Nutrition, Wellness

Quality over quantity

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“Quality over quantity” is what we here all the time. When it comes to food we all know that the best quality groceries will not only nourish us but will impact our overall health and well being in the best ways. But we’re all still looking for a bargain and sometimes we compromise on quality to get the most bang for our buck.

I’ve certainly found myself standing in the grocery store looking at the conventional peanut butter vs the natural one and just feeling so irritated over the price difference. Now I know that the conventional stuff is loaded with sugar, fillers and trans fats and that the natural one just contains peanuts, but still, it’s annoying. Even though deep down it goes without question that the healthier stuff has far more nutritional value, sometimes it’s hard to rationalize forking over our extra hard earned dollars.

Could there be a happy medium where we could eat healthy without spending a fortune?

There are the standard tips that we can all implement to stay within budget. There’s couponing, checking store flyers and focusing on the discounted items only, buying seasonal produce, shopping the farmers market, buying in bulk or wholesale, and the list goes on. These are all great tactics, but it does require a lot of work, and that’s usually where we tend to drift off course. It’s perfectly natural to want the convenience and less expensive items in order to save time and money. A lot of this stuff though is unhealthy. Look at most granola bars, they are loaded with added sugar and fat. Even the ones marketed as healthy, natural and low calorie are just empty calories that don’t serve you.

Thankfully, there are some great and healthy solutions that could easily fit your budget. Meal delivery services are gaining popularity in every city and many offer vegan and gluten free solutions, along with meals and snacks that are customizable to your budget and taste preferences. There are also plenty of great alternatives to that and meal replacers that are super healthy and taste amazing. This is my personal preference these days. I found myself struggling to stay on track with my day to day. Meal prep, day job, training and coaching business was leaving me with no downtime and no quality time with my husband. One night I found myself scrambling to get everything prepped for the next day and I realized that there is a better way. I found a solution that meets my nutritional requirements, fits my budget and tastes great. Initially I was a bit hesitant, but then I realized that it’s not a purchase in addition to what I’m spending, it’s just a reallocation of my budget.

The moral of this story is to look at the bigger picture and maybe step back for a second and see if you can find something is both healthy and convenient and affordable. It is possible and it does exist. We can bridge the gap between quality food and affordable food and eat great food every day.

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Nutrition, Wellness

Eat what you want, when you want

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What do we really want? It’s simple actually: Eat what we when, when we want. Is it possible to do so and still be healthy? YES! Does it mean that you have to always focus on portion control and moderation? Nope. Allow me to explain…

I used to think that this concept was all about being able to eat junk food, dessert and big decadent meals all the time. Then it shifted towards eating tiny portions of decadent meals like in the books French Women Don’t Get Fat or Naturally Thin. I tried that out and it was short lived, that style of eating doesn’t work for me or most people for that matter. If it did, the obesity epidemic would not exist because we would be able to stop at one bite. Moderation is rough. What this really means is gaining a bit more self-awareness in order to better understand your cravings and taste preferences, and then eating accordingly.

Self-awareness might sound a bit new-agey, but when it comes to dieting, it really comes in handy. It basically helps you to move away from eating something just cause it’s there or just cause it’s a special occasion and to instead eat something because it’s what you really want.

A prime example that I can give you is my weekly treat. In the beginning I always overdid it and ate whatever junk food was available to me and then I’d end up feeling bloated, heavy and guilty. But now I think about what would really taste good to me and what I’m actually in the mood for and then I can just enjoy every bite without the guilt and then get on with my life.

Maybe instead of saying I want to eat what I want, when I want, we can shift towards I enjoy the foods that I really want, whenever I choose to. It’s so powerful when you are able to get to that space and genuinely enjoy food instead of just shoveling it down. You can look forward to your meals without feeling guilty afterward. Guilt is a huge component of this; how many times have you felt bad after overdoing it or going off-plan or cheating on your diet? It sucks and it can easily send the most disciplined person into a tailspin. So just eat what you really want but pay attention to the food and how it tastes and how you feel. In the beginning it might feel like you’re overthinking everything you eat because it’s a bit of a challenge to gauge your cravings and tastes at first. With time though, you’ll get into a good rhythm and soon enough it’ll just be second nature.

This isn’t to say that you should just eat whatever fatty foods are at your disposal, this all comes down to understanding what your body needs nutrient-wise, what your taste bud preferences are and combining the two to create awesome and delicious meals each day. This concept has led me to create countless healthy and delicious recipes like Pad Thai or Oat Flour Waffles or Protein Brownies. Yes, nutrient rich foods are the baseline for good health and they’re an absolute necessity, but you can still make them taste great. So tune in to your preferences and eat real foods that will nourish you, fuel you and satisfy you everyday.

