My last article looked at the body composition results that an individual can achieve from any diet, provided they had two essential features:
Effectiveness - If the individual sticks to it, results will be achieved. This requires the creation of an energy deficit whereby more energy is expended than consumed.
Adherence - The individual must stick to the diet, or else it will not deliver results. This requires the diet to be understood and implemented by the individual.
We also discussed that motivation is an important driver of adherence. The motivation to get results – whether they be body composition or success-related - is crucial for taking steps towards putting a diet in place. Without motivation, adherence will never get the chance to take place.
This week I want to talk about something different, tribes, and how they affect an individual's motivation to diet (therefore adherence and effectiveness).
Nutrition tribes are groups of people attracted to a nutritional philosophy and/or a person who leads them – let’s call them the Chief (and sometimes, Chef).
Nutrition tribes tend to be focussed around a particularly way of eating. Paleo, clean-eating, if it fits your macros (IIFYM), calorie counting, and low-fat high-carb are all examples of nutrition tribes that people are drawn towards.
Once someone is 'in this tribe', they often reject other systems. This can lead to tribes that are self-perpetuating and promote any research that supports their claims, whilst ignoring anything that goes against them.
The Paleo tribe sometimes think that all research is tainted – apparently controlled by the large cereal companies – and that it should not be regarded. This justifies their rejection of research that goes against their claims.
Likewise, the IIFYM tribe sometimes think that if it’s not research supported, it has no value. However, research can be a long way behind the practical application, and just because something has not been proven academically does not mean it is not useful.
As usual, the answer often lies somewhere in the middle. Nutrition research is often funded by organisations that will benefit from its findings, but that does not infer bias. On the other hand, there is plenty of concepts that make sense but are not yet supported by 'the literature'.
But I don’t want to argue who is right or wrong. Instead, I want to highlight the benefits of finding the right tribe for you and why that can improve your adherence to a diet.
When you find a tribe – a group of people linked by a common nutrition viewpoint – it becomes easy to immerse yourself within this community. As a by-product, nutrition adherence becomes easier because you are surrounded - albeit often online - by like-minded people.
Instead of a group who friends who tell you “eat this - don't worry about your diet” you have a group of people who support your way of eating, which makes you feel good about sticking to it. The next thing you know, adherence goes through the roof.
For myself, as a Coach helping people restructure their nutrition intake to support their goals, this is only something I have recently become aware of. I always thought that people were buying into the result and that I was the one who provided it. However, people actually buy into me and I need decipher how to deliver a result to them.
It's a subtle difference, but it makes a big impact on your approach. I need to be clear on my systems, methodologies and structures before people work with me, so I can communicate what they are getting into. That's why I publish articles, offer The Integrated Insider, and conduct a pre-consultation for any potential clients. By the time you get your first nutrition plan, you have a pretty good idea of what you are in for!
The resulting benefit is that there are no surprises - people get what they thought. And if they decided to sign up because it was right for them, they find adherence just that little bit easier.
What If You Pick The Wrong Nutrition Tribe?
Not much, as you will find out pretty quickly. The consequences are non-existent – you won’t be voted off the island or anything like that.
If you do get it wrong, you simply leave the group – wherever that may be – to never return. This could be as simple as logging of a forum, saying goodbye to a coach, or leaving a Facebook group.
No one really cares! Even though you probably spent hours trying to convert people to your way of eating, chances are they weren’t listening – it wasn’t for them – and they won’t even know you have changed.
People spend so much time researching the perfect diet - instead of implementing anything - which leads to thinking there is a huge opportunity cost of picking the wrong diet. The truth is you are getting it wrong by doing nothing.
Many people gain weight in the week before they start a diet' because they decide it is on last hurrah. If they never start that diet, these last hurrahs can quickly accumulate!
Some people need to find a tribe, as it will help them stick to a plan. Peer support and encouragement can foster adherence, which leads to good outcomes for effective nutrition strategies.
There are thousands of tribes out there. Every Coach/Blogger/Instagram Model/Trainer/Chef/etc is a Chief of their own tribe. If you like what they say, there’s every chance that you will be motivated to adhere to it and if the system is effective, you will get results.
Most systems are effective, but even the best systems are not adhered to, because they attract the wrong people. Look for a system that you are attracted to, not that is thrust in front of you.