Quality Isn’t Everything

When it comes to nutrition, most people used to say that there are two major components but now I believe there are really three. 🙂

  1. Quality of food
  2. Quantity of food
  3. Relationship to food

When I first started training, I talked a lot about quality. In fact, I focused almost solely on that with my clients (and myself, for that matter). We discussed macronutrients and what foods are best within those categories and substitutes for the ones that weren’t… oh yeah, we covered what type of food to eat aaall the live long day. This is because, for many years, all I was taught is that I needed to focus on quality. “Quality over quantity.”

But guess what. Most of my clients still really struggled with their eating and, therefore, achieving their health and fitness goals. The thing is that most of us already know what we should be eating. We get bashed over the head with it everywhere we turn these days. This food good, that food bad. Quality, quality, quality.

Now before anybody starts throwing a hissy fit, let me clarify: quality is important. I’m absolutely not trying to say that it’s not. HOWEVER, it’s not everything. In fact, in my 10 years of training experience, I have found that focusing on quality alone – or even just elevating it above the other components – tends to cause more harm than good. So let’s talk about why quantity is just as important.

First and foremost, the simple fact is that no matter what the quality is, if you eat more food than your body can use, then you will not lose weight. That’s just how the body works.

 

Second, when all three components of nutrition are not taken into equal consideration, we begin to lose a balanced perspective on each of them and misunderstand their relationship to each other and to our nutrition overall.

Let me show you what I mean:

Quantity

Between our American portion distortion and the common habit of eating mindlessly, quantity tends to go right out the window.

When we think quantity doesn’t matter, it leads us to ignore a really integral part of the eating process: the natural hunger & fullness cues that we receive from our body. These things exist so that our body can communicate with our brain about how much food it needs. But if quantity isn’t important then why even pay attention to it, right?

Most of us have gotten to the point where we rarely feel hunger anymore. Pay attention to it for a couple of days and you’ll probably be surprised at how many times you eat when you’re not hungry. I know I was. 😛

Our food relationship

When quality is everything it creates an unhealthy relationship with food, even to the point of orthorexia. Orthorexia is an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy. This is an unhealthy obsession that involves fear or guilt or worry, to the point where it negatively affects one’s quality of life.

Nobody eats 100% “high quality food” all the time because nobody eats perfectly all the time. When a food is either “good” or “bad” (“right” or “wrong”), it leaves no room for a healthy balance. There’s no room left for a guilt-free thought or action like: “I like this food, so I’m going to enjoy it” and then simply moving on with life. What usually results is other disordered eating habits like feeling out of control around certain foods or binging.

What’s most interesting is that even with the heavy emphasis on quality in our culture, we still have a huge problem with weight and eating disorders. When quality is the only focus, the other two deteriorate and usually end up bringing food quality down with them. This often leads to years, if not a lifetime, of struggle with food and eating habits. Yet, so many are very afraid or even hostile to the idea of taking a step back from quality to focus on something else for a time.

I get it. I was too for a long time. But eventually, I had to start looking at the situation honestly and be willing to step outside the box and try something different. Because what we’re doing right now is not working.

So where do we go from here? Here are a few suggestions:

**Know that quality isn’t everything and it’s OK to not focus on it all of the time.

Look, you don’t need me to tell you that if all you eat are donuts, your body’s not gonna like that and it’ll let you know so. What I do need to tell you is this: You won’t blow up like a whale or instantly get heart disease from eating a donut every once in a while. Healthy eating, just like every other aspect of health, should enhance your life. Don’t let it become a burden instead.

If you’ve been focusing on quality for some time now and not getting the results you want, then maybe it’s time to focus on something else. (For more on improving your relationship with food, I’ve recently talked at length about it here and here.)

