keep the focus: weight, normal eating, and keeping health at the forefront of my goals

Hello from hibernation! My last post was about focusing on the journey towards our goals, and in the journey towards my goals, I’ve learned again and again that I need to focus on what I can control. As much as it’s tempting to think, achieve at all costs, I know that focusing on how I get to my goals–and making it a process that makes me better–is important. 

Part of my current journey involves (continuing to) work on my relationship with food and my body and how it all relates to health. This week, I was pointed towards Ellyn Satter by Jennifer, the dietitian at NutritionRx, when she shared Satter’s “Definition of Normal Eating.” This definition is printed and up on my bulletin board where I can see it when I need a reminder to pump the brakes with my perfectionism.

ellyn satter

f perfection

Apologies for the language, but this one also serves as a reminder not to use food for crazy-making purposes.

 

When I was procrastinating perusing Satter’s website this morning, I found an article that really resonated with me. Given her mission of “helping adults and children be joyful and competent with eating,” it makes sense that she would provide a set of guidelines that made me think, huh, this is flexible but still makes health matter. She’s sensitive to the ways that weight is a by-product of making healthy choices, which means that we are responsible for making healthy choices but that we can take the pressure off of ourselves to lose weight at all costs. Here are some of Satter’s tips:

  • Eat well and joyfully, and trust your internal regulators to guide you in what andhow much to eat.
  • Move your body in a way that you enjoy and can sustain.
  • Let your body weigh what it will in response to your positive and consistent eating and activity.
  • Develop loyalty and respect for your body.
  • Stop postponing living until you get thin.”

Amen!

I know how to resist the media. I know that weight loss is not synonymous with health. But every day, I see people around me and on the news and in my social media sphere who are prioritizing weight loss in the name of health, often at the expense of their health. I try to do my best to remove the kind of updates that promote these kinds of perspectives from my world, or to remind myself that everyone’s journey is different and that it’s not up to me to decide what’s right for other people. But I do know what’s right for me, and I do want to—even if wanting to be smaller or wanting to be faster or wanting to feel lighter—always keep my health and what is in my control, my actions, as my priority.

I think that sharing messages like this that remind us to focus on shifting our actions towards ones that are health- and happiness-promoting instead of getting hyper-focused on the number on the scale or our body fat percentage or the tag in our jeans is important because it’s not heard enough. It’s not quite as sexy to talk about how we learned to eat more vegetables or drink a little more water as it is to go on and on about a detox or what we’re not eating this week, but in the long run, it’s the way that we relate to our bodies and take care of ourselves that will keep us happy and healthy.

focus
Are you working on any food goals right now?
What do you think of the “normal eating” guidelines?

Advertisements

Throwback Thursday: thoughts on Paleo, balance, and finding what works

This post has been on my mind for a while. I am going to use “Throwback Thursday” as the excuse for posting it now, even though my thoughts are still a bit scattered and I’ve got some apprehension about sharing…

Paleo didn’t work for me.

Before I started CrossFit and found out what Paleo, or Eat By Design, or whatever you’d like to call it, was, my eating was pretty balanced. I ate mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, (mostly lean) meat, nuts and seeds, and sufficient froyo with a smile on my face, and I’d been at a stable weight for a while, though I still didn’t have my period on a regular basis. I had been through my eating disorder, done a stint of vegetarianism (mostly because I read Eating Animals and got sad), and was in a super high stress state, but I was back on track—even if my body hadn’t totally sprung back to (hormonal) health just yet. Up from my lowest weight of 114lbs, I weighed a comfy 138-142lbs and when I look back at pictures, I think I looked healthy and athletic.

My half marathon, before anyone told me cardio was "bad." I ran it in 1:47 minutes.

My first (and only) half marathon, before anyone told me cardio was “bad.” I ran it in 1:47 minutes.

So what happened?

The “for me” part in “Paleo didn’t work for me” is important. I didn’t really do it right, but I did what I think a lot of people do. I also think the way in which I failed at “doing it right” is indicative more of the diet not being good for me more so than of me not trying hard enough, even if I’ve spent plenty of months telling myself I should just try harder.

When my bookshelf was stocked with The Paleo Diet, Primal Blueprint, The Paleo Solution, The Paleo Diet for Athletes, Practical Paleo, and Everyday Paleo, things changed. I told myself it wasn’t a “diet” in the traditional sense and that I was after health, which was true but I was also hoping for a six pack along the way and I certainly was not ready to gain more weight.

So, I started to make changes. I replaced the chicken, turkey, fish, and beans I ate with more and more pork, sausages, steaks and ground beef. While I did do a good job and managed to track down some free range organic sources on occasion, the vast majority of this meat was just from the grocery store.

When I ate grains, they were definitely not whole grains any more. The Paleo diet says white rice is okay if you train hard enough, so I ate more of it, usually with plenty of coconut milk and sometimes butter on top (FYI, this is delicious). But I also had the mindset that if bread was bad for me, I might as well have the white stuff, so I said farewell to the whole grain options I used to buy. French fries were healthier than a hamburger bun, right? Potato chips better than whole wheat crackers? If grains—or carbs, in my thinking—are bad, who cares about choosing well?

When I went for treats, I was never satisfied with a just a little. Dark chocolate became something like a food group for me, especially the kind of dark chocolate that I could somehow combine with almond butter, cashew butter, macadamia nut butter, coconut butter, sunflower seed butter, etc….I ate all the butters. And real butter! With a health halo around it, I started to put more and more butter on the sweet—not white—potatoes I ate. Without bread as a vessel, I’d find myself spooning nut butters right from the jar into my mouth. It’s good for me, right?

paleo desserts

I started to take heavy cream in my coffee. Formerly one to add milk and maybe a sweetener or spoonful of sugar, I thoroughly enjoyed the taste of the 30% cream and the looks on the Starbucks baristas faces when I asked them for the whipping cream to add to my highly caffeinated long Americano order (which is also delicious).

