12 Apr Food Diaries: Three Steps To Addressing A Diet
There’s no doubt that a food diary can say a lot about someone’s life. It can show you someone’s preparation for the week attitude, the number of times they’re eating out, even their daily habits can be extracted from the information. Whilst it might sound a little creepy at first, gaining an insight into someone’s eating patterns and style can definitely be a necessary thing when wanting to get the best possible result for them. And maintain it.
But, whenever I ask a client for their food diary to see where they’re at, I find that it’s always a good thing to first take into consideration what level or stage on their journey they’re actually on. And, in this article I hope that I can aid in that breakdown process if you, yourself, or someone you know, is going about embarking on taking a microscope to their habitual food consumption.
A HABIT IS A HABIT
Finding their location upon the ‘experience and journey’ spectrum will provide the answer as to how extreme an assessment should be. After all, there’d be no reason to be absolutely negative towards someone, telling them that everything they’re doing is wrong, and scribing them a cookie-cutter diet that worked with you or someone else before in the past.
Everyone is different, and everyone likes to learn things a little bit differently to another person depending upon their knowledge, experiences, and history. What may work for somebody, can be a total abomination for another. A complete 180. And if you think of it in this light, then you can see how hard it can be for someone to break a habit.
For instance, let’s say that you love drinking water. Let’s also say that you enjoy reading books and painting your fingernails every Tuesday night. Now let’s say that someone just told you that you can’t drink water anymore and that you must drink Dr. Pepper. Let’s also say that they tell you to only read the back of cereal boxes and paint your fingernails on a Wednesday.
There’d be no denying that you would most likely tell that person to go to hell, and continue on your way, perhaps adjusting the fingernails to the Wednesday for a couple of weeks, before slipping it back to its usual Tuesday timeslot.
We, as humans, love our routines, our structure, our habits. If it wasn’t for all of this, then we probably wouldn’t have made it this far along 5-8 million years later. But, this particular habit-keeping that we love so much, can sometimes be our downfall.
I mean, how long has it been since you checked your Facebook? Your Instagram? How long has it been since you ate dinner, breakfast, slept? Habits are our way of life. But that doesn’t mean that addressing them can’t occur.
CHANGE YOUR WAYS. OR ELSE!
Asking someone to change their ways can be a huge task. Especially when changing a diet that is faulty and lacks optimal nutrition. It certainly takes time. Telling someone that they can’t eat this or they can’t eat that, and that they should be eating A, B, and C, is exactly like them telling you to stop laughing at funny jokes.
It’s a 180 that, yes, can be done by some people, but the majority of the time, can take a few tries. A few months. A couple of years. A couple of different approaches. But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how long it takes for someone to implement new habits. What matters is that they do so.
But so, how can you change someone’s mentality then? It all begins with…
STEP ONE: AWARENESS
What I always find works best for people is to first make them aware of what “good” nutrition is. Teach them what a well-rounded meal can look like. Teach them what would be ideal for their particular lifestyle and health/fitness/physique goals. Make them aware and understand the situation, and the rest can start to fall in place when repetition is introduced.
Though, to truly make them aware, after obtaining a couple of food diaries from them, a homework task I like to delegate to certain people is for them to actually track what they’re intake amount is. This, regardless of the haters that shake their heads at calorie counting, can indeed give them a major insight into what kind of nutrition they’re actually getting.
There are countless of food tracking apps out there available in the palm of your hand via your smartphone, but my favourite would have to be a totally simple-to-use app, loaded with features like bar-code scanning and an absolutely massive database, My Fitness Pal.
Using one of these to see where they are exactly, can help you/them go about lining up their intake with what kind of macronutrients they actually need.
STEP TWO: DON’T BE STUPID
This step is crucial to anyone trying to cut down on the bullshit foods that are not providing them anything but 1-2 minutes of satisfaction. It’s a simple one, too. Basically, they need to stop stocking the things that they can’t help themselves from consuming.
Recently it was Easter, and I suddenly found myself in possession of chocolate. But, did I do the thing that everyone would probably expect me to do and not eat it when it’s sitting in my fridge gathering the right amount of chill for that perfect snap as you bite into it? Hell no. I kept going back to my fridge until that shit was gone.
Did I regret it? Nope, not really. But did it give me insight into how this step saves me each week? Definitely.
If you don’t stock it in your kitchen, then you don’t consume it.
STEP THREE: YOUR HISTORY
Paying attention to someone’s history is a key step in the food diary analyzing process. Because, well, you see, our bodies like to be happy. They like to be functioning optimally with their fuel levels high enough to do what they need to be doing (i.e. stay alive). They also like their hormones living their homeostasis lifestyle, and if we don’t provide the right scenario for our body, then it gets upset. It suffers. And depending upon the severity of someone’s yo-yo dieting, extreme deficit dieting, or even the opposite, coupled with excessive physical exertion, can result in more than likely, not an ideal situation.
Think of it like this: if you don’t fuel your body the right way or look after it correctly, then how can you expect it do what you want it to do?
If you want it to lose weight, then everything in your past and in the current scenario, must line up. If you want it to gain weight, then the exact same occurrence needs to happen. Whilst of course this topic would be an entire article in itself, understanding that the level of “damage” someone has done to their body, can take time for it to heal. If they’ve dieted for an excessively long time and coupled it with an excessively extreme exercise program, then a lot of the time, their bodies can be too upset to even do anything about that fat that just doesn’t even seem like it wants to budge.
This is where re-feeds and bringing the body back up to harmony can be the answer. But regardless of someone’s history, understanding what their intake requirement is for maintenance, along with knowing their activity level, can and always will be a first step to addressing their food consumption habits.
Now let’s take a quick look at an example food diary that I received recently off a client.
This person has been on and off diets for a number of years. Whilst they are currently looking at dropping fat, changing their mentality and slowly introducing things into their diet is my first approach. Even if they do happen to gain weight during this initial period.
The first thing I try to do when looking at a food diary like the one above is to bring up their overall nutrition. This one, as you can see, is clearly lacking vegetables. It’s also clearly lacking fulfilling carbohydrates and good fats. I could also possibly say that it’s lacking preparation, and the meals are kind of just last second thoughts, allowing not much control on what is eaten. It’s also not really all that bad. There’s nothing mind-blowing on it, that makes you think “oh man, we’ve got a long way to go”.
The first thing I am doing, however, is not so much telling them to cut out the biscuits and the chips, but rather to just start introducing 3+ servings of vegetables (from all possible colours available to them) per day. I am also getting them to increase their water intake, and to avoid the aisles at the supermarket that seem to be adding those pointless and nutrition-less calories towards their overall intake.
It mightn’t seem like much, and you’d be right, but addressing the simple habits that are holding them back first is key here, especially on a food diary addressing journey.
Have you got questions or want me to take a look at your food diary? Comment below or follow the ‘Email Me’ button at the top of the page.
Coming soon: FOOD DIARIES: THREE STEPS TO FIXING A DIET