Paleo, Zone, Keto, South Beach diet, vegetarian, vegan, macro counting? Which one is the best? What should I do?
It can all be so confusing, right?
And the answer is not straight forward, as different ways of eating can affect different people in different ways, not to mention we all have different needs and goals and priorities.
So what gives? What’s the point in even talking about nutrition at all then?
Well, just because there’s no silver bullet solution, and just because there isn’t one thing you can tell someone to change their life, that doesn’t mean there isn’t good advice out there.
In light of this, long-time OPEX CCP Coaches Carl Hardwick and Georgia Smith opened up about the best nutrition advice—and principles to consider—they have received that has made a big difference in their lives.
What do you mean quantity is more important than quality? Aren’t I supposed to focus on eating clean foods all the time?
Well, yes. Sort of. Hardwick and Smith aren’t suggesting you go down a rabbit hole of cramming ice cream and gummy bears into your diet so that they fit your macros, but both coaches explained that they found it freeing to focus more on quantity rather than quality.
“It almost took a lot of stress away from the idea that quality and quantity have to be 100 percent perfect,” Hardwick explained.
And for Smith, it allowed her to stop labeling food as good or bad and stop feeling like, “I can never have ice cream because it’s not clean…There was actually a lot of freedom in it,” she said, adding that focusing on quantity first is also generally an easier place to start with a new client than focusing on quality first.
“It’s not just about eating sweet potatoes and chicken and avocados and broccoli,” Smith added.
Ultimately, however, it’s about finding a balance, meaning a place where you’re taking care of not just your physical health, but also your mental health, Hardwick and Smith explained, adding that, when they learned to balance the two, they were able to make the body composition and performance changes they wanted.
Yes, you read that right. Hardwick and Smith are also big believers that from a health perspective, micronutrients matter just as much as macronutrients.
While calories in, calories out does hold merit, the quality of the foods you eat can also affect your hormones and metabolism, which will in turn affect that energy balance.
So which matters more—quality or quantity? Hardwick suggests that it is beneficial to experience focusing on each for a period of time, so you can settle into finding the right balance of how much and what your body needs.
As the saying goes, the hardest part is getting started.
This means that people often shy away from starting to make changes, because it feels hard, overwhelming, intimidating etc. But like lifting a heavy deadlift, for most of us, if we can just get it to our knees it gets a whole lot easier to stand up with it.
Smith explained the same is true of making nutritional changes: If you can just get started, it’ll get easier and more natural, as once something becomes a habit, it becomes automatic and easy: like brushing your teeth. Six Pieces of Nutrition Advice that Will Make a Real Difference to Your and Your Clients
And consider this: Brushing your teeth wasn’t always easy. If you’re a parent, you might remember that getting your kids to brush their teeth every day was a constant battle for a time. Until it wasn’t.
Smith put it this way: “That initial road bump to implementing a nutrition habit can make it feel like this is never going to be easy. This is always going to be hard. I’m never going to be able to do this. And that can be incredibly overwhelming…but the beauty of habit change is, as you start implementing this thing (it gets easier).”
She gave the example of someone deciding to give up dessert after dinner. That first week is “going to feel brutal,” she said. But if you stick with it, it gets easier, she insisted.
“As those weeks tick on…it’s just going to be a thing you do,” she said.
Hardwick added: “It’s not nutrition that’s hard…it’s building or breaking habits that’s the hard part. Behavior change is actually challenging until you get a lot of reps in on that new behavior, but then it does get easier.”
What do you mean? What about calories in, calories out? Doesn’t working out give me the license to eat pizza and beer?
For sure, exercise burns calories and definitely helps your metabolism, but “there’s so much more to it” than that, Smith explained.
“I think it’s all about having perspective and not getting so lost in this equals that, while still understanding that this does kind of equal that,” Hardwick explained.
Food for thought: If you exercise seven days a week and pay no attention to your diet, you probably won’t be your healthiest self, and not just when it comes to body composition, but also when it comes to things like healthy skin and healthy hair. Further, using an apple watch to calculate how many calories you have burned in a day to decide how much you can eat for dinner “is just not accurate,” Smith said.
Beyond just this, keeping exercise and nutrition so connected can lead to less healthy relationships, not just with nutrition, but also with exercise, Smith explained.
“I just don’t like seeing people over exercise to make up for what they did the night before…has one bad meal ever been the reason someone put on 10 pounds? No, but there are certainly people that go out and then feel like they have to work out for two hours the next day to make up for it, and develop a really unhealthy relationship, not only with nutrition but also with exercise and the reason they’re exercising.”
She added: “So try to separate those two things, but also recognize that they go together.”
Not everyone loves cooking, but just like getting started with change, if you start doing more home cooking, it gets easier.
“There’s nothing better than a home-cooked meal to bring people together and make you appreciate the foods you’re eating,” Smith said.
The problem is, oftentimes people overcomplicate home cooking, “and they have to reinvent the wheel” every night, but that’s not the case if you just learn about balancing flavors and basic techniques for cooking simple food well, Smith explained.
In this sense, a little education about cooking simple ingredients and making them flavorful will make home cooking more accessible, less intimidating, less time-consuming, more enjoyable, and, best of all, healthier.
One book Smith recommended: Cooking at Home by David Chang
What works for one person doesn’t work for someone else, so the best prescription is to figure out what works for you or for any given client. And then, don’t overcomplicate and overwhelm yourself or your clients, Hardwick explained.
“Keep it really, really simple,” he said.
For Hardwick, this means being more concerned with quantity than quality, paying attention to what his body is telling him, and not spending a ton of time in the kitchen preparing meals.
“I don’t really like to have to plan things around food…my personal highest order of nutrition is to not have to think about it,” Hardwick explained.
“Whatever we had for dinner, that’s what we have for lunch the next day…This gives me the ability to eat the way I want to eat without taking away from my day,” he added.
For Smith, on the other hand, she’s a “prepper,” loves cooking, and spends more time in the kitchen than Hardwick.
“It’s always preferable for me to make really simple food on a Sunday that I can have for lunches for the rest of the week…and cook the things I really love on a Friday and Saturday,” she said.
The bottom line: Take the time to experiment to figure out a simple, sustainable routine that works for you.
Nutrition is just one factor in a holistic fitness program that must be paired with healthy lifestyle practices and an exercise program tailored to each client's specific goal, whether that’s to lose weight, gain muscle, or improve capacity.
That’s why the OPEX Method takes a comprehensive approach to fitness, ensuring all of these factors work together. This means you can provide your clients with the complete fitness programs they need to reach their goals.
Sign up for our Free Coaching Course and learn the systems you need to design personalized exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle programs for any client.