Meal plans usually suck. Here are 6 better ways to transform your diet.

Lots of people looking to improve their eating think meal plans are the answer. The only problem? Meal plans usually suck... and they rarely last. So, instead of prescribing yet another doomed eating regimen, check out these 6 ways to transform any diet in a sustainable way. The post Meal plans usually suck. Here are 6 better ways to transform your diet. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Meal plans usually suck. Here are 6 better ways to transform your diet.

Lots of people looking to improve their eating think meal plans are the answer. The only problem? Meal plans usually suck… and they rarely last. So, instead of prescribing yet another doomed eating regimen, check out these 6 ways to transform any diet in a sustainable way.

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“Do I get a meal plan?”

This is the most common question we get from folks who are considering, or just started out in, our nutrition coaching programs.

The answer: No, we don’t do meal plans.

But we can’t blame people for asking.

Sure, meal plans have long been a staple of the fitness and nutrition industry. Coaches are taught to create them. Clients are taught to expect them.

Unfortunately…

Most of the time, meal plans don’t work.

You see, traditional meal plans are explicit prescriptions.

Eat this exact thing, in this exact amount, at this exact time.

For example, you’ll often see:

Breakfast – 7:30am
3 eggs, scrambled
1 cup vegetables
1 piece whole grain toast
1 cup coffee
1 glass water

Morning snack – 10:00am
1 protein bar
1 handful mixed nuts

Lunch – 12:30pm
4 oz chicken
2 cups salad
1 handful seeds
1 glass water

After exercise – 4:30pm
1 scoop whey protein
1/2 cup frozen fruit
1 tsp omega 3 oil
12 oz water

Dinner – 7:00pm
4 oz steak
1 cup cooked veggies
1 baked potato
1 glass water

You (or your clients/patients) might be thinking, “Good! I want a plan. I’m sick of trying to figure all this stuff out! Just tell me what to eat!”

Unfortunately, when we try to follow rigid prescriptions like this, lots can (and often does) go wrong.

For example:

Scenario 1: You just don’t stick to the plan.

No matter how enthusiastic you are, meal plans can be tough to follow.

This is normal. Life can get in the way.

  • People get busy,
  • we’re not always prepared,
  • kids get sick,
  • bosses expect you to work late,
  • it’s always someone’s birthday (or a special holiday), and
  • sometimes you just don’t feel like having a protein bar at 10am.

What’s more, even if you’ve actually paid to have someone make your plan, you might find yourself rebelling against it in subtle (or not-so-subtle) ways.

This is also normal.

Unfortunately, it means you might not get the results you hope for. For instance, a meal plan you hoped would help you lose weight could actually encourage you to gain weight instead.

Scenario 2: You follow the plan perfectly.

In fact, you follow it too well and for too long.

Most meal plans are meant to be temporary.

They’re designed to help a person get to a specific short-term goal, like dropping a few extra pounds before a wedding, learning to manage blood sugar, or cutting weight for an athletic competition.

Our bodies can usually adapt to a rigid way of eating for a short period of time.

But if you’re too strict for too long, you could wind up with disordered eating habits and lasting health (mental, metabolic, hormonal, etc) consequences.

Scenario 3: You follow the plan for a little while but it sucks.

It isn’t sustainable. It doesn’t make you feel better. It doesn’t keep you sane.

Maybe you see some short-term results (or not). But you hate living and eating this way. You never want to see another stupid piece of lettuce or 4 ounces of chicken.

Eventually, you get so turned off by the process that you regress or quit altogether. You conclude that “eating healthy” sucks.

And you miss your big chance to learn how to make healthier, more enjoyable, more lasting and real changes.

Another reason meal plans fail.

One of the biggest (yet generally unacknowledged) problems with traditional meal plans is their focus on “nutrients”.

Real people don’t eat “nutrients”. We eat food.

We eat meals, often with other people.

We eat meals that match our cultural background and social interests.

