Author Archives: fitwithadele

How to transition eating from diet to lifestyle

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Have you tried a diet before? I have. Quite a few actually.

Low carb for maybe 3 days. I was miserable and hungry and instantly knew it was ridiculous.

A detox. Made it only a day. Same result, same feelings.

The Slim Fast diet. Actually made it 2 weeks on this one, mostly because I did like the chocolate shakes.  I freaked out one night and wondered what I would eat ongoing if I didn’t buy the shakes. Again realized it was ridiculous.

The Clean Eating diet. This one seemed rather innocent actually, like most whole food meal plans. I was eating quality amounts of foods, often throughout the day. My hunger felt in control and my energy good enough. Then I realized I was scared to use ketchup, eat dessert other than my Sunday night treat meal, and was in pure agony trying to make food decisions at social gathering and at dinners away from home.

I know diets don’t work long term. Our country is screaming loud and clear that diets don’t work by  our health epidemic and food obsession and search for the one plan that will actually work. I have chats with friends and clients who know diets don’t work and then the next week I see their Whole30 post on Instagram. Sigh.

Diets don’t work long term but we try to do them anyways.

Here is the thing. It doesn’t really matter what anyone else says. If you feel a diet can help control your eating, benefit your health, or improve your life in some way, you are going to try it and experience it for yourself until you make up your mind. Which is fine. No judgements because everyone is entitled to their own experience.

Here is where I can help.

Today’s post is going to cover how to transition yourself off a diet so you can actually apply what you learned from it (because you probably did learn something even if it was that it didn’t work), continue to get results, and trust yourself around food without a meal plan, without a food list.

I am not a doctor. I am not a registered dietician.  I am not here to diagnose anything or tell you what to eat, in what amounts, at what times.

I am here to share concepts and tools that can benefit you by relinquishing the need to be on a diet, on a meal plan, in control all the time.

The ideal end results? A lifestyle that is less obsessed around food, dieting, and quick fixes, a mindset that is in for the long haul, and a body that follows.

Here are 3 “food for thought” insights to help get you outta the diet mindset and into a lifelong way of eating, chocolate and wine included.

Food matters, habits matter more.

It matters that you eat quality foods in appropriate portions but this advice alone will not help you long term. It matters, but habits matter more.

Habits are not bad but they are tricky.They somehow emerge without your permission and develop without your knowledge.

Habits can be good because once they become automatic they require you to think less. The brain likes effortless. The key is to adopt habits that serve your life, your goals and desires.

Snacking at night is a habit. Even though you may not want to be doing it, it feels very easy for the brain and will take a lot of effort to break.

Playing with your dog or kids before bed instead of snacking is also a habit. It too can feel effortless and resisting that fridge will not feel quite so draining.

When you think of habits you want to change, think of ways you can improve them first. Be better before strict. You do not have to resort to changing everything.

If you constantly forget to eat breakfast could you just start by grabbing a yogurt on your way out the door instead of trying to make a full breakfast?

If night time snacking is your enemy could you allow yourself to have a banana and peanut butter or an egg and 1 piece of toast or something along those lines that feels satisfying?

It may seem like a lot but if you are going to snack your way until bedtime these 200 extra calories will be a huge improvement.

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Expose yourself to the food you fear.

Diets always have rules. There are always restrictions. There are always tools that keep us tracking something. Eat this, not that. Eat only 40% of calories from carbs. Count your calories and don’t go over. Count your calories to match your activity level.

I don’t think tracking is bad but I don’t think it is something that most can fit effortlessly into their lifestyle, or would want to fit into their lifestyle. In any sense this can become an obsession. There was a time when people didn’t think quite as much about what they ate and were much healthier and happier.

So instead of analyzing what you should and shouldn’t eat all the time, I challenge you to this.

Expose yourself to the food you fear. Are you scared that you will eat the entire pizza instead of just 2 slices? Are you unable to keep ice cream in the house because it will only last a day? Do you eat all the chips and salsa before your dinner arrives?

Chips and salsa use to be my kryptonite and I use to eat them all! I would get so upset with myself that I banned chips and salsa from my life not allowing myself to have even 1.

One day at a Mexican restaurant I wondered in my head if I was really going to never eat chips and salsa again and how depressing that felt based on my simple fear of no control. So I allowed myself a 3 chip rule, and whenever exposed would allow myself 3 chips but not a single one more. I did this for years. Now I can happily be presented with them and not only control  myself but not count either.

I eat knowing that a few will satisfy me and leave me feeling good physically (no bloating and being stuffed) and good emotionally ( not regret, guilt, or self shaming).

Give it a try. A piece of chocolate a day. A glass of wine mid week when you think you should only save a bottle for the weekend. Your favorite snack that you always go overboard on.

Set an initial number to follow and then see how it plays out over time. You may overindulge the first few times but don’t give up. Keep practicing until that food no longer has control over you.

Delay gratification.

The term delay discounting is a term and concept I learned from one of my favorite books on self control, The Willpower Instinct, by Kelly McGonigal, which states that the longer you have to wait for a reward (in this case food) the less it means to you.

Future food rewards don’t seem to mean as much to us humans as having the food right this very moment. Neuroscientists have actually studied this concept and when we put a delay on food our brain treats it like a future reward not immediate gratification. To put it simply it means less to us.

You can implement this starting this very moment. Whether it is avoiding donuts in the office or you are headed to the fridge after dinner: try waiting 10 minutes before you eat what you want.

Create some distance and remove yourself from the kitchen, the office, or cover up that candy jar calling your name. Once your 10 minutes are up stop trying to resist and see if you still want what is calling your name.

Or could you perhaps delay that another 20 minutes? Or all day?

Sometimes you may choose to indulge and that is ok but sometimes you may realize that your desires were more about having something instantly than having anything at all.

