What's Your Dogmatic Approach to Nutrition?

This question would have yielded a different answer depending on the stage of my life it was asked. In high school, Gary Taubes released “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and Atkins was all the rage, so I was vehemently against carbohydrates.

 Photo by @jessicatootoo. I tried to find a diet or nutrition book, but then I remembered that I purged my collection a couple years ago. Highly recommend!

Photo by @jessicatootoo. I tried to find a diet or nutrition book, but then I remembered that I purged my collection a couple years ago. Highly recommend!

In college, this mindset continued until a guy in one of my classes, a bodybuilder, started talking to me about the need for long duration cardio sessions coupled with a low-calorie diet. Hmmm—seemed contradictory to everything I swore up and down to with my “low carb, calories don’t matter” approach. I wasn’t continuing to see results with my low carb ways though, so I took the plunge and gave it a whirl.

I proceeded to lose weight rather quickly, which of course led to a rapid rebound a few months later, but I then pledged allegiance to this approach.

After all, if it worked for me once, that means it’s universally applicable to all bodies as a long-term approach to a healthy lifestyle, right? :)

After my college graduation, I read in the popular fitness magazines that a vegetarian diet was the key to fat loss, so I adopted one for a few months while exclusively doing yoga. This was actually a very calm and healing time in my life, but I assumed that a centered, meditation-focused lifestyle had to be accompanied by meat-free meals and yoga. I lost weight over the course of a few months, so I assumed I would continue this lifestyle forever.

Upon moving to Denver, heavy drinking resurfaced in my life, and my yoga and plant-based lifestyle quickly went out to window. Plus, I just feel so much better eating meat!  Crossfit was becoming popular at the time, as was the often-accompanying Paleo diet, so I dove head first into reading about the success stories and adopted one shortly thereafter. Save for the binge drinking, of course.

High-intensity interval training coupled with a grain-free, dairy-free diet became my new bible, and I thought I had struck a gold mine. This is a diet based off the eating regiments of cavemen, so it made sense to me that our bodies would respond favorably. Suddenly, every other approach to eating seemed ludicrous.

Fast forward a few years, and there are still times when I have to consciously choose to throw these dogmatic beliefs in the garbage. And yes, many of them are contradictory, so that only adds to the confusion.

The appealing aspect of each of these dogmatic approaches to nutrition is their hardcore, black-and-white rules. They eliminate the need to think for ourselves, to tune into our own bodies, or to practice any form of awareness.

We abide by the strict lists of foods, eating times, and portion sizes, and we’re then able to turn our brains off. However, this is also the reason the wheels fall off the bus the minute we go “off plan."

Follow a dogmatic nutritional approach for any length of time greater than a few weeks, and you’ll likely forget how to work with your body when it comes to your food choices.

These approaches are sexy, as they often provide drastic before-and-after results. (Let’s not get into what those people actually look like a year after that “after” photo is taken).

Tuning into our bodies, practicing awareness, digging into the reasons why we’re reaching for food, playing the long game—these aren’t sexy. They require turning inward, a sufficient amount of trial and error, and time.

But wouldn’t it be great to only have to go through this process once, despite it requiring more time and effort upfront? To never have to settle into another camp of dogma and extremity?

If you’re answer is yes, then you can take a few action steps today towards liberating yourself:

  1. Give up the desire to change your body, at least for some time. This doesn’t have to mean forever, but if you’re simultaneously trying to control your body, you’re going to have a very difficult time releasing your controlling ways around food and establishing your baseline eating framework.
  2. Learn your hunger signals and begin to abide by them. This is very simple yet difficult-to-implement behavior can be a game changer for many people. Observe when you’re usually eating on this scale today and adjust your behaviors according to your satiety and hunger signals after you’ve taken the time to uncover them. It takes time to change these deeply-rooted behaviors, so be sure to show yourself plenty of patience and grace while you’re re-integrating yourself with your body.

Please note that it’s perfectly fine to overeat or eat when not hungry, the key is to engage in these behaviors consciously!

These two steps are meaty, so they often require support to continue on the path when temptation to revert back to those comfortable, dogmatic approaches surfaces.

If you find it difficult to go at this alone, I’m here for you with my one-on-one coaching, and you can email be here for more information!

My Recent Hashimoto's Diagnosis & What I've Learned Thus Far

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, and this post is not a substitute for professional care. This is meant for informational purposes only. Consult with a medical professional before making any changes.  

