Two Things That Will Make or Break Your Diet

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Two Things That Will Make or Break Your Diet

How long will it take me to lose the weight?
I’m not reaching my goals, what else can I do?
My cravings aren’t going away.
I’m not eating very much and often skip meals, but nothing is changing. 

Does this sound familiar for you?

I hear this from clients often, and it's typically a simple thing to check on.  If this is you, here are the two most important things you're missing that will either make or break your diet. 

1. Consistency & Compliance

How often are you following the guidelines of the nutrition plan you've decided on. if you are counting calories and tracking macros, how many days of the week are you within 5 grams of your goal for protein, carbs, and fat? If you are using tangible measurements for your food, how often are you paying attention to your portions? If you are working on the quality of your food and eating clean, how often do you have a "cheat" meal or eat something you aren't supposed to?

Consistency will make everything happen. You are not the things you do occasionally, you are the things you do all the time. 

The more consistent you can be in your habits, the better your results will be. This doesn't mean you have to be perfect - you don't even have to be that close. However, your consistency and ability to bounce back on track when you don't comply with your plan will determine how fast you reach your goal. 

Typically I recommend the 80/20 rule. This means that you should aim for compliance to your designated nutrition plan 80% of the time. This also means that you have 20% of the time to eat things off plan (i.e. your cheat meals, treats, and foods you know don't work well for you). Let's break it down to show how simple it can be to stay on track with this rule.

If you normally eat 3 meals per day, that meals you consume a total of 21 meals per week. To be 80% compliant to your plan, approximately 17 meals should be compliant and follow your guidelines, and 3 meals can be non-compliant to account for the other 20% of meals. Not so bad, right? This meal you could have a full day on non-compliance per week or spread them out through the week (which is typically what I recommend). But keep in mind that it also means you need to stay on track for 6 full day or 17 meals during the week. 

Can you say you're able to do level of consistency and compliance to your plan that before you start wondering why you aren't seeing results?

2. Satiation

Traditional diets can be tough and many people still believe that if you're not starving, you're not dieting. it has become such an ingrained concept, particularly when trying to lose weight, that you're going to be hungry. Many people go to bed hungry when they're trying to lose weight. And all the while, they're eating foods they hate, foods that don't fill them up, and foods that leave them hungry a couple hours later. 

It's not supposed to be that way. 

Many of my clients express that their nutrition plans are WAY more food than they have ever eaten in their life and "Am I sure this is going to help them lose weight?!" 

The truth is yes. When you're eating the right types of food, you won't be hungry and you don't need to worry about the volume of food that you're eating. Calories matter but you don't need to count them to get the portions that are right for your body if you're willing to focus on the quality of the food you're consuming. 

Foods that contain high fat will help you stay full longer. When eaten, fat sends a signal to the brain that lets it know you are full and keeps you satiated for much longer than other macronutrients. Have you ever eaten a bowl plate of spaghetti only to be hungry a couple hours later? Spaghetti is primarily composed of carbohydrates which don't keep us full, but do provide a lot of calories. 

The same concept comes with eating salads. If you love salads, great! They can contain a lot of vitamins and nutrients when made in proper portions. But you do not have to eat salads in order to lose weight. In fact, many of the ingredients in salads are typically water-based - lettuce, onions, tomatoes, etc. Those are all super healthy things to incorporate into your diet but water-based foods don't always make for keeping you full and happy. 

No matter your personal approach to nutrition, keeping yourself satiated will make a huge difference in the success of your plan. When you're hungry, you're more likely to reach for anything possible. You're also more likely to reach for foods that don't comply with your plan. 

I created the consistency and satiation tracking sheet available below for anyone to use to keep track of their meals. Using the tracking sheet is simple: Put a check or Y for "yes I was compliant to my plan" or N for "nope, not this meal" and then fill in a quick note about how you felt after your meal or snack. Some things to think about: Are you full? Are you hungry? How was your energy afterwards? Any stomach pains? Then add up your score at the end of the week to determine how well you did in terms of consistency. 

Click on the images below to access the full PDF for easy printing!

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You're Probably Not In Ketosis... Here's Why

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You're Probably Not In Ketosis... Here's Why

I've been in the fitness and health industry for years, so I know that every so often a "new" diet comes along and everyone wants to try it to help cure their woes. Their woes are usually the desire for rapid weightless. 

Introducing the Keto diet..

Whether you watched a Netflix documentary, seen one of your friends talk about it on Facebook, seen it on the news, or gotten spam emails, you've probably heard about it at this point.

But here's the truth, my friend. You're probably not in ketosis. You're probably not even close.

Frankly, if it's not hard, you're not doing it right. 

It sounds simple, I get it. Lower your carb intake and increase your fat. Sounds fantastic, but it's actually really, really hard. 

Ketosis has been used as medicine treatment for epilepsy in children, where patients are monitored heavily by doctors and nutritionists. The concept is simple, as I've discussed before, lower and deplete your glycogen levels from carb/sugar intake and your body produces more ketones for energy and thus burns fat more efficiently. 

It can be very challenging for adults to get into ketosis. The Keto diet is medically prescribed for children because it's much easier to reach a state of ketosis. Without guidance it can be very difficult for adults to get into a state of ketosis due to increased muscle mass and a metabolism that has seen a range of functioning speeds. 

So here's a couple things to keep in mind:

  1. A true Keto diet isn't actually palatable. You should be getting 80-90% of your daily calories from fat sources. Our bodies love fat. It tastes good and we need it to function. But think about eating cookies every day for every meal. You get sick of it, right? With the Keto diet, you can't really switch it up. You are committing to high fat foods every day for every meal. 
  2. Eating high fat does not mean you're in ketosis. I'm a stickler on this one. There's a big difference between having a lot of fat in your diet, which is perfectly healthy and can help you lose body fat (especially if this is a change in your diet) and eating to the point of ketosis. Remember that reaching a state of ketosis is triggering your body to think it's starving and fuel itself differently. 
  3. The amount of carbs you eat matters. To be in ketosis, you should not be consuming more than 20 grams of carbohydrates daily. This means if you're not tracking and measuring your food, you're doing it wrong and you're probably way off. To clarify, 20 grams of carbs won't even get you a full banana, and it includes the veggies you're eating for that you aren't eating solely meat, eggs, avocado and cooking oils. 
  4. Just like with carbs, the amount of protein you eat matters. In the absence of carb sources for energy, your body will convert protein into glucose if it has enough of it to do so. That being said you need to get enough to allow your cells to function properly, but not too much or your body will be internally combatting your efforts. And this amount is unique to you based on your muscle mass, so there's no one right measurement for protein intake.
  5. In case you hadn't come to this conclusion yet, there is a lot of tracking involved. In fact, if you're not testing your ketone levels daily, there's no way on knowing if what you are doing is working. So much of nutrition is trial and error, finding out what works best for you body, and what you can sustain long term. You can buy testing strips and test your ketone levels through your urine, but you have to do so regularly. 
  6. Keto is meant to be a consistent and long-term diet. This means that you cannot eat Keto during the week and binge on pizza on the weekend. It doesn't work that way and it's a real commitment to your consistency in the diet. It takes time for your body to actually deplete of glucose and move into a state of ketosis, and it's possible to do metabolic damage if you are unable to commit to it. 

There's a million articles on the interwebs to help you learn about the Keto diet and how to include more fat into your diet to do it, but if it's something that interests you I urge you to commit fully, be consistent, do your tracking, and possibly work with an expert to keep yourself safe. There's nothing more frustrating than starting a diet, seeing results, just to have the weight bounce right back. 

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Why I Don't Do Meal Plans

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Why I Don't Do Meal Plans

I work with clients of all different backgrounds. Some are athletes but many are not. Some want to count macros and the idea of it makes others want to pull their hair out. They are busy moms and dads, successful in their careers, with and without kids, all juggling the many facets of life. And every once in a while someone really wants me to write them a meal plan.  

But meal plans aren't something I do, and I want to explain why. 

Now don't get me wrong, I do give clients sample days. I think it can provide guidance on how to structure a day and feel really good based on what I know about them. But a full on meal plan (as in Monday for breakfast eat exactly what I say) is tough, not only for me to compile, but for clients. And here's why..

