It’s hard to know where to begin with a topic like this. But, I will start with something non-fitness/food related. Kids. Now, hang-tight if you are not a parent – it will get better – lol!
I remember when I was pregnant with my first daughter. The Internet was still pretty slow back then – but it was available. Actually, now that I think about it – Wow! The virtual world has come such a long way in a short time. I didn’t have any friends at that time who were having babies – I was pretty young by today’s standards. My Mom couldn’t remember anything, which had me wondering if perhaps I was adopted, except that my Dad and I are way too much the same to not be genetically related.
Every little thing I panicked about. I am the kind of person who needs to research everything and study everything and just be plain anal and type “A” about everything. So, I read all the “What to Expect” books and what was available on the Internet. At one point, I had myself convinced that my baby was going to be born with purple horns and three eyeballs. That was the point at which my husband and my Mom wanted to rip the computer out of the wall and turn off the wonderful World Wide Web.
Then the baby came. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. Again, no friends with experience. So, I researched everything. I was basically a basket case the first two years of both of my daughters’ baby-hoods. I really didn’t start to like them at all until they were around the age of five.
I compare myself to one of my best friends, who until just three months ago did not own a thermometer. Four babies and she didn’t own a thermometer??? WTF? I mean, babies are just petri-dishes of disease… you need a thermometer if you don’t want to kill them – don’t you? She also did not own any baby books. Oh and guess what? All FOUR of her babies slept through the night. Ummmm… at the ages of 12 and 10 – mine STILL don’t sleep through the night and some nights I swear I’m going to lose my shit – okay – well I’m not gonna lie… I DO lose my shit.
I have pondered this many a times. I have come to one solid conclusion: my dear friend and I had one major difference – she trusted – TRUSTS her gut! That built-in mechanism we were blessed with called intuition. I, on the other hand, with my spazzy, OCD, read and research everything until I’m running circles, lost the ability – or maybe didn’t even start with it, to trust my gut – my innate intuition.
Ok – so I hope I haven’t totally lost all of you non-parents yet – I think you get where I am coming from. Let’s apply this to ourselves.
This week at the gym, I had several people approach me and talk to be about diets. Questions like, “Have you read this diet?”, “What do you think about this way of eating?”, “What do YOU eat?”.
While I am currently working toward my level one nutrition coaching certification, it is not in the scope of practice for personal trainers to prescribe meal plans. However, we can discuss nutrition, we can evaluate your food diaries and give suggestions and we can discuss nutrition in general terms.
Most fitness professionals will agree that the Canadian Food Guide is, well – shit. If you ate with those recommendations, you’d probably be obese and lethargic all the time.
If you’ve followed, you know that I had struggles with my weight. To this day, I still have to keep everything “in-check” to maintain and no, its not completely effortless – but it has become a way of life and something that I believe is sustainable for me.
I’ve read just about every diet book out there. I’ve never followed any of them. I simply read, pull certain information, perhaps give it a try or incorporate some ideas – but I can honestly say I’ve never followed a specific plan or “way” of eating.
I became over-weight myself for the first time after having two kids and being home-bound and in-active due to my postpartum anxiety. We ate very healthy as a family, proteins, carbs, fats – but for me – it was simply about portion control. When I was breastfeeding, I could eat like a machine and was super-thin. But when the babies were weaned, I continued to eat the same calories and be anxious and the pounds crept on.
For the past few years, fitness has been a large part of my life and that has evolved into a different way of eating all together. I was doing it all – bodybuilding, crossfitting, marathon training and starving myself. It was egg whites, protein shakes and chicken breasts. I wouldn’t even touch a carrot because it had too many carbs. That resulted in poor performance (in hind-sight), low energy, moodiness, hair-loss, dark circles under my eyes… oh and then there was that hospitalization thing.
About a year ago, I came across an awesome website, called “Eat To Perform”. I started to read more about it – and there are other similar sites as well. I kept reading over and over about fueling your body to perform – not to lose weight. So, I thought I’d give it a try. This meant adding carbs, which scared the crap out of me – but it also was the timing of the carbs. I gave it a try. What happened? I started lifting heavier, I had more energy, I was sleeping better… aaaaaaaand… I gained weight. That was hard, but I know now, that at the time, I was not a healthy weight for my stature. I still struggle with the fact that I’m not wearing a size four anymore – but then I consider my health and what that means and it brings me in-check.
Fast forward to today. What am I doing now? Well, today, I have learned to go with my gut – to follow my intuition. I believe that this is something that takes practice – a lot of it. But, with continued practice – and I am practicing every single day – comes health and success. I stock our pantry and fridge/freezer with foods as close to mother nature as possible. With kids, its hard – they are picky – but I believe if I continue to provide healthy options, they will learn to choose correctly as well. I also KNOW myself. I know that if I have sweets in the house – I will eat them. So, I simply don’t make them available. I have learned what makes my body feel good, what helps it lift heavy, train hard, get through long days of training clients, teaching classes, my own workouts, running my kids around and all the other commitments I have. If I don’t fuel properly – I won’t make it through the day.
This way of nutrition has become so intuitive that if I actually tracked my food (which sometimes I definitely do if things are getting off-track) – based on a female-cycle – I know there would be some very obvious patterns. I can feel if my body needs extra carbs, a little more protein, or a little more fat. I can also tell when I need a glass (or three) of wine. You have to become in-tune to your digestive patterns (bloating, gas, elimination patterns – TMI – I know!), your sleep, your moods, your energy. It all takes practice – and following your body’s signals.
All that being said, there are ways to make it easier. You have to make the right foods and choices available to yourself (your wine rack must be fully stocked – JK – not really). Things I do: every Sunday – I cook a package of chicken breasts – they are ready to go. I have hard-boiled eggs on hand ALL the time. I have Quest bars in my car, my gym bag, my drawer at the gym. If I know I’m going to be out all day, I whip up a protein shake to go, nuts, eggs, apple, veggies, etc. It all comes with me. I also eat chocolate every single freaking day. I allow myself to have wine three nights a week – but if I have that wine – I don’t eat a carb with my meal – its protein and veggies. If we eat out, I will have a couple bites of dessert – we order one dessert for the family – and we share it – knowing a couple bites will satisfy the palate but also knowing that depriving will lead to failure.
I have written a novel this time – and I could continue forever… but I hope this helps you consider a few things or recognize a few things in your own patterns. I will always preach that we need to develop and learn a way of eating that is sustainable for our entire life – not a rigid plan that includes depriving us of the things we enjoy. As soon as we do that, we will fail and life needs pleasure and joyous moments – and if a bite of chocolate and a glass of wine gives you joy, then learn how to make that work for YOU! Trust your GUT!