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It’s the time of year that people start worrying about how they’re going to approach eating—and not putting on a bunch of weight. Actually, it’s been that time of year for a while. Thanksgiving was the prelims and now we’re on to the world championships. This is all good stuff and worth thinking about. I’ve even shared articles on the topic like this one. However, today, I’m going to offer a different viewpoint: it’s too damn late to worry about it.
I can feel a collective cringe at that statement. Just like the time someone told Graham Isador he had blood on his hands for writing this article (the important follow-up, by the way, is here). Before you have me reported to the Fitness Police, though, please hear me out. I’m not saying that what you do doesn’t matter. Quite the opposite, actually. I’m saying that what you do matters a lot. More, in fact, than a last-minute strategy would warrant.
Remember being back in school? There were some kinds of exams that you could cram for effectively. Especially when multiple choice was involved. I remember discovering back in junior high that writing a multiple choice exam was a skill unto itself. Especially on something closer to the liberal arts side of the continuum. On the other end, then there were things that required real preparation. You couldn’t wing math. I couldn’t, anyway. Skill was built upon skill in a way that took real time. Likewise, you could learn to throw a bunch of facts into an essay but the skill of writing with clarity and insight was developed over months (and years), not hours. Some things are simply a slow burn. That’s how nutrition works.
Entering the new year with a feeling of accomplishment is relatively rare. We so often rely on guilt to fuel our changes. So, it’s worth discussing how to keep your momentum going—as opposed to feeling like you have to burn the whole thing to the ground and start over again.
Look, if it’s the day before the exam and you haven’t studied, then cram. Stuff your frontal cortex full of anything and everything. It’s still better than walking in cold. But there is absolutely a better way to do things.
Here are the slow-burn skills you can start working on to avoid having to cram at the end of next year:
The most important nutritional lesson I’ve ever learned is to be intentional. For better or worse, I simply can’t eat whatever I feel like it whenever I feel like it, I mean…I can. And you can too. The caveat here is that we want to prioritize freedom over everything else. That includes body composition, health, and more qualitative things like mood and energy. If freedom isn’t your #1 priority, then there are limits. Limits to what—and how much—you can eat. So, with limits in place, you must be intentional. Does this choice serve my goals?
Your food goals may be health-oriented and they may be pleasure-oriented. I would never wish for anyone to be lacking either of these. Either way, however, you need to establish standards and practice meeting them. This takes months—if not years—to become truly internalized.
My friend Dr. Trevor Kashey—who is a nutrition savant—likes to point out that we’re always measuring. Measuring with our eyes. With our emotions. With everything. You can’t escape measurement but you can develop it as a skill. Accuracy of assessment will help you make better decisions. Literal measurement, however, is not for everyone but that doesn’t make it inherently negative; it is simply a calibration tool. Regardless of your approach, though, better accuracy—even if it’s just an educated guess— makes for better decisions. No rigid rules or restriction necessary.
Ok, you’ve had four hours sleep. Your commute was a mess. Everybody important to you is sick—and you don’t feel so hot yourself. Now, someone is asking you to deal with an absolute dumpster fire at work. Can you breathe deeply? Focus? Be grateful? Manage distractions? You’ve either internalized these skills or you haven’t. This is one more thing that you just can’t cram for. This is a lifelong pursuit.
Food isn’t fuel, ok? Food is wonderful Food is your friend. Food is love, dammit! All of those wonderful things are part of an overall package that includes scents, sights, environment, conversation, and more. Don’t let anyone or anything interfere with your ability to be truly present and joyful. It’s worth asking what would happen if you took all the moments of not being present with food that doesn’t meet your fitness or health goals. Would that be enough to change your relationship with food—and the outcomes that stem from it?
Imagine showing up at a holiday event and intuitively make decisions that benefit your body, mind, and overall happiness. How would that feel? If your answer is, “Pretty freaking fantastic” (or an equivalent), then start laying the groundwork today with intentionality, measurement, self-regulation, and joy. Cram for this year’s exam if you have to but think about how you’d like to feel for next year—and what you can do to start making that happen today.
If you’d like the power of a team behind you to build up your nutrition and exercise skills—among others—book a time to talk with us here. We’d love to help you make next year incredible.