  1. You're not going to stick to the plan. This phrase sticks out for me, "If I just had a meal plan to follow I could do it perfectly, but without it I have no idea what to do." I get it, really I do. Self-motivating yourself to make good decisions in the moment is hard. And when you don't know what to make for dinner, it can be hard to choose the perfect meal. But things happen and you can't always stick to the plan. You had friends in town and couldn't do meal prep so now you whole week is out of whack. Your boss asked you to stay late at work and you don't have your dinner with you. Or you got asked to go to dinner with a friend you haven't seen forever. Buh-bye meal plan! 

    The other thing is, a lot of people also struggle with rebelling against a meal plan. Even if you want one, you might find yourself conscious (or not so consciously) resisting or changing the plan that your nutritionist has written for you. This is normal, but kind of defeats the purpose of the plan. 
     
  2. You do follow the plan and you do it to the tee. You're a disciplined rockstar, but meal plans are intended to be temporary and short term to reach a specific goal. Competing in a bodybuilding competition? Cool, let's get you set up with a meal plan and stick to it. Otherwise, strictly following meal plans can be a really harmful thing. You could end up with disordered eating habits, be unable to socialize in food-oriented settings, or damage your health (mentally, hormonally, and metabolically). 
     
  3. You follow it, but you hate it. You don't like the food on the plan. You're tired of plain food. It's to complicated to be forced to eat a meal you just don't feel like having that day. You don't always feel like a mid-morning snack. Maybe you see results, but if you never had to measure out 4 oz of chicken again you could be happy. Sometimes this ends in feeling like "eating healthy sucks." You don't get to make any choices in your food and it just feel crappy. 
     
  4. Shit happens. Things come up. Plans change. People get sick. Eating with others changes the entire meal plan game. The meals we eat can be a direct result of our culture and background. Typically meal plans don't reflect that or account for Taco Tuesday. 
     
  5. Most people do not need that level of guidance. There are only a handful of people who need to be very specific with their food: bodybuilders, professional athletes, and those altering their body composition at already low levels. That's it. If measuring your 4 oz of chicken, 6 oz of broccoli and 2 oz of rice helps you to feel in control and fully grasp what you're doing, great! You go! But I don't need to prescribe a plan for you and follow day in and day out. This is why macros and counting calories can be flexible when it comes to meals. 
     
  6. What happens when you meal plan ends? If you're still not convinced that a meal plan isn't serving you, this is my question for you. What then? Do you just repeat it on an endless cycle or do you know how to feed yourself without checking the menu for exact details. Knowing how to survive off of a meal plan, in the real world, and still achieve your goals is the best thing you can do for yourself. Why not learn that in the first place?

I support everyone in doing what helps them best achieve their goals, but when I'm asked for a meal plan and I say no, it's really for your own good. I want to help you long term. It's one of my core values to create sustainable long-term nutrition for clients - not short-term solutions. 

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How To Transform Your Meals Starting Today

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How To Transform Your Meals Starting Today

Everyone thinks that changing the way you eat has to be hard. And it can be hard. If you've ever tried a strict diet, you know that it's tough to change the way you eat when you go from 0 to 60 mph. 

What you may not know it that transforming your meals can be a painless and smooth experience. If you're dieting where you're stressed, can't survive eating out, need a scale for everything, or still craving any and all carbs you can get your hands on.. there's a better way. Diet differently. 

The key to this is making it simple. Let me say it again, simple! 

We'll use lunch as an example. Let's say you're currently hitting the drive thru for a burger, fries, and a soda, because frankly you're busy. You need something fast and cheap, and you can always find this no matter what. You probably eat it while driving and the thought of sitting down to eat seems like nonsense. You may also notice that you don't always feel great afterwards.. cue the stomach ache and brain fog. This is Phase 1. This is where you're currently at, and all you're going to do is make a small change.

You want to improve this meal, so here's how you might roll out Phase 2. All you have to do is pick one thing to do and see how you like it. So maybe instead of the drive thru, you go to a little nicer burger place (one where you're at least sure you're getting some decent meat). Maybe you swap out the regular soda for a diet soda. Maybe you ask for a fruit cup instead of the fries. Maybe instead of eating while you're driving, you wait until you're parked to eat or you take it back to your desk with you. Again, pick one that you feel 100% confident you could do easily, and start there. 

Guess what? You're making progress! 

It's not perfect, but I never asked you to have the perfect meal. 

You're ready to take it a little farther, so now you're starting to prep some food for lunch, but burgers are still your favorite, so burgers it is! You pre-cook some burger patties at home on the weekend so that all you have to do is warm them up at work. You might also be selective about the other parts of your burger. You try out a whole grain bun and some nice cheese (you know, the kind that doesn't come in a packaged slice). You're still getting a soda from the vending machine, but you sit in the office break room a couple days a week. You get to chat with co-workers and it helps you to slow down while you eat. We all know how hard it is to scarf down you're lunch while trying to hold conversation. This is Phase 3, not so bad right?

The last phase is ultimately where you'd like to end up. You have a burger with all the fixings. You even have cheese on it and maybe even the bun too (or half, because who says you have to eat both sides). You also have a nice side salad with mixed greens and your favorite veggies. You get away from your computer to eat lunch and even get out of the office to sit outside and catch some fresh air. You've switched to water to your drink instead of soda. 

You see, transforming your meals isn't about "no more burgers for you," It's about changing the way you approach your meal, from what you're eating to how you're eating it and the things that are on the side too. 

You can do this with every meal you have and create a pretty great nutrition routine. If you're that person who always eats their breakfast while scrolling through social media, set it down and create a step in the right direction. Focus on your meal and enjoy it. If you're not enjoying it when you pay attention to it, maybe something needs to change. 

And it doesn't have to be all the time. Maybe Monday's are really tough for you and your lunch doesn't go as well as you might have hoped, but the other days you do well. That's okay! 

Everyone forgets that nutrition and health is really about what you need, what makes you happy, and what you can reasonably do right now. As long as you are honest with yourself, you're doing the best you can. 

No idea where to start? You can fill out this form and we can chat about what part of your life you'd like to improve. 

 

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10 Confessions of a Nutritionist

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10 Confessions of a Nutritionist

It's been three years since I officially started Always Growing Nutrition. I've learned a lot in the past few years, not only from coaching clients and having hands on experience, but creating nutrition programs for CrossFit affiliates, refining my own practice, reading dozens of books on various topics surrounding nutrition, and working with some amazingly dedicated clients. 

And through all of that, I've realized that there are some preconceived notions about my based on my nutrition expertise. So here are my top ten confessions:

  1. I don't prescribe to any specific ideology of eating. I'm not paleo. I'm not keto. I don't practice "clean eating" or any other diet that has a title. I would call my style of eating intuitive, mixed with what I know is best for me, mixed with what makes me happy. 
     
  2. I'm not the person who is going to be judging what you eat. Really, I don't care what you order when we're out to eat together. Unless you're my client (and frankly, even if you are) I am never going to call you out or pass judgement on you ordering a burger and fries. The only time I ever give my opinion on food in casual settings is if I'm asked to. 
     
  3. I love beer. If you know me well, you know that I will hardly ever turn down a good beer with friends. As a Colorado native, I'm fully aware of how spoiled I am in our beautiful state with so much good craft beer. I'm the person who goes to other states and is bummed when there aren't breweries lining the streets. Beer has become part of my balance when it comes to enjoying life, and I recognize when I need to take a break from it for goals I have set. 
     
  4. I have no gripes with coffee. I love coffee and I never encourage anyone to remove it from their diet unless it is negatively effecting them (i.e. making them shakey, moody, or unable to sleep at night). There are two caveats to this. (1) If you are drinking more cream and sugar than you are actual coffee, a positive change can happen there. I drink my coffee black, with cream and/or sugar only being a rare treat. (2) Coffee should not effect your sleep cycle (or have zero effect on you). I recently changed my sleeping habits from erratic to a normal one. Before I could drink coffee and take a 2-hour nap immediately and there was no limit to the amount of coffee I could drink. Now if I drink coffee too late in the day, I'm up all night. Something wasn't quite right before and now I can see those difference. 
     
  5. Honestly, I eat a good amount of carbs. Just like with beer, balance is everything. So I do eat carbs that many people would label as "bad" carbs. But I do so in combination with and because of my training. Heavy training (either in weight or in volume) equals more carbs to sustain my energy levels and help me recover better. 
     