And we rarely measure things precisely.

Sure, sometimes an explicit prescription is necessary.

For instance, professional athletes or bodybuilders (in other words, people who make money off their bodies and athletic skills) use meal plans to prepare for training and competition.

A prescribed meal for someone in that situation might look something like this:

  • 1/4 cup dry oats
  • 3 oz turkey breast
  • 1 cup steamed broccoli
  • 5 almonds
  • 1 omega-3 supplement
  • 1 cup green tea (unsweetened)

But most of us don’t need that level of surgical precision.

We don’t normally eat “ounces” of things, or refer to food by their nutrients (like “omega-3 fatty acids”).

Instead, we eat foods like:

  • hamburgers
  • tacos and burritos
  • salads
  • pasta and noodles
  • sandwiches, wraps, pitas and rotis
  • stews and curries
  • cereal and granola
  • stir-fries
  • casseroles

Bottom line: If you want to eat better, you don’t have to get weird about things.

You don’t need to weigh and measure everything, or count out your almonds.

Ask yourself: “Is someone paying me to do this?” If the answer is no, you likely don’t need this kind of approach.

You just need to think about what you’re already eating, and how you could make it a little bit better.

This means fiddling and adjusting.

Making small changes and improvements to what you already normally eat and enjoy, one small step at a time.

Think about a spectrum of food quality rather than “bad” or “good” foods.

Welcome to the meal transformation game.

When you play with the idea of a food spectrum or food continuum, you get to experiment with variables like:

  • what you eat, and
  • how you eat it.

Think of this as a game.

How can you play “make this meal just a little bit better” in every situation?

In which situations is that easier or harder?

When your choices are limited (for instance, when you’re traveling, or eating at a workplace cafeteria), how can you shoot for “a little bit better” while still being realistic, and without trying to be “perfect”?

(Hint for coaches: this is a great game to play with the people you work with.)

Let’s transform breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Here’s how that “food spectrum” might look in daily life, with a sample day of eating.

Transforming breakfast

Stage 1

Let’s say that your go-to breakfast is a whipped-cream coffee drink and a chocolate croissant.

You pick it up in the drive-thru, and wolf it down on your way to work.

This is your starting point. It’s not “bad”. It’s just no longer working for you.

You’re getting indigestion from rushing, the croissant doesn’t hold you at all, and you’ve just spilled the coffee on your crotch while changing lanes.

Now your game is to improve your breakfast just a little bit, starting with what you already have or do.

Stage 2

Your opening moves in the meal transformation game:

  • You might replace the croissant with a whole grain muffin.
  • Instead of a “dessert in a cup”, you get a regular coffee with a single cream and sugar.
  • You grab a yogurt cup on your way out of the house for a bit of protein.

Naturally, you’re still rushed and busy… so you eat your breakfast with some distractions, while scrolling through emails at work.

But this is a solid start. Well done.

Stage 3

Next level of game play:

  • You switch the muffin to granola with cottage cheese or Greek yogurt.
  • You switch the cream in your coffee for 2% milk. (Or even go right to black coffee, you meal player you!)
  • You add some colorful fruit.
  • You’re now eating out of dishes on a table, instead of out of takeout packages off the dashboard of your car.

Of course, you’re still checking out the news headlines while you eat…

No problem. We’re keeping it real.

Stage 4

Now you are seriously playing like a pro.

  • You’ve changed “rushing and panicked” to “set aside a little extra time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast”.
  • You cleverly prepped an egg frittata with veggies in advance on your food prep day.
  • The coffee’s become green tea, since you noticed that too much coffee was tweaking you out.
  • The protein plus colorful fruit and veg have become the stars of the meal.
  • You’ve discovered you really like lemon water. (WHAT? You don’t even know you anymore!)
  • You eat mindfully, feeling relaxed, while watching the sun rise.

Ahhh.

Transforming lunch

Stage 1

At this point, starting out, the idea of a sit-down lunch feels flat out ridiculous.

