Last year I posted how Halloween is the only day of the year that I do not regulate my kid’s sugar intake and actually allow our kids to eat as much candy as they want. I received a lot of comments on social media and I liked learning about how other families approach such a big candy holiday.
Halloween is such a fun and memorable holiday and my family loves it. As a kid, the concept of dressing up and just knocking on your neighbor’s door and getting FREE candy? Amazing. Halloween used to be a one day holiday but now it seems that there are endless trunk-or-treat events and other Halloween themed activities. With all that fun comes so much candy. Though I am not a huge fan of the endless amounts of candy, it is the reality of the holiday. Yet, for many, with all that candy comes a lot of guilt.
My ninja and Batgirl (who is actually nocturnal) at a Trunk-or-Treat Event.
The days after Halloween we often hear about parents sneaking their favorite candies from their kid’s baskets or how all the candy is going to be thrown away because of the temptation to eat it. We are then inundated with pictures on social media of how many burpees we have to do to work off the bite-sized Snickers bar. Some of us might overindulge and experience guilt and feel that we have to increase our exercise time or we stay completely away from the candy because we are too worried about the extra calories, fat, and sugar.
We all know that healthy food is critical for our overall well-being. However, having a healthy relationship with food is also very important. One of our greatest responsibilities as parents is to teach our children how to take care of their bodies with good food and movement. What our children learn, observe and eat as young children can have an impact on their preferences later in life. Just as they learn about healthy food from us, they also learn what kind of relationship to have with food. Most of our food choices should be nutritious and fuel our bodies but some foods are eaten occasionally and though maybe not best for our bodies, taste good, are fun and part of holidays and special activities. If our children never see us eat a piece of candy or eat it and then feel riddled with guilt what are they learning on how to approach treats? Can we simply eat a few pieces of our favorite candy once in a while and enjoy it without shame and guilt? Don’t get me wrong, I think as a country we consume way too much sugar and do really think it is linked to many, many of our health problems. Most of the time, I think we should eat a low sugar diet. However, I think constantly restricting ourselves from small indulgences can backfire as well.
It took me years to get over the guilt and even sometimes shame with certain food choices. In past Halloweens, I would often overindulge because I was ALWAYS restricting and then the next day feel guilty and feel that I need to workout harder or longer to burn off those extra mini-candy bars I consumed. As I have talked about in the past, now I approach my nutrition with a much more moderate approach and consume small treats more often but probably much less overall. I no longer feel the need to eat an entire bag of candy because I have not had any in months. I honestly have a small sweet almost daily which I believe is much better for me physically and mentally.
So how do I approach special occasion eating differently now?
First, I acknowledge just that. It is ‘special occasion’ eating. I do not eat like this all the time. I eat very well 85-90% of the time. The rest of the time is for enjoyment. Second, I no longer correlate exercise with burning off any specific foods consumed. Exercise should not be done solely to burn off what was eaten. Exercise should be done to become stronger, move our bodies in ways that feel good, for stress reduction, mental health benefits, among countless other benefits. I do not workout the day following a holiday because I ate one too many mini Butterfingers, I workout because I love to exercise. Sure, calorie burning is a benefit of exercise but trying to burn a certain amount of calories based on what you consumed the previous day is making exercise punishment. As a fitness professional, I will no longer make comments to my class or clients about working out extra hard because of an upcoming special day or after the holiday to burn the calories off. Again, exercise should not be a form of punishment. If you view exercise as something you have to do because of the choices you have made, how likely are you to stick with it? Will you truly enjoy it? Lastly, if I do feel guilty about overindulging, I acknowledge it but I am not going to waste mental energy berating myself or feeling guilty. I remind myself that it is simply time to move on and get back to making good choices most of the time.
So as I approach one of my all-time favorite holidays, I am not ridden with anxiety that I will either not be able to control myself with all the candy around nor will pretend that I do not want any candy. I will simply go through my kids trick-or-treat buckets and pick out a few of my favorites and enjoy them, no guilt, no shame.
Hope you and your family have a very happy and safe Halloween!
The entire Batgirl/Ninja Gang!
