Setting Goals (Part Two) - Nutrition Focused
As it is the first week of the year we are having some dialogue on setting goals. This next blog of mine in our mini-series on the topic is narrowing down to discuss some tips on setting nutrition related goals.
What I would like to acknowledge right at the start is that taking on any area of your wellbeing is tough. While it may appear that some people (myself included) just 'have it all sorted' consider that this is not necessarily the case. Potentially there are some habits or systems which are a bit more practiced but it is still a struggle. Or maybe there are other aspects of life that are left by the wayside - just yesterday I shared some snaps where I was sitting with Charlie (our new puppy), writing but with baskets of washing not put away.
I pull no punches being upfront that making good food choices is HARD. There are so many variables pulling against this, more so for mothers. We have a food industry that is teeming of ultra-processed foods with the cost of wholefoods just continuing to climb. When you have children the pressure on your time is just a constant juggle of what comes first and it is always at the cost of something else (hello washing). Side note I thought this would get easier as my children got older but it turns out that juggle just keeps going the demands simply change (or if anything increase!!). This is not withstanding the huge physiological changes that happen with having a baby with sleep deprivation adding to a whirlpool of hormonal changes.
I could go on. This is like the tip of the iceberg. What you need to know is that the barriers you are up against are real and significant.
Starting with some well established goals can help to break down what feels like an impossible mountain with taking on your nutrition. If you have not read my previous blog on mindset - please start here as this is a crucial foundation. In my book I released end of last year, The Nourished Bump, I talk about doing an audit of your nutritional intake, I would also encourage this regardless of if you are embarking on the conception and pregnancy journey.
So often when it comes to nutrition, because it is one of the key components of the energy balance equation many food goals focus heavily on the outcome - body composition, how our bodies looks, weight as examples. While this maybe what you want (which is ok), and yes good food choices is going to significantly help this you do not want this as your specific goal!
Primarily this is because so many variables can impact our body shape and composition. While food is one of them (and yes a big one), it is not the only one. You could be doing all the actions for some time in terms of nutrition and not seeing the body composition results you want – it is going to get you demorialised. I also believe that focusing on body composition, will take away from the work. It almost gives yourself an out. Now I know it is not what you are intending to, but ultimately as human beings we are also looking for a way we can wriggle out of the work. When we eat 'well' (loaded word itself but stay with me) for say two weeks we 'expect' to see some change and when we do not we can throw in the towel 'what was the point nothing has changed anyway'. Rather than trusting the process and that consistency over time (a lot of time - see below) is where the results really are.
I know that the body composition changes what you want. I know you also want them quickly - so spoiler this is also setting yourself up to fail. It is ok to want this so keep it in your back pocket and long term vision but don’t let it distract you from the actions. For those who have spent many years weighing yourself or focusing on the weight on the scales my blog here is for you.
So where to start then?
More Big Stones
One of the ananologies I talk about a lot is a 'big stones' approach. From a marketing perspecitve the wellbeing industry likes us to focus on one magic 'thing'. One majic product, one majic food, one shake or even diet. This is sales driven. I have a nutrition business and a food brand! I know this is not always done from a bad place and it is also ok to sell and market a product but there is a difference in how something is marketed. Regardless as a consumer you need to understand when it comes to food that there is no magic food, pill or solution to take away the work - I keep coming back to this because you need to hear this. So with your goals do not focus on the small things but rather the big aspects of nutrition which we know will help. I also said 'more' big stones this is a subtle but important use of words as we do not want the focus to be on 'less' - because what comes in place of the 'less'.
"I want to eat less sugar or no sugar"
"I want to eat more vegetables".
"I want to eat more quality carbohydrate than refined sugar"
I hope you are still with me because now we have the focus on the 'what' we still need to sharpen this up a little. While simply eating more vegetables or switching our carbohydrate sources is going to help - when, how, at what time?
but more what?
Along with not using scales I also do not measure out portions!! This is going to be frustrating for some of you to even read but it is true and again it takes away from the work - the work of focusing on nutrients rather than calories as well as the work of mindful eating - many layers to this but ultimately how does this make me feel.
Focusing on portions especially as a 'goal' will keep you stuck, drive deprivation, potentially hunger and again take the focus off nutrients and on to calories. Having an idea of portions can help but this should be done with guidance and not as a goal - because how on earth can even I know what your body actually needs on a day-to-day basis? Only your body can tell you that!.
Have more vegetables (or even have a vegetable) at breakfast three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday).
Consistency Over Time
This s the bit I know you really do not want to hear. It is going to take some time, a lot of time and the formula is consistent work over time ideally with increases in that work too.
Imagine if you actually did it though. Imagine if you actually consistently ate a vegetable at breakfast three times a week (one of our three major meals and therefore sources of nutrition) for a year? Imagine if you did it daily for a year.
I promise you that there will be change by the end of the year! It would be impossible not to be.
Maybe not on the scales but we are not talking about that. Changes in your cravings, changes in your insulin resistance, changes in your skin, changes in your mood, changes in the way you even get out bed in the morning?! Changes in other parts of your nutrition or other meals because you trust this process?
This can also apply to your children nutrition! Imagine if you offered your toddler a vegetable at breakfast as well three mornings a week? Or at dinner every night for a year? Without bribes, rewards, excessive praise or expectation?
Now I KNOW it is not this simple. I KNOW there are budget and time constraints but we are talking about setting a goal right? We are allowing mind to flex and bend to new possibilities. I am encouraging you to think beyond just two weeks or eight weeks.
I also know how dauting this can feel.
I spent an entire year last year (more to be fair) preparing my body physically for what would be extensive neuro-surgery. Did I want to throw in the towel? Many times! Did I think it was unfair that I would do all that work, put in huge hours only for it to be whipped away from surgery which I did not cause in any manner? Of course! Was it worth it in the end - absolutely!! I did not 'lose it all' as I feared and recovered faster than I ever imagined possible and found a new love of training along the way.
Take yourself on - your body will give you what you ask of it - and you might be just surprised what you learn along the way.
I hope this has helped! For some I will have given you more to think about than answers - good! Feel free to share your goals with me and remember if you are looking for more 1:1 support I can help with that too.
xx Dr Julie