In a recent podcast Dr. Andy Galpin along with comedian commentator turned master of the digital airwaves Joe Rogan, discussed a wide range of topics about fitness and nutrition. During the course of the discussion, Galpin touched on an interesting metaphor for effective practice in prescribing nutritional protocols for the athletes with whom he consults. He discussed two approaches to nutritional planning, those of the chef and the baker. If you have been struggling to establish a consistent approach to your eating it may not be a question of your discipline, but rather an improper choice in approach that is to blame.
As anyone who has tried their hand in the kitchen knows, cooking and baking are vastly different disciplines. Even the images conjured by each culinary pursuit very greatly; the baker surrounded by measuring devices and carefully set timers, dutifully distributing ingredients in teaspoons and quarter cups and, while the chef spins about a kitchen filled with sizzling pans atop open flame adding a touch of spice here, a dash of oil to this dish.
The baker is precise, measured and calculated; the chef instead approaches his craft with an intuitive feel. As Galpin explains, the bakers of the dieting world need exact quantities and meal times to adhere to their protocol, while chefs achieve their goals with more general guidelines from which they can form their own system. In discussing these two approaches it is not a question of which is better, but rather which is better for you. Are you a chef or are you a baker?
Baking is an exact science, guided by precise measurement. Bakers are planners. A baker keeps a meticulous food log, most likely through an app like MyFitnessPal. Macronutrients are weighed and measured exactly and meal preparation is a weekly ritual. Protein is measured in grams and ounces, not palm sized portions. Food choices are precise not just recommendations.
Bakers thrive off discipline and hold themselves accountable to a plan. Bakers crave order and structure and most likely use to-do lists to help navigate productivity in the rest of their lives. To bakers, the careful measuring and weighing of food and recording of meals is not a chore, but rather a time honored daily ritual. Specific meal plans work well for Bakers. For bakers, discipline ensures accountability.
Cooking is an art, guided by an intuitive feel. Chef’s feel constrained by exact plans and thrive with more general guidelines under which they can devise their own systems. Just as a chef in the kitchen relishes the opportunity to add a pinch of spice or a dash of secret ingredient, the dietary chef benefits most from the flexibility to improvise. Chefs are most likely to find success when their plan is more a series of general guidelines such as macronutrient proportions rather than a strict meal-by-meal plan. Chef’s are more likely to succeed with macronutrient based diets under which the have the freedom to devise their own meals. Concrete dietary plans may overwhelm chefs and leave them frustrated and unsuccessful in their goal of healthy eating.
Which are you?
In the nutritional world there are benefits to the approaches of both the baker and the chef. If you are newer to this whole healthy eating thing then the baker’s approach to exact weighing and measuring might be best for you as this will provide an accurate understanding of portion size and the disciplined meal recording helps with accountability. Over time an understanding of nutritional principles learned in the baker’s apprenticeship can transition into the chef’s approach.
For some newbies though, the baker’s approach is overwhelming from the start and these individuals may benefit more from the room to experiment and the less time consuming practice that does not require measuring every gram. Ultimately the best approach is the approach that works best for you. You are your own experiment, give each approach a try over a few months and see which works best for you. Even those with years of experience in healthy eating can benefit from going back to their baker roots to reinforce good habits and reevaluate best practices.
Link to Joe Rogan episode with DR. Andy Galpin: