Ask a Health Coach: Why Willpower Doesn’t Work, Primal-Inspired Workouts, and What to Eat for Breakfast
Hi folks, in this edition of Ask a Health Coach, Erin discusses why fasting might feel harder right now, why you need more than just a good workout plan, and what to eat when you’re sick of having eggs for breakfast every day. Keep your questions coming in the MDA Facebook Group or in the comments below.
Being home all day has been a real test to my willpower. Fasting is harder and I’m hungry all the time. Any tips for navigating this “new normal?” – Stephanie
I’m with you Stephanie. A lot of things feel out of our control right now and with so much uncertainty, just rolling with it might be your best bet for the next few weeks. Does that mean saying “screw it!” and scarfing down a few donuts every morning? Or grazing on chips and cookies throughout the day? No. But it does mean acknowledging your new routine, your new struggles, the fact that you’re under more stress than usual, and of course, the reality that you’re surrounded by food 24/7.
Usually when my clients talk about willpower, I find that they’re white-knuckling it through their day. Flat out resisting the temptation to eat with no strategies other than trying not to think about food. By definition, willpower is simply ignoring hunger. You’re choosing not to eat when your body is begging you to feed it!
Stress Triggers Sugar Cravings
Hunger is a biological survival mechanism triggered by our cells and driven by our brains. When you’re eating food, you’re feeding your cells. And when you’re resisting or restricting it, you’re starving your cells. Also keep in mind that extra stress puts you into fight-or-flight mode, making those donuts, muffins, leftover Easter candies look extra good. Your cells are craving sugar! And when you give in, you start the vicious cycle of sugar high, followed by sugar crash, followed by feeling hungry, hangry, and craving everything in sight.
Sure, you might just be bored or procrastinating on a looming deadline, but if you’re genuinely hungry, put a sheet of bacon in the oven, fry up a few eggs with butter, and sit down to a meal. Actually sit down — don’t check emails, do chores, or stand in front of the fridge with the door wide open. And when it comes to intermittent fasting, no one’s going to come knocking on your door and tell you you’re doing it wrong. There’s no fasting police. It doesn’t make you a bad person if you usually fast for 20 hours and now you’re fasting for 12. As a matter of fact, there’s research that proves that fasting for as few as 10 hours has solid benefits.
Finally, if you are working from home, make sure your setup isn’t at the kitchen table. I know a lot of people have limited space, but having a designated place to work that doesn’t involve you smelling your family members’ lunches or putting you at arm’s reach from the fridge will serve you well.
I’ve been following Mark’s Daily Apple for 6 months, but I still have 30 pounds to lose. What’s the best workout for someone on a Primal diet? -Gerald
I love that you have a specific goal, Gerald. Determining your end point is so important for long-term success. It could be losing 30 pounds like you mentioned, or improving the way your joints feel, or being able to chase your kids around the yard without stopping to catch your breath.
Honestly, there are tons of workouts out there. Free ones too. In fact, I just Googled “workout plans for Primal diet” and came up with this, this, and this in about 1.5 seconds. But it’s not just about picking a plan and following it. If it were that easy, everyone would do it.
Identify your Obstacles and Make a Plan to Get Past Them
Wellness is a journey. One that requires navigating obstacles and determining the path of least resistance. So, before you dive into your first set of squats, take some time to think about what barriers might stand in your way. Do you have the right exercise equipment at home to complete your workouts? Do you have the support of your family? Have you carved out time and space to exercise? You need to get real about what your obstacles are, so you can devise a plan to get past them and reach your goal. If you need a hand with this step, online health coaches and personal trainers can be a great resource.
A plan is just a plan. It’s two-dimensional. And things always come up. That’s why it’s crucial to have a strategy for all the ups, downs, and unexpected in-betweens that come with your individual journey.
I’m tired of eating eggs for breakfast every day. Got recommendations for changing things up? – Jeanine
You were probably in a nutrition rut before you started the eggs-for-breakfast routine. Let me guess: a light yogurt and banana before work, sandwich for lunch, instant oatmeal packets, cans of soup, take out… Somehow you got yourself out of that rut and into another one.
Listen, everyone likes the things they’re familiar with, and most people don’t like change. It’s a human truth. You were familiar with eggs. You liked them. You started making them every day. And now you’re completely sick of them. Totally understandable.
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
I’m in the business of getting people out of their comfort zones, but I don’t do meal plans or recipes, simply because they’re too fussy. If I say, “how about venison patties and chopped up veggies” and you don’t happen to like those, what good does it do?” As a health coach, I supply my clients with a comprehensive list of supportive foods they should be eating. I provide the education, but I expect them to go out into the world and figure out what that looks like for them, so they don’t need me to tell them specifically what to eat at every meal.
Like I’m sure you are, I’m a big fan of protein-rich breakfasts since they’re known to keep you feeling satiated throughout the day. Remember that breakfast doesn’t have to look like a typical breakfast though. There are lots of great protein sources out there — everything from bone broth, beef, and bison to salmon, sardines, and sausage, just to name a few.
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