Written by Erica Celini
Awareness creates change. I love this quote because it is so true in many aspects of life. The first step with modifying any habit, in nutrition or otherwise, must be awareness, otherwise you’ll likely remain blind to what’s really going on. For example, your Coach tells you that you’re squatting with your weight in your toes during class. You were not even aware that you were that forward and that you heels were coming up, because you couldn’t feel it. Making a change to squatting with your weight on your heels couldn’t have happened without your coach’s feedback. You make note of feeling that your heels are up and your weight is shifted forward on your toes in your training journal. Then every time you come to the gym, you focus on breaking that habit so you can build a more stable, strong squat and improve your performance.
Habits with nutrition are similar. When clients work with me one-on-one for nutritional guidance, whether their goals are to increase performance, increase energy, heal from autoimmunity issues, or create a healthier relationship with food, I start them with tracking their food so they can get some immediate feedback. It’s incredibly simple and very powerful.
At first lots of insights start to show up: “Dairy makes me break out.” “Gluten makes me feel bloated.” “Excess carbohydrates give me an energy dip.” “Caffeine after noon negatively affects my sleep.” “My lunch doesn’t give me enough energy for my evening workout.” And so on. Once the client has this information about how food affects them, they can begin to alter the eating habits that are not serving them well. I find this to be much more motivating than blindly following a diet/meal plan.
In the log, more specific information is better. I ask clients to note timing of their meals, quantity of food eaten, whether or not they cooked their meals (if not, was it Chipotle for lunch?) and anything notable about how it was cooked (fried versus baked chicken). I also ask client to write down their WHY for eating at any given time. Are you physiologically hungry? Is your belly empty and you waited too long between meals? Is your energy low even though you just had a meal an hour ago? Are you stress-eating? Are you having a craving for a specific type of food, texture, or nutrient?
After eating, note how you feel – whether physiological or psychological. Are you bloated? Energized? Hungry an hour after eating? Feeling anxious?
Doing this will increase your awareness around food. Once you begin to accumulate data, patterns become more and more apparent. From there you can begin to trouble shoot and try different things that will serve you better and get you closer to your goals.
Normally I encourage my clients to consistently track their food intake for at least 6 months. Usually, after that period of time, they will have internalized the habit of paying attention to how food makes them feel, and can often stop the daily tracking. Some prefer to keep doing it. But it is another tool in their nutritional toolbox they can use to check back in and log again from time to time if they get slip back into some bad habits.
Tracking your food in a food log will give you the information you need to move away from less than optimal eating patterns that are either habit or perhaps stem from the way you were raised. (Were homemade meals an important part of your upbringing or was eating out more common?). The food log will get you in tune with what you really need at any given moment and help you make better decisions which will have an impact on your wellbeing and performance inside and outside of the gym.
Erica’s Tip: Give a food log a try for the next two weeks and see how this simple tool can help you uncover so much about your nutritional habits!
Want to learn more about Nutrition? Erica will be leading a Nutrition 201 Seminar this Saturday at Upper West Side. All members are welcome.
Click HERE to register.
When: 3PM Saturday, October 7th,
Coach Erica has a B.S. in Exercise Science from Central Connecticut State University where she played D1 soccer. She has been coaching CrossFit since 2012 and is a certified Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Erica works with her clients to develop sustainable, diet and lifestyle change, and is on a mission to help people make healthy their new normal.