food, nutrition, Personal wellness, Uncategorized

Last Minute Holiday Health Tips

The Holidays are Here…

Cue the Sleigh Bells and Stress Eating!

Three days until Christmas; 10 to the New Year! If you’re not feeling the pressure and stress, you might be superhuman. Even the most prepared and organized person will be experiencing some level of stress and overwhelm as they try to get it all done.

As you make those last-minute shopping trips, bake those final batches of cookies and wrap the gifts, I want to remind you not to forget about YOU.  A stressed, distracted, worrisome YOU is going to miss out on the fun and joy of the holidays. So, read on for my best tips for beating stress, finding time for fitness and focusing on good nutrition over the next week.

Stress and Overwhelm!

Let’s start here because if you get stress and overwhelm under control, you can focus on eating well and finding time for exercise.

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Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

A recent study found that 88 percent of people feel stressed when celebrating the holidays and the average couple will have seven arguments throughout the season. Um…only 88 percent? Only seven arguments? Maybe it’s just me but I could see those numbers climbing a bit higher as the holidays get closer.

While I’m not a mental health expert or life coach, I am trained in the science of behavior modification and how to break unhealthy habits. And, stress can be the result of negative, unhealthy habits like procrastination, over commitment and lack of delegation.

Here are my tips for rewiring  habits to be more productive and healthy and avoid the mental and physical exhaustion:

  1. Get it all out of your head and onto paper. Real paper. Not your phone notepad. The very act of writing helps you focus on what needs to be done. Write down EVERY LAST THING that you need to do from now until New Year’s Day. Every task, meeting, event, etc.
  2. Highlight the THREE things that only you can do and must be done by you. That’s your to-do list.
  3. Review the rest of the list and either ELIMINATE OR DELEGATE. Stop being superwoman. Once you’ve eliminated or delegated, cross off the items and focus on your top three.

Fitting in Fitness

If you don’t have a plan for exercise for the next few days, listen up! I’m going to make this super easy.

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  1. Take out your calendar…on your phone, in your planner, etc. Open it up and see where you have 30 minutes each day over the next 4 days. You have it – you may just have to look hard for it. This may mean getting up 30 minutes earlier or bowing out of something you didn’t really want to attend (remember my eliminate tip above?).
  2. Now that you’ve found that space, use time blocking to make it happen. Time blocking is simply scheduling your to-do list on your calendar. You block off the time you’ll be working on a specific task ahead of time, and then during that time, that’s all you focus on. A digital calendar works best because you will get reminders when it’s time to start and when you have a new task coming up.
  3. Finally think through what will stop you from exercising and create a plan. Undoubtedly, something will come up over the next few days. What are the barriers you might face? Think them through and create a plan. Enlist your significant other or kids to help if it’s something they can do.
  4. Once you’ve thought through all the pitfalls, you should have a pretty ironclad plan. Now, tell someone. A spouse, friend, colleague. Accountability is key to accomplishing any goal.

Food for Thought

This is the big one! Food contributes to 80% of our overall health. You really are what you eat.

So, first things first. You need to think through your food events. Where are you going to be? What might the menu consist of? You know these things…your family and friends are pretty predictable. If grandma has always made her famous jello pretzel dessert (it’s a thing, Google it!) then you can assume you’ll be faced with jello pretzel dessert. Here’s how to navigate the day:

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  1. Determine what you can control by bringing food or offering to help in some other way. Bring a healthy side or appetizer. Offer a healthy recipe if your mom is stumped on how to make sweet potatoes for the 900th time.
  2. Go prepared for the worst. Assume it will be a delicious storm of sugary carbs and heavy sauces. If it’s not, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If it is, you will be prepared.
  3. Eat ahead of time. Do not SAVE YOUR CALORIES for one big meal. You will be starving and self-control will be tough. Eat a good protein packed breakfast or lunch with healthy fats. Both protein and fat keep you fuller longer than carbs.
  4. Drink a ton of water before, during, after…water keeps your digestive tract moving and keeps you full.
  5. Tips for eating healthy-ish
    • Steer clear of the crackers and chips on the appetizer table. Go for veggies and dip/guac, shrimp, cheese and smoked meats, deviled eggs, nuts.
    • For dinner, start with half your plate filled with veggies and fruit (but not the sugary and processed kind). Think: Salads, veggie trays, roasted veggies, fresh fruit salad, etc.
    • Make the rest of it protein and healthy fats. Ham, turkey, prime rib, seafood. Make sure it’s not covered in breading and fried.
    • Save your carbs for the good stuff…wine, desserts. Not bland dinner rolls and crackers!
  6. When it comes to cocktails, beer and wine…go slow. For every alcoholic drink, have a glass of water in between. Clear liquors with club soda are the lowest in calories and carbs. Light beer is best. Wine is fine but watch the pour (4-6 oz. is a standard pour) but most glasses are much larger.

