Three Steps to Eat Better and Get Back on Track in the Midst of a Pandemic
I don’t know about you, but this pandemic has really thrown a wrench in most of my clients’ nutrition and fitness routines. Working from home, virtual schooling, social distancing and social bubbles, grocery shopping taking so much longer and so much more energy than it used to. The list goes on.
To make things worse, some of our favourite positivity boosters (gathering with friends, watching our kids play sports, going to concerts) are no longer accessible.
Put all those things together and healthy eating and workout routines have taken a nose dive.
Before we get into how to ‘fix’ those broken diets and routines, let’s take a breath…seriously…pause…and take a nice deep breath in…and exhale fully out. I’ll wait. Go ahead and Breathe.
Cut yourself some slack. Let’s take a minute to practice some mindful self-compassion.
Recognize that you are struggling…that something isn’t working. ‘Ahhhh…so that’s what’s going on.’
Know that you are not alone. That’s right. We are all in this pandemic with you. And most of us have ‘broken’ routines right now.
Show yourself the same loving kindness that you would offer a friend if she were struggling. A kind, reassuring word or phrase. (‘I understand. I’ve been there too. This is hard and I am with you’). A loving touch or a self-squeeze (wrap those arms around yourself) goes a long way in comforting yourself.
It’s much easier to figure out how to fix things and create a plan
when we are first, self-aware and second, ON OUR SIDE, NOT ON OUR BACK.
I can just hear some of you now, ‘Yeah, but if I don’t crack the whip and get strict with myself, I will never change’.
I wonder. It may work in the short term. I’ll ask you this, ‘How has it really helped in the long term?’ In my experience, clients are always more successful when they approach change with self-compassion.
Here are those 3 steps to eat better:
For a quick illustration, check out the accompanying infographic here: https://www.vitalityhealthandfitness.ca/busy-professionals
1. Identify and Fix Nutritional Deficiencies
When we don’t get the nutrients we need, our function and performance suffer. As soon as we start eating them regularly, we start to thrive. Once we start to feel better, we make better choices. Win - Win!
So how do we know what we are deficient in?
Although blood and urine testing can uncover specific deficiencies, in most cases, they aren’t necessary.
Common deficiencies (and where to begin to address them) among coaching clients include:
Water (low level dehydration) – drink more hydrating fluids
Vitamins/Minerals – eat more foods rich in vitamins and minerals (ie colourful vegetables and fruits)
Protein (particularly in women and people with low appetites) – eat more foods rich in protein
EPA/DHA (essential fats)- eat more, and get a variety of healthy fats (fish, fish oil, nuts, seeds)
2. Adjust Food Amount and Food Type
Once nutritional deficiencies are corrected and you are eating this way consistently, it’s time to adjust food amount. It’s important to note that we actively avoid calorie counting. Short-term food journals work well to increase awareness of eating behaviours. Calorie counting often backfires.
The following guide is a starting point for portions. As a nutrition coach, I also coach clients to eat mindfully, slowly and according to hunger and satiety (fullness) cues. Portion sizes vary, not only on body type, but also based on activity levels (exercise and daily activity). Using the hand portion guide takes into account body size differences as our hands are typically in proportion to our bodies.
So how much should I eat based on my body type?
There are 3 basic body types:
I-Type (Ectomorph) – I-Types tend to tolerate carbs well and are generally high energy. You could say their engine speed is set to ‘high revving’.
V-Type (Mesomorph) – Female V-Types tend to be growth hormone dominant. Thus, they can usually gain muscle and stay lean easily. Their bodies are designed to be powerful machines.
O-Type (Endomorph) – O-Types are naturally less active. They typically have a slower metabolic rate and don’t tolerate carbs well. You could say their engine speed is set to ‘idle’.
How Much to Eat:
The following portion guide assumes 3-4 meals per day. Use your own hand as a portable portion guide. Your palm measures protein, your fist for veggies, your cupped hand for carbs, and your thumb for fats.
I-Type – 1 palm of protein dense foods, 1 fist of veggies, 2 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods and 0.5 thumbs of fat dense foods.
