It was two years ago that I first met with Malachi. His dad (his biggest advocate) set up our initial session in hopes of nutrition coaching for health and weight management for BOTH he and Malachi – they were in it together.
It’s hard to make lifestyle changes at any age, but I would argue that the teenage years might be the toughest. Malachi had already had his share of attempts at losing weight, and I knew that at 14 years old, emphasizing the CAN’Ts (you can’t have this, and you can’t have that) was not going to be effective. I don’t like that approach for anyone.
Malachi had goals to feel better, be stronger and help support his love for skiing with better nutrition. In order to dig a little deeper, I encouraged him to write down answers to these questions:
• Where are you right now?
• What would you like to be different?
• How DO you feel and how would you LIKE to feel?
• What would it mean to make these changes?”
It wasn’t important that I saw the answers, but it was important that Malachi be true to himself when thinking through these questions.
We took away the “diet” mentality for Malachi and instead focused on how certain foods could help him work toward his goals. We emphasized real, whole foods over processed foods and looked at all the great options of foods he really liked that fit within the framework we were putting together.
Tips and tricks that kept it simple:
- “Make the best choice you can with the options you have in front of you.”
- “Increase the natural color on your plate!” (We used visuals of meals with natural color and took away the emphasis on calories or macronutrient counting.)
- “There are no forbidden foods, but there are foods that will best nourish you physically and mentally.”
- “Be “present” and “intentional” with your food choices.”
- And we kept it very practical: I had Malachi come up with meal ideas the he knew he could put together himself and bring with him to school and training. “I CAN do (this)…”
It was hard to get a feel for Malachi’s interest at first, but the win for me was receiving these pictures from his dad after they got home from the grocery store following our first session. It was Malachi’s idea to restock right away with the foods we had talked about!
I also received a picture of one of the lunches Malachi put together to take to school shortly after our first meeting. Love this!
Generally speaking, our society wants quick fixes, but for a behavior change to last, patience is key. About five months into working with Malachi, his dad sent an email saying, “There is a whole new level of awareness that is happening which makes for better choices.” Yes! This was fantastic to hear. Rather than me handing Malachi a “diet” plan, it was his involvement and OWNERSHIP in his own choices that was leading to change. It came from within.
Now at 16 years old, Malachi looks like a different person. He’s gained confidence and has the tools to guide his choices. As a slope style skier, Malachi’s main focus right now is on “developing new park tricks and getting bigger air.”
Here’s what Malachi had to share:
Shannon: What’s been the biggest change you have made with your food, or lifestyle choices?
Malachi: The biggest change has been cutting out sugar.
S: What motivated you to make a change?
M: I wanted to be stronger, faster and leaner.
S: What keeps you motivated?
M: The results that I have seen keep me motivated to stay on this track.
S: What’s been the best part of changing the foods you choose to eat?
M: Being extremely selective in what I put into my body.
S: How do you feel now?
M: I feel great, healthy, happy and strong.
S: What do your friends think about how you eat? Do they notice anything different? Is there pressure to eat a certain way around your friends?
M: My friends haven’t really said anything to me. Most of my friends are healthy and into the same things I am.
S: Where does your support come from?
M: My support comes from my dad. Ensuring I go to CrossFit :)
S: How do you think other teens could benefit from seeing your example?
M: They could benefit from knowing that it is possible to change your body and if I could do it, they could do it.
S: What your favorite meal these days?
S: Anything else you want to share?
M: That I will forever be active in my life.
Our kids are up against a lot when it comes to the food they are surrounded by today. And yet, their growing bodies are so vulnerable to poor nutrition. It is up to us to help educate, support and encourage healthy habits in our youth in hopes that someday their motivation will come from within. Malachi’s transformation should be motivation to all of us, and the teamwork built between Malachi and his dad shows the importance of supportive roles.
Malachi’s dad has told me multiple times that Malachi helps to keep him on track as well!
Please share this post if you know someone who may benefit from Malachi’s story.