Back in February I posted a blog about the most important things you could do for your health right now. However, some of those listed are easier said then done. Most of us know that we should sleep more and eat more vegetables, but why don’t we do it? Our mindset around exercise and food impacts our actions greatly. If our mind is not in the right place, then no amount of health advice will help us actually put these tips into action. Read on for 4 mindset shifts that will hopefully help you with healthy behavior change.
1 . Stop complicating everything.
I love exercise physiology, biochemistry and nutrition science. And yes, those topics can be complicated and I went to school to study all these topics but healthy living is really not that complicated. It is not necessarily easy but it should not be that complicated. Can we stop counting macros, minutes of exercise in various zones, how many intervals we did and just move a lot and eat mostly healthy food, most of the time? Do not get me wrong, I love training programs and planning workouts as that is my job, but I work with so many people who are just overwhelmed with information overload. They are confused what to eat, when, how much to exercise, how intense to exercise, how many rest days they should take and so on. Yes, there is a science to training, certain things do work better than others and your program should not necessarily be totally random but our society is not suffering from overtraining. We are suffering from lack of movement and are overfed but undernourished.
Move as much as possible throughout the day, eat as many vegetables as you want, eat good quality protein, eat moderate amounts of fruit, whole grains, healthy fats and dairy. Drink a lot of water. Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep a night. If you can even just pick one of these tips to focus on for a short while, you should see improvements in your health.
2. Get rid of the all or nothing mindset.
Many clients I work with are either totally focused, working out consistently, watching what they eat, working on other health habits or are not working out at all besides maybe once with me, not paying attention to what they eat, not focusing on sleep or other self-care practices.
Our society has a hard time living in the middle. We do not like moderation. We tend to be all in or all out when it comes to our health. Hence, the popularity of New Year’s Resolutions. After 6 weeks of over indulging, we switch to 6 weeks of restriction and hard core exercise and dieting. Living in the middle with consistently good choices is much more sustainable in the long run then trying to be perfect for 5 days a week to throw everything out the window come Friday night. Or training really hard for 3 months followed by 3 months of inactivity. Consistency beats perfection; EVERY. TIME.
Workout often, enjoy some treats once in awhile, take some rest days but not too many. Don’t eat everything you want all the time but also don’t restrict too much or too often.
3. Do the best you can with what you have available.
You do not need any fancy equipment, clothes, shoes or space to get in a good workout. If you are in the habit of exercising at a gym or going to certain classes and are unable to go for some reason, then many of us choose not to do anything. Or when traveling, if we do not have a well equipped gym, then we decide to just not exercise at all. Or if we do not have our normal food available to us then we decide to screw it and just order whatever want vs. the best option available.
Do the best you can in those specific situations. No gym? Walk, walk, walk and throw in some body weight exercises. All movement counts. Only fast food options available? Hit up a grocery store or gas station and grab some fruit, vegetables and cheese and if those are not available, grab some jerky and nuts.
It doesn’t have to be ideal or perfect all the time. Work with what you got.
4. You can make healthy choices at any time.
I have worked with a lot of clients who always seem to be waiting for something. “I will start healthy eating on Monday.” “I will start going to the gym regularly when work isn’t as busy.” “Once my kids are back in school, I will eat better and more regularly.” You do not have to wait until any special day, time or period in your life to make a healthy choice. If you had a doughnut for breakfast, you do not have to wait until tomorrow or Monday to make a better choice the next time you eat. You can start with the next meal. If your schedule is a bit off one week and you miss your regular exercise routine, you do not have to wait until your schedule returns to normal to exercise again. You can incorporate some other type of exercise or movement later that day or the next day.
Don’t wait for any special circumstance, day or time to make healthy choices. You can start at anytime.
Getting your head in the right space is crucial for behavior change. Changing your thoughts around exercise and food can help you stay motivated and hopefully help you take action and help you live your best healthy life.
The following post is a continuation from my blog last week.
4. I do not make body specific number goals anymore.
At the beginning of every year, my sister and I write and share goal lists. I usually have categories such as financial, career, health etc. I used to always have number goals for my health. I wanted to be x amount body fat or weigh x amount by this date. I associated a certain weight or body fat with success. Ironically, these goals appeared on the list every single year for a long time. So either I had unrealistic goals as I was not achieving these numbers and maintaining or by setting a number goal, I was just continuing my quest/obsession to weigh a certain amount. Now, if I have any numbers associated with my health goals, they are performance driven such as running a 10k in under 55 min or increasing all my max lifts.