You’ve Got This!

So there you have it. My tips and strategies for a healthy and stress free holiday. And, I know you can do this!

One last tip: if you find yourself caught up in stress or other drama, just step away, refocus, breathe and remember what’s important. Family. Friends. Laughter. Being together. If you eat too much, forget to buy Aunt Susie a gift or use the treadmill for just hanging up clothing this next week, it’s ok. The world will keep on spinning and you will be fine.

Finally…it wouldn’t be the holidays without a few gifts from me!

First…my Healthy Holiday Cocktail Guide is online and ready for you to download. Grab it here!

Next, if you need that extra wellness support in the new year, jump into my free Facebook group  for professional women.

Finally – If you are ready to really kick all the unhealthy habits to the curb in 2019, I invite you to check out my Little Black Dress Project that kicks off January 7! It is a 6-week online program that includes: nutrition, fitness, and confidence building work! Read more on my Little Black Dress page. And, save $100 with coupon code LBD100 at check out.

Wishing you all the best this holiday season and looking forward to all good stuff the new year has in store for my friends, family and followers!

xoxo

Niki

Personal wellness, Uncategorized

182.5 and Counting…

1894381-Kara-Goucher-Quote-Progress-is-rarely-a-straight-line-There-areGuess what today is? Day #182.5 (at noon ET for me). The official midpoint of 2018. 

So…how are you doing on the health and wellness goals and resolutions you set for 2018? Are you halfway to achieving them? Statistically speaking you’re probably among the 80% who gave up on their resolutions by February. Ouch. Sorry.

I’m not trying to call you out and make you feel badly. Instead, I’m giving you a big old pass on all of it. I despise New Year’s resolutions and avoid making them at all costs. And you should too. Because your best intentions don’t always account for life. How on earth are you supposed to know what might happen in March, August or December of the coming year to be able to plan a year-long health or fitness goal?  You’d have to be a fortune teller to be able to predict that.

In the last 6 months I changed jobs, started my own business and decided to become a group fitness instructor. Some of that was planned, but not all of it. And, none of the stress or schedule disruption was accurately predicted. As such, my fitness and nutrition commitments shifted based on my life and schedule. That’s ok!

Sooooo…if you are one of the 80%, take a deep breath and read on for my 5 tips to Get Fit by the end of 2018.

Notice…no use of the word “resolution”. I promise you this. If you do these 5 things consistently until the end of the year, you will feel better, lose weight (if you need to) and have more energy. I’ll bet you a free personal training session if it doesn’t work.