  6. I still get sugar cravings, but not like I used to. The sugar cravings that happen in the middle of the afternoon have been gone for years thankfully, but craving sweets in the evening still happens. I find that the more sugar I eat, the more I crave it.
     
  7. I believe mindset and positive body image are everything when it comes to nutrition. How you think about yourself is how you treat yourself. Hate your body and you're going to feed it poorly. Love it and you'll nourish it. When this changes, everything surrounding your nutrition will change too.
     
  8. I struggle too. I have bad days where I am tired, I am stressed, and the last thing I want to do is cook or eat my veggies. I can go overboard and get off track, but I'm able to realign myself at the next meal. 
     
  9. I don't buy into the superfoods. I'm not into trying to get the newest, best ingredient in daily. Chia seeds, goji berries, flax, acacia, spirulina, wheat grass, etc. Ain't nobody got time to make sure they're getting that special something day in and day out. 
     
  10.  I don't always take my own advice. Especially when it comes to creating my own health as a priority. I will bend over backwards and do everything possible (eat poorly or miss a meal, lose sleep, skip my workouts, etc) to make sure I'm serving my clients in every way possible. I'm a classic workaholic. But I'm working on it - progress not perfection.

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Dear Sugar-holic

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Dear Sugar-holic

Dear Sugar-holic,

Which one are you?

Are you the person who eats well throughout the morning and even through lunch. You eat your perfectly prepped or planned lunch and feel totally satisfied. Then 2 o'clock hits.. Your energy drops and the cravings come with it. You have to swing by that co-worker's desk to grab a piece of candy or you pull a stashed sweet treat out of your desk drawer to continue the day. 

Or are you the person who always feels sleepy and you notice your energy drops often, so you keep healthy food on hand, like fruit and energy bars, nothing bad. When you feel the crash coming, you grab your snack and keep grinding away at your busy job. You might notice that your hands even get shakey when this happens, but eventually goes away. Maybe it's just brain fog you notice. You may have even self-diagnosed yourself with hypoglycemia. 

Or maybe you get home from a long and stressful day. That disagreement with your boss really didn't go well, and now all you want to do is reach for the pint of ice cream and a spoon and curl up in front of the TV. 

By now you may have heard how addictive sugar can be, and you feel it too. In fact, sugar has similar effects on the brain as drugs through behavioral and neurochemical effects. A study on rats showed that between cocaine and sugar, sugar was more addicting and stated that "the stimulation of sweet receptors by sugar-rich diets, such as those now widely available in modern societies, would generate a spuranormal reward signal in the brain, with the potential to override self-control mechanisms and thus lead to addiction." 

That means it's not your fault that you're a sugar-colic. Obviously, sugar doesn't have the same results as being addicted to cocaine, but the results aren't exactly dismissible either. Here's a few ways your sugar addiction might be effecting your health right underneath your nose.

Sugar changes how your hormones work. As discussed in our Insulin: The Key to Real Weight Loss blog, the presence of sugar in the diet can create a resistance to insulin, leading to higher blood sugar levels and ultimately diabetes and its correlated diseases. As insulin resistance increases, so does resistance of glucagon, the hormone that intimates sugar release from the liver.   This can lead to an adrenaline response as we'll detail below. 

Sugar can cause headaches and even seizures. If you regularly have headaches that feel like migraines, it could actually be due to sugar and not be a migraine at all. When sugar is present in the diet, you'll have drops in blood sugar levels. As this happens, the brain is deprived of glucose and triggers a stress response via the adrenal glands, which release adrenaline. Adrenaline directly effects the nervous system, causing anxiety, shakiness, and nausea. Combining this with the release of insulin and glucagon telling the liver to release sugar, the brain can short circuit. Sometimes this develops as a cluster headache, resembling a migraine, and sometimes is develops as a seizure. However, once the short circuit has occurred, it's much easier to happen again. 

Sugar speeds up the aging process. Excess sugar stiffens the collagen present in your joints, tendons, and skin, which can cause wrinkling and arthritis. At the same time, production of new collagen is disrupted. Got creaky knees and joints? They aren't supposed to sound that way. 

Sugar renders your immune system to a weaker state. Sugar has a sticky tendency. The feeling of sugar getting sticky on your hands isn't reserved from only outside of the body. The same thing happens on the inside, and it causes cells and tissues to absorb the sugar and become bloated, hard, and stiff over time. Within normal sugar levels, our white blood cells are able to clean up the mess and disperse the sugar. As it takes hold of the white blood cells, there can be trouble. Sugar changes the surface markers of white blood cells, which makes it difficult for them to distinguish between familiar cells and invaders. This opens to door for infection, and unchallenged white blood cells can allow cancer to grow without defense. 

Sugar can lead to circulatory dysfunction. As red blood cells become bloated and filled with sugar, they have difficulty passing through the spleen, where they are normally tested for quality by the body. Normally they would pass through tiny corridors, but if the red blood cells are too bloated from sugar, they are destroyed. This happens until the spleen is unable to remove all of the bloated cells quickly enough due to a high volume of sugar-bloated cells, and the capillaries can become clogged. This explains why diabetics often experience blindness, numbness and infection in their feet. Furthermore, for the gentlemen, early stages of circulatory problems can be seen through erectile dysfunction. 

Sugar can damage brain cells, make it more difficult to learn, and lead to dementia. The brain is composed of cells called dendrites. Healthy dendrites look like a tree with lots of branches. Hormones allow the dendrites to grow more branches, making more neural connections. As sugar gums up cell membranes, the brain cells are not immune. As hormone sensitivity in brain cells decreases, as does their ability to grow and make connections. As the structure of the brain is stunted or diminished, dementia and Alzheimers can result. 


So how much sugar should you be consuming a day? 

The American Heart Association, though not my favorite source, recommends that men get no more than 36 grams or 150 calories per day and women get no more than 20 grams or 100 calories per day. 

Let's put that in perspective for you. An eight-ounce glass of orange juice contains 5.5 teaspoons of sugar, or 20 grams. A tablespoon of French Vanilla coffee creamer contains 5 grams of sugar, and you're probably not only having one tablespoon if you're not a fan of black coffee. It adds up quickly, and you're likely consuming more sugar that you're aware of, even if you're skipping the candy and cake.

Sugar goes by many names. Here's a few to look for on any processed or packages foods, all of which are converted into glucose or glycerine when eaten. 

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Though carbohydrate needs vary for everyone based on their activity levels, body composition, and goals, a general rule of thumb if you are experiencing sugar craving, headaches, or any of the symptoms outlined above, to include high blood sugar, is to reduce total carbohydrate intake to 100 grams daily or less. 

Removing sugar from your diet to the best of your ability, doesn't mean you won't be able to enjoy sweets. Many people who remove added sugars from their diets begin to fully experience the natural sweetness found in vegetables and fruits. Sugar consumption has been shown to dull our senses particularly when it comes to tasting sweetness. By removing excess sugar from your diet, you're not only protecting yourself from a laundry list of diseases that can creep up while you continue to live a normal life, but you'll feel better removing sugar crashes and headaches, which also getting back to really enjoy the full flavor of food. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Who Says You Can't Have It All?

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Who Says You Can't Have It All?

If you've ever devoted yourself fully to something, you know that other obligations and priorities can fall to the wayside. 

Don't know what I mean?

  • Have you ever gotten into a relationship only to stop seeing or chatting with your friends as often?
  • Have you ever started a nutrition program and realized that you can't really have a social life or attend birthday parties, happy hour, or weddings without stressing out?
  • Have you ever worked your butt off in the gym but doing so meant you weren't really able to focus on nutrition because doing both full force is hard?
  • Have you ever felt like you can either be healthy or lose weight quickly, but not both?
  • Feel like you can either enjoy the food you eat or eat healthy, but not at the same time?

Here's the thing: Being healthy doesn't have to mean you have to pick and choose from the things that bring you happiness. You don't have to choose. You can have it all. 

Here's how:

  1. Ditch the traditional way of thinking that tells you that you must go all in on everything. Life isn't an everything or nothing situation unless you're competing at a very high level (which most people aren't). This way of thinking only causes us more stress. We aren't made or motivated to do any one thing in an "all in" mindset for long periods of time. Burn out is real, but I'm sure you already feel that. Besides, how's that been working for you so far?
  2. Think about things laterally. This means you get both, not one or the other. When it comes to clients, we think of this as eating healthy AND indulging in dessert. Why can't you do both? You can make compromises to get everything you want in a structured way. 
  3. Recognize that everything is connected. How you eat effects your energy levels and digestion. When you feel crappy, you're less likely to feel motivated to get to the gym or be active. This probably stresses you out when it's something you really want to be doing, but can't force yourself to do. When you're not active or eating well, you might not be sleeping very well. And when you wake up tired, you're more likely to crave sugary carbs due to increased insulin secretion, and you're one step farther from your goals. 
  4. Take one simple step, and when you're comfortable with it, build upon it. This is one of the most valuable tools I'm able to give my clients - the confidence that they don't have to be perfect on day one. In fact, we build on a foundation that allows them to crush their goals one stepping stone at a time. This means they can make improvements in their nutrition, their activity levels, their sleep habits, etc. all together without any one piece needing to be ideal. In the end, they end up exactly where they want to be without the looming dark cloud of stress that they have failed because they aren't perfect. When you understand that you can say yes to certain foods sometimes and no other times, you'll see that mentality translate into other parts of your life as well. 
  5. Note your behavior patterns. I'd be lying if I told you nutrition coaching was all about providing all of the nutrition facts in my brain until your brain wants to explode to. It's not like that at all. It's more about looking at your behavior patterns that aren't serving you and changing them. If you're a stress either, what is causing that stress? Is there another way you can de-stress? Maybe your body is craving something but your brain is just interpreting it wrong. We create behavior patterns, many times in the wrong way, unknowingly. But if you're willing to make the change and grow, you'll see huge improvements in your life through small changes and shifts. 
  6. Be kind to yourself, always. If you never learned the right way to eat to be healthy, why are you beating yourself up over the results or just for not knowing better? I don't know Chinese and I wouldn't be mad at myself for not being able to communicate with someone who could. Be patient, open-minded and willing to try new things without judgment on yourself. 

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Creating Recipes in My Fitness Pal

Macros are easier when you do single macro source foods. For example, chicken is primarily protein. An apple is primarily carbs. And olive oil is a fat. But eating that way isn't always fun and sometimes making recipes can change things up to keep you on track without breaking the macro bank.

Here's how to create a recipe in My Fitness Pal with calculated macros for each serving size. 

Under the Menu, you'll go to Meals, Recipes & Foods

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Then you'll have the ability to Create a New Recipe at the bottom of the screen, but you can see that I have a few recipes already entered. 

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You'll name the recipe your about to create in the Title section and determine the number of servings you'll be making. I'm using chicken soup as an example. If you're following a recipe out of a cookbook, it should give you the number of servings it will make. Don't worry - you can always go back and change this later. This is here to be able to equally split everything up once you enter the ingredients into the recipe, which we'll be doing next. 

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Next, start adding ingredients as they are listed in the recipe you're following or whatever you're putting tougher. Make sure to measure and weigh everything you're putting into the recipe so that it's accounted for. You can also go back and change these later on if you decide to add more or less of an ingredient. 

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Once you've added everything to My Fitness Pal, you'll push the arrow in the upper right corner and it will calculate the macros for each serving. Here you can change the servings if needed and you'll notice how the macros get higher with fewer servings or lower with less as you spread it out. Make sure to press Save.  

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The next screen will give you the ability to add it to your food diary now or you can pull it up later by opening your diary and looking for Recipes in the upper right of the screen under the barcode feature. 

For something like this, I like to pre-serve things ahead of time so that I'm as close to what I'm expecting to get when I eat the soup throughout the week. I'll separate the soup into containers as equally as possible to take some of the guesswork out of my prep later on.  This makes a world of different for eating a wide variety of food while still sticking to your macros. 

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What Should I Eat To Hit My Macros?

"I only have protein left for today, what should I eat?" is a text I often receive. And if you're counting macros, you've probably been there. 

You got through the whole day and you nailed a couple of your macros but there is one lingering that you still have a good chunk to get in for a successful day. Figuring out what you can eat to get there can be tough too when you're in the moment. 

I created this chart to help you know which foods will help you hit your macros when there's just a little bit left, or you're not sure how to get a little bit of each. 

Click on the image to get the PDF so that you can download it.

Print it. Put it on your fridge. Keep it on your phone. Keep crushing your goals.

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Protein Powders - How to Choose

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Protein Powders - How to Choose

Whether you're trying to gain muscle or lose weight, a protein shake can provide essential nutrients to helping you reach your goal. But with so many protein powders on the market, choosing the best one can be a bit confusing. There are a few simple things to take into consideration when choosing the best one for you. 

First, ask yourself what the goal of taking a protein shake is

If you're looking to build muscle, whey protein and whey isolates will be best for you. They have an ability to be absorbed by the body easily, and therefore work best for quick absorption following exercise when the goal is increasing muscle mass and strength. You might also look for a protein shake that contains BCAA's (branched chain amino acids) as they help limit muscle deterioration and promote muscle growth.

If you're looking to lose weight and seeking a protein powder to support your protein intake, look for one that does not contain added sugars or sweeteners made from starch (like maltodextrin). You can still have a whey protein powder that works for you, but make sure it's not a gainer. In order words, look at the total calories in one serving, as well as the amount of carbs present. If those numbers are high, it probably isn't the best suited for weight loss. 

Second, make sure the protein powder you choose doesn't upset your stomach

Whey proteins don't work for everyone, especially those who have dairy allergies or irritable bowel syndrome. There are lots of other protein sourced powders on the market to help with this issue. There are egg protein powders, which release slowly and can be consumed throughout the day, as well as peahemp, and rice protein protein powders that are great options for vegans and vegetarians that also provide gluten free options. 

Lastly, the cleaner the better.

Take a look at the ingredients near the bottom of the nutrition label on the powder. If the list is long and filled with a bunch of worshippers you can't pronounce - those are fillers. Protein powders have a bad reputation for putting random ingredients in their mixture to fill it out and give it a bigger volume. This helps the company sell the product for cheaper since what you're really paying for (protein) is actually often in small quantities, and helps keep the price of the product low. Sometimes the ingredients can even include things you really don't want to be consuming anyways.

The best thing you can do is pick a protein powder with as few ingredients as possible. This ensures that it's clean, straight forward, and you're getting exactly what you pay for.

I'm always happy to give my advice on my favorite powders that I've recommended to clients as best for their needs, so feel free to reach out! 

 

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Macronutrients vs. Micronutrients

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Macronutrients vs. Micronutrients

You may familiar (or really familiar) with macronutrients. There are only three (protein, carbs, and fat) and they make up the big building blocks of our food. But you're probably also aware of things like vitamins and minerals which compose our micronutrients. While we're focused on macronutrients and balancing those out in various proportions, it's also important to keep in mind our micronutrients as these determine our overall health.

Many micronutrients are considered essential, meaning that we can't make them in the body and therefore need to be consumed from our diet. Let me repeat that - they should be consumed in your diet (read: not from supplements as much as possible). These includes vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients like fiber. There are 13 different vitamins and 18 different minerals that are important for vital roles in the body. These micronutrients allow us to not only function properly, but create new DNA cells and prevent us from aging prematurely. 

Unfortunately, no single food provides all the micronutrients we need to survive. This means that variety in your food is key. No one meat source can provide everything you need, nor can one vegetable source give you everything. 

When we think about flexible dieting, or macro counting (IIFYM), it can be easy to maintain a relatively unhealthy diet consisting of processed foods, little meat sources, and processed fats - all while still hitting your numbers and maybe even reaching your goals. But what about your health? The real nitty gritty health. 

Macros are great for looking at the big picture (even though it might not always feel like it), but keeping your micronutrients in mind can mean the difference between a healthy life where you feel and function well, and one plagued by early aging, disease, and sluggishness. 

