5 Tools for Developing Your Own Eating Framework - For You, By You

 Tacos are one of my love languages, so I can put them down if I'm not paying attention and implementing the tools below! But, they have to be worth it - I'll rarely eat a regular old taco.

Tacos are one of my love languages, so I can put them down if I'm not paying attention and implementing the tools below! But, they have to be worth it - I'll rarely eat a regular old taco.

As I'm sure you know, everyone has a different definition of intuitive eating.  Some believe it’s a general framework for each individual based on previous experience with tracking food or eating in a structured way (i.e. taking what we learn and applying it in a less rigid way), while others are against any form of structure whatsoever and believe our bodies and inclination towards pleasure (social and otherwise) should be our guide.

As per usual, I fall somewhere in the middle and believe that some structure can be really beneficial in the right context.  You may benefit from structure if you:

  • Have a history of restrictive eating: some women may actually be prone to undereating based on their history with dieting, especially if they gravitate towards a diet comprised of mostly whole foods that involve high levels of satiety. Tracking food intake can ensure you’re actually eating enough.
  • Participate in intense or goal-oriented physical activity: Not being mindful of food choices when participating in intense activity, such as crossfit, can be really detrimental to our bodies (hello, fucked up hormones), and this can be done innocently. Leveraging evidence-based approaches to nutrition to support our bodies through athletic endeavors is something to be mindful of. Additionally, this structure can allow us to actually improve upon our sport!
  • Are busy AF, as most of us are. This is a huge reason why I use structure when it comes to my own eating habits a lot of the time. I don’t have the luxury of cooking a fresh meal based on my cravings of the moment, so I utilize an eating framework specific to my needs and preferences that is quite flexible. This also enables us to spend a lot less time thinking about food in general.
  • Have aesthetic goals: I’m not opposed to aesthetic goals, provided they’re coming from a place of calm, acceptance, and detachment from our value as human beings, and following some structure to ensure we’re pursuing our goals in a healthy and sustainable way is important.

With this context in mind, you may feel that eating with some structure is right for you—keeping in mind that this is outside of the general recommendation of honoring hunger and satiety signals most of the time.

We all know how difficult it can be to navigate the world of food after years of yo-yo dieting and sensationalistic rules about what’s “good” and “bad”.

You’re now able to choose for yourself, which can seem overwhelming, intimidating, and frustrating at times.

You may not know what questions to be asking yourself when developing your own personalized structure, so these tools are to be used as a guide when getting to know yourself and your body, in addition to the foundational principles of intuitive eating.

Five Tools to Build Your Personalized Eating Framework

1. Point of Diminishing Returns

We all know the feeling of taking the first few bites of something delicious, only to have the satisfaction diminish as the meal goes on. If you’re used to eating everything on your plate, regardless of the portion size, ask yourself how much you’re truly enjoying the food every few bites.

Is it still appetizing to you, or are you zoned out and mindlessly finishing everything in front of you?  The more we eat, the less enjoyable food often becomes, so ask yourself if continuing to eat is worth it to you based on your pleasure in the moment, your body’s signals, and your goals.

It’s completely acceptable (and possible) to have a few bites of something and move on with some practice.

This occurs more quickly with bland, whole foods (unseasoned, limited cooking fats, lack of sweetness) and the inverse is true with highly palatable foods with high amounts of salt, sugar, and fat—neither of which are better or worse than the other. The key is to be mindful of the fact that foods in the latter category are going to require a greater degree of mindfulness.

Furthermore, those foods are usually calorically dense, so even a few bites can make a difference.

2. Enjoyment Gap

This was really enlightening to me after being on the low-carb diet train for so many years. I never stopped to ask myself if the copious amounts of fat were necessary for me to feel satisfied, let alone if my body responded well to them.

The premise of this tool is assessing whether we’re just as satisfied with a less calorically dense option as the high calorie option.

For example, I feel just as satisfied with chicken thigh or ground bison as I do with a ribeye or shredded pork (lower fat vs. high fat options), but I don’t find cauliflower rice to be a suitable substitute for white rice in most cases. It’s not worth the decreased number of calories, as I won’t be satisfied with my choice.

There isn’t a right or wrong way to make these decisions, and I encourage you to challenge what you think you know to be true about your preferences. You may be surprised by how heavily influenced you are from your former diet days!