  1. Cut the Carbs. Even the so-called whole grain “good ones”. I’m reading The Obesity Code, which basically reveals that all conventional dieting wisdom is a bunch of CRAP and that weight loss and weight gain is all about insulin and insulin resistance. And, what raises insulin? Refined, highly-processed carbs. Even the whole grain carbs we’ve been told are better for us. I am challenging you to track what you eat for one week and then cut the carbs you consume in half. Yep. In. Half. Do that for a week and see how you feel?
  2. Stop the Snacking. Again, the advice you’ve been given for years that “grazing” is the best way to control blood sugar is kinda bogus. So, yes, maintaining blood glucose levels is important so you don’t have big spikes and valleys. However, you can do that by simply eating 2-3 meals a day without lots of snacks. Plus, your body needs time between meals to rest and digest. If you keep feeding it, you keep it working to burn what you’ve just eaten – and you don’t get to burning what is stored as fat. Let your body burn through your meal first. Don’t snack but instead let your body use stored glucose and fat to sustain you until the next meal.
  3. Bail on Breakfast. I hate to be the breakfast buzzkill but the lobbying industry and cereal companies came up with “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Not science or researchers. Breakfast literally means to break a fast. Doesn’t say it has to be first thing in the morning. Most of us aren’t even hungry yet and our body releases the needed hormones and energy to get us through the morning. My challenge to you, try putting off your first meal until later –11 a.m. or noon. It’s called intermittent fasting and it’s a game changer when it comes to your health and wellness. I’ve been doing it for a while now and it has helped with not only weight loss but inflammation, energy, sleep, etc. Download my IF 101 for a primer on how to get started. But the bottom line is this…if you aren’t hungry at 7 a.m., don’t force yourself to eat. By delaying the release of insulin, you’ll burn more stored fat for energy.
  4. Leave the Calorie Counting Cult. Ok…my clients are probably like, WTH?? You make us track all our calories. And, I do. As a way to be aware. Not obsessed. Again, The Obesity Code has taught me that quantity of calories is LESS important than the quality and the timing. So, while it’s good to be aware of what, when and why you’re eating, I don’t think it’s a good idea to freak out if you go over what you believe to be your maximum calories. I also encourage the idea of eating mindfully and stopping when you feel full and starting when you feel hungry.
  5. Wash it Down with Water. For once and for all…stop the soda, diet soda, Crystal Light drinks, stevia, Splenda, etc. Drink water. Put some fresh fruit in it to infuse some flavor but choose water as your go-to beverage at meal time and throughout the day. You should be drinking ½ your body weight in ounces PLUS 8 oz. for every cup of caffeine you drink (coffee, tea, etc.) because as magical as caffeine is…it’s dehydrating.

This is my advice to those who find themselves at the midpoint of 2018 and no further along with their health and wellness goals.

None of these are cutting edge or questionable. They are legit in terms of science and can help you start to feel good, look good and be confident.

Have more questions about these or another health and wellness topics? Let’s talk! Fill out my FREE Wellness Assessment and get a 30-minute Well Chat where you can pick my brain for 30 minutes on anything wellness related.

Until next time…be happy, be healthy and have some fun!

Xoxo

Niki

food, Personal wellness, Uncategorized

Carbs ARE the Enemy – If We Let Them Win

Well…it’s official. I’ve gone from a grammar geek to a nutrition nerd. Actually, I’m still a grammar geek but now I’ll walk around equipped with a red pen AND a BMI calculator.
What has me all worked up? Macronutrients. I know – super controversial. But it is! In the last two days I’ve read two articles citing studies that point to the real and present danger refined carbs present. What are refined carbs, you ask? They aren’t classy carbs that are well educated. Refined carbs are white rice and pasta, cakes, cookies, commercially prepared breads and baked goods. All the stuff we’ve grown to love.

In these articles, two things stood out to me as a middle aged woman (only one of these applies to you, fellas):

1. “A growing body of evidence seems to indicate that the modern Western diet – high in processed and refined foods – can lead to cognitive decline and dementia.” 

2. ” Each portion of carbs, such as pasta and rice, consumed per day correlated with experiencing menopause 1.5 years earlier. “

Now, I don’t know about you but I’m in no hurry to experience dementia or menopause so why wouldn’t I look at my diet and try to improve it? We’re not talking about taking more pills or doing something otherwise dangerous. This is about breaking up with nutrient-deficient carbs in exchange for with nutrient-rich foods like lean proteins, legumes, eggs, vegetables, etc.

I’m all about feeding myself properly to avoid taking a pill…call me crazy! As good old Hippocrates said, “Let food by thy medicine.” Right on, man.

What I’m here to tell you is that I know…and science supports…the fact that refined carbohydrates are not healthy. Period. So, instead of trying to convince you of that (I’m happy to send loads of research your way), I’m focusing on how I can help you break that addiction (it’s an addiction for real).

I love finding ways to eat what I crave but in a healthier way. So, as you consider your carb intake, keep these 3 tips in mind.

 

1. Fiber first. If you are going to have carbs eat those with lots of fiber. Fiber isn’t sexy but it’s a hardworking micro-nutrient that keeps you fuller, helps your digestive tract function properly, and it grabs cholesterol on its way out.  Read labels to see how much fiber is contained in a food.  Just because something says “whole grain” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. You should be aiming for at least 25 grams of fiber a day and the easiest way to do that is to eat foods that have natural fiber in them – vegetables, fruit and whole grains that are minimally processed.