**Increase your awareness of portion sizes

I do not believe you need to measure and weigh and count every little thing that goes into your mouth, but it’s good to be aware of what a proper portion size is. Most of us tend to have a slightly skewed perspective because….

food portions

As one of my friends said when she saw this chart, “I think I would cry if they gave me a 3 inch bagel!” Ha ha! Um yeah, I want the Panera Bread cinnamon crunch bagel and I want the whole thing. 😀 Again, it’s just something that’s beneficial to be aware of. From time to time, I like to check in on my portions using my hand as a guide just to see where I’m at. Like this graphic from Precision Nutrition…

From Precision Nutrition

1 serving is appropriate for women, 2 for men

 

**Learn to tune back into your body

I know I sound like a broken record on this one, but that’s because the benefits of this practice are so very worth it. Here’s the thing about the calories in, calories out idea: our body handles different foods differently and it’s needs change often and without warning. Try eating only when you’re hungry and you will find that there are days where you can seriously throw down and other days where you need very little.

The coolest part about it is that, with some practice, you can actually figure out a lot about what and how much your body needs without any outside help. When those needs change, you will feel it.

If you’re eating too much, you won’t be hungry for your next meal.
If you’re eating too little, you’ll get hungry too soon.
If you’re not getting the right amount of fiber, you’ll have cramps or gas.
If you’re feeling tired in your workouts, then you might need to up your protein intake… or your sleep.

Yep, those last two have to do with quantity and quality.

See, I’m not against quality. 😉 To improve overall health and body composition, you will eventually have to look at that aspect. I have just found that the other two not only need to be addressed, as well, but are often a much better place to start when trying to improve health through nutrition.

 

A new way to think about food (p.3)

So I’ve been going through a pretty big mindset shift that’s really altered my concept of “healthy eating” and how I relate to food. I gotta say, it’s been a total game-changer in the best way possible. I think a lot of these ideas have kind of been floating around in the back of my mind for some time now, but there were a few missing links that made it so I couldn’t see the whole picture. When I finally did, it instantly resonated with me and made so much sense! I’m so excited about it and have so much to say about it that I’m writing my 3rd blog in a row on the subject! (Here is part 1 and part 2 to read for yourself if you’re interested.)

The biggest takeaway for me has been that in becoming so completely focused on what we eat, we’ve lost sight of all the other aspects that make up a truly healthy relationship with food – which in my opinion, instead of being called “healthy” or “clean”, should just be called normal eating.

Seriously, what IS clean eating anyways?!

 

On the one hand, I knew that strict diets didn’t jive with my concept of what healthy eating should look like. On the other hand, when it comes to food and body image, the black and white thinking is so prevalent that I didn’t realize just how much of it had still imbedded itself pretty deeply in my own mind. That’s what recently came to the surface and allowed me to fill in some of the missing links.

So for part 3, I just wanted to share how it’s been going since this “shift” occurred along with some of the insights I’ve already gained. Changing the way you’ve thought about something and consequently what you’ve been practicing for years doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, but wow, it’s been an extremely freeing and exciting one.

Building self-trust

“I believe that the guilt we associate with food is far more detrimental to us than the food itself.” ~Dr. Eric Cobb

Fully letting go of “good” and “bad” categories and the guilt associated with certain foods is going to take time. But so far, I’m finding that it’s helped me with two really big mindset hurdles:

1) True abundance

The abundance mindset is the mentality that says, “There’s always more where that came from”, whereas the scarcity mindset says, “There will never be enough”. Allowing myself the option to really eat whatever I want WITHOUT GUILT takes away any lingering feelings of the scarcity mindset or the urge to put certain foods up on a pedestal.

2) Owning my food choices

We put so much guilt & pressure on ourselves when it comes to the way we eat, myself included. This truth was big missing link for me. Once I had this piece and realized how it had impacted my own choices and others, I’ve adapted to it pretty easily. Not only is it incredibly freeing for me, but I think it’s important for people to see me eating normally and owning it. No comments about “being bad” or “cheat day” or what I “should” get. I know what works for me, what I can get away with, what else I’ve had that day, as well as how I’m feeling, and that means that sometimes you will find me digging into a salad and other times it’s pancakes and eggs. I don’t need to explain my choices to you and I want you to know that you don’t need to explain yours to me. I don’t eat perfectly and that’s OK.

Aaahh, the sweet taste of freedom…nom nom nom. 😀

Taking a break from what and focusing on how and why 

If you read part 2, then you know that for a while I got caught up in what this professor or that magazine was saying is best and I basically put aside any signals from my body in favor of what I thought I should be eating.