3. Discretionary Calories

By having a simple, yet flexible structure on which we base many of our meals, such as including a serving of protein, carb, and vegetable in each meal to meet our fiber and micronutrient needs, we can then play around with the other food choices to fill in the rest of our caloric needs.

This may sound similar to “If it fits your macros”, where you can eat whatever you want as long as the total number of each macronutrient (fat, protein, carb) is within a target range each day, but there isn’t any counting involved here.  

Additionally, I’m not advocating that you fill your day with foods that are devoid of nutritional value. This is where that whole concept of balance comes into play.

It’s simply a matter of ensuring you’re structuring most of your meals in a way that support your physiological needs, while also including foods that aren’t nutritious yet you really enjoy, such as ice cream, lattes, dessert, dark chocolate (holler).

For me, discretionary calories usually include chocolate, red wine or tequila, tortilla chips, and snack bars.

I know the big bases are covered with my staple meals due to the high protein and fiber content, and I enjoy the rest while staying mindful of the appropriate amount for me. This requires some trial and error as you get to know your true preferences and cravings.

4. Is it Worth It?

Ask yourself how much enjoyment you’re really going to get from the food and drink in front of you when you know it doesn’t support your body physically or any goals you may have.

The extra glass of wine may be worth it due to the amazing taste or the quality time you’re spending with family or friends despite a potential hangover, and other times, you may be at a miserable social gathering and don’t believe the hangover the next day will be remotely worth it.

Can you find a middle ground, where you’re enjoying yourself and are participating without going overboard?

You may want to pass on the cake in front of you, as it’s a stale, run-of-the-mill cake that you can get any day of the week, and you wouldn’t even be thinking about it unless it was right in front of you.

Alternatively, your grandma may have baked her famous cake for a birthday, and you’re going to relish in the special nature of it.

Not all experiences with food are created equally, and we owe it to ourselves to determine which ones are worth it to us.

5. Allow Ebb and Flow

This may seem contrary to everything I’ve written thus far, as these are tools for creating structure (albeit loosely), but I also firmly believe in the “intuitive” aspect of this way of eating.

Allow preferences to change, and always honor feedback from your own body. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Furthermore, our lifestyles and preferences are always changing, so it can be to our detriment to hold firmly to this loose structure. After all, we’re trying to get away from rigidity, so don’t use this as an excuse to slip back into old patterns.

In fact, I would say that if the thought of using any form of remotely structured eating gives you a sense of anxiety or mistrust in your body, then don’t use it. You can always give this a go at another time if you feel inclines.

Allow your body and mind the time away from any thoughts about food and simply eat in a way that you enjoy.

These tools are essentially methods of checking in with ourselves to determine what our preferences are in the short and long-term. It takes time to navigate the appropriate answers for ourselves, and they may change frequently as our lifestyle and preferences do.

Years ago, the extra alcoholic beverage was always worth it, but it rarely is today.

I seldom partake in dessert at the office, as there isn’t anything special in taste or meaning the majority of the time. They’re not worth the caloric allotment, and I don’t feel as though I’m missing out on anything either.

The freshly baked chocolate chip cookies that I make with my cousins during Thanksgiving? Worth it 9 times out of 10.

The choices are always yours, and there isn’t a wrong way to do this, as your eating framework is created for you, by you.

Take it one decision, one meal, snack, drink at a time, and commit yourself to learning about yourself and your body. 

It requires a larger investment upfront when comparing to rigid diet rules and meal templates, as you have to make your own decisions and learn slowly over time, but you'll thank yourself in a year.

And don't forget to have some fun with it!

 

I'm Tall, White, Thin, Able-Bodied, and Privileged - Why Was I Still Obsessed with Food?

When sharing my story about my history with disordered eating and my obsession with food, exercise, and my body, I’ve received comments about the validity of my experience and whether it’s relatable to others.

 I've been 15 lbs. lighter and heavier than my weight in this pic, and my obsession with food was the same regardless of the state of my body.

I've been 15 lbs. lighter and heavier than my weight in this pic, and my obsession with food was the same regardless of the state of my body.

I am white, tall, thin, able-bodied, and young, so what could I have possibly been obsessing over?  Shouldn’t I just shut my mouth and be grateful for what I did/do have? These questions initially elicited a knee-jerk reaction of frustration and disappointment, but after giving them some thought, I have been able to see these questions through a different lens.