Some mornings, I’d crave oatmeal so badly that I would try to fake it. I’d microwave some combination of eggs, a banana, and almond butter. I remember worrying that I was having too much sugar and one day when I “caved” and ate two bananas, I was sure I fired up my fat storage and was doomed for diabetes. I’d make granola out of nuts to go on top of this, because the old recipe I’d used also included those oats, gosh darn it. Oats might not contain gluten, but they were still grains and everyone Paleo knows gluten and oats were probably bedfellows in manufacturing.

There were other changes, but I think you get the picture. I’d gone from what was defined as “conventionally healthy” to an attempt at a fad diet that I still think can be a fine choice—if you put in the time and effort (and moola!) to get the food from good sources, like eating meat, and are on top of food prep—that totally messed with what was a balanced approach. You have to know that I have an addictive personality and that as smart as I like to think I am, I can be easily persuaded. I took things to an extreme, and I used excuses like “It’s gluten free!” or “If I’m going to “cheat,” I may as well go big.” I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I also changed my exercise habits. I started to question whether or not “cardio” was good for me. I traded my daily swimming, biking, and running workouts for more and more time with the barbell. I loved the way I could focus on getting stronger. I also read things that told me that cardio was making me fat.

I hated this photo, but I was at least having fun with CrossFit. This was at a fun competition our gym did.

I hated this photo, but I was at least having fun with CrossFit. This was at a fun competition our gym did in the thick of my CrossFit as the be-all end-all days.

But I love swimming, biking, and running.

I love oatmeal.

I love chickpeas.

I love not feeling like I need to have a huge hunk of meat with every meal.

…I gained almost 30lbs in the process of switching my exercise and eating habits. I can’t blame CrossFit or Paleo, and I should add that I added muscle.

As strong as I feel when I am lifting a really heavy barbell, I still crave the feeling I get from going for a super long bike ride. Last year, I experimented with doing both. In the process, I found my body shifting a little more and I lost some of that weight (5-10lbs, depending on the day of course). Stepping back into the world of long bike rides and runs and dips in the pool, I found myself remembering some of the common sense nutrition notions that I used to ascribe to.

Back on the bike this year. One of my first rides of the year, in Colorado!

Back on the bike this year. One of my first rides of the year, in Colorado!

While I can’t blame the Paleo diet or the ideas about exercise that came along with it or the books or the people who exposed me to them, I can take responsibility for myself and my health habits. Instead of feeling stuck, I can work on shifting my habits and thoughts back to a healthier place. Those beliefs I picked up about carbs and grains and exercise were built. As sticky as they might be—because nut butter is delicious and sausage is amazing—,they can also be replaced—because feeling light and healthy and good in my skin is another kind of amazing.

So, I’m in the process. Today, I am “back on grains.” I eat whole grains as much as I can—quinoa, oatmeal, and rice are my favourites. I like bread and cereal, so I eat them and choose the whole grain options because I don’t think they’re rife with anti-nutrients anymore. I eat lots of fruit and plenty of vegetables, and I have less room for the meat on my plate. I still overdo it on the nut butters, but I’m working on it.

wrong road

I’m writing this because I think there are other people who have dabbled in Paleo or have given up something they love that makes them feel healthy and happy in the name of something someone told them would be better. I know that it’s hard to shift back—there’s still times when I think “how the heck did I eat that many carbs?!”—but it helps me to remember that I was happier with my body when I was eating all the carbs, and wasn’t thinking about them as a villain.

I hope your Throwback Thursday isn’t as intense as this, but I also hope that you take the time to check in with yourself and ask, about your health habits, that question I mentioned earlier this week: how’s that working for you?

Have you ever gone down the “wrong” road and wanted to get back to the fork?
What have you learned from trying diets or exercise programs that don’t work for you?

What do you want to “get away” with?: on eating for health versus eating for a healthy weight

With Thanksgiving just in the past and plenty of opportunities around the corner for “indulging” in “fun foods” (or junk foods, if you prefer), I thought I’d tackle something that I have given lots of thought to as of late. I hear over and over again people talking about how they can’t “get away with” eating those fun foods or things that they really want.

case in point

case in point — people want those metabolisms!

I’ll admit that I used to be jealous of people who could seemingly eat whatever they pleased without a care and without gaining weight. But I’ve come to realize that there is more than meets the eye, when it comes to the way people fuel themselves: we may see a person’s instagram feed and they may not really eat what’s pictured; we may see the only meal that a person eats all day; we can’t possibly know what’s going on beyond what meets our eyes. On top of that, the more I change the way I think about the number on the scale and what it means, the less I consider eating copious quantities of junk food something to be envious of.

If you think about it, unless we consider weight the most important indication of our health (above and beyond what we’re actually doing to our bodies), we’re not really getting away with anything if the anything is not healthy in and of itself. If someone is “getting away” with eating junk food, they’re still putting junk into their bodies. If they’re not gaining weight, that doesn’t mean that that food is not still driving unhealthy processes in their body or that their insides are in good shape. We think that we want those metabolisms that will allow us to eat whatever we want, but we forget that we still need to eat healthy for the sake of fueling our bodies properly, whether we can stay thin on a diet of potato chips and cookies (or whatever it is you think you can’t have) or not.