There's a ton of micronutrients, and I won't list them all, but here are some you should think about when choosing your food options - plus what foods you can find them in:

  • Fiber - Helps keep you full, lowers cholesterol and help control blood sugar (which you can read about it one of the recent blogs, Carbs & Fiber: The Poison & The Antidote - Best sources: raspberries, chia seed, flaxseed, avocado, oatmeal, lentils, broccoli, cabbage, apples, Brussels sprouts (in fact, most veggies contain fiber)
  • Potassium - One of the most important electrolytes in the body, potassium helps maintain proper water levels in the body. It's also important for combatting heart disease and lowering blood sugar levels - Best sources: avocado, acorn squash, spinach, sweet potato, dried apricots, wild-calm salmon, pomegranate, coconut water, white beans, and bananas (in that order - fun fact - even though everyone always thinks of bananas first)
  • Vitamin A - Important for vision, your immune system, and reproductive systems, Vitamin A also helps your heart, lungs, and kidneys work properly. It also plays a role in preventing cell mutations which can lead to cancer - Best sources: butternut squash, sweet potato, kale, carrots, beef liver, spinach, apricots, broccoli, butter, egg yolks  
  • Vitamin B12 - Keeps the body's nerve and blood cells healthy, while also playing a role in the development of DNA. Proper vitamin B12 levels also prevent a type of anemia that can make people tired and weak - Best sources:  beef liver, sardines, mackerel, lamb-wild caught salmon, nutritional yeast, feta cheese, grass-fed beef, cottage cheese, eggs
  • Vitamin C - Despite being known for supporting your immune system, vitamin C is important for repairing and healing damaged cells - Best sources: guava, black currant, red pepper, kiwi, pineapple, parsley, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale
  • Vitamin D - Required for absorbing calcium and therefore bone growth. It also plays a role in mood, and therefore depletion can lead to seasonal depression (we typically get vitamin D through sun exposure, but this is not always possible) - Best sources: Sunlight, cod liver oil, sardines, salmon, mackerel, tuna, raw milk, eggs, mushrooms
  • Vitamin E - Important for the formation of red blood cells, vitamin E is also important for protecting cell membranes from free radicals and contains antioxidant properties - Best sources: almonds, spinach, sweet potato, avocado, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, palm oil, butternut squash
  • Vitamin K - Known for its importance in blood clotting, vitamin K is also important for building strong bones and preventing heart disease - Best sources: green leafy vegetables (kale), natty (fermented soy), scallions, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, fermented dairy, prunes, cucumbers, basil 
  • Zinc - Required for the body's immune system to function properly. It plays a role in cell growth and division, as well as wound healing and the breakdown of carbohydrates - Best sources: lamb, pumpkin seeds, grass-fed beef, chickpeas, cocoa powder, cashews, kefir, mushrooms, spinach, chicken
  • Iodine - Necessary for the body to make thyroid hormones, controlling metabolism functions. It's also important for proper bone and brain development during pregnancy - Best sources: sea vegetables (seaweed), cranberries, yogurt, strawberries, potatoes
  • Calcium - Plays a vital role in muscle contraction, as well as transmitting nervous system messages and the release of hormones - Best sources: raw milk, kale, sardines, kefir, broccoli, watercress, cheese, box chop, okra, almonds 
  • Chromium - Important for the metabolism of carbohydrates and fat. Chromium stimulates fatty acid and cholesterol synthesis for brain function in particular - Best sources: broccoli, grapes, potatoes, garlic, basil, grass-fed beef, oranges, turkey, green beans, red wine, apples, bananas
  • Folate - Helps the body utilize and vitamin B12 and amino acids. Depletion of chromium can lead to anemia, poor digestion, and poor immune function - Best sources: garbanzo beans, liver, pinto beans, lentils, spinach, asparagus, avocado, beets, black eyed peas, broccoli 
  • Iron - Important for hemoglobin to carry oxygen throughout the body, and without it you can struggle to develop enough red blood cells to function properly or develop anemia - Best sources: spirulina, liver, grass-fed beef, lentils, dark chocolate, spinach, sardines, black beans, pistachios, raisins 

Focusing on getting a variety of foods and including whole food into your diet when working counting macros or when eating any diet, can create a well-rounded diet that not only tastes good but is also sustainable long-term by providing you the vitamins, nutrients, and all the micronutrients you need to live your healthiest life. 

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Cortisol: How Stress Can Derail You

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Cortisol: How Stress Can Derail You

For years doctors have been telling us how important it is for us to manage our stress. But not many people take that as seriously as they should outside of those facing serious cardiac repercussions. 

What if part of your struggle with weight loss is due to stress? Or what if you could perform better athletically if it weren't due to your stress?

You probably already know that cortisol is our fight or flight response hormone. We can think of it very simply: as cavemen, cortisol was the hormone that told us if we should fight in the face of a predator or run away. Cortisol is also a glucocorticoid (glucose + cortex +steroid) hormone released by the adrenal cortex. When it's released, it enhances glucose availability to be used as energy for muscles in a flight scenario. The goal is to survive the stress and our body essentially goes into shut down mode with the sole purpose of providing glucose (energy). When the stress is gone, cortisol levels return back to normal and so do the metabolic processes in our body. 

But what happens if these stressors become a regular occurrence?

When you think about it, it would seem like insulin and cortisol would balance each other out. As insulin levels increase, the body stores energy as glycogen and fat. When cortisol is released, the body releases those energy stores as readily available glucose. But when cortisol levels remain high due to our much more complex lives (work problems, arguments, traffic, poor sleep quality, etc) glucose remains high and there is no downtime from the stressor causing cortisol release. As glucose levels remain high and insulin is released in response, leading to weight gain. In fact, studies show that increasing cortisol not only increases the release of insulin, but can lead to insulin resistance.

For athletes and those not struggling with excess body fat, high levels of cortisol can mean that you're doing more harm than good during your training sessions. As cortisol is released Ito the body, the body releases glucose for energy needs as mentioned. But it will also cause gluconeogenesis - breaking down protein into glucose. This means you're breaking down the muscle you've worked so hard for because of too much stress. This becomes worse as your body released more cortisol as you workout - a normal response, but your body is under further stress in this condition. 

While this may not lead to weight gain, it can lead to overtraining and feeling like crap in general. Not only will you feel poor during workouts, your recovery will decline, you'll stop seeing progress, and you may even start to move backwards in your training. This is why rest and recovery, in addition to proper nutrition, become so important in the athletic field. 

We're never going to get rid of all the stressors in our modern lives, but here's a good place to start:

  1. Set your body up for success with proper nutrition. Eating junk makes you body work much  harder to maintain the status quo, especially in your gut. Treat it well, lower inflammation, and keep your digestive tract healthy.
     
  2. Make sleep a priority. This should really be number one on the list. Everyone is go-go-go and we all have a million tasks to complete each day. However, a single night of sleep deprivation increases cortisol levels by more than 100 percent. And in a study conducted on healthy volunteers reducing their sleep to 4 hours per night, their insulin sensitivity decreased 40 percent, and after five days of sleep restriction, their insulin secretion increased 20 percent. Ever feel like you gain weight when you're not sleeping well? You can thank cortisol and insulin for this.  

    You should be aiming to get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Keep regular sleeping hours, where you sleep in complete darkness (ditch the electronics in the bedroom) and see sunlight as soon as you wake in the morning. 
     
  3. Reduce stress levels as best possible. Regularly exercising is a good way to reduce stress as it releases endorphins and improves mood. Set aside time for social connectivity. We're social creatures and being part of a group or community is essential for our mental health. Incorporate mindful meditation into your schedule. It might seem silly, but mediation alleviates stress by allowing us to be present in the moment. Taking anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes per day to sit and meditate, reflect on your day, and work through your thoughts and stress can not only help reduce stress levels, but studies on mindfulness intervention show that participants using yoga, meditations and group discussions successfully reduced cortisol levels and abdominal fat. 

 

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Carbs and Fiber: The Poison & The Antidote

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Carbs and Fiber: The Poison & The Antidote

With insulin being the driving factor when it comes to weight gain, obesity, and overall health, we should enlist a diet that is completely zero carb, right?

Not quite. But the quality of carbohydrates that you eat can have make a big difference in your insulin and blood glucose levels. The good news: the difference is simple. 

Eat more fiber.

Fiber is not exactly a nutrient, like the way that we think about proteins, carbs, fat and even vitamins. Instead, fiber is somewhat like an anti-nutrient. When I say that, I don't mean it's bad for you. Fiber actually reduces the absorption and digestion of sugars, and thus helps reduce insulin. 

Carbs and sugars lead to insulin, high insulin levels lead to weight gain and obesity. However, carbohydrates containing fiber don't have the same effect on our bodies as they slow down the digestion, avoiding insulin spikes and storage into adipose (fat) cells. 

A study conducted in 2000 showed that for patients who have Type 2 diabetes, having fiber in their diet can make all the difference. Two groups consumed the same amount of carbs, but one group had more fiber in their diet than the other. The results? Insulin levels in those consuming fiber were much lower and maintained consistent levels, and they also had lower overall cholesterol levels to boot. 

