Updated: Sep 1, 2021
PharmD. Candidate 2022
Knowledge is power. Even in pharmacy school, Zoe was not taught the basics of nutrition. This is one of the main reasons she decided to peruse my nutrition and wellness coaching certification. Studies show that when you educate the public, they are more likely to make positive lifestyle changes. Goal setting and self-monitoring of behaviors, as well as a patient-centered counselling approach seem important in order to maintain behavior over time according to a systemic review published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.1
Unfortunately, in America, everyone wants convenience and it can be expensive to eat healthy. You see a McDonalds or Arbys every 5 miles down the road. It cost around $7 for a salad or $2 for a double cheeseburger. Marketing labels try to trick you by claiming their products are “healthy” with labels advertising “low-fat” and “sugar-free.”
(See Zoe's Blog post for how to read nutrition labels)
The “Standard American Diet” is S.A.D. (Yes that was meant to be funny). It is full of processed and sugary foods that make you crave more sugar. Carbohydrate-loaded and sugary meals leave you feeling hungry hours later. Unfortunately, there is not a focus on nutrient-dense food patterns and educating the public.
International society of sports nutrition2
“A wide range of dietary approaches (low-fat to low-carbohydrate/ketogenic, and all points between) can be similarly effective for improving body composition.” 2
“A general definition of “diet” is the sum of energy and nutrients obtained from foods and beverages consumed regularly by individuals” 2
Athletic performance is a separate goal with varying demands on carbohydrate availability depending on the nature of the sport 2
So, what’s the best “diet” for you?
The answer is easier than you may think. The right diet for you is one that you can stick to and make consistent habits. Consistent eating patterns will get your body into a routine and feel “safe” enough to be able to burn unwanted calories. When you try random diets (ie. Keto, Paleo, Carb Cycling, Intermittent Fasting, etc.) you will likely not stick with this for the rest of your life. Unless your willpower is crazy strong, I know it’s hard to avoid the temptation of grandma’s homemade pie at family gatherings; or perhaps the temptation of drinking a glass of wine or beer at social gatherings.
We need to satisfy our cravings…responsibly, in moderation. It is OK to have a chocolate chip cookie every now and then. Personally, my weakness is ice cream….. I usually indulge in my guilty pleasure 2-3 times per week, which is perfectly acceptable because I am aware of my indulgence and I’m only eating 2-3 scoops instead of the entire tub of ice cream.
I like to tell my clients to use the "80-20" rule. 80% of the time your diet should be clean, nutrient-dense, nourishing foods. Then 20% off the time you can allow yourself to have sweets, "cheat foods" whatever your guitly pleasure may be.
What happens when we restrict ourselves is we crave what we’ve been lacking more and more and more. Eventually, you are going to cave and it’s likely not going to be pretty.
My best advice is to change your mindset! (One of the Foundations for a Healthy Life: Adopt a Positive Mindset)
You should feel confident when putting nutrient-dense foods into your body. Rather that telling yourself “I CANT have the brownie;” say “I CAN have the strawberries and greek yogurt!” Stay positive and surround yourself with others who can hold you accountable and help you reach your goals.
Let’s go over the classic work week scenario and see if you can relate. Suzie wakes up in the morning at 5am (or so she wanted to, but hit snooze 3 times and now its 5:30am). Feeling rushed, she skips breakfast and drinks an energy drink loaded with sugar, rather than her normal black coffee. Suzie is stressed and grumpy at work because she did not pack any snacks, nor eat breakfast. Her co-worker ordered pizza. Although she wanted to stick to her healthy diet and had fresh veggies and nutrient-dense foods to make a chicken salad at home, Suzie caves and eats two pieces of her co-worker’s pizza. It’s 1pm and Suzie is feeling drained from the carb-overload and needs another energy drink. She was going to go the gym after work, but she is still feeling drained and has no motivation. Suzie gets home and her kids are screaming, which causes her to get into a fight with her husband. She is stressed, so rather than making a home-cooked meal, the family orders Chinese takeout. Rather than going to bed on-time, Suzie feels she needs to unwind after this stressful day; so she watches Netflix episodes and binge eats some M&Ms, not-aware of her eating.
This may be extreme, but is also extremely common in the standard American’s routine. Can you relate? If so, then you’re not alone. Let Zoe help you change your life.
How can we change undesirable habits?
Back to the scenario above, Suzie could have avoided her late-night splurge and unhealthy eating habits through a couple quick fixes. Let’s pretend she still got out of bed at 5:30am, if she had packed her lunch the night prior and had her coffee ready to be brewed while she took her shower, then she is avoiding unhealthy habit one. If she had eaten breakfast either before driving to work or on the way to work; she would be less likely to cave and eat the pizza offered to her from her coworker. If she had packed her lunch with the healthy, nutrient-dense groceries in her fridge, she would had saved both money and unneeded calories; avoiding unhealthy habit two. If she had a nutrient-dense meal for lunch rather than carb-loaded pizza, she would have more energy and motivation to go the gym after work; bypassing unhealthy habit three. If she went to the gym after work then she would likely have benefitted from the endorphins released post-exercise, which causes her happiness and she could avoid a fight with her husband. Suzie likely would also be more motivated to cook a healthy dinner and meal prep for the next day.
-Pack healthy snacks the night before
(See Zoe’s protein bites recipe page)
-Pack your lunch the night before
(Avoid stress in the morning AND its cheaper)
(You will boost your metabolism AND make healthier choices throughout the day when you eat breakfast. See separate article for benefits of breakfast, even if its just an apple or banana and peanut butter on the car ride to work; Hard boiled eggs are a great source of morning protein. Peel them the night before to save yourself some time in the morning)
-Eat protein with every meal
(Protein keeps you feeling full longer and less likely to make unhealthy choices at the next meal)
-Make healthy choices early in the day
(You will have MORE ENERGY and avoid caving at later meals with unwanted snacks)
-Avoid unwanted stress and know your triggers for emotional eating
(See handout for emotional eating triggers)
-Get enough sleep
(You will BOOST your energy levels and boost your metabolism when you get enough sleep)
1.) Samdal GB, Eide GE, Barth T, Williams G, Meland E. Effective behaviour change techniques for physical activity and healthy eating in overweight and obese adults; systematic review and meta-regression analyses. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017;14(1):42. Published 2017 Mar 28. doi:10.1186/s12966-017-0494-y
2.) Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ, Wildman R, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14:16. Published 2017 Jun 14. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0174-y