Even before I was a trainer I believed in the value of logging calories – and I still do. Before the days of smart phones I would keep track of everything in a notebook. Then along came great apps like LoseIt and MyFitness Pal which made it much easier to log my caloric intake.
Because I still believe in the value of food journals I want to take a few moments to share with you the benefits of keeping one of your own.
Food Journals Create Awareness
Many times we aren’t aware of how much we are actually consuming. By keeping a record you can take an honest look at your caloric intake for the day. This can be extremely eye opening and can raise your awareness to areas you may be able to cut back. For instance, many people don’t recognize the calories associated with beverages because it’s not a meal. Eliminating juices, coffee drinks with heavy syrups, and reducing alcohol intake are an easy way to cut back on unnecessary calories.
Food Journals Establish Accountability
When I logged my food I paused to think about every food choice. Did I really want Hershey kisses bad enough to account for 200 calories of my daily allowance? Probably not. By tracking your food intake you are much more likely to think twice about a food choice rather than just mindlessly consuming it.
Food Journals Reveal Patterns
There are a number of things you can learn about your eating patterns through food journals. Do you snack more at night if you skip breakfast? Are you always looking for something to snack on at 3pm when the kiddos are getting home from school? Do you crave junk food after consuming alcohol? These are just a few examples of what you might discover through food journaling. We all have our own patterns and food journaling is a great way to learn more about your own.
Food Journals Reflect Nutritional Deficiencies
Many times we are not getting the proper balance of carbs, proteins and fats and through food journaling you can discover which areas you may be under or over-consuming. Thankfully most of the apps available now will give you a breakdown of your nutritional intake. In general this is what you should be consuming:
- Protein: approximately 50 to 70 grams (depending on body size) or 12 – 20% of your caloric intake
- Carbs: a minimum of 125 grams, optimal 350 to 400 grams or 55 – 65% of caloric intake **NOTE: these are healthy carbs from fruits and veggies, NOT processed carbs found in pre-packed and processed foods
- Fat: approximately 30 to 65 grams depending on caloric consumption, or 25 – 30% caloric intake
So with all of these benefits why in the world would I stop counting my calories? I’ve been working towards clean eating for many years. In fact, my daughter Ella once told me that I must have different taste buds from the rest of the family since I chose carrots over chips for a snack.
I’ve recently discovered that for me, food journaling makes me overly obsessed with calories. As a result I make some very poor and damaging choices.
For instance, I am so fearful of going over my calories that I am likely to skip a meal (maybe even two) to compensate for the pizza I am going to eat for dinner. I’m so obsessed with staying within my limits that I limit my protein intake to avoid the extra calories. So in my effort to be healthy, I’m achieving the exact opposite: a screwed up metabolism and a body vulnerable to sickness and injury.
So I stopped journaling and started focusing on three things:
- Recognizing Hunger
- Portion Sizes
- Smart Choices
I’m no longer bound to meal time because the clock says so. I am listening to my body and eating when I’m hungry and stopping when I’m full. Sometimes that means breakfast is only a green smoothie. Other mornings it may be a smoothie and egg whites. Which brings me to…
I am concentrating on staying true to portion sizes. Anything, even pizza, eaten in the proper portion size and moderation can be a part of a healthy lifestyle. So now instead of starving myself all day for pizza, I make sure that I also have a salad with my pizza.
Having a salad with my pizza is just one example of making smart choices. I’m far less likely to eat 4 slices if I start with a salad. Not only will the salad help to fill me up but it is a great reminder of what good food tastes like as compared to fatty processed food.
So I’ve stopped counting calories because for me it was becoming a destructive behavior. Rather than feeling oppressed by food, I feel empowered to make the right choices.
My goal in sharing this with you today is to empower you to discover what works best for YOU. Life is not a one size fits all. For some, food journaling is the exact tool that empowers them, if that’s you – I encourage you to keep it up! I whole-heartedly believe journaling can be an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, however, it is just not a tool that works for me.
When it comes to living a healthy life take time to consider what helps you to feel the best about yourself – if something makes you feel worse about yourself, find a new way.
I love food, but I’ve come to realize I have an unhealthy and dysfunctional relationship with food.
I struggle with cravings.
I struggle with portion sizes.
When it comes to cravings rarely seek out sweets or chips. I crave things like pizza and cheeseburgers, which may have some redeeming nutritional value however tend to be very high in calories and saturated fats. And yes I know there are ways to make these dishes in a more healthy way, and I’ve tried them, but they aren’t the same. There are times that the only thing that will do is a classic slice, or two (or three or…) of pepperoni pizza.