A291DB28-58EE-44CD-868C-870DEF158167.JPG

Over the last six months, my health silently deteriorated to a point that prompted me to get a few blood tests done, and I was told shortly thereafter that I have Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid gland. While this diagnosis is very recent, I am sharing my experience in an effort to make others feel less “crazy” (as I did with all of my symptoms) and to seek medical care if any of these symptoms sounds familiar. You’ll see why as you read further.

The Beginning

Beginning in November 2017, my sleep really started to suffer, and I would wake up exhausted even after a full night’s rest. As a morning person, this was unusual for me. I was training for a Crossfit competition with some friends at the time, so I chalked it up to pushing too hard and perhaps being overly stressed. This may have been the cause, but this is the beginning of my downhill spiral.

My digestion has always been inconsistent, but it was kicked into high gear towards the end of December and has continued since then. My period disappeared shortly thereafter, and when I returned from a trip to El Salvador in February, my stomach was in a sufficient amount of pain. Again, I’m no stranger to digestive issues, but extreme bloating and pain in my upper stomach was foreign to me.

I called my GP back home, and he said I had likely contracted a parasite while traveling and prescribed me an antibiotic. Within a few days, the pain subsided.

I was hopeful after experiencing some relief from my stomach pain—I needed a health win at that point—but things continued to go downhill after that trip.

My Symptoms

  • Sleep – I was unable to fall asleep, and when I did, I would be wide awake at 2-3 in the morning with a racing heart, only to fall asleep an hour or two later and wake up completely exhausted.
  • Night Sweats – I experienced night sweats frequently despite sleeping in a 65-degree apartment, and I was soaked through my clothes and onto my sheets. This has since subsided in the last two weeks (win!).
  • Extreme fatigue – As I noted above, I have been an energetic morning person my entire life, so wanting to crawl under my desk at 2pm was not only odd, but really uncomfortable. I had to pinch myself to stay awake during meetings and while driving, and it felt as though my eyelids were attached to weights. Not the best look at work.
  • Inability to complete workouts – I’ve been doing Crossfit for almost four years; attending classes at least three times per week. While I can certainly see a connection with my performance and stressful periods in my life, I struggled to make it through one or two workouts per week. It felt as though I had 10% of the fuel in the tank that I normally did. I was eating enough and taking plenty of rest days, but my body just couldn’t do it.
  • Vertigo – this was really concerning to me, and I first experienced it while driving about six weeks ago after never experiencing it previously. This continued for a few weeks and has since subsided in frequency.
  • Brain Fog – This is one of the most frustrating symptoms, and I’m currently experiencing this full force. Hence the reason it’s taking me far, far too long to write this postJ I have been under-slept many times (as most people are) and have experienced slower brain-processing speed as a result, but this is different. I lose my words frequently and feel as though my brain and life are moving through mud.
  • Mood changes – there is entirely too much stigma around anxiety and depression, but both of these are common with Hashimoto’s.  I have been a fairly even-keeled and calm person for most of my life, save for my low-carb dieting days (I was SO moody), but I began experiencing anxiety with my heart beating out of my chest at the most random times, and I would then feel down for hours afterwards. I also found myself to be more short-tempered, and things that typically wouldn’t bother me in the slightest were causing me to snap. These swings have lessened since I’ve made a concerted effort to stop intense exercise and meditate more, but they’re still showing up on a weekly basis.
  • Inflammation – I have gained around ten pounds since February, and while I’m sure some of that is water weight due to the inflammation, the sudden changes were another sign that something wasn’t right. This was especially true after Crossfit workouts—I was unable to put pants on the next day and my joints were throbbing for days after.

I want to emphasize that these symptoms can certainly be attributable to a multitude of underlying issues, and based on what I have read thus far, everyone’s triggers for autoimmune diseases are different and multi-factorial. I would caution anyone against assuming Hashimoto’s if any of the symptoms above resonate. This was simply my experience, and the combination of them prompted concerns over the state of my health.

Essentially, I felt and continue to feel like I have a gnarly combination of a hangover and PMS all the time.

My quality of life seemed to be deteriorating by the day, and I was starting to feel like a stranger in my own body and mind. I told myself that these issues would resolve themselves and that I was likely being overly dramatic. After all, we live in an under-slept society, so everyone is tired. Who am I to think I’m special and complain?

