Yes, I can eat this.

When you ask me “Are you allowed to eat that?” or “Dang, you’re going to eat all that?” do you feel empowered and entitled, or do you actually want to know?  Because from the tone of voice, most of the time, it seems like the former.

…and as I chuckle with slight apathy for your implied opinion about me and my long-developing relationship with food and don a superficial smile and politely respond “Hah, yeah…”

I actually want to say “Well, I’m already eating it… after taking a lactaid for this cheese I can’t typically digest… but YES–I’m ‘allowed’ to, MOM.  Am I going to get ratted out now because I’m eating food that you don’t think aligns with your expectations of a person who still values health and fitness despite a single food choice?”

The image above is a personal pizza from Pequod’s Pizza–a local pizza joint where I grew up in a Chicago suburb.  On my birthday this year, I went to get this delicious, maybe even gluttonous, dish… and it is the freaking. bomb. if you like deep dish pizza.

Despite the fact that I’m lactose-intolerant, and I just don’t feel that wonderful (lazy, bloated, a little inflamed, riding the struggle bus during a training session the next day) after eating something like this, I do enjoy it every so often, as I’m sure some would.

Now as a nutrition coach, the point of this article is not to say that you can eat deep dish pizza anytime you want, suck it up to feel a little off, and expect to live a pretty healthy life.  NO.  There is SO much more involvement with education, coaching, support, practice, application, providing feedback, and communication that goes into my work with my clients, and this article is not a one-off to give out free passes to anyone to just go ahead “eat whatever, whenever”

However, I’m not a coach that believes that policing, criticizing, or judging anyone for the food choices they make is the way to go about creating habit, mindset and lifestyle change.

FURTHERMORE, as a human being, I can completely empathize.

Whether you have specific fitness-related or sport-related goals, or are even just trying to be more health conscious, sometimes we simply want to enjoy a meal that satisfies their flavor palette every once in a while, as a mental and emotional break from the monotony or routine of the usual well-balanced meal from whole foods (lean protein, veggies, healthy carbs and fats).

It’s called finding balance and re-creating a mindset and in turn, a lifestyle.

I used to come from a place where I used food as a means to cope or reward myself.  Some very short-winded examples of this could be:

“I ate X, Y, Z (probably salads, smoothies, very few nutrient-dense meals) all week long, and since I’ve dropped a couple of pounds (probably water weight), I am TOTALLY going to go out for X, Y, Z this weekend because ‘I deserve it.‘”

“I just spent so much time doing tasks X, Y, Z, and…holy CRAP am I hungry (stress). Ugh, and I still have so much left to do… (anxiety) How are there not enough hours in a day??  Why didn’t I plan ahead?? (anger/frustration) It’s fine–I’ll just order for takeout this time, but next time FOR SURE I’m going to do it right.  Ugh, damnit. (self-depreciation)”

But things have changed.  My mentality has shifted.  My life has changed.

Yes, I can eat this. 

And no, it’s not because I am trying to find comfort or because I feel like I have ‘deserved’ it.

I can eat this because I have a healthier relationship with food today.

I can eat this because I have control over my food choices upwards of 80% of the time.

I can eat this because after this, I can very easily go back to eating well-balanced meals.

I can eat this because I understand what role food plays in my life – a source of energy, nutrients, a means of living and thriving.

I can eat this because I understand how much food I need to be successful – in my work, fitness, my mood and in my life.

I can eat this because I track and log my food intake 80-90% of the time, which I have proved to myself that a consistent, committed approach will win over a perfectionist approach.

I can eat this because I have the knowledge to understand its impact on my body (and mind) and that one food choice does not define or change who I am or how hard I have worked to be where I am.

Thank you to a friend of mine who brought this conversation up with me yesterday.  As I learn more about others through their fitness journey, it sheds light on a lot of the deep-rooted past of my developing relationship with food.

If you’re interested in chatting about yours, or just want to learn more about habit, mindset or lifestyle change regarding daily nutrition, feel free to fill out this pre-assessment form on my coaching page.  I look forward to learning more about you!

5 signs of progress: WITHOUT a scale!

I’ve worked with countless clients, and even prospective clients, who have had the heaviest fixations with the number they see on the scale every morning.  THOUGH I do believe it’s an essential data tracking point for progress in any fitness or body composition goal, it surely is not the only data point, nor is it the one we should fixate ourselves on.  I mean it!  One day, our weight could be 5 pounds under normal, and the very next day, it can show 3-5 pounds over our typical weight; it varies so much, especially the more variables in your daily habits vary as well. To name a few: caloric intake, types of foods and how your body reacts to their ingredients, water intake, hours of sleep, levels of stress, hormonal balances/imbalances, timing near the menstrual cycle, and many more.

The daily scale number isn’t accurate as to how much our body has changed beyond a temporary state–it simply measures our mass’s force in relation to gravity.

Here are 5 signs of progress that do NOT include the number on the scale:

  1. Progress pictures.  Taking pictures of yourself, as you are working towards a certain goal (fat loss, muscle mass) provides a great visual to demonstrate areas of your body that may be changing over time.  People don’t realize the day-to-day change, but over 90 days, you can certainly start to see a difference!  Try it: take a picture of yourself from the front, side and back.  Take one each week and compare it at each month marker.  Determine areas of improvement!
  2. Tape measurements.  Taking tape measurements is an easy and affordable way to generally track body composition.  Since different people will lose fat, or gain muscle in different places at different rates, taking tape measurements can be an effective measure for progress with data that has less variance than our daily weigh ins (assuming that it’s the same person taking the same measurements in the same places).
  3. Energy levels.  Rating your daily and weekly energy levels from 1 (constantly tired, exhausted) to 5 (consistent, steady or high energy) can help you determine how your body is reacting to the way you are fueling it for your goals.  Also keep in mind where you start.  If you were someone who constantly rated a “1” even rating “3”s consistently has marked progress over time, even if you aren’t averaging 4’s or 5’s.  The same goes for your mood–are you generally more upbeat and optimistic, or sluggish or pessimistic?
  4. Skin complexion.  The largest organ in our body can also be one of the easiest determinants for how we are fueling ourselves.  Typically, choosing to eat whole, minimally to non-processed foods as well as staying properly hydrated will show clearer or smoother skin.  Read more on the correlation between dermatology and diet from the U.S. National Library of Medicine here.
  5. Body Composition Analysis.  While this may be a bit less accessible and budget-friendly as using a tape measure, this type of analysis can offer valuable information about your body composition that is much more in-depth than what reads on a scale or with a tape measure or pictures.  If you’re into data, you can definitely dig the analysis reports from something like say, an InBody Scan machine.  These machines typically measure what our bodies are made of from water weight, dry mass (including muscle mass) as well as fat mass.  I’ve taken a few scans myself, and its helped me adjust the amount of calories I needed each day to support my training as well as maintain a healthy, athletic body fat percentage for the sport of CrossFit.  If you’re interested in learning more about this option, feel free to CONTACT me or schedule a FREE consultation, which includes a FREE InBody Scan (scroll to consultation request form) if you are in the local area (this is upwards of a $50 value in other areas!)

So seriously.  Throw the towel in with your internal battle with the scale–in the LARGER sense, if you are working diligently towards a health-related goal, there are many more markers of progress and success.  Also, remember that there is NOT always a linear path to success!  Appreciate the progress and your successes will become much more apparent along the way.