By Nike Training
Let go of eating the perfect diet and embrace small steps that lead to big improvements.
You've probably heard the expression, "You can't out-train a bad diet". While this phrase has become a wellness cliché, that doesn't make it untrue. To be your fittest, you need to eat your best.
However, "eat your best" doesn't mean "eat perfectly, always". To be successful long-term, the better approach is to think of eating your best right now.
One of the biggest reasons people fail to eat more healthily is because they adopt a "must-be-perfect" outlook, says Precision Nutrition coach and registered dietician Brian St Pierre. "So often, especially in January, people get into an all-or-nothing mindset—they take a hardcore approach to their diet, then they fall off because it isn't sustainable", St Pierre says.
"The smarter step: Look at your diet as a continuum".
The smarter step: Look at your diet as a continuum. This mindset means asking yourself, "'What nutrition choices can I make that are just a little bit better than what I'm doing now?' Then ask yourself that same thing the next day, and the next day, until, before you know it, you've made a huge transformation in your diet", says St Pierre. "That kind of change isn't possible overnight, but if you take small, progressive steps in your food choices, you can make big changes in your nutrition. It's about making positive change a part of how you eat—it's a lifestyle".
For the continuum approach to work, you need to be totally honest with yourself about your eating habits, and what you're capable of changing right now. "This is about real life", says Krista Scott-Dixon, the director of curriculum at Precision Nutrition, and a nutrition educator with nearly 20 years of experience. "This is not some magical future universe where you have everything together—it's about finding the tiniest possible thing to get the ball rolling in the right direction, right now".
"This could mean that your first small step forwards is simply deciding to include a veggie with one meal a day".
This could mean that your first small step forwards is simply deciding to include a veggie with one meal a day. When you begin to feel successful doing this, your next small step could be thinking of an unhealthy habit that you have (say, snacking on sweets) and cutting it back by one grade (if you eat sweets three times a week, try cutting back to twice a week). Once you're comfortable with both of those steps, tackle another small tweak. Then another, and another. The point is that you're sticking to your continuum—constantly progressing forwards.
Know, too, that you will mess up. And that's okay. "You get infinite lives in this video game, so if you screw up today, show up tomorrow, and try again", says Scott-Dixon. Instead of obsessing and beating yourself up for a slip-up in your diet, St Pierre encourages thinking about how you could respond differently the next time: "Use setbacks as feedback rather than failure".
And don't forget to note what went well, says Scott-Dixon. "So often people focus on what went wrong—but maybe 80 percent went right! Use those successes as your template for a pattern", she says. That's how you'll notch more wins.
Make It a Habit: Follow the framework above and make one small, positive addition to your diet—such as including a vegetable with a meal—and anchor that behaviour to a habit you already have, such as thinking about what you'll eat for lunch. So, the next time you think "What do I want for lunch?" follow it with "I'm going to include a veggie". Then, when you actually do include the vegetable with your meal, don't forget to congratulate yourself; this will help ensure the habit sticks.