Last week we discussed how a food journal can be perceived as an added threat to a client and how to analyze a food journal so that we do not get the stress-induced response from our clients or ourselves. In today’s society, we already have an increased amount of stress; so, why add more? Sometimes we can see this stress celebrated in our culture as a success. We see “rise and grind” plastered all over social media, especially by fitness professionals.
The common complaints that we often see in a client’s intake form are:
Our clients are already “rising and grinding” in their minds. Sometimes because of the celebration of stress in the 21st century, we can over-complicate our lives into being stressful. The problem is with this anxiety and stress is that it makes our world smaller. We are unable to fix our own issues because our options for solutions become less and less the more we perceive the world as a threat. Excessive stress inhibits us from thinking clearly and proactively. We literally cannot make a good decision. This inability to respond to threats effectively often plays out in our food choices.
Remember, from last week, that some food choices are our way of solving a problem? If we took Sharon’s Ben and Jerry’s ice cream away and put onerous restrictions on her, she would crack. We would have a client that would not be open to suggestions, and our relationship with her could be sabotaged. By taking away her Ben and Jerry’s, we would take away Sharon’s ability to survive her world. However, we did not take away Sharon’s Ben and Jerry’s. We know that taking away that ice cream would be detrimental to her progress. We understand her feelings; after all, we have our love for beer.
We had Sharon complete a 5-minute action to prepare her for change. Sharon picked out a 5-minute action of filling up a refillable water bottle to keep at her desk at work. This action encouraged her to drink more water this past week. Now we are going to start focusing on Sharon’s mindset. The only way to make lasting, sustainable change is to help our clients have a better mindset to perceived threats.
We ultimately want our clients to respond to threats instead of reacting to threats.
Responding: placing our attention thoughtfully, with mindfulness and conscious intent, rather than it being pulled
Reacting: automatic behavior triggered by an emotional highjacking or distraction
How do we help clients respond to their threats in their environment instead of reacting? For clients to be successful with their nutrition journey, we need to help our clients tolerate discomfort and distress a little better. We need them to stop worrying and start taking action in uncomfortable situations. One of the ways we can become better at responding to threats is changing how a client eats before changing what they eat.
If we change how a client eats, it will start instinctively changing what a client eats. And conversely, changing what a client eats does not change how a client eats. A mindless eater can still plow through a salad just as quickly as they can a burger. We need to create mindfulness around our food choices and behaviors. Therefore, we are going to:
Seems almost too simple, right? This habit has impressive results with changing behaviors.
1. Eating slowly tunes clients into their physical hunger and satiety cues: most clients will automatically start eating less because it gives their brain time to catch up to their stomach. It takes 20-25 minutes for the brain to know we have eaten! If we eat all of our food in less than 10 minutes, there is a good chance we are over-eating, and we are probably not hitting that calorie deficit needed to lose weight.
2. Eating slowly creates awareness of food textures, tastes, and smells. A client may start to choose healthier options because they taste better when eaten slowly. Try chewing a Dorito or Twizzler more than 15 times…those foods aren’t all they are kicked up to be.
3. Slow eating improves digestion. Chewing our food helps our body prepare to receive food. We then digest our meal a little better. Some clients start to discover that problems such as heartburn and indigestion go away or are minimized with this practice.
4. Eating slowly counteracts feelings of deprivations and restrictions. A client can eat anything they want as long as they enjoy it and eat it slowly. Hell, if you’re going to have Ben and Jerry’s you might as well enjoy it.
5. And last but not least, eating slowly helps our clients check-in with themselves. Often when clients practice this habit, they report back that they are less stressed. If we have a less stressed client, they have fewer maladaptive food choices, we can get more intensity out of their workouts, and they can have better sleep. All of these things can lead to more success for the client.
If the only thing we do as coaches is teaching a client to be more mindful, then we have already created more change than any other coach will ever do. This habit is that big.
Therefore, for the next week, you are going to practice slow eating and see what you discover about yourself. I fully believe that we cannot ask our clients to practice things that we do not practice. Plus, you will be able to relate more to your clients if you practice this habit.
Let me tell you what practicing eating slow has done for me recently. The other week I got a bee up my ass about cleaning the kitchen and taking out the trash before I headed to work. I was rushing around and stressing about everything that needed to be done that day. Well, all this rushing got me was the inability to make sure all my ducks were in a row. Seriously, I start rushing, and one of those fuckers starts wandering off. I forgot my breakfast and lunch at home and did not realize until I had already gotten to work. I was irritated at myself. From practicing slowing down, I immediately was able to check in with myself and was able to tell myself to “slow the fuck down!” I sat with my discomfort for 5-minutes (5-minute action anyone?) and was then able to make a logical decision of going to the grocery store up the hill for a yummy, delicious salad versus Chick-fil-a in a rush. (P.S. those breakfast hash-browns aren’t as tasty if eaten slowly.) I was then able to eat that salad slowly when I did make it over to the grocery store and didn’t finish the whole thing.
So, how do you start implementing the most, awesome habit of all time?
1. Put your fork down between bites and breathe before picking it up again
2. Eat without distractions like the TV, phone, books, etc.
3. Chew your food a few more times than you need to. (This does wonders for digestion)
You may think this is too easy for a super coach like yourself. You already know what you’re supposed to be doing with your nutrition. But, are you doing those things that you know consistently? Just like how we learn and CRUSH the basics like squatting, hinging, pushing, and pulling first; you are going to crush the basics with nutrition first consistently. After all, some of the busiest and most stressed out people I know are coaches. We know what to do, but knowing does not mean action. For the next week, you are going to solely practice on eating slowly and get consistent and regular with that habit before we start focusing on the details of what to eat. Maybe you will find that eating slow helps you pull your shit together a little better.
- Our clients are most likely overstressed already and have maladaptive food behaviors.
- The first step we can do is help our clients manage discomfort better so that they can respond to threats effectively instead of reacting to them.
- By changing how a client eats you can intuitively change what a client eats
- Eating slowly is the most effective nutrition habit when it comes to mindset
- Tunes you into hunger/satiety cues
- Brings awareness to food textures, tastes, and smells
- Improves digestion
- Counteracts feelings of deprivation or restriction
- Allows us the check-in with our feelings
- Practice slow eating by:
- Putting utensil down between bites and breathing before picking the utensil back up again
- Eat without distractions like TV, phones, or reading
- Chew your food a few more times than needed
- Practice this habit yourself and work on consistency with the basics before focusing on details of what to eat