I have always been a naturally slow eater, so I’m pretty good at that how. However, during the last few months, I’ve been practicing tuning back into my hunger signals and eating only when I’m actually hungry (which is my why). What this looks like for me is a lot less snacking, but more enjoyment of the meals I do eat because I’m actually hungry for them. Whodda thunk?? Duh. 😛

Finding the balance

The idea of no longer feeling guilty about any foods is so incredibly freeing that it can be easy to swing all the way over to the other side of just eating whatever you want, whenever you want. BUT, just like how viewing healthy eating as black & white and constantly restricting yourself and feeling guilty is not freedom, eating out of compulsion isn’t either.

Moderation is freedom from extremes…. and guilt, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still discipline involved.

I’m not completely ignoring the what. After all, I’ve put a lot of time and work into focusing on that and building habits around that. But I’ve also spent SO MUCH TIME thinking about the what that I’ve found a much needed mental break by easing up on it for a while. I can eat anything I want, but only when I’m hungry and I must stop before I’m full. That’s what I’m practicing right now.

So to be completely transparent, I had pizza 3 times last week and I enjoyed it guilt-free every time (mostly…like I said, work in progress. ;)).

According to this study, when you eat foods you enjoy, you feel more satisfied! I’m pretty skeptical of most studies these days, but this one sure seems to just make sense, right?!

Appreciating my body

As I talked about in my last blog, the illusion of the perfect body lends itself to unsustainably strict eating practices. I honestly believe that the best way to improve your health (whether it be your body or diet) is from a place of love and not self-loathing. Plus, I can’t stand the idea of spending my whole life only being able to appreciate my “bodies” from the past and never my current one. So here are a few of things that help me fight for contentment now:

beth burns fitness

*Become an expert in all the great things about your body and what it does for you. Do not allow yourself to talk bad about yourself. Seriously, stop that and start a running list of why your body rocks!

*Fight comparison. When I say fight, I mean it’s on. It’s an all-out war and your health and contentment are at stake. If you’re not fighting it, you’re losing.

*Remember that your identity and worth are so much more than the outer shell. My $0.02? You were made in the image of the almighty God – which makes you beautiful. And you are worth so much that He sacrificed His son in order to save you. Remind yourself of this every day.

 

I saw this blog the other day where different health professionals were defining normal eating. So to sum up, here’s mine:

Normal eating is enjoying food in a flexible way so that it enhances your body, mind, and life…
…which means sometimes having more and sometimes having less, sometimes having the treat and sometimes not.
It is free from guilt, idealism, and extremes, but not discipline.
It is listening to and honoring your body by feeding it when it needs to be fed and stopping when it needs to stop.
It’s being able to enjoy a wide variety of foods while owning your food choices because you know that food does not define you.
It’s knowing and believing that food is just food.
Nothing more and nothing less.

That’s my definition. What’s yours??

One of the biggest reasons we struggle with food

In my last blog, changing the way we think about food, I discussed how the idea that healthy eating is a black and white issue leads to an all-or-nothing mindset, ignoring our bodies’ signals, a lack of self-trust, and a lot of food guilt and stress. (If you haven’t read it yet, you can jump over HERE real quick and do so.)

With this being such a big issue in our culture right now, I can’t help but wonder, how did we get here?

I’m sure there are multiple layers to such a complex thing as the human psyche. In my last post, I mentioned diets and food zealots, but what I think what it all comes down to is something I felt needed it’s own blog….

The Attainment of Perfection

“What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be.”

In college, my diet wasn’t anything spectacular in terms of what we think of today. I was simply really good at listening to my body. I had gotten to the point where it felt automatic and easy and I was maintaining a good physique. Then I was told that the best way to eat was to have 5-6 smaller meals every day and that you should never get to the point where you are feeling hunger.  So I decided to try it. Long story short, it worked for a little bit, but then my body stalled and after that, it reversed and I actually gained some weight. I did it for years, but it never got to the point where it felt easy for me and gradually I trained myself to almost completely ignore most of the signals my body was giving me. Now, I’m practicing and getting back to what works best for me.