 

Listen, I get the temptations with diets. They fill us with hope. It feels like this time will be different. This will be the time when all your food struggles dissipate and you can finally have the food freedom and body you are seeking. You can envision the person you want to be come and set yourself up with very high expectations.

Committing to a diet makes us feel good before anything is even done and is often the most rewarding part of the process. I truly believe they can teach us what works or doesn’t work for our bodies but only you can learn through your experience.

If you do use a diet just to get motivated, have some control and direction remember the following:

Habits matter more than food rules and lists. Focus on habit change as much as you focus on eating healthier otherwise your old pattern will show up down the road guaranteed.

Exposure yourself to the food you fear so you are not spending your life in a constant battle with it. It’s fine to resist bread for a week but are you really going to avoid it forever?

Delay your desired food to test yourself to see if you really want it. This is a great tip you can apply anywhere.

As always would love to hear your thoughts. If you like these insights and want more, I share them each week in my FREE weekly health and fitness newsletter which you can sign up for here.

 

 

Will crunches and sit ups help reduce belly fat postpartum?

 

Just like the diet world jumping around with the idea that carbs are good or bad for you, the postpartum world has been in debate about whether or not sit ups and crunches are a contributor to pelvic floor dysfunction and may worsen conditions like diastasis.

Bottom line. Just like with dieting, there is no one perfect solution for every single person. Some body may be able to handle crunches and sit ups better and others may not.

The confusion lies when woman want to work on their core by using crunches and sit-ups in hopes to return their tummy to how it looked before baby or use it at a tool to flatten the belly.

Spot training will actually not flatten the tummy or reduce belly fat to any noticeable degree. This comes from a combination of a full body workout, dialed in nutrition, managing sleep and stress.

These are all several factors that are very difficult for many moms to spend time and energy on especially during the early postpartum stages.

One of the biggest concerns with crunches and sit ups is that the amount of intra abdominal pressure is too much on the abdominal wall worsening conditions like diastasis or contributing to pelvic floor dysfunction.

However some research suggests that maybe we can create more pressure from simply sitting out of a chair and that crunches may actually help draw in the distance in that gap with proper form and engagement of the deeper abdominal muscles. You can check out a great article here.

 

 

 

If we are looking at crunches and sit ups from a functional perspective they are not the most ideal for actives of daily living and are unlike us to assist in the actions that we need to do on a daily basis like picking kids off the ground and awkwardly taking kids out of the car seat.

Sure they can assist us in rolling up from a seated position but we don’t do much where we need to be super strong in spinal forward flexion to have a strong core. In fact we need to work in multiple position to work stability in movements that actually prevent this forward flexion, extension and rotation.

Not that every exercise needs to be functional. Sometimes we can do exercises just because we like them BUT not if they are contributing to pain or dysfunction we might want to rethink our approach.

Another consideration is that moms are often limited on time and if return to strength, fat loss, and function is the goal it is more ideal to include multi joint exercise that target multiple parts of the body and different muscle groups all at once. Exercises paired together that achieve a metabolic effect to get us breathing a little harder and challenging us a little bit more.

 

This will be a much better approach to fat loss than just doing hundreds of crunches throughout the week.

 

Sit ups with high reputation, poor form, and lack of any pelvic floor awareness can potentially lead to more pelvic floor dysfunction and worsen diastasis. Sit ups with good form, proper focus on pelvic floor connection and good form may lead to improving conditions. We just don’t know from body to body and the help of a women’s health physical therapist or a personal trainer with a strong background in training postpartum clients will help you figure this out.

The first question I ask my mama clients is why do they want to do crunches. Is it to get stronger? Is it to lose belly fat? Do they like the way they feel?

I then educate them, like I have shared above.

I currently don’t program crunches into a routine unless I know the mama just love the way they make her feel. If this is the case we start start small and make sure they don’t feel any heaviness in the pelvic floor and bulging in the abdomen.

Remember doing tons of sit ups and crunches will NOT flatten the belly.

This extra layer of fat is determined by several factors that range from your nutrition to activity level to your hormones. You can do as many core exercises as you want but the abdominals will not be visible if there is a layer of fat on top. This is simply stated to give you a perspective not to encourage you to achieve a 6 pack.

Core strength and stability will come from several factors such as full body lifts, unilateral movements, breath, alignment and activating the deeper abdominal muscles. Bottom line is crunches and sit ups have very little to do with reducing belly fat.

the #1 piece of fitness advice all moms with young kids need to know

 

 

Ok mamas listen up. Whether you have a 6 month old, a 5 year old or any combination and more (bless you) there is one piece of fitness advice I think it is essential you know.

Something isn’t nothing when it comes to fitness and exercise. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Consistency and finding the time to exercise is one of the biggest struggles I hear from the moms I work with and the moms I know, especially those with young kids.

I totally get how exercise becomes harder as a mom. I had this feeling it would be but until I was smack dab in the middle of it I couldn’t truly understand how much less time, energy, and motivation I have. I didn’t get how I would have to plan workouts around nursing boobs or nap time or navigate with a sick baby and a million other things I could be doing.

The other day someone told me that exercise is easier for moms because we are at home with the kids, have more structure to ours days and are more motivated to get it in for our kids. Ok, one no. Two, no. And three, not really. If I find that superhero power I will share it with you but in the meantime check out what I have to say.

Prior to having kids you may have enjoyed long runs or CrossFit classes where you were able to hang out and socialize after or hour long yoga classes but unless you have a ton of help and someone to watch your kids whenever it just won’t be the case.

I know it might feel frustrating that you don’t have the time for yourself or you start to mourn the exercise you use to do or maybe the body you use to have.

But it is going to be ok. This is a season in your life and this season will pass.

What I don’t want for you is to give up until your kids are older. You are too important to do that.

Real life over here. 🙂

I want you to start now, even if it isn’t ideal, even if the workouts are short. You body and mind will thank you and you will show up as a better participant in your own life for yourself and for others.

