I remember putting my hands over my face and feeling terrified.
In my years of working with clients, I had never seen a food journal so…beautiful.
I could not identify a thing to change.
I had never been so nervous about an initial evaluation with a client.
But once I spoke to her, I understood that despite her perfect diet, she wasn’t getting results. She was anxious and felt completely out of control of her life. It just so happened that food was the one thing she could control, and she did a damn good job of it. But she had irregular periods, bad PMS, a steady weight gain, and lack of energy and motivation.
She lit the spark that had been silently waiting to be ignited. That caused me to embrace what I inherently believed—that while nutrition is important, it is secondary.
The truth is, she shifted my life.
While I was taught how to prescribe the “perfect” nutrition plan to someone, I was never able to follow one myself. It was my big, dark secret. But in working with her, my health emphasis changed, leading to far greater results than food ever got me.
And for her, taking the focus away from obsessing over food completely transformed her life.
That was four years ago, and through her, I learned that when I obsess less about food (and help my clients do the same), the following occurs:
1. We get better results.
2. We are much happier.
3. We are more self-reliant and confident.
4. We notice shifts in not just health, but relationships and careers as well.
5. The results are sustainable.
If you’re anything like me and you are great at knowing what you should be doing, but struggle to follow through, or you are actually great at implementing, but aren’t seeing the results, then read on!
I want to discuss the three crucial things that we can all start doing today that will help optimize health, but without the obsession.
1. Learn that obsessing about nutrition isn’t as important as once thought.
2. Connect to yourself.
3. Pick one area other than food to shift.
Why obsessing about nutrition isn’t as important as you think.
Here is the thing: well over $60 billion is spent on diet and exercise. Seriously, if it worked, it would have worked by now. Even if someone could benefit from eating healthier and moving more, if they aren’t able to do it, then it is a useless solution.
In my opinion, “diet and exercise” is to solving the health crisis as “everyone stop being an asshole” is to solving world peace.
It sounds great in theory, but unless it is actionable, then, well…it is just theory.
One of my favorite studies illustrates this point beautifully:
Two groups were given two milkshakes. One was decadent and full of fatty deliciousness. It weighed in at 620 calories. The other group was given the “sensible” shake. Low-fat, low fun. It was 140 calories.
The participants’ hunger and satisfaction levels were measured alongside their blood levels of their “hunger hormone,” ghrelin. Quick physiology lesson: when someone’s ghrelin levels go down, they feel full; when they raise, they get hungry.
Can you guess the results?
Those who drank the decadent shake felt full and had a dramatic drop in ghrelin levels. They didn’t need a snack anytime soon. They were satisfied and happy. Those who had the sensible shake had less of a drop. They got hungry faster.
Here is the kicker: they were tricked! All milkshakes were the same, at 380 calories!
What we think about our food matters. A lot.
What they thought about the milkshake literally changed how their physiology responded. This shows why obsessive focus on food can create such an issue. The more we obsess, the more it shifts our energy to be negative around food, and can literally change how our physiology reacts to what we eat.
Connect to yourself.
When was the last time you checked in with your body to see what it wanted? If you have recently—did you follow through?
Did you give your body the water it was crying out for? Or get up and move around after sitting in front of the computer for hours?
Are you laughing and saying, “Hell, if I listened to my body, I’d gain 100 pounds in a month from stuffing my face on donuts and frappuccinos”?
This is the super common pushback I hear as to why women choose not to listen. But here is the thing—I invite you to try listening between the lines. Just like when you blow up at your husband for not putting his dirty socks in the hamper, there is more to the story. It probably isn’t about the socks, right?
So that cry for your fifth donut? Or binging on Netflix day after day? Is that really what your body wants? Or is it representative of something else?
Could it be the need to feel full of something that is missing (joy, social connection, nourishment of healthy food)? Or maybe a cry to rest and actually truly relax (hint: binging on Netflix isn’t truly relaxing).
One question I like to stop and ask is, “Will this help me move toward the future I envision for myself?”
And oftentimes, slowing down and actually taking time for myself to truly relax is exactly what will move me forward by giving me the energy I need the next day. Other times, kicking ass in a workout is exactly what I need to move me toward my vision of being 85 and able to lift my great-grandkids high up in the air!
Pick an area other than food to shift.
When I work with people, I work with all of the following aspects of life that have nothing to do with food: movement, sleep, joy/creativity, stress perception, mindset, addressing past traumas and trapped emotions, and spirituality.
What each topic entails can probably each be a novel, so we aren’t going to go there today.
I think most people know that these things are important, but we brush them off. Almost this, “Well yeah, of course sleep is important, but that can’t happen right now, so just tell me what to eat…” or “I’ve just always been anxious, there is nothing I can do other than exercise.” Or, some we may neglect completely, like, “Pshh, I don’t have any trauma and I’m totally fine with my emotions.” (P.S. I have yet to meet someone where this holds true!)
To me, each of these is a critical keystone of health.
Are you familiar with a keystone arch? You need that one last piece at the top to hold everything together. If I was forced to place something in that spot, it would be “mindset.” But ultimately, if you’re missing another piece, the arch will come crumbling down anyway.
We cannot out-diet and out-exercise these other pieces!
So, what jumped out on you on that list? What was your gut reaction? Often, we look at a list like that, have a gut reaction, and then immediately dismiss it and skip to what we think we “should” be working on.
See if you can back up and find that gut reaction.
Then, see if you can identify one tiny, baby step you can shift—today.
Maybe it means you acknowledge that you haven’t been paying much attention to your emotions, so you spend two minutes a day breathing. Or get to bed 10 minutes earlier. Or bust out singing to a favorite song while dancing in the kitchen.
Whatever it is, if it feels right, then perfect! Get out and do it!
Don’t underestimate the impact of small changes. After all, we cannot change without change, and we have to just start somewhere.