That Nutrition Thing

What came first? The chicken or the egg ?

I think it’s like asking in the health and fitness world, what came first?

The knowledge  your body needed movement and exercise for better health? Or that you needed to eat better and make intelligent food choices for better health ?

We all arrive in different ways. If you are gonna get out there and kick your butt in some hard physical activities , do you really wanna come back in and feed it garbage ?

Oh, in the beginning it might be like that. “I worked out today! I deserve this!” as the cheeseburger and fries go down… or the fancy sugary coffee drink or whatever your poison is. There’s a sense of entitlement.

It might take awhile, or not so long, for the shift to occur. To realize if you’re doing this hard work you don’t want to undermine your efforts. You start looking at things in a different light.

If your physical activities are really hard and demanding it doesn’t take long to understand that what you put in you IS fuel and you need a) enough fuel and b) the right kind of fuel to sustain your activity level.

Last year I picked up a sports nutrition book for endurance athletes to read and teach myself more of what I needed to do. Training for that 50K I knew I needed to really eat…. intentionally.

Let’s just say, there were a lot of days I wasn’t eating enough for what I was physically doing. It takes planning and forethought to consume foods to not only support your daily living and activities but also your purposeful exercise.

I’m learning. I’ve learned a lot and don’t think I’ve arrived at getting it right. It’s a constant work in progress.

Anyway on my journey of the foods I eat, salad has always been a standard for me. Not as a “diet” food. Not because I “had to”… I’m a weirdo… I just enjoy them.

Before I became somewhat knowledgeable of foods and nutritional content one of the food groups I enjoyed in my salad was…… Ranch… yes, Ranch dressing.

It is a food group, isn’t it ? ūüėČ

Then I started getting smarter and realized I was killing and totally negating any positive effects of salad by the dressing on it. Now I was horrible about it, not like some salads I’ve seen where the lettuce is buried under a sea of white dressing, almost no longer visible….

Over time, I slowly weaned myself away from it. Oh, I have it occasionally ( I like it with my salad and pizza ūüėČ but this is rare for me.

Let me say this. I often eat salads. Most days of the week they are my lunch staple, because I really, honesty, enjoy them. And, you can seriously get all your daily servings of veggies in with it….. double win.

My salads are not just the standard lettuce, tomato, cucumber kind of salads. I throw all kinds of colorful veggies in, sometimes a fruit of some type, some nuts, seeds or other crunch along with some protein.¬†I’ve learned to use spinach as my “lettuce”. It’s a creative venture for me each time ūüėõ

Seriously, spinach is like a powerhouse of amazing, good for your nutrient rich stuff for almost zero calories. You wanna eat that stuff. Our store has been carrying locally grown and it’s spoiling me!

So I learned, if you add enough texture and variety of tastes and flavors to your salads, dressings are only needed in very minimal amounts.

But, as mentioned, when you are on a health and fitness journey, you do begin to look critically at how and what you eat to support and sustain those goals.

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A sample of a lunch salad…lots of fresh spinach!

One of the main “suggestions” I offer to people who are wanting to lose weight, is to keep a record of what you eat for about a week, and really consider all the little “extras” you might consume but don’t consider empty calories piling into your days.

Things like an over abundance of salad dressing, mayo, and other creamy sauces and the like really do add up. When you can see from your food journal what your consumption of certain items are, you can then begin to examine what you don’t need or could eliminate to help you on your journey to shed weight and get healthier.

Small steps can lead to big, long term changes!

That Stupid Scale

20150311_170859-1Let’s face it…. truth time…..

In our lives we’ve all had relationships with scales… and it’s usually a love/hate relationship.

THE SCALE – our judge, jury, condemner, slammer of our self-esteem and worth. The “thing” that has the ability to take our good, happy day and turn it to crap based on what numbers dial up like a slot machine in Vegas. Those numbers can make us feel like a million bucks or a huge failure.

If the numbers are “good” we allow it to stroke our self-esteem… like our personal value is hinging on those numbers.¬† If we determine they are “bad” then it can single handedly take us down, making us feel instantly bad about ourselves. Might as well paint a big loser symbol on our chest and send us out into the world.

Let’s establish this right now… you are not “just” a set of numbers… ok ?? There is far more to you than a set of numbers.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The scale does have a value, but it’s a tool, and there are times we need to use that tool, but use it wisely.

When I started my fitness journey, I needed to lose weight, and my weekly weigh in’s were important to my progress.

Did you note the key word here?¬† Weekly.¬† Not many times in a week, a day,¬†or several times a day, weekly… once.

I won’t lie. I was in the same boat.

Some weeks,  I loved the damn thing. Other weeks, I had to resist throwing it out the window. I understood for my progress to be successful it needed to be slow and steady, which it was. Some weeks there was more, some less, but it was forward movement.

