Many times when we want to reach a physical goal or our clients want to achieve a goal; we will need to look at our nutrition and decide whether our behaviors around food are helping us towards that goal. Here is where it starts getting sticky. We want to make suggestions for ourselves and our clients that revolve around this idea of perfection. We start making food rules and restrictions that ultimately lead our clients and us to failure. We have this natural human tendency to rebel against being told what to do, even when we are the ones telling ourselves.
To understand and have compassion for our clients, we probably need to explore our relationship with food. We all have this perfect image in our head, and I challenge you to name that. Go ahead write it out.
Standing at 5’11” and 163 pounds female with long, flowing blond hair that never misses a hair highlighting appointment. I never have my hair up in a messy bun because it’s always perfect. I always have perfectly squared off long nails that are freshly painted red. These nails never get in the way of deadlifting 300 pounds off the floor. I can deadlift 300 any day of the week. I always crave steamed broccoli and grilled salmon instead of meats and cheeses. (I’m not a fan of broccoli) I wake up perfectly happy every day just smiles and rainbows and butterflies and shit. I never fight with my spouse or get irritated at my dogs and clients.
I’d be lucky if one of those things happen on any given day. It’s just not reality. If I strived for that perfection every day, I would drive myself insane. If we have these fucked up things swirling in our heads, what are our clients telling themselves?
When we don’t reach this perfection mindset, we start throwing everything out the window and possibly start making some less than ideal nutrition choices. We need to start noticing and naming our behaviors that may be sabotaging our goals. To start the process of noticing and naming, we are going to continue with the food journal from last week.
We use the food journal as a way to explore our behaviors around food because food can be used to comfort and control us. We are not going to use a food journal as a tool to beat ourselves up with or a tool of restriction. It’s ok if you have difficult feelings while using one. That is normal. Maybe take note of those feelings of apprehensiveness as something that your clients will feel a lot when trying to change their nutrition behaviors. After all, no one is looking at your journal but your clients will have you looking at theirs. Try to get yourself out of the challenging mindset by reassuring yourself it’s for data collection on behaviors. We are going to use it for reflection and a way to explore our behaviors around food. For the next couple of days, continue to write down everything that you ate, only now adding notes of your feelings during that period. It could look like this:
Many times, as coaches, our days start looking like this one above before we even realize it. It’s ok. No one is judging you; in fact, that day looks very close to one of my days my first year coaching. For right now, focus on getting this data about yourself; so that, we can start identifying our behaviors and feelings around food. Next week we will work on breaking some of our chains of behavior. It’s important to get this data so we have it to work on the chain of behaviors leading up to the nutrition situation that is sabotaging your goals. Right now let us explore our actions with a child like curiosity. Awareness alone can create change.
So, as a recap, for a minimum of the next three days, you are going to continue with your food journal (you were doing this from last week, right?!!) that includes:
1. Time (What time is it?)
2. Exactly what you ate and amounts (cupped handful of x, 1/2 cup of y, palm of chicken breast with pesto sauce, 8oz bacon wrapped filet mignon with merlot butter sauce)
3. Why you ate that particular thing (Had to grab something quick between clients, partner prepared this for dinner, cake in the office I just had to have)
4. Feelings during that time of the day (frustration, stress, happy, sad, motivated)
How, you ask?
a. Planner or Keep Your Shit Together Journal
b. Photos added to your notes section so that you can write out your whys and feelings
c. Your favorite app…just be sure to log those feelings!
*Bonus: At the end of the day write down any feelings of apprehensiveness, restrictions, or feelings of perfectionism. Then jot down a few notes of how your clients might feel with this exercise. Use your imagination. After all, we are here not only help ourselves but also help our clients.
Would you feel judged if someone were to read it?
Would you feel embarrassed you weren’t perfect?
Would you look at things to improve? (Heads up this is where we are heading)
Would you feel excited at how well you did?
Would you just not fucking do it?
Food journaling is a valuable exercise to develop compassion for our clients. One of the biggest complaints I see are coaches complaining clients aren’t truthful in their food journal. Notice your natural tendencies towards recording your own food intake. This practice might give you a glimpse at the feelings your clients are experiencing with this exercise.