“Eat slowly? Who has time for that during a busy workday? Grab a burger and go!”

Another “car dashboard” meal. Another stomach ache and regret.

You decide you might want to play with this meal too.

Stage 2

To improve this meal a little bit:

  • You go to a higher-end burger place where you’re pretty sure they use real meat.
  • You get a side salad with that burger, and maybe just a few potato chips.
  • You choose a diet soda instead of regular.
  • You don’t eat in your car, but you do eat by your computer.

That’s OK. You’re progressing.

Stage 3

At this stage, you’re doing a little prep work:

  • You whipped up some burgers in advance so they are handy and ready to take to work.
  • You also grabbed some nice cheese and whole grain buns from the local market on shopping day.

For lunch, all you have to do is take your homemade burger and its fixins to work.

You still grab a diet cola from the vending machine to wash it down.

You move from your desk to the lunchroom, where you socialize with co-workers. This slows you down a bit and helps you digest and relax.

Stage 4

You’re having the burger without the bun, alongside a nice pre-prepped salad.

Instead of staying at your desk or in the office, you take a break.

You sit outside and get some fresh air while you enjoy your meal.

For a drink, water’s all you need.

Transforming dinner

Stage 1

It’s 8pm. You’ve just gotten home after an insane day at work.

All you want to do is put food into your face and zone out in front of the TV.

You can’t even imagine making anything more complicated than boxed macaroni ‘n’ cheese right now.

Ketchup and hot dogs are as fancy as it gets.

Stage 2

Same concept, but:

  • You’re adding some extra protein with the help of a rotisserie chicken leg that you grabbed at the grocery store on the way home.
  • You’ve added a side salad, just grabbing a few handfuls of pre-washed greens out of a bag.
  • You’ve whipped up your own pasta.

Work is still on your mind, and a couple drinks will take the edge off.

Stage 3

Things are getting fancy.

  • You’re upping the protein with a little more chicken.
  • You’re having a little less pasta.
  • You’ve also added a nice big salad to the mix.
  • You’ve cut the booze to 1 drink.

Plus, you’re sitting at the dinner table, instead of flopping down on your couch or standing over the sink.

Stage 4

Again, we’re playing at pro level here.

With your meal planning and prep strategies, even a weeknight dinner looks good.

  • You can whip up a delicious salad in 3 minutes flat and you have some pre-cooked quinoa on hand.
  • That rotisserie chicken is still a fast, convenient option, but now it’s got some healthy buddies.
  • You’re indulging in a single glass of good wine these days, and you take time to savor it.

Meal transformation is not about reaching perfection.

If you’re at stage 1, all you have to do is shoot for stage 2. Or stage 1.5.

If you’re in stage 2, play with getting to stage 3.

And if you’re stage 3, heck, you can stay where you are.

You might never get to stage 4. Or it might only happen at times when you’re relaxed and have a little extra time.

Stage 4 might only happen on Sunday night, whereas the rest of your week is a mix of stages 1, 2, and — if you’re super lucky — 3.

And that’s OK.

How far you progress along the continuum all depends on what YOU want, what YOU need, and what YOU can reasonably do, right now.

Over time, things can change.

Play YOUR game.

Success secret: Have a food prep ritual.

You might look at these photos and think, “How can people possibly do all that?”

One success secret: Having a food prep ritual.

The idea is simple:

Practice planning and preparing healthy food in advance.

This makes healthy eating convenient and easy.

It also makes decisions easier: You don’t have to make a choice when you’re rushed and hangry.