I was discussing my concerns with my hair stylist (the keepers of all secrets), and she suggested I see a Nurse Practitioner who had recently joined the salon. She specializes in women’s hormones, was able to draw blood on the spot, and she’s relatively inexpensive. I firmly believe that knowledge is power, so I made an appointment to get a status update.

Results

As I understand it, most traditional doctors will only check TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and perhaps T3 and T4, and after mulling over all of my labs from the last five years, I can confirm this to be true in my experience. None of them included thyroid antibodies. For some reason, this nurse checked my TSH, Free T3, Free T4, and my TPO antibodies (one of two thyroid antibodies), and my antibodies were well above the reference ranges (many consider under 35 IU/ml to be normal; mine were 485 IU/ml).

Upon hearing I had Hashimoto’s, I was simultaneously relieved (I’m not crazy!) and scared, as I didn’t know anything about it. I scheduled an appointment with a new-to-me doctor that night (I rarely go to the doctor, so I don’t have a local GP), and I began obsessively reading about Hashimoto’s in hopes of reading stories of remission.

I don’t like to be in a position where I feel helpless—in fact, I despise it. My doctor doesn’t want to put blinders on and assume the root cause of anything I’m experiencing, which I greatly appreciate, but left to my own devices, I will take action into my own hands.

This means I’ve been listening to an endless number of podcasts and reading books and blogs about others’ experiences in an effort to arm myself with information and questions for my doctor. However, this has also been a source of additional stress for me—something my body doesn’t need at the moment—so I’m making a concerted effort to take a breather right now and wait for more information.

What I’ve Learned Thus Far

  • Autoimmune diseases are confusing AF, and there doesn’t appear to be a lot of conclusive evidence on how to put them into remission. What works for one person doesn’t work for another, so a sufficient amount of trial and error seems inevitable.
  • I haven’t done a Crossfit workout in about three weeks, and a few of the symptoms like joint pain, waking in the middle of the night, and night sweats have greatly dissipated since then. Based on this, I’m guessing Hashimoto’s isn’t the only issue here, or perhaps the intense workouts were exacerbating the issue.
  • Hashimoto’s primarily affects women, as do most autoimmune diseases.
  • Most traditional doctors won’t test for thyroid antibodies unless your thyroid hormones are out of range. However, increased antibodies may eventually lead to damage of the thyroid and subsequent hypothyroidism. As such, if you don’t feel well despite normal hormone ranges, it may not be a bad idea to request the antibodies. Based on my most recent set of labs, I may have caught the progression early enough before damage has been done to my thyroid.
  • The vast majority of remission stories I’ve read involved partnership with a functional/alternative medicine doctor as opposed to an endocrinologist or GP. I believe this is primarily due to the lack of evidence around appropriate treatment, so traditional doctors are less inclined to go through a process of trial and error to reduce antibodies (**note that I’m completely speculating here). I’m hoping I can leverage my traditional doctor and alternative approaches as needed, but only time will tell.
  • Dietary interventions may help. Some sources say everyone with Hashimoto’s should be strictly gluten free, while others claim there is only a small percentage of people who benefit from such a change. As I noted above, everyone’s triggers and experiences with autoimmune diseases are different, so there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. I intend to make as few lifestyle changes as possible to experience progress, but I am gluten-free for now under the direction of my doctor. I don’t want to be a hero or dogmatic unnecessarily.
  • I need to be more forthcoming when it comes to advocating for my health. It’s common for healthy people to become obsessive about their health and blow things out of proportion, and oftentimes the fundamental bases like sleep, nutrition, social connection, stress, and movement still need to be addressed. I always turn to these first, but my symptoms were beginning to seem insurmountable alone, despite making changes to my lifestyle.

I feared being labeled as dramatic or a hypochondriac, so I began to doubt my experiences and plowed through as best I could. I have read many stories of women with Hashimoto’s doing the same thing, only to have seriously deteriorated health (and thyroid glands) years later. We don’t need to have it all together, all the time.

  • Health issues likes this can be isolating, as they’re not readily apparent to others. I can put on a happy face, pretend like I feel like myself, and act like all is well, and I was doing this for a few months. This diagnosis has liberated me in a sense, as I can put a name to my experience, but I should have been more forthcoming about my struggles sooner. I’m fortunate to have tremendous support in family and friends, and one of my girlfriends is going through a very similar experience (we were both diagnosed within the same week), so we’re supporting eachother through the challenges.