So you might be wondering why I would ever change up my eating in the first place! Looking back, that’s what I had to ask myself and here’s what I came to:

I had swallowed the lie that if I could just find and stick to that perfect diet then I could have a perfect body. See, even though I was in probably the best shape of my life, all I could see were the “flaws” and the parts that still didn’t look like the picture perfect image I had in my head. If I’m being honest, I think that deep down I honestly believed I would be prettier and happier and that then, and only then, would I be really worthy of calling myself a fitness professional.

Yikes, right?? 😉

Like so many trainers that I know, when I first got into fitness, magazines seemed like one of the best and easiest places to get information. Well, when all you ever see in magazines is perfectly proportioned girls with glowing skin and not a dimple or blemish in sight, it’s hard not to think that it’s the norm and even easily achievable.

Here’s the thing about magazines:

*They use a few of the best pictures chosen from hundreds or even thousands of takes. Pictures that have been taken with the perfect lighting & angles, make up, professional stylists and photographers, and Photoshop to top it all off.

**Then they tell us what these women eat to look like that by giving us an example of ONE DAY. One day, folks. First of all, do you guys know anybody who eats the same thing every day?? If you do, you should tell them to go see a doctor because chances are they are probably really deficient in some important nutrients. Second of all, if I’m being featured in a magazine and they ask for my diet, you better believe that I’m going to give them an example of what my best day looks like!! (Celebrities are just people too, so you better believe that they struggle with self doubt and insecurities just like the rest of us.)

***Then they tell us that we can look like that if we can just eat these foods or do these 4 exercises every day.  food guilt

As if we’re a bunch of Mrs. Potato Heads that can just pick and choose how we want each part to look…. with just 4 simple moves, of course.

bikini body

 

I’m not trying to blame magazines for all our problems, but to think that we are not influenced by this stuff is only doing yourself a disservice.

“In 2014, Media Dynamics, Inc. revealed in a study that a typical adult’s daily consumption of media has grown from 5.2 hours in 1945 to 9.8 hours in 2014. Our media consumption per day… In that 10 hours a day that we’re in this media consumption, the study summarized that the number of ads adults are now exposed to across the five media outlets (these are the five major media outlets: TV, radio, Internet, newspaper, and magazine) is about 360 ads a day.” ~Matt Chandler

360 times a day we are exposed to ads that portray a very narrow definition of both beauty and health. Ads that tell us that we need to look a certain way to be able to wear a bikini and to be considered beautiful and for men to want to have sex with us. These lies are toxic to our souls and yet, in this day and age, it’s everywhere we look and it’s the very air we breathe. So, even though we know it’s an illusion, we know about Photoshop and we’ve seen the before and afters, we still secretly hold out hope that we will one day look like that. And we believe that the only way to get there is by eating these good foods and not those bad ones.

The truth is that this idea that there is a perfect diet that leads to the perfect body really only leads to discontentment. We spend years, if not a lifetime, on and off of different diets as we cycle between trying to achieve perfection and frustration when we can’t. Those who have attained it, soon realize it doesn’t deliver all the things they’d been promised. A perfect body doesn’t fulfill us, which is why 99% of women, no matter what shape or size, have body issues!

The media tries to tell us that health looks like a flat stomach, slim thighs and a firm butt. The truth is that, depending largely on your genetics and body type, the healthiest version of you might not be the leanest.

When a perfect body is the goal, your life will be enslaved to the never-ending search and marked by anxiety, frustration, and discontentment because it’ll never be enough. And one day you’ll look back and realize you spent way t0o much time focused on the wrong things and not enough time just enjoying food in a healthy way and learning to love and appreciate your body for everything that it does for you.

“Trying to be perfect is trying to fail.” ~Jill Coleman

Don’t worry, I’m not just going to leave you hanging. Check out part 3 HERE, for my personal insights and my definition of normal eating. 🙂

Changing the way we think about food (part 1)

“Healthy eating” isn’t about only eating “healthy” food. It’s about having a healthy relationship with ALL the food you eat. ~Angela Doll Carlson

For the last few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about what a healthy relationship with food looks like and why it is so important. After doing some reading on it, I’m amazed at all the things I’ve never really considered and I’m seeing the connection between how we relate to food and many of our most common food struggles.nutrition

The thing is that food is not in and of itself a moral issue and yet, “we’ve convinced ourselves that the definition of healthy eating is black and white—and that we, by association, are either virtuous or sinful, depending on what we’ve eaten recently. Never mind the fact that this completely ignores what else we’ve eaten that day, what we will be eating, what our specific medical conditions are, and what our individual health goals are.” (Robin Hilmantel)

In all fairness, it’s hard not to think this way when every diet and magazine has a list of good and bad foods and every food zealot out there acts like you are an idiot or a terrible person if you do or don’t eat certain foods. I’ve definitely been guilty of this kind of black and white thinking. While this way of thinking might not seem like that big of a deal (in a lot of ways it feels easier), in the end it leads to a number of issues.

