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!

my perspective shift on failure.

A couple days ago, a status popped up on Facebook’s “On This Day”.  It read:

“thinking about switching majors… ugh.”

I remember this day.  I received a D on one of my first Calc III exams–and this was the first time I’ve ever received any grade lower than a C+ on anything ever.  So it seemed like a huge failure at the time, and sure enough, I wanted out because of it.  Nope–didn’t want to major in math, with a minor in secondary ed.  At least I got the part about switching majors from math right… Elementary ed was much more my jam.

I grew up in a household where failure was just not acceptable.  You went to school, anything lower than a B is deemed not that good, anything you started, you finished, and if you weren’t good at something, it just means that you didn’t have enough: practice, time put in, work ethic… and so on.  I get it though.  I am a daughter of immigrant parents, whom if they had not succeeded, it meant a poor quality of life, a waste of a sacrifice to move their life here–in their eyes, if there was no success, it was failure.

Unknowingly, this provided many mental obstacles for myself, as I was not always a quick learner outside of school, or outside of what I was interested in.  One thing that comes to mind aside from getting a D on that Calc exam was learning to play the piano.  I couldn’t understand it–several embarrassing, family performances, recitals and competitions–I’d underperform.  Whether it was due to a lack of practice, or the fear of failure–I underperformed beneath expectations–of myself–even though the audience would applaud, the judges would score decently, and I went home with some sort of recognition.  It didn’t mean much though because to me I still didn’t do well enough.

So this fear of failure become a common occurrence throughout my life.  From the fear of missing a stunt on the State Cheerleading competition floor, to not being hired after professional job interviews.  This little knot in my throat would always seem to tighten every time I felt like I had underperformed, or scored myself another “fail”.

I don’t exactly know when it was that this had begun to diminish, but I do know that there were not many things I started in my childhood that I have committed to for longer than I had committed to my academics, and as an extracurricular, as long as I committed to piano lessons.

I want to amount to some of this perspective shift to when I first started running as an attempt to take control over my 1) free time and sanity  in addition to 2) my health.

When I started dating my partner at that time, he was well invested in lifting weights and spending time at the gym.  At the time, it wasn’t my interest, so I began to run, attend Zumba classes, and started doing what I thought was good for me: eating salads, eggs, canned tuna, yogurt and granola, green smoothies, drinking water (definitely didn’t know about nutrition in the way I do now!).. and soon enough I was signing up for my first 5K’s, and completed a half marathon race in 2013.


Hallelujah–a moment of triumph–I ran the race, and despite my finish or placement (which surprised myself, actually, just over 2 hours), there was no quit.  From the moment I signed up for it, I made it my goal to simply finish without stopping to walk–and from there, I no longer felt a fear of failure, but rather a determination to make it happen.

Hell, there were MANY nights, after student teaching, or Saturday MORNINGS after a long week of school, where I just did NOT WANT TO RUN.  I wanted to run away an
d I wanted to just sleep in… or go home and relax.  But I didn’t; I went to Planet Fitness to run on the dreaded treadmill–or I hit the pavement and went the miles, because I knew I wasn’t going to quit come game day.  I had to prove it to myself that day.  This time it wasn’t for the audience, for my parents, or for a report card–it was for me.


IMG_2131Many of you already know how much CrossFit has evolved to become a major part of my life.  In fact, so much so, that it’s now become my full-time job to coach others in CrossFit and nutrition, as well as train on a regular, full-time basis.

Just like the past, I had many moments early on where I faced the fear of failure once again.  The fear of failing a lift, not finishing a workout, being embarrassed in front of others, letting my coach down, letting teammates down in competition, being too lazy to attend a class, not meeting expectations…  it was years of this… even up until last year’s CrossFit Open. Phew—I was a mess in all sorts of ways (story for another day).

So I’ve realized now that there were a few defining moments that have helped me overcome my fear of failure within the past couple of years, and it’s been rare for me to say that I’ve felt the frequency of fearing to fail since this realization.  Here they are:

  • Constantly getting up in front of 25-30 kids at a time, being able to teach a lesson, most of the time one where I would have no true idea of how well it would go, how well I would be able to teach it, manage the students, and how well they would learn the concepts.  Every time I taught a lesson, or even made my next MOVE, there was an opportunity to fail–but there was no option but to continue on and learn from it if it bombed.  Spoiler: most of the time, they didn’t–and 90% of the time, the lessons were just uphill from there with the more courage I gained and confidence I reaped from the feedback from my students, colleagues, parents, and administrators.
  • Signing up for local CrossFit competitions (my first one being 4 months in!).  So at first, I would typically compete on a team–surprise, surprise–less room for the opportunity of “failure” there.  However, with the Open as well as other local competitions, I had entered as an individual, and again, I wanted to prove to myself that I was going to 1) finish it on my own and 2) my work was validated through my performance.
  • Moving out of my parents’.  To me, being able to fully become independent of my parents was a HUGE step towards overcoming a fear of failure.  Not only did it mark a life landmark, but it also allowed myself to learn many life skills, which I didn’t happen to learn in my academics, or may not have learned later on had I not moved out.  Sorry mom, but even before moving out, even choosing a major and a school that you didn’t originally approve of, was also an event that allowed me to overcome more fears lingering from childhood.
  • Switching career paths.  After four years of teaching in the public school system, in addition to the time I spent in undergrad and grad school, I made a switch to become a fitness and nutrition coach at CrossFit Des Plaines.  It was a long transition process, but this may have been THE number one transformative event in my life that has helped me shift perspectives on failure.  Read more about it here if you want to know more about it.
  • A recent talk with my coach about my training and performance.  Of all the things we discussed for what seemed like an eternity, the one thing that stuck with me was him telling me: “You… need to fail more.”  We discussed how I focused so deeply on “perfect form” and making sure I complete lifts, or make my movements look pretty… however, if I wanted to get better, especially as an athlete, I needed to fail more.