Your food prep ritual can include:

  • shopping (or arranging to have food delivered)
  • menu and meal planning
  • washing and chopping vegetables
  • cooking/preparing protein (e.g. cooking up some chicken breasts)
  • cooking meals in bulk (e.g. casseroles, soups, stews, chili)
  • preparing the dry ingredients for things like Super Shakes or healthy muffin mix
  • soaking grains/beans beforehand so that they’ll be ready to cook later
  • sorting foods into smaller containers or baggies
  • freezing and refrigerating food for later
  • planning healthy meals that someone else cooks (e.g. using a meal delivery service, deciding in advance what to order at a restaurant, etc.)
  • looking ahead to ensure healthy eating strategies during the next few days, especially during difficult times (e.g. a busy week, traveling, dealing with a family crisis, etc.)

Mix and match any of these to find what works for you.

Experiment with systems, skills and strategies that work for YOU and YOUR life.

The real goal of a meal plan is to stop using a meal plan.

Fit, healthy people who have a good relationship with food don’t need other people to tell them exactly what to eat at all times.

Living a fit and healthy life doesn’t require perfection, either.

If you are using a meal plan:

That’s OK.

Some people like prescription, especially if they are working towards a specific short-term goal, like cutting weight to compete in wrestling, making sure they get enough nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy, or fueling their triathlon performance.

Keep it short-lived.

Meal plans are supposed to be temporary, working towards a short-term goal.

Keep it real.

As much as possible, try to make the meal plan fit your real life, not the other way around.

If you’re a parent, a worker, a student, or anyone else living in the real world, most of your meals will fall somewhere in the stages 1 through 3 spectrum. That’s perfectly OK. Just experiment with being a little bit better, wherever you can.

Remember all goals require trade-offs.

If you want to achieve a high level of performance or exceptional body composition, understand what you are prioritizing and sacrificing.

Getting very lean, for instance, comes with costs.

Make sure it’s working for you.

If your meal plan is making you feel:

  • overwhelmed
  • anxious and fretful
  • guilty
  • regretful
  • bad
  • overly rigid and/or preoccupied with food…

or any other negative, unproductive emotion…

…and if you find that meal plans result in you:

  • “falling off the wagon”, hard
  • getting obsessive and compulsive about food
  • restricting foods and food groups, or
  • doing “all or nothing”, usually ending with “nothing”

…then consider trying another approach.

What to do next

1. Consider where you sit on the spectrum of meal “stages”.

Where’s your food game at?

What level are you playing at?

What level would you like to play at?

Given your goals and your current situation, what is realistic?

For example, if you currently eat at stage 1, your goal might be to eat at stage 2 for most meals.

Or, if you eat at stage 3 most of the time but find yourself dipping into stage 1 or 2 meals more often than you’d like, aim to stay at stage 3 a little more consistently.

(Hint for coaches: you can walk people through these questions and help them arrive at their own answers.)

2. Start small. One step at a time.

Pick one meal to transform and focus on that.

For instance, you might leave all your other meals at stage 1, and focus on getting lunch to stage 2.

Concentrate on improving that one meal each day.

Using the examples above, you might think about things like:

  • adding protein
  • adding veggies or fruits
  • eating less processed food
  • eating more nutrient-dense, whole foods
  • drinking less alcohol or fewer sweet drinks
  • drinking more water
  • eating in a calmer, more relaxed setting, and/or
  • eating more slowly and mindfully

Of course, don’t try to do all these at once.

Try just fiddling with one or two, and see which ones work best for you.

3. Add things slowly.

Once you’ve improved one meal a day, try another.

If you feel like lunch is a solid stage 2 or 3, play with moving breakfast, dinner, or snacks along the spectrum.

Or, once you’ve improved one factor in a meal (e.g. adding more protein), try another.

For instance, if you’re getting more protein, now try switching out your sugary soda for some soda water. Or adding a little more veggies.

Be patient; small steps add up.

4. Set yourself up for success.

Notice what makes it easier and simpler for you to eat better.

Then figure out how to do or get more of that.

For instance:

  • Is planning helping you? How could you do more of that?
  • Is a healthy meal delivery service making it easy? Could you set aside a little more cash to get two meals a day instead of one?
  • Is setting aside time on Sunday afternoon to cook some protein a good idea? Great, keep on doing that. Book it in your calendar.

