By Coach Kristy
When you hear the word “diet,” what comes to mind? For the large majority of people, I would venture to guess “weight loss,” is the first thing they think of. Despite diet culture and the fitness industry constantly pushing that narrative down our throats (figuratively and literally), there really is so much more to someone’s diet and nutrition than trying to be the smallest version of themselves.
In the most literal sense, the word “diet” is the kind of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eat. That’s it. No mention of weight loss.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have no issue with someone wanting to pursue weight loss if it is something that really can fit with their life in a safe way (logistically, mentally, and physically). Unfortunately, far too often, weight loss is the only driver for someone to consider looking at their diet, when in fact, there are many other reasons someone might want to take a closer look at their nutrition.
Here are 6 other reasons someone may want to take a closer look at their diet:
Improve Performance – There are various factors that can affect our training performance, but nutrition is a big one. If your strength numbers have stalled, you’re continually injured, or you just don’t have the energy to train, adjusting your diet with performance in mind just might be the push you need to get you over that plateau. Over or under-eating calories or certain macronutrients can affect your performance if your diet isn’t optimal to reach the performance goals you have in mind.
Gain Muscle/Weight – So you’ve been working out 4-5x/week for months, lifting all the weights and you don’t seem to be gaining any muscle.
Taking a closer look at your nutrition, specifically, your calories and protein might be beneficial. In order to gain muscle or increase your weight, you need to be eating enough calories to promote growth. You also need to be eating enough protein! It literally is the building block of your muscles and an adequate amount is needed to maintain muscle and promote muscle growth.
Education – The fitness industry and social media are plagued
with copious amounts of misinformation and fearmongering. How is anyone supposed to know what to believe and what diet to follow?!?
It’s very easy to become confused with all the information coming at you and all these diets that seem to work for some and not for others. This is where education can come in. Learning about calorie requirements and macronutrients and how they affect you physically and mentally can empower you to make informed decisions about your daily diet and nutrition and how it relates to your goals. Tracking your food in a food journal or app and also noting how certain foods make you feel can give you some insight into how your current diet is affecting you as well. When diet and nutrition become less of a mystery, you can feel more confident in your food choices.
Improve Diet Quality – Certainly no one is perfect, and frankly, perfection is a myth if you ask me. It’s unrealistic and anxiety-provoking. That being said, we usually can always find some areas that we can improve or grow. Our diet is one of those places. If you’re always feeling sluggish, tired, and irritable, but you’re getting enough quality sleep, nutrition might be an area you want to take a closer look at. Most people, myself included, could always eat a few more (in some cases A LOT more) fruits and vegetables. Many people also aren’t eating an adequate amount of protein, and that’s without even considering those that are strength training who require even more protein! Trying to ADD more protein, fruits, and vegetables to your diet is usually a good place to start, rather than trying to SUBTRACT a bunch of other things from your diet. The addition of more nutrient-dense whole foods will naturally have you eating less of the lower quality lower nutrient-dense foods.
Improve your Relationship with Food – First and foremost, eating disorders are a serious medical condition and should be managed by your Doctor, Registered Dietician, and/or licensed Therapist with training related to eating disorders. For others, those that demonstrate certain disordered eating habits such as yo-yo dieting, feeling guilt or shame when eating certain foods, restricting foods without a medical reason or allergy/intolerance, or frequently restricting food after a period of overeating, may benefit from taking a closer look at their nutrition. Continually undereating (intentionally or unintentionally) can lead to overeating frequently and taking a closer look at your diet may flag that you aren’t eating enough calories and just bumping them up to a more sustainable level could decrease or eliminate the binge/restrict cycle. Others may benefit from taking a real honest look at certain foods they have eliminated. Have you cut out all sugar, or all gluten, or only eat organic because Food Babe said that was the only way to be healthy? In reality, ALL FOODS CAN FIT for many people, as long as there isn’t a medical reason or allergy/intolerance reason to keep them out of your diet. Unlearning some of the misinformation that the fitness industry has fearmongered us into believing can be another step towards food freedom and improving our relationship with food.
Feel Better – Oftentimes, we can think we eat “pretty healthy,” when we mentally look back on what we eat throughout the day, but if we take the time to write down everything we put in our mouth, we may find we aren’t eating as healthy as we thought or we are eating more or less than we thought. By writing everything down, we have a baseline to work with and can start really looking at what exactly we are eating and make improvements. You may not be eating enough carbs and/or calories to fuel your training sessions, bump those up and you start having more energy and crushing weights in the gym. You may not be eating enough protein to assist with muscle growth and you’re starving all damn day! More protein can help with that! You drink 6 cups of coffee for breakfast, eat a salad with no protein at lunch, and devour everything in sight once you’re home for the night, sleep like garbage, and wake up feeling like crap. Lather, Rinse, Repeat! Restructuring your calories and macronutrients more evenly throughout the day could really have you feeling better during the day and sleeping better at night. Taking a look at what you’re eating and how it makes you feel can also prompt some changes in your daily diet habits, which may in turn improve your digestion.
I know what you’re thinking, “Cool, those sound like some areas I’d like to focus my efforts on because I’m so damn sick of thinking about and trying to lose weight. But how the heck do I do that??? I’m even more confused about nutrition now.” This is where a nutrition coach comes in! A nutrition coach can help you work on any of these areas and lay out a plan to work towards reaching your fitness goals. Sometimes, focusing on these other areas can result in weight loss or body recomposition without ever worrying about weight loss as the main driver. And if weight loss is your main goal, a nutrition coach can help you with that too and do it in a way that is safe, healthy, and sustainable for you.
It’s just important to remember that our diet and nutrition can be so much more than weight loss and YOU are so much more than a number on a scale!