2. Sneaky sugar. Sugar is a carb. And it has many names. Worse yet, it’s in almost everything! Condiments. Pasta sauce. Dairy products. Naturally occurring sugar in fruit (fructose) isn’t the culprit here. Fruit also has fiber which is a benefit to your system (see tip #1). I’m talking about artificial sugars (even the calorie free versions) and sugars by other names – dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, carob syrup, maltodextrin, and the list goes on. There are some 60 different names for sugar. Don’t be fooled by the verbiage and check everything — sugar (and therefore carbs) can show up where you least expect it.

3. Fear not the Fat. Fat has a bad reputation. For decades, we were told to eat low or non fat foods. YUCK! The problem with eating no fat is that you aren’t satisfied after you eat. Furthermore, to take fat out and still make a food taste good, you have to add a bunch of artificial crap (did you ever read the label of nonfat sour cream? It’s a science experiment). Let me give a real example. It’s taco Tuesday and you make lean ground turkey taco meat and top it with non-fat sour cream and low fat cheddar cheese. There’s very little fat in that meal. You think it’s healthy and it may be low calorie but you eat one taco and it’s meh. Then you think, well, this is low fat so I can one (or 3) more. All the while, you aren’t really enjoying it because fake sour cream and cheese taste like plastic goo. You end up eating more, feeling less satiated and in a few hours you’re craving something else. Fat makes you happy. If you had made those tacos with grass-fed ground beef, real sour cream, real cheese and some yummy avocado slices on top, you would feel full and satisfied with 1 or 2 tacos. Why? Because, unlike carbs and protein, which have 4 calories per gram – fat packs a bigger calorie punch with 9 calories per gram. That helps keep you feeling full longer. When you cut fat out, you risk eating too many carbs and often, not the good ones. When you do, you play the blood sugar game of highs and lows all day – chasing more energy with coffee and a snack from the vending machine.

Word of warning: If you jump on the “fat is good” bandwagon but still eat a lot of carbs, your body will naturally use the carbs first and store the fat. Oops. Not what you wanted. So you need to balance it and chose wisely…from sources like nuts, avocados, coconut oil, salmon, shellfish and grass-fed or organically-raised meats. Spoiler alert…Trans fat is still nasty and bad. Don’t go there!
I hope these tips help you sort through the never-ending debate over carbs and fat. Protein somehow always looks good in these discussions…but that’s another topic for another blog post!

The bottom line is this…you need carbs. For your body and your brain.

The reality is…you probably don’t need as many as you’re consuming and if you want to lose weight, it could be what’s standing in your way.

With this new found knowledge you might be thinking, “hey I want to change my diet a bit and eat more of that yummy, healthy fat Niki was talking about.”

Yay! Wait, though…I haven’t even told you the best part of higher fat and lower carb… eating healthy fats can help you lose fat. True story.
So if wanting a little more fat in your diet while losing the fat on your butt seems like a win-win to you, consider joining me and other like-minded peeps in my KetoFast program – a combo of a Ketogenic meal plan with an Intermittent Fasting eating schedule.

A Ketogenic diet and lifestyle is higher in fat, low in carbs and moderate in protein. Done right, it helps your body adapt to using fat as a preferred energy source vs. carbohydrates. And, when combined with Intermittent Fasting (another educational blog post coming your way soon!) it makes your body a better fat burning machine.

My KetoFast program isn’t the typical Keto diet.

You can’t eat endless quantities of cheap, greasy burgers without the buns, and pounds of deli meat and convenience store beef jerky. It’s clean. Low in preservatives and sodium. It’s moderate in carb consumption (about 50 grams per day). These differences make it a lifestyle instead of a DIET (ugh, hate that word). Most people who start a DIET don’t succeed because it’s not sustainable. Strict Keto diets limit you to 20 grams of carbs a day. That’s very difficult to maintain especially when you consider that things like vegetables, nuts and some proteins contain carbohydrates. And, I’m not about advocating for a no carb approach.  It teaches you how to eat healthier all around for sustained weight loss and greater wellness.

If you’re interested, I’m going to be doing a webinar to explain the program and share some results my test group is experiencing. I’ll also be talking about how Intermittent Fasting plays a role and amplifies your results.