Here is how to start.

  • Give yourself permission to let go of how you think it should be and focus on what it is.
  • Start with 5-15 minute workouts 3 times a week.
  • Focus on accomplishment of completing a workout, not the outcome of weight loss or body change.

I know eventually you want to get back to longer workouts and yes it is ideal to workout longer lets say 20-50 minutes 3-4 times week. These short workouts are not going to be the golden ticket to body change but here is why at the same time they are.

They are going to get you into a routine that you can sustain and once you do that you can start to build on that time and frequency. In my momME fit coaching club I had a mama who had been having a hard time not working out tell me that there was something about the shortness of these works that mentally made her feel like she could do them. I love this so much.

Because in the middle of a crazy day you look if you look at trying to add a 60 minute workout into your schedule you may be quick to brush if off. But if you look at a 5 minute workout it probably feels so much more doable.

I will speak from personal experience there have been days I feel so unmotivated and not like myself that I could cry. But if I just drag my booty to those dumbbells sitting under the pile of toys on the living room floor and get my heart rate up and my body moving for 10 minutes I feel so much better. I feel like a refreshed mama and woman, even if just temporarily, ha!

Remember your schedule is never going to be less busy or maybe even less stressful during this time. Kids will get sick, your babysitter will back out, a school function will pop up, you will get terrible sleep so if you are waiting for the perfect opportunity, it just won’t happen.

It is about all or nothing – it is about finding a way to make it work for you.

how to deal with body change during and after pregnancy

 

 

Choosing how we view our bodies is a process.

 

Before I discuss anything else I want to start this piece by giving expectant and postpartum women permission to feel what they feel about their bodies. It is normal to feel all the things about your body as it is going through a tremendous amount of change physically and hormonally. And I know, even well intended, comments can trigger a range of feelings.

At just 8 week pregnant I remember my jeans fitting tighter. I remember being a little taken back being that a baby bump wasn’t even visible yet and feeling a little self conscious when other mamas were half way through their pregnancy posting pictures about how they still fit in their jeans. But for me, my booty and thighs were the first place to gain the fat and the last place to let it go.

It was at this time I decided that my body was going to do what it needed to do to grow a baby and I would release any expected outcomes during this process. It was a great decision but still a process.

Because once that belly started to grow, the comments start to trickle in.

“You ARE HUGE.”

“How did you get so big overnight?!?!”

“Looks like you ate too much and stopped working out.”

“Hey fatty.”

These comments were accompanied by charming smiles and hugs of congratulations and asking about how I was doing but still…the need for people to comment on a pregnant women’s body like that is interesting, isn’t it?

I continued to focus on embracing the process and focusing on just doing my best which for me looked like this.

Training clients until 39 weeks pregnant.

Eating frozen waffles through my first trimester during my meat, coffee, and veggie aversion.

Working out 2x a week up until the last month of my pregnancy in which I switched to just walking and a few sets of air squats, clams, and rows here are there.

And working on the process of a changing body, a changing schedule, and a changing life.

Because you see, all of this is a process.

I don’t want to tell moms that they should…

“just not worry about their body changing” or  “don’t worry when you lose the weight post baby because it is a miraculous process.”

Our feelings are valid.

But I also don’t want moms to put undue stress or misery on themselves either.

When it comes down to it we have 2 options. We can mourn our changing bodies and stress that we won’t lose the weight we gained or we can learned to get more involved in the process and less attached to the outcomes.

It is 100% OK to want to be strong, healthy, and fit during and after pregnancy but this idea that our bodies should or will just bounce back after pregnancy makes me wonder if we are going about this right.

Post birth once I started to heal and was in less pain I actually really enjoyed my body early postpartum in its softness and all.  It was nice not feeling the pressure like I had to achieve a certain amount of leanness. I liked being a little less cautious about my food intake and liked working out without all the intensity. I liked the feeling of just moving differently during my return to more strenuous exercise.

Early postpartum we need to let the body rest and heal properly.

And then once it does our lives are not as they were before. We have less sleep, less time, less energy, and more responsibilities that interfere with the perfect formula to fat loss. The perfect formula being along the lines of high sleep, low stress, plenty time and energy to workout and the mental energy to make decent food choices.

It feels a little unfair right?! That this is a time moms so desperately want to get “back to their bodies” yet have everything working against them.

But what does getting a body back even mean anyways? Mama, your body never went anywhere.

It is time to change the way we talk about women’s bodies during and after pregnancy. I want to reiterate that all worries are valid whether you are self conscious about your stretch marks, extra cellulite noticed, or weight not lost but they also do not define who you are. Remember that.

Here are some perspective shifts to consider. 

It is OK to want to be fit, healthy, and feel hot as a mom.

Choose a positive perspective over a negative one. Address the negative thought as it comes, notice it, feel it, let it pass. Don’t fight it but don’t hold on to it.

Remember it is a process. We won’t love ourselves and our bodies every minute of every day even if we have the most toned arms and flattest stomach. Remind your self of all the things your body is capable of, the things it CAN do for you, and that you are not alone in your feelings.

You can’t teach what you don’t know. If you want to teach positive body love to your children you have to be able to do it yourself. Our kids hear what we say whether it is that our hair is ugly or our body is gross. We can tell them not to talk to themselves that way but they won’t truly believe it if we cannot walk the walk.

Take your time and embrace the process. In the early stages of postpartum the return to fitness (lets say the first year) it is especially hard. For some it can take longer.

Do your best. Move when you can. Eat to feel good mentally and physically. Spend some time nurturing your soul – time to yourself, time with friends, time doing actives you enjoy. Snuggle the baby day in, day out.

Our bodies will change not just now but continually as we age. It is a great time to start the journey of doing the hard work of loving ourselves because what is the other option?

Sweet Potato Cakes


All this recipe needs is sweet potatoes (or yams) and eggs. How simple is that?