Here’s why I think we need to get rid of this way of thinking and why it’s actually NOT easier…

1) The all-or-nothing mindset

I think we can all agree that the all-or-nothing mindset does not serve us when it comes to building healthy and sustainable habits. Yet, so many of us struggle with it!!

This idea that you’re either on or you’re off based on whatever makes the good list in your mind makes each meal and everything you eat seem like a big deal. We start thinking that we are always just one meal away from failure. In other words, no matter how well you might have eaten the rest of the day or week or month, most of us can easily get completely thrown off by one bad meal or day.

No one is good at handling that much pressure and stress day in and day out, every time they sit down to eat, without eventually cracking. When the stress becomes too much, we go “off” our perfect plan until we get sick of how we feel and/or look, at which point we go back “on”, thus perpetuating the vicious cycle of binging and depriving.

2) Focusing only on what 

Here’s the thing: what you eat isn’t as important as we’ve all made it out to be and how you eat is more important than most of us tend to believe.

The human body is an awesome thing. It’s incredibly smart, adaptive, and resilient. It was built to survive. It only makes sense that it would already come with a built-in system that’s really good at letting us know how and what to eat. Unfortunately, instead of listening to our body, most of us eat based on what we’ve heard or think is “best” and have completely lost the ability to tap into the natural signals our body is sending us.

Because guess what….there is no one-size-fits-all! Our bodies are different and therefore, can handle different things. All we have to do is be willing to pay attention.

“In fact, experts agree that we were born with the ability to eat based on our body’s cues. But often, we train ourselves to ignore what our body is telling us because it doesn’t fall in line with what we feel like we “should” eat—or what others are telling us we should be eating.” ~Robin Hilmantel

This leads us right into number 3….

3) Food guilt

food guilt

“I believe that the guilt we associate with food is far more detrimental to us than the food itself.” ~Dr. Eric Cobb

For most of us there is a huge amount of guilt and shame that goes along with eating and food choices.

When I became a personal trainer, I noticed that people were all of the sudden starting to pay more attention to what I ate. Some were just curious, while others were definitely judging. But then I realized this wasn’t just a problem for trainers. Everybody was paying attention to what everyone else was eating and debating between what they wanted versus what they thought they should get, then feeling the need to explain their choices or comment on other people’s choices.

This is the good or bad list coming into play again. It creates this severe lack of self trust, so that we’re either choosing things based on what we think the people around us will approve of or we feel guilty about what we got. Since guilt and enjoyment can’t really co-exist, most of us have lost that true enjoyment that should come from eating.

This is not the way it should be, and yet, it’s the norm for most of us. Health is supposed to enhance our lives, not make it more burdensome. This is why we need to start changing the way we think about food.

I hope this stuff is as eye-opening and fascinating and helpful to you as it is to me. This stuff is so prevalent and there’s even more to it that I can’t wait to share with you guys, so check out part 2 (about one the biggest reasons we struggle with food) and part 3 (my experiences with a new way of thinking about food and my definition of normal eating)!

 

Lies that keep us unhealthy and unhappy (part 2)

In part 1, I discussed a few popular misconceptions that I believe have really hindered folks in actually achieving their health and fitness goals. Believe it or not, I thought of a few more 😉 So here are 3 more lies that keep people frustrated and unhealthy.

beth burns fitness

Lie #5. Eating protein will make you bulk up.

Protein is a macronutrient which means it’s essential for life and growth and it’s needed in larger quantities than most other nutrients. Protein aides in just about every metabolic function in the body and promotes a healthy immune system. It also takes more time and energy to digest, helping you feel full for longer!