After telling a wise friend about my disappointment with the diagnosis, she responded by telling me to feel the negativity, frustration, anger, and sadness, but that I’m not allowed to stay there. That place can’t become my new normal. Ever since that conversation, my emotions have subtly shifted towards acceptance and hope, and I intend to continue expanding upon this growth mindset.

I currently oscillate between feeling hopeless, disappointed, and overwhelmed—wondering if I’m ever going to feel like my old self physically, emotionally, and mentally again or if it’s going to get worse—and then being grateful for this experience.  I’ve known deep-down for some time that I need to slow down and stop pushing myself, and this is forcing me to do so.

I still have every intention of focusing on my health and getting back to baseline as quickly as possible, but I also know there are great lessons to be learned during these experiences.

Given the high number of women who suffer from Hashimoto’s, I’ll share my experiences here in the hopes of helping and connecting with others. I’d love to hear about your experiences too!

Should You Track Your Food?

It’s difficult to engage in any sort of nutrition or fitness modalities these days without a negative association, and tracking food is no exception. We’re quick to label the behavior as obsessive, and while that can certainly be the case, is it always?

FFA727AF-8D6D-4764-A0E4-2468DC4D3715.JPG

Similar to my thoughts on the scale, our intentions behind our actions and how we view or relate to the data are extremely important.

For example, one woman may be counting macros (macronutrients—carbs, fats, proteins) in Myfitnesspal to ensure she’s adequately fueled for her workouts while losing fat at a reasonable pace. She is firm in the notion that her worth isn’t derived from her body, she decided to make changes to her body based on her own volition, and she views the results of tracking as an objective measurement (i.e. she doesn’t get emotional if she goes over the numbers). She also understands that this is a temporary method and is using it as an opportunity to learn more about her body.

Alternatively, another woman is tracking her macros in Myfitnesspal to mold her body in an effort to gain approval from others, and she is hoping a new body will be the answer to her unhappiness and lack of self-worth. She views herself as a failure when she goes over her numbers, and she develops a lack of trust in her body. She isn’t tuned into what her body is telling her and solely relies on the data from Myfitnesspal—thus, she begins to believe she will lose control if she ever stops tracking.

Both of these women are tracking their food, yet the intention behind the action and their relationships to the data are completely different.

In my experience, few women fall into the category of the first example, as it takes a sufficient amount of introspection and unraveling of narratives to get there. Only after completing the work of firmly understanding our worth is inherent, knowing where the motivation to make aesthetic changes comes from, and understanding that tracking should usually be used as a temporary means of learning about our body are we ready.

And sometimes, we believe we meet all the criteria above, only to begin tracking and spiral into old thought patterns and behaviors. This can mean there is more internal work to be done, but it can also indicate that tracking isn’t in alignment with our personalities and/or priorities.

Assessing the criteria below is helpful to determine if you’re ready for tracking.

You may be well-suited for tracking if:

  • You have done the introspective work and firmly understand that changes to your body don’t impact your value or worth as a human being. (non-negotiable)
  • You thrive off of numbers, data, and facts (I do not fall into this category).
  • You have consistent eating habits already, eat mostly whole foods, and you want to dial things in a little further to see changes in performance or aesthetics.
  • You have an athletic event or meet coming up and you need to “make weight”.
  • Your energy has been subpar, and you want to identify opportunities for improvement.
  • You understand that tracking isn’t to be used in lieu of tuning into your body, although this may lead to overriding hunger or satiety signals. You understand that maintaining a mindful relationship with our bodies is still very important when tracking.
  • You look at the data objectively (i.e. if you go over your numbers, you don’t view yourself as a bad person or attach any sort of good/bad connotation)

You may not be ready for tracking if:

  • You believe the results of tracking are the key to your happiness and self-worth.
  • You haven’t done any introspective work to unravel your relationship to your body or the intentions behind making changes.
  • Your eating habits are inconsistent and your diet largely consists of processed foods.
  • Data and numbers stress you out, which is common with those who have a previously obsessive or disordered relationship with food.
  • You attach emotions to the data rather than looking at them objectively. I.e. “I’m good because I went under or was on target.” Or “I’m bad because I went over my numbers.”
  • You’re seeking a method of control in your life because everything seems inconsistent elsewhere. You believe tracking will provide the control and sense of calm you’re seeking.
  • You plan to track forever, as you don’t have a mindful connection to your body and don’t trust that you can make decisions on your own.
  • You don’t know your body’s hunger and satiety cues or your emotional triggers for eating.