Getting fiber in your diet isn't as hard as you might think. The first thing that comes to mind when I think about fiber are products like Metamucil, which are totally not necessary.

The best source for fiber is actually pre-packaged with carbohydrates in the form of fruit and vegetables. You see, it's almost as if when nature created fruit and vegetables as carbs, it pre-packaged them with the antidote for keeping us healthy.

 These are the highest fiber containing fruits and vegetables.

These are the highest fiber containing fruits and vegetables.

 

As we've developed more and more processed foods that remove the fiber, moved away from eating fruits and vegetables regularly, and consumed more and more processed sugar, we've seen higher levels of insulin and thus obesity. 

Just one more reason why following a diet based around whole food with lots of fruits and veggies tends to work best for most people. 

 

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Insulin: The Key To Real Weight Loss

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Insulin: The Key To Real Weight Loss

If you ever took human anatomy or biology in school, you might remember the chapter on the digestive system. When we eat food, the first line of response is our mouth and the saliva. We secrete saliva to start breaking down certain types of food. Then it goes to our stomach, our small and large intestines for further breakdown and absorption. There's a chain of events that happens for us to get the nutrients out of the food we eat. 

Each type of food is broken down differently, right down to our macronutrients. Our protein, carbohydrates and fats all require different systems in our body to break them down for us. One of those reactions is that of insulin. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas when we consume carbohydrates to help break it down. Insulin enters the blood stream to absorb the sugar (carbs) into the blood stream for delivery to cells of the body as energy.

But too much insulin, and therefore too many carbs, can be a bad thing causing negative health effects. You might know that eating too many carbs can lead to increased body fat accumulation, but we'll be diving deep into why that happens in this post.

As we eat many carbs sources, we need a certain amount of insulin based on the glycemic load of the carbs. Low glycemic loads (such as vegetables) create a lower insulin response, while high glycemic loads (such as grains) create a higher insulin response. To put it straight forward: Too much insulin will make you fat.

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Many studies have been conducted showing than weight gain is an undeniable effect of insulin in the body. We see this primarily in diabetic patients who have been prescribed insulin to treat both types of diabetes. If given to healthy individuals, insulin will still cause weight gain regardless of exercise or food choices.  

In fact, obese people secrete much higher levels of insulin than those of normal weight with insulin levels being up to 20 percent higher in obese subjects. So what does that mean if you're overweight and you're exercising but not seeing changes? It means your hormones are fighting you from the inside out by producing more insulin than necessary. Even if you're reducing your calories, you might still be experiencing weight gain. A 1993 study compared increasing dosages of insulin to decreasing caloric intake over six months. As they decreased the patients calories by up to 300 calories, they simultaneously increased their insulin dosage up to 100 units per day, leading to perfect blood sugar levels, but an average increase in weight of 19 pounds. Calories didn't cause their weight gain, but insulin did.

What does this all means? Obesity and weight gain is not a caloric problem - it's a hormonal problem. Obesity is a normal dysregulation of fat accumulation.  In fact, it gets even more complex. Dr. Robert Lustig suggests that high insulin levels act as an inhibitor of leptin, the hormone that regulates satiety (or tells us when we're full - stop eating!). In obese subjects, leptin levels decrease due to leptin resistance and therefore their brains never get the signal to stop eating. 

This whole thing gets tricky because of something called insulin resistance. Our body is pretty smart when it comes to figuring out what our new norm is going to, adjusting and carrying on. In the case of insulin, when we reach a certain point of insulin released, our body figures out "this is normal" and begins to have that amount ready all the time. For a crude example, if you eat cereal for breakfast every morning your body knows that's the routine and will release insulin to prepare for that. It know you're going to need insulin to break down the carbs of your cereal no matter what every morning. But if one morning you have eggs instead (no carbs) your body will still have that insulin ready to go for you anyways. But as you continue to eat carbs and need more insulin, it requires more and more leading to increased levels of insulin on top of the "norm."

Our internal thermostat for insulin grows higher and higher over time. It works the same way as your thermostat at home - it turns on to reach the "norm" and then settles down once it's there. But as that level creeps higher and higher it has severe health consequences outside the development of fat tissue. When insulin resistance increases too high, Type 2 diabetes develops as the body is unable to produce enough insulin to support the system needs. 

Simple fix, right? Not quite. Even if you were to change your diet, the resistance would still keep your insulin levels high, meaning your body weight stays high and your weight could still be drive upward. This becomes especially true if you have been obese for long periods of time. Your body will always try to bring you back to what it believes to be "normal," which is why many people who lose weight have trouble keeping it off and often end up back to the same weight they worked so hard to lose. Obesity and weight gain can drive themselves. Dietary change alone may not be enough. 

Insulin resistance is compartmentalized into three parts of the body: the brain, the liver, and the muscles. Changing one will not solve the problem, but changing them all can lead to lasting change. When we eat too many carbs, we develop insulin resistance in the liver. As we change our diet, we can alter the insulin resistance of the liver, but it will have no effect on the brain or muscle. Increasing exercise will lead to insulin sensitivity (positive) in the muscle, but won't effect the liver or brain. The brain responses as a result to both of these factors - exercise and nutrition.

This is why both exercise and nutrition in combination with each other work best to create lasting results. You can't out-exercise a bad diet, and changing your diet alone can be frustrating when you don't see the scale go in the right direction. Keeping insulin in mind, as well as how your body naturally responds to the food you're eating can change the internal hormonal structure of your body and give you the weight loss results you want. 

Not sure where to begin? Let's chat about what you're doing now and what your goals are. I can provide you the tools to not only change your body, but the way you feel and create a healthy lifestyle.  

 

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Body Fat Percentage Goals

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Body Fat Percentage Goals

For years we've been focused on our weight as a primary indicator of being "fit" or "healthy," and we've used measurements such as BMI to determine if we need to lose or gain weight. We know that BMI is a faulty measurement since it doesn't take into account muscle mass, and therefore says that people with high levels o muscle on their body are considered obese. This obviously isn't true - even I am considered obese on the BMI scale.

So what really matters? Muscle mass and body fat. 

These two go hand in hand. The muscle mass you have is lean muscle and ultimately we need a good amount of muscle on our body in order to at least support the weight of our limbs, plus do things like walk, run, pick things up, and play. But then we get into body fat and it gets a little tricky. What's a good amount of body fat to have on your body? 

I remember the first time I did a DEXA scan and had my body fat percentage calculated. I thought surely the machine was wrong.. There was no way my body fat was that high - I was thin, relatively fit, I exercised, etc. This isn't a common sentiment, especially among women. 

When you're told that 20-30% of your body is FAT, it can be alarming to say the least. 

With many people in the fitness realm now aware of their body fat, the race to lower it is on. But how low is too low? I get this question a lot from women who want to be 15% or less body fat. It's especially important for women, however, to understand the effects of lowering your body fat and some potentially harmful side effects before setting a lower BF percentage goal. 

What's a healthy range?

When it comes to your body fat percentage, a lot of it has to due with your gender. Men tend to gain body fat around their stomach and midline, which can be potentially dangerous as extra fat around the organs can cause health issues. On the other hand, women tend to gain body fat in their lower regions: hips, butt, and thighs. This isn't the case for everyone, however. Deviating from these norms can give clues about hormonal imbalances in the body that you are either genetically disposed to or have developed over time. 

For men, over above 20% body fat and women above 30% body fat is considered unhealthy. In this range you'll likely experience low energy, feel sluggish, have a risk of metabolic syndrome, and may need medication to manage various health issues (hypertension, diabetes, etc). 

For men in the 10-15% body fat range and women in the 20-25% body fat range, this is what is considered healthy. You'll likely have a fit appearance, have higher energy levels, have fewer food cravings and be able to eliminate any medications. 

Below these ranges, we get into some tricky territory. For men, lower than 6% body fat and for women lower than 16% body fat will produce abs - this is what people tend to think of when they want to get lean. I like to tell my clients to think about a bikini model or body builder when they get on stage - they have prepped, dehydrated and gotten as lean as possible for one single day of the show to look their best. When they get on stay they are usually around these body fat percentages.

