There isn’t anything much more controversial and capable of rabid incensed debate as diet and nutrition. Everyone is either trying to sell you something or is extremely zealous about how they eat and insist that you have to do as they do IT’S FOR YOUR OWN GOOD.
It seems like a few people have found what’s best for them, but most haven’t, which is why the diet world is a billion dollar industry.
So what are we trying to sell you on?
It’s pretty simple! In fact, we can give you all of it right now.
Are you ready?
GMB’s Basic Eating Skills & Guidelines
|The Skills - Practice these until they feel natural||The Guidelines -
Fall back on these in the meantime
|Check for fullness mid-meal||Plate Balanced Meals|
|Notice when you’re full (and stop eating)||Fast 4–6 hours between meals|
|Distinguish hunger from enjoyment||Put your fork down between bites|
|Enjoy all five senses during meals||Replace snacking with self-care|
|Separate your cravings from your habits||Add more veggies|
|Choose fats deliberately|
|Take a break before seconds|
|Pause before snacking|
|Have a plan for after meals|
|Improve your sleep routine|
And there you have it, that’s all of the information in our Eating Skills course. If you just wanna know what we recommend, we’ve just saved you some money 🙂
Why a Perfect Diet isn’t Enough
For most of us, knowledge is not actually power. If it were, people wouldn’t eat too many doughnuts. We wouldn’t eat when we’re bored. We’d all just do all the things we know are right, all the time, and nobody would have any problems at all.
The problem with diets is us.
Humans are messy animals. We have thoughts and feelings that defy logical rules. Even assuming we knew all the right answers, we’d still find them difficult to act on. Our habits get in the way. Our schedules get in the way. Our jobs and relationships get in the way. The world is unpredictable, and life is challenging, and we make bad choices when we’re under stress, which is always.
To be honest, we don’t care what you eat. We’ve seen people in great health following a wide variety of dietary styles.
What we’re after is for you to develop the combination of knowledge and skill to determine what will work best for you and to stick to it fairly consistently. We call that “nutritional autonomy,” but it really just means being in control of your relationship with food.
If you disagree with a specific guideline, that’s cool. Keep doing what works for you. We don’t always follow these guidelines 100% of the time either. It’s not the specific rules we’re focused on here; it’s the ability to use them.
How We Chose These Skills and Guidelines (instead of other ones)
These are the guidelines and skill sets that the coaching staff and I have been teaching our clients to successfully change how they eat and more importantly how they think and feel about their eating.
Why this set of guidelines and skills and not any others?
- First, they have been proven with thousands of clients over the past 16 years.
- Second, and more importantly, they get to the root issues of why previous diet habits have hurt your relationship with your body and with food.
Asking yourself and learning about why you feel hungry is a major piece of preventing overeating. Cravings, eating super fast, and snacking throughout the day, are habits that we’ve developed over time because they worked for a some reason. They filled some sort of a psychological need.
If we can sort out what we are using those for, we can fill those needs in other ways.
Food and Eating have Psychological Meaning beyond their Physiology
This is so much bigger than forcing yourself to adhere to particular food choices with a rigid “eat this, not that” ruleset.
Yes, it might seem easier to do: Just follow these rules and check them off everyday.
For the folks who can do that in a way that’s healthy (both physically and mentally) then that’s awesome! They should keep that going, and I’m totally stoked for them. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many of us. Even if the rules are valid, healthy, and reasonable, if you don’t connect them with what matters to you, and just try to follow them blindly, it will always involve some level of struggle.
Essentially you’ll be trading an easier starting point “oh, I’ll just make myself do this” for a more difficult (and perhaps never ending) grind of good, bad, and worse days of “making yourself.” That, of course, is not ideal.
We’re of the mind that doing some more difficult upfront work of confronting why your habits are the way they are, and truly understanding them will pay off in the long run. A little extra work up front will make it much easier to make the good choices without undue struggle and stress.
Fact: Training Wheels Work
Nobody masters anything by simply adopting a set of perfect actions. Mastery comes from experience, often gained from making mistakes and dealing with challenges.
You’ll find that the skills around checking in with your body make an enormous difference in your relationship to your body, your relationship to food, and in the sustainability of your results over the long term. Meanwhile, the guidelines will give you a runway to learn those skills. You’ll also be able to rely on them in times when you’re tired or stressed out. Some programs give you inflexible rules. Loads of nutrition programs will give you skills but no real structure for how to learn them over time.
Our goal is to give you both the skills and the guidelines, and we teach you how they progress over time.
