The Single Most Important Nutritional Strategy

Diary

Please forgive the clickbait-y title. It's important to stress that when it comes to getting your nutrition just right for your goals, there is no magic bullet. However, for a lot of people, this simple strategy is arguably the most useful thing they could be doing.

The picture above has no doubt already let you know that it's not a magic fat-loss food, it's not a miracle supplement or something about the timing of meals.

It's keeping a food diary.

Again...apologies if that's a bit underwhelming. 

Starting out as a PT over five years back, I made many mistakes in trying to help clients improve their nutritional habits. I would pile on way too much information and give too many guidelines and rules. I would encourage approaches that weren't realistic or sustainable. As a result, their results didn't come as quickly as they should have.

These days, when someone comes to my personal training studio in Blackrock, I give each client maybe a week or two to settle in (depending on how busy they are and how much headspace they have) and only then do we begin the process of nutritional coaching.

Although food diaries aren't a magic bullet, this is the first and most useful thing that any client of mine will ever do.

Here's a few observations that I've made over the years.

Establishing why you are where you are is crucial.

The insight a food diary that has been properly filled in can bring is incredible. It can shed light on eating habits that have gone unchecked for years. These unchecked habits can lead to weight gain, deficiencies, digestive troubles that become accepted as normal, huge dips and peaks in energy levels, and many other things.

With the data collected, spotting potential causes and patterns and making simple, powerful changes that client and coach agree on is much easier.

Very simple changes can really stack up to great results.

Just the act of tracking food intake gets results.

I've found that clients often know exactly what they need to be eating to get their desired result, they just aren't doing it for whatever reason. Simply tracking food intake and eating more mindfully seems to help people lose weight, and lose significantly more than those who don't track their food.

This is almost more an exercise in mindfulness than anything else - keeping track of what you're eating doesn't need to mean meticulous calorie counting. A food diary helps people become more mindful of what they are eating and more mindful eating will help with better food choices; foods lower in calories and more nutritionally valuable.

It's a realistic first step to eating better.

Some more advanced clients actually request calorie and macronutrient targets (here's a website that can work things like that out for you if you're curious). However, this can be time consuming and tedious and often unnecessary for most people I coach. Too much information at once is often unhelpful, making the most meticulously crafted diet plan that takes into account every calorie and gram of protein completely useless.  

Food diary records can make it easy to get a ballpark estimate of calorie intake if they are accurate. This data makes it easy to quickly establish why someone is where they are without the overwhelm of calorie and macronutrient targets.

There's a ton of reading on the subject of food diaries, here's a few of the best ones I've found: