What do you need to know in order to navigate your nutrition for life? It’s tempting to think that keto or intermittent fasting or anything you see online is THE ticket to look and feel the way you want.Instead, consider what you’d need to know to create your own plan for eating in a way you know works best for you.
One thing that I don’t take for granted at this stage of my life is the fact that when I face obstacles in balancing my nutrition with my current lifestyle (YES this happens to me too), I have a system in place that allows me to look to inward, rather than outward for solutions.
When I feel my energy is off, or my sleep is disrupted, or my training is suffering, or I’m stressed and emotionally eating, or I’m unhappy with some weight gain or loss, I don’t run to the internet to find the next DIET or SOLUTION to my current issue. Instead, I go back to what I have learned about nutrition to approach whatever life throws at me. Don’t get me wrong, I still have mentors and coaches and a support system that I rely on, but I always feel confident that I have a great starting place to return to when I feel a bit lost.
Create your own nutritional knowledge and skill foundation so you can navigate the different stages of life, too. Are you trying to just optimize your health and feel more energetic at a healthy weight? Are you trying to make some more refined body composition changes and level up your performance for a period of time? Maybe you are really feeling the call to strive for something far-reaching in the way of nutrition and body composition goals, even if just for a short window of time, in order to challenge your limits and achieve a long time goal.
No matter where you are, you are going to need knowledge, skills, and a foundational system to navigate the obstacles that are in front of you. Do you have that foundational system built? If every year you trying something NEW with your food or listening to the fads that surround us daily, then like many others you are just getting pulled around from thing to thing without starting from a foundation and adding tools to help you build over time.
5 Key Skills for Lifetime Nutrition Foundations
At a glance, there are 5 Key Categories that I rely on always and will return to at any point in my nutrition journey to help me recalibrate and navigate a new obstacle that comes up. These were the foundations I had to learn in my life in order to ever PROGRESS past the beginning stages. As I get more and more advanced with years of knowledge and milestones under my belt, I never lose sight of the foundations. This is a process I’ve heard called the “Beginner Mindset.” No matter where you are at in your learning, you must always respect the power of the foundational skills. Within the foundations lie 80-90% of the results you want. What I’ve also found is that regardless of your goal and what stage you are at, whatever the obstacle you are facing can almost always be navigated if you trace back to these steps.
1. Self Awareness
Life is fast-paced for most people I work with. I rarely hear someone tell me that they have too much time on their hands. Time is scarce for most of you. Therefore, taking time to SLOW down and actually do a self-check-in is absent. This is a major problem since we often don’t have any system in place for listening to the cues our bodies and brains are giving us around our FOOD. We need to develop a system for this in our lives and particularly as it relates to food, hunger, satiety, and physical reactions to our food.
- Am I hungry?
- Am I full?
- Am I tired?
- How did that food make me feel?
2. Digestive Function
What is happening with your gut every day? When you see a big rash on your arm, or you have an itchy patch of skin on your back, you know right away that there is something wrong and you are having a reaction. What about when this is happening inside your body? What about when your digestive system is giving you cues that it is OFF?
- What does good digestion look like for you? Poop, anyone?
- What does good digestion feel like for you?
- What does bad digestion look and feel like for you?
- What environmental inputs for you impact this positively or negatively? (Food, drink, alcohol, sleep, stress, medications…)
3. Food Hygiene
How do you consume your food? Simple things like the speed by which you consume your food have a proven impact on body weight and body composition. Building good practices around food consumption will give you a leg up no matter what the goal you are trying to accomplish with food is.
- How fast do you eat?
- Do you chew your food appropriately?
- What state are you in when you eat meals?
- Eating on the go or in a rush?
- Distracted eating?
4. Food Preparation
The preparation of your food can impact the quality, the ingredients, and the total density of the meal. Those who have the ability to perform basic meal preparation tasks have been proven to have better weight management. But what is your current food preparation skill set? Are you taking steps to build better skills? Are you jumping into recipes that call for skills outside of your abilities? Food preparation can impact so many aspects that will dictate success:
- Reduce the cost of health food
- Save time in a busy life
- Control ingredients, calories, and macronutrients
- Remove processed foods from the diet
- Create a deeper connection to your food
5. Accurate Tracking
One thing that has changed over the course of the past 5-10 years when it comes to talking nutrition and diets is that an immense range of variables impacts the energy balance equation of old. Calories in vs Calories out has evolved and we know it is impacted by stress, hormones, sleep, training methods, etc. But the ability to track what your inputs are still remains as powerful as ever.
- You must learn how to calculate your inputs accurately
- You need to bring awareness to where you are inputting calories and macronutrients into the system without even realizing it.
- Once you have a clear understanding of your inputs, then you can start to learn more about what your outputs are. We can still honor the equation that Energy In = Energy Out when weight is stable. If you want to gain or lose weight you must shift one side of the equation more.
I’ve always been drawn to creating nutrition programs and challenges because they are opportunities to help participants build these Foundational Skills of Nutrition. When I evaluate most nutritional programs or challenges out there, they will dive deep into one or two topics, but always fail to capture the full complement of foundational skills.
The upside to a program that really hammers one foundational tool is that you can get dramatic results in a short time. But in order to really build long term success, you need to address all aspects of this foundation. While it’s always amazing to see people have dramatic body changes in a short period of time, what I love more is seeing people make long term changes and develop confidence with their own nutrition.