Which brings me to portion sizes. I have a difficult time sticking to the recommended portion sizes. I know one of the best ways to reduce portion sizes is to reduce your plate size, and I do that. But then I go back for seconds, totally defeating the purpose of the smaller plate. (If you are unfamiliar with a standard portion or need a refresher click here to review a slide show on portions.)
So because I suffer from cravings and portion control, I have created a distorted perception of food. Instead of seeing food as fuel for my body there are times I fear having to make food choices and times where I even hate it because I’m unable to ‘control’ my consumption. As a result I see food as what makes me dread stepping on the scale instead of a necessity to help me stay healthy and active.
Granted, I’ve trained myself to think through my choices and not be impulsive so most days my food consumption remains in check. But there are those days where no amount of self-talk can provide the willpower needed to not give into the cravings or extra helpings. For years I’ve beat myself up over those days. I’ve been disappointed in my failure to eat healthy, I’ve chastised myself for seeing the numbers rise on the scale and I’ve looked in the mirror and said some pretty awful things to myself – things I would never say to any other person.
After a really tough conversation with my best friend (my husband) I realized my mirror dialog needed to change. It needed to change not only for me, but it needed to change so that my children would never look in a mirror and think negatively of themselves.
I recently posted two links on my Personal Training FaceBook page that have helped me greatly in thinking differently about my relationship with food:
- The first is about a 13 minute video in which neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt uses her personal story to explain how our brains manage our bodies, and the science behind why dieting not only doesn’t work, but is likely to do more harm than good. She suggests ideas for how to live a less diet-obsessed life, intuitively. Do yourself a favor, watch this video.
- The next is a follow-up blog on the science of willpower written by Kelly McGonigal. Her blog explores why we cannot rely on willpower and is applicable to much more than just dieting and food consumption.
I recognize that in order to change my mirror dialog, I have to change my relationship with food. I need to recognize food as the fuel to help me be a loving wife and mom and a successful fitness professional. What is your relationship with food? Is it a healthy one? If not, take some time to think about how you can work on that relationship so that it doesn’t affect the way you talk to yourself.
Let’s be honest, New Year’s Resolutions are all about our goals for the year. Yes, they are about change but they are more about what we hope to accomplish in the coming year and a reflection of what we didn’t accomplish in the previous year.
For the first time in my adult life my New Year’s Resolutions aren’t starting with “I am going to lose x pounds.” I’m completely done with defining myself by the number on the scale. Beginning now I’m defining myself by the choices I make to improve my health and athletic abilities.
Every health and fitness book I’ve read suggests writing out your goals. I never used to believe that writing down goals really mattered. It actually makes all the difference for me. Goals ‘unwritten’ result in goals unachieved for me. Writing them down makes them real and makes me accountable to them.
So this year I am sharing my Resolutions with you so that they are not only real to me but that I am accountable to you to follow through. I’m also limiting myself to 3 goals/resolutions. Any more than that and I’m sure I’ll be overwhelmed and more likely to fail in achieving them. So I’m starting with 3 on 1/1/2014. Come 2/1/2014, I’ll take some time and re-evaluate my progress. It might require some modifications, it might require some changes, it might require me to take a long look in the mirror and tell myself to ‘STEP IT UP.’ Either way, 2014 is going to be about healthy choices and being honest with myself.
Here’s where I start:
1. Work out 5 times/week.
This means that I intentionally workout 5 days a week for ME. Starting tomorrow I’m back to teaching group fitness. Teaching a class does not count as a personal workout. When I teach or train it’s my job to make sure that my clients are getting the most of their workout – it’s not the time for me to get my exercise in for the day. One way that I am going to increase my accountability to this resolution is to download ‘Pact‘ and make my commitment to working out 5 days a week. If I don’t, not only do I let myself down but it’ll hit me in the pocketbook.
2. Run 30 minutes 3 times a week
I’m notorious for signing up for races and not properly training. I work out often enough that it hasn’t resulted in an injury but I’ve yet to really achieve any of my personal goals for my runs either. That changes in 2014. From now on I am going to be fully prepared for my races and that starts with the goal of 30 minutes, 3 times a week. As the months go by I hope the time and frequency increases but at minimum this is my goal. I’m going to keep myself accountable by setting goals and tracking my progress on Runkeeper. If you are looking to start running or increase yoru current weekly mileage I highly recommend checking this app out.
3. Achieve 10,000 steps 6 days a week
I’m no longer delusional enough to think that I’m going to be on my game 7 days a week. Everyone needs and should have a day of rest. But during my ‘on’ days I want to make sure that I am really moving. My Fitbit Flex is going to be my best friend in keeping track of my steps.
