New year, new me.
New year, no meat.
New year, #projectbestbody, #projectcarnivalbody, #fitnessgoals #eathealthy #mealplans #eatgoodlivegood.
Does this look familiar? Have you searched these hashtags on Instagram or asked Google how to eat better? Maybe you've decided to give up carbs because the internet told you to? And gluten is bad, right?
You aren't alone. There is a special type of magic that surfaces at the end of every year that makes people collectively focus on regrets while renewing hope about future choices. With self-care being the current wellness trend, a key element of showing your body some love is ensuring that your diet is compatible with the goals, you want to achieve.
Business Day spoke to Tracey Pierre, a sports and exercise nutrition consultant who collaborates with personal trainers and fitness professionals through her company 90 Degree Nutrition.
Since 2016, Pierre has spent her time in the industry designing diets and creating lifestyle adjustments to improve the nutritional habits of her clients.
Acknowledging that hiring a nutrition consultant can be viewed as a luxury rather than a basic need, Pierre says fitness and nutrition are symbiotic for good health. Changing the way you eat can be challenging, and choosing to make that change amid the food-heavy Christmas and Carnival seasons requires unimaginable willpower for many people. Pierre provided some guidance on what is required to make some key changes.
Let’s start with a little honesty
A plethora of information on dieting and healthy eating can be found with a simple Google search. You’ve probably already searched, but if you haven’t Google will provide you with about 4.7 billion results. Pierre says diets found online may not be suitable for everyone’s goals or body type. Most people, she said, come to her with a vague goal. They want to lose 25 pounds or they want to lose 40 pounds. While the number changes, the aim is generally similar. Lose weight. At this point, Pierre usually begins with a body composition assessment to determine fat from lean muscle mass, as it isn’t just about the number on a scale. Next comes the honesty. What are you putting into your body? Pierre says it is important to, at least for the assessment period, complete a food diary to look at consumption habits.
“What this does is highlight deficiencies and understand eating habits so that we can factor this when setting goals.”
She also processes the information through the context of food psychology, which looks at the relationship between food choices and well-being.
The honesty theme carries through to the meal-planning stage.
“We have to be realistic. Some people can go cold turkey off of unhealthy food choices but others may want to lessen their intake of certain foods. If you drink three sodas per day, maybe start by having just one.”
Being honest also means acknowledging lifestyle and cultural factors that may create challenges to your new healthy lifestyle so that you can find a way to seamlessly incorporate it into your schedule. For example, is it sustainable for a working mother to create separate “healthy” meals for her meal plan then still cook for her children separately? No. A nutrition consultant can present the least disruptive ways for these lifestyle changes.
Small, specific steps are key
Planning healthy meal options for an entire week can seem overwhelming. Focussing on the choices you make today, or even in the next hour makes goals seem more attainable. Pierre says feeling guilty about love for fast food isn’t something she encourages.
“I have an ‘eat this not that system’ where we can replace certain foods and review our plans to look at how things are working.
“There are some definite foods that just are not good but for the most part it is client-dependent and lifestyle-dependent,” Pierre said.
“People think your diet change has to be 180, where you go from eating total garbage to an organic eating guru. Most times you just need to turn a little corner, make a small change.”
Not all food fads are for you
“I don't ever give my personal opinion on a diet choice, but you cannot tell me your favourite food is steak but you want to be a vegan next week,” Pierre said.
While making a nutrition choice based on research is to be encouraged, she said it is important to note that diet trends do not work the same for everyone, no matter how strictly the rules are followed.
“Nothing affects people the same way except oxygen. For example, a low carb diet. Somebody who works out in the morning, their carb intake would be less detrimental than someone who would be sedentary. There are many other factors to look at.”
Pierre’s advice for a healthier you looks more at understanding who you are, what influences your habits and what your specific needs are before making big changes.
If you are considering hiring a nutrition consultant, their fees can range from about $400 upwards depending on the number of weeks the plan is based on. Business Day contacted a few nutritionists to ask about cost and found the range to be around $800 to $2,400 for six to nine-week packages.
It’s definitely an investment into your future self and optimising what your body can do in the present. If food is the best medicine, it might be in your best interest to understand the side effects of all that you eat.
BONUS TIP: Don’t be salty
Pierre says to stay away from all that salt. Looking at you Caribbean people.
“The salt content in our food is extremely high and it is something people don’t like to think about because it’s part of seasoning the food. We have a high rate of hypertension in this country though.”
According to a study published in the West Indian Medical Journal in 2017, the prevalence of hypertension in the Caribbean affects 21 per cent of adults in TT and places a large economic burden on public health. Pierre says, in general, people do not understand how much salt they consume and need to take note of it.