5. I do not plan when and what my next meal will be and therefore do not spend nearly as much time thinking about food.
These are game changers. I used to literally always be planning my next meal, usually while eating the meal prior. It was as if I could never live in the present and enjoy the meal I was eating because I was obsessing how that would affect my next meal. For example, when writing this, I was on a plane at 5:15 AM. I woke up at 2:30 AM and had coffee on the way to the airport and threw a few snacks in my bag in case I got hungry before I was able to get a real meal when I landed in California. I was not stressed about it. I will eat when I get hungry. In the past, I would have either packed a healthy breakfast (at 2 freakin AM!) or worst case scenario buy the healthiest thing I could find at the airport so that I would have food with me on the plane in case I got hungry during my 2 hour flight. I would need to make sure I had a meal with me because if I did not eat, then I might be starving when I landed and then not make the best choices and then probably overeat for that meal. Then I would not be hungry for my pre-planned snack but if I did not eat my snack at a certain time, then I might overeat at dinner and then I would be worried that eating too much, too late would mess me up the next day on my regimented eating plan. OMG. I read this now and kind of laugh but also feel embarrassment as this was seriously my mindset. So much time and energy that I want to spend doing other things.
6. I do not do food guilt anymore.
This has by far been the hardest but most significant mental switch for me. Gulit and often associated shame are brutal emotions. I was giving so much power to food that I would literally feel down on myself for consuming too much of this or that. I was associating my worth and self-value based on what I was putting in my mouth. I struggled being a fitness professional who was supposed to have this all figured out. How could I help my clients eat right and have a good relationship with food if I didn’t? I often felt like a fraud. Now, if I over consume or do not make the healthiest choices, I acknowledge the fact that I did not make the healthiest choice and I might not feel great later due to those choices and MOVE ON. I do not keep thinking about my choices or promise myself to workout extra hard or long or that I can only have salad and water the next day. I move on. This shift did not come easily and really did take years to master. I had to come to realization that one unhealthy meal or even one or a few days of unhealthy eating was not suddenly going to make me out of shape and gain 20lbs. I had to consciously decide to not let food have that much power and that I wanted to spend my time and energy focusing somewhere else, mainly my kids and family. Ironically, once I became good at implementing and practicing #1-#5 mentioned in this blog and not restricting myself anymore, the guilt started to diminish significantly. You know what also happened? I have maintained the same weight, the weight I was prior to my pregnancies and the weight I feel is appropriate for my height, genetics and body structure with significantly less effort than ever before.
Though my relationship with food has improved so dramatically there are still times I feel my old mindset creep in and I have to make an effort to not let my old habits and mindset take over. As someone who has struggled with food issues for years, this will probably always be some type of work in progress but work I am happy to do if it means not going back to where food and guilt ruled me.
How was your relationship with food changed over the years? I would love to hear from you, please leave a comment below! If you are still struggling with your relationship with food or finding what works for you, shoot me an email! I would love to chat.
I have been open with how much my relationship with my body and food has changed since having kids. Recently, with lots of travel and my exercise and sleep schedule being a bit off, I have been reflecting with gratitude on how different my relationship with food really is. And though there are times when my old behaviors want to creep back in, I am sometimes surprised, but also proud on how far I have come. Below are a few ways I know my relationship with food has changed for the better.
*Once I started writing on this topic, I just kept writing and writing so decided to break this blog into two posts. Check back next week for Part II!
- I do not count anything anymore.