There’s no “right” way to do this. Do what works for YOU.

5. Enjoy your meals.

Meal plans don’t usually address how you eat.

Before you change what you eat, you can also try changing how you eat. For example, you could:

  • slow down
  • breathe between bites
  • relax
  • savor your food
  • sit at a table if you can, and/or
  • use real dishes if you can.

Give yourself some time and space to appreciate those tasty concoctions you put together.

Meal time is YOUR time.

6. Work towards being your own boss.

Sometimes you might just want someone to tell you what to do.

That’s fine, and helpful, especially if you’re juggling a lot. But only for a while.

Over time, look for ways to help yourself intuitively and wisely make better choices, rather than just following the rules.

(Coaches, much more than serving up prescriptions, this is your job too: to help the folks you work with arrive at a place where they feel good about making decisions for themselves.)

Think long-term. What do you want to happen over the next few months? Year? 10 years? Do you want to be on a meal plan for the next few decades?

Today, if you were to take one small step towards the “better” end of the meal spectrum, what might that look like?

How can you start playing the “meal transformation game” today?

Want help becoming the healthiest, fittest, strongest version of you?

Most people know that regular movement, eating well, sleep, and stress management are important for looking and feeling better. Yet they need help applying that knowledge in the context of their busy, sometimes stressful lives.

That’s why we work closely with Precision Nutrition Coaching clients to help them lose fat, get stronger, and improve their health… no matter what challenges they’re dealing with.

It’s also why we work with health, fitness and wellness professionals (through our Level 1 and Level 2 Certification programs) to teach them how to coach their own clients through the same challenges.

Interested in Precision Nutrition Coaching? Join the presale list; you’ll save up to 54% and secure a spot 24 hours early.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Coaching on Wednesday, October 7th, 2020.

If you’re interested in coaching and want to find out more, we encourage you to join our presale list below. Being on the list gives you two special advantages.

  • You’ll pay less than everyone else. At Precision Nutrition we like to reward the most interested and motivated people because they always make the best clients. Join the presale list and you’ll save up to 54% off the general public price, which is the lowest price we’ve ever offered.
  • You’re more likely to get a spot. To give clients the personal care and attention they deserve, we only open up the program twice a year. Last time we opened registration, we sold out within minutes. By joining the presale list you’ll get the opportunity to register 24 hours before everyone else, increasing your chances of getting in.

If you’re ready to become the fittest, strongest, healthiest version of yourself with help from the world’s best coaches, this is your chance.

[Note: If your health and fitness are already sorted out, but you’re interested in helping others, check out our ].

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Level 1: Nearly 1 million data points show what it REALLY takes to lose fat, get healthy, and change your body.

We analyzed a year’s worth of data from 1,000 nutrition coaching clients to find out how much effort it really takes to make meaningful change—to your body, your health, and even how you feel about yourself. This body transformation research might shift your thinking about weight loss and health improvement forever. The post Level 1: Nearly 1 million data points show what it REALLY takes to lose fat, get healthy, and change your body. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Level 1: Nearly 1 million data points show what it REALLY takes to lose fat, get healthy, and change your body.

Exclusive body transformation research: We analyzed a year’s worth of data from 1,000 nutrition coaching clients to find out how much effort it really takes to make meaningful change—to your body, your health, and even how you feel about yourself. These findings could shift the way you think about weight loss and health improvement forever. And most important, help you (or your clients) more easily achieve the sustainable results everyone wants. 

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There is no perfect person.

(No matter how awesome you are.)

Yet when many of us contemplate a health plan, weight loss program, or other lifestyle change, we start with the expectation that we need to be perfect.

But how could you be?

You have stress, and feelings, and previous habits, and maybe a job or school or kids or a pet, and days when you feel like crap. Plus, Netflix.

If perfection is required, then most of us might as well not even bother.

But what if changing your body isn’t a pass/fail scenario?