I love this recipe because it is an easy way to get a good mix of carbs and proteins and you can make it sweet by adding cinnamon or a sweetener of your choice or savory by adding garlic or cayenne pepper. The options are endless really.

I also like to give this recipe to clients who are not big fans of eggs but are still trying to get protein into their diets during breakfast meals. Or anyone who loves using eggs for that matter.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato or yam
  • 2 eggs (or 1 egg and 1/3 cup egg whites)
  • sweet (cinnamon and sugar) or savory (garlic, salt and pepper) seasonings

Directions:

  1. Peel potato
  2. Grate.
  3. Mix together with eggs.
  4. Choose seasonings
  5. Cook like pancakes.
  6. Enjoy!

Mix together.

Cook like pancakes. I recommend flattening them with the back of a measuring cup. The more even they cook.

Serve!

 

3 huge mistakes almost everyone makes when trying to lose weight

Before we dive in today I am super excited to share that enrollment is open through this Friday, March 9th for my momME fit coaching club for busy moms who want to look and feel their best.  Essentially to put the ME back in mommy. You take care of everyone else, it is time to take care of yourself.

Need consistency with workouts and eating? Want to feel and look good? Want a supportive community of other moms who get you.

All the details here.

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There is one major problem with the amount of health, diet, food, and fitness information out there. It is not working. Long term. Ironically conventional wisdom, common advice, and diets are keeping you struggling.  


If it were as simple as following a meal plan and exercising more, no one would be seeking advice. You can google 7 day meal plan right now, have the answers to what to eat and be well on your way to success. 

I get it. We all do it.

I personally bought my clean eating cookbook in 2006. Made my steamed brown rice, vegetables and chicken, and measured and ate the recommended portions down to the ounce. Packed my meals for out the day. Would go, go, go, and eat at the recommended times even though I wasn’t hungry or maybe craving something else. 

I would reluctantly walk through the door after a long day of work, lace up tennis shoes and miserably do a 3 mile run.

I would be starving after my bland dinner and have just a few bites of leftovers. And then a spoonful of peanut butter. Then I wasn’t really hungry but would have a few grapes and maybe a cup of yogurt and that cookie too.

Then I would go to bed stuffed and sad and wake up and get back to my restriction the next day because that was THE day I would change be compliant.  Even worse I fed into my own belief that this was the only way to be successful. And I kept doing it.

I had become lazy and dependent, only knowing how to eat if it was what my plan said and only focused on burning calories in my workouts.

When everything changed.

About 5 years ago I had a huge transformation (mostly mentally and emotionally) when I learned how to stop making these mistakes I am about to share with you.

There is a big disconnect with health and well being and the way we think. For me personally, when I was fighting healthy choices, and trying to control them, it only seems to turn around and control me back. It not only prevented me from living in my right body, but it prevented me from living my right life.

Have you ever felt that way?

Today I am setting the record straight so you can stop making these mistakes and start focusing on the things that actually matter and will ACTUALLY produce results.

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Mistake #1 Relying too much on willpower and motivation.

There is actually research on willpower. Research that say we should stop using it as a tool for our self control

“If I just had more willpower and discipline I would do better,” I hear my clients say.

And I get it. We think willpower is an end all, be all choice, and if we are restrictive enough and just turn our back to things we want to resist, we will be successful. Did you know that willpower is not an endless source of energy and the more you rely on it, the harder it is to make the good decisions you intend to make?

Think of it like your cell phone battery. At the beginning of the day it starts strong and the more you use it, the more it drains. By the time you are home it is at 19%, barely holding on and now you have to make dinner and workout on energy that is barely holding on. No wonder it is healthy eating in the evening that people find most difficult.

The more strict and compliant you try to be, the more likely you will drain your willpower energy source and continue to struggle. Then we turn to motivation. The trouble with motivation is that is comes and goes. Those who are most successful do the work whether they are motivated or not. 

The key is to learn how to conserve your willpower, not rely on it. And to not rely on motivation, create it, even if that means showing up even when you don’t want to.

By creating positive habits and rituals in life you can learn how to make healthier decisions that are as automatic as brushing your teeth. The brain likes effortless whether those habits serve you or not.

Mistake # 2 Trying to burn more calories and eat less calories instead of building muscle and eat smarter.

 

Conventional wisdom says if we just eat less and less calories and exercise to burn more and more calories, the results will come. That is true to some extent except we have been conditioned to take it to extremes. Extremes that fail us over and over again. Though it has been conventional wisdom in the past we seriously need to reconsider this framework if sustainable  (and healthy) body transformation is the goal.

For me personally, I could care less if someones heart rate monitor says they burned 1,000 calories in a hike or 777 calories in a workout class.  Calories burned are not the concern. I care that you are creating a strong, functional body and not screwing up your metabolism.

I care that you go home and eat a dinner that is healthy, satisfying and does not erase all your hard work.

Here is the thing with doing too much cardio and drastically reducing your calories. Your body adapts. You drop your calories, your body adapts. You do more cardio, your body adapts. You stop seeing results, you eat less. At some point you can’t do more exercise or reduce your calories.

When you are doing excessive cardio you burn through your carb and fat stores, strip your muscles, raise your cortisol levels, and in turn slow your metabolism and stress your body. Your body responds by making it easier for you to store fat for your next long workout expenditure. With a low calorie intake at the same time you body freaks out because it starts to miss out on key nutrients and is not sure if it will have enough energy to survive. It leans toward more fat storing.

When you overindulge, which you will at some point because it is life and you can’t sustain restriction, your calories above that baseline metabolism that you now have created for yourself will be more likely to go to your fat stores.

What is the answer? Exercise smarter and move more. Eat enough to fuel your activity expenditure.