You’ve probably also guessed by now that it’s more than just having a list of the right foods to eat. The guidelines and skill sets we coach and apply are the “right answers” for the vast majority of people, but simply knowing the right answers doesn’t automatically mean that you can apply them, and apply them consistently over time so that they supersede your previous deleterious habits.
It’s way past time to get rid of our quest for “optimal”
Perfect, optimal, or elite diets are just a rollercoaster of focusing too much on minor things, and losing sight of the big things. It’s kind of like when people focus on the supposed magical benefits of intermittent fasting, but forget that it’s just a tool, not a final nutritional solution.
This is about practicing skills that work in your actual life, and are the big things that will make the most difference (even if not “perfect”). It is absolutely not settling for less to focus on pragmatic and sustainable behaviors that will actually help you.
Physical autonomy comes from knowing you’ve built the attributes you need so that your body is fully prepared for the activities you care about, as well as the unknown. We can expand upon this in respect to building our nutritional autonomy, establishing and patiently developing our skills and habits that allow us to not only eat when life is calm and organized but also when it’s upended. Does the way you approach eating fully prepare you for all the activities that are important to you? Is it fully adaptable to the inevitable disruptions and surprises of our real lives?
Implementation and Process Building
Practice doesn’t really make perfect. But, it truly is the core of learning.
Whatever it is you are learning, it’s one thing to read and understand something and it’s an entirely different thing to fully integrate it into how you live. You can “know” that snacking throughout the day is likely giving you more calories than you really need. But until you practice being consistently aware of yourself when you snack (and where your head is at when you do so), the knowledge won’t make a difference.
All of this then begs the question, what’s the best way to practice? The theme here is that it should be a practice method that you can do consistently, as often as possible (without burning out), over a long period of time. All of those factors are needed to cement a skill into your mind and body.
In our Eating Skills program, we work on a handful of things at once but with incrementally progressive intensity and variability. The emphasis is on a consistency of effort, not so much high effort on one skill at a time. This is combined with a focus on understanding why you may or may not have difficulty in adopting our guidelines and skills. In this way you work on a wide breadth of skills, which then deepens over time as they become ingrained habits.
Approaches to Habits-Based Nutrition Coaching
Now there are other successful methods of practicing to develop and sustain habits. One well-known example is Precision Nutrition, and over the years, we’ve invested in several members of our team earning certification in their program.
One of the great things about the PN approach is that they focus on developing healthy eating habits – habits that can serve you for a lifetime. That’s something be also believe in, but we go about it a bit differently.
The way we’ve seen PN and other habits-based programs coach is to focus on one habit at a time, the idea being that one thing is easier to practice than many things at once. You put a concentrated effort and focus into that one habit before moving on to the next. Prior habits are put on a kind of maintenance mode while you direct most of your energy to the new habit. It’s smart and reasonable.
But with the benefit of experience in coaching a lot of people, we’ve simply found that it’s more efficient to work on two or three habits at a time. There’s a few reasons for this, but it mostly comes down to working with our psychology rather than trying to fight it. With a single focus, it’s too easy to get “stuck” on a habit your find difficult. It’s also really easy to get bored and drop out of the program (and you would be shocked how many people drop out of these programs).
Why Concurrent Habit Building Works Better
On our end, the benefit of multiple skills at once of varying intensity allows for more repetitions of practice. Essentially in the same timeframe as the “one at a time” approach, you’ll be getting more repetitions in of several habits.
Think of it as a kind of slow and steady simmer of a few pots of food on your stove. You have time to attend and check on them all without feeling stressed, none are going to boil over because the burners aren’t on high.
In addition, with this gradually increasing intensity of skill building you’ll also identify which skills/guidelines affect you the most. You’ll notice both which ones help you the most, and also which ones are (currently) more or less difficult. This allows you to focus on some while letting the others cruise on auto-pilot. This tends to individualize the process for people, so they can figure out what they need to succeed in the best way.
Lastly, we’ve selected skills and guidelines that work best in concert. For example, fasting 4-6 hours between meals works better if you have other skills like checking in on if it’s hunger or a craving, recognizing “you are not your cravings,” or using a guideline like waiting 10 minutes before having a snack. Each one assists with the other. Working on two or three of those in combination is more effective than using any one of them in isolation.
Again, the contrasting approaches both “work” as evidenced by client success. So, maybe just think about which one fits your personal style better.
Macros-Based Nutrition Coaching
Almost every other program you’ll find is based on either tracking macros, calories, or some sort of points. This can work for some people. And, it makes sense — we are attempting to influence calories in a way that you hit your goals, and macros in a way that you feel full. We’ve just found that tracking those things isn’t the most efficient route to changing them.