It’s important to recognize my position of privilege due to the aforementioned qualities and how others do not receive the same benefits, and there are ways in which these privileges manifest that I’m still not aware of. 

However, this does negate nor take away from my experience, and it doesn’t for anyone else either. Our relationships to food aren’t just about our bodies, and our experiences are valid simply by virtue of them occurring.

Where It All Began

When looking through the lens of my own experience, my obsession with my body began in response to circumstances many other women can relate to: I learned that my appearance is my most valuable currency, and in order to be lovable, I must look perfect as defined by society’s standards.

Furthermore, in a household of four children within four years and as a middle child who was relatively “easy” and calm, I yearned for attention and accolades. I believed that obtaining perfection (in every way—not just with my body) was the only way to achieve this.

I was 5’8” by the age of 13, so I was deeply insecure about my height. It made me different, and similarly to any teenager, this instantly made me resentful of the trait.

Additionally, as I progressed further into puberty, I looked to my dad and brothers to gauge appropriate portion sizes during mealtimes, and I steadily gained weight.

I didn’t feel any connection to my body at that point in time, so I overate processed foods regularly.  Was I unconscious with my choices? Absolutely. Did I demonize specific foods? Not yet.

Fast forward a few months,  and I was tall and now heavier than was natural for my frame, and I began to feel myself drifting farther and farther away from the ideal. The last thing I would have categorized myself as was “feminine” according to society’s standards.

Was I technically overweight? No, but I was heavier than felt comfortable to me, and I was certainly too heavy according to others in my immediate circle. And they made it known.

After listening to this unsolicited feedback and observing interactions around me, I slowly started putting the pieces together:

  • A leaner body means more attention.
  • More attention means an increased likelihood of receiving love, acceptance, and being seen.
  • Less food and more exercise leads to a leaner body.
  • Food is the barrier to feeling love, acceptance, and the ability to be seen.
  • Food is the enemy.

This isn’t true of course, but this concept ruled my life for a decade. I viewed food as the gateway to my self-worth and value in the eyes of others, so it’s no great surprise that it became my obsession.

It was a love/hate relationship, and it was one that I so badly wanted to make peace with.

Obsession at Any Stage

My issues with food and my body started and continued due to feelings of unworthiness, and they didn’t let up for ten years regardless of the state of my body.

It didn't matter if I was 15 lbs. heavier than today at my heaviest or 15 lbs. lighter at my lightest—my obsession remained constant as I ebbed and flowed within those 30 lbs.

When I was leaner, I was obsessed with maintaining my body fat percentage for fear of losing my value as a person.  I was fully convinced that my friends and family truly loved me more when I looked that way, and my love of myself followed suit.

When I gained weight, which often occurred when I loosened the reigns and allowed myself to live my life in college, I felt a deep sense of shame about my appearance and the fact that I had “let myself go”. Even during these joyful and fun-filled times, I oscillated between periods of pure joy, panic, and fear of the looming outcome—more fat on my body.

There wasn’t a time when I wasn’t obsessing, and this was irrespective of the state of my body.

The Chase Never Ends

My obsession with food went far beyond my body, and the underlying reasons shifted based on the stage of life I was in, but the pressure to fix “just one more thing” was endless.

While I inhabited the qualities noted above, I was and still am far from the absurd standards of beauty women are held to.

I have cellulite, I’m not “curvy in all the right places”—whatever the fuck that means, I’m flat-chested, I’m taller than many men at 5’10.5”, I’m really pale with freckles, and the list goes on and on.

With the endless list of qualities we’re told to embody simultaneously, as if we come with ala carte options, there is always one more thing for us to obsess over. One more thing to hustle for. One more way to feel as though we’re inadequate.

We see women who are walking around with insanely low levels of body fat and continue to obsess over their meals and exercise routines, because the issue isn’t our bodies themselves—it’s our subscription to the stories we’ve been told about where our value is derived from and other underlying emotional distress we’re often masking (such as my staunch subscription to perfectionism).

Others may include the need for control, binging to numb our emotions and subsequently starving to undo the “damage”, seeking love and attention, lack of self-worth and self-esteem, deflecting from other areas of our lives that are calling for our attention (like hating our job or an unhappy relationship), lack of authenticity in our lives, etc.