And since then, it echoes in my ear every day–whether it was to do with my daily training sessions, or in my new line of work–it’s not that I have to fail more and pout about it or give up, but rather, fail, recognize it as an event and not a state-of-being, and continue on in order to improve.

A book I’ve been reading called Why People Fail: The 16 Obstacles to Success and How You Can Overcome Them by Simon Reynolds has been an eye-opener to the perspective I’ve had on failure for too many years in my life.  In one of his last chapters, he contrasts the mindset of high achievers and those who do not persist enough:

The typical person’s view of failure is that it shouldn’t happen . . . So it’s no surprise that after they fail three or four times their emotions get low and they’re ready to give up.

That sounds exactly like a version of me I once knew so well.  He continues:

Contrast that attitude to the mindset of a high achiever.  When champions go for a goal, before they even start out they know they are going to fail numerous times.  They comprehend that all substantial success is built on the back of failure.  This is absolutely clear in their mind, so when they encounter an obstacle they are not surprised or concerned.

So about a half novel later, I’ve finally come to this realization about how empowering and transformative it has been to expect and embrace the experience of failures.  It’s given me a drive to attempt many things I don’t think I ever would’ve.  I’ve gained a sense of courage I never really had for decades.. and I am excited for all the new prospective ideas, projects and accomplishments I have envisioned–despite the fear of failure.

The GOAT said it himself:

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

7 ways to achieve greater focus

We do thousands of things every day: from making our beds to making important decisions.  Obviously some tasks demand a greater focus than others, especially since most of our basic, civilized survival depends on the daily work we do or job we have.

(Unless you’re thrown in the Hunger Games, then that probably requires some survival and functional fitness too, am I right?)



Here are 7 ways to achieve greater focus (pay attention):

  1. Set a purpose or outcome.
    Make it very clear what it is you want to accomplish or have completed.  Setting a time domain on it will also give it more urgency (this can be adjusted).
  2. Visualize yourself doing what you need to do.
    This doesn’t mean you should overthink it and psych yourself out.  Take 30-60 seconds and literally map out what you need to do, where you need to be (you might not even be in the right setting to begin with–then move!) and the steps you need to take.  Depending on the magnitude of the task, this could include visualizing things that may go wrong and visualizing possible solutions.
  3. Avoid multitasking at all costs.
    This is a given.  If you want to focus–do NOT do anything else but the ONE task in front of you.  Obviously there are exceptions to emergencies and etc.  AVOID THE EVER SO TEMPTING MULTITASKING BUSINESS! (The only exception to this would be to have a sip of coffee or listen to music in the meantime).
  4. Devote serious time on the task.
    If it’s a small task, you may need a good 10-20 minutes of focus.  If this is a bigger one, or a long-term project, you will have to carve out time in the future to get this focused on it again.  (Do this after you spent time on it today, since you won’t be multitasking 🙂
  5. Disregard what people think.
    Of course, nobody wants to look like a fool, but if you are exerting too much energy on what people think of what you then you’re not focused enough.  Disregard what they think, dig for that inner confidence, and if you don’t SHINE in the limelight the first time, who cares, but at least you were committed enough to give it 100% and it wasn’t half-assed.
  6. Breathe when you need a moment.  Breathe–period.
    This might be when you start thinking about what others think, about wanting to check your e-mails, or feel burdened with how much time or effort this task might actually take.  Chill out; have a sip of water, and breathe in and out slowly for 5-10 deep breaths.  If you’re straight up overwhelmed, walk away for a moment, breathe, then get re-focused.  (If you’re in the midst of running for claiming all your weapons in the middle of the Games, then you better be breathing–those muscles are counting on it..)
  7. Sometimes you just have to do the damn thing.
    Other crap that makes us unfocused: procrastination and self-doubt.  You just. don’t. have time for it.  GET started, and BELIEVE in your abilities.  This is probably why I love Nike so much–they have subtly engrained in my mind to simply “Just Do It”.  Really though; if you want to get things done.. if you want to accomplish something every day, or every week–just do the damn thing already.

Photo Credit: Sal Ursino
IG: @crossfit.sal