If you need help setting your own goals I recommend you take a look at some of my previous blog posts:
Here’s what I hope you take away from my blog today:
- Don’t try and tackle all your hoped changes at once – pick 3 to spend 30 days on and make adjustments and changes at the 1st of every month
- Failing to achieve a goal or change doesn’t mean you should give it – it just means you need to either modify your goal, give yourself more time or work harder
- Change is possible – it just takes time and commitment
2013 has been filled with a number of changes for me. After spending the spring and summer focused on settling the family into our new community I was faced with some soul searching about what our new location would mean to me.
Was it time to polish the resume, shop for some grown-up clothes and head back into the world of corporate training? Or was it time for me to become more of a homemaker by preparing gourmet meals and step up my home decorating skills with pinterest creations?
While these were certainly options, neither really got me very excited – both made me feel completely trapped. I haven’t been in an official office setting for about 7 years now, and after the freedom of freelancing I think a transition to a traditional environment would seem very restrictive. On the other hand the thought of my days solely being filled by cooking, cleaning and laundry left me with the feeling that there has to be something more.
I knew I missed teaching group fitness and working with training clients but I had slipped so much in my personal health during the transition that the thought of me being an ‘expert’ in health and fitness seemed absurd.
So at the end of August I made a commitment to myself that it was time to get ‘me’ back. It was time to put in some hard hours in the gym and see if I really had it in me anymore to help others achieve their goals.
I discovered two places that were integral into helping me transform my fitness and confidence levels.
I was invited to try a Boot Camp class at Custom Fit and for the first time in months I was excited about working out. Part of it was because I had accountability to the friends that I attended the classes with. Making excuses can be pretty easy if you are going at it alone but when you are in it with others you can’t help but feel like you need to live up to your commitments.
Aside from accountability, I continue to be drawn to Boot Camp because I know I can expect a challenging and unique workout every single time. In the 4 months I’ve been working out with Julianne I’ve yet to repeat a workout. My muscles have been awakened and my endurance has improved.
Now you may wonder, why on Earth would a trainer need the services of another trainer? Just like anyone, I feel accomplished by completing a challenge set forth by someone else. While there are similarities, our styles are different so the exercises I complete at Boot Camp challenge me in a different way than my own workouts.
Speaking of challenging workouts, I joined Patriot Boxing in September. The first day was a little intimidating, wrapping my hands, putting on gloves – jab, jab-cross, jab-cross-hook, hook to the body-hook to the head, high knees straight punches…you get the idea. For someone who had only seen a handful of boxing matches in her life I certainly was the classic newbie.
After an hour of calisthenics, combined with boxing combinations and core work I was a depleted sweaty mess – and I loved it. I left the gym that day with my own set of gloves and wraps along with a schedule in my hand so I wouldn’t miss the next class. Since joining I try and make it to at least 4 classes a week. I don’t even mind the ugly bruises I get on my shins from kickboxing anymore – they are kind of a badge of honor for my hard work.
Bottom line…if you walk out of a class at Patriot and you still have something left in you, you didn’t work hard enough.
So as I reflect back on the fall of 2013 I’m happy to say I’m stronger, I’m more confident and I’m ready to get back to teaching. January 2nd I’ll be teaching my first class in a year and I’m filled with excitement and anticipation of challenging others to meet their goals in the coming year.
I’ve definitely got some goals myself. I’m still not where I was at my peak physical fitness levels but I know without a doubt I’m on track.
Here’s what I hope you take away from my blog today:
- Setbacks aren’t the end – you always have an opportunity to start anew
- Find something that challenges you – that really challenges you – you’re capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for
- Create accountability in some fashion, whether it’s by finding a group to workout with or by creating an incentive program for achieving your goals
- Never be afraid to try something new
Ever skipped out on your workout because you had a ‘good’ excuse?
I’ve learned that for me there’s no such thing as a ‘good’ excuse. I need routine and momentum to keep me on track for my goals. Missing just one planned workout day can completely derail me and my focus. Every day I make an excuse it gets easier and easier to tell myself, “Tomorrow.”
I’ve had a ton of ‘good’ excuses over the years:
- It’s an extremely busy time at work
- The kids have been sick and I don’t want to wear myself down
- We have guests coming this weekend that I need to prepare for
- I’m too sore from my previous workout
- I’ll get back to a routine once we move
On any given day every single one of us can think of a ‘good’ excuse for not exercising. But it’s those good excuses that ultimately result in lost strength and endurance and often weight gain.
Skipping just one day, even if it is a ‘good excuse,’ can totally derail my progress. Not only do I lose progress in strength and endurance, I lose motivation to make the right food choices. When I’m physically active I desire to fuel with good nutritious foods, when I’m lazy and inactive, nothing sounds better than pizza or a cheeseburger.