What if almost any effort—no matter how imperfect—could result in real, measurable progress?

Turns out, that’s not just a nice idea: It’s the truth.

Changing your body doesn’t require 100% consistency.

We’ve got the data to prove it.

Our team just finished crunching an insane amount of data from our nutrition coaching program where clients give us daily feedback.

  • 12 months
  • 1,000 clients
  • Nearly 1 MILLION data points

All to better understand how much effort it takes to make meaningful change.

Now, if you’re not familiar with our year-long coaching program for both men and women, here’s a snapshot of how it works: Clients check in every day and tell us whether or not they completed a workout (or other activity) and did “their habits.”

Habits are daily health practices—such as eating lean protein at each meal or consuming 5 servings of fruits and vegetables—that we give them every two weeks. These habits accumulate, and by the end of the year, they’re incorporating about 25 in total. (Spoiler alert: This is how you change!)

They also regularly report their body measurements and answer progress surveys, where they tell us other important stuff, like how they’re feeling.

So, we looked at changes in our clients’ bodies combined with how often they said they did their habits and workouts.

We focused on those who said losing weight was their top priority, and looked at how much weight (or body girth) they actually lost after a year.

And we asked:

How consistent do you have to be in order to make “good progress”?

What we discovered didn’t surprise us, but it might surprise you.

It could even inspire you to embrace your “imperfect” self, and make the (surprisingly small) changes that can transform your body and your life.

Surprise #1: Just putting in some effort—no matter how small—changes things.

What happens when people do their habits and workouts less than half of the time?

You might assume their efforts are a total waste.

You’d be wrong.

People lost weight anyway.

Clients who are less than 50% consistent—but stay in the program for the full year—wind up losing between 5-6% of their total body weight.

Now, 5-6% loss of body weight might not sound like much, but you can see the average weight loss for both men and women was 11 pounds. That’s sustained weight loss—something that stays with you, and something you can build on.

And people did it by kinda-sorta practicing some small healthy habits, not following rigid meal plans or extreme diets that eliminate entire food groups.

People also got healthier.

That’s because research suggests a 5-6% decrease in body weight can lead to:

  • better cardiovascular health
  • decreased cancer and diabetes risk
  • better sleep (with less apnea)
  • better mood
  • less inflammation
  • better immunity; and maybe best of all…
  • a zestier sex drive.

What does less-than-half consistency look like?

Let’s think about how this might play out in real life.

Maybe you eat a lot of fast food and packaged snacks. And your assigned habit is “eat more whole foods.”

If you eat four times per day—say, three meals and one snack—that means you’re eating 28 times a week. If just 12 of those meals or snacks were made of fresh, minimally processed foods, you’d be about 40% consistent.

This would be the equivalent of swapping out a fast food lunch for a green salad topped with lean protein every day, along with having a piece of fruit for a snack most days, but then changing nothing else.

And by the way, although we’re using 40% as our example here, there were certainly people who were 30%, 20%, and even just 10% consistent that achieved similar results, on average. Almost any consistent effort, applied over time, seems to be enough to move you forward.

Here’s another way to look at it.

Let’s say you want to eat more fruits and vegetables (another assigned habit in the PN Coaching program). If 100% consistency means you eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, that would be 35 servings per week.

If you were aiming for 40% consistency, you’d need to consume just 14 servings of produce in one week. Or an average of 2 servings per day.

What about workouts?

If doing something active every day means you’re being 100% consistent, then doing something active 40% of the time would require 2.8 activities. In real life, that might translate to two intense workouts, plus two long walks per week.

But remember, these are just examples.

Your goals will be relative to your starting point.

For instance, if you haven’t exercised in a year, 100% consistency might mean being active just three days a week. And as a result, 40% consistency would be just 1.2 weekly workouts.

If all of this sounds easy, you’re right.

It’s about learning to accept that better is better, and even a little effort can translate into real weight loss and health benefits.