V-Type - 1 palm of protein dense foods, 1 fist of veggies, 1 cupped handful of carb dense foods and 1 thumb of fat dense foods.
O-Type - 1 palm of protein dense foods, 1 fist of veggies, 0.5 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods and 2 thumbs of fat dense foods.
A Sample V Plate
3. How Often Should I Eat?
As long as we eat the right food in the right amounts, meal frequency is a matter of personal preference. You could eat smaller meals more often or larger meals less often. In our coaching programs, we also coach clients to become aware of hunger and satiety (fullness) cues and to learn to honour those cues.
Should I Cycle Calories or Carbs?
Once you are eating the right foods in the right amounts consistently, this strategy may make a difference. Here’s how:
· On the days you are lifting weights, add in starchy carbs to your baseline eating plan.
· On the days you’re not lifting weights, eat a baseline diet of mostly protein, veggies and healthy fats with minimal carbs.
What Should I Eat Before, During, or After Exercise?
For the majority of people, except elite athletes or those training with high volumes potentially multiple times per day, workout nutrition really doesn’t matter.
For most of us, non-elite athletes, plan to eat an appropriate meal as outlined above
1-2 hours before and after your workout. And drink water during your workout.
That sums up how to fix a broken diet in 3 steps. Now, how do you put it into action in the midst of a pandemic?
Systems help us to prioritize what to do and when to do it. They take the pressure off of having to make multiple decisions…especially when we are hungry, tired and short fused.
For most of us, the pandemic has broken, or at least bent, many of our systems. Systems like:
· Meal prep
· Regular exercise/movement
· Sleep hygiene
Take one of my clients.
Before the pandemic, she worked at an office job. She went grocery shopping on Sundays, and meal prepped for the week while the kids were out at sports practice and/or visiting with friends or relatives. She’d pack her lunch and gym bag before bed each night. She followed a nightly sleep ritual and woke at the same time every morning so she could drop the kids at the before-school program while she went to gym for a workout before going to the office. Once a week she would meet with her girl friends for coffee or lunch to connect, laugh and support one another.
Now…she works from home and her kids, until recently, have been home schooled. Since she’s at home all the time now, meal prep and making her lunch have gone out the window. And that sleep ritual is basically non-existent since she has no ‘real’ reason to get up early every morning. That weekly coffee/lunch date? Now happens over Zoom once a month.
You get the picture…heck…you’re likely living IN this picture!
New systems. New routines and rituals.
What were you doing consistently to stay healthy?
· Eating colourful veggies or fruit with each meal?
· Getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night?
· Connecting with others?
What systems could you put in place to help you start doing those consistently again?
Start small with an action you can consistently and confidently do for the next week. The smaller, the better. Success breeds success. If you don’t believe me, think back to a time when you’ve tried to ‘do it all’. How’d that work for you?
We are in this for the long haul. Diets and quick fixes may work in the short haul but are difficult to sustain for the long term.
Adding in is often easier than taking out. We want you to feel NOURISHED, not DEPRIVED. The more nourished we feel, the more likely we will make more positive choices.
What supports do you have in place? What resources do you have?
Think ahead to the next week. Is there anything that could get in the way of doing this?
If so, what are ways to deal with it? Get your plan in place now so you don’t have to think about it in the heat of the moment (or when you’re tired or hungry).
What 5-minute action can you take right now to plan for this new system you’ll put in place this week?
For more info on:
How to Fix a Broken Diet
How to Stay in Shape When You’re Busy
The Power of Sleep
Download the FREE infographic here: https://www.vitalityhealthandfitness.ca/busy-professionals
Many self-starters can take this info and fly. Others need a little more support with putting all of this information into ACTION.
Want help hitting the reset button and making 2021 your fittest year yet? Coaching can help. We’ll teach you the skills and habits you need to become a stronger, healthier, happier version of YOU. And…I will personally support you every step of the way, no matter what life throws at you.
Our next Women’s Nutrition and Fitness Coaching Programs open up on January 7, 2021. Spaces are limited. Click here to find out more.
Not sure if coaching is right for you? Schedule a FREE consult to experience what coaching is all about.
Yours in health and vitality,
Coach Anita 🧡