Tracking food isn’t inherently bad, but it can cause former thought patterns and habits to resurface if we used to dwell in the land of disordered eating. Alternatively, it can also be an extremely valuable tool when used mindfully and from a self-assured foundation.

Deciding whether tracking food is right for you requires an honest look at where you are currently, both physically and mentally, and the true intentions behind wanting to implement this method.

If you find yourself in the midst of tracking and realize that it wasn’t the right decision for you based on what is noted above, then I recommend making small adjustments to relinquish the habit. If you decide to give it up in one fell swoop, then that’s great, but that approach can lead to a lot of anxiety for many.

An alternative approach is to remove one rigid component of tracking at a time. If you weigh and measure your food, then eyeball your portions for one meal while still recording your food intake. Next week, eyeball another meal, and continue until you’re no longer weighing or measuring any food.

At this point, you can then begin to loosen the reigns on tracking your food intake, which is commonly done in an app like Myfitnesspal. Again, start with one meal at a time, and you’ll slowly begin to trust yourself and your body.

If you’re not sure what the best approach is for you, then start by honestly assessing your intentions—they provide an accurate depiction of the current state of your foundation.  This process often requires support and a heavy focus on mindset, so using a coach for guidance and support can be very helpful.

Lacking a Strong Sense of Self? It F*cks with Our Relationship with Food

664FAD6B-7E49-4C70-A032-97A9D35CA9C8.JPG

A strong sense of self can be a bitch to create in today’s society, particularly for women. We’re taught from a young age that our most valuable currency is our appearance—that playing the part of what it means to be a woman will ensure our worth and safety in this world.

With so much emphasis placed on our shells, we often neglect the effort of discovering who we are beneath the surface and acting accordingly.

Quite honestly, the notion that I needed to do such a thing was foreign to me until my early to mid 20s. There’s a multi-dimensional, complex human enveloped by this body of mine?  Who knew?

I focused so much of my energy on molding my physical body to societal standards that I failed to realize I had unconsciously done the same with my personality. A once confident and carefree child became a young woman afraid to establish boundaries and fearful of speaking her mind.

Lest I be labeled a bitch.

You see, growing up as a female in today’s world, we’re taught that our personalities must become small and that we exist to appease others.

No one wants to be “that girl”—the one with a bold and boisterous personality who takes no shit, who shines light on her intelligence, who asks for help, who freely shares her thoughts and opinions, who says “no” when she needs to take care of herself or when she simply doesn’t want to.

As a result of showcasing these remarkable traits, we risk being labeled as “too much”, too outspoken, cocky, needy, selfish, or having too much masculine energy.

We’re often expected to be docile, quiet, sweet, and to exist for the benefit of others. People pleasing, anyone?

***For the record, there is nothing wrong with these qualities—I regularly inhabit these, but this is an authentic expression to me. Similarly, inhabiting the less stereotypical female qualities may be inauthentic to some, and that's a-ok!

The more we quell our true selves, our authentic personalities, our needs, and our desires, the more we internalize the notion that our value and worth is based on our appearance.  Essentially, we’re led to believe that the world doesn’t care about who we are—only what we are.

As a result of this conditioning, all of our energy is put into molding our bodies, our minds, and our expressions of ourselves into that which will provide us safety, value, and love.

In reality, we’re left with anything but. Rather, we’re often met with depression, anxiety, confusion, low self-esteem, competition with other women, and a severely deflated version of ourselves.

Making the Shift

If we shift the focus of our value and worth to who we are beneath the surface, we begin to understand that we are SO much more than our bodies.

We learn about our own personal values, our interests and dreams, our strengths and weaknesses, our unique quirks and qualities, our conditioning, how to enforce boundaries with others, how to express ourselves openly and freely, the people we do and don’t want in our lives, etc.

There may just be a salty, funny, loud, opinionated, quirky, or commandeering woman waiting to reveal herself.

By uncovering these qualities as they ring true to you and slowly expressing them (baby steps usually work best here), we begin to place less importance on our appearance.