For women, lower body fat percentages can be particularly tricky. Women need 13% body fat in order to maintain bodily functions and men need 6% body fat to maintain their health. Lower than this creates some very serious repercussions, and many women in particular can see health issues dropping to the 22% body fat percentage mark.  

When body fat drops too low, you'll be unable to process and absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K. You also put yourself at risk for heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, and damage to your nervous system as all of these function through the presence of fats. Women can experience fertility issues dropping below 22%, including the loss of a menstrual cycle - if this happens, contact a nutritionist or your doctor immediately. 

While these low body fat percentages are absolutely attainable, they are hard to achieve to a variety of reasons. 

Getting to low body fat percentages requires sacrifice

It's easy to decide to do a diet (macros, clean eating, etc) in your pursuit of lowering your body fat, but getting to low body fat percentages requires a lot of sacrifices. If you want abs, you're going to work for them. And as we all know, abs are made in the kitchen.

Getting to this point requires a hyper focus on your nutrition and fitness, which can ultimately lead to disordered eating if not done so mindfully. As a result of focusing on this pursuit of low BF, you may find that you are unable to do other social things - events, dinners, time with friends and family due to your commitment in the gym/eating clean. In fact, getting here often means avoiding eating at restaurants, drinking any caloric drinks (such as alcohol), and eating exact amounts as determined for that day. This also requires a commitment to 8+ hours of sleep per night, limiting your stress, and exercising 6+ hours weekly. 

It can be done. However, if you hold a stressful day job, you have a family and other social commitments, this can be difficult to achieve. It might not also be that much fun since in order to maintain that appearance once you achieve it, you have to continue this lifestyle. 

Reaching a healthy range of body fat, however, can be done through mindful eating, learning about your nutrition and being conscious of it (without being hyperaware), exercising regularly and practicing some de-stressing techniques - these are things we should ALL do. 

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Antibiotics: How I've Avoided Them for Years & Why

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Antibiotics: How I've Avoided Them for Years & Why

I can't really remember the last time I was sick. For years I've avoided the flu and various colds, not from avoiding sick people either - I work and train full-time in a gym. That's a lot of people coming in who are currently sick, don't know they're sick yet, or have sick loved ones and children at home. It's safe to say I've been exposed to A LOT of germs.

So how do I do it?

I have a few simple home recipes that keep illness away or effectively cure it without visiting a doctor or taking medications. In fact, I've refused to take antibiotics in several situations over the past few years in order to heal myself holistically. 

I'm talking full blown strep throat even. If you're thinking, "That's silly, just go to a doctor and get an antibiotic to knock it out in a few days," you're right - I could do that. But the harm that antibiotics cause isn't worth it for me. 

Antibiotics (more specifically penicillin) was discovered by Alexander Flemming in 1928. it became mass produced in the 1940's for use fighting bacterial infections in World War II. The antibiotics kill the bacteria, leaving you healthy and bacteria-free. However, over time you can become antibiotic resistant. This means that as your body received the antibiotics, it gets used to it and thus needs more in order to have the same reaction. Have strep throat as a kid? No problem, here's an antibiotic. Get it again a few years later? Here's some more, but this time it might not work as well - or eventually you will need something stronger because you've built up a resistance to the first dosage. 

This makes logical sense, but you will always need more and more, thus leading to further resistance. So what's the big deal? 

Antibiotics kill bacteria. But we NEED bacteria to live healthy lives. Our gut is filled with billions of bacteria that allow us to digest food properly, as well as perform thousands of other functions. While there are many other factors to the use of antibiotics, such as damaging our mitochondrial cells, harming our gut bacteria is among the most harmful. As our gut bacteria and microbiome deteriorate, we are at higher risk for developing a variety of autoimmune diseases - inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto's disease, Crohn's disease, etc. 

So how do we avoid this? First, don't take antibiotics at every opportunity. Doctors want to help and they want to cure you, so there first line of defense is always an antibiotics for bacterial infections like colds, and medications such as Tamiflu for viral influenza. Sometimes these aren't really necessary and with a little persistence, can be cured at home.

Here's what I've done to stay healthy but also cure any illness:

  1. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. This seems obvious, I know. But these foods contain the most bang for your buck to ensure that your body has all the vitamins and nutrients it needs to function properly and stay healthy.
  2. Always have garlic on hand. I've touched on this before, but garlic contain allicin which is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and so good for you. Add it to your food, eat it raw, just eat it!
  3. Make homemade bone broth (or buy some quality stuff) to drink regularly or when you're feeling sick. It contains collagen to help keep you gut healthy. My recipe for homemake bone broth is here for you.
  4. Supplement if necessary. Zinc will help prevent illness from spreading, echinacea is an immune booster, and magnesium will ensure you get a good night's rest. 
  5. Avoid sugar. This is the most important one. When you're feeling ill, I know you don't want to eat chicken and broccoli, but avoiding sugar is the most important thing you can do to get better faster. Sugar suppresses our immune system, so devouring sweet treats will only make your cold/flu last longer as your body struggles to fight off the illness. 

No fancy medications. Just food and natural vitamins and minerals to heal you, plus lots of rest and staying hydrated will do the trick. If you're concerned about damage to your gut from antibiotics, I'll be providing some more helpful info on healing your gut in the coming weeks! 

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Salt Series: Low Carb and Ketogenic Diets

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Salt Series: Low Carb and Ketogenic Diets

Those introducing a lower-carbohydrate diet or ketogenic diet to they routine are some of the most important for increasing their salt intake. 

When carb intake is limited to 50 gram per day or less, ketones increase, there is a greater release of glucagon and lower levels of insulin, as well as a high level of salt excretion. In fact, in these instances, the salt excretion of the body is similar to that of a body in starvation mode. As you remove carbs from the body, you'll lose some water weight naturally and with it goes salt.

Why is this important? Increased levels of salt excretion can lead to greater risk of sodium deficiency, which you can learn more about in our Salt blog.

Many studies show the rapid elevation of salt excretion, particular in the first 2 weeks of a diet change due to reduced insulin levels. You may notice dizziness, fatigue. and carb cravings, which can be improved through increasing your salt intake. 

So how much salt should you be getting in those first two vital weeks to make sure you aren't deficient and feel your best?

Increase your sedum intake by a least 1 gram per day for the first two weeks, or up to 2 grams per day for the first week to help offset the salt excretion that will naturally happen as you remove carbs and excess water weight from your body. This is on top of normal salt recommendations for daily intake, which you can find here

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I Started Drinking Soda At Age 2

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I Started Drinking Soda At Age 2

When working with new clients, they're often intimidated or have trouble imagining themselves at the end goal. It's hard to picture what life would be like when you see other people who appear to have it all figured out. They don't struggle with cravings, they have fit bodies, they aren't dealing with the addictive nature of foods.

I can't stress enough, though, how we all start in the same place. So here's a little piece of my story..

When I was 2-years-old, I was with my dad while he was building a shed in our backyard. He drank Coca-Cola regularly and I began grabbing for his drink. So he decided that if I could drink it out of the straw, I could have some.

Now I don't tell this story to say that my parents did something wrong. We know now that soda isn't exactly a health food, but they were doing the best with what they knew. My parents are wonderful and would never do anything to hurt me - it was the 90's and fat was bad, not sugar. 

So I began drinking soda from then on. In our household, soda was the beverage of choice. To my mom's benefit, she encouraged me to drink water a lot. I always refused because "it tasted bad." Can you blame me? Sugar water versus regular water. No contest. 

I would essentially have a soda before school (remembering this particularly through high school) and when I would get home and immediately have a soda because I was so thirsty. The only time I remember having water was during gym class, otherwise it was some sugary Sobe juice thing, chocolate milk, or soda at lunch time. I should also mention that when I got home from school I would religiously inhale some Little Debbie's Swiss rolls and hot dogs. 

I didn't eat vegetables. In fact, my mom at one point made a point to start having us eat more veggies. We hated it. We were "picky eaters." I was always hungry and more times than not, I would reach for something sweet.

In high school, I had so many migraines that I visited the doctor to see what was up. I was missing 2-3 mornings per week because of these nasty migraines that would leave me nauseous, light sensitive, and basically disabled for hours without medication. After talking to the doctor, we realized that many of the things I was eating regularly (aka the only things I was really eating) were a lot of processed foods - black olives, bologna, hot dogs, Little Debbie's everything, and so on. I had to cut back on some of these things in order to feel better, and I did once I took some of those things out of my diet. 