Tracking macros, for example, is kind of like playing basketball and spending the whole game looking at the scoreboard. Sure, the score is important, but it isn’t the thing to focus on during the game. During the game, you want to focus on passing, shooting, and dribbling, stuff that’s actually happening on the court. On the flip-side, we like to focus on the “on the court” stuff, like plating balanced meals, putting the fork down between bites, and noticing when full. Eating skills are the only way we can actually influence our macros or calories, so we focus on those. We dive straight into the action, instead of the after-the-fact score.
Your Own Experience
Figuring out what dietary approach works for you requires actively going through the process. It isn’t something that you can figure just by reading the chart of skills and guidelines and saying “oh that there, that’s what I need.”
Guessing is far less effective than trying it out in practice and learning from your own experience.
True knowledge requires application. You can have a library full of books with all the correct ideas and the best ways to achieve your goals, but they’re useless until you apply yourself to them. The process of practicing teaches you as much about yourself as it does the things you are practicing.
You aren’t stuck with your current level of skills with nutrition, it can change and improve. Behaviors and skills can always ben changed with consistent repeating blocks of practice over long periods of time. It doesn’t matter if it’s a movement skill, learning an instrument, or learning to drive, that formula (repeating blocks of practice + time) works for everything.
The repetition and grouping of skills practiced in Eating Skills, is derived out of my coaching work with thousands of clients with lots of trial and error and refinement prior to the building of the program. I’ve seen the necessity of repetition that’s deliberately sequenced through this empirical real world testing.
It’s is super consistent in learning research. This type of practice is termed “spaced repetition” in the context of memory retention, where a person is attempting to learn multiple concepts at once.
The same applies for skills – physical and volitional – a cyclical return to each skill helps to build permanence.
We Always Do Better Together
Another well-documented aspect of learning and building habits is being part of a group working towards the same goals. A community of people to learn and grow with helps in multiple ways:
First, there is the accountability aspect, a type of positive “peer pressure.” In a healthy cohort, no one feels forced, but finds a mutual uplifting for everyone involved. It’s inspiring to see other people do well.
You’ll also have the benefit of seeing how others are getting along with all of this. Having the sense that it’s not just you that has problems with one habit or another can be incredibly beneficial. Conversely, you’ll likely also see that in some aspects you are doing great while others have more struggle with the same. People bond while overcoming obstacles together, and become more resilient to obstacles as a group.
Learning and practice is not a steady upward slope, it’s a roller coaster of ups and downs. Sometimes those ups and downs match with other people in the group, and sometimes it won’t. One week, you’ll be flying high while your friend is dipping down, and vice versa. It’s great to be able to give help when you can and receive help when you need it. That’s what a good community is for.
What This Looks Like over a Few Months
So, clearly our approach involves a lot of practice, intense skill development, and even clarifying what really matters to you. It’s work. So why is it worth it?
Shorter, faster, or easier approaches Are always going to be a rollercoaster of it “working” in the short term and crashing and burning in the long term. If you don’t think long term, you’re always just going to have to start over, from scratch, at some later point. You have to be annoyed with that cycle by now.
It’s way more satisfying to do the work, once, and have it stick.
The upside of this kind of consistent practice is that it does stick. You’ll know how to adapt your eating skills to different situations, from stressful days to social outings, even to vacation. You’ll be able to make choices are cleary the “healthy option” when you want, and you’ll also be able to make choices that are a “treat” when you want. You’ll feel good about your choices, either way, because you are in the driver’s seat with your nutrition. You got to choose. You had the skills to choose.
After months of practicing skills, you own them. Think about learning to drive a car: It seemed really hard and took tons of focus when you were 16 years old, but now it’s mostly on autopilot. Maybe the only time you really have to pay attention is when you’re parallel parking. Eating skills are like that — the work you do now will be rewarded with a future where they actually don’t take as much work. They feel like a natural expression of who you are.
When your eating skills show up as an expression of who you are, when they line up with what matters to you, and when they’ve become the “new normal,” they last. They’re strong and resilient, and aren’t shaken by the normal ups and downs of life. You’ll know which 3-4 skills make the biggest difference for you, you’ll have mastered them, and you won’t ever need to diet again.
The results you’ll get are cool, but what we’re really about is autonomy: You’ll feel like you are in the driver’s seat with your nutrition. There’s a peace-of-mind you’ll get from knowing that you’re good at eating skills. There’s a satisfaction you’ll get from knowing that you’re eating in line with your values. You’ll be good at it, and you’ll feel good about it. And that will free you up to focus on other things that matter in your life.
Master Your Nutrition for Life
Build the skills that underlie all kinds of nutritional success. So even as your goals and circumstances change you can stay in control and make progress on your goals.