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Build Your Nutrition Awareness

There are three foundational parts to your Wellness Strategy – Nutrition, Movement, and Stress. In my next three posts we will dig into each one of these further by discussing why they are so important, what you need know about your current situation, and how to use this information to start designing Your Strategic Wellness Plan. The first one we will cover is how you feed your body – your nutrition, basically, your diet plan.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “diet”? For most of us thoughts of restriction, starvation, frustration, overwhelm, lack of time, too much effort, etc. are usually top of mind. The only time we tend to hear excitement about a diet plan is when someone is working toward a big short-term goal such as a wedding, a vacation, an anniversary, etc. Other times there is this other grudging admittance to following a diet plan when someone was told they needed to by their doctor.

As you might imagine, or even maybe experienced, these reasons never last long, even those prescribed by a doctor. And the diet roller coaster continues not long after the special event has faded into history, or the medical emergency has pass or at least been minimized, then the weight reappears and the energy and excitement about meeting a specified weight goal disappears.

So with this in mind, I am going to ask you to reconsider how you think about the word “diet”. Instead of tying these negative and restrictive thoughts to the word, I am going to suggest that you look at this word as managing how you feed your body, as in what type of nutrition your body needs, how it feels after you eat, and what fuel you are providing it. By looking at this word through a different lens I hope you will see how important your diet is to not just your health, but to your very survival.

A good nutrition plan is part of the foundation to successfully meeting your wellness goals. Eventually when some eating habits are changed, sticking to a diet plan becomes easier because you are feeling good, and you start noticing what makes you feel bad. But to get there you need to do some research, you need to learn a few things, and you need to acknowledge or recognize why you eat the way you do.

Whenever I have worked with individuals to get their finances under control one of the first things we looked at was their debt management. What are they spending their money on, where is their money going, and why are they spending it. Getting debt under control and eventually eliminated is key to helping people meet their financial goals. To do so, the first step is to track their spending habits. The same thing works for getting your diet under control. The first step is to track what you eat. It is such a simple concept, on both fronts, yet seems to be a challenging task for most people.

See until you know where your money is going, or until you know what you are feeding your body daily, you will lack the insight to know where you need to start making adjustments. So, the first thing to do when you want to address your nutrition is to understand what you are eating on a daily basis. You can do this by using an app or journaling what you eat. I like to use both because the app will help me count my calories and macros, and journaling will help me with the next step, which is how I am feeling, what I am thinking, and what is my body telling me when I eat certain things. This is the second part of this process, bringing awareness to your eating/diet habits and how food affects you.

It is hard to change something that you cannot identify, even harder if you do not recognize what you are doing. Building awareness to how you are feeding your body and the impact that food has on you is an eye-opening experience. Many of us do not even realize what we are eating or why we are eating. We tend to sit in front of our computer or TV or phone at lunch or dinner focusing on everything else but what we are consuming. Which means we are not connected with our bodies or how our bodies are receiving the food we are feeding it. We meander mindlessly into the kitchen out of boredom or other emotions and scavenge the fridge or pantry to feed the beast inside without even truly knowing if the beast is hungry or not.

When you purposely note what you are eating, what you are feeling before and after you eat, what you are doing while you eat, and any other factors that occur at that moment, you bring more awareness to your diet and your body’s nutritional needs. You can start asking yourself important questions – is this food satisfying? Are you full? Are you still hungry? Are you craving something salty or sweet or both? What is your mood before and after you eat? What is your body telling you about the food you just ate? Do you feel bloated, maybe gassy? Or do you feel good and refreshed? Tired? Drained? Are you sleeping well or not? Do you get a hot flash after you eat (this one is especially for my menopausal counterparts – which is a fun one! Not really).

Tracking what you eat helps you understand how much you are truly taking in on a daily basis and can also be of great help if you are trying to hit certain macro and calorie goals. Journaling helps you understand how your choice of food is impacting your body, your mind, and your life. These go hand in hand in helping you build awareness to your nutritional choices and are key in helping you make the changes you might need to make. It can also help you make these changes stick and become habits for the long run. If you are interested in exploring apps that could help you here, Verywell Fit has a great overview of the different calorie counter apps out there that you might find useful:

After you know what you are eating and how it is impacting you, most likely you will come to the conclusion that you need to make some changes. This is where the world of dieting can get really confusing and frustrating to all of us. There are so many diet plans out there, and everyone has an opinion on what is best, and which one is the only one you need to follow. I wish that were true, but it is not. This is where implementing a diet strategy can get challenging. So let’s keep things simple. The following are five strategies for successful diet management that can help you kickstart your nutrition strategy.

Five Strategies for Successful Diet Management:

  • Keep food simple – The best strategy is to stick to whole, real food and avoid as many “manmade - processed” food items as possible. Also keep your meals simple, with minimal ingredients. For the non-cookers out there like me, I have found this approach to be a lifesaver and helped me stick with any diet strategy I have tried.

  • Eat enough – You need to nourish your body to meet its expenditure needs based on your activity level. Undereating can actually be just as detrimental to your goals as overeating can be. It is important to do your research, work with a nutritionist, or ask your healthcare provider about what your calorie intake should be based on your activity levels​. The tracking apps mentioned above can help you here as well.

  • Move your body – get up and move throughout the day, not only will you feel better and increase your energy levels, but movement also aids in digestion​.

  • Whole Lifestyle Approach – get enough sleep (7-9 hrs. is ideal), manage stress, seek social support or environments that you enjoy, you will be surprised by how your mood can impact your calorie retention and digestion.​ Our gut has a big say in how we feel on a daily basis – listen to it!

  • Drink Water - most people don’t drink enough. With that said, let your thirst be the primary driver for your water consumption. However, if you feel like you need a water goal to make certain you are getting enough water, then you can aim for about half your body weight in ounces as a general rule of thumb. If you plan to power down the water though, or have an event you’re training for, consider adding some electrolytes to a few glasses – just watch the sugar content (some add too much and that will blow up any diet plan). Some to consider: LMNT, Dr. Berg’s Electrolyte Powder, KEPPI Keto Electrolytes Powder, or Key Nutrients Electrolytes Powder mixes.

    • Side note: your thirst could be effected by medicine or other conditions, if you feel you have excessive thirst despite your water intake, seek medical guidance.

To successfully tackle your diet you need to be aware of what you are consuming daily and why, until you do this most diet strategies will fail. I feel very strongly about this. They say knowledge is key to solving problems. If you are struggling with your diet then it is important to understand what is going on with your food intake, what type of impact food has on you, and what is that mental chatter you hear. From there you can start to make educated decisions and selections about what you should be eating to attain the healthy lifestyle you wish to have. This takes work and commitment, but you are so worth it! And your family is worth it too!

To your health & longevity!


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