Nicole Monier photo 2022

Nicole Monier, a local nutrition and diet coach, internationally renowned chef and founder of The Mystical Kitchen, says setting dieting goals can be good, but unless you’re willing to give yourself a break, the effort is usually doomed from the start.

It’s a new year, and close to two weeks into 2022 many are still likely gung-ho about their New Year’s resolutions.

“I’m going to start a new diet,” or “I’m going to start working out,” are common resolutions one hears, but Nicole Monier, a local nutrition and diet coach, internationally renowned chef and founder of The Mystical Kitchen, says these goals are usually doomed from the start.

“That’s not practical or realistic, but we all have a tendency to want to do that, and by the end of the month or week three, you’re kind of burned out,” Monier said. “There are other ways to approach this.”

Monier learned this from experience — her own and that of her many clients.

There’s a lot to eating, a lot more than simple sustenance. For many, it’s an economics question. For others, it’s about taste. Some eat for comfort, to partake in fellowship or to recall fond memories. Some may need to eat specific things for their health.

It took Monier and her family quite a while to figure out — in bits and pieces — that she suffered from celiac disease, which causes the body to react negatively to gluten. She simply suffered the effects of the disease with no idea how to fix it until a friend helped identify her illness. She cut out wheat, which caused a drastic improvement in her quality of life, but it wasn’t until her 40s that Monier learned exactly what she needed to avoid in her diet. Even then, it took a while to adjust to her new dietary needs, she said.

“I want to help people maybe get there sooner and go in the right direction,” Monier said.

One of the things she wants to help people with is the notion that food and dieting can be reduced to a simple “calories in, calories out” equation. One of, if not the, single most important factor is what you can put up with.

“It has a lot to do with what people talk about as ‘mindset,’” Monier said. “If you’re really craving fried chicken, then I think there’s room for that in a healthy diet. I’m not saying you eat that all the time, but you make room for that and you enjoy it.”

“Enjoy it” being the principal goal. People tend to have a tense relationship with food, she explained. While someone who’s trying to diet might enjoy fried chicken while eating it, he or she will likely feel ashamed of having broken their diet immediately afterward. Rather than put oneself through that, Monier believes everyone needs to admit they need a break every once in a while.

She’s also something of a collector of proverbs. To hammer this point home, she’d quote famed author Oscar Wilde, who said “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Some may immediately take to a diet. Some won’t, she continued. Some may try going vegan for a variety of great reasons but fail to stick to it simply because they don’t enjoy the food.

Some may try to find healthier alternatives, and for some, it may be an exercise in futility.

“There’s nothing wrong with making things healthier,” Monier said. “You can bake chicken and make it crispy, but it’s not the same thing as fried chicken. When you’re craving fried chicken, there’s nothing like it.

“My philosophy is, please enjoy whatever it is, be with the people you love, dig in and enjoy that fried chicken. And then maybe tomorrow add something green and make sure you eat something green every day for a month and see what you think.”

If going in all-or-nothing on a rigid diet doesn’t work, there’s nothing wrong with shopping around. Say you like a few dishes from your vegan diet. Keep those in your cookbook, and should you try another diet plan, like the Keto diet, you’ve got a few healthy dishes in your repertoire if you get tired of those tastes.

A good rule of thumb Monier would recommend here is one coined by author Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Developing such healthy eating habits can be an overnight thing, but for many of Monier’s clients, it wasn’t. Working oneself into a healthy diet by degrees still gets the job done, she said.

“I think people should look at it like that, there’s not a quick fix, a pill or a diet that’s going to magically make you healthy,” she said. “It’s everyday choices you make.”

Eventually, those unhealthy meals that made you feel better, but then ashamed will become rare delicacies to treasure. This is where Monier would drop another quote, this one sometimes incorrectly attributed to former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt.

“‘Do what you can with what you got where you are,’” Monier said. “But he didn’t say it. It was in his autobiography. He was quoting someone named Squire Bill Widener, a pastor from Virginia. He’d heard him speak, and he thought it was a great way to live.”

Of course, the end goal is to improve one’s health. There’s no better time than now to start, something Monier’s grandmother had a saying about.

“She used to say ‘You either pay the farmer or you pay the doctor,’ and that stuck with me,” she said. “We live in an agriculture area and have access to all this great food, vegetables and meats and all this food.”

For more information on Monier, visit themysticalkitchen.com. For information and a free consultation, call her at 210-381-9335.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced her to take a crash course in doing things virtually, but she’s also got an office in the Wellness Center on Main Street on St. Simons Island.

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