You really are what you eat.

17 Apr

One of the things I stress with my clients is the importance of keeping a food and exercise log.  There are several reasons for this.  First, statistics show that people who keep a food and exercise diary are much more successful in achieving their weight loss and health goals than those who don’t.  Second, it can be fun to see your progress and the best way to measure that is by keeping a log. Last, it’s a great tool for me, as a trainer, to be able to give clients input on things they can do to improve their diet, exercise performance, etc.

To help my clients with this process, I have them use a tracking program.  One of the components of this program is that it emails me their log each week.  This way, I can see exactly what they ate, what exercise they did and monitor their progress and make suggestions.

One of my clients started running in the last year or so.  He has been running 5k races and doing very well, but now he wants to move up to longer distances.  When he hired me, we talked about his training goals.  He had two: increase endurance and lose the last 10 pounds he hasn’t been able to drop since he started running.

As someone who has been an endurance athlete for more than five years, I told my client that his nutrition would be the key driver in meeting his goals.  It’s the old saying, garbage in, garbage out.  We talked about how and what he ate and how he could improve his nutrition with some simple changes.  Keep in mind he’s married with kids, so I suggested he might want to consider eating different things than his wife and kids.

I get his report the first week with him using the tracking program.  He is following the training program I designed for him exactly.  I’m very pleased.  Then I take a look at his food log.  I see what he ate, the amount of saturated fat, sugar, cholesterol and sodium.  It’s way too high, especially for achieving his two goals.  His fiber is also lower than it should be.  I email him that I’m really pleased and proud of how well he’s following the exercise component of the training plan, but I had some suggestions regarding his nutrition.  I explained the areas he needed to reduce and why and that he also needed to increase his fiber intake.  One of the areas I explained he could fix easily was breakfast.  He was eating a frosted cereal with vanilla almond milk.  I recommended he eat a whole grain cereal, such as oatmeal or shredded wheat with skim milk and some egg whites.  I told him I eat a bowl of plain oatmeal and 5-6 egg whites every morning for breakfast because it’s a lean breakfast that gives me healthy fuel to start my day.

A few minutes after I hit the send button, I get a call from him.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Client: “While you’re my trainer, I also consider you my friend.  So, I’m going to tell you this and hope you take it in the context in which it’s meant, which is a complement and a bit of constructive criticism. You’re a food freak!”

Me: “So what’s your point,” I say laughing.  I then go on to tell him that I will give him the same response I give my public relations clients and that is that you pay me to give you the best possible advice.  However, it’s entirely up to you whether you take it or not.

My client laughs too, but goes on to say he is really not interested in being as diligent with his nutrition as I am.  I tell him that I understand that his nutrition is up to him.  But I’m still going to continue to give him the best advice possible regarding his diet and exercise.  What he does with that advice is his decision.

The next week, I see his diary…it’s about the same; however I see some small changes that I’m pleased with.  This time my email is a bit gentler in light of our conversation the previous week. Again, I tell him how happy I am with his training workouts and that my comments about his nutrition haven’t changed much from the prior week.  I encouraged him to continue to make small, positive changes such as the ones we talked about and ones his log shows he made since we spoke the previous week.  I closed by saying the most important thing is for him to be cognizant of the amount of saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar and sodium he’s consuming and realize those choices have an impact on his goals.

Moments after I hit send, the phone rings.  It’s my client.  But this time, he’s telling me he’s really looking at the packages more, realizing that this one product he really likes and thought was a good choice, really isn’t because while it’s marketed as a low calorie ice cream dessert, it has a significant amount of fat in it and almost of all that fat is saturated fat!  While he cannot see my face, I’m fairly sure he can hear that I’m smiling by the tone of my voice. I tell him that being aware of what you’re eating is half the battle.  Making better choices is the other half.

In the months following these conversations, his awareness about what he eats and the food choices he’s making continue to improve.  He’s on his way to a successful journey into better nutrition and achieving his goals.  And I’m proud and honored to be with him on this journey.

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