3 Signs your Diet isn’t Working
When it comes to nutrition, it seems everyone has THE answer. Your best friend is Paleo all the way, but your sister is vegan and they both look amazing… Your hairstylist says calorie counting is the only way, and your chiropractor has a full line of supplements and meal replacements for you to buy… Your spouse does intermittent fasting and only eats during a 4 hour window, but the last health magazine you read says to eat 6 small meals a day… Your favorite celebrity just put out a new cookbook that guarantees results in 30 days… And of course there’s that “I know what to do, I just need to do it” co-worker who never hesitates to give advice. Is your head spinning yet?
With so much differing information out there, it’s pretty easy to get confused. It’s also pretty easy to latch onto something that may have worked for someone else, but might not be right for you.
Let’s use me as an example. I’m a Type 1 Diabetic, who regularly competes in various strength challenges and powerlifting meets, and has chosen a pescatarian diet. I have an active schedule of coaching clients and co-running a gym. Most days I work late and have to eat dinner around 9 or 10 at night. I’m guessing your medical history, schedule and lifestyle are probably a little different than mine, so it wouldn’t make sense for you to try to follow my exact nutrition plan. Just like your lifestyle and background is probably different from your best friend’s or your favorite celebrity’s.
So how do you know what’s best for YOU? Here are three signs your nutrition program isn’t working:
1. Your appetite cues are off. 3 to 4 hours after finishing a meal, you should be starting to feel hungry again (around a hunger level of 6 or 7 on a scale of 1 to 10). If you start to feel hungry 1 to 2 hours after a meal, most likely you didn’t eat enough, or you didn’t eat the right things to feel satiated. If it’s been close to 5 hours since your last meal and you aren’t feeling hungry, it’s possible you ate too much, or ate foods that are making you feel bloated. Learning to tune in to hunger signals is an important way to evaluate not just quantity, but quality of nutrition, so developing your appetite awareness is a very worthwhile skill to have.
2. Lack of energy and mental clarity. If you constantly feel tired, moody or have a hard time focusing, nutrition might be a factor. Another indicator can be a plateau in your fitness routine. What and how much you eat before and after your workouts can vary quite a bit depending on the person, as well as the type training you are doing. If you feel like you don’t have the energy for your training sessions, or you are really wiped out and can’t recover properly after the training session, it’s likely there is a nutrition adjustment you can make to help with this.
3. You’re not getting results. Whether you have a weight loss goal, or a mass building goal, or you want to maintain where you’re at, if you aren’t seeing progress then something isn’t quite right. Now, results don’t happen overnight, and they need to be realistic. It can take at least a month to start seeing some noticeable changes, depending on how consistent you are and what kind of nutrition adjustments you are making. It’s worth mentioning that results shouldn’t just be measured by the scale and what you are seeing in the mirror. There are a lot of unhealthy ways to bring about body composition changes, and a particular way of eating that works for one person may negatively impact the health of another. Make sure you are getting regular blood work and check ups with your doctor.
If none of the above rings true for you, great! You’re most likely on the right track, so keep going! But what should you do if you are experiencing any of these signs? I’m about to give the most frustrating answer possible (sorry in advance) – it depends.
As a Precision Nutrition Coach, I’ve learned there is no “one way” that everyone should follow. My first step when I’m making adjustments to my own nutrition, or helping one of our gym members is to spend at least a week food journaling. The more detailed you can be, the better. Once you’ve collected some data, be willing to examine it without judgement or attachment to what you think you “should” be doing. If you’ve been trying to do a Paleo, gluten free diet for years because you think you “should”, but find you aren’t actually eating that way, then it’s probably not for you… If you’ve read that you should do workouts on an empty stomach, but you feel like you’re going to pass out during your training sessions, fasted training is probably not for you… If your massage therapist tells you never to eat after 7pm, but you get off work at 8pm… you get the idea.
The bottom line is your nutrition plan should be realistic, and not an impossible task that sets you up for failure. It should be based on YOUR goals, YOUR lifestyle, and YOUR willingness to comply with that plan. And if what works for you, isn’t what works for your best friend/ chiropractor/ hairstylist/ spouse – that’s totally OK!
Strength and love,
PS – Hey Breakthrough members! If you want help with developing your nutrition plan, email me a week’s work of food journaling and we’ll take it from there!