The more we hone in on who we are, who we want to be, and take ownership of this development, we eventually begin shift our own sense of worthiness from our appearance to our internal landscape.

Thus, food carries less emotional weight, and we begin to view it as our ally in nourishment, enjoyment, and connection.

We place less emphasis on food, as it’s no longer viewed as the gateway to our self-worth.

Is It OK to Have Aesthetic Goals?

23A06F7C-6DAF-488E-932D-849B2EAEB0E2.JPG

The short answer is yes, but as per usual, there is a heavy dose of nuance when it comes to determining whether one is ready to pursue aesthetic goals. I fully acknowledge and believe that every woman has the right to choose what she wants to do with her own body, but I do think we need to be really honest with ourselves when embarking on this endeavor.

If you’re like the majority if Western women, chances are you’ve been trying to manipulate and mold your body for years, or it was a significant pursuit at some point in your life.

Many of the women in my life and those I work with can’t remember a time when they weren’t actively trying to change their bodies via diet and exercise, and I was in the same boat up until a few years ago.

At that time, I decided that my mental and emotional well-being trumped my physical appearance, and I accepted that I had to fully give up aesthetic goals. I wasn’t sure if this would be a permanent or temporary separation, but I did know that a sufficient amount of space was required to heal.

This space meant:

  • Eating according to body signals, not rules set by someone else.
  • Eating for enjoyment while remaining present in the moment.
  • Sitting with my urges to revert back to controlling my food intake and getting curious about them.
  • Accepting the notion that I may gain a few pounds and asking myself how this would really affect my life. Spoiler: I did, and it didn’t.
  • Surrounding myself with a supportive social circle and spending time alone in an effort to sift through the layers of my disordered eating, body obsession, and inner turmoil.
  • Consciously choosing to not weigh myself or spend too much time in the mirror.
  • Exercising out of enjoyment or in pursuit of performance-based goals, not out of a desire to change the appearance of my body.
  • Spending my now-free-time learning about and doing things that interested me. In all honesty, the list was really short in the beginning, and this tends to happen when our lives are completely wrapped up in our diets and fitness.

It can be extremely difficult to normalize our thoughts and behaviors around food and to view our bodies through a different lens when we’re in pursuit of the same goal we’ve had for years: manipulating our bodies. 

Our brains are going to have a difficult time separating the pursuit for aesthetic changes from our previous habits.

As such, I typically recommend the complete removal of aesthetic goals from the equation for a period of time (which varies for each person). This makes most clients extremely uncomfortable in the beginning, as changes often do.

But if you stop and think about it, the way you’ve been doing it for the last several months, years, or decades likely hasn’t been working for you. So why not try a different approach?

While this concept may provide a great deal of angst initially, the emotional and mental freedom experienced shortly after diving into this approach is often life-changing. Time, energy, and precious resources are now able to be utilized elsewhere, and it can seem like a second lease on life.

This initial high typically wears off after the first few days or weeks, as the diet rules we’ve previously relied on so heavily are gone, and we haven’t learned to trust ourselves or our bodies. The fear of weight gain and the need for control creep back in.

I can’t reiterate this enough: the process of unlearning diet rules, connecting with our bodies, and establishing a trusting and stress-free relationship with food and our bodies takes time. This often means several months, if not years. Still worth it? Absolutely.

I bring up the emotional rollercoaster and the time commitment required for the healing process to illustrate why aesthetic goals are usually not appropriate during those stages. Ups and downs are plentiful, and superficial goals only muddy the waters.

We often think that we can accomplish both at the same time, but the length of time it takes to achieve food freedom is much shorter if we release the aesthetics from the equation.

The ebbs and flows will eventually even out after a sufficient amount of introspection, dedication, patience, self-compassion, and time.

Am I Ready?

Once healed from the tumultuous relationship with food and body, many find the pursuit of aesthetic goals completely unappealing, while others decide to dip their toe back in to the pond of aesthetic goals. At this time, I recommend asking oneself the following questions and being really honest with the answers.

What is the reason I want to change my body?

If pursuing the goal to garner the attention, validation, or approval of others, I’d caution against it.

What do I expect to gain from the physical change?

If you’re expecting to gain newfound happiness from a smaller or leaner body, I’d caution against it.

How will I respond if my body doesn’t change in the way I would like?

If you’re anticipating a reaction of self-loathing and disappointment if your body doesn’t change in the way you expect, I’d caution against it.