But there’s something there worth considering: what is it that we envy about those people who can eat “whatever they want”? During my recovery and when I went about making all foods fit in my diet again, legalizing even the things I forbid myself to eat for years, I did my best to eat “whatever I want.” I didn’t always nail the “without guilt” part of the equation, and I certainly overate in the process, but what I realized is that I’m not the out of control monster that I thought I am when it comes to food. When it’s OK to have dessert, I have it. When I think I shouldn’t be having it because I’m not ____lbs or a size __ yet, then I overeat it. Conditions on the consumption of any food for me are just a trigger for me to throw my hands up in the air and overdo it. Alternatively, when I’m letting myself have it easy with food, I’m always surprised at how little of those formerly oh-so-tempting things I needed when they were OK – one cookie was enough for the girl who used to eat a whole row? If I overdid it, I didn’t feel good. I found myself actually craving vegetables alongside that chocolate. But it’s a slippery slope and I feel like I live in a world where if you’re not dieting, you’re a bit of an outcast, although “diet” is a four letter word that people don’t use to describe their approaches to food.

That being said, what I’ve realized is that what I really am jealous of when it comes to those people who appear to eat whatever they want and stay fit, or healthy, or happy, or whatever, is the freedom that goes along with it. I don’t mean freedom in terms of what they’re putting in their body, I mean freedom in terms of how they approach food and how they approach their own body. The people I envy most are not even those people who eat French fries and still have six packs, they’re the ones who eat salads and burgers and cake and kale without letting it be more than it is. They’re the ones who stop eating when they’re satisfied. They’re the ones who know that if they have a bigger lunch, they’ll probably naturally eat less at dinner—and don’t deprive themselves if they end up being hungry when that time rolls around. They’re the ones who trust themselves around all kinds of food. They’re the ones who don’t turn to food for comfort, but take it for what it is: fuel. These kinds of eaters are the ones who I envy, and lucky for me, identifying what it is about them and their approach to food that I am so jealous of gives me something to aim for creating in myself.

If we have been overweight or have struggled with our weight in the past, it’s easy to feel like we are some kind of special snowflake who could never be able to be happy around food and our bodies. Talk about a limiting perspective. All thinking that way does is create all kinds of feeling of shame, of lack of control, of failure, and all that does is drive us to continue to overeat foods we think are “bad” and to live in this crazy cycle where food is consuming us instead of us consuming it. I know from experience that moving towards that kind of relationship I envy with food is not easy, but I also know that I’m getting there one step at a time. The clearer I can get about what I want for myself in terms of habits around food and thoughts around food, and the gentler with myself I can be as I move in that direction (little steps, little steps), the better I feel in the process of changing the way I think about food and my body.

I shared a Geneen Roth quote with a friend the other day and I think it fits well with this and ties it all together nicely, with the reminder to trust yourself instead:

“When you believe without knowing you believe that you are damaged at your core, you also believe that you need to hide that damage for anyone to love you. You walk around ashamed of being yourself. You try hard to make up for the way you look, walk, feel. Decisions are agonizing because if you, the person who makes the decision, is damaged, then how can you trust what you decide? You doubt your own impulses so you become masterful at looking outside yourself for comfort. You become an expert at finding experts and programs, at striving and trying hard and then harder to change yourself, but this process only reaffirms what you already believe about yourself — that your needs and choices cannot be trusted, and left to your own devices you are out of control.”

trust

Where do you feel jealous of other people’s metabolisms/eating?
What is it about the way that they eat that is so appealing to you?
What is standing between you and the kind of relationship with food that you want?
What do you want your eating habits to look like?
How do you want to feel about your body?
What is a healthy relationship with food?

meat eating and health

This morning, I read a post over on The Great Fitness Experiment that got me thinking. Charlotte talked about her own vegetarian / carnivore experience in “Are Vegetarians Really Less Healthy than Meat Eaters? New Study Says Yes.”

Like Charlotte, I’ve dabbled in vegetarianism. Also like her, every once in a while I struggle with the decision I’ve made to start eating meat again. I really enjoyed her post, which talked about a new study from Austria that found better health and quality of life amongst meat-eaters than those following a veggie diet. Charlotte made some really important posts when it comes to reading and interpreting these kinds of articles where one diet or eating approach is labelled superior to another, including a reminder of how the health argument is always changing: from lean skinless, boneless chicken breasts to the fattiest but grass-fed, organic beef you can get–the flavour of the day for what’s the “healthiest” meat choice will change and change and change again.

Nowadays, there are (conspiracy) theories about why we eat what we eat–from the corn farmers to the meat industry to the vegans, everyone seems to be out to get us. There are books that tell us that vegetarianism is the way to be–for our health, for our planet, for our pocketbooks, for our appearance. Ditto for the ones calling us to eat more meat–dive into the paleo cookbooks at the store if you want to see these in action! There are plenty of books that make the other way of eating wrong, but I think what’s important here is to decide what really is the “right” way to eat–for you.

It’s really tricky to define “good for you”–especially if we’re talking about something as generalizable as meat eaters vs. vegetarians. I know plenty of people who would identify as veggies who don’t give much thought to their diets and plenty of people who eat meat who are intentional about it. And vice versa. But if you don’t agree with eating meat on an ethical, religious, personal—whatever—basis, should health be used as a way to try to convince you to go against that? As Charlotte says, what’s healthy seems to change along with the diet trends.

It admittedly makes me nervous that the diet trends and the research go hand in hand in the way Charlotte says they do – with paleo/primal/atkins getting more popular and THEN research to back them up seeming to materialize. Diet industry, I’m onto you. Sadly, it’s easy to do the same for ourselves. I know–and have read–the books that take a solid stance for going veg and I know the ones that I turned to when I was feeling guilty about my decision to start eating meat again. It’s easy to cherry pick to support what we’ve already made up our minds to do or to believe.