Moreover, most weight loss is a combination of losing fat and muscle. Since most people don’t want to be soft and weak, the goal is to lose fat while maintaining as much strength (and muscle) as possible. Protein helps your body hold onto the muscle so that you end up with a tighter, leaner bod. It also helps fuel your muscles during a workout, so if you’re looking for a way to feel more energetic during your workouts, make sure you are getting enough protein.

Protein also happens to be sorely lacking in most American diets.

For all of these reasons, you’re probably used to hearing every fitness pro consistently bring up protein. HOWEVER, protein by itself is not some insta-bodybuilder nutrient. Eating too much protein will not make you bulk up (unless you mean gain fat, in which case, eating too much of any macronutrient can make you gain). For fat loss and a healthy lifestyle, there still needs to be a balance of macronutrients and you will still need to perform muscle-promoting exercise in order to maintain (or increase) strength and definition.

Lie #6. Running is a great way to lose weight

Some people will lose weight while running. However, for the most part, long distance endurance-style running is not great for fat loss. In fact, many runners will actually notice that they tend to get a little softer when focusing solely on endurance running. There are 2 big reasons why this happens:

1) Your body adapts quickly to doing the same things over and over. The only way to vary your running is by changing the speed, which most people don’t do. So over time, even if you’re running longer distances you will burn less calories even while doing more work!!

2) The other reason is too much time in the “fat burning zone”. Sounds like a good thing, right? The only problem with this is that when you make fat a primary source of energy, your body is smart enough to realize that it’s burning through a lot of fat and will start storing it so that it has enough for the next run.

Truth: If you’re looking to lose fat, stay away from a long, slow, steady-state running. You need to be switching up the intensity levels with things like intervals, sprints, and ideally, some strength training. For more ideas on how to do this, go here or here. 😉

Lie #7. Strength training is just for building muscle (and will, therefore, make you bulky)

Here’s the deal, unless you want to look like a skeleton, you will have some combination of muscle and fat on your body. That’s normal and healthy! 😉 So obviously, we want more muscle and less fat….or at least, that’s what I always thought. Let me explain…

Since your body works on a “use it or lose it”-type of system, strength training is meant to improve your strength so that your muscles continue to work for you and you continue to have the ability to do the things you want to do. This makes sense right? We like to be able to go up the stairs without feeling like we’re gonna have a heart attack.

Yes, strength training can help one increase muscle mass. I’ve written about this already here and here and here, so I’m not going to go into why it’s really hard for women to “bulk up” from strength training. But what I’m amazed at is how quickly and how often the term “bulky” still gets thrown around with such disgust and fear. “I don’t want to get bulky,” or “Careful, you don’t want to get too bulky”.

As a culture, we have gotten so far away from what health actually is that I’m not sure we’d recognize it if it came up and smacked us in the face. With the emphasis on size above all else, we are quick to think of “bulk” as the ultimate evil. As if the worst possible thing would be to be a little bit bigger or a little more defined than the media has determined is suitable for women. Forget if I’m strong or healthy, gotta fit into that size 2 if I want to be considered beautiful/healthy/feminine/worthy. What’s sad to me is that we have become so obsessed with size that most women really would rather be skinny and weak than have a little definition and be stronger.

I get that everybody is entitled to their own definition of beauty, (I myself admit that I’ve had a lot of time to work through my own process with this whole idea) but this just does not sit right with me.

The thing is….there is beauty in strength, in training your body and your mind to be strong and resilient, in discipline, in confidence, in taking care of yourself, and in being able & capable of doing the things you want or need to do.

Whether we want to believe it or not, we are all products of our culture. I’m not saying that you have to like the look of women with definition. What I am suggesting is that we all think twice before throwing around the word bulky. There are a lot worse things than being muscular!! And strong is beautiful, too. 😀






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The Benefits to Being Short-sighted

funny eyes

One of the biggest issues many people face in the fat loss process is being too short-sighted. We want results and we want them yesterday OR we want to get in shape for a vacation that’s in 3 months. Most crash diets will give you that quick fix. Even though they suck while you’re doing them and statistics show that most people gain even more weight back after the diet is over, the dang “quick fix” will just not die. This wreaks havoc on your body and mindset which is why I am always pushing to focus on the long game.

