Getting Real About Nutrition and Exercise

Holy Donuts from the Holy Donut in Portland, ME. These are the bomb.

Holy Donuts from the Holy Donut in Portland, ME. These are the bomb. A treat for me a couple times a year!

It’s January 2016. The start of a brand new year. During the last week or two many of us have given some sort of thought to our health and weight. Maybe you’ve thought about getting healthier in general; eating better, sleeping more, stessing less. Or maybe you’ve thought about what it will take to lose some weight. These days there is a lot of conflicting information about how to do any of this. Additionally, nutritional needs can vary greatly from person to person. I’ve had many people ask me about weight loss and “getting lean” and I always try to give the most honest answer. The answer will also typically include the words, “It depends…”.

Over the last year or so more and more athletes have been seen indulging in donuts, pizza, and even beer. WAIT! I thought they only ate salads and steamed chicken!? Talk about confusing. The tides are changing and while a few years ago everyone was on the Paleo wagon, there is more and more evidence that performance athletes might needs more than meat, veggies, and healthy fats. There are two key words in the last few sentences: indulging and performance. 

So while Mat Fraser and Brooke Ence eat their pasta and donuts and Ben & Jerry’s, keep in mind the amount of work and energy output they have endured. Literally hours per day of training and movement. This means that they have earned the right to occasionally indulge in these foods and actually might need to eat these to get the amount of calories required the perform at such a high level. Additionally, their goal is performance which doesn’t necessarily translate to healthy! Junky food actually puts more stress on your body. This is why treats need to be occasional. Most of us cannot get away with eating treats all the time while still looking and feeling they way we want to.

Unless you are performing at a level similar to or near Mat or Brooke I suggest you go easy on the donuts, pasta, and Ben & Jerry’s and opt for the grilled chicken, sauteed broccoli and a sweet potato. If you are going to a CrossFit class three days per week but doing nothing else for activity outside of that and you want to lose weight, your nutrition must be on point. That means an occasional treat or small indulgence. I am a huge fan of this rule: Be active on most days each week. This means 4+, ideally 5 or 6 days. This doesn’t mean you have to go to CrossFit everyday. This means adding more activity to your daily life. A walk a lunch time instead of scrolling Facebook, a snow shoe hike, a day or half-day of skiing, ice skating, a dance party with your kids or a yoga class. Another way to get more activity is to arrive at the gym 30 minutes early for an extended warm up on the bike or rower.

If you’re consistently logging activity on most days of the week, you might be able to handle an indulgence each week. As in a cookie, beer, or glass of wine (or 2). If you’re working out more than this or are training for an athletic event or competition, your diet has to supply your body with all the nutrition and energy it needs to perform the best it can.  So if you’re training for 90 minutes to 2 hours or more each day it’s a good bet that you can have a donut or pizza now and then if you so choose.

HOWEVER…this all hinges on what your body can tolerate. It sometimes takes some experimentation and elimination to figure out what works for you! If you are lactose intolerant or have a gluten sensitivity, or if you have an autoimmune condition (celiac, Hashimotos, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc) there are probably foods that you must avoid in order to feel and function at your best, including donuts, pasta, and pizza and more. If you have special concerns your diet might need to be tailored to fit those concerns. Also, if you have a significant amount of weight to lose and that’s your goal, as I stated above, your nutrition must be on point most of the time (consistency!) – good quality protein, lots of veggies, some fruit, good starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, potatoes, butternut squash, and carrots.

If you’re not sure where you fit in, talk with one of your coaches or email me! I’d be happy to hep guide you in the right direction.

Back to the Basics

These days I have been thinking about the basics of living a healthy life. Food, water, sleep, activity, and stress. How are you doing with each of these areas? There are so many conflicting messages, so much information to study and decipher, so many numbers to remember, especially with food — eat this, don’t eat that. I’m confused, are you?

When you boil it down it’s pretty simple. When you eat food the body breaks it down and uses it for various processes necessary for survival. It’s your energy and your life force. So how has food become our enemy? Well, that’s the topic for another entire blog post. Over the last 2 years my personal challenge has been to make food “not the enemy”, if that makes sense. Relax, take a breath, take a bite, chew, swallow, enjoy. It’s only food. But it’s not just about food. I know that when I am stressed out or I rush while eating I don’t digest my food as well. I also know that when I am sleep deprived or dehydrated I feel extra hungry and crave cookies. Health is a big web of relationships.

Lately I have been racking my brain trying to understand the struggles, intricate relationships, and misunderstandings we all have with our food. It’s a tough train of thought to follow so I don’t suggest going too far down the rabbit hole unless that is your sort of thing. The one thought I have had over and over again is “get back to the basics”. The basics besides food (sleep, water, stress, exercise) can also be very helpful when trying to “fix” your food situation. The basics, applied on a consistent basis, are the key to it all, the “magic bullet” if you will.

There is no pill, potion, cleanse, exercise program, challenge, spa treatment, or concoction that can replace consistent effort. By consistent I am not talking about 30 days, or 3 months. I am talking about years. Y-E-A-R-S. As I mentioned above, I have spent the last two years of my life making food “not the enemy”. Actually, I should retract that statement because it has been many more years, more like 10 years. Do I still struggle from time to time, of course. I know that if I eat sugar I want more sugar. Do I still occasionally eat sugar? Hell yes because I love ice cream and margaritas. Do I know when to quit? Hell yes because I know if I go too far into the abyss I begin to feel reallllllly bad.

If you have a specific goal in mind, instead of thinking about years, think about tomorrow and this weekend. What are the steps you need to take to set yourself up to eat well? Do you need to go grocery shopping; throw something in the crock pot; chop some veggies; plan a few meals for your busy nights? What can you do in the next hour to set yourself up for success? Maybe you need to drink a few glasses of water instead of grabbing a coffee at Dunks – hydrate and save money. Maybe you need to turn off all your electronics and create a wind-down routine before bedtime or get into your bed 30 minutes earlier. Maybe you need to find your way back to a consistent exercise routine.

Let’s get back to the basics:

  • FOOD – Are the meals you are eating on a consistent basis made up of quality meats, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and some starch?
  • WATER – Are you drinking enough water (at least 1/2 body weight in ounces per day)?
  • SLEEP – Are you getting quality sleep (7-9 hours uninterrupted in a dark room)?
  • STRESS – Are you actively seeking ways to manage stress?
  • EXERCISE – Are you getting an appropriate amount of physical activity for your goals? Is too much exercise contributing to your stress?

If you answer “No” to any of these questions, you have found your starting point. Back to the basics you go. If you need help, ask. Maybe you need your spouse to get on board with food prep – perhaps it’s something you could do together to make it less cumbersome. Do you need to change up a relationship with a friend who always seems to sabotage your efforts? If you need ideas because you’re bored with food, ask your friends about what they eat. If you are feeling stagnant with your training in the gym, talk to one of your coaches about the best path for you.

The best thing you can do for yourself is simplify all the “noise” by getting back to the basics. You don’t have to be perfect. No one is perfect, but I’m guessing you want to feel good and be happy. Trust the process, embrace the journey, and commit to yourself. You get one life, commit to making it the one you want to live.

Write that sh*t down! It's totally helpful to keep track of this stuff: food, feelings, training.

Write that sh*t down! It’s totally helpful to keep track of this stuff: food, feelings, training.