When it comes to generalizable statements on diet, I think we need to look at why we’re making them. Will those vegetarians be so harmed from not eating meat that we need to make their choice wrong? I don’t think so. So why do that to ’em? More steak for you, and move on. Chances are, whether you choose to add meat into a healthy diet or choose not to, you can make up a pretty darn healthy diet–if you put in the effort. Deciding on purpose to eat or not eat meat, and deciding to hold to that decision in the midst of these narratives about how meat eating is killing you or the planet or how vegetarianism will just ravage your body (we’ve all seen both sides of the extreme argument) might not be easy. I think we are wasting our energy though, and I think that the more time we spend tearing each other’s approaches down, the less time we have to focus on what we’re actually trying to accomplish by eating that way in the first place. Stand for something, not just against something else, ya know?

Picture1-3

-Are you a vegetarian?
-Would you keep eating this way even if it was definitively proven that it’s not as “good for you” as having meat in your diet?

what’s microfilm got to do with nutrition?

This term, I’m working away on an independent study course that led me to a lot of reading on gender in Canada over the ages. I basically did a survey course to try to get a lay of the land and while it was overwhelmingly interesting–and overwhelming, at times–I have really enjoyed letting myself get pulled in all kinds of directions by reading. The downside to this being a course and not just free nerd-wheeling is that now I have to try to put all of the stuff I’ve learned into a term paper–or at least some of it!

I’ve decided to do a little research into representations of women’s fitness back in the 1960s or so and as such have just started dabbling in the old copies of magazines like Chatelaine in the library’s microfilm collection. After I got over the embarrassment of needing the librarian to show me how to look at the films, I’ve been getting totally into the process of digging up what was going on in terms of the messages women received about their bodies back in the day.

I’m particularly intrigued by the diet ads, the recipes, and the lifestyle advice women get. I don’t know exactly which themes are emerging just yet, but there’s certainly something interesting that I’m seeing: that “nutrition” (diet is more accurate, I think) advice has come full circle. Back then, carbs were what people knew made them fat. Fat was less of the villain and it was sort of a taken for granted given that if you overdid it on sugar and carbs, your weight would reflect it. Nowadays, people are scared of carbs again. Knowing that the diet industry just cycles through these trends and ideas makes the irony of the OMGluten situation and the popularity of low carb approaches even more frustrating for someone who just wishes that “healthy” was something we could all get back to without people trying to confuse us with messages of what’s the best for us that serve other agendas besides our health.

Along this same vein, I read a blog post that did a good job of pointing out what’s problematic about one of today’s biggest carb-villifying, dogmatic diets–the Paleo Diet–earlier this week. You should check out what Tommy had to say about it, but if you want the summarized version, here it is:

“I’m not saying that there aren’t great aspects of the paleo diet, because there are. Avoiding processed foods and eating real food as much as possible is a great thing- but why don’t we just say ‘eat real food and avoid processed food’ instead of making up all of these ridiculous rules and justifications for dieting a certain way?
Adding a label to a logical way of eating only allows companies to profit from food fads, which you can now see with low carb, gluten free, and other shitty paleo spin off foods.”

Another post from a while back from the National Post made a similar point: the dogma’s not helping us in our pursuit of healthy living! 

The point of this post was to serve as a reminder to myself and my readers that just because the magazines, the media, or the people around us say that ____ is for sure the reason we’re fat/unhealthy/unhappy/whatever does not make it fact–it makes it a trend, an ideology, a whatever–but it’s still a matter of opinion. That being said, I think it’s a safe bet to say that eating mostly unprocessed diet made up of foods that you enjoy and that you get from the best sources that you can will be the safest, most sustainable way to go about “getting healthy.” Trust me on that one!

If you still want food rules, I would refer you to two people I trust:

1. Michael Pollan – plants

2. Geneen Roth –

eat rules geneen

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s back to my nerdiness research.

bonus: This (timely) post came up this week on Sociological Images (one of my favourite spots to nerd things up!): Is Sugar a Diet Aid? The Answer Depends on the Decade is what I’m talking about!

What do you think about the diet industry trends coming full circle?
Do you have a stance on the Paleo Diet?
What food rules do you agree with, if any? 

it’s not rocket science: my top tips for living a healthy, happy life

As a healthy living blogger, I thought it might make sense to put together a little summary of what I do on a regular basis to keep myself healthy. Thus, my top 10 tips for being happy and healthy. There’s nothing surprising or revolutionary here–I don’t think healthy living is rocket science. Enjoy!