When I’m committed to my routine, ‘Tomorrow’ means no excuses, trying harder and accomplishing more. When I let ‘good’ excuses’ take over ‘Tomorrow’ means facing the reality of how ‘bad’ those ‘good’ excuses were for me.
Now don’t get me wrong, I get there are days where schedules are packed. Whether it be work or duties at home there are going to be days where it is downright hard to find the time and to fight against the ‘good excuse.’ For those days I would challenge you to change up your routine. Maybe you don’t have time for an hour class at the gym, but you do have time for a 30 minute walk at lunch. Maybe you don’t have time to hit the gym to lift weights, so you take 20 minutes to do push-ups, sit ups, planks, jumping jacks, high knees, and squats in your basement.
What I hope you take away from my blog today
- Don’t let ‘good excuses’ get in your way of reaching your goals
- There’s no such thing as a ‘good excuse’
- Something is always better than nothing when it comes to exercise
As a trainer, I’m not one for stocking unhealthy snacks, baking sweets or making fattening meals. I shop the perimeter of the store and keep our diet as clean as possible. I’ve always been a firm believer that if you stick to the natural products and control your portions there’s no need to go for the ‘fat free’ or ‘sugar free’ options.
GASP, right? Eat fat? Eat sugar? What kind of advice is that coming from a trainer?
Let me explain…
When things like fat or sugar are removed from foods, the flavor changes. So to make those foods more flavorful, artificial ingredients are added. Our bodies are designed to process nutrients in their purest form. While we can digest artificial ingredients, we don’t process them as efficiently as products that exist in their pure form without modifications.
The other thing I have experienced is that when consuming foods that consist of artificial fillers to replace the missing flavors, I’m not as easily satisfied. I tend to eat more for two reasons 1) the craving isn’t satisfied as quickly and 2) it’s fat or sugar free so how bad can it actually be?
So while I don’t approve of snacking on junk, or eating foods prepared with heavy sauces, I do think that eating full fat yogurts and using olive oil are good choices. And so it seems Swedish scientists agree.
On December 6th, Sweden became the first Western nation to reject the low-fat diet dogma, in favor of low-carb, high-fat nutrition. The switch in dietary advice followed the publication of a two-year study by the independent Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment. The committee reviewed 16,000 studies published through May 31, 2013. Click here to read more about their findings.
Here’s what I hope you take away from my blog today:
- Stick to what is natural and drop the artificial additives
- Be mindful of your portions – fats are only bad when consumed in excess portions
By the looks of my green smoothie I think it’s safe to assume I’m willing to give any healthy beverage a try.
But to be totally honest, my first day drinking a green smoothie I literally gagged it down. I think it took me over two hours to drink it and eventually I just forced it down. I stuck with it for 3 days to complete my detox plan and by the end of those 3 days I had come to really like them. Now I drink green smoothies 3 – 5 days a week.
So when I saw a recipe for a ‘fat flushing water’ on FaceBook I was willing to give it a try. Now mind you, I like all the ingredients so of course they should taste great in water, right?
- Cucumber and
Granted the recipe stated the longer the ingredients sat the better the water would be. So I blamed the first pitcher on the fact I hadn’t let the water sit long enough. So I made second pitcher and let it sit overnight. Let’s just say the water didn’t age well. I didn’t make it even 24 hours into the 10-day challenge.
This was one recipe I just could’t gag down and try to acquire a taste for.
But I’m not writing this to discourage anyone from trying the ‘fat flushing water’ or any other healthy water recipe. Rather, I want to take a look at the root of these water recipes and how we can tune into our personal preferences to increase our water intake.
The major success of any of these recipes is that you are hydrating with water! In an age where we can choose anything from coffee to energy drinks, from milk to soda, it’s no wonder we are consuming less and less water in its purest form.
Let’s face it, water tastes pretty darn plain compared to our other options. And even though water may be the main ingredient for some of our beverages of choice, we are consuming a great deal of empty calories and/or artificial sweeteners and dyes as well. Cutting out these unnecessary additives is an excellent way to manage calorie consumption and work towards a more clean diet.
If you find regular old water boring you are going to find it extremely difficult to consume 50% of your body weight in ounces of water every day.
So why not seek out ‘healthy water recipes’ with natural ingredients that give it the kick you are looking for? There are a number of water recipes based on natural ingredients to meet your personal preferences. I really like Sassy Water published in the Flat Belly Diet, but for someone who isn’t a fan of lemon or ginger this water would be a total turn off. The key is to find one that works for you.
What I hope you take away from this blog is that:
- Water doesn’t have to be boring – find natural additives that make it more tasty for you
- Staying hydrated is key to health and weight loss – drink at least 50% of your body weight in ounces every day