Now let me preface this story by saying that if you are a fan of kale smoothies, then rock on with your bad self. Personally, I find them repulsive. But for a period of time after I weened myself of peanut butter and toast for breakfast, I was drinking them daily. It was a bit of a struggle, so I’d chug it back and suffer the stomach-swishing consequences until it settled in.
I did this because I read somewhere that green smoothies (particularly, kale smoothes with spiralina and other obnoxious tasting supplements were “super foods” and the best way to start your day on a healthy trajectory.
The downside was that I was starting to dread and loath the “healthy” start to my day, which seemed a little counter productive.
Can you relate to where I’m going here?
Very often we do things in the name of better health that seem foreign and even unappealing. We muscle through these behaviors because they are “good for us” and somewhere down the line we’ll reap the benefits of our discomfort (like weight loss for example).
Here’s the thing I have to tell you as a personal trainer with advanced training in nutrition and human behavior – this theory is flawed and the intended outcome is rarely successful.
When we make big changes that we know don’t suit our lifestyle or that we flat out don’t like, eventually our finite amount of willpower will lose out to our greater need for rewarding ourselves in a way that we DO like.
That’s why hardcore diets never work long term. If we adopt a behavior that is too far out of our norms and comfort zone, it won’t last.
Now there are instances where we can and DO push through and it’s a good thing. Like quitting smoking or overcoming any kind of unhealthy addiction. Usually there’s a much bigger purpose behind muscling through these changes and that’s why they work over the long term. But when it comes to something like suffering through kale smoothies for the sake of an arbitrary goal like “being healthier”, it’s unlikely to become a long term change.
So what’s the solution?
Two things: Start small and get creative.
The key thing we’re trained to do at Precision Nutrition, is to find the least limiting behavior that a client can commit to – so a change so small that they cannot fail at it, and start there. That might be a commitment to take a multivitamin everyday or a fish oil supplement. Over time, confidence in one’s ability to make sustainable changes gains momentum and they are able to take on more and more.
It’s a proven model for success and one of the reasons why I would never suggest a client start with kale smoothies – especially if they hate them.
The other key to success is getting creative with choices and alternatives, and this is especially true with food. Very often we can take an old comfort food favorite and make it more healthy. In doing so, we are able to keep that hedonic effect of indulging in a food we love, but make it health promoting instead of health depleating. It’s the difference between eating McCain frozen french fries with all the preservatives and other junk in it, and baking homemade sweet potato fries in the oven drizzled with olive oil and a a little sea salt. They may taste a little different at first, but over time, you come to appreciate the new and healthier option even more than the store bought stuff, and hey, you still get to eat french fries!
This is what inspired the creation of ProCakes for me. I was on a super strict bodybuilding diet for an upcoming fitness show and the idea of eating egg whites and oatmeal just one more day was starting to depress me, so my coach suggested I get creative and combine the ingredients to make it into a pancake. I did, and I assure you, it still tasted like egg whites and oatmeal, but it inspired me to start playing with ingredients to come up with a version that would meet my nutritional requirements, but taste like a real pancake. From then on, breakfast was never boring (oh and I’d have it again as a post workout meal) and I even created a business out of it, too.
Don’t bother muscling through food you do not like. It won’t last and frankly life is too short to hate your meals. Instead, start smaller with your health and fitness goals. Baby steps will get you much further in the long run than giant leaps of unsustainable change.
Also rethink the way you approach things. Is there a way to improve a current habit or food choice without completely eliminating it? This is a practice that over time can really make significant improvements to your health and life. It worked for me!