For years, especially when I was trying to be ‘good,’ I would record my food in a notebook or food journal. I would try to count calories and macros as I thought that would help me stay on track and reach my goals. Not only was it exhausting to write down everything I ate, it was ludicrous to think that my recording and calorie counting was accurate. I am not a fan of calorie counting or macro counting for many reasons (you can read my thoughts here from a past blog a few years ago) but it is virtually impossible to be accurate. However, I am not completely against food journaling if you are trying to see patterns or figure out a way of eating that might work for you. I do think it can be helpful in the short term to see where your strengths and weaknesses are and I always have my clients complete a three day food recall. But in the long term, I do not think it teaches you how to eat mindfully and can definitely become a bit of an obsession. I still of course read labels and pay attention to what I am eating but I honestly have no idea how many calories or macros I eat each day. I will also probably never keep a food journal again unless I feel it is medically necessary. I have learned to eat when I am hungry, not overeat about 98% of the time and what foods I like and make me feel good.
2. I do not dread nor get overly excited for social events because of the food.
I am a very social person and I love going to parties and different events. However, when it came to the food, I had two very different attitudes. I used to get a bit of food anxiety if I knew there was going to be a lot of delicious food because I would feel that I would not be able to control myself (due to the fact I was always trying to restrict myself). On the other hand, I would be excited that I was going to give myself a free pass to eat anything I wanted and I looked forward to a few hours where I was not restricting. If I did eat whatever I wanted, I would then feel guilt and often shame. Now, I just see these events for what they are, activities to be with my friends and family and chat and have fun. Of course, if I know there is going to be good food I look forward to eating it (our family dinners are amazing since my sister is a professional chef 🙂 ) but I am not filled with pre-emptive guilt, thinking I will eat everything in site. I enjoy myself while still making mostly healthy choices. I do not eat everything and anything but I eat at least a little bit of everything I want.
I love birthday parties and cake. I almost always at least have some of the treats served.
3. I do not look up menus prior to eating at a restaurant for health reasons.
I love trying new restaurants and luckily Denver has an awesome food scene. I used to always check the menu before I would go to make sure I felt there was something healthy that I could eat. And one of those tried and true ridiculous ‘health’ tips on eating out is to look at the menu before you go and decide what you are going to eat when you get there. And make sure you do not change your mind or be tempted by something less healthy. Now, if that works for you, great. But the amount of time and energy and the thought of me deciding what I want to eat three days before I go is so silly to me now but I did it for years. Now, I really know I can pretty much eat anywhere and make pretty good choices. I might still hop on the restaurant’s website to check out the place and see if the menu appeals to me but you can bet I am not deciding what I want to eat in advance.
in my next post, I will talk about the other 3 ways my relationship with food has changed that are even more significant.
At 9:19 AM, 1,825th days ago, I became a mom. I always try to come up with some heartfelt, cute blog on my kids’ birthdays. This birthday is a hard one for me. A milestone birthday. I usually love everything about birthdays but now my first born is no longer a baby or a toddler and now not even a preschooler. I finished the last page in his baby book last night with photos from his 5th birthday party. He will start elementary school in the fall and though I am so excited for who he is becoming, I am saddened that it seems to happen so fast.
Below are random thoughts, reflections, wishes and my hopes for you, my dear Caleb.
You will never know how much you were wanted.
I hope you inherit your father’s patience, loyalty and handy man skills.
You probably will never understand my love for you until/if you decide to have your own children. Unconditional.
I hope you will love to travel and read and do both often.
I will never, ever forget the moment when after 3 years of infertility, I found out I was pregnant with you.
The days can be so long but the years are so fast.
I hope you inherit your Papa Johnson’s practicality and financial savvy, your Aunt Wibby’s intelligence and quick wit,and your Uncle Nick’s sense of humor.
You will never know how much I love you.
One of the best moments of my life was putting you on my chest right after you were born.
I hope you grow up to be kind, respectful and brave.
I love watching you with your sister.
I do not know how I can love one human being so much while sometimes at the same time driving me absolutely bananas.
I hope you inherit your Papa Frank’s ability to talk to anyone, your Grammy’s calm spirit.
I know I will never, ever, stop worrying about you.
You bring me joy and make me laugh every single day.
I hope you inherit my love of exercise, healthy food and education.
I hope you and your sister will always be close.
I hope you always love animals.
I hope you find a career that you are passionate about.
I hope you strive to win but also learn how to lose graciously.
I hope you are as detail oriented as Uncle Jason, patient as Aunt Jennifer and as generous as your Aunt Michelle.
I hope your love of music, dancing, the water, and dressing up continues.