Our Bodies Don’t Determine Our Relationships with Food

I have worked with overweight and thin women, all of whom are constantly obsessing over every morsel of food. While their motivations can be different, their relationships with food are very similar.

To assume we know someone else’s story based on their appearance is short-sited, and it furthers the notion that we are defined by the way we look.

Lean women may be labeled as lucky and perfect, despite deep pain they may be masking, and overweight women are often labeled as lazy, despite the care they may show for their bodies.

This contributes to the problem on a larger scale, and it can also be deeply harmful to the individual.

It doesn’t serve us look to our appearance or those of others to determine what someone’s relationship with food “should” look like or assume we know what is true.

When we “should” each other, we miss the opportunity to connect with other women on the deep level we’re all seeking, and we collectively take a step back.

We all have a right to our story, our experiences, and our emotions, simply by virtue of them being our own, and we can take ownership of them while simultaneously recognizing our privilege and seeking to learning about the experiences of women in marginalized bodies.

This is a new-to-me conversation, so I welcome all feedback in an effort to learn more!

Intuitive Eating - Where Do I Start?

Intuitive eating seems to be gaining a lot of traction in the health and fitness realm, which is great! However, there is also a sufficient amount of confusion regarding the concept, as everyone defines it differently.

 I love myself a mid-day marg, especially in the summer! 

I love myself a mid-day marg, especially in the summer! 

Some also discount it completely, as it’s not black and white, but the hard-core, rigid dieting rules are the reason so many of us find ourselves in the bottom of the dieting rabbit hole to begin with.  These camps lead you to believe that intuitive eating will lead to binging 24/7 and that it's impossible to develop a relationship with our bodies based on awareness and trust.

The overarching premise behind intuitive eating is that we eat in accordance with our bodies’ signals, in addition to the added layers of preference, lifestyle, activities, and goals.

Solely eating according to our bodies signals can create additional spirals of guilt and shame, as there are times when we simply want to eat and drink for pleasure. The dessert after dinner? Definitely not hungry, but we choose to enjoy some. 

The extra glass of wine? Our bodies aren’t necessarily asking for it - our brains and emotions are. And these reasons are just as valid in the right context.

So if we’re supposed listen to our bodies, but we’re also free to listen to our emotions and thoughts, then how do we go about this, exactly? I completely understand the confusion.

How to get started

1.     First, we need to understand that this process takes time, as there isn’t one blueprint that everyone can follow. This means we can’t just look to Instagram or our friends to see how we should be eating—the onus is on us to learn what’s best for our bodies. Trial and error while practicing awareness is an absolute requirement as we unlearn the rules we’ve been given. Viewing this as a quick fix is a sure way to see the practice as a failure.

2.     Begin assessing your body’s feedback to understand what it likes and dislikes, and evaluate how it aligns with your actual taste preferences. For example, my taste buds love cheese and ice cream, but the rest of my body is not a fan in the least. Can I choose to eat dairy? Absolutely, and there are times I do, but I don’t make a habit of it. That would akin to hearing my body speak and essentially telling it to f*ck off. Not exactly the way to lay a foundation of trust, eh?

We can assess whether our bodies are jiving with said foods by taking inventory of changes in our skin, digestion, hormones, athletic performance, brain fog, and emotions.

3.     Become acquainted with your hunger and satiety signals (full post on how to do so here). I can’t emphasize how important this aspect is to the process. This isn’t to say that you’re unable choose to consciously override these signals. The key here is being aware enough to choose. However, you do need to become very familiar with what these signals feel like for you.

If you’re coming from any kind of dieting background, ignoring hunger signals is usually the element that needs the most attention. The more you give yourself permission to eat, the more hunger you’ll feel. Trust is essential here.

I’m a former member of the “clean your plate club” while simultaneously waiting until I felt like I was going to faint before eating, so I fully understand how uncomfortable and difficult this can be in the beginning. Over time you’ll be able to better understand what levels of hunger and satiety feel best for you, and you can adjust your food choices accordingly.

Why is this important? In order to accurately assess our hunger and satiety stages, we must practice awareness, and awareness lays the foundation of this entire practice. Additionally, becoming familiar with these cues is the gateway to understanding feedback from our bodies after ignoring them for so long, and it's an excellent trust builder.

