Jan 18, 2022
Gillian Ward joins Matt & Niki to discuss how to get started
with nutrition: identifying your goals, understanding where you are
now, and implementing sustainable, realistic nutrition
Gillian is a great simplifier of complex information and focuses
not on the science of nutrition (though she knows it) but rather
behavior changes and how to best modify clients' actions to meet
their goals (for the action both to occur and move them toward
A client must first acknowledge a need to make a change,
understand why he or she wants to change, and have an idea of what
direction he or she wants to head. You don't need to have a SMART
goal, but you need to understand WHY you want to make a change.
Next, tell the truth with yourself (and maybe your coach), so you
can understand your current behaviors. An accurate picture of your
actions enable you to identify a plan that will actually work for
Once you know where you are, think about the things you want
to include in your plan. What are the things you DON'T want to give
up? This might be a nightly dessert or alcohol, eating out at a
restaurant with your family on Saturday evenings, or Sunday morning
pancake breakfasts. It doesn't mean you won't modify this at all
(if you're eating 5000 calories of pancakes, we might need to
reduce that). Still, this helps you identify and maintain things
that actually bring you value.
Now you can triage. This is identifying the behaviors that can be
addressed to yield results. You're looking for the
most-bang-for-your-buck changes. So what can be changed relatively
easily while enabling you to work toward your goal.
For example, you may identify that eating certain foods triggers a
cascade of bad behaviors for the rest of the day.
You next plan & prepare, which does not necessarily mean meal
preparation and weighing and measuring. It could be identifying
days or meals that will be challenging. How aggressive do you want
to be around these? Might you address the meals leading up to or
after these meals or attempt to keep this goal fairly healthy?
So, if you start implementing a plan and it's working, where do you
go next? First, if something is working and you enjoy it, keep
doing it. Like MED programming for training, we don't need to diet
hop. Small changes to avoid boredom and continuing to triage can
work and continue to further you toward your goal.
A more recent idea Gillian has taken from the heavy, light, medium
training idea is 1, 2, 3 dieting. These correspond to
aggressiveness or difficulty level and the benefit is the
quantification can help give you a quasi-objective (like RPE) data
point (so if your week is a 21, you expect to see progress; if it's
a 7, you don't).
1 is maintenance, in which you're not trying hard. This should be
easy. You're at basecamp, walking on level ground. 2 is working
toward goals but not aggressively. You're walking up the mountain,
but you're picking flowers, you're chatting with others, you're
enjoying the view. 3 is all out, aggressively pursuing your
Why not just pursue 3s every meal, every day, every week? It's not
sustainable. You don't actually want to live at a 3 all the time.
You also likely need a relatively near-term motivator, as (I'd just
like to be thinner) probably won't sustain a month of all
Gillian also addresses why New Year's Resolutions often fail,
because it's a false motivator. You feel as if you should ramp up
your nutrition, but you might not want to. Beach season is still
too far off to motivate. Furthermore, it's a cold, dark time of
year for many, and the motivation to clamp down on nutrition is
realistically not there. This might be a time to go at a 2 pace and
identify a goal you can put on the calendar later in the year that
might motivate a 3.
It is critical to understand what keeps you motivated. This
isn't as easy as it sounds, because you really have to question
yourself and understand your motivations deeply. Once you identify
this, identify some ways to measure this as best you can (if you
don't care about the scale weight, why is this your primary
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