As the New Year really gets underway, we're going to talk a bit more about nutrition. Starting Strength's beloved Robert Santana and others have talked a lot about focusing on habits when it comes to nutrition and body composition, and I think that's the right emphasis. When we just change a diet, it's too easy to change back...or drift into something else.
But when we change a habit, we begin to change our relationship to eating and to food. That's a far more powerful approach. Think about it: when you started strength training, you probably learned some new exercises and started a new program, sure. But more importantly, you changed your habits and your relationship to exercise, fitness, and your body. You stopped exercising and started training.
You weren't doing something anymore. You were becoming something, by engaging in a powerful new set of habits with specific goals and implications for life both inside and outside the gym.
Nutrition is linked to the training lifestyle, and it changes us too, in all sorts of ways, when we focus on habits instead of particular foods. This is why all those internet ads ("Doctors say never....no wait...always eat this one food!") are so freakin' dumb. It's as if we told you the key to fitness was in this one weird trick you must do everyday. You know better now.
Getting rid of old bad habits is important, but I think it's better, especially at first, to focus on starting new good habits.
And the first habit I want to talk about in 2019 is this: Track Your Nutritional Intake, Macronutrients, and Weight.
This is elementary. As an Athlete of Aging, you are engaged in a lifelong biological engineering project, a permanent physiology experiment. You're going to get nowhere without data. You have to know where you're at, even before you can really get an idea of where you're going, at least in the short and medium term. You think you're overweight or underweight because you eat too much or not enough. Okay, let's say that's a given. How overweight? How much exactly do you overeat? If you don't know the basic dimensions of the problem, you'll never get a handle on it.
So before you go Atkins or Paleo or Okinawan or Keto, and before you decide you need more kiwis or you have to eliminate cheese from your life...calm yourself.
Get some data.
Don't change anything else. Just--oh, for heaven's sake, I'm actually going to say it myself:
Just do this one weird trick: Track your intake and your weight.
Find an online nutritional tracker or app. There's a ton of them. I recommend MyFitnessPal, especially for Greysteel gym members. Track your intake religiously for the next 2-3 weeks--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Keep a little notebook as well, and be particularly diligent about recording when you know you were bad: when and where did you eat that pizza? Banana split? Chili cheese fries? Why? What was going on in your life? Who were you with? And so on.
But don't change your diet. Observe the system as it is before you perturb it. Find out where things are at first. You're not forming hypotheses without data, not making a plan without knowing the lay of the land. As for your weight, dust off the old scale and take your weight at the same time of day on the same day of the week, every week, preferably naked...for those of you who ever actually get naked.
If you never get naked, try to wear the same toga whenever you weigh yourself.
And do not weigh yourself every day. That just gets obsessive and weird. Once a week, same day, same time, and fasted.
Preferably nekkid. If you never get nekkid...well, maybe we can introduce that habit later. Carefully. With some sort of linear progression or novice program. Baby steps. You know.
And that's it. The first habit: Gather data. Monitor what goes into your body and when, and what the current state of your body composition is. With that data in hand, and the habits of tracking and regular weigh-ins established, you'll be ready to incorporate the next habit into the Masters Athlete lifestyle.
This material originally appeared in the Greysteel Newsletter, which is a non-commercial weekly newsletter with articles, updates, gym rules and useful info for our gym members. The newsletter is strictly informational and we do not market to subscribers. You can subscribe to our newsletter HERE.