Most people who go on a ‘diet’ wade in knee deep at the outset and try and go from zero to sixty overnight, which inevitably ends up proving difficult to maintain. It’s unrealistic to think that you can implement a radical overhaul of the way you eat overnight. What’s more, you don’t need to to see results.
Nutrition should be done in layers, with changes being implemented gradually. This doesn’t apply to the ‘get in shape in six weeks crowd’ or those who are further down the line on their nutritional journey, but it is relevant for anyone who wants to permanently change the way they look and feel and has the foresight to take a longer term view. Which is, or should be, the vast majority of us.
Too many of us worry about the minutiae when there’s more fundamental changes and habits that we should be focusing on. Take calorie counting for example. Ok, so according to X you need Y number of calories per day. Assuming this is actually the case, does the calorie count really matter when it is made up of nutritionally deficient food sources that are low and fibre and offer you inadequate protein for example?
Would we not be better focusing initially on the quality of our food sources, focusing on consuming ones that are going to give the body the nutrients it needs, rather than how much rubbish we can get away with consuming as a calorie value? Almost definitely. Once you’re eating the right foods you can worry about calories, if at that point you feel you still need to or your goals determine you have to count them. Calories count, but focusing on numbers alone is probably not the most important consideration at the outset.
The same applies to post workout ‘super-foods’ (if these these do indeed exist…), recovery drinks, supplements, nutrient timing and other variables. There is a place for all of that, but not everything, at once, at the outset, for most of us. Get the basics in place and build upon them.
So where do we start? We use our Nutritional Stages model which helps people determine where they need to focus on. Stage one focuses on making better food choices and providing the body with the nutrients it needs. Stage one takes these foods and apportions them you and your specific requirements. Stage three introduces more involved elements such as nutrient timing and stage four introduces testing. Most regular folk never need to look beyond stage one or two whilst prioritising green foods from our Nutrition Made Simple traffic light system.
It’s not that there isn’t some overlap in the stages – we might for example screen for food sensitivities or employ a macronutrient framework from the outset – but we don’t need to use everything straight away. Doing so is almost always counterproductive in the longer term.