Is this desire rooted in how others perceive me? Or others’ definitions of beauty or attractiveness (i.e. if other humans weren’t around me, would I still want to pursue this goal)?

If your goal is rooted in the definitions of beauty/attractiveness of others rather than your own, then I’d caution against it. **This is difficult to unpack, as most of our perceptions of beauty are deeply rooted in society’s ideals. Asking yourself if you would still want X appearance (such as more muscle or a bigger bum) if trends moved away from this ideal is a good place to start.

Do I spend any time or energy feeling guilty about my food choices?

If you’re still attaching negative emotions to food choices, then I’d caution against it.

Do I eat to cope with emotions?

If you’re eating to cope with emotions often, especially unconsciously, then I’d caution against it.

Do I honor my hunger and satiety signals most of the time?

If you’re frequently overriding hunger and satiety cues, I’d caution against it.

Do I feel energetic, both physically and mentally, as a result of the foods I eat? (i.e. am I adequately fueling myself)?

If you’re feeling like shit due to insufficient quality or quantity of food, then there may be a health concern at play, you may still be undereating in calories, or your diet primarily consists of processed foods. In any of these scenarios, I’d caution against it.

Am I able to step on the scale or use another objective measurement with emotional detachment to the numbers?

If you’re feeling emotional responses to the number on the scale or still very fearful of the number, I’d caution against it.

What are the sacrifices this goal will require? Am I willing to accept these trade-offs?

If you’re not willing to accept the sacrifices required to make these changes, that’s completely fair and understandable. The freedom feels so goodJ I’d caution against it.

If my mind starts to revert back to old patterns, do I have an exit strategy?

If you don’t have an exit strategy, safety net, or support system if you start to revert back to old patterns, I’d caution against it. **We can’t predict the future, and old thought patterns can resurface when embarking on goals based on appearance. Acknowledging this possibility is important, as is having a plan in place to manage this potential outcome.

Am I planning to pursue this goal thoughtfully? Am I planning to leverage a coach to guide me through the process?

If you don’t know how to make changes in a slow, balanced, and controlled manner and/or don’t want to hire someone to help? I’d caution against it.

Do I judge the bodies of other women? Or feel badly about myself if another woman is leaner, thinner, more muscular, etc. than me?

If the answer is yes, there is still more to unpack in regards to how you define your worth, in addition to that of other women. I’d caution against it.

Do I exercise in an effort to “undo” my food or drink choices from the previous day(s)? Am I exercising to control the appearance of my body?

If the answer is yes to either of these questions, then I’d caution against it.

The preferred answers to some of these questions are obvious, while others are more nuanced. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer to many of them either, but it’s clear when intentions are rooted in negative emotions or external validation. That’s what we want to avoid.

You can see that there are several facets of a solid relationship with food and our body, and the list above could certainly be extended. But these questions serve as a solid starting point for honest introspection about your desire to change your body.

In the end, if you feel comfortable with your responses to these questions and decide to embark on aesthetic changes, then that’s great! Each woman is entitled to making that decision for herself.

My hope is that you allow yourself the time and space to truly heal before jumping into this endeavor. You may begin and quickly discover that it’s actually not what you’re seeking, or you may find that you’re able to keep your aesthetics in perspective.

Please remember that they still don’t define you. They’re just superficial play.

You Don't Have to Meal Prep

Prepping food ahead of time is a big topic in the health and fitness industry at the moment. Instagram feeds are filled with perfectly packaged Tupperware containers, and people are eager to jump on the bandwagon.

 What my weekly meal prep typically looks like!

What my weekly meal prep typically looks like!

I’m currently an advocate of doing so for me, based on the reasons discussed here, but I’m very open to this changing in the future as my priorities and lifestyle morph and evolve. Meal prep is a practice that currently adds tremendous benefits to my life with very little downside.

It’s worth noting that I don’t measure, weigh, or pre-portion any of my meals. I mix and match the night before and am on my merry way.

I don’t travel often for work, I don’t have children or a family to feed, and I’m not responsible for anyone or any living creature besides myself.  Due to these factors, I have the freedom, flexibility, and time to incorporate meal prepping into my lifestyle in a stress-free manner.

What would happen if I did start traveling often for work? If I started a family? If I needed care of a family member? If my time began to be consumed by other priorities?

