Greg Kelland is a Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach based at Auckland’s Next Gen Health and Lifestyle Club. Since 2015 he’s been helping people change what they see and feel when looking in a mirror. Greg’s clients learn the skills to stay healthy while living busy lives and without restrictive diets.
Picture this, you come in to see your Personal Trainer (me), and I hit you with this loaded question; “how was your week?”.
Last time I saw you, I gave you a little bit of homework, something to do outside the gym to help you with your “bikini body goals”.
You look at your feet before peeking up with guilty eyeballs. “I was sooo good all week and then on (insert day) I had (insert food), and it all fell apart.”
Let’s break down this typical response and the mindset behind it.
First of all, your ashamed body language tells me precisely what’s about to come and why. As a fitness professional, I’m asking you for objective and subjective data on the consistency of your eating habits, while you’re looking at me like I’m going to smack you for defying me. There’s a disparity here. I don’t know who’s hurt you in the past, but smacking is not in my job description.
Like any good trainer, I’m merely wanting you to try something new and get your feedback. If it worked, that’s great! Let’s figure out how we can do more of it. If it didn’t work, that’s great too! Let’s find out why.
At the risk of sounding like a motivational Instagram caption; Every time you establish what doesn’t work, you’re one step closer to finding what does.
Think of your fitness journey like a science experiment. You are the scientist and the subject. Change a couple of variables, record the outcome and analyse the data (without judgement) to find out what works for you. Do you think Thomas Edison made sad puppy dog eyes when he was asked how the lightbulb was going? No one knows because it was too dark to see. I’m here all week.
The first part of this sentence “I was sooo good”, suggests that you’re judging your character as good or bad based on what you ate.
This language might seem insignificant, but it’s not. Keep telling yourself you’re “bad” and you might start believing it. How would you treat someone that is “bad”, would you feed them healthy food that nourishes them and allow them to exercise regularly to improve their mental health? Probably not.
All behaviour, “good” or “bad”, is your brain trying to solve a problem, and it’s damn good at it. When you’re sad, your brain comes to the rescue with cravings of comfort food. When you’re stressed your brain wraps your fingers around a glass of wine, pushes it to the side and grabs the whole bottle. To change that behaviour is to take away a solution to a problem that has “worked” (as far as your brain is concerned) for years and years and it’s a bloody hard thing to do, so cut yourself some slack!
Focus on changing one small thing at a time and when you succeed in doing that, give yourself a well-deserved round of applause.
Secondly, the phrase “until I ate x”, is super common among so-called “clean eaters” and “yo-yo dieters”. It refers to one item of food that derailed the entire weekend. Let me ask you this… was the goal not to eat food x? What a terrible goal. What happens if you tell a toddler not to touch something? What’s the first thing they do? Deep down inside, we are still rebellious children.
If that was the goal, I don’t blame you for chucking the whole thing in after one slip up. When trying to adhere to restrictive diet rules, as soon as you’ve swallowed, you’ve failed. So why would you keep restricting yourself? You’ve fallen off the wagon, so why not drive it off a cliff and claim the insurance money?
This is an example of an “avoid goal” and its scientifically proven to be a crap idea. “Avoid goals” which tell you “don’t eat this”, but don’t tell you what to have instead, leaving you frustrated and hungry, an emotion I call; “frungry”. Coming soon to a Webster’s dictionary near you.
A better alternative is the “approach goal.” Give yourself a target number of whole foods to eat. For example the famous; “5 fruits and vegetables a day” or my favourite “one massive salad a day”. This is called “dietary displacement”, and it’s a great way to fill you up on whole foods and help you forget about the other stuff.
The most important thing to remember here is that learning to look after yourself is a skill and like any skill, no one’s expecting you to be an expert when you’re starting. If you’re “failing” at your attempts to change your eating habits, it’s possible that you’re trying to walk before you can crawl.
Scale back the change until it’s doable and there’ll be no more tears before gym time.
If you want to learn more about how to transform your body using simple daily habits, visit coachingwithgreg.com.