This is part 1 in a series of articles intended to help you cultivate a lifestyle supportive of optimal health and performance. The aim is to simplify complex topics, but that’s not always possible. If you have questions, or want focused attention on your individual situation, let me know!
Whether you want to look good, feel better, or perform at your peak athletic potential, the most significant factor you can control is your nutrition. The best fitness programming in the world will only have limited impact if it’s built on a crap diet. The question I hear most often as a Health Coach is what should I eat? On it’s own, the what to eat is important, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. I explore with my clients what I call purposeful nutrition: why are you eating, what are you eating, and how are you eating.
Why are you eating?
You have to eat to live. Problem solved, right? In today’s culture of (relative) abundance and convenience, we’ve lost touch with our why when it comes to nourishing our bodies. I challenge my clients to reclaim that level of mindfulness with regards to their nutrition. Am I fueling for the day, for an event, to lose body fat, to build muscle, to heal a broken digestive system, or to reduce inflammation? Am I eating because I’m bored, or because I’m hungry? The answers to these and other questions will help you navigate the next big topic.
What are you eating?
Most people are aware that if you eat a calorie dense diet against a backdrop of limited activity, you’ll gain weight. The inverse is also true, and comes with it’s own problems and benefits. But nutrition goes way beyond calories in and calories out. In a nutshell, your food choices should:
- Balance energy;
- Support health and healing;
- Be sustainable for self and environment.
Your food choices — at both the macro and micro level — have tremendous influence on your body, it’s various components and system. Choosing foods that will fuel your why is the goal. So, should you eat paleo, gluten free, high or low carb, ketogenic or vegetarian or vegan? Should I eat this way 100% of the time, or give myself some wiggle room? Working through your why and lining these up with your core values will influence your choices. Decision making around food doesn’t have to be difficult, but it should at least be informed. Working with a qualified health coach, nutritionist, or dietician can be incredibly helpful here.
How are you eating?
Bringing mindfulness back into the conversation, when you sit down to eat (if you sit down to eat), are you watching T.V., forgetting what it is that you’re even putting into your mouth, or are you focused on enjoying the meal? Are you chewing your food adequately, or swallowing it whole in a mad dash to get out the door? Are you making it a social event, engaging in conversation and taking your time, or is it just a boring, unimpressive thing you have to do?
Choosing high quality, nutrient dense foods is a great start, but how you eat your food has an impact on the value you derive from that food that go far beyond the calories in, calories out equation.
Purposeful nutrition is a platform for engagement with your body, giving it the nourishment it needs to look, feel, and perform better, and to power your efforts in the gym, on the field, at work, home, and elsewhere in life. If nutrition is one of those aspects of health that causes you confusion or stress, take some time to reflect on your why, what, and how, and see where that takes you.