Surprise #2: Showing up between 50-79% of the time actually makes a big difference.

50-79%: The beautiful balance between half-assing and getting results.

Now, here’s the magic zone between “not too difficult” and “making real progress”: somewhere between 50 and 79% consistent.

Our data showed no statistical difference between groups that hit this level of consistency, whether it was 50-59%, 60-69%, or 70-79%.

Wrap your head around that.

Not only do you not need to be “perfect” to get results, you don’t even need to be “pretty good.”

For example, by doing their habit practice and workouts at least half the time:

  • Men lost an average of 6 pounds more, compared to the guys who did their habits and workouts less.
  • Women dropped just one more pound (they weighed less to begin with), but they lost 4 more total inches.

A “habits at least half the time” approach also burned through belly fat, as both men and women shrunk their waists, moving them out of the high-risk categories (35 inches of circumference for women; 40 inches for men) for heart disease, diabetes, and other metabolic health problems.

Surprise #3: Being at least 50% consistent with your health and lifestyle improvements might be easier than you think.

You don’t need to be a superstar.

With some small, manageable changes (especially if you get help and support from a coach), you—yes, even you, with the children and covered in dog hair and rushing to soccer practice—can be pretty darn consistent.

Most of our clients end up in the 50-79% consistent group (even though they often feel like they’re “not doing enough”).

Once again, think about what this might mean in the context of your life.

Maybe dinners at your house are nuts. The family is scrambling to get homework done, or get to extra-curricular activities; the teenager or toddler is complaining about the food; someone brought home greasy takeout, and it’s a whirlwind.

Right now, eating “whole foods” mindfully and slowly with the right portion size is so not happening for you.

But… what if you could figure out how to organize your breakfasts and lunches a little better—without a lot of life disruption?

If you nail a healthy breakfast and lunch, plus the occasional snack, you could hit your mark of eating nutritious foods at 17 out of 28 weekly meals. And boom… 60%.

Or perhaps you want to control your portions. At Precision Nutrition, one of our core habits is called “eating to 80% full.” This helps you naturally reduce your intake by learning to tune into hunger and fullness cues, and getting used to stopping when you’re satisfied, but not stuffed.

If your goal were to eat to 80% full at breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day (21 meals per week), you’d be 60% consistent if you did that at only 13 meals.

Another example: Let’s say you love wine but want to drink less.

And let’s say that “100% consistent” is never drinking. (Wait… stop screaming. Stick with us here.)

If you normally have three glasses of wine each night, and you cut that down to one, you still get a daily Chardonnay, and you’ve knocked out two-thirds of your regular habit.

Perfect? No, but definitely better. And better is the goal.

In all these cases, you’ve got lots of wiggle room. And as the data shows, you’ll still come out ahead.

Surprise #4. Even super-dramatic changes don’t require 100% consistency.

As you may know, some PN clients achieve incredible body transformations.

Of course, if you’re after big changes, you’ll have to be more consistent, and make more tradeoffs or adjustments to your lifestyle.

But even so, you still don’t have to be perfect.

Our data show that being 80%-89% consistent with your nutrition and lifestyle habits can result in significant—and, more importantly, sustained—losses in body weight and waist size.

How does this level of consistency take shape in real life?

Let’s go back to our practice of eating nutritious meals, made of mostly whole, fresh, minimally processed foods with lots of good stuff in them. (What we call “PN-friendly.”)

If you eat 4 meals a day, again, that’s 28 meals a week. Achieving 80% consistency means about 22-23 meals are “PN-friendly.” And that means 5-6 meals might be “less optimal.”

Now suppose you’re trying to cut out desserts.

If you’re used to eating dessert every evening, then 80% consistent would mean skipping dessert about 5-6 times over the course of the week.

That’s a big change, but it doesn’t mean total dessert deprivation. You’d still have 1-2 desserts to enjoy each week, and the rest of the week is highly consistent. Double win!

