We recently polled our clients and followers to find out what they’re really struggling with when it comes to their nutrition.
A common theme: consistency.
We hear this a lot when clients are first starting with us. We examine their history with nutrition, and time and again we discover that their biggest barrier is long-term adherence to a plan. Naturally, a big piece of our coaching service is helping them get past this obstacle.
So what is it about “sticking to the plan” that causes so much frustration? Why do some people find it easy to build new nutrition habits while others have to work harder?
After years coaching clients, we have some advice that you might find helpful.
1. There is no such thing as “perfect nutrition.”
Let’s start here. Are you struggling with nutrition because you have unreasonable expectations for yourself? This can absolutely derail you.
An all-or-nothing mindset is a common barrier to success. It perpetuates a difficult cycle of perfectionism: Anything less than complete success is “failure.” There has to be middle ground when it comes to your diet!
We encourage clients to focus on small daily wins. Where can you make progress this week? What small habit can you invest in for a major return? For example, it’s far more sustainable to make sure you eat some protein in your breakfast every day than to eliminate an entire food group for the rest of your life.
Disavow drastic measures. Embrace small changes. With less focus on being perfect, you have more time and energy to celebrate small victories and use that positive momentum to keep going.
That right there, is your first step to being more consistent.
2. It’s not your willpower. It’s your environment.
Research shows us that willpower is finite. You have a certain amount of discipline or willpower at your disposal, and at some point you run out.
If a major barrier to your consistency is your environment, examine how you might add some buffers here and there to help you manage.
For example, if your fridge or pantry is full of delicious treats and you struggle with control around hyper-palatable foods, you might consider only buying foods you plan to eat—foods that work with your goals.
If you’re craving an awesome burger or some ice cream, you can certainly honour that craving. But you’re going to think about it first, and if those foods are not around, you’ll be less likely to make impulsive decisions that don’t match your goals.
Life can be stressful, and sometimes easy access food can help us cope—we understand this. So have healthy frozen dinners as a quick option you can toss in the microwave instead of just frozen pizza. Build your environment to support your goals whenever you have the option.
3. Focus on progress, not the outcome.
Outcome-based goals can be very motivating for some and very discouraging for others. If you keep waiting to lose 10 lb. before you can live and be happy, life is going to feel miserable.
Stay present and keep the focus on how you’re feeling each day. Progress is getting enough sleep by changing your nighttime routine and having more energy as a result. It’s drinking more water and less pop. It’s getting stronger in the gym and gaining muscle. If you take time to reflect on these amazing changes, you’re much more likely to continue.
4. Sustainability = Consistency
When you look at your current nutrition plan, can you see an end date? Is it attached to a timeline? Can you eat like this forever?
If you cannot imagine following your current nutrition plan to some degree in the long term, it might not be the right fit for you.
When we talk about consistency we have to also examine sustainability. You very likely cannot have one without the other. If it doesn’t feel sustainable, why? Ask yourself what could make this work? Why isn’t it working? Be honest and start a course correction early.
If you’re feeling fed up because you’re not making progress, or if you feel like you’ve addressed all of this but still come up against obstacles, it might be time to hire a nutrition coach to help. An experienced coach can help you frame your goals, manage your expectations and guide you through a more fulfilling nutrition journey.