Food is fuel

Food is fuel, but it’s also more.

This is going to be a bit of a trip down memory lane and involve some stories so if you just want straight science and results, sorry but this one is a bit deeper.

“To look at any food as “cheating” takes the joy out of life. It also tends to create a poor relationship with food where guilt enters the picture and this can create more problems.”

This is a quote I got from Dr. Layne Norton.

Food is fuel, eat what you need, nothing more, and stop wandering off into temptress land and eating the cookie bread house. GOD DAMMIT KAREN GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER.

That is how I used to think, how I used to feel when I couldn’t wrap my head around why people were just constantly going off track with their food, and why they couldn’t just suck it up for a week or 2. First, let’s put this into a little context to understand the broken thought process that this came from and how even today I see a lot of people stuck in this way of thinking with clients or themselves. 

 Wanting a day off, a meal with friends, sharing a social occasion, a special night with your partner, or even an anniversary is all something that is very normal and acceptable. That was not my belief though. My thoughts were if you wanted something you were either all in or get the hell out of the frying pan. No half measures. I wouldn’t go to social situations, I wouldn’t drink, wouldn’t go out for a special meal with loved ones, looking back I was really freaking boring and no wonder I never understood people and socialising. I realise this all sounds rather odd but my mentality was you’re in or out. Don’t just stand there with the door half-open. 

See I never understood food because for me food was a form of control. I had poor relationships with food because I had a poor relationship with myself. This flowed into social and outgoing situations as I couldn’t bear to have people watch me eat nor could I cope with what I thought they may think of me if they did see me go off track and eat something ‘off-plan’. Weakness. Poor will power. Not motivated. Fat. All things that would run through my mind days in the lead up to going out, if I was to go out at all. Then typically, as the time got closer, I would just make an excuse as to why I couldn’t attend or eat before and then not need to eat during the time. Yea….super healthy and stable right. 

As I aged, reflected, rode the life coaster of ups and downs, I found myself seeing more and more how things weren’t so black and white and how when it comes to food, food is fuel, yes, but it also holds much more meaning to us as individuals and as societies and cultures in terms of bringing us together, creating bonds and establishing/strengthening relationships through generations. Any get together typically has the “bring a plate” or “something for the barbie mate” (fuck yea Australia I am getting it). Food is a form of celebration as much as a form of comfort and connection. 

 For most of us, we hear the word “diet” we think “FOMO”. 

“On Monday I will start and I won’t eat this, this, this, and this.” It’s all about removal. Now don’t get me wrong, some things do require changes. Change is not necessarily removal though. My belief was always, “want this…I’ll take that thanks…say goodbye to this…nope I will take that to”. You could never have one with the other. However, I have matured somewhat (like a well-aged wine I like to think), and nowadays I am considering the person, the cart they are on, the road ahead, and trying to remove as many opportunities for them as possible to either blow up the cart, go off the road, or both. Not “remove” as in food and label objects as “good” and “bad”, but rather remove the opportunities and chances of consistent self-sabotage.

 The great coach Thibeadau once said, “If someone asks when they get a cheat day before they have even started, they won’t make it”. It’s about mindset and they don’t have it. Yet. I agree with this wholeheartedly, however, I also believe it’s a fear of when will I get to “feel normal” again and not be an outcast. We associate the start of a diet with no more social situations just so I don’t have to tell people I am on a diet, no more eating out just cos it’s easier, and a kitchen/pantry makeover so nothing tempts me when I wake at midnight ravenous and looking to eat anything not nailed down. 

All of this comes down to the art of coaching and I will be the first to admit I am eternally learning and discovering new tools and options with every individual who I am fortunate enough to work with and trusted with the opportunity to help. If weekends are a time of socialising and family get-togethers, maybe we need to shuffle things around to account for that. If Friday is a special night with a special someone, or someone’s (LADS! LADS! LADS! LADS!), then again that needs to be accounted for. 

But why? Why not just make the changes and get them to suck it up? Hell, it’s 1, 2, 10, whatever number of weeks, they aren’t going to die. No, they aren’t but traditions build networks and foster relationships. After all, we are pack/social creatures. 

Making an adjustment that now fits a lifestyle speaks volumes for adherence and long-term change. It also speaks volumes of understanding. Acknowledgement of all the pieces that connect to make this machine of their life. As I mentioned earlier, this doesn’t mean some things won’t need changing or alteration and that is where education is key. Education breeds understanding. Understanding fosters change.

If there is one thing I have come to appreciate lately, it’s that people understand food, they don’t understand calories and macros. I for example eat the same selections of foods almost daily, so tracking or eating adlib is almost identical. I do need to be aware of my temptations though and depending on the goal at hand, there is likely a need for some level of restriction and acknowledging where my priorities lie. I can sustain a scale weight and level of body fat year-round that I am happy with, however, when I set a goal to lean out further, I need to remove the foods that are likely taking me further from my goal, not closer. Chocolate would be the food in this instance. Swapping that from a nightly treat to a once or twice a week treat can now save hundreds of calories, placing me in the deficit I need. I, and only I, have to be willing and compliant to give that up and make that change if the goal is important.

Seek to understand who is in front of you, who you are working with, what they are bringing to the table, and how you can best serve them with a better understanding of longer-term change and lasting results. You won’t always get it right and it does rely heavily on both sides of the equation doing their share. If something isn’t working then it’s likely both parties have something to work on.

If you do find yourself doing as I did though and trying to force-fit someone into something that works for you then you have lost sight of the fact there is another human in front of you, not just your reflection. 

Otherwise, as Miley would say “you came in like a wrecking ball”.