the breaks when we want or need too, instead of slamming our foot down and smashing our face into the steering wheel.

What does that look like in non-metaphorical terms?

  • It’s fitting a scoop or two of ice cream into your macros.
  • It’s practicing intermittent fasting all day, so you can go out for dinner and drinks without having to worry about eating too many calories.
  • It’s being okay with going over to some else’s place to eat, and simply just not eating like a complete buffoon.
  • It’s learning to listen to your body, and not push yourself past that level of comfort.

Most importantly, though, it’s learning how to do all those things, and then take your foot off the brake the next day, or the next meal, and get moving in the right direction again.

And much like the first few times you drove a car, it takes some practice to learn how to gently press down on the brake and gradually slow yourself down when you need to; rather than stomping on it, and sending everyone in the car lurching forward.

Dieting is temporary, but nutrition is for life. And if you want to make your diet results last for life, you need to learn how – and more importantly that it’s okay – to let yourself drift in one direction. Because if you drift too far, you can always use the tools and habits you learned while dieting to get yourself back in the lane you want to be in.

Jorden Pagel
Coach