You know what that scale didn’t tell me ? What it doesn’t tell you?

How awesome you are no matter your size, even as you are seeking to be less of you. It doesn’t take away that amazing feeling you have finishing a workout. Before I’d lost any weight worth mentioning, I mentally felt great after coming in from my walks (that’s where I started in the beginning before, the sickness started, you know, the sickness that is making me run a¬† 50K ūüėČ

The scale also doesn’t show all the cool stuff that is going on INSIDE you. It doesn’t show your lab tests improving, your heart and lung health getting stronger, your¬†resting heart rate getting lower¬†(and a whole lot of other scientific stuff)¬† or the way you think of yourself, your growing confidence and stronger self-esteem, or the way those workouts help you feel less stressed.

Nor does it show how empowered you are becoming with each workout and positive step forward.

No. It won’t show you any of that.

Being a certain number doesn’t make you “healthy”…. nor does striving to just be “thin”….. it can make¬†you skinny fat which basically means you have more body fat percentage than lean muscle mass. Ah, the benefits of building lean muscle mass… another topic to be pursued….

The goal shouldn’t be to get “thin”.¬† Oh, years ago when I was starting to lose weight that WAS my mentality.

“I just want to be thin and fit in size 10 jeans again!” at that point that’s all I knew….all I wanted. ¬†Make the scale say less… life would be good.

I didn’t realize it could be so much better than just a quest to be “thin” and trying to achieve some perceived number of “perfection.”

But then…. things happened along the way. Yeah, I was losing fat. But other cool stuff was happening too.

Losing fat let my muscles start showing up. Lifting weights wasn’t just giving me some muscles but making me stronger for ALL¬† of my daily living. I went from cute 5lb weights to the 35lb I currently use.

Running was shaping me in crazy ways. My legs are not only¬†wildly strong but have awesome muscles. I can’t tell you the times total strangers stop me to comment my legs. My abs leaned out. ¬†Actually I can’t tell you a single area that running hasn’t improved on me.

I got faster. I could lift more. I tackled projects in life without needing someone “stronger” to help me.

I got mentally stronger….tougher. ¬†My confidence grew. I was empowered and didn’t (¬†and don’t) ¬†consider that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do.

Oh wait…… hold on ……. do you see my numbers at work here ? Defining me¬†? ¬†No, I don’t either.

You see now days I’m more concerned about what my body can do, and how it can perform doing the things I ask of it, rather than if my numbers are bouncing around on any given day. Today I can’t think of a better compliment than when someone tells me I look strong.

I honestly get on a scale maybe twice a year and it’s at the doctors office. Total freedom.

You see the scale was a “tool” to get me moving. I used it for it’s purpose. It allowed me to see my efforts of eating better and moving more were having results.

Today, all my clothes¬† are single digit sizes. Remember me mentioning all I wanted was to get back into my size 10’s? I never thought a day would come they’d be two sizes to big. As long as my clothes fit well, I don’t concern myself over numbers hopping around on any given day.

I mean, why ?¬† Don’t we have enough in our days to trouble us ? Enough negative to potentially bring us down? Do we need to give something like …a scale… that kind of power ??

Ok….¬†the take away for you my lovely 1.5 readers….

The scale is a tool. Use it as one ( wisely) on your weight loss journey.

It is not your moral judgment.

If you are at the weight you desire to be, how your clothes fit should be a good indicator of your weight, however, if you check in with it, once every week or two is probably enough.

Remember, you are not defined by a number! It’s doesn’t give you value or take away your value.

Focus on all the cool things that make you feel strong, empowered, and confident.

Celebrate your body and what it can do. There’s only one of you in all your awesomeness.

Most of all, love yourself, on the journey to your destination =)

No, I’m Not Eating My Emotions

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Food. I like that stuff.

Now days, my food choices are vastly different than those pictured above.

I’ll freely admit that I’ve had to get it in it’s proper perspective over the last few years. Growing up food was the “thing” that you celebrated with, gathered on Sundays for, had extra helpings of, and most importantly, you always, always cleaned your plate. It didn’t really matter you weren’t hungry anymore…¬† just ignore your bodies natural signals of being full and clean your plate.

Happy, sad, angry, depressed, bored, restless, frustrated, holidays, bad weather, stressed, whatever……. all opportunities to eat.

My grandmother and mom were great cooks, and it needs to be mentioned, bakers too. I freely admit to being a baked good snob and can often pass on¬†¬†store bought goodies and cake mix cakes and bagged cookies. I mean, no offense, but when you’ve had a made from scratch 3 layer German Chocolate cake, anything else is simply an imposter.

They ruined me.

I mean, not totally, ’cause I’m a pretty good baker myself and can make cakes that grown men offer marriage ūüėČ and my sons friends immediately sought to raid my cookie jar because ( according to them) I was the “only” mom who baked real cookies haha

So yeah, food, it was a big deal…. used on many levels¬†in a completely improper way. ¬†I hadn’t come to the knowledge (yet) ¬†that food was to primarily be fuel for my body.¬† Not a sporting event.