  1. Cook for yourself. Lots of people use time as an excuse for not cooking. In reality, there are plenty of ways to get around this problem: doing a big meal prep on the weekend, choosing quick recipes (that take less time than driving to the chinese food restaurant or ordering wings), for instance. Cooking for yourself can be relaxing and usually means you end up with less junk going into your meals and snacks–a big win, in my books! Plus, you wind up saving money.
  2. Have a (rough) meal plan. I used to think that if I wanted to be an intuitive eater, meal planning was out of the question. This made grocery shopping, cooking/meal prep, and living, to be honest, more difficult than it needed to be. I’ve since realized that if intuitive eating and meal planning are mutually exclusive, it’s not for me–I do better when I give myself a rough plan for the week, including what kinds of snacks and when I’ll eat them. Whether or not I end up hungry for all the snacks and meals I plan, knowing that I will be eating again makes me less likely to overeat at each meal and snack and having a plan saves me trips to the grocery store and lots of money along the way.
  3. Eat real food as often as you can. When I make my meal plan, I try to include as many real foods that don’t come in a wrapper as I can. As Jillian Michaels (who I have a love/hate–mostly love–relationship with) suggests, if it didn’t come from the ground or have a mother, you shouldn’t be eating it. That means my snacks are things that are either as is (fruit, veggies, yogurt, nuts, etc.) or that I make for myself (muffins, etc.). I still end up grabbing a bar here or there, but I don’t plan on eating very many processed things are part of my daily routine.
  4. Schedule your workouts. I know that if I have an appointment, I will keep it. One thing that keeps me sane and moving is writing down when I’ll work out ahead of time. Sometimes I literally just schedule in “work out” (if I’m not sure how sore I’ll be or what I’ll be in the mood for), but I’m most likely to get a work out in when I schedule a specific class or plan into the mix. Bonus points if I invite someone along with me to hold me extra accountable.  
  5. Focus on the big picture. I used to stress and stress and stress over every little thing I put in my body (was that yogurt 1% or fat free?) and over the smallest details of my workouts (I should have done 3 more minutes on that treadmill!). Realizing that these things are not what dictate whether or not I’m healthy and happy—but that worrying about them actually takes away from my health—has been freeing. The big picture and considering whether or not what I’m doing is moving me in the direction of a healthier and fitter version of myself keeps me saner and calmer than getting caught up in the little things.
  6. Strength train. I cannot think of a reason why getting stronger could possibly be a bad thing. With CrossFit getting more popular and the “strong is the new skinny” motto out there (a blessing and a curse, in my opinion), I think more women are hitting the weights regularly. Yay! My favourite part of being strong and lifting on a regular basis is seeing how it carries over into my day to day life: I can move my own furniture and can carry all kinds of things up the 2 flights of stairs to my apartment. It’s the small things that count! Also, on a purely vain and aesthetic level, filling out a pair of jeans and having broader shoulders (hullo, smaller-looking waist) are not so bad side effects.
  7. Do something that gets your heart pumping most days of the week. As a recovered cardio junkie, I still think there are huge benefits to getting sweaty on a regular basis. Whether or not it helps you lose weight or maintain your weight aside, I don’t think people would be less healthy for hitting the trails or hopping on their bicycles a few times a week. Maybe it’s playing a sport or going for a hike, but whatever it is, I think there’s a mental and a physical benefit from doing activities that are aerobic in nature and keep your heart pumping. In the midst of all the “cardio is death” messages out there, it can be hard to admit that hopping on a stationary bike with your iPod and a podcast is one of your favourite ways to unwind, but for me, that’s the case. Following this kind of activity, I feel calmer, clearer-headed, and restored.
  8. Take up yoga.  From CrossFit to triathlon to climbing to just wanting to be a healthier, fitter person, yoga will help. Whether it’s an athletic style that challenges you physically and mentally or something deeply restorative and meditative that feeds your soul, there’s something to be said for doing a yoga class once or twice a week to supplement whatever else it is you do for your mental and physical health.
  9. Move every day. Whether it’s a walk or 15 minutes of stretching on your living room floor, there’s something to be said for giving yourself and your body the love you deserve. Most people, when they put in the effort to exercise or to take care of their bodies, will make better choices throughout the day—I know if I’ve gone for a run or made time for the gym, I’m more likely to choose the apple over the cookie when decision time comes.
  10. Reflect on where you’re at and where you’re going. Maybe it’s not a blog that you share with the world, but documenting your health and fitness journeys – in a diary, on some kind of forum, with photos – is one way to keep yourself honest and to give yourself something to look back on. If you end up injured or overtired, it’s helpful to be able to see what led up to it all. If you feel like a million bucks and have a great race or competition, you’ll want to know what you did to set yourself up for that success. I also use vision boards and goal setting to keep me looking ahead to how I want to keep striving and improving.

take care

What is your top tip for living a healthy lifestyle?

food for thought: off this train

This isn’t a John Mayer reference, but it could be…

When it comes to exercise and diet, my history’s a bit complicated. I can’t honestly say whether I think my interest in nutrition came innocently and then turned into something obsessive or if it was my obsession with losing weight and fixing myself that led me down the path of devouring diet books, taking the majority of a foods and nutrition degree, and even starting a healthy living blog.

chicken and egg

Today, I know that I deserve to be my best and that being interested in putting foods that move me towards health instead of away from it is a healthy thing to do.  That being said, I still get sucked into reading books and blogs and articles galore about what’s wrong with this diet and why this one’s better and how this food or that food is certainly killing me.

From there, the same thing tends to happen: I get stressed out. Which leads to what I’ve come to call “f*ck it” eating (a term I believe Christie Inge introduced me to), which you can probably guess doesn’t involve large quantities of alfalfa sprouts or carrots. In short, I end up putting things that are not on anyone’s list of health-building foods into my body, feeling guilty for it, and deciding that of course the answer is to further inform myself by reading, you guessed it, more things about diet.

Information and knowledge is certainly power, but if it’s power with which we drive ourselves cray cray, is it really healthy anymore?

When I was in that foods and nutrition program I mentioned, I eventually came to the (tough, teary) decision that I didn’t want to finish it and spend the rest of my life dedicated to food.  My blog has taken a different direction from the healthy living blogger-esque WIAW posts (check out an article I wrote about how truly healthy these blogs are in my personal portfolio).

But still, nutrition newsletters fill my inbox. The diet section is my go to at Chapter’s. I skip most of the stuff in magazines to get to the weight loss and nutrition stories. I watch the health videos on the Today Show website.

I think it’s healthy to be interested in health (imagine that!). We all want to know what will make us healthy and what can make us live longer and happier lives.

Being informed can be a good thing—or not, depending on what we’re doing it for and on how we use the information.

Not too long ago, I caught myself saying “I don’t know what to do” in relation to what to eat. I went on my Outward Bound trip and ate things that I’ve sworn off for years—and came home feeling awesome. I think the reminder that we can live to eat or we can eat to live—and the freedom I felt when I had little control over what was being served and just used food as fuel—shook me up.

So. Are we using food and our diets as a way to distract ourselves from bigger and scarier problems? Are we obsessing so much that we’ve lost faith in ourselves to feed ourselves and survive?  Are we sending ourselves a message that we need to be fixed (and that a diet is the answer)?  Are we stressing ourselves out so much that we give up (perfectionism much)?

