Dr. Wall Says

Speak up, listen up, bridge the gap

When perfect isn’t good enough.

In the past year, I have made some pretty significant shifts in how I approach helping people change dietary habits. I used to sit down, talk facts and science, identify goals and barriers and encourage my clients and athletes to take on healthy eating by starting a four to five week squeaky clean challenge. Whenever I met resistance, I would press my case, and only rarely would I acquiesce and deviate from my original plan. For most of my athletes this approach worked really well: they were motivated to be healthy, usually surrounded by others who encouraged and supported their efforts, and were good about taking direction from a coach without arguing. With my personal coaching clients, again, this approach often worked well, but I found myself having to massage the terms of the challenge to account for fears and environmental barriers. Then I started noticing something. I noticed all the people who initially did well, but weren’t able to stay true to the ideals of Paleo/Primal/whole food eating. These were the ones who could stick with the 30-day challenge, reap the benefits from their efforts for a few months  and then would returned to old eating habits, and with that old health issues.Every few months they would rally for another 30-day challenge and the whole sequence was repeated. Although the dietary principles are healthy, the habit pattern is no different from any other yoyo dieting cycle; these people could not shift from dieting to eating healthily.

In talking with and observing my clients, friends and athletes caught up in this cycle I found out a few things: 1) Many of them end up feeling like failures and helpless to change. Overtime this leads to burnout and an unwillingness to do anything, because nothing seems like it can work for them.  2) Most of these people don’t have a good understanding of why they are making specific dietary choices. They know the facts, but are not translating them into meaningful, relatable information that can guide their choices everyday. They are walking through the motion, following a bunch of rules they don’t personally relate to. 3) More often than not, they are trying to follow a set of rules that are not appropriate for their lifestyles, personalies and physiological needs. This creates a poor fit between nutrition and self, which in light of years of poor habits and addictive food choices often lead to returning to their previous baseline.

Now when I work with personal coaching clients and athletes we always discuss lifestyle. Often we still start with close to ideal standards, but always we revisit choices and needs so that we can adapt nutritional standards to match personal parameters. The idea is to eliminate yoyo dieting, shame, failure, helplessness, and to promote real food and real health, a goal which is more often reached this way. Here is one last thing I found out, when you allow people to adapt their choices to who they are, and work with a set of guide lines that are the right fit for them, with a little bit of time, they usually work their way towards higher standards.

To help you  understand more about the process of adapting your diet to your life, I have asked several of my friends, professionals in the Paleo/fitness community, to share their beginnings in the world of healthy eating and their perspective on that journey by answering the following three questions:

  1. What did you do to integrate Paleo into your life as a whole?

  2. Did you modify anything?

  3. How did you adapt the ideal diet to fit you and how you live?

I will posting their answers everyday this week, and will end the series by sharing my own 5-year journey to real food. While waiting for tomorrow’s post why not follow up by reading this most entertaining post by Craig Zielinski on BAMF Athletics.   Craig or “z” as he is known by most gives an unbridled account of his tirals and tribulations in trying to figure out how to eat to meet his fitness and lifestyle goals.

NB: if you are easily offended by bad language, definitive judgment and strong opinions, don’t even bother. For everyone else, I highly recommend the post.

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Hi! I'm Dr. Alessandra Wall

I help smart driven women and forward-thinking companies bridge the gap & build real conversations.

Here on the ‘Dr. Wall Says’, I share tools, tips, and insights about speaking up, getting heard and how women can take up space and thrive in the 21st century.

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