(An Article Written by Marcus Filly)
Why it is such a psychological battle for people to avoid jumping ahead and skipping steps? I'll give my top 3 reasons why you might be tempted to skip foundations below - as well as how to reframe your thinking to get all the health and body composition gains that foundational practices can bring you. As a quick reminder of these 3 phases of nourishment, here is the summary:
Phase 1 - Quality and Food Hygiene - There is no such thing as good or bad food - but there are foods you can eat a lot of and get closer to your goals, and foods you can't eat very often and still realize your goals. Great foundations mean understanding good quality food - as well as cooking, chewing thoroughly, and setting up your body for satiety and optimal digestive health.
Phase 2 - Quantity and Macros - Do you know how to figure out how much YOU are supposed to be eating in order to gain, lose, or maintain your weight? What do those online calculators actually tell us once we have gone through the process of inputting our age, gender, height, weight, activity level, and in some cases body fat percentage? And once you know how many calories you are "supposed" to be eating, then how do you determine where those calories should come from? What percentages should you get from protein, fat, and carbohydrates?
Phase 3 - Questions and Refinement - Have you been considering going keto? Do you wonder what a Carb Cycling diet would do to your physique? What about Intermittent Fasting? Would you do better if you removed a certain type of food or increased the amount of another type of food? And finally, the most asked question ever, what supplements should you take to level up your game?
I've long had a philosophy that if the world is pulling most people in one direction, it is my calling to help pull them back towards something that resembles balance and sustainability. This has guided many of the core philosophies I've coached over the years, and when it comes to the nourishment it is no different. In modern nutrition, supplements seem to dominate the market. Next on the list are macro plans and coaches telling people how MUCH to eat over WHAT or HOW to eat. When Quantity and Supplements are pulling everyone's attention, then my goal is to bring some added light to the QUALITY and HYGIENE topics. Moreover, in my experience of coaching when clients fail, it is more often than not because they lack the Phase 1 Foundational knowledge to succeed and overcome the obstacles that we all face at some point. People don't fail because the supplements stopped working. They also don't fail because thermodynamics (calories in vs calories out) as a concept is flawed. They will fail to the level of their foundations. They will fail back to where their knowledge of quality and good food hygiene is. I'm not alone in this thinking by any means. In fact, the top educational and certifying body for nutritional coaching, Precision Nutrition, believes this so deeply that they approach their coaching and education platform in a similar hierarchy. It begs the question as to why people continue to chase the Numbers and Phase 3 questions so quickly despite this long-standing theme of short term success and long term failure with this approach. This is where a deeper understanding of the psychology behind all of this comes into play. Why Do We Want to Skip Phase One So Badly? Here are my 3 top reasons why the industry continues to perpetuate this cycle of nutritional approach short term success and then long term return to baseline: 1. You have NEVER done Phase 1 correctly. If we all did Phase 1 properly in the first place, we would see just how profoundly powerful those principles are and how most clients' goals could be met with just this layer of education. There have been a few times in my life when I had profound realizations of the power what living the foundational principles of lifestyle and nourishment really can do to our bodies. When I was 23 years old I had the good fortune of spending 7 days on a very remote island that had very little electricity. This meant that every single day, I:
Woke up with the sunrise and went to bed at sunset
Only locally grown vegetables and wild fish
Was in NO hurry to do anything and ate every meal slowly with my journal next to me looking out over a calm blue ocean
Walked the perimeter of the island 2x a day at a low level effort for a total of about 2.5 hours of continuous walking.
Did daily movement sessions that lasted 20-30mins and were moderate intensity level
Got sun every single day, and during peak sun exposure I make sure to get into the direct light and swim in the water
What happened in those 7 days was one of the most profound body and mind transformations of my life. My energy went through the roof. My body got LEAN. My heart was at peace. My digestion was optimized. I was 3 months away from matriculating to medical school and this experience gave me insight into what true health could look like. I literally started to think about setting up a wellness camp where we did this with individuals who were sick and need to transform. In our fast-paced western cultures it is very difficult to replicate these conditions - if not impossible. Getting very committed to practicing great food quality and great food hygiene is something that takes work and is hard. And when you truly commit to it and dedicate several years to learning more and more about how to always choose the best quality option and practice the best hygiene principles no matter what your circumstance, then you start to appreciate the true power of this. You can literally transform your body, mind, and health with PHASE 1. 2. FOUNDATIONS ≠ EASY. So why haven't people ever done Phase 1 Correctly? Phase 1 is often referred to as the FOUNDATIONS of nutrition - and unfortunately, the word foundation is oftentimes confused with easy. Because these are foundational steps, they can often be viewed as lower order and less difficult to master. You take a first stab at it, start eating broccoli instead of cereal, and think you have mastered this and are ready to move on. However, these fundamentals are quite the contrary of easy, and people don't give them the credit they are due. The truth is that building a great set of foundations can take years. In our modern world, anything that takes a long time will immediately become more challenging than something that is short term in nature. We are a society that demands immediate gratification. Why would I commit to a process of learning something over the years when I can follow a Calorie Deficit Diet for 30 days and see results? The terrible truth here is that those 30 day results will be gone for most faster than they can down their next bag of Doritos, and they will be back to square one. Our brains are programmed to take the easy way. It is part of our evolutionary biology. The challenge is that elevating our nourishment for the long haul requires us to do the hard thing and learn new approaches that take time to embed in our systems. 3. THIS IS NOT A SET IT AND FORGET IT CONCEPT. Setting up foundations in lifestyle and nutrition is unlike building a concrete structure that will hold a tall building for centuries. Our lifestyle and nourishment foundations require maintenance and remodeling from time to time. Buildings hardly ever fall over and expose their foundations to the world. But our nourishment cycles, our short and medium-term goals all come to an end on a regular basis. For many people, these goals tumble and fall over and every single time expose our nourishment foundations. In these times we have the potential to remodel and strengthen them or let them erode and send us slipping into bad habits. In much the same way that I preach coming back to your movement foundations every so often (ie RNT Split Squats, Goblet Squats, Banded Good Mornings) I also believe we need to periodically strengthen our nutritional foundations. In a given year I will repeatedly come back to my foundations of quality and hygiene and self-correct where things have gone off course. It may be a feeling, it may be a change in my energy, it might even be a few pounds of inflammation only I can see in my mid section, but something cues me that there is a little crack in my foundation. At those points, I will come back and revisit what I'm doing from a fundamental perspective. This might be a brief qualitative check on my key points of performance, or it may be a massive overhaul like I did last year when I did a GUT HEALTH PROTOCOL to heal and seal my insides. What I find most people do, in the event that their body signals something is off with their nutrition, is that they go directly to their numbers and or ask about supplements or a new trending diet approach. The jump right to Phase 2 or Phase 3 and while they might find temporary relief, they will ultimately be right back where they just were. If you are ready to make a seismic shift in how you approach your nourishment, then perhaps it is time that you accept that this can't be done with a quick supplement fix or a quick numbers guide to your macros. Hire a Coach and learn how to blend your nourishment and training in an optimal way for you!