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Why Nutrition and Exercise “Plans” Are Not Enough

When some people find out that I am a registered dietitian (nutritionist) and personal trainer they ask me to write a quick ‘program’  that they can follow on their own to help them lose weight, improve their performance, etc.  Like suddenly they will automatically know how to correctly perform all of the exercises I list or how to effectively integrate all of the new foods that I “recommend” into their lives.  Most people want the magic bullet, the easy way out.  That’s why people think that being handed a written program, without any follow up, must be the answer to their health/weight loss/lifestyle needs.

You can get a program anywhere…and you don’t need to spend $100+ on it.  Open a fitness magazine.  Open any diet or workout book.  There will be a program…at minimal charge.  And any halfway decent written book will give good visual and verbal descriptions of how to do exercises or cook recommended recipes.  And for those that are self-motivated to change, that is great.  Double check with a professional that the nutrition or training plan is safe and get going!

But does having a bunch of words on a page staring you in the face always lead to change?  Consider how many weight loss, nutrition or fitness books you currently own and whether you are currently at your ideal health or weight.  Or do you need an extra “push”, guidance and motivation?  Do you realize that long-term change most often occurs when someone guides you to your own answers and solutions?  You have the answers…you just don’t see them yet.  Often an outside, objective perspective (i.e. a fitness or nutrition professional) gives the right amount of jolt to get you to focus outside of your current routines and focus on options outside-the-box of your current lifestyle.  As I always tell my clients, I may be the nutrition and fitness expert, but YOU ARE THE EXPERT IN YOUR OWN LIFE.

Take a quick look at the research and see how behavioral-based interventions almost always have better results than just knowledge, handouts or pills alone.  Studies have shown that both in-person and virtual (email/phone) behavior intervention programs are significantly effective in getting results.  Why?

Imagine you are chugging along fine on your training/nutrition program for a few months, losing weight and then:

  1. You go on vacation

  2. You get injured

  3. You hit a plateau (your results stop)

  4. Your favorite pet passes away

  5. You get slammed at work with a high-stress deadline with late nights needed

Or just one of these things.  How many times do we start with the best of intentions, hit a roadblock and then give up?  Or when we don’t see the results immediately we think what we are doing is ineffective?  Most things in life require significant effort up-front before ANY payoff (how did you get good at playing any sports or instruments…did you sound/play great that first day?).  Changing or healing our bodies through movement and nutrition should be no different.

And when we want to get better at something, most often we hire a coach.  Sports coaches.  Music instructors.  Trainers.  Dietitians.  None of these relationships need to last forever, you just need them to get you to the point where you feel comfortable that you can now live the life and be the person you’ve envisioned yourself to be.  This will be the point when you can deal with any of those roadblocks listed above and more.

You are no longer that person who wants to be more active and eat better, but you are the person who can’t imagine (or feel unhappy about) not getting a workout in every other day or can no longer remember what it feels like to be tempted by a Big Mac (or gourmet macaroni and cheese).  We all will skip workouts and eat gourmet macaroni and cheese (or your other preferred less-than-ideal food) on occasion, but we will do it with full awareness and understanding that it is no longer our norm.  Our norm is now being active, eating well and loving life.

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