Keep your body strong and functional and your metabolism revving by lifting weights. Eat enough to fuel your body in return. We were meant to work in shorter more intense activities. We were meant to walk, to garden, to labor, to build, to climb, to play, to move. 

Mistake #3 Justifying your commitment to health

 

It is human nature to excuse, blame and validate our own feelings and thoughts to make ourselves feel better. We like to give away our healthy choice power even when the cost is our health. It makes us feel better if responsibility is not on us because it helps minimize our own pain. I get it. We all do it.

It is my friends birthday so I had to have cake.

I worked out so I deserved to eat a huge meal.

I had to eat that pizza because I didn’t want it to go to waste.

Here is a concept for you to try. Starting taking responsibility. For everything. In your relationships, in your job, in your daily routine and with your health! Even if you think it is someone else fault or there is a reason getting in the way, taking responsibility helps you find  solutions and you solve problems.

When you start to do this, you realize how much power, choice and opportunity you do have! Face you truth right now!

Our bodies DO NOT define our self worth but they do house these amazing souls that contribute to the world each and every day and I believe that health, wellness and fitness is a catalyst to so much more.

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When you start feeling better mentally and physically, other areas of life start changing as well. You may feel better, eat better, stress less, spend less, relax more, contribute more, help more. A simple transformation in your health can trigger changes in other parts of you life too and have a ripple effect beyond what you think you are capable of. 

If you are a mom who needs  jumpstart on your fitness goals momME fit is the perfect place to start. You already take care of everyone else, it is time to take care of you.

 

Join the coaching club here!

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Real quick: I am opening up enrollment for my FREE 5 -Day Mindset Makeover Course Food Edition that begins Saturday, November 18th. It will prep you going into the holidays with the right mindset to reduce the anxiety and overwhelm you feel around food and give you strategies you can use forever.

The strategies are completely transformative and create a huge mindset shift in the way you think about food. I cannot wait to begin so snag your spot here: http://bit.ly/mmfoodedition

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Over the last few years with The Fit Life I have received so many emails from women naming stress and inconsistency around eating as their #1 struggle.

Jumping around from diet to diet.

Fearing eating off plan or not following food rules.

Not knowing how to eat off of a diet.

Spending time exercising just to burn calories after overeating.

Restricting certain “bad” foods from their diet.

I understand because I personally have been in each scenario at one point in my life. What I have learned over the years that I want to share with you today are tips tools and strategies to help you spend LESS energy stressing about food and more of that energy actually implementing what you know. Because you mostly likely know the basics at the very least.

How do you quit wasting mental energy an why would you want to? 

Just like putting high demand on your muscle, it fatigues. So does you willpower and your choices. The more and more I talk with people regarding food and eating, the more I realize that people spend a ton of mental energy on it, whether it come in terms of guilt, anxiety, stress, or even constant decision making.

We can make up to over 200 decisions a day regarding food, from what we should eat to breakfast, to what we should put in your coffee, to if you should eat now or later. It is no wonder that people claim night time eating as one of their biggest self sabotages when it comes to reaching their goals.

By the end of the day our willpower is exhausted and when it fails (it will fail) you are left to rely on your habits alone, good or bad.

I know from first hand experience that can be extremely draining and leave you feeling like you do not have the mental energy for anything else. With the loads of information on how to eat, when to eat, and what to eat we are left in constant decision making mode and it can be overwhelming and exhausting. 

So lets talk about 9 ways to streamline your thoughts and decisions and help you reduce the amount of mental energy you spend on food and eating.

Be realistic about your time.

If you are short on time, refrain any extensive meal planning with complicated recipes with lots of ingredients, especially if you are not a big fan of cooking.

If that is your jam then go for it, but meals and healthy eating can be simple. My go to meal is a veggie egg scramble and 2 pieces of toast. It takes me less than 5 minutes and if I am starving or not motivated to cook it is perfect!

Only eat foods you truly enjoy.

If you do not enjoy a big salad of vegetables, don’t eat it. When you eat foods you do not enjoy, you satiety levels will be low, causing you to crave more. Enjoyment is a huge factor in eating and one that if often overlooked.

I made a salad once and tried a new zero calorie, bleh, dressing and it was disgusting. After a few bites I thought it tasted pretty bad and continued with a few bites only to throw it all away moments later.

Food should satisfy you and make you feel your best physically and emotionally. If you are not enjoying what you are eating, stop and eat something else. I have done this before mid bite. Ask yourself if it is worth it?

Refrain from justifying your food choices.

As humans we like to justify and moralize our choices because it makes us feel better. We all do it. But I have learned to get real honest with myself with things like this because I can always claim I was too tired, stressed, not prepared or had a long day.

Justifying our food choices is a way of validating our own feelings and thoughts. It is a way to have an excuse as to why we do not reach our goals.

It also is a way to encourage a constant battle in your head of what is or is not ok to eat. I still do this from time to time. “Well I have not had dessert in a while so it is ok I am having this.” I check myself and reaffirm that I am having this because I want to. End of story.

Do less researching and take more action.

I use to spend so much time researching the latest plans, gathering information, and reading about all the potential options out there, without really actually doing it.

There is a huge gap between knowing and actually doing. You will only get results when you bridge that gap and start implementing what you know. Reading and learning is all good, but does nothing if you do not apply it.

Focus on your automatic eating strategies. 

What strategies do you know work for you? I eat a balance of carbs, protein and fat at most meals, with a couple snacks, include veggies often, carry a water bottle with me during the day, and have a piece of dark chocolate everyday. That is how I base my eating.

These guidelines are great because I can take them ANYWHERE, and they have become so automatic they almost feel effortless. What do you know works for you? If you are unsure, experiment.

Do too many carbs make you feel sluggish?

Do you do better when you eat a lighter dinner?Does breakfast set you up for success or failure.

Take notes this week and see what you come up.

Stop worrying about the small stuff.