Here’s what I’ve come up with…There are bigger and better things to do with our lives than perfect our diets and our bodies. Sure, our time and energy can go towards extending them by five calorie counting, carb-/fat-/gluten-/cholesterol-fearing minutes, but if we take all the effort we spend obsessing over food and direct it towards the (albeit scarier) real issues facing us, we’ll end up better off. The truth is, your body will tell you what to eat–and if you’re living a super stressed life with a perfect diet, that stress is not good for you (maybe even worse than eating, gasp, an un-organic strawberry). And, hard truth…you’re still going to die.

If you’re on the obsession train with me, you can get off it. You can unsubscribe from those newsletters. You can turn off your blog subscriptions (except mine, of course).  You can give away your diet books. You can read the news or fiction or whatever it is that tickles your fancy instead of endlessly researching how to get six pack abs or what the new nutrition scapegoat is.

Questions I’d ask:

  • What does not knowing how to feed yourself and needing to be constantly looking for a better diet give you? (for me: an excuse for not being perfect, a distraction, a way to confirm some limiting beliefs of mine that keep me safe)
  • What does the obsession take away from you? (time and energy, I probably could have had a PhD in something by now with all the time I’ve spent on this, money, confidence in my own ability to take care of myself)

In typical Cheryl fashion, here’s a quote to wrap things up:

“When we give up dieting, we take back something we were often too young to know we had given away: our own voice. Our ability to make decisions about what to eat and when. Our belief in ourselves. Our right to decide what goes into our mouths. Unlike the diets that appear monthly in magazines or the thermal pants that sweat off pounds, unlike a lover or a friend or a car, your body is reliable. It doesn’t go away, get lost, stolen. If you will listen, it will speak.” -Geneen Roth

“When you believe without knowing you believe that you are damaged at your core, you also believe that you need to hide that damage for anyone to love you. You walk around ashamed of being yourself. You try hard to make up for the way you look, walk, feel. Decisions are agonizing because if you, the person who makes the decision, is damaged, then how can you trust what you decide? You doubt your own impulses so you become masterful at looking outside yourself for comfort. You become an expert at finding experts and programs, at striving and trying hard and then harder to change yourself, but this process only reaffirms what you already believe about yourself — that your needs and choices cannot be trusted, and left to your own devices you are out of control.”  -Geneen Roth

food for thought: how sweet it is

“food for thought” posts are my chance to share an opinion, an insight, or something to do with food–think nutrition, emotional eating, a recipe, you name it. 

The topic for today’s post came from a little realization I had on the weekend over a bowl of ice cream.

First things first, I know I’ve expressed my love for froyo before, but my true love has always been for ice cream.

ice cream me

Me loving ice cream, circa 2007.

Love can be complicated, right? Ice cream (and froyo, for that matter) and I have a messy history.

I’d divide our relationship into a few phases:

  1. honeymoon: I love ice cream and ice cream loves me…I have never encountered the word “calorie.”
  2. guilty romance, part I: I love ice cream but am ashamed of it…I earn my ice cream with long runs and bike rides.
  3. guilty romance, part II: I am still in love and still ashamed…I make room for my ice cream by replacing meals with it.
  4. reality: I see ice cream for what it is (and I still like it)…I own my choices and where I’m at.

Each of these phases had their gift.

When I was oblivious to the world of nutrition, ice cream was just delicious and a special treat that my parents busted out now and again. Ignorance isn’t bliss, though, so I’m glad that I realize that ice cream is one of those “special” foods and not something I need on a daily basis to keep me going.

For a long time, I made myself work for ice cream (or any treat, for that matter). I justified my junk food habits by working them off–either anticipating a treat and making sure I did an extra hard workout, rewarding myself with a treat after a particularly gruelling day, or attempting to make up for an indulgence by sweating the crap out of it. While the idea of having some discretionary calories and making room for more of them if you work out is something that plenty of diet gurus support, this wasn’t a healthy headspace for me. Eventually, it dawned on me that eating junk food, regardless of how much you work out, still involves putting crap into your body. As I shifted my relationship with exercise from one based on controlling and fixing myself to one based on actually creating strength and fitness and health, my mindset on treats and indulgences started to shift. Rather than asking myself if I’d earned a treat or if I deserved it, I started to question whether or not I truly wanted it and if it deserved to go in my body, reminding myself that looking “healthy” and actually being it are very different things.

froyo 1

More recently, I noticed that I was in a new phase. I was okay with not working out to earn myself a treat–I’d even go for froyo on a rest day, something I’d never have been able to do back in the day. But I realized that lately, I’ve been trying to justify things in a new way: by skipping a meal and/or replacing it with whatever treat I’m giving myself. Is a big ol’ scoop of ice cream for dinner healthier than a piece of salmon, a sweet potato, and some veggies followed by a small bowl of ice cream? Nope. But only if I got real about what I meant by “healthier.”  In the past, I’ve been so convinced that thinner, leaner, “fitter” looking is by definition “healthier” that my default setting was towards eating less and losing weight. The redefinition process is ongoing. I still grab the low fat yogurt and salad dressing off the shelves before I put them back and grab the real deal when I’m grocery shopping. I still sometimes catch myself overdoing it with exercise. But the shift is happening. In terms of ice cream and treats, redefining healthy has meant recognizing that ice cream has a place in my diet, but it’s place is not to provide me with real nutrition.

My vision of ideal health has room for ice cream. Does your definition of healthy? And does that match the ideal body that you picture coming from this notion of healthy? If those two don’t match, you’re likely in for the same kind of struggle I went through.