Nutrition, Wellness

The Scarcity Diet

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What’s the most common thing that people do right before going on a diet? Binge eat. That’s right, when most of us decide that it’s time to take control of our health we also decide to go all out for one last hurrah. The thinking here is that you will never get to eat these things ever again so you might as well enjoy it while you still can. This is the scarcity mindset and it is the most counterproductive thing that you can do that will ultimately sabotage your resolve before you even get started.

Most of us equate dieting with deprivation and restriction. We see it as a fad that is totally ineffective in the long run, and yet we still get on board. Billions of dollars are spent every year in the diet and fitness industry and so many of us embark on this journey with the best intentions, while subconsciously feeling skeptical. This thinking is all based on past experiences where it was really hard or too intense and restrictive or it cost a fortune and you just didn’t get the results you wanted, or someone close to you experienced these things. As the saying goes “everybody’s got a story” and this case is no different. Whether you’re aware of it or not, these issues dictate your entire experience and outcome.

When we choose to overeat leading up to a new diet plan we’re already in that state of mind where we’re thinking that this is it and we’ll never get to eat anything tasty again. So instead of being upper jazzed up about starting something healthy, we’re going into it kinda bummed out, thinking that this is going to totally suck. Mindset really is the key to long lasting change and continuous progress. Your willpower alone will not get you there, otherwise you’d already be a size 4 with a 6-pack of abs! If you at any point feel restricted or feel that sense of food scarcity, the diet will fail you.

All of this doesn’t mean that you’ll never reach your goal, because countless people have turned their lives around and kept the weight off. In order for this to work, you have to truly want to do this and have to fully believe that you will succeed. Understand that it will take work on your part and make peace with that, but keep your eye on the prize and focus on that vision of constant progress towards a lifetime of great health.

Another key component to getting your mind right is to not plan too far in advance. For example, many people during the holidays decided that starting in the new year they are going to finally start exercising and losing weight. The problem is that in this case you are relying on the timing being perfect in terms of not having events to go to where there will be decadent food at your disposal. However, there will always be holidays, gatherings, work events, dinners, luncheons, cocktail hours and all kinds of other social events that will occur and that you will take part in. That stuff doesn’t just end. So waiting for the time to be just right is actually never going to happen. What are you going to do come Easter or come your birthday or vacation or girls night out? Stop waiting and start doing. Start right now and go at a pace that works for you. ease yourself into it by slowly incorporating healthy habits into your life as it is at this moment. Go to bed a little early (even if it’s just 5 minutes earlier), have a glass of water when you get out of bed (before you start knocking back the coffee), walk up the escalator, add a little more veg to your dinner. Simplicity is your best friend for lasting change.

Instead of the all or nothing approach, look at what you have right in front of you and start to make some simple changes. This has been huge for me and it is exactly what has prevented me from getting into that scarcity mindset. In the past, I’ve gone ahead and stuffed myself before any new regiment, but last year I started approaching it differently and I continue to do so. It’s what has gotten me through 3 contest preps and my first photoshoot prep as well and has allowed me to maintain my results after the fact. Keep in mind that there will always be an abundance of food and food-related social gatherings in your life, so there is no need to eat everything just because it’s there or just because this may be your only time to try it. eat the food that actually looks good to you and that you know tastes great. And most of all, eat when you’re hungry (not starving!), when you’re full just stop or slow it down and pack up the leftovers for another time.

Nutrition, Recipes

Healthy Donuts!!!

I love donuts so much! But we all know that the store bought conventional donuts are in now way healthy. It’s loaded with sugar and fat, and of course tasty goodness. In the last few years of my fitness journey, I’ve been tinkering around with all kinds of ingredients to find just the right balance between nourishing and delicious. Well, I found that recipe and I am thrilled to share it with you!

Sour Dough Donuts

Serves 6

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Ingredients:

2 cups oat flour

1/3 cup coconut flour

6 tablespoons ground coconut

2 teaspoons stevia

1 teaspoon ground flaxseeds

½ teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

½ cup unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a donut pan with non-stick cooking spray
  2. In a small bowl, combine milk and vinegar. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl combine the remaining ingredients, then add in the milk and vinegar mix. Stir to combine. *If too dry add water 1 tablespoon at a time until a thick batter forms.
  4. Portion out the batter evenly into the donut pan to six donuts.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, rotate pan halfway through. Let cool completely before serving.
  6. *Can be stored in the freezer for 3 weeks

Enjoy!

If you love this recipe and what more meal and snack ideas like this one, be sure to check out my Recipe Collection here. You’ll find 25 delicious recipes for every goal and craving!