4.     Awareness of why you make the choices you do. This is closely tied to point number three, as when we really pay attention to the times we eat when we’re not hungry, eat beyond satisfaction, intentionally under-eat, or ignore our hunger signals, we’re forced to face the potential discomfort of why we’re doing it.

Boredom, distraction, numbing, fear of eating full meals (we subsequently snack all the time), and feelings of unworthiness are common reasons, in addition to pleasure, connection with others, fuel for activities, and experiencing different cultures. As you can see, motivations can run the gamut, and confronting them isn't always easy. This step absolutely cannot be skipped, and while it can be uncomfortable, we’re better off for it.

5.     Assess how foods affect your athletic endeavors. I love to partake in strength training and crossfit, both of which require carbohydrates as the preferred fuel source. Through quite a bit of trial and error (another reason a coach is helpful—so you don’t have to endure that part for as long as I did!), I realized that my body needs upwards of 150g of carbs per day to feel happy and content (estimate, as I don’t track).  This is my minimum on most days, as I feel better eating more than this when I’m crossfitting frequently.

I learned this lesson the hard way after listening to the latest diet craze in lieu of listening to my body. Please don’t do that! Pay attention to how your body feels during and after workouts, including sleep, and make adjustments to your food choices and intake accordingly. Changes may include more food before a workout, eating more or less of a macronutrient before working out (more carbs for me, always), and/or eating more food in general.

Our bodies don’t know that we’re about to participate in a difficult workout, so don’t expect it to magically appear with hunger signals and cravings right before (as I did). This is where deviation from our hunger signals is absolutely warranted and encouraged. Although, I want to be clear that you can choose to override your hunger and satiety signals at any point, with the preference being that it's conscious.

6.     Become familiar with what is worth it to you. This is what I consider to be the final step, as we can’t make a proper evaluation of what foods and drink are worth it to us if we haven’t completed the steps above. We must first incur sufficient trial and error to understand if under or overeating, not sleeping, screwing up our hormones or digestion, numbing or distracting, and performing better or worse in our physical pursuits is worth it to us when we’re evaluating the choices in front of us.

Some examples: I usually find two glasses of wine to be worth it, but a third isn’t on most days. Is it worth it to eat when I’m not hungry before a workout so that I’m able to perform better? Absolutely. Is a slice of pizza or bowl of ice cream worth the digestive distress I’ll experience later? Sometimes—depends on the company I’m with and how special the food is. I’m not going to put myself through that level of discomfort for some basic, run of the mill foods, you know?

As you can see, the concept of intuitive eating requires time and effort, most notably in the beginning, and it most certainly necessitates a high level of awareness. This leads to many people’s eyes glazing over, as they don’t want to make that investment.

Being told what, how, and when to eat removes much of the burden, and I fully understand the appeal. Not only does it allow us to turn our brains off, but we also believe this method will lead to clearly defined results.

But play that out in the long run—where does that path lead you over the next 5-10 years? Chances are, you see yourself desperately clinging to another plan, still lacking any semblance of trust in your choices and your body.

Through the practice of intuitive eating, we’re able to finally join the same team as our bodies, we’re empowered to trust in the signals we receive and our subsequent choices, and we’re able to make room for the shit that really matters in life.

Are you ready?

Email me for more information on one-on-one coaching to get started!

"I Have More Important Shit to Think About" - My Response to my Recent Weight Gain

These are the words I whispered to myself last week in the midst of my frustration with my pants fitting too tightly. Too tightly being defined as quite uncomfortable to wear, despite the supposed stretch in the denim.

IMG_0102.JPG

During the last 3-4 months, I have gained 7-10 lbs., and I don’t know if it’s water weight due to the inflammation from the Hashimoto’s or actual fat gain. In the end, it doesn’t really matter, as the end result feels the same—I’m uncomfortable in a few pairs of the jeans I fit into quite easily a few months ago.

As I stood in front of the mirror, confused and frustrated as to why I happened to gain this weight despite remaining active and eating as I usually do, my inner voice chimed in and said “I have more important shit to think about.”

I then proceeded to do a mindset calibration to re-center myself, put on a different pair of pants that fit more comfortably, and moved on with my day.

It’s easy for us to proclaim self-love and confidence when we feel comfortable in the bodies we’ve become accustomed to, and even more so when we fit society’s ideal of thin, white, straight, and cis-gender (as I do). The latter point is a topic I will cover in an upcoming blog post, but the former is a testament to my current experience and those of the women I work with.