However, I’ve realized that I’ve been a bit remiss in only focusing there. There are a number of benefits to being more short-sighted too. In fact, they work even better together! I’ve actually been using both in a number of areas in my life to help me continue to move forward.

Here are two powerful ways to help yourself in whatever area you are struggling by being a little more short-sighted:

1) Segmenting

Segmenting is mentally breaking down a task into smaller pieces until it feels manageable to you. It’s asking, what CAN I do? This technique is used by the Navy SEALs to get through hell week and by doctors to help people with depression get out of bed and by runners to finish a race.

I often use this for blogging. I’m not a natural writer. I very much love to be up and moving around. So I have many days were writing is the last thing I want to do and I have to segment it. OK, you don’t want to do this, but can you just sit down and write for 20 minutes? Yeah, I can do that.  Once I’m in my groove, I love it! The hardest part is just starting.

For fat loss, one of the hardest struggles can actually be stressing out by looking too far down the road! Anyone who’s tried to lose weight knows what I’m talking about. Those days where it feels impossibly hard and you think, I just can’t do it anymore! You get too far ahead of yourself and start freaking out about never eating this or that ever again.

So when you have those moments, stop. No more thinking about a month or a year from now or even tomorrow! Take a few deep breaths (breathing actually helps the mind focus. 😉 ), then ask yourself: What can I do next?

  • Can you make it an open-faced sandwich instead of 2 pieces of bread?
  • Can you drink one more cup of water?
  • Can you get to bed 15 minutes earlier than you normally would?
  • Starting to feel hunger… can you go 10 minutes before eating?
  • Dinner is over… can you get through tonight without eating anything else?
  • Can you workout for 10 minutes?
  • Can you do one more…rep, exercise, set?

OK, then that’s your goal. One meal, one day, one habit at a time.

2) Focus on the process

In any sport, the score is important, but if that’s all the players focus on they will most likely let their emotions govern their play and lose. The players must focus on doing the little things well like dribbling, passing, running plays, shooting, and defending. They must focus on the process in order to achieve the outcome.

It’s the same in health. Yes, the scale & tape measure can usually tell you how you’re doing but it’s the actual habit changes that are going to get you there. When you’re unhappy with the results, go back to the process.

  • If you’re struggling, have you truly been honest with yourself about how consistent you are?
  • Are you really aware of what, how much, and how often you’re eating now? Can you start a food journal?
  • If you aren’t losing fat, have you been consistent with the habits you’ve been working on?
  • If you have, is it time to add a new habit?
  • If you haven’t, how can you segment it to make it more doable for you?

**Being both long and short-sighted are important and beneficial and together they can help you stay sane and enjoying life. When you’re sick of the day in and day out, focus on the long game: how great it will be and how much better you will feel in 6 months if you keep up with this! When you feel overwhelmed and like you’ll never be able to get there, focus on what you can do today.**

The journey to a healthy lifestyle is indeed a marathon. However, in order to reach the finish line, you just gotta keep putting one foot in front of the other.

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For the Love of Food

One thing I hear all too often is, “I want to eat better but I just love food too much” or the other version, “I really love food so I feel like I’m just doomed to be overweight”. I get it. I used to say that one of my main reasons for working out so much was because I loved food.

However, over the last few years, this idea really started to gnaw on me. Why does it have to be an either-or situation?? Either you love food or you eat healthy? About a month ago, I came across a quote that really nailed it on the head for me:

You’d think we love it, but we don’t. The exact opposite is true. Imagine the difference between a healthy person who savors a slice of cake after a good meal, and a morbidly obese over-eater who scarfs down three Cinabons while sitting in the food court at the mall. You might have the impression that the latter “loves food” more, but this is not the case. To them, food is a compulsion. A drug. A prison. They don’t love it. They just consume it. It is the healthy person, the one who exercises and eats vegetables with most meals, who can really find joy in a good dessert. They can love it because they are not a slave to it.