Surprise #5: People’s actual circumstances didn’t determine what they were able to do.

You’d think having particular demands on you would make it harder to stick to your habits.

That’s why we ask our clients about things like their work schedule, whether they have kids, whether they travel a lot, and/or how much stress they feel.

In fact, there was no correlation between how much stress people felt at home or at work, or how well they said they were coping with that stress, and the results they got.

In other words, no matter what a dumpster fire of flaming stress some people’s lives were… if they were able to figure out how to take small, meaningful actions day to day, they were able to be consistent anyway.

This often meant having creative solutions, like:

  • Eating the same meal for breakfast and lunch, rather than prepping two separate ones.
  • Getting meal or grocery delivery, if they could afford it.
  • Enlisting older kids into shopping and meal prep help.

And so on.

It also meant knowing how to scale back a little—rather than completely shutting down—whenever things didn’t go as scheduled.   

For example, imagine you sleep through your alarm, or drop a carton of eggs on the floor at breakfast. Suddenly, you have no time to get to the gym.

Instead of skipping your workout altogether, you can turn a walk with the baby in the stroller or a trip to the playground into the “workout.” It may not have been what you planned, but you still got some exercise.

This is called adjusting the dial, and it helps you stay consistent, even when life gets messy.

You can apply this concept to not only your exercise habits (shown in the “dial” illustration below), but also to your eating and overall wellness habits. (Learn more about the “dial method”.)

As you devise these workarounds, your consistency is sure to improve, as will your results. In fact, some of our clients became so good at this they were able to achieve an astounding 90-100% consistency.

And again, their increased effort paid off, with more weight and inches lost.

To be sure, this level of consistency isn’t doable for everyone. And that’s okay.

Not all of us desire to work this hard or live with all the tradeoffs it requires—or even care about such dramatic physique changes. (For more, see The Cost of Getting Lean.)

But even so, 17% of our clients were able to hit this mark. And they did it by adding one habit at a time and building from there. Just like everyone else.

Now… have a look at the results from all groups together, and take note. It provides a nice visual of how improvements in consistency truly drive change. (Have we made our point yet?)

Surprise #6: Just making some effort—however inconsistent and imperfect—can make you feel better about how your body looks, feels and moves.

Consistency creates confidence.

Many forms of progress are invisible to the bathroom scale.

That’s why we include a 13-question “resilience index” in our PN Coaching program. We ask clients to tell us how they feel, by indicating how strongly they agree or disagree with statements like:

  • I’m the person I want to be.
  • I lead a meaningful and purposeful life.
  • I feel good about how my body looks.
  • I feel healthy and physically thriving.
  • I feel confident in my ability to take charge of my life.

What we found:

The more consistent people were, the better they felt about life in general.

In part, this happens because people feel good about the changes they see in their bodies, such as less pain, more fitness, and the ability to do more movements, more easily.

But it also happens because people are acting on their own behalf.

We gain positive energy, confidence, and resilience after and because we act, not the other way around.

Even a small boost in confidence might mean:

  • You walk into a gym for the first time.
  • You try a new exercise.
  • You say hi to that attractive person.
  • You dress better.
  • You take on a physical challenge, like a race.
  • You consider a more active vacation, like a hiking trip.
  • You finally wear that bathing suit, or take off your shirt, at the beach.
  • You ask for what you need and want, or say no to what you don’t want.
  • You take care better care of you.

And each action you take only creates more action.

No perfection required.

You can still become, at last, the healthy, thriving, confident person you’ve wanted to be—just by putting in whatever effort you’ve got.

Whether that’s 40%, 60%, or 80%, your best really is good enough.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that helps them adopt simple but effective habits they can sustain—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the world’s most respected nutrition education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients and patients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 30% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 7th, 2020.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 30% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results… this is your chance to see what the world’s top professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.

The post Level 1: Nearly 1 million data points show what it REALLY takes to lose fat, get healthy, and change your body. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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