Find Your Method
Are you someone who has methods?
When executing a task or performing a daily ritual, do you consciously create a system that allows you to perform them in the most efficient way possible?
Humans are always seeking the most efficient way to carry out a task and methods allow us to create a systematic way of approaching tasks or problems. This can be both conscious and subconscious. Conscious methods might include something like mowing the lawn: watch a teenager mow their parents lawn for the first time and it will probably look like they're trying to cut a Jackson Pollack pattern into the grass, it'll be messy, time-consuming and wildly inefficient. Come back at the end of the summer and you can bet that teenager has developed a method for mowing the lawn that is both more efficient and enjoyable for them. In fact, it would be downright strange if they didn't.
Sunconscious methods are developing all the time as well. Take a second to think about your pattern for drying off with a towel after the shower (no, don't send me any pics). This is almost certainly something you do without consciously thinking about the steps yet you've been following the same pattern for years. If you actually pause to consciously create your drying off pattern, it'll slow you down.
Engrams are units of congitive information in the brain, these are permanent changes that are a response to external stimulus. You will create these as you repeat specific tasks over and over, eventually establishing a permanent motor skill that you can execute without any conscious thought.
At this man's level of speed and precision, he is simply carrying out a learned motor skill, through a permanent engram that allows him to execute the task in a wildly efficient manner. In fact, consciously thinking about each step would likely result in him slowing down, making a mistake and cutting himself.
In the kitchen we are constantly creating methods so that tasks can be accomplished without much conscious energy. You set up your cutting board the same every time, you work left to right, you cut a head of cabbage the same way each time and you'll find that a pattern emerges. In fact, a repeated pattern creates an engram that executes like running a computer program; press Enter and the program starts running on it's own. I've found that these methods become so second nature that if you don't follow the pattern the same way once, something feels "off" like your shirt is on backwards or you forgot to lock the front door of your house. These stray patterns outside the norm are sensed and corrected so that the system feels complete again.
Admittedly, some of my favorite moments in the kitchen are watching someone set up for a brand new task. Most of the time, the sequence of actions they choose make no logical sense, it will be wildly inefficient, messy and time-consuming. This also presents an opportunity for them to develop a methodology and I love watching others create their own systems and routines.
If we bring this back to nutrition, it makes sense that having methods would work just as well here too.
I encourage clients to have set days or times they execute tasks that are necessary for success, such as:
- Same grocery shopping day(s) each week
- Same prep/cooking day(s) each week
- Same check-in time each week
- Following a set pattern for recording their food intake i.e before or after a meal
- Set gym training times
- Set morning and nightly routine
Individuals who struggle to get the above list accomplished often have no developed methods. None of these tasks have been repeated in the same condition often enough for them to feel like it has become a routine. Inevitably, these tasks are done at inopportune times and eventually not done at all. Because no time has been given to develop an efficient method, each task feels like a giant chore.
Once you've completed the same shopping and prep for weeks in a row, you have a sense of how long it will take. That allows you to factor in how much free time you have before and after for other tasks. Plus, if you never prep you'll be terrible at it and it wont't be enjoyable. Cooking is at it's core a trade, not an art. You're probably going to suck at these things at first...OK, so did I. I downright sucked at dicing onions when I first started culinary school and it took many onions before I became efficient. Now, I really enioy dicing them.
Clearly, some people aren't "method" people, I get that. Just don't expect to accomplish a huge goal if you approach it differently every time with no set routine. At the bare minimum, create a method for the tasks that help you accomplish your goals.
We come to the great debate now: what sort of nutrition method should you be following?
If you can take anything away from the above discussion on methodology, you should be following whatever allows you to accomplish your goal in an efficient and enjoyable way. It's very easy to fall into the cognitive bias trap that if something worked, it is the "way". You might as well create a religion around this type of diet zealotry (a few diets almost have, here's looking at you Crossfit). Unfortunately, this can create too many restrictions that prevent you from developing other methods and actually backfire long-term. Low-carb Paleo vegan might help you lose a few pounds but it certainly won't optimize progress in the gym. Stay open to new methods, there are always better ways to do things.
With nutrition, we're essentially trying to accomplish a few basic metrics:
- Balance calories for fat loss, maintenance or weight gain
- Eat optimal protein for recovery
- Avoiding deficiencies in vitamins, minerals or essential fats
I'd really love to include more but most of the metrics I can think of are not hard and fast rules. Fiber? Sure, but plenty of people have lost weight on keto or carnivore diets eating very little fiber. Whole foods? Again, it's ideal but certainly not a deal breaker.
Please please please let go of insulin theory, meat and heart disease, salt as the harbinger of doom, clean eating or whatever other dogma that drives you to choose a certain method. Instead, choose a method you prefer, is efficient and can accomplish the above three metrics. You might find intermittent fasting works really well for your lifestyle but remember that it's simply a methodology accomplishing the same end goal as eating six meals a day. If your goals change, your methods might need to change and that is absolutely normal and expected.
Methods should be developed around making your life easier and creating sustainability long-term. A method is not a religion, a creed or a lifestyle, it's simply a particular form of procedure for accomplishing or approaching something. You'll likely find that over time, your methods change to accommodate your life. That's cool too.
Method to your madness?
How do you go about choosing these methods so you can create a plan that works the best for you currently?
- Set your goal - fat loss, strength, sustainability, etc
- Identify areas that need addressing - shopping, prepping, cooking, weighing and measuring?
- Practice the tasks that need addressing and repeat them often enough at similar days and times that methods develop. Consciously think about ways to make them more efficient. If you go to the grocery store, walk the same path every time. If you are cooking, make sure to preheat the oven before prepping your proteins and veggies. THINK
- Find a methodology that works for your current lifestyle - fasting might be great if you hate breakfast and have busy mornings. High protein might be awesome if you have issues with satiety
Look back on your days and weeks, can you identify routines and patterns? If each and every day is a roll of the dice then you have some work to do. Routine can be boring but it also presents a framework for you to develop your own methods. Once you develop them, there is a joy in executing them. It's the in-between that can be difficult and straight up NOT FUN but that probably means your on the right track. Keep refining and optimizing until your method clicks and feels like it's become a part of your life.
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”. - Bruce Lee
Nothing screams #boss like watching someone execute a task in an efficient, fluid and graceful manner. Diet of the week sounds fun but it doesn't allow for repetition.The mundane repetition leads to a mastery.
Master basic skills, develop methods, become a boss.