Almost daily in the gym I have a conversation that pretty much goes “my training is great, I feel strong, fit and am definitely improving there, but I just can’t seem to get my food right”. That’s normally accompanied by a grab of their stomach, or a point at their upper arms.
If it was an isolated thing I’d be inclined to brush it off, but it is SO common it’s hard to ignore. You’ve probably experienced it yourself and wondered WTF was wrong with you right?
Why is training so easy, and eating is so hard?
First off – training is easy because you only have to do it 3-5x per week. That means you’ve only 3 to 5 decisions to make each week about going to the gym, and for the most part – training is good fun.
Even at that, some days of training are probably already so habitual you don’t even have to make that decision anymore. There’s a cue (it’s Monday), a response (you go to the gym) and a reward (you feel good afterwards).
That’s exactly how a habit loop is formed. Going to the gym is easy, there’s only a couple of decisions to make, and there’s immediate positive feedback. It becomes a part of your new “normal” very quickly.
Well, there’s a whole different story. Think about it logically for a second – you probably “eat” (let’s define that as ‘put food of some sort in your mouth’) anywhere between 3 and 7 times a day once snacking is taken into account.
On average, let’s say that’s 5 times a day, over a week – you’ve at least 35 conscious food decisions to make each week.
That’s a lot of scope to make mistakes.
HOW MANY TIMES DO YOU THINK ABOUT FOOD EACH DAY?
Worse than that, a study at Cornell in 2007 found the average person makes 226.7 food decisions per day in total including conscious and unconscious choices (a unconscious example would be you seeing a tin of biscuits when you open the cupboard and choosing not to eat it).
We’re bombarded with food, advertisements, promotions and feeders everywhere we go. Each incidence slowly erodess our will power.
(this is a fascinating short read on the topic: http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2006/12/mindless-autopilot-drives-people-underestimate-food-decisions)
You may remember last week I mentioned how will power is a fatiguable entity, just like a muscle, and once it’s reached it’s limit at the end of a day, all bets are off.
In short – the more decisions you have to make during a day, the less likely you are to eat well. UNLESS you’ve a structure in place to prevent it.
Something like a meal plan, pre-prepared food, or a shop / cafe close to you that you know does healthy take out options in line with your goals.
You don’t have to eat chicken and broccoli for the rest of your days, but you do need to develop a sense of awareness around your triggers, and habits, just like I spoke about in this post giving an alternate on why you should be keeping a food diary: https://revolutionfitness.ie/food-diaries-worth/
More on habits and dieting tomorrow!