NUTRITION AND VULNERABILITY:
PART OF PLAYING THE GAME MEANS LEARNING TO LOSE
I work with a variety of people on their nutrition – mostly lifters looking to achieve a specific body composition or weight class for competition, but also others that are simply wanting to lose weight for one reason or another. I think it’s important in any discussion surrounding weight loss in any form that we understand that there is always a higher emotional need attached to goals like this. Nobody simply wants to lose 20kg – what they want is to live a life that was previously off-limits to them, to know what it is to breathe better, move without pain, to truly become something that they have felt was solely relegated to the realm of dreams. It isn’t the weight loss in and of itself, because that’s really just perfunctory; rather, it’s the lifestyle that it will allow them to live and the things that it will allow them to feel. So with that in mind, it’s also fair to say that weight loss is a process that is fraught with emotion, and shrouded in a lot of defensive posturing because of that.
It’s a difficult thing for many people to admit that they need help with something that at face value seems so innate. I think it takes an incredible amount of humility to approach someone and ask them to critique your eating habits, which are some of the most deeply-seated habits and belief systems that you have. You have literally been developing these both consciously and unconsciously since birth. You’re in a position where you want to lose weight, but you may not necessarily be ready for what that really entails – challenging your value structures and your beliefs surrounding food, and how that relates to many notions of your own self worth, specifically when it comes to allowing yourself to become vulnerable
What is it to be vulnerable?
The biggest obstacles that nutrition clients I have worked with in the past have face, and ones that my future clients will also face, is the idea that they must become vulnerable in order to see progress. What precisely do I mean by this? Well, superficially we are asking people to change their physical selves, which in itself is no small feat, given how much of our identity is often tangled up in what we see in the mirror. Even if you don’t like what you’re seeing, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy to change the identity that you have built for yourself over a period of years, because this is going to take a lot of energy & friction in order to drive the growth necessary to succeed, and none of that is going to be particularly comfortable.
Vulnerability isn’t a weakness, but rather a conscious choice to embrace improvement. After all, you can choose to be invulnerable in many situations, but this will likely result in the least amount of change. Without challenge there can be no progress, without friction and heat there can be no growth, and without vulnerability and allowing yourself a space within which to admit that you need help and to forgive yourself for the mistakes that you will undoubtedly make then you will only see frustration, the root cause of which is your own fear
Mistakes Are More Than A Part of the Process
Everyone has heard the idea that making mistakes is all a part of growing, but I am willing as a coach to take that one step further. In order for you to progress, you MUST make mistakes. You must be willing to apply a process of trial and error, and my firm belief is that if you are not making mistakes then you are simply playing too defensively. With fat loss, and even weight gain, I see this all the time. People are so deathly afraid of making a mistake, and so terrified of having to place themselves in a space that requires them to admit to a mistake, dissect it and learn from it that they will often over-complicate the situation, and label their own refusal to take calculated risks as a lack of ‘sustainability’ in their diet: “Counting macros just isn’t sustainable for me”, “I can’t do this for the rest of my life”
But Here’s the Reality
You won’t have to count macros for the rest of your life. You won’t have to weigh and measure for the rest of your life if you truly don’t want to. But to get to that point of unconscious competence in navigating your own nutrition and weight loss/gain you must first admit to your unconscious INCOMPETENCE and look to this as an opportunity to develop. You must place yourself in a position of great vulnerability so that you may grow and actually start to develop lifelong habits & skills
The most common argument that comes up with this is that of sustainability, to which my counter-argument is ‘Would you ever decide to stop tracking your finance and intuitively spend?’
Immediately this idea should fill you with some level of existential dread as an adult if you’re likely older than 25. You work out budgets, you save, you pay bills, and you know that things need planning. What do you think would happen to your accounts if you just stopped paying attention? If you started flying blind? What do you think the net result would be?
Most of us immediately find that idea abhorrent because it is just complete nonsense, but how have we come to know that as truth? Because of years of making mistakes! Because of your years of social conditioning, of over spending, of overdrawing your accounts, of not being able to afford something you wanted because you just got hit with a huge bill that you weren’t expecting or didn’t budget for. Over time and with experience you started to develop what? Better financial behaviours! You started to realise that you couldn’t spend intuitively because your intuition constantly tells you to buy whatever the hell you want, to have that extra beer, to go for that pair of shoes, and to get that credit card because you deserve it and you’re pretty sure anyway that you’ve got plenty of money left. Until you check your account.
By the same token, your better financial habits actually allow you to now occasionally buy those shoes, or go out to that dinner, or get that suit/dress/whatever you desire because now you KNOW the money is in there – you have the knowledge, the experience and the habits built around it
Learning to Lose
I don’t like to depersonalise the weight loss/gain experience too much, but I think that’s an important comparison to make. We want to achieve our goals so that we can have freedom to do what we have always wanted to do with our lives; we don’t want where we currently are, or how we feel or how we speak to ourselves, to limit what we do. Yet in chasing that freedom without being willing to open ourselves up to making mistakes along the way, the very things that we wish to cast off end up becoming the very things that hold us back from achieving our goals. We need to understand that many mistakes need to be made during the process of building towards something.
If you go into a goal, especially something as emotionally driven as changing the bedrock of your self image through gaining or losing weight, but expect to only face victory for the entire process then you’re likely going to have some down days. Even more so if the ONLY reason that you are attempting it in the first place is with the expectation that you will NEVER lose, your goals will forever seem unattainable.
What does this look like in practice?
You MUST make mistakes
Never making a mistake means never trying, and this is going to require a lot of effort
Your fear of making a mistake is holding you back
You will overshoot your meals, and you will have heavy weigh ins. You will under eat, and you will have lighter weigh ins. However, you will not let this fear dictate your participation
You will need guidance
Your fears, your doubt, your reservations are all going to limit you from making an objective decision and will limit your scope for progress. You must accept help and guidance to move beyond these
Thanks everyone. A bit more ponderous than usual, but some important ideas nonetheless. I hope this helps give some of you some perspective, and especially that it allows many of you to begin being both brave and vulnerable enough to start seeing success again.