Fitness, Nutrition, Recipes, Wellness

Why fitness isn’t for free

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When I first earned my personal trainer certification I started doing a couple of plans for free. I did these for some friends and relatives with the hopes of gaining some extra experience while also helping others get healthy. My thinking was that I was going to be a great resource for people who were looking to get fit, without them having to spend a fortune on some fancy group coaching service with weekly meetings and a minimum buy-in.

Well…I was wrong.

The reality is that if there is no investment, there are no returns. Think of it like this: right now you could google fitness and nutrition plans you will get an endless number of free options. How many people have actually followed those free plans on their own, gotten great results and be able to maintain these results? Very few if any at all. When there is no investment, there is nothing to hold you accountable and accountability is what will keep you on track when you are ready to throw in the towel. Ultimately, when you make this investment you’ll want to get your money’s worth.

Prime example: Someone had asked for my help and I had happily put a plan together for them; they were looking to a significant amount of weight. Well, one day they called me up just to chat and casually mentioned that they were going to pick up a bag of chips. Naturally I started telling them that this wasn’t part of their program and that they would only be hurting themself. This person responded with “I DON’T GIVE A SHIT!” and then they hung up on my face.

Just because you decide that you want to get in shape doesn’t automatically mean that it’s going to happen. You can read all of the fitness magazines or sign up for as many free challenges as you want , but until you actually take massive action and start getting to work, you will never be able to change. What you have to know about weight loss is that it’s work and that it is a lifelong commitment. This may seem intimidating, but what’s the alternative? Continue feeling crappy all the time and disliking the way that you look. Why waste your precious time standing in the dressing room picking apart your body, when you could instead feel great and love every part of yourself? Seriously. You need to invest in yourself. I didn’t become a nationally qualified bodybuilder on my own. I hired a great coach with contest experience who specialized in vegan nutrition. I could have easily gone to the gym and picked out any trainer who would put together some generic plan for me, but I knew that it would be a total waste of resources for me. The investment got me the support that I needed and it created the accountability to fully commit to my goal. I still had to put in a ton of work, but it was totally worth it.

It’s the same principal with groceries. So many of us talk about how expensive it is, but the reality is that quality food and nutrient dense food can be more of an investment that the junk food that has no business being in your grocery kart.

At the end of the day, you get what you give and if you want to finally get healthy and lose weight FOR GOOD then it’s time to invest in yourself and get to work. You don’t have to go to the most expensive gym in your area or buy the most expensive protein powder out there, but you have to invest in the right training and in the right nutrition. And by right I mean the best balance between challenging, enjoyable and great quality. If you love to dance then try a Zumba class, if you’re competitive then try powerlifting or bodybuilding, if you love having a sense of community then try out Crossfit. Nutrition-wise, well if you love chocolate everything then try my Raw Protein Brownie, or if you are all about sushi, well I’ve got a low-carb sushi recipe that will knock your socks off!

The moral of the story is this:

Commit. Invest. Progress.

It’s time. You can do this and I can help. To schedule your FREE 1 on 1 no obligation coaching call click here

P.S. Don’t forget to check my newly released EBooks! There’s an awesome recipe collection with delicious meal and snack options that are 100% vegan. And for those of you looking to go-it alone in terms of losing weight or getting fit, check out the nutritional guide and workout plan!

Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

You’re on your own

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Taking the decision to start living a healthy and fit lifestyle is awesome! It is without question one of the best conscious choices that you can make in your lifetime. Chances are, when you decide to embark on your fitness journey, you’ll be super pumped, I know I was. It’s this exciting adventure that you get to do just for you and you alone, for your own personal reasons. It opens you up to an entirely new world and subculture in the fitness community. One very common drawback that many people will experience at one point or another is when their spouse, family or friends are not on board. I’ve heard so many people talk about how challenging it is or how this has caused conflict in their relationships, and even I experience this today with my husband from time to time. It doesn’t always have to be a huge fight though and there are some ways that you can spin this around to make things way easier for you while still staying strong.

Before we take it any further, take a second to acknowledge why you’ve decided to change your lifestyle. Maybe you’ve been sedentary and eating unhealthy for a long time and you’re finally ready to lose weight. Or maybe you’ve been working out for a while, but are pretty inconsistent and you don’t really pay attention to nutrition. Or Maybe you’re a gym rat who’s ready to take it up a notch and start training for your first competition. Regardless of your “why”, your reason is what will carry you through when the going gets tough. Use this decision as a means to hold you accountable and to keep your eye on the prize. Whether it be the number on the scale or setting a new PR or winning a shiny trophy, your reason behind this lifestyle upgrade needs to always be at the center of your mind. Get super clear on this because you will need it if ever someone gets upset with your choice.