Condiments, organic, a beer, a small dessert. These things are not going to make or break your physique. In large quantities accumulated over time, yes. But not adding BBQ sauce, eating a non organic banana or having dessert or a drink weekly.

Again I have been there, thinking I could not indulge without throwing myself off track or eating BBQ chicken without the sauce being homemade. Focus on your automatic eating strategies, what your meals consist of, taking in foods high in nutrients, and drinking lots of water. And getting enough sleep and stressing less. These are your big rocks. These are the things that are going to make more of an impact.

Do not just eat food because it is available.

Many times we eat food because it is circumstantial. Your co worker brought in cookies, so you have one because they brought them in for you and 20 other people.

Costco is giving out samples so of course you take them. It is a holiday, so you must indulge. You have dinner at your moms so you must clean your plate. You are at the movies so you need popcorn.

The truth is, you do not need to do any of these things, unless you want them. Start to pay attention to when and why you eat, and if it is just because of the circumstance gently remind yourself that you do not have to. You can have the same foods tomorrow if you truly wish. Food will always be available to you.

Avoid blindly following a meal plan.

Meal plan are stressful. Not only is is difficult to follow a plan while you are at home, it is even more difficult when you try to add social gatherings in the mix. Meal plans are not created with YOU or your lifestyle in mind and cause us to feel guilty if we can’t stick to their extensive rules.

They also do not take in to account what you actually feel like eating that meal or day and cause us to become ignorant about what actually works for our body. If you are like me you have probably tried more than one type of eating or meal plan with rules and restrictions. But I encourage you to use that a learning experience and take this Bruce Lee quote, “Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.”

 Do not eat food that makes you feel guilty. 

This is my favorite practice. Guilt and food do not belong together. If you are going to eat something make a conscious effort not to feel guilty about it. And if you know you are going to feel guilty about it, don’t eat it.

Positive psychology research actually shows when we have feelings of guilt and remorse around eating too much, it is actually less of a motivator to do better next time than when we give ourselves some compassion and love. The next time you overeat and find yourself wanting to lecture yourself in disapproval, simply admit to what you did and move on. You always have next time.

A Step by Step Guide to Cultivating A Diet Free Lifestyle

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Today I am talking about having a diet free lifestyle without talking about food all that much. Is that possible?

You may have been hoping for a step by step guideline that said at breakfast you eat eggs and veggies or a carb or protein source but today we are going about this in the complete opposite way.

In essence diets are simply the kinds of food that a person eats. In fact, people all over the world eat differently (different diets) and maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle.  Except in modern society diets are referred to more in terms of restrictions of certain foods, food groups in attempts to lose weight or change the body.

And restriction itself is the farthest thing from the answer to sustainable weight/fat loss or body change.Yet so many people are tempted by meal plans, the newest diet, cleanses, food rules and detoxes even when the reality is that they just do not work.

The perfect way of eating is very grey but as humans we really, really want it to be black and white. Like if someone could just tell us what to do, we would follow it. We all do it. I have done it.

We blame being lazy, having no time, needing to be told what to do, and having no self control as the reasons why we just can’t stay on track. Here in itself is where the problem starts. The mindset behind eating. The perception of what you should and shouldn’t do and the reasons you tell yourself you can’t do it.

Our culture has engrained this all or nothing approach as if there is no middle ground, as if there is no other way.

You are either all in on a diet that allows certain foods and bans others or you just give up and eat with abandon because it won’t really matter anyways.

I like to look at it this way. Our culture is responsible for putting out this type of information 100% and we each have 100% responsibility to do something about it. I took this equal responsibility concept from a recent read The Big Leap.

To put it simply, it all begins with the way your perception and how you choose to react in any given situation.

So let’s start with a refresh on your perspective.

Meal plans, rules and restrictions create dependency and don’t even give us the opportunity to fend for ourselves when diet foods are not within arms reach. Office parties, social gatherings, nights out with friends. What are you really suppose to do if you show up and there is only chips and dip and you are starving?

You could:

  1. white knuckle your way through the party
  2. eat ALL the chips and dip
  3. eat a few chips and call it a day

Most people rarely ever choose #3. It is usually a, followed by 1, a binge later on, or 2, followed by a period of guilt, remorse and shame and then back to your strict ways the next day because you already screwed yourself for the day anyways so why bother making good choices for dinner? Even worse if it is a Saturday night, you might just as well wait until Monday.

It creates a viscous cycle that keeps us tight on plan for a time, and then inevitably we will fall off, experience guilt and then get back on the same plan.

It’s tempting though, I get it. It feels organized, it feels in control, it feel like you are disciplined enough to achieve success. I will start by breaking down 4 steps to help to break the diet cycle.

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Feeling stuck in the diet cycle is a learning experience. It won’t go away until you learn what you need to know. And you will learn it once you adopt these strategies.

Step 1: Consider the sustainability factor

The success of a diet does not only depend on results, it depends on lasting results. So often I have people tell me things like this.

“The Whole30 really makes me crave sugar less.”

“Weight Watchers works when I do it.”

“I feel great when I go gluten free.”

The question always remains, “How long did that last?”

Because short term results are all good and well but what is the point if you can not make it last. Whenever I get tempted by the latest diet or food trend or seeing some fit chicks meal plan I ask myself, “Am I willing to eat like this forever?” If the answer is no, I know I check myself and turn back to trusting myself and my process.

Step 2: Habit awareness is more important than you think.

What does this look like? First off eating is highly automatic and in order to break poor habits you have to plan, prepare, and actually stop, think and contemplate about the foods you are choosing to consume and why.

It could be as simple as swapping out your morning donut for greek yogurt and fruit or as complicated as working to intentionally fight the stressed out binge in the moment. The more you start to pay attention, the better chance you have at learning where you are most likely to give in and have the power to actually do something about it.

In the book The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, he has a habit loop theory that suggests that you can’t simply get rid of bad habits you can only replace them.