When I went to college, I started to get rid of soda from my daily routine. I can't remember if I did this because I wanted to be healthier (spoiler: drinking so much soda had led to some extra weight gain over the years) or because I was a college kid who didn't have expensive soda in their budget. I started drinking more water, lemonade, and flavored water to try to adjust. 

But I will never forget the withdrawals. Cutting all of the sugar and caffeine from my diet suddenly was a huge shock to my system. I had consistent headaches, I was exhausted, and I felt sick. I felt like a drug addict. For a few weeks anyways, and then I began to normalize. I felt much better and cutting soda out improved the way I felt all the time. 

Now, this was before I ever even contemplated the thought of exercising regularly. In college, I can count on one hand how many times I went to the gym - and I was on the elliptical because I didn't know how to do anything with the machines. Later on I started to shift my diet as I got into yoga and keeping my body healthy to live a long life - which is still my ultimate goal (not to have abs). 

After I started doing CrossFit, and even after I was coaching and had gone through various nutrition programs (paleo, Whole30, Zone, clean eating, etc) I noticed something else was up. I was still getting really terrible mood and energy crashes. I was on a road trip once and someone noticed that my mood had drastically taken a turn for the worst, and once we stopped for food I was fine. They suggested that I may be hypoglycemic and it really hit home. 

After that, I became fascinated with blood sugar, insulin resistance and how it can effect your body - and your brain. At the time, I was nowhere near ready but I eventually began coaching nutrition full time to help other people with similar experiences. 

Cravings suck.
Withdrawals suck.
Mood swings suck.
Feeling exhausted by 2pm sucks.
Eating crappy sucks.
Gaining body fat sucks.
Feeling alone in your journey sucks.

But we've all been there. We all started somewhere and you can get where you're going one step at a time and with a little help. 

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Surviving the Holidays

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Surviving the Holidays

Here come the holidays and with them all of the social festivities, parties, dinners, drinks, and everything that might be causing you stress about how you'll possibly stick to your nutrition plan for the next few weeks. 

Here are 5 tips to survive the holiday season and come back out in the new year feeling great.

  1. Eat slowly. When we slow down to eat our food, we're able to really enjoy it. Food should be an enjoyable thing, not something we are dreading or choking down. So choose foods you enjoy, while picking the best options, and really savor it. When we slow down, it also gives our brain a chance to let us know when we're full. Our digestive system lets our brain know when we've reached capacity so that we will stop eating. As you may know, if you eat too quickly, this trigger sometimes comes too late and by then we are uncomfortable full.
     
  2. Only eat until you are satisfied, rather than stuffed. This can mean eating until you are 80% full rather than unbuttoning your jeans to make room. This becomes easier as you slow down to eat as well. Nobody really enjoys that uncomfortable, miserable full feeling that leaves you dreading the next few hours. 
     
  3. Have a plan for eating well on the go. The holidays not only bring a lot of social obligations, but a lot of places to be and a busier schedule than usual, so having healthy options for eating while you're busy can be a life saver. Here are some ideas you can stuff in your car, desk, or purse to have easy access to that require little preparation:

    Tuna in a pouch (in water)
    Nuts and seeds & trail mix
    Protein bars (with high protein and low sugar)
    Meat jerky (low in sugar)
    Hard boiled eggs
    Raw veggies with hummus/nut butter
    Canned sardines/salmon
    Dry protein powder that you can mix with water

    You can use pre-prepare homemade protein bars like these paleo protein recipes.

    Don't be afraid to stop at a gas station or convenience store to find something to tide you over when you're in a bind. In these situations, look for a better option than standard gas station food, but don't worry about it not being perfect. For instance, an apple will be better than chips, and a jerky stick is better than a candy bar. Do better, not perfect. Health is a continuum, and nowhere on that is perfect all the time. 
     
  4. Use calorie control with tools you can take everywhere. Whether you're counting calories or using more tangible methods of measuring your foods, take your tools with you. If your hands are your tools for measuring your portions, you're in luck - they go everywhere! If you've never been introduced to this method portion control, we should chat! 
     
  5. Get in your veggies, and keep it interesting. Mix up your routine to find new combinations for your veggies and preparing them to make sure you avoid falling into a slump of eating the same things when there are so many tempting options out there. You're more likely to stick with your plan of eating vegetables regularly if you're looking forward to having them. Check out this infographic from Precision nutrition for help! 

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The Weekend - How to Stay on Track

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The Weekend - How to Stay on Track

I hear it all the time.. "I'm really consistent during the week, but then on the weekends, everything falls apart and I'm derailed with my food. It's like starting over again every week."

You see, when we have a consistent schedule (you wake up at the same time, grab breakfast, go to work, get lunch around the same time, and come home to dinner) it's easy to follow the plan you've created. But when the weekend hits and you're out enjoying yourself, go out for dinner, or see friends and family, it gets difficult.

If you've been working on your nutrition for a while, you know that the weekend can create a big issue. You feel crappy come Monday morning,  you feel like you're starting over, and you might even been super inflamed from the junk you ate and drank, not to mention you may see a little weight increase. 

To tackle these less than ideal weekend habits, try looking at your weekday habits as well. 

  1. What level of perfection are you striving for? When tackling a new nutrition plan or diet, many people think it has to be "perfect." If you adhere to strict meal plans Monday through Friday, chances are you fall apart by the weekend based on shear willpower breaking down from striving for that perfection constantly. If you can't have the perfectly constructed meal you're used to, you figure why not go all out cause it doesn't matter. Or you start to Mae compromises because you did so well all week. Sound familiar? 

    Instead, focus on creating a balance that is good enough. Following a decent plan with some give and take is better than quitting the "perfect plan" every weekend. This will go along ways in terms of your mental state as well.
     
  2. Let go of the food rules. You know the drill... These are the foods you can and can't eat. Here's when and when you shouldn't eat those things, or how much you should be having. Try letting go of those. Otherwise when you go out with friends and everyone orders pizza, your mentality of "I don't eat carbs" turns into "f*** it" and you go WAY overboard. 

    When all you think about is these rules you've created, when they are no longer in the picture during the weekend, you no longer have anything to guide you, and binging happens. Instead, ditch the rules and feed yourself based on hunger. When you're craving something, it's because your body needs something. Feed it!
     
  3. Forget about "cheat day." Everyone wants to know..."Do I get any cheat days? What should I do on cheat days?" Some people find this practice really helpful for maintaining a more strict regimen, but many people also find that they go out of control in anticipation of getting back to their regimen. 

    If you get rid of designated cheat days, and instead eat what you feel like throughout the week, you'll likely naturally begin to make conscious decisions about what you're eating and do so in accordance with what feels good to your body. Ever had way too many sweets on your cheat day? Bet you didn't feel good. But you don't want to feel like that all the time so you'll back off and find some moderation. Without that feeling of scarcity, you won't need to binge or go nuts any day of the week. 
     
  4. Be responsible for your choices. Own up. Here's another common scenario. You ate salad every day this week for lunch and you turned down that birthday cake at the office, so come Saturday you're going to order a big dessert no matter what. Since when did we start making these trade off like children bartering for our food?

    These types of mind games only undermine your health. You ate all those salads because you have a health goal in mind. Is eating a big dessert for no other reason than because "you've earned it" really aiding in achieving those goals? Probably not. 

    Own your decisions. If you feel like eating an entire pint of ice cream, recognize that you might feel gross afterwards, bloated the next day, or feel guilty about it. You can also acknowledge that you're okay with all those consequences in that instance. That probably won't be the case all the time. But you won't be surprised by the outcome either. 
     
  5. Stop rationalizing or making excuses for yourself. The weekends create a lot of obstacles for us: you get busy, or you were bored because nothing was going on, you had to work, you were traveling, or just sitting at home, or you had social events to attend. These are all rationalizations for why it's okay for you to fall off the wagon. Sorry, tough truth here.

    Stop finding excuses and rationalizing your decisions and dig deeper into why your behavior changes on the weekends. Are you bored? Are you happy? Are you sad? Look for these reasons and you'll probably start to notice some patterns. One way to break the cycle is to find the pattern and then actively make adjustments to address those needs rather than bingeing. 

This stuff can be tricky and it's not always easy to figure out. Take on one step at a time to create a fully healthy lifestyle that includes your weekends and removes the guilt and crummy feelings come Monday morning. 

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