How to make each meal just a little bit better, and why this is the strategy towards long term results.
I like to think as health, wellness & fitness as a continuum.
At the left end of the continuum, is the worst state of health possible. The worst imaginable. African communities with no access to food and water, in extreme poverty, would be towards this end of the continuum.
At the right end of the continuum, is the best state of health possible. The best imaginable. I picture this as the happy people somewhere in the Swiss alps, living with no technology, only fresh, seasonal, organic produce, fresh air, living off the land, in a supportive, loving community. Of course, I've never been there, but it seems like my idea of great health.
You sit somewhere in between these two points.
And your position will move either way along the continuum, perhaps monthly or yearly.
The point is, we aren't going to be able to shift the African communities to the health of the Swiss communities straight away. In fact, perhaps we'll never be able to help them achieve that kind of health status. And that's ok, as long as we focus on notching them along the continuum towards better health.
While not as extreme, you're exactly the same.
There appears to be an expectation to move from where you currently sit on the continuum, to 'perfect' straight away.
You know, going from a fast-food lunch, to 100g of grilled chicken and 1/2 cup of broccoli, now. We've all seen and tried the meal plan.
Put into perspective, it's a ridiculous expectation.
Your focus should be simply notching yourself along the continuum towards better health.
To do this, we use exactly the same ideology with your meals.
How can you make your meal just a little bit better, moving you towards better habits and behaviours and better health?
Here's where we play the meal transformation game.
Let's say your go-to breakfast is a large, full cream coffee with 2 sugars, and a piece of banana bread on the way to work. This is your starting point. It's not "bad", it just no longer working for you. The meal isn't holding you until lunch, you're feeling awfully low on energy mid-morning, and that excess weight isn't shifting.
Now your process is to improve your breakfast just a little bit, starting with what you already have or do.
You might replace the banana bread with a whole grain muffin. While the calories may be the same, the wholegrain muffin will sustain you for longer, leading to less food consumption later in the day. You might switch from a large, full cream coffee with 2 sugars, to a small size.
Some days, the banana bread looks too good. But you're trying it, and feeling better on the days you do. You're noticing a change. This is an awesome start. Well done.
A few weeks go by. You look to improve your breakfast even more.
You're noticing the wholegrain muffin is getting a bit tasteless, so you try a packet granola with some yoghurt. Every now and then, you slice a banana on top, for a nice touch of sweetness. Suddenly, the small sized coffee is too sweet with 2 sugars in there, so you go down to a small sized with one sugar.
Over the course of a month, you've simply adjusted what you're used to eating, and made it a little better.
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. nHow 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.
Drew is a personal trainer and nutritionist and is the co-founder of Evexia Wellbeing. Drew specialises in long-term habit change, body composition training, and mindset.