As I got older, I realized that my family definitely was a family of “emotional eaters”. My grandmother was very over weight as was my mom.¬† Actually, if I’m being honest with you, they were considered obese. My brother struggled with his weight most of his life. I had steadily gained weight for a few years when I finally got the kick in the butt to make some changes before I might too have to deal with health issues that plagued my mom, grandmother and brother.¬† I had watched my family use food for comfort and a¬†distraction from boredom¬†for years but was fortunate to have my eyes opened to that.

I often referred to it as mindless eating.

It might look like this: constant grazing while cooking, continuing to eat and pick food from bowls after the meal was long over (and large seconds had been had) eating during the clean up process, basically just consuming food without any thought of what was being done…. or an awareness you’re eating when you aren’t even hungry.

I knew I needed to make myself intentionally mindful of this process to avoid the downfall of a lifetime of emotional eating.

It wasn’t easy. I became aware of the weak part of my days/nights where I’d look for food and not be hungry or¬†when I thought about grabbing something ’cause I might feel stressed, angry, or bored.

Over the past few years I’ll say I think I’m pretty on top of it now…. and I’m very conscious when I let myself do it.

I remember one night after a rather stressful day my husband walked into the kitchen… I had a bag of BBQ chips out on the counter (for the record… I LOVE BBQ chips… but I’m pretty sure they have crack in them) and I was standing there just munching them down… I looked at him and said….

“I want you to know that I’m fully aware I’m totally emotionally eating right now”

I was being kinda silly about it but I was serious too. I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t need to eat them.

It’s a huge step to identify things in your life that are a stumbling block to your health and fitness goals. Once you know your triggers you can make those slow steady changes to freedom.

To break free you must first:

Be real with yourself. Stop making excuses for eating what you don’t need.

Call it what it is… emotional, mindless eating. An unnecessary and unhealthy habit.

Remove yourself from temptation. And that means…get outta the kitchen.

When it was evening and I had eaten and wasn’t hungry, I just brushed my teeth. I knew I wouldn’t get anything after going through that process.

Write down times you feel most vulnerable, or things that drive you to eat when you aren’t truly hungry. Doing this for a week or two will show you patterns that you can then use as a defense strategy.

You love your family… but look at ways you may be influenced to participate in doing this just because it’s always “what you’ve known”. You can still be a part of the fam without engaging in this ūüėČ

Finally, be kind to yourself as you move through this. Awareness is the first huge step to success. Press on and use each day to move forward to freedom =)

Pills, Shakes, and Other Magic Potions

I’m a pretty passionate person and that passion usually carries over into a lot of things I do… what I believe… ideas I support and embrace.

It’s no wonder then I feel passionate about wanting people to be successful on their health and fitness journeys, and¬† especially in the area of weight loss. I know half the battle is getting your mind on board and determining you’re gonna take those small baby steps to get it off.

When I began my journey I felt like this:

I want to be thin…now. I want the fat to go away…. tomorrow…. now… make it happen. Skinny jeans be on.

It’s unfortunate we live in an instant gratification society. We’re used to¬†having things instantly. No waiting.

The reality is…. losing weight and keeping it off….. isn’t an overnight process. You didn’t put it on in 2-4 weeks it won’t come off like that either. I know it takes dedicated, consistent effort for it to be long lasting and sustainable.

That is how I encourage people to approach weight loss.

Sane. Balanced. Livable. Sustainable.

It allows the mind and body to work together doing what needs to be done.

Now saying that, here’s where my passion really spill over.

The plethora of products out there promising fast, quick, easy, weight loss in a matter of weeks. The modern day snake charmers.

I can’t tell you the times I’ve challenged down one current trending product with their hype of Lose 15 lbs in 21 days!!”

Now I’ll freely admit to not being a great math wizard in school… but I can tell you what they’re promoting is a loss of 5 lbs per week, given 21 days equals 3 weeks. I’ve had them come back and say “it depends on person” yet all the advertising continues to be boldly proclaimed that this will be the results you get.

Not. Realistic. Is there a show of hands that would agree to that ?

Not to mention I think you’d eat the diet of a gerbil to actually, really, lose that in such a short time. Yet, all I’m told is that there is more food than you can eat each day. Somehow that doesn’t all balance to me.

Then there’s the trendy pink drink, and the drink your meals plan ( honestly am I crazy for wanting to eat real food and not drink it?) I like to eat food……

Never mind… there are wayyyyy to many to talk about and I’m not interested in offering free advertising anyway….

People are desperate. They are willing to take their hard earned money and drop… a lot of it…. on these products.

All I can think is… why not go buy real food with that and get out and go power walking?