At some point someone will probably say something negative about you spending time at the gym or staying away from junk food or ordering something lighter at a restaurant. Naturally most of us will get defensive and then an argument will ensue. Some people just get quiet, but then it can lead to massive resentment instead. Neither is good for a relationship. Here are a few tried and true tips form yours truly, that can help take the edge off without ending your relationship:

  1. Communication is key. It is so important to very clearly articulate why you are doing this and why it is important that you continue. Explaining that this is something that you are doing for yourself and your well-being can help shift the other person’s perspective a bit. Focus on the health aspect above all else when having this conversation and explain that the healthier you are, the better you feel both physically and emotionally. Instead of coming home after work and crashing on the couch, you’re coming home from the gym feeling energized and positive. Your mood is better, your sleep is better and you’re just way more pleasant to be around.
  2. Think of it from their point of view to get a better understanding of what they’re really saying. If you’re spending an hour at the gym each day instead of being at home, then they probably just miss you. If you’re ordering something healthy at a restaurant then it might be making them feel self-conscious about their own choices.
  3. Compromise when necessary. If your workout schedule is interfering with your obligations, then instead of scrapping it altogether when you spouse says that they need your help (fill in the blank) and resenting them for it, change up your timing. Switch to morning or midday workouts or break up your workout into three smaller separated workouts to fit in the time. It may be an adjustment for you in the beginning, but with time you’ll adapt without neglecting your responsibilities.
  4. Get extra help. If time is your problem then consider getting with to free up some space in your day. For example, if your weekly meal prep takes three hours out of your life that you’ll never get back, then consider using a healthy meal delivery service that fits your budget. If the time you spent cleaning your house each week could be better spent working out, then hire a weekly house keeping service. Yes, these are added expenses, but if they can make your life easier then go for it. Budget accordingly and make it happen.

One final point that I’d like to make is that some may have an issue with your financial investment in this. In this case, I say it’s your life, your body and your health. Do you want hit 60 and feel like garbage all time struggling to walk up a flight of stairs or get out of bed in the morning? Or would you rather have the stamina to crush your day, feel energized and spent time with the ones you love? I’d choose the latter. You are investing in your health and your life, it is the best investment that you can make.

Denise K

Nutrition, Wellness

Losing Steam & Overeating

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I am seriously running out of steam. Since competing in the Provincial Championships in June, I have had a rough time staying on track with nutrition. Although I know that consistency is key, part of me wants to take an extra week off from working out and sneak in some extra treats. My first off-season is proving to be much rougher than I thought.

Today while sitting at my desk at work I got hit with a hankering for something sweet and fatty with a chocolate/nut flavour; no cake, no cookies, just chocolate and nuts. I knew very well that my mind was trying to comfort myself with food (it’s been a stressful work week), but no matter how much willpower and knowledge I have, the need to self-soothe outweighed my logic. I stood in the health-food section at the grocery store by my office with 4 different treats (cashew-coconut bites, almond butter granola bars, chocolate covered peanuts and a chocolate protein bar) in my hand, seriously contemplating getting all of them. These seemingly “healthy” and “natural” items might appear to be a good alternative to conventional snacks, but they are loaded sugar (even naturally occurring like in dates or raisins, or natural sweeteners like brown rice syrup and agave) and fat from nuts. In small portions these are super beneficial, but as with everything else, it can easily morph into too much of a good thing that can lead to gaining body fat, indigestion and bloating. So as I stood there imaging eating these delicious snacks with a hot cup of coffee at my desk, I made the conscious decision to choose just one and to enjoy every bite of it. No guilt, no binge eating, just enjoyment. I chose the protein bar because I knew that it was the most balanced item that would satisfy my craving without leaving me with this heavy feeling in my belly. 15g protein, 8g fat, 26g carbs (9g from sugar – brown rice syrup). Now you might be thinking “What’s the big deal?” and “What’s so bad about that?”. Well the reality is that as a bodybuilder whose diet comprises of whole foods, with lots of fiber and no sweeteners, and who is very regimented with meals and nutrition, that bar is not in line with my diet. Will I gain body fat from that bar? No, but the psychological impact of that additional off-plan snack is enough to send anyone into a tailspin. That’s the reality of bodybuilding and the reality of being lean and muscular with lots of definition all the time; you can get a nutritional burnout. In my case, this burnout has impacted my psychological well-being and I think this is where a lot of bodybuilders can get into the space of disordered eating patterns. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories from athletes, many of whom are recently retired, confessing that they developed some pretty nasty habits whether in contest prep or not and felt super guilty about eating foods that weren’t “perfect” or whole.

A lot of fitness and diet gurus would tell you that everything in moderation is key. They might say to eat slower and