It’s easy to neglect our maintenance work of not defining ourselves based on our appearance when we look a way in which we feel comfortable. Or when we fit into the same clothing sizes we’ve become accustomed to for years.

The true test is when our bodies morph into something outside of this realm of comfort—into something that feels foreign.

The reality is that our bodies are absolutely going to change throughout our lives, and there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it. Additionally, there are times when our bodies are going to change based on factors within our control. These typically include a deviation from our usual habits in response to an adjustment in priorities (travel, holidays, weddings, work, family, etc.).

The changes within our control can be easier to accept, as we understand we’re willingly participating. The changes outside of our control, such as health issues, pregnancy, and aging can be more difficult to accept due to the lack of control.

When we find yourself in a situation where our bodies have changed, or we’re overwhelmed with the need to control our food and exercise due to fear of our bodies changing as our priorities do, we must first accept and acknowledge the situation.

Don’t run from it, and don’t go down the path of distraction with destructive habits. Sit with it, say it aloud to yourself, and ask yourself the following:

1.     What are the things in life that provide me with the most meaning right now? These may include family, close friends, being active, new experiences traveling or with eating/drinking, pursuing a meaningful career or hobby, time in nature, self-development, a spiritual practice, our own health or that of a loved one. Your appearance may be on the list, and that’s completely fine. However, you need to be honest with yourself about where this lies within your ranking of priorities.

For me, my health, family, friends, career, and time in nature are the most important things to me at the moment, and these define the “more important shit” I refer to above.

2.     Am I willing to sacrifice any of my other priorities in pursuit of changing my body? I’m not simply referring to time here, as mental and physical energy are major resources that are diluted by constantly thinking about our bodies and food. 

Last week, I asked myself, “Am I really going to spend my precious energy thinking about these changes to my body when I have creative and professional ambitions and a summer to enjoy with my loved ones?” The answer is no. Especially, when I’m focusing on treating my body with respect via nourishment, rest, and movement already.

3.     What do I contribute to this world that is of the greatest value? Creating valuable content to help others, general creativity, being there for family and friends, providing entertainment, uplifting others, being a teacher, acting as a confidante—these are all worthwhile attributes that begin a laundry list of items people can ascribe to. The way our bodies look is at the bottom of the barrel—they don’t actually contribute anything to the world, and the constant pursuit of changing our bodies detracts from our time and energy being spent on these more important items.

4.     How can I make my body and mind feel supported right now? This might be eating less inflammatory and processed foods, drinking less alcohol, eating more food, more rest and self-care, more alone time, more time connecting with others, time outdoors, meditation, yoga, weightlifting, journaling, reading, wearing clothes that fit. It can be one or all of these things, in addition to a plethora of others.

The point is, focus on what you can do to better serve your body and mind, not go to war with them. Remember, we’re on the same team.

5.     What am I grateful for that my body does for me right now? This is especially relevant when dealing with health issues or experiencing changes that are outside of our realm of control, as it’s easy to believe our bodies are betraying us. Admittedly, I subscribed to the victim mindset upon hearing of my Hashimoto’s diagnosis, and it was tempting to throw my hands in the air and play the blame game.

I eventually acknowledged the unhelpful and soul-sucking nature of this mindset, and I began to focus on what my body can do and how it shows up for me every day. Our bodies are just trying to survive and, dare I say thrive.  Sometimes we need to give them some breathing room to do their thing.

Turning our frustration into gratitude

These body changes can be alarming initially, but they’re incredibly valuable. They force us to look inward and assess our alignment with our truth and where we’re placing our value.

The universe has a funny way of giving us lessons that still need to be learned, and it’s evident that I needed an internal “tune up”, if you will. For this lesson, I am grateful, as I needed the roots of my worthiness to be planted further within myself—not in anything external.

I’ve been doing this internal work for years, yet this caught me off guard and forced me to acknowledge that I have been functioning on auto-pilot for some time.

This isn’t anything to be ashamed of, as it’s common for us to settle into a new “normal” and label that as our relative zone of comfort. However, as we know, we don’t grow in our comfort zones.

Our bodies and lives are not static, and they’re never going to be. The more we can learn to accept and move with these changes, the better off we’ll be. And the more time and energy we’ll have to focus on the more important shit.

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!

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?

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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

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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.