                                                                                                                                       ~Matt Walsh

This quote really spoke to me because I think a lot of us could really benefit from changing the way we think about food. You can still love food….after all, it is what sustains your body and life. God could have done it very differently, but He gave each food a different taste and texture and then he gave us the tastebuds to enjoy those different tastes. The breaking of bread and the mutual enjoyment of food is a big part of community and connection. It should be loved.

nutrition

BUT, with food being such an integral part of life, how much more enjoyable would life be if we didn’t feel so controlled by it??

So I started thinking about the instances where we think we’re loving and enjoying food when we’re really only serving to worsen our relationship with it. Three things came to mind and it’s no surprise that they all have to do with our mentality towards food. Check them out….

1) Emotional Eating

One of the first things that came to mind is “eating our feelings”. This always seems like a good idea in the moment, but afterwards only leaves us feeling worse than before. So for starters, it’s helpful if we have a way to decipher if what we’re feeling is physical or emotional hunger.

  • Physical hunger builds gradually; emotional hunger strikes suddenly
  • Physical hunger is felt below the neck (i.e. growling stomach); emotional hunger is felt above the neck (craving a specific taste in your mouth)
  • Physical hunger feels mildly uncomfortable and will usually subside for a little while with a glass of water; emotional hunger feels urgent and uncontrollable
  • Physical hunger goes away when full; emotional hunger persists despite fullness
  • After eating, physical hunger leads to feelings of satisfaction; emotional hunger leads to feelings of guilt and shame

If it is emotional hunger, then experiment with new ways to cope that can actually help you. Are you stressed out? Take 30 minutes to get outside and walk or take a nap! Are you depressed? Call a friend or spend some time in meditation/prayer. Is it late at night and you just like to relax and indulge a little? Treat yourself to a good book, a bubble bath, maybe some time with your spouse 😉 or an extra hour of sleep!

These are just some suggestions of course. Perhaps the best thing to do is take a few minutes to sit down and make your own list that you can refer to in those times. (Maybe even copy this list of physical vs. emotional hunger to the top of the page.) Just like in relationships, when you look to them to fulfill something it has no capacity to fill, you only end up feeling more empty. Whatever you’re dealing with, food doesn’t have the answer.

2) Too Much Restriction

The reason you can’t control your eating when you are around sweets and treats is because you have put them up on a pedestal, and then deprived yourself to the point that THEY control YOU. ~ Jill Coleman

When you think about it, the ice cream in your freezer, the dessert or bread at a restaurant, holiday candy, these things will always be readily available! (Seriously, when could you not hop in your car and be enjoying any of these within the hour??) When we restrict ourselves and spend a crap-ton of energy just trying to avoid certain foods, we end up mentally putting these foods up on a pedestal. It’s no wonder then that when our next “cheat meal” comes around it looks like a feeding scene from shark week. 😀

The other possibility is the abundance mindset: I can have this whenever. Do I really have to have some right now or will I feel better (or be happier with my progress) if I skip it this time?

I’m not saying that there’s no place for restriction or discipline, but be careful how much you restrict. Food will always be there and the pleasure of eating is fleeting. Take care to not let your mind put it up on a pedestal and give it power it doesn’t have.

3) Mindset

One huge shift for me was experiencing how much better I felt when I fed my body well. That’s when I really started to look at healthy eating as rewarding.

If you think of healthy eating as a horrible and painful process that you don’t really want to do or if you elevate the unhealthy stuff as more enjoyable and better tasting, then the process is going to be hard and painful.

Guess what. There really is such a thing as really tasty healthy food!  Healthy habits are totally worth it when you begin to experience the difference it makes in both your physical and emotional health. Shifting your mindset and reminding yourself daily that healthy eating is rewarding and worth the effort, even if you’re not quite convinced yet, can really help your process.

I still get super excited about eating good food :)

I still get super excited about eating good food 🙂

I’ve been both examples in Matt’s quote (minus the morbidly-obese part). It feels awful to feel so controlled by food. It’s also true that dessert really does taste better when you don’t have it all the time. 😉 If I’m being honest, I don’t completely have this mastered yet. I still have times where I emotionally eat or just over eat, but I’ve come a looong way. These are some of the practices that I know can help because I’ve used them myself!

You just have to be willing to put in the work, get back up (again and again and again 😉 ), and keep forging ahead.

What about you??? What helps nurture your relationship with food? Share your experiences over here on my facebook page!