She was encouraging and optimistic during our first meeting. Not at all what I expected knowing that Alia, my new nutrition coach, had reviewed a week’s worth of my food diary in preparation for our first session. “You’re a pretty healthy eater,” Alia explained as she reviewed my log. “You should feel good about that.”
Alia is unique. She’s a Naturopathic Doctor, a skilled nutritionist, and a medical chef who’s passionate about helping people to use food as medicine. More importantly, she’s gentle and loving in her approach. Alia believes in slow, steady changes implemented with kindness rather than a big stick.
Have you ever gone to the dentist and felt like a proud little kid when you were told you had a cavity-free mouth? That’s how I felt hearing Alia’s initial assessment of my food diary. Like so many of us, I’ve spent years beating myself up about my eating habits. Too much sugar. Too little protein. Not enough vegetables. Oversized portions. I’ve ruminated about it all and I was convinced I needed a firm hand and a swift kick in the butt to get my food act together.
Turns out I was doing something right and Alia’s recognition of that helped me to feel more relaxed and hopeful as we began our work together. She had a different plan in mind. Rather than focusing exclusively on weight loss, we would enter into a week-by-week process that would teach me how to feed myself well.
Weight loss would be a by-product of good self-care.
Every body is different, which is why a one-size-fits-all diet usually fails over time. Please keep that in mind as I share a snapshot of my journey. With Alia’s guidance, we agreed that I would focus on eating approximately 1200 calories a day and make small adjustments over time.
I started in February and the hardest thing I had to do was train myself to focus on good nutrition rather than lowering the numbers on the scale. To help, I told myself, you’re getting a Ph.D. in feeding yourself well.
Each week I’d meet with Alia by phone, review my food/exercise log, talk about my progress (or lack thereof), and then she’d make a simple shift in my behavior. Here’s a bit of how Alia guided me on the journey during the first two months:
Week one: Alia had me add protein to my daily meals. This was probably one of the most important changes for me – I wasn’t eating enough. Adding protein to my diet helped me to feel satiated, to stop snacking between meals, and to regulate my blood sugar so I wasn’t craving sweets and carbs.
Week two: Keep up the good work – just stay the course. (A nice surprise!)
Week three: Move more of your carbohydrate intake to earlier in the day when your body will burn through them quickly. (Notice she didn’t say stop eating carbs)
Week four: Keep up the good work – continue to stay the course.
Week five: Track your water intake – be sure to drink 75oz a day (I weighed 153 when I started so I needed to drink half my body weight in ounces).
Week six: Do your best to eat your last meal earlier than 7pm. Don’t shoot for perfection, Alia told me, just try to finish eating anything before 7pm. To help with this change I drank tea after dinner, sometimes with a little homemade almond milk. Eventually I stopped eating after 6pm most days.
Week seven: Keep up the good work.
Week eight: Change up how you move your body – add a little more weight training and include a bike ride or a hike in place of a walk.
And on it went. Most weeks I lost between half a pound and 2 pounds, and sometimes I gained weight. When the scale did move in the wrong direction, we talked about focusing on “precision” rather than perfection. For some reason, that distinction was helpful. By the third month, I was getting better at staying on track, using the support of Everett’s Internal Family Systems work when I bumped up against a part of me that was resisting the change.
It’s been six months and I continue to work with Alia to ensure that I put these new behaviors firmly in place. I’ve lost, on average, three and a half pounds a month, and while I would have balked at that idea in the beginning, I now see it as a testament to slow, sustainable weight loss.
And a gift that comes from learning to feed myself well…
You can read more about Alia and her work here.