On Thursday, we'll announce the winner of this nutrition challenge, but today's blog post is for those of you who are not feeling an overwhelming sense of success after this nutrition challenge.
Normally, nutrition challenges are pretty easy for me. I generally enjoy having my cooking routine shaken up. I like food more when eating it doesn't make me feel terrible. I love the challenge. This challenge was really rough for me though. I stuck to the guidelines less than I would have liked to, and felt more stressed about food than I normally do.
However, since our goal with every nutrition challenge is to equip you and help you move forward in your pursuit of long-term nutrition habits, I do not feel like a failure. While you will obviously get better immediate results by following the guidelines, if you focus on the big picture, you can still use this experience to benefit your long term health.
No matter how one particular nutrition challenge goes, you always win if you leave learning more about yourself and your nutrition.
What I learned about myself:
Transitional times are a bad time for me to completely change how I'm eating.
I'm not saying that you should forget about nourishing your body because you're going through a transition. If anything, these are important times to eat well because you will have the energy and clearheadedness to make it through the season. However, over the last few years, I've already established a lot of healthy habits. I have fantastic go to recipes that I can make without thinking too much. Stress is the enemy of health, so for me, during a transitional time, it would be better for me to rely on my established healthy practices rather than seek out a new and potentially stressful challenge.
It's easier for me to make a good choice at the grocery store than it is for me to make a good choice alone at home.
I don't think I have ever been so overcome by seeing a food at the store that I purchased it against my better judgement. The grocery store is an easy place for me to make decisions. However, when I am at home, my will power is much weaker. I also have no off switch when it comes to treats. It's a trap for me to buy something at the grocery store that I plan to "eat in moderation." If it has sugar in it, I will not eat it in moderation. There's no chance.
I need to make make sure making healthy choices is as easy as possible. For me that means making my choices at the grocery store.
I really love cooking freely.
I'm not a particularly rebellious person. I probably respect authority to a fault. However, when my cooking is restricted, I feel trapped and angry. For me, whatever nutrition plan I follow needs to allow me freedom in cooking, or else I will probably cook a meal that perfectly follows the guidelines and then rebel by eating a crappy store bought cookie. My food plan needs to make me feel free. Don't pick a food plan inspires rebellion.
I don't have specific body composition goals right now...
...and I'm okay with that. Some people, for the sake of health or aesthetics, have very specific body composition goals. That's not a bad thing. I currently don't. My goal with nutrition is to feel as good as I can. For this reason, having a highly structured and effective eating plan is not motivating for me because my goals are not highly structured. I need to make sure my tools match my goals.
What I learned about nutrition:
How much food should I be eating?
I've been a pretty big believer in eating self-limiting food (food that satisfies as you eat it rather than making you crave more) and eating those foods freely. I still think this is the most low maintenance way of approaching portion sizes. However, particularly when I would do big batch cooking, I would have no idea how to portion out the leftovers and usually just filled up a tupperware and called it a meal. Usually, that meant my portions were too large, and we ran out of leftovers too soon. After taking a few weeks to actually measure out my foods gave has given me a much stronger foundation for portioning out meals.
When should I be eating?
Too often I have started my work out, felt terrible and realized that I hadn't eaten enough to sustain a workout that day. Also, food frequently sounds terrible right after I work out, so I would go hours without eating anything after a workout. These habits do not support my lifestyle. Yes, I workout regularly, and yes, I'm pretty intentional about the quality of food I eat, but I hadn't connected these two aspects of health at all. I was not eating to support my workouts, so my work and my recovery were suffering.
So where does that leave me?
As I continue to pursue health, I know that most of my work in eating well with joy and freedom will need to be done when I go grocery shopping. After doing this food challenge, I have a pretty good idea of how much food I need to buy for my family every week to nourish ourselves well. Armed with this knowledge, I can buy the appropriate amount of food for the week, cook freely with these ingredients, and pay attention to when I'm eating. I may not be strictly following food challenge guidelines, but I'll be establishing a sustainable and joy giving food plan that fits with my goals.
So where does this leave you?
Figure out where you find yourself going off track when it comes to a nutrition challenge. If you quit, why did you quit? Was it in your planning? Social events? Travel? Cooking? Lack of time?
Don't waste your "failure." Once, you figure out what your road blocks are, you can make a plan that considers what you know about yourself and what you've learned about nutrition!
Want some help figuring out an approach to nutrition that works for you? Consider attending our FREE intro class. This ninety minute class will give you 30 minutes to walk through our perspective on healthy living followed by personalized coaching in a free hour long class.
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