By Kaitie Neratka
How many times have you started a new diet?? Everything starts out great but then at some point you find yourself falling back into old ways, making poor nutrition choices, and once again you are lost as to what happened.
First off, you’re not alone.
Secondly, “diets”. Yes, people can get great results on diet plans in the beginning and in some cases they are necessary for immediate change.
But for the average person looking to change their eating habits, “eating for life” is the best plan.
Diets confine you to a box. They typically want you to cut something out completely or they define one or more foods as bad or you have to cut a large amount of calories too soon when your body is used to something much higher.
This creates a mentality that food is not our friend and thus a bad relationship with food is created.
As humans we are creatures of habit, we like what makes us comfortable, and we want instant gratification. These three things are part of the psychology of change. And all three need to be considered when you are looking to make changes to the way you eat permanently.
Because of these human characteristics, there is a constant battle of the mind to go back to what we know and what is easy. So going into your new plan needs to begin with the right mindset.
If you are someone that has the “All or Nothing” mindset, you tend to feel either you must follow your diet perfectly or just quit entirely. There is no grace.
This mindset is probably the most common one I hear people describe in one way or another when trying to stick to their nutrition goal. This mindset, in my experience, is typically a result of years worth of bad information. Being told carbs and fats are bad, you have to eat less to get results, only eat good foods not bad food (insert eye roll).
Let me clear something up. Categorizing food as good or bad becomes stressful and stress doesn’t help anyone do anything. Yes, there are more nutrient dense foods that when consumed in appropriate quantities your body will benefit better than those of lesser value. But when you are just starting out you must remember, there is an adjustment period, a learning period, and most importantly it is impossible to do anything perfect.
Read that again.
It is IMPOSSIBLE to do anything perfect.
This includes your nutrition. So if you are trying to follow a “diet” or any form of better eating habits, go into it with an 80/20 mindset. Give yourself the weekend to not worry about tracking, or allot yourself 3 hours one day a week to consume or drink anything guilt free.
I’m not saying gorge yourself with every “treat” you can think of, I’m saying, if your buddy invites you out for beer on Saturday then have the beer or two and the burger and relax. If your kids birthday party is this week, have the cupcake AND THE ICECREAM with them and celebrate your baby guilt free.
The only way to be successful in creating new habits especially when it comes to food is developing a healthy relationship and a healthy balance with your food. You have to live and enjoy your life. You can’t do that if you are literally afraid of food. I know this because I’ve been there. And it sucks and it’s stressful and it’s not fun. And I promise… you can enjoy the cake (within reason) and get fit too!
Next, having an idea in mind regarding body image is another very common reason people decide to change their eating habits.
And to be clear there is NOTHING I repeat NOTHING wrong with wanting to improve the way you look that makes you feel confident, beautiful or good in your own skin. Everyone has a version of themself that they feel is their best self. It’s ok to want that version.
However, if you link the way you look to self worth, compare your body type to other body types, or hold on to the body you “used” to have this can definitely play a role in unhealthy eating habits. The number one thing I see is under-eating.
Stop comparing yourself to others and other body types! Stop chasing a body that you used to have before your babies or when you were 25 years old.
First, No one is designed like you and that’s a good thing. Your goals and eating habits should be focused on what works for you and your lifestyle. Changing your eating habits should be specific to you.
Every year your body changes, AKA it’s getting older. And that’s not accounting for anything that happened to your body in addition to aging. So be mindful to meet your body where it is and then set goals that are realistic.
Decide on your “WHY”. This should be one that is very strong and very specific. This can help keep your focus on you and what is a manageable, achievable and a healthy goal. Change is not easy, and as I stated before, we are constantly fighting the want to go back to what we know and what is comfortable despite if it’s good for us or not. Furthermore, comparing your plan and progress to someone else can be defeating, and that can push you out of your own lane and off track all over again. Reminding yourself of your why and accepting YOUR journey as the right one, can help to stay on track and keep moving in a forward direction.
Finally, the fear of failure. WOOF. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “I don’t know if I can stick to it”.
Guess what?? You may not stick to it the first time or the second or the 10th time. That’s. Oh. Kay. But that’s the difference between dieting and eating for life.
Eating for life may be slower, it may take longer, but folks, it’s healthier and it allows for error without feeling like you failed. You just pick up where you left off. Crash diets, yo-yo diets, fad diets ARE. NOT. HEALTHY.
Not physically. Not mentally. Not emotionally.
The best way in my experience to overcome the mind block of not being able to stick to or achieve your goal, is to not focus on the end goal itself. Instead, set up little mile markers that are easier to hit. Setting smaller goals are less overwhelming and still keep you moving closer to the end goal.
Additionally, get someone who can help you stay accountable. This can be a coach, a fellow goal chaser, a group of like minded people (Cough Cough, Crossfit Iron Legion). A good support person(s) will encourage you to get back on track if you wander, they will celebrate your wins when you don’t feel like they mean anything, they will remind you of your why (if you shared it). Support always makes the difference.
If you read this far, I hope you took something away as you begin your new way of eating. I could truly go in so many directions and make so many points regarding negative thoughts and information about “eating right”. It just gives me more topics to write about.
No matter what, set yourself up for success, by giving yourself grace, have patience, and get your mind right.
Here is your first goal of 2022 regarding your eating habits —“eat real food, not too much, mostly plants”. It’s not always easy but it really is simple.
If anyone ever has questions or needs some nutrition guidance I’m always available.
- Perfect doesn’t exist. Follow the 80/20 rule. You can hit your goals and enjoy life too.
- Know your “why”
- Find a support system and create a plan specific to you.
- Forward is forward. Even 1% improvement is better than going backwards.
- Eat for life and overall well being not instant gratification.
Kaitie Neratka is a CF-L1 and Head Coach at CrossFit Iron Legion. She manages the Iron Legion Nutrition Program and helps athletes reach their nutrition goals with 1-1 coaching. Nutrition and fitness are her passion.