The diet industry is a mega business to put it mildly. There are so many things out there today promising to be the magic genie in the bottle for weight loss but if you want to be successful and keep some of¬† your money it comes down to this…. are you ready?

You have to expend on a daily basis more calories than you take in and create¬†a deficit …. consistently doing that…will lead to weight loss.

Revolutionary, right? Maybe I’m on to something ūüėČ

So, yeah, I am passionate about this. I want people to be successful on their journey and STAY on their journeys, not give up and go back to old ways when the “diet” ends…. or their money runs out.

Changes have to be made. New habits formed. Goals set and reset. Forward progress. Every day.

My suggestions? take it one day at a time, use your money to buy good food, and celebrate each victory and before you know it you’ll reach your goal =) and then,¬†you can use that money to buy smaller clothes ūüėČ

I Don’t Do Diets

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Hey boys and girls =)

How is life treating you today? It’s been (the usual) busy day for me and I’m catching a few moments to type out this post.

I see my title, and find myself ironically amused that I’m camped in Starbucks drinking coffee and nibbling M&M’s while I write this.

Haha…. blogging in a coffee shop. Have I arrived yet? ¬†ūüėČ

The diet thing…. or as I think of it… the diet trap….. that often has no end in sight. Let me tell you, I have had my experience with “diets” over the years and what I remember most¬†about them¬†is counting down the days till it ended, much like someone waiting to finish their prison time.

Is it coincidental the first three letters of the word spell….. D…I…E ?

I’ve certainly been on a few that left me feeling so hungry I thought I might.¬†¬† Worse yet, diets were often deprivation of the worst kind. You might as well have had a Scarlet Letter on your chest at family get togethers as you dutifully nibbled celery sticks and drank water enviously watching everyone else eating “the good stuff”. And having to watch them eat chocolate cake…while you had none… or worse yet you had some and then felt like a failure for doing so, or had the usual questions leveled at you…

“But aren’t you…. on a diet ??”

You counted off the weeks till things got back to “normal” again.¬† Food was the only thing you thought about.¬†You were on the scale every single day looking for validation from the damn thing.

Oh let’s not forget when you made the decision that “tomorrow was the day”.¬† You got rid of the stuff you loved by eating it all the night before and prepared to never see it again.

You stocked up on celery. You pondered if you’d ever¬† get to really experience chocolate in the rest of¬†your lifetime.

Then one day I changed the game up.

I realized after one diet venture, that food, has a lot of power. It speaks to us in many ways.

It feeds our bodies and our emotions. It often comforts us. But it can be a mean task master too, controlling and manipulating you to lose sight of your goals of good health and carrying a comfortable body weight.¬† I realized if I removed the power from food and quit playing “good food/bad food” games, and taking away everything I loved, and told myself it was there if I wanted it, that maybe I’d get the upper hand.

I decided to try my theory. I told myself nothing was off limit.

My goals were simple: begin to make overall better food choices each and every day. Eat enough to satisfy my hunger but not over eat. If I really, really¬† wanted ( fill in the blank here) I’d allow myself to have a little. Note, not go on a binge, just enough to satisfy the craving.

I remember about a month into my experiment the fam went out to get burgers. Did I order a salad and stare longingly at their fries ? No…. I had my own. And I just moved right on with my goals in sight. I didn’t have the attitude I ate fries I might as well throw the towel in. Oh, I certainly wasn’t perfect. There were days I felt like were a total bomb. I just picked up and kept moving forward.

Every single day.

Let me tell you….. there¬† was complete and total freedom of feeling…… in control…. of my food choices. I hadn’t gone off the wagon with my “nothing is off limits” approach.

Time marched on. There were holidays. Family birthdays. Events. And I enjoyed each one. I learned to sample. I learned to be very selective and eat only what I truly enjoyed and that it didn’t take lots of food to manage my hunger. I paid attention to my natural body signals and started obeying them.

I learned there was freedom in saying “no”¬†¬†to things.

And something crazy started happening…… I was losing weight! How could that be? No suffering? No doing without good foods I loved ? Yet somehow, steadily, week by¬† week I was diminishing.

I’ll tell you what I’ve learned these¬†past few years:

I¬† now WANT to eat “healthy” foods. I often have salads simply because I love them. I love veggies and don’t think of them as something I have to eat. I actually crave that stuff.

The more I ventured into running the more aware I became that food is “fuel” for my body to perform and that it was important what I put into it. Endurance running has definitely made me understand the necessity of it.

So yeah….. I don’t “do” diets… and neither should you.¬† Embrace life. Trust you are smart enough to make good choices for yourself and you will lose weight.

Slow and steady, the way you should, while you live life.

Oh and those M&M’s I mentioned in the beginning?

I didn’t even eat them all…

Tell me your success stories…. or¬†the diet traps you escaped from…. in the comments section =)