Hit me up if you’d like to receive an invitation to the webinar. If you’re already familiar with Keto and want info on the program. We start soon and I’d love for you to be part of it! Email me at nikicamp@gmail.com

I want us all to be better informed about the nutrients that fuel us so we can eat better, live longer and have active lives.

Have a happy and healthy day!

Niki

Personal wellness, Uncategorized, Workplace Wellness

Don’t Let that Extra Daylight Fool You

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Spring ahead into a busier schedule

Daylight Saving Time is here and with it comes more daylight and more “stuff” to cram into our already hectic 24 hours. Somehow, we rationalize that more sunlight gives us more time (it doesn’t, obvi) yet little of that “new found” time is spent on ourselves. Wait. What? We get all this energy around more daylight and then fill it with other people’s priorities. Hmm. Ok. How’s that working for ya?

Look – more daylight or not, we have 24 hours to spend every day. Think of it as $24 that shows up in your wallet every time the clock strikes midnight. Let’s pretend that each dollar represents an hour of your day. How do you spend it? What do you prioritize?

Here’s how mine used to be spent on a weekday:

  • $10 on work (in the office, commuting or traveling)
  • $5 on sleep
  • $2 on running kids around
  • $1 on making dinner
  • $1 on answering work emails at home
  • $2 attending a board meeting for a community organization or volunteering at school
  • $2 helping with homework, class projects, costume creation, school play line rehearsal.
  • $1 on shopping, errands, etc.

Did I catch up on some things over the weekend? Sure, but then sub in the kids’ sports, social events, cleaning the house and other chores/errands and I filled up those 10 hours spent working on a weekday. My point? You get the same hours in a day as everyone else. You must find time for your health, your well-being (your waistline). That may mean that something else needs to go! The consequences of ignoring your physical well-being ain’t pretty. And, you’ll be no good to any of those people if you have to drop everything to focus on a health crisis.

It happens to the best of us

I totally get this. That was my time budget above. And, I have a great partner who helps around the house and as well as a support system – but I got caught up in the cycle of self-care denial that quickly spirals out of control. For me, it resulted in being 30 lbs. overweight, exhausted and, well, cranky!

I reached the point where I couldn’t stand what I saw in the mirror and knew I had to take action. May have been imperfect action at first, but action nonetheless. It took me well over a year to lose the weight but I’m proud to say I’ve kept it off for nearly 7 years.

While I adopted new, healthier habits, all my focus wasn’t just on sweating more and eating less. A lot of it was about unloading stress, needless “to-dos” and mental baggage that was weighing on me and keeping me from doing things that would make me healthy. It was around re-prioritizing myself and my health. Making time for workouts and to cook meals at home. It was getting the whole family on board with new lifestyle choices.

Since that time, I’ve become a personal trainer and health coach and know all the right things to do from a food and fitness standpoint. However, as a recovering do-it-all woman, I also have the personal experience to share the lifestyle changes I made that work together with nutrition and exercise to get you closer to your goals and further away from the destructive cycle of self-neglect.

Start spending time on you FIRST

From my experience, these things help start you down a path to putting yourself first and improving your health:

  1. Get real about where/what you spend time on. Track everything you do for one week. Write it in your calendar as if everything is a meeting you attended. Then, review it and see where you are wasting time. If you find that you spend an hour a day talking to your mother, sister, best friend, or others, block time once a week to catch up with people on your commute to or from work instead of when you get home and want to work out. Or do you scramble every night with what to make for dinner because you didn’t really plan for the week? Set aside 2 hours on Sunday to meal prep instead of zoning out in front of the tv. Find the time wasters and eliminate them or consolidate them into blocks with a designated start and stop time.
  2. Get good at saying NO! Get comfortable with politely turning down requests, invitations and opportunities to volunteer. I always remember that when I say YES to something that means I’ll eventually have to say NO to something else. Choose wisely. There are millions of ways to do it but I’ve found that keeping it short and simple is better than trying to justify or create elaborate reasons. Most times, I simply say, “Thank you but I’m unable to volunteer/attend.” If you feel like giving a reason why, great, but it’s not required. Your time is yours and what you choose to spend it on, is entirely up to you. Don’t let friends, colleagues or others guilt you into saying yes.
  3. Get a budget for your time. Map out how much time you are willing to spend on volunteering, working at home after hours, etc. and then plan for it. The key will be to add in 5-7 hours a week for self-care. That’s a small investment for the ROI you’ll receive. And then treat your time budget like a real one – don’t go over and if you’re under, spend the surplus wisely. Bonus: When you only budget so much for activities that are for the benefit of others, you have a great out for things you don’t want to do but hate saying no to (see tip #2 for how to enjoy the art of NO). “Oh, I’m so sorry Linda, I’d love to help with bake sale but I’ve already booked my volunteering time for this month. Maybe next month!”
  4. Get over doing it all on your own. You are a professional woman, entrepreneur or maybe a small business owner – start acting like it! You have help when it comes to running your department or company. You don’t do everything on your own just because you can. You have accountants and administrative assistants and other professionals to help you. So why do you insist on doing it all when it comes to your personal life? Invest in services and people who can do the things you don’t have the time or energy for or that are not a good use of your time (like cleaning the whole house on Saturdays). Same goes for your health and wellness. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, hire a professional to help you. A personal trainer, health coach or nutritionist can quickly assess your needs and get you a path to better health with the right food, fitness and lifestyle behaviors.