The human brain likes effortless and most people have been wrapped up in bad habits for so long they no longer realize they are doing them. In essence the key is to be aware and learn to change your routine.

If coming home from work is leaves you immediately in a stressed out binge at the fridge door, the idea is that you occupy your time with something else the moment you walk in the door.

This takes time, patience and lots of trial and error before you find success.

Step 3: Nutrients and portions.

What if you said goodbye to all the food rules you have tried or been taught and focused on just two concepts? Eating foods high in nutrients and portion control. What if you started to pay attention to how you felt eating by navigating the space between deprived and an all out binge?

You know this. More veggies, less pop tarts, stop at 2 pieces of pizza.

I am completely aware it is not this simple but unless you have a uber specific physique or endurance goal or just want to get in the best shape of your entire life you don’t need to make it so complicated on yourself.

This does take a little bit of introspection and work and while it might feel more difficult in the beginning than someone telling you to have chicken breast and broccoli for lunch it provides you with the tools that you can take wherever, whenever.

Step 4: Practice The Self Trust Solution

The ability to stop turning to meal plans and food restrictions begins with the ability to turn inward and learn the tools and insights to trust yourself any time, any place, with any food.

The best way to trust yourself is to trust yourself and see what happens because “How-to’s don’t work if you don’t talk about gets in the way.” This is a quote from Brene Brown.

Diets don’t give you the tools you need to move forward. They don’t address things like willpower, habits, stressful/emotional eating, moralizing food or finding way to eat moderately and mindfully.  They try to give you a complete life overhaul in week 1 and give hope that you can make a lifetime of change without addressing other obstacles.

You get blasted with changes and information and then are left hanging on how to implement anything.

The reality is this cycle will continue unless you are given the tools to break it. It all begins with your mindset and the willingness to make that the focus and let go of food rules and find what I like to call food freedom.

Here’s a quick recap.

  1. When tempted by a diet ask yourself, “Is this a way I can eat forever”
  2. Focus on changing one habit that you feel is most detrimental to your health by replacing the routine.
  3. Focus on nutrients in your diet and portion control.
  4. Practice trusting yourself around food without being on a diet.

 

The death of labeling food good or bad

 

I don’t eat carbs because they are bad.

I only eat good foods like vegetables and lean protein.

I was bad last night and had dessert.

Have you ever used one of these phrase?

I am confident that the slow death of labeling food as good or bad and that is what I want to talk about today.  It’s not really the classification of the food itself that bothers me it is the emotional impact associated with food labeling, especially with women.

Good just doesn’t represent a healthier choice it represents a strong control and an inherent self worth of being good enough. 

Bad doesn’t just represent a lesser nutritional choice, it represents a lack of self control and a lack of worthiness.

But classifying foods as good or bad is a poor strategy for a lifetime of eating. Sure there are foods that are more nutrient dense than others but bad doesn’t mean off limits and good doesn’t mean a free for all.

Personally I remember ten years ago when I picked up The Eat Clean Diet Cookbook and within weeks I had eliminated all “bad” foods. Things like bread, condiments, anything with an ounce of sodium, anything with added sugar, desserts, and focused on “good” foods like fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, brown rice, chicken, and ground turkey meat.

I didn’t even like the term cheat meals. Why was I going to intentionally eat “bad” food? On good days I was good and happy, on bad days I was sad and shameful.

Even with these rigid guidelines I could never find a middle ground. It was always on or off. Good or bad. I had months where I was able to adhere but any results I saw never felt worth it because it was always so stressful and consuming.

After years of focusing on moderation, mindfulness, and the mindset that goes with food labeling I now have a better understanding of why food labeling can push us towards poor food choices and away from better ones. Its completely fascinating and it begins like this.

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Fries, bacon, and chilli. So bad? Or just food?

Being good gives ourselves permission to be a little bit bad.

Or so willpower researcher Kelly McGonigal says in her book The Willpower Instinct. As humans, we like to moralize our choices. We like to feel like we are doing the right thing and making the right choices so we do our best to convince ourselves of that.

When we do something that we view as “good” and label it as such, like eat a healthy breakfast or choose not to skip our workouts we are actually more apt to make poorer choices or skip workouts at a later time because we let our good behavior let ourselves of the hook for  a later time.

It is almost like our good behavior cancels out our bad behavior and sometimes it’s not always something we are aware of.

There is a term in psychology called The Halo Effect in which we justify our choices, looking for any reason to give into temptation. In the dieting world researchers have even coined a term in relation to food, The Health Halo.

When we eat something “good” it subtly justifies an indulgence of something else.

Eating a salad makes it ok to eat dessert, bread, and wine in large quantities.

Adding vegetables on the side makes an entire pizza ok.

Eating appetizers only for dinner make unlimited alcohol not so bad.

Saying no to the bun makes it ok to have all the fries.

Good choices make the bad ones not so bad. However more often than not many of us would have been better off just ordering the cheeseburger instead of eating a salad and then eating all the appetizers, drinks and desserts that come along with it.

We lose common sense when we label foods as good or bad and look for any reason to give into temptation.

Moralizing choices can come in many different forms.

It can be viewed as what you could have done but didn’t.

I could have had 3 martinis but I only had two.

It can be justified in the fat free ice cream.

Well it is fat free so I can have more.

If can rewarding yourself with your workout.

I had a hard workout so I deserve a big meal.

Awareness is the first step of change.

This is a mental practice that begins in awareness. When I work with clients on changing habits I encourage them NOT to go crazy trying to change it at first because typically the harder someone pushes to change, the harder it will push back.  I have them start by noticing what they are doing when they are doing it and practice an internal dialogue. 

“Hey, I just worked out and I am crushing this meal because I feel like I deserved it. Interesting.”

Then practice shifting it to what the reality of the situation is. “I am not eating this meal because I have been good and I deserve it, I am eating it because it looks good and I am choosing too.”

