Simple Is Hard. Change My Mind.


Workouts should be hard, that’s why they work, right? That approach should work in nutrition too, right? It’s worth pointing out that two rights end up with you going back the direction you came, and while a hard workout may seem great in the moment, it’s consistently working out that makes the big difference. Such is the same with nutrition. 

Being consistent is a really hard thing to do.

Making change happen takes action. We can take a simple, small step forward or a big, complicated leap, or anything in between. That big leap is exciting and it’s challenging! We feel like we are on the verge of great progress because IF it pays off we can be in a much better place. Here’s the rub, though, it’s often not successful. There is a reason for the old joke about people losing the same 10 pounds over and over again.

Even small action can move us forward, but the feeling of big action gives us the illusion of real progress. Think of using a staircase that has steps 7” high vs 24” high. Yes, big steps cover more ground each time but it can get exhausting pretty quick and very hard to sustain. How long until you don’t want to keep going or think maybe making this change isn’t for you? 

When I look at choosing an action or habit to develop I aim for something small and easy to get done. And then try to get it done more and more often. Once it’s consistent it is time to move on to another action to practice. Common first steps I like are to increase daily veggies by 1-2 servings or aim to use the Plate Method at 1-2 meals/day. 

“I think that might be too slow.”

“Can’t you just tell me how many calories I should eat?”

“Do I really need a coach to tell me to just eat more vegetables for the next 2 weeks?”

“I saw this thing on Instagram……”

If I don’t hear someone actually say one of these sentences I can read it in the expression on his or her face. 

“I was expecting more.” 

“That is too easy, can’t I do something more challenging and get results faster?”

If it’s that easy one should be able to ace the next couple weeks. Show me how easily you can get it done and then we can try something more challenging. Yet what I often hear back are the obstacles that made even the easy steps inconsistent or undo-able. 

“I didn’t track my meals and then couldn’t remember exactly what I ate later on.”

“I didn’t have healthy snacks ready to eat when I was hungry.”

“I got too busy to bring my own lunch.”

“I was bored after 3 days.”

And this was with the easy stuff. How successful would it be telling a nutrition beginner to hit bulls-eyes with calorie and macro targets all while restricting his or her favorite “bad foods?”

Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. 

This is the CrossFit recommendation for how to eat. Easy, right? And yet, it’s not. It’s simple, but you already know the punchline to that. Do it all, but where or how do you start? 

Eat some or more protein and veggies at all meals (yes, even breakfast). Maybe we need to prep a little the night before?

Eat healthy fats and eat less of the unhealthy fats that are prominent in fast and convenient food products. Swing by the grocery store deli for roasted meat and veggies instead of drive-thru?

Eat less starch and less sugar. If cutting out sub-optimal snacks and desserts is too much, what would smaller or less often look like?

Become acquainted with your hunger and fullness so that you eat when you are hungry and recognize when you are not. And don’t eat when you are not hungry. Or bored. Or angry. Or lonely. Or tired.

These are all practices that can be dialed up a little at a time. They can also be attempted one at a time. Pick one and start there. These are not overnight transformations, they accumulate. A coach is helpful because he or she can give objective guidance on what to choose and be the one to whom you are answerable. Or pick an accountability buddy. 

The goal isn’t to hit the bulls-eye on day 1 and never miss, because that is impossible. The goal is to start moving closer and closer to the target and get better at holding consistent over time. So be OK with starting simple.

OK, you still want to do the hard thing? I challenge you to pick a simple act to practice and refine over and again, most of the time, until it feels off to get it wrong. Then choose the next simple act to practice and repeat the process.

Start here

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