Getting real about my definition of health and expanding it to include more than just a certain weight, body composition, etc. has changed the way I live and taken me into that next stage: reality. If I prioritize my health and this new definition (based on actually taking care of myself and creating a healthy, fit, strong body) I realize that I need to eat real food first and foremost. If I want ice cream on top of that, awesome, but I still need the nutrition first. I don’t compromise the fact that I need to eat whole, nutrient dense foods for the sake of attempting to fit into my skinny jeans. This is about valuing my health.

In other words, this is about realizing on another level that you can’t uncrap a crappy choice. It’s about owning the fact that I might weigh 10lbs more than what someone says is “ideal” but knowing that I’m in a healthy place physically and mentally. That gives me permission to eat ice cream regardless of what it does to the size of my butt but it also places the responsibility on me to own that choice and the way my body looks as a result.

choices

This post is about ice cream, but the theme is way bigger than frozen desserts and food. Living in reality requires taking responsibility, but it’s an empowered place to be.

What’s your perspective on how dessert fits into a “healthy” diet?
How do you define healthy? 

Bonus: Here’s a link to a (much shorter than this) post that I read a while back from Nell Stephenson (Paleoista) that puts out a pretty firm opinion on the froyo as a meal habit

It’s about time

This post has been coming together in my mind, on napkins and scrap paper, in journals, and all over the place for a while.

It’s about time I put it all together and just got real about what’s up with me…

I think the life coaches and inspirational junkies of the world might be out to inspire me:

  • Monday’s quote from Andrea Owen, in my inbox:

  • Last week’s behappy.me daily quote, also in my inbox:

So I’m going to do it….

So after a whole lot of thinking, blogging, journalling, talking, reflecting, etc. etc. I can say I’ve had a hella summer. It was filled with awesome things–travelling, meeting all kinds of people, making mistakes and learning lessons, having more fun than ever–and it brought me a lot of insight.

This week is the start of that Life By Design Challenge I mentioned earlier in the month. If you’re not familiar with Life By Design yet, puh-leeeeeeze check it out:

I’m telling you — whether it found me or I found it, I think there’s a match made in heaven here. This is my interpretation and what I’ve taken from being exposed to all of this –> Living by design means realizing that we’re MEANT to be strong, fit, healthy, beautiful, powerful, successful, _____________ [insert great adjective here] and then going after it. It’s about living on as awesome a level as you can and being awake and conscious of your life–not just settling for being okay or going through the motions but actually taking responsibility and stepping up!

I think it’s safe to say I’m pretty hooked. I am drawn to these people–and not just because they’re jacked and fun to be around (this stuff works!). There’s something about the energy and the fact that they’re doing something on purpose that’s really refreshing–cuz it’s rare (but it shouldn’t be this way–how great would it be if we all woke up and actually lived?!) and cuz it’s inspiring! Safe to say I feel lucky to have met Dr. K at Starbucks one day and had an impromptu coaching session when I timidly talked about not being sure about becoming a dietitian and mentioned that I have a blog (without any confidence or feelings of deserving–in short, with much lower self esteem than I have now!).

So at the same time that I am really energized, motivated, and excited about all of the changes I’ve made, I feel like there’s a part of me that’s been holding back. Yes, I’ve made serious changes. But I’m frustrated and I feel stuck–and I know it’s up to me to change it!

As far as I’ve come, I still don’t feel like I’ve got it together. And that’s fine and dandy–you have to be okay with where you are to get anywhere better–but I’m not going to hide it: I want to be stronger. I’m sick of feeling soft and pudgy. I’m done pretending that I’m really fit when I realize I’m neglecting a whole lot of what it takes to train properly. That being said, I’m already working on these things, but I haven’t really announced it: I’m eating by design, I’m giving up my old approach to working out and training, I’m getting my power turned on with regular chiro visits, and I’m waking up for all of this. In short, I’m working on living by design.

Starting point:

It is what it is. I weigh 142lbs. I don’t lift weights very much, but I do a lot of body weight stuff. I don’t do 2 hours of cardio like I used to, but I still fall back on cardio workouts and sometimes think I need to do one every day. I like yoga and I do more of it. I play sports every once in a while. I read books, I spend time with friends, and I think I’m pretty conscious of what’s going on in my life. I’m actively working on my values, I’m defining my mission, I’m setting goals. I eat a lot of real food but I also have a lot to learn. I drink a lot of beer, eat a lot of froyo, and I sometimes let my emotions drive my food choices. I look like this:

Again, it is what it is.

So what’s it all mean?

I just made this kind of a bigger deal since I want to get even more conscious about what I’m doing. My posts are going to be more forwardly talking about applying the stuff I’m sure you read about — eating, moving, thinking, brain body connection, by design:

  • Health –> Not waiting for something to be wrong to care. Keeping a clear connection. Sleeping.
  • Eat –> Eating more real foods that are by design. My new idea is “nonfiction” food — real stuff that I can actually say where it came from. Sure “by design” foods from WalMart are better than BigMacs, but I have the resources and time and motivation to seek out stuff from real farms and producers that aren’t so far removed that I lose sight of where my food/nourishment is coming from. Recognizing that froyo and treats are fine–but they’re not “food” or fuel.
  • Move –> Working on that broad definition of fitness. My decision to get crossfit certified + being willing to make a little bit of an ass of myself learning the stuff that I don’t know (mainly: olympic lifts) and to play around with things (finding a balance between the cardio I love and the training I need to be strong and fit and all those good things) = next steps.
  • Think –> Focusing on the good stuff. The motto is “Focus on what’s strong, not on what’s wrong.” Working on my values, my purpose, and then acting on it. Reading more things that lift me up and less that just fill my world with fluff. Spending more time doing the things I like to do with the people who lift me higher.
  • Other –> Using my energy for the things that matter. Freelancing, teaching fitness, and blogging = doing more of what I love. Not signing up for a course this fall just because. Applying the if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no theory. Living out loud. Simplifying. Moving. Learning how to budget. Spending more time outside. Trusting the process.