The idea is with time and practice you will slowly started to notice that your food choices are not about you being good or bad, it is not about the food being good or bad, it is simply about what you are choosing to do.

Viewing it from this perspective takes away some of the power that food has over our emotional state and our need to give ourselves permission to give in. Eat a cookie because you want to, not because you deserve it.

It is short sighted to operate in a state of thinking that we just need to be more strict and stick to virtuous foods that imply that we worthy of having it.

Food is food. Some of it is way more nutritious than others but when we can stop thinking about it as some sort of moral licensing we can start to view food as what might be best for our health, goals, and state of mind.

We can take our halos off and not give in to mind games that contribute to the food and eating struggle.

I am super excited to share that I am opening enrollment to my 5-Day Mindset Makeover Food Edition Course for anyone who feels they are overwhelmed, inconsistent, anxious, or always feel the need to start a new diet or plan.

It is totally free and you can sign up here!

3 ways cheat meals are failing you


When I go out to dinner and have a cheat meal I feel the need to eat everything because I don’t want to take home leftovers and be tempted by them when tomorrow I have to start over.

Can you relate? For me I was never a fan of cheat or treat meals but I experimented with them over the years because it kinda made sense.

When I worked hard all week to be compliant and disciplined with my eating it felt very natural to feel like I had earned a reward and some freedom in my eating choices for a meal or even a day.

It felt sensible, innocent, and harmless. What I have noticed over the years, through my own experience, and the experiences of others, is that cheat meals seem to do more harm than good.

From a psychological perspective there is a term called moral licensing that pretty much says being good gives yourself permission to be bad.

Making “good” food choices all week makes you feel good about yourself therefore making you more likely to give in especially when you have conflicting desires like, “I really want to be good but I also want that cheeseburger and fries.”

As humans we often like to moralize anything that matches our impulses to make ourselves feel better. It is like a protective mechanism so we can minimize uncomfortable feelings.

Whether people realize it or not cheat meals have a significant impact on the way we think about food, eating, and ourselves. Here is how.

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I have to eat it all otherwise I can’t cheat again until next week….

Cheat meals turn eating into a measure of worth.

The name cheat meals has commonly been changed to treat meals to take away the negative connotation that people are being bad when they indulge out of their normal regime.

Ironically the word treat seems to imply that we are deserving for having a good week or staying compliant to a plan. I wrote an entire blog post about labeling food as good or bad which you can access here, but ultimately we start to apply it to our self worth which is completely absurd.

When I eat good foods I am good. When I eat bad foods I bad.

When I stick to my diet I am in control and successful. When I fall off of it I am not.

The less we can associate food with labeling the more we can eat food based on how we feel, whether or not we are hungry, and how much we really need.

Food labeling encourages a black or white way of thinking like there is no middle ground. It encourages this arbitrary standard of perfection with eating that is impossible to sustain.

Here are 3 ways cheat meals are setting you up for failure.

They don’t take into account how you feel in the moment.

When I experimented with adding cheat meals into my diet I found that even after my week of good eating, I didn’t always want a cheat meal but I ate it because I deserved it and if I didn’t eat it then, I would have to wait an entire week to have it again.

Can you see where this completely ignored any awareness in regards to my body and only focused on rules and restrictions I placed on myself?

I also had times where cheat meals would turn into all out binges or a days worth of cheat eating if I messed up I might as well wait until tomorrow to start again fresh. Like the scenario at the beginning of this post, no cheat leftover could be left in the house because it would ruin tomorrow if I was trying to start clean. It didn’t matter if I was hungry or a certain food would make me more satisfied I just went along with this mentality.

This is equivalent to getting into a fender bender and than ramming your car into a wall anyway. You have the option to fix yourself mid binge.  You have the option to bring more awareness to the moment and realize that you have the power and choice to switch gears. You have the knowledge that every choice can make a difference.

They perpetuate the all or nothing mentally.

This is essentially what this entire post is breaking down. The idea that eating has to be perfect and on plan or you fall off the wagon all together. I don’t even like the idea of a wagon. You are never on or off the wagon you just are.

Overdoing it one night just to wake up the next day and hardly eat until dinner time is a prime example of getting caught up to two extremes and never finding that middle, moderate ground.

I had a client tell me the other day that this whole perspective I talk about, practicing to navigate eating in between the extremes of deprivation and overindulgence sounds great in theory, but it is hard.  Really hard. I couldn’t agree more.

But just like with every hard endeavor in life you practice. You fail. You try again. It is really hard to accept this with a concept like eating but it is no different. You practice. You fail. You try again. Repeat this 20 times and maybe on the 21st you will get a little better and the next times and the next time.

How to break the cheat meal cycle.

I know you may be wondering what in the world you are supposed to do next. The question I like to ask people is this: why do you feel the need to have a cheat meal? Usually it is because people have been depriving themselves too much during the week. The more deprived you feel, the more likely you will be to overindulge at some point.

What you eat tomorrow is highly dependent on what you eat today. So while you might feel great restricting food all day, feeling strong and in control don’t be surprised if that night or that weekend you overindulge more than you cared for.

The answer is to feel more satisfied during the week so you don’t feel the need for cheats and treats.

Add some toast to your morning egg whites.

Add cheese on your salad instead of just chicken and lettuce.

Eat a piece of chocolate every single day.

Why not feel more satisfied every single day of the week so you don’t feel like you are missing out or need to go all out on the weekend?

Perfect eating never leads to long term success. Consistency beats perfection and you may just be surprised how much easier it all feels when you learn to trust yourself more around any food every single day and not wait until the grand designated cheat opportunity.

If you find these tips helpful be sure to snag your spot for my 5-Day Food Mindset Makeover Course. It is totally FREE and full of strategies like this to help reframe the way you think about food and eating and break constantly searching for the next plan or diet. Sign up here!