Aim Small, Miss Small
Last weeks’ blog post discussed commitment to consistency to bring about change in terms of exercise. If you missed it, that’s okay, you could view all our blogs here .
This week I’m going to discuss the same principle in terms of nutrition. Commitment to exercise consistency can come in many forms when developing the habit: social support with friends, accountability from a coach, or environmental encouragement within a gym. Nutrition is a tad different when it comes to committing to consistency. Nutrition decisions happen far more often than exercise decisions. You’ll make decisions about eating typically fourteen to thirty times every week, whereas you’ll typically only need to make four to six decisions about exercise on a weekly basis. Also, nutrition typically requires more forethought and preparation to set up an environment that’s conducive to your intended habits; meal planning, grocery shopping, prepping food in advance or making time to cook. It can get heavy fast, sort of like deadlifts.
When going about making changes in nutritional habits, most of us go too far too fast. We find a meal plan that’s completely new to us in a variety of ways. We trade the breakfast that used to be coffee and creamer for an egg scramble with mushrooms, spinach, and broccoli. We trade the lunch we eat out with co-workers for the hummus and veggies we take to work. We get home and cook chicken, asparagus, and quinoa instead of the traditional spaghetti our family loves. And, of course, we skip that treat at the end of the day. While all these changes are great, for most of us (and our families), these changes are not stainable. Whether due to the social pressure of our families, friends or co-workers, or the emotional hunger for treats we desire, or just the sheer fact that reality continues without care of the time and work it takes to plan, prepare, and follow through with consistent food habits, these changes must be made gradually to stick.
This is where I enjoy the principle of ASMS: Aim Small Miss Small (I know, I know, my acronym game is fire). If you want to improve your nutrition long term, then you’ll need to prepare yourself to commit to long term habits, but not all at once. Changing your nutrition habits is sort of like climbing Mount Everest. You can’t just sprint to the top looking like Rocky Balboa. It’s one step at a time, one day at a time and adapting to the change in altitude and weather as you go. You’ve got to acclimate to your new surroundings if you want to adapt and be able to keep going. The process of doing this is piece by piece, or as I like to think about it, 1% at a time.
"Changing your nutrition habits is sort of like climbing Mount Everest"
The principles of eating healthy aren’t that mysterious, right? From a simple perspective, we can name a few things that almost everyone would agree on (I know, we’re getting into deep water here where some have strong beliefs…I’ll be careful).
Don’t overeat (unless you’re trying to gain weight)
Less processed foods are generally better in terms of nutrient value
Vegetables, lean and less processed proteins, complex carbohydrates, balanced fats, & water
Whew, I think we should stop there. There are tons of other factors, such as how many meals, meal timing, nutrient timing, number of calories per day or per meal, low carb, low fat, keto/paleo/vegan/Mediterranean, etc. But we’re not going to discuss any of that today, young grasshopper.
The process for better nutrition should start with self-awareness on your current eating habits (you know, mindful eating). This classically requires a log, but it doesn’t have to be permanent or fancy. Keep a notebook, utilize a food diary app, or just jot down notes on your phone. Start your focus on one meal per day. If your breakfast habits aren’t ideal, consider what would be ideal, and maybe 2-4 progressions between what you’re currently doing for breakfast and what you’d like to do for breakfast. Spend two weeks per progressive step in bettering your breakfast. This process may take up to two months, but at the end of it, you’ll be well practiced and efficient at eating breakfasts that are most likely way better than your previous two months’ worth.
Then move on to lunch, and then dinners, and then weekends, etc. You didn’t develop your current nutrition habits in a day, week, month or maybe even a year. It took time. And if you aren’t satisfied with the resulting health and energy levels that your current nutrition is giving you, focusing on small changes over the course of six months to a year is most likely one of the best investments you could make in yourself and your future.
Good nutrition is closely tied to good energy and emotion, and I don’t know anyone who ‘performs’ worse as a co-worker, parent or spouse with better emotional and physical energy. This missing key in most of our nutritional endeavors is humility; we must admit that we need to change our habits and that change is hard and change will take time. If we can do that, and submit to changing one habit at a time till we’re satisfied with how it fits in our life and the result we get through it, the goal we had in mind at the onset is a foregone conclusion in time. Aim Small, Miss Small.