NOW I feel ready for that 30 day challenge. Might as well start early, might as well go big, and might as well blog the heck out of it. There’s inspiration in seeing someone else’s trials, successes, progress and all that jazz and that’s what I want to do with this and that’s why I’m giving you this novel of a backgrounder. Accountability, motivation, something to reflect back on–those rock too!

Unexpected epiphanies

Wowzer. I didn’t have any intention of this being a post about realizations or anything bigger than a bike ride this afternoon (45km ish with a friend :)!), cleaning, and what I ate today. Funny how blogging can spark insight…enjoy:

I think I blogged before that I’m feeling a bit stuck in my routine of eating the same things over and over again.

Kashi berry crisp, all bran buds, and grapes with yogurt!

My breakfast bowl was a little different, which is a start.

I spent the morning working on making my apartment presentable (it’s not disorganized mess — I have lots of things to go to my mom’s place for the winter like my boots/coats/etc.). I closed my closets for the first time in 2012! Yahoo. I also made it to the bank, which has been on my to do list for a while. Check! Then I stopped at Bulk Barn.

Things got out of hand…and there are treat bags that I can’t help but reveal.

20120501-171111.jpg

gluten, dairy, soy, almond/peanut free for Angela (it's my version of chicken noodle soup since she's sick :(!): think dried fruit (bananas, papaya, pineapple, and mango), dates, and skittles

20120501-171121.jpg

My road trip dream: yogurt covered pretzels, pretzels, chocolate covered almonds, mixed nuts, papaya, banana chips, and chocolate rosebuds

20120501-171125.jpg

Everything I think my mom will like! 🙂

You’d be surprised to know I went on this bulk barn blitz AFTER lunch (another turkey sandwich with cheese, sprouts, mayo, and an apple — back to boring). I couldn’t finish my lunch, though, which brings me to a weird realization I had (that probably led me to feel “brave” enough to buy MYSELF a treat bag!). Get ready for this.

  • In the past, I have ALWAYS finished my plate. I cannot remember the last time I left anything on it. I sometimes think I’m just really good at knowing how much food I want, but I think it’s a remnant of dieting days where I would literally need everything on my plate (I also wouldn’t share food then, because every bite meant so much to me) or of my recovery days where I think I cleaned a heftier plate to prove I was recovering. — NEWS FLASH: You don’t have an ED if you decide not to finish something. You also should feel fine to finish things and to go back for more. The goal is to feel satisfied–not stuffed! 
  • This epiphany made me realize that I really can leave behind old habits.
  • In the past, I also would go out and buy road trip snacks for the people I was travelling with, trying to buy things I “don’t like” anyways. Often, I’d end up eating them with my friends/family and I wouldn’t even be having what I wanted, PLUS I’d be serving up a hefty dose of guilt in the process (it’s hard to ENJOY something as a TREAT when you hear a voice telling you that you shouldn’t be eating it). — NEWS FLASH: We all deserve treats. If we allow ourselves to eat food and to enjoy it without telling ourselves we shouldn’t, they will be more satisfying and will serve their purpose as a treat–not as a reason to beat ourselves up, not as something emotional, etc. 

All this thinking made me realize: I can go away this week and I can worry about what I’m eating. Or I can truly try to channel that healthy girl I know I am and find the voice that empowers me to eat in a way that is normal, balanced, and healthy and that doesn’t use food as a distraction, a means to beat myself up, etc. I can change. Evidenced by the empowerment I felt by just deciding that I was full and didn’t need the entire plate at lunch or by the simple act of making myself an uber appealing treat bag, I can change. I can be the healthy girl I want to be. I am her! My goal for the week is to eat things in moderation. Candy on a daily basis, most likely. American junk food that I wouldn’t let myself ENJOY in the past (though I’d end up eating lots of it in bingeing fashion). Things like white bread and white potatoes (which the blogging world has a tendency to label “bad” but really are not the devil) and butter, full fat cheese, and whatever else comes up along the way. I’m not going on a junk food eating bender here. When I allow myself that flexibility and see myself succeeding and eating as a balanced person would, I feel so powerful. I know in my heart that I will crave vegetables and fruit and nutritious foods and that I will eat them–so no worries that I’m going to die from a nutritionally related disease next week, kiddos! The thing that I think people often forget that I’m trying to remind myself: I eat to live. The food I put in my body is fuel. If food is holding you back, could you just let go? What would happen if it didn’t have power? Might you not weigh what you’re supposed to (more, less, the same) without stressing about it? Might you not have more time and energy to spend working on things that matter and to seek out experiences? Because really, what are we here for if it’s not to live?

And I apologize for getting all philosophical, deep, recovery-like on you there, but I hope that made sense. I also hope I can take it and apply it.

So for dinner tonight, when I was seriously craving peanut butter and cereal, I went with it. And along the same vein as I realized above, feeling guilty about not eating veggies won’t serve me. Feeling bad about eating a lot of cereal in a day also won’t. Recognizing that at the end of the day, I fuelled myself and didn’t binge, didn’t use food as an excuse, didn’t let it rule my life: that’s healthy! So probably is my fibre intake…

Anywho, it’s time for me to finish packing and then to go get my zen on. I’m really excited for this trip…

Bring on the Tasty Cakes.

Bring on the family bonding (I miss my Grandma and uncle, I can’t remember the last time my mom and I took a road trip).

Bring on the pretty drive.

Bring on the time to read.

Bring on the time to sleep.

Bring on the bike rides in the hills.

Bring on the happy!

Have you had any of these realizations before?
What would be in your treat bag?
Have you had tasty cakes (I think I need a supplier)?