Last year, I did an online fitness program that included timed nutrition. Normally, I ignore that part of the program because my goal is new and challenging exercise and not dieting. But this time I decided I'd give it a try. To my surprise, I loved it.
No, I didn't love the detail of the eating plan. It took effort to get started and stay with it. It wasn't intuitive at first. I had to look at my notes to remember what to eat and how much. And let's be super clear - strict adherence was not a strength. (That's my independent nature coming out.) But what I did LOVE was the mindset change it helped me make.
I went from thinking about what I wasn't going to eat, to what I was going to eat to feed my body. I redefined eating with positive behaviors and stopped defining my actions by the negative.
I hadn't realized it, but before this experiment, eating was about getting away from a negative outcome, I was using an avoidance approach to nutrition . After the experiment, eating became focused on a positive outcomes and my eating habits improved. Why this worked is explained beautifully in the book Burnout by Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski, DMA. Researchers gave 2 groups of study participants printed mazes to complete. For both groups, the goal was to get the cartoon mouse to the end of the maze. In one group, there was a cartoon owl hovering over the maze worksheet. In the other, a cartoon piece of cheese waiting at the end as a reward. Outcome? The cheese group completed more mazes, had more creative solutions and did them faster. The authors concluded:
“We thrive when we have a positive goal to move toward, not just a negative state we’re trying to move away from”
The timed nutrition got me focused on a positive outcome. I developed new healthy habits. (Find them here). I eat more intuitively now. I feel better physically and mentally because food isn't a stressor anymore. I kind of feel like I am thriving.
I am not proposing you follow the same plan I did or do now. I am not suggesting this will solve your weight loss goals if you have them and I know this ain't a silver bullet. But I am asking you this...
What could be different if tomorrow, if instead of waking up to a list of things your not going to eat, what if it was a list of things you will? What if you replaced the "can't have" at your next meal with "how am I going to best serve this body at this moment?"
Would that mindset change alone create positive energy? Would you feel successful? Would you feel empowered? Would it feel good?
What's stopping you from trying?
Go For It!
Here are those healthy habits I mentioned, these are the 3 that I feel are serving me well today:
Veggies for breakfast. My low effort breakfast is a smoothie with protein powder, fruit, and spinach. Sometimes it's zucchini or riced cauliflower instead. Other times I have the leftover veggies from dinner and eggs.
Fueling my workouts. I focus my fruit and carbohydrates around my workouts. I feel stronger and better about the workout itself when I given myself the food energy to do the work.
More Protein. For most of my life, the protein that existed in my diet outside of dinner was limited and if I am honest, maybe 80% from peanut butter or cheese. Now, protein makes up an important part of each of my meals throughout the day.