Then I would likely find an alternative solution that better suited my lifestyle if I felt that was appropriate. This might include enrolling in a meal delivery service (such as Trifecta or Blue Apron), leveraging healthy takeout restaurants, or outsourcing the cooking to someone else.

I would make the choice that I determine is best for my body, my lifestyle, my finances, and my priorities at that moment in time.

My wish for you is that you do the same for yourself. Meal prep shouldn’t be another item on the to-do list that you feel obligated to do out of comparison to other people. Not doing it doesn’t mean your priorities aren’t in line—it simply means your habits and choices are different than mine right now. And that’s great!

As long as you’re making choices that are in alignment with your goals and desires, then I’m happy. Eat all of your meals out, cook every meal at home, or incorporate a combination of all of these. I truly don’t care about which choice you make; I care about whether you believe it’s the right choice for you.

Whether meal prep is something you’ve been wanting to try or you’re a seasoned veteran of the process, my seasonal meal-prep guide makes the process efficient and painless.

As a heads up, it’s designed to be enjoyed in a mix-and-match or ala carte fashion to ensure sufficient variety throughout the week, and portion sizes are variable depending on your own consumption and the number of mouths you’re feeding.

You can get my latest meal prep guide in time to enjoy Spring and Summer favorites by signing up for my Newsletter here!

I Don't Care About What You're Doing - I Care About Why You're Doing It

It’s common for us to look at ideas, issues, concepts, others, and ourselves through a black and white lens. This makes it easier for us; it makes us feel more secure and in control, as if everything has strictly defined order. However, in my own personal experience and those of my clients and loved ones, the majority of happenings in life fall into the grey category.

CDC96CC5-9438-4858-B8B4-F251CF85B42E.JPG

Standing steadfastly in one dogmatic camp is extremely common in the health and fitness industry, and with these extreme views often comes a lot of attention. However, I believe that by removing the nuance of each situation, idea, or circumstance, we’re doing ourselves a great disservice.

Looking at people, events, or concepts through a black and white lens means we’re only looking at the surface, and it dismisses the depth of the issue.

When it comes to aesthetic goals, it’s common for people to fall into one of two categories: those in pursuit of a challenge, a practice in discipline, and who understand the physical outcome is transient and superficial, and those who pursue them out of an attachment of their appearance to their self-worth, value, or in an effort to impress others.

The same goal and actions on the surface, yet two very different sets of intentions.

When it comes to tracking food, weighing ourselves, or utilizing any other metric to monitor and track objective progress, it’s common for people to fall into similar camps. I.e. those who are seeking control or don’t trust themselves or their bodies and those who can look at the results objectively and without any attachment to their worth.

One methodology, yet two different sets of intentions.

When meal-prepping, the two camps are often those who want to exercise control over their food due to a lack of trust or disconnection to their bodies (i.e. the wheels will fall off the bus without the strict system) and those who want to have healthy food available quickly, to save time, and to feel better physically.

One process, yet two different sets of intentions.

Exercise, especially the more intense variety like Crossfit or long-distance races, can be completed out of a desire to be challenged physically and mentally and for the enjoyment, whereas another may pursue this activity in an attempt to punish oneself for food choices or in hopes of achieving external validation and accolades.

One activity, yet two different sets of intentions.

Someone can appear as the perfect image of health on the surface but be wrought with a lack of self-worth, disconnection to their body, or due to the pursuit of perfection or external validation.

Alternatively, someone may be enjoying a diet that includes a decent amount of processed foods, and they’re in the process of overcoming an overly restrictive relationship with food. If someone were to judge their eating behaviors on the surface, they would likely label this person as unhealthy, lazy, or disconnected, when they’re really in a process of healing.

The version of me ten years ago engaged in some of the habits I engage in today, including meal prep, cooking many of my meals at home, and working out regularly, yet my intentions back then were rooted in an obsession with changing my appearance, the pursuit of perfection and external validation, and a means of exercising control.

Today, these habits are driven by a desire to treat my body, mind, and spirit with self-respect and nourishment, in addition to enjoyment and the love of a challenge (Hello, crossfit).

When it comes to making personal choices for your health and fitness, I often don’t care what you’re doing—I care why you’re doing it.  Focus on the intentions behind your actions, and if they’re rooted in a foundation of negativity or hustle for value and worth, you’ve found your work.

The work is always beneath the surface.