Coach’s Corner: Get Real (with Food)

Today’s tip is simple: just eat real food.

Because it will make you feel better. Because it will give you more energy. Because it will enhance the work you put into the gym tenfold. If you’re not very health-conscious with your nutrition now and you think you “feel just fine, thank you very much,” I bet you’d be amazed at how much better you can feel if you take care of yourself from the inside out. It’s like avoiding getting eyeglasses until you finally do and the world is that much clearer and more beautiful. You can see the details of the leaves on the trees!

The “what” is very straightforward, but it’s the “how” that we all struggle with, of course. There is no magic trick to make eating healthy easier–just like there’s no shortcut to developing strong arms and powerful kicks. Success requires a lot of planning and prepping, which is a challenging new routine to start and maintain.

While it’s not a trick, I have found something that works: allowing yourself to start over every time you eat. Every meal is another chance to eat nutritious food. We make the mistake of looking at it as “all or nothing,” and we give up as soon as we slip up–like we’re looking for an excuse to quit. It’s important to re-frame our relationship with food away from labeling things “good” or “bad,” “reward” or “punishment.” It’s more pragmatic than that. You need good fuel if you care about your engine, so treat your body as well as you would a really expensive car.

Eat Less Crap, Eat More Real Food

If eating healthy is new for you, you should set more realistic goals since it’s not what you’re used to doing. Choose one or more simple things you can manage: eat more leafy greens, eat less bread during the week, eat out 2 times a week instead of every single day, drink more water, or eat breakfast every morning, etc. Small victories have a way of making you want to do more. Take manageable baby steps to establish sustainable habits, take bigger steps when you’re ready, and you’ll find it will become easier and easier to be healthy in the long term–emphasis on long term.

However, with all that said, a healthy life is also a happy one. When you take care of your body with real foods, you can allow yourself to enjoy the occasional food indulgence without harm, particularly during social gatherings and holidays. Breaking bread is an event that creates emotional bonds between people, so being too distracted with what you’re not allowed to eat takes you away from those precious experiences. We have enough stress in our lives that is out of our control; the less pressure we can put on ourselves, the better off we’ll be.

Real food doesn't have ingredients. Real food is ingredients. -Jamie Oliver