I hope you know the power of deep breaths, sunshine, a hot shower and a good night’s sleep.
You are my greatest teacher and life coach.
Though I am sad you are growing up so fast, I cannot wait to see the person you will become.
I wish time would slow down.
Happy 5th Birthday my sweet baby boy.
- Eat More Vegetables.
This is the number one piece of nutrition advice I give to anyone and everyone, and would often even give it to myself. I have never once worked with a client that I did not recommend to increase their vegetable intake. Even if you are doing a pretty good job of getting vegetables in, you can always eat more. Vegetables are always going to give you the most bang for your buck. They are low in calories, high in nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber. I believe they are almost impossible to overeat as most people will just simply fill up before eating too many. There are thousands of types of vegetables and numerous ways to prepare them. If you claim you do not like vegetables, keep trying new ones. Try cooking them a different way, add a little salt and butter or dipping sauce to keep them interesting. Add them to smoothies, soups, frittatas, sauces. There are endless ways to add vegetables to your meal and they can have a significant impact on your health.
2. Move As Much As Possible.
For years we have heard about trying to get in 10,000 steps/day, taking the stairs or parking further away. These small amounts of movement might seem insignificant but they can really add up. Research shows that many people, after working out earlier in the day, actually end up sitting more that day since they already exercised. They feel they have more of an excuse to be less active that day because of their earlier workout. Though working out is great, it does not counteract sitting at your desk for 8 hours. You need to keep moving throughout the day for optimal health. This might be challenging for many with a desk job but just moving around your desk and office can help.
In 2005, the concept of NEAT, Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis was introduced. This concept is the idea that daily movements such as standing, walking and basically fidgeting can have an impact on how many calories we burn each day. Studies show that NEAT can burn up to 350 calories a day! Stand up when you answer the phone, get up every hour for a few minutes and walk around the office. Try to have walking meetings if possible. Try to take a few breaks during the day for even 5-10 minute walk breaks. Every step does really count. Just move.
3. Sleep More.
I actually feel somewhat of a hypocrite typing this as I should be sleeping and not staying up to write a blog but I know that I should sleep more. We all probably should. I also know that at times it is literally impossible even with the best intentions. Like the night I got into bed early and was so excited for my 8 hours of sleep, only to be woken by my toddler at midnight demanding a bedtime story about “Frog and Toad.”
Sleeping and parenting little ones often do not go hand in hand but sleep is crucial for everyone. As with food and exercise, sleep can have huge impact on your overall health. Your body and mind need time to rest, recover and restore. When we do not sleep enough, our cravings, energy and hunger levels are out of whack. We are often grouchy and sluggish. Research shows that with less than 6 hours of sleep, our blood sugar becomes elevated the following day which can lead to inflammation. Most experts say 8 hours is ideal with some needing 7 and others needing 9. However, many hours you need to feel good, make it a priority.
4. Cook at Home More.
I love to cook but I realize that not everyone does. Even if you do not love to cook, please know it is one of the most impactful things you can do for your and your family’s health. Eating at home has so many benefits including eating less calories, fat and sodium overall, not to mention saving a significant amount of money. The time to connect with your kids and significant other is also hugely important.
Cooking at home does not mean cooking boring chicken breast and vegetables all the time. It also does not mean cooking super elaborate meals. I cook a wide variety of foods. Some are super simple like putting pre-made burgers on the George Foreman (yes, they still exist and I use mine often), steaming a vegetable and making some type of quick cooking whole grain/starch. Other nights when I have more time and feel more creative, my meals are a little more involved like chicken enchiladas. I also often try to re-create restaurant favorites like nachos and pizzas but they are signiciatnlty better for you when made at home. I can control the ingredients, portion sizes and add extra nutritional value with added vegetables.
It does help that my sister is a professional chef and has helped me significantly over the years to become a better cook, which I am forever grateful for. But just as with anything, getting better at cooking takes practice. The more you cook, the better you will become and we generally enjoy things we are good at. Keep trying new recipes. If you do not enjoy it, try super simple recipes. Pick a protein, starch or whole grain and a vegetable. Super flavorful meals can be put together in just 20 minutes. Keep trying, cooking at home matters.