Black or white, that’s where we seem to get stuck. In nutrition people tend to think in these definitive terms, either this is right – or that is. That whole, huge, massive grey area in between seems to get forgotten about much of the time. But you see, that grey area is often where the real story lies.
One thing I see argued about repeatedly on social media is the reasoning behind people gaining weight, like in a “that’s what happens in weight gain, so this is how to fix it” type conclusion.
Rather like this…
“People gain weight because they eat too much, simple. So eat less, move more and everything will be dandy.”
Or then the other side of the coin…
“It’s not how much they eat, it’s WHAT they eat. Change the quality of their food and it will be dandy.”
Hmm. If it were that simple, we’d all have a 50/50 chance at being dandy, and even if we got it wrong, we’d just swap. And be, well, dandy.
But what if the food isn’t even the issue? We are spending so much effort and honestly wasting a lot of time over petty arguments about whether or not to “allow” starchy veg in diet plans, or whether a diet coke will kill you, we are ignoring something massively important…
Weight gain isn’t always down to nutrition misunderstanding. Sure it can be, for instance when someone is overeating without even knowing it, if they are eating coconut milk as if it’s going out of fashion and just miscalculating their intake at the end of the day. Or they are eating shit tonnes of hidden sugars that they never even knew were in their foods, of course yes…both can contribute to weight gain.
But these days, I’m actually finding that these cases are becoming much rarer to see.
Recently asked a client to swap places with me. Yep, weird way of coaching right? I asked MY client to design ME a diet plan. And you know what? She did a pretty good job. I knew she would you see. Just like I know a vast majority of my clients would be able to do a pretty decent attempt at a basic diet plan.
Because I know that people aren’t daft. Deep down, people know a basic idea of what they’d need to eat to progress. They know what conduces a healthy-ish diet and they know eating a double cheese burger on top their three meals a day will most likely cause them to gain weight eventually.
They also know that possibly doing a bit more activity may help them. They realise that being inactive everyday will not help them feel more energised.
THEY KNOW ALL THIS.
That’s why I asked this client to do it. To prove that she already knew what she needed to do. Because most people do. They just want to be told by someone else because it puts the decision into someone else’s hands, as well as also attaching the slight hope that a new plan will somehow come with a free sachet of motivation alongside it.
The whole world of nutrition is arguing the toss about IIFYM, Paleo, to-eat-clean-or-not-to-eat-clean, when really the last thing the majority of people actually need is a new diet plan.
If a person eats to satisfy an emotional need, which I believe is currently one of the biggest over looked reasons of weight gain, then advising them to eat carrots instead of crisps will probably not help them. In fact, it may even become slightly insulting.
Of course they know that carrots are better for them that crisps. It’s not like they are sitting there in the evening thinking “Oh, I think I’ll eat this doughnut now as I think it may help me lose weight this week.”
A new diet plan won’t help someone who eats for comfort. Someone who looks forward all day to that chocolate bar after working all day in a job they hate. In fact a new diet plan banning those very foods will cause to create even more guilt and destruction within them, as you are actually taking away from them the one thing that makes them feel good.
Imagine that. Someone who’s only pleasure at the end of a day is that cool, refreshing bottle of wine. That’s the only real feeling of (albeit fleeting) happiness and calmness they get to experience in a whole day.
It happens. It happens a lot.
Here we go as the “just stop eating” brigade who will pipe up with “Don’t reward yourself with food, you aren’t a dog” and other stupid Instagram meme-inspired shit like that.
Psssst. What if I told you, we don’t all live in this “I fecking love my job!! Everything is awesome!!” world like the one with the rose tinted glassed might want you to believe. In fact many live a life that is deeply unfulfilled and unhappy, and now here you are trying to take their only pleasure away from them; which happens to be food (or wine).
Yes, coaching can work wonders here. But not nutrition coaching, and certainly not a new sparky diet plan, further deprivation shouldn’t be the focus.
In these cases nutrition comes way down the line once life self-esteem, purpose, happiness, relationships and general life coaching aspects have been looked at and worked upon first.
Then chances are once they start to see fulfilment creep into their lives in other areas, the need for a new diet may diminish. Because food will no longer provide that only source of happiness…
In order to fully understand what needs to be looked at, a coach needs to identify what is actually behind the reason for the weight gain in the first place.
Is it a basic nutrition misunderstanding?
Can it be fixed with practical food advice and a bit of number crunching?
Or is it emotional?
If so, no amount of “eat this, not that” or macro calculating will help them.
So, next time you see or are tempted to get involved in an argument about what way of eating has or hasn’t “caused” the obesity epidemic, step away and save your energy for shopping, as chances are it’s actually nothing to do with the actual food they are talking about….it’s about the motives behind the need to eat it.