Developing Habits to Master Flexible Dietingby Chris and Eric Martinez on May 11, 2017
Building Nutrition Habits is Key to Adherence
We have a confession to make Mountain Dog Readers…when we first started our fitness journey all we wanted was the end result. We never thought about enjoying the actual process, laying down bricks, creating systems, gaining knowledge, long term sustainability, and most importantly creating good habits.
We like to use the quote “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day” because it reminds us that whoever built Rome was laying bricks every hour and every single day.
You see, flexible dieting is just an end result for a nutrition program, but without laying down the bricks, then there is no system created. Creating the system is more important than the end goal. Laying down the bricks and building a solid system through creating habits is more important than worrying about the outcome, which in this case is flexible dieting.
We are firm believers that in order to have a successful journey with flexible dieting, you need to create good habits first and then the results will come.
Some nutrition habits that should be focused early on are:
- I will stop eating each meal when I am about 80% full
- I will eat at least 2 servings of fruits and veggies per day
- My plate will comprise of a lean high quality protein source, complex carb source, and healthy fat source
- Slowly remove high palatable (high sugar and fat) foods and incorporate whole and minimally refined food sources
We hold ourselves to a higher standard of how to coach our clients into these habits to set the foundations for nutrition and to set you up for long term success through flexible dieting.
Coaches often assume that their advice is easier to follow than it actually is, and become judgmental of clients who can’t follow it. In fact, behavior change is extraordinarily difficult. Advice as simple as “Make a healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner” can really mean an abundance of changes to a client’s life.
We can’t tell you how many times other fitness colleagues and friends have told us, “Man, we really like what you’re doing over there. You have the most awesome clients and team. If I could get clients like you have, I’d love my job.”
But we start out with the same mix of clients that every other fitness pro starts with. The difference is this: We know that each type of client can’t all start on the same program. What do we mean by this? Not every client is ready to weigh their foods, hit their macros each day, eat 4 meals per day, and time their pre and post workout meals.
We start with creating habits and believe that every client can become the “perfect client,” slowly advance them to higher nutrition levels, and we’re constantly testing new strategies through evidence-based practices to make it happen so that we can teach our clients to live a long term and sustainable lifestyle through flexible dieting.
The key is figuring out what the client needs right now In order to have consistency and adherence in their nutrition. We ask ourselves “how we can serve them best, and what specific steps we can take to get them to that next level.”
As the old Chinese proverb saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
We teach our clients to fish for a long term and sustainable lifestyle through flexible dieting and you know what? It produces results.
The Myth of Needing Discipline
One of the more common myths and we could even say it’s an excuse for laziness is “needing discipline” in order to be successful with flexible dieting.
Needing discipline to be successful within flexible dieting is far from the truth. When you see people who look like “disciplined” people, what you’re really seeing are people who’ve trained a handful of habits into their lives. This makes them seem “disciplined” when actually they’re not.
No one is.
The University College of London says it takes 66 days to establish a new habit. So basically 2 months and for others it will be shorter and longer depending on how fast they pick up the new habit. But, for now let’s just call 66 days the mean average.
In the book “The One Thing,” Gary Keller says:
“The right discipline goes a long way, and habits are only hard in the beginning. Over time, the habit your after becomes easier and easier to sustain. Habits require much less energy and effort to maintain than to begin. Put up with discipline long enough to turn it into a habit, and the journey feels different. Lock in one habit so it becomes part of your life, and you can effectively ride the routine with less wear and tear on yourself. The hard stuff becomes habit, and habit makes the hard stuff easy.”
When you apply this to flexible dieting, there really is no such thing as needing “discipline” to have success. It’s more about overall adherence and what is listed below:
- Creating habits
- Being patient
- Working hard and being consistent every day
- Going through the process to learn what works and what doesn’t work for you
- Developing systems around your lifestyle and goals to make things easier
One of the biggest reasons adherences on diets fail is due to these diets having so called “magic behind them.” One of the big magic tricks you see is restricting foods. Some very common food restrictions consist of:
- Artificial sweeteners
When you restrict foods, you like, you start having problems with the diet. Restricting foods from your diets leads to bad relationships with foods, binging, and less adherence on the diet.
Flexible dieting doesn’t require restricting foods. It allows you to enjoy a wide variety of nutrient dense foods along with some non-traditional foods in moderation.
Success is sequential, not simultaneous.
Back to Developing Good Sound Habits
No one has the discipline to acquire more than one powerful new habit at a time. Super successful people aren’t superhuman at all; they’ve just used selected discipline to develop a few significant habits. One at a time. Over time.
Here’s an example of how you can do it to eventually start flexible dieting:
- Habit #1 to Focus on– Slowly remove high palatable (high sugar and fat) foods and incorporate whole and minimally refined food sources
- Habit #2 to Focus on– I will stop eating each meal when I am about 80% full
- Habit #3 to Focus on– I will eat at least 2 servings of fruits and veggies per day
- Habit #4 to Focus on– My plate will comprise of a lean high quality protein source, complex carb source, and healthy fat source
If you give each habit enough time and work hard at them then the discipline will become routine. Habits, on average, take 66 days to form. Once a habit is solidly established, you can either build on that habit or, if appropriate, build another one.
“If you are what you repeatedly do, then achievement isn’t an action you take but a habit you forge into your life. You don’t have to seek out success. Harness the power of selected discipline to build the right habit and extraordinary results will find you.” – Gary Keller
If you want to incorporate flexible dieting as your nutrition program, then don’t let anyone stray you away from it with non-sense like the myth of needing discipline and restricting foods.
Just remember these guidelines:
- Choose 1 habit to work on and master at a time
- Progress slowly to the next habit and master that one
- Once you’ve mastered these 4 habits above, figure out how systematize them to fit into your lifestyle and schedule
- Ask yourself if you can see yourself using this nutrition program NOT for days and weeks, but months and years
Once you have the four guidelines above down, you are ready to be introduced to flexible dieting and enjoy all the benefits it has to offer. Flexible dieting should and will allow you to maintain healthy relationships with family and friends and allow you to have balance. You have to first develop habits in order to master flexible dieting and incorporate it into your lifestyle. We promise you it will be worth it.