| | Intentional Eating – The Key to Mastering Nutrition

Author / Ben Skutnik

5 - 8 minute read

Born from a blog written by Power Athlete CEO John Welbourn, the Power Athlete Diet is arguably the simplest diet to follow in today’s training space. Eat with abandon: meat, fowl, fish, seafood, eggs, vegetables, roots, tubers, bulbs, herbs and spices, as well as animal fats, olives, avocados, coconut and dairy. Limit: nuts, seeds, fruits. Avoid: cereal grains. The most complicated component of the diet is figuring out if your body can tolerate dairy. Just drink a glass of whole milk and wait 30 minutes; you’ll find out if your body can handle it or not pretty easily.

Don’t Be Weird

What John forgot to add in there is this overarching assumption that we operate under, not only nutritionally, but more holistically as we approach life: “Don’t be weird”. What that means is, don’t be that guy at a kid’s birthday party who pulls out a travel container full of sweet potato, while everyone else is eating cake. If someone offers to buy you a beer, drink the beer (or cider, whatever). This concept spawned from seeing the pendulum of nutrition swing too far the other way in the training realm. Fitness happened, and all of the sudden people were only drinking tequila with lime juice and having sweet potatoes as their sole source of carbs. Worse yet, you had 210 lbs men eating 16 “blocks” worth of food a day because it was what “fit” people did. I know because I was one of them, and you were too (don’t lie).

Stress to Progress

But “don’t be weird” is a tough concept for some to grasp. I, too, know this because it was hard for me. It’s the all or nothing phenomena: if I’m going to have A slice of pizza, I might as well eat the entire thing. You don’t just eat a couple spoonfuls of ice cream, it’s the whole pint or nothing at all. I used to disguise it as a “cheat meal”, but that meant my only strategy to avoid “cheating” was to rid my entire kitchen of all things “bad”.

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But, what happens when you remove stress? You stagnate. You don’t improve. You simply check the box until that stress presents itself. How strong can you get without adding weight to the bar? Not very strong. So removing all temptation from your kitchen will not actually help push you towards a healthier lifestyle. But, you might be worried that you won’t be able to control yourself. And that’s okay. The first step towards progress is a simple (though not always easy) one.

Check Yourself

If you are someone who is struggling with compulsive eating, or regularly stuff yourself until you are painfully full, the strategy to overcome that is a simple one: check-in. Whether it’s during a meal, or before you actually start eating, simply checking in with the decision you’re about to make will give you the necessary control over your actions that are needed for LONG TERM success. Make a conscious decision about whatever it is you’re about to take down. Be intentional with the choices you make. The key to a healthy lifestyle is not a magical split of your macros, it’s being able to stay in control of what you are eating. “How hungry am I?”, “Am I still hungry?”, “Will this help me reach my goal?” You may feel silly talking to yourself, but until you’ve built up healthy habits (which start with control), it’s a necessary step.

Exceptions to DBW

Just as with every rule, there are exceptions. If someone has a bum shoulder, you don’t force them to squat on a straight bar;instead, you find modifications that work for them. If someone has something limiting their ability to control their diet, you modify it. If you have been clinically diagnosed with some sort of metabolic disorder, or have a true addiction to food, then you are going to have to tighten things up a bit more. Just as alcoholics completely avoid alcohol, you may NEED to completely avoid certain foods. But, because our society is one that bases almost EVERY social gathering around eating, these strategies may need to come in effect at some point. If you’re an athlete that competes in a weight-class dependent sport, I would argue that you still shouldn’t rid your life of all the temptation. Instead, add a question to the list: “Will this help me perform better?”

Battle Buddy

Everyone needs help. Everybody. Over time you will build independence, sure. But without accountability, even with the best intentions, complacency will slowly creep in. This is why PAHQ regularly “challenges” each other. While John and The Crew usually put some level of shame on the tail end of the challenge, that isn’t necessary. But having someone there to help you stay focused when you start letting “Don’t Be Weird” become your norm is necessary. There is a fine line between “Don’t Be Weird” and eating like an asshole and sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective to make you realize that.

Bottom Line

Dialing in your nutrition is tough, and it only gets tougher as you get older. But, blaming your poor nutrition on habits that you built when you were a child is neither adaptive or growth-centered. You don’t have to be an asshole to yourself about your slip-ups, but you do need to take measures of gaining control. It starts with intent. It starts with being present in the decisions you make. And then, after enough reps, you’ll get the outcome you want. As long you can see that you’re trending in the right direction when you zoom out, you’re doing alright. And if you need help, drop the ego and reach out. Whether that’s having us plan your weekly menu, coach you through macro strategies for each day of the week, or simply hopping on a call to talk about some issues you’re facing, we are here to empower you in all facets of performance.


COACHING: Nutrition Coaching with Ben Skutnik
BLOG: Eating for Two with Abandon – Part 1 by Ben Skutnik
BLOG: Just Tell Me What to Eat by John Welbourn
PODCAST: Power Athlete Radio Episode 286 with Stan Efferding
BLOG: Mindfulness in the Kitchen by Ben Skutnik

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Ben Skutnik

Ben grew up a football player who found his way into a swimming pool. Swimming for four years, culminating in All-American status, at a Division III level, Ben grew to appreciate the effects that various training styles had on performance and decided to pursue the field of Exercise Physiology. After receiving his M.S. from Kansas State University in 2013, Ben moved on to Indiana University - Bloomington to pursue a PhD in Human Performance. While in Bloomington, he spent some time on deck coaching swimming at the club level, successfully coaching several swimmers to the National and Olympic Trials meets. He also served as the primary strength and condition coach for some of the post-graduate Olympians that swam at Indiana University.

Currently, Ben is finishing his PhD while serving a clinical faculty member at the University of Louisville, molding the minds that will be the future of strength and conditioning coaches. He also helps support the Olympic Sports side of the Strength and Conditioning Department there as a sports scientist.


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