As a recovering do-it-all kind of gal, I know now that being all things to all people just means having nothing left for myself. And, when we continue to overspend our time budget and take on even more responsibilities, we eventually become overdrawn and even bankrupt in our health and wellness.

Assess, take action and ask for help

Take the time to ASSESS what you’re spending time on, take ACTION to prioritize what is truly important, impactful and enjoyable, and finally, ASK for help with the rest. When you do, your schedule opens, your time bank is full and you can be that strong, healthy and happy overachiever that everyone loves.

Try it..

Xoxo

Niki

PS – if you’re ready to finally ditch the crazy diets and the over-the-top exercise programs and still lose weight, let’s chat about my 8-Week Fit, Fab & Fierce Bootcamp. Lose up to 15 lbs., jumpstart your metabolism and transform bad habits into healthy lifestyle behaviors. Schedule a chat here:  https://goo.gl/forms/J5eqpgY98H2nnBBk1 or text me at 412-310-6882.

 

 

food, Uncategorized

Ditch the Diet.

do-you-know-what-youre-eating

In the world of food, nutrition and “dieting” there seems to be a trend a minute that people flock to in hopes of a quick fix for years of poor eating patterns. They hear that some way of eating has helped their neighbor, friend, relative lose 20 lbs. in two weeks and they are on board! Sometimes it’s a cleanse or a detox drink. Or an elimination diet or juice fast. Regardless of the tactic, the promise seems to always be a quick solution to a long-standing problem.

Not all these diets are bad or unhealthy (but some are). And, when done properly and with the right mindset and expectations, they can be a great way to jumpstart your metabolism or help you reset after a holiday season filled with heavy foods. However, most are not permanent lifestyles nor are they the solution for the yo-yo dieter who will try just about anything to lose the weight. They usually offer short term results and often lead to disappointment and greater weight gain after stopping.

When a client comes to me frustrated after years of dieting only to lose weight and then gain it back (plus more), I don’t start with another diet suggestion. As a health coach, my job is to assess your food journal and help you understand where your nutrition might be out of line with what your body needs. My job is to help you understand how your body uses food as fuel and guide you in choosing the right foods to feel your best and lose weight.

In looking at months of food entries for my clients, I can confidently say that our biggest problem when it comes to eating isn’t just how many calories we’re eating but rather the quality of those calories. A calorie isn’t just a calorie despite what you’ve been told in the past. Some calories are better than others and will help you lose weight, have more energy and build lean muscle. You need fiber and high quality protein, you need FAT (yes, fat) and sodium and all the nutrients.

And – truth bomb here – just because you work out consistently doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want if it stays within your calorie count. Your body is a finely engineered machine and requires fuel that is high quality.

Clean up that dirty diet

So, what do I recommend to my clients who have been trying diet after diet, and still not losing weight? Ditch the diet and clean up your plate! Yep. Take a good long look at WHAT you are eating and the contents of that food and clean it up. You will feel better, lose weight and have more energy. I recommend clean eating as a way of life, not a diet. And, guess what, it works.

You’ve likely heard of clean eating as it has been part of some dieting hype in recent years. It’s not an elimination diet or a cleanse. You can have every food group if you choose. You can eat meat or be a vegan. Paleo, Keto, Weight Watchers and all the other diets can be dirty or they can be clean. Junk food has a points value and highly processed meat can be “ok” on some diets.

I’m going to take the hype out and give you the straight scoop on why this way of eating – regardless of your age, size, fitness level, demographic, etc. – is one of best ways to structure your diet.

Fitness Magazine has one of the simplest explanations of clean eating “clean eating is about eating whole foods, or “real” foods — those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.”

To put it simply – clean eating is having an apple vs. apple sauce, eating steamed broccoli vs. frozen broccoli with cheese sauce added. Whole grains vs. white/refined grains. Organic, grass fed beef vs. pre-packaged, seasoned ground beef for tacos. Are you following me?

It’s sometimes a little bit more work over convenience. Most importantly, it’s about reading labels, being informed and making better choices. Clean eating doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated or time consuming. It just takes planning.

My tips for cleaning up your pantry, fridge and plate

  • First and foremost – track your diet for 3 days. You cannot improve upon what you are unaware of. Everyone has access to MyFitnessPal. Identify where you are eating more convenience, packaged or processed foods that can be swapped for their whole counterparts. Good indicators of a “dirty” diet are high sodium and saturated fat levels, and low fiber intake. If those are out of whack, chances are your diet is too.

 

  • Raid your pantry and read labels. My favorite app for food shopping is Fooducate. Scan a barcode; get a grade for that food. And, an explanation of that grade, definition of ingredients and healthy alternatives.

 

  • Sound it out. If you cannot pronounce the first 2-3 ingredients (which are listed in order of their quantity) then you should toss it. A whole grain roll should list a grain as one of the first two ingredients. Avoid fillers and sneaky sugars (corn syrup). Note: not all preservatives are bad – some are needed to keep your food safe. Things like steric acid, sorbic acid and ascorbic acid are preservatives that can occur naturally in some foods and help prevent mold, and spoilage. Scan the label and Fooducate will tell you why those ingredients are in your food.

 

  • Beware of marketing claims. Natural, organic and whole are some of the most common ones. Understand what they truly mean and the requirements for obtaining those labels. It’s not always a rigorous process. Also, be wary of endorsements by organizations like the American Heart Association (they put their seal of approval on Subway sandwiches). Research what it takes to get that claim put on a package. Sometimes it’s just a donation to an organization.

 

  • Don’t fall into the organic trap. You don’t have to buy EVERYTHING organic. Some things are more at risk for pesticide contamination, especially fruits and veggies. Google these two phrases… “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” food lists. It will tell you the fruits and veggies have the most risk for pesticide residue and should be bought organic.

 

  • All stores have good food. You don’t have to shop at a specialty store to get high quality food. Think local with farm markets and local grocers who get their meat and dairy locally. The closer the food is to you, the fresher it is and less processed it’s likely to be.

 

  • Make small changes. A complete overhaul of your diet can be overwhelming. Aim for one change a week. Start with leaner proteins with no added flavors or colors, or fresh veggies and fruit vs. saltier canned or sugar-added frozen varieties.

 

  • Be kind to yourself. All packaged food isn’t the enemy. We have lives to lead and families to raise.  Sometimes convenience wins. Aim for the 80/20 rule and indulge occasionally. Life is too short to never eat few Oreos or potato chips.

Dieting is no fun and I don’t recommend it

I believe that no food group should be off limits and that whatever you want to eat can be eaten in a cleaner, fresher way. Carbs aren’t the enemy, and neither is fat or dairy or sugar. Everything can be incorporated into your diet in the right way to allow you to enjoy eating while doing what’s best for your body.

Don’t overthink it. Start small. And, keep track of how you feel as you make changes. That’s the best reward.

And, guess what…you don’t have to do it alone. Working with a health coach to help you raid that pantry, provide recommendations and keep you accountable gives you the support you need to make these positive changes.

Jump back on that Resolution Wagon

If you’ve fallen off the New Year’s resolution wagon, let’s get back on track. My 6-week reset starts Feb. 12 (we prep this week) and you can be looking and feeling great by St. Patrick’s Day!

Message me for details. And, if you haven’t picked up my free Meal Planning & Prep Guide, get it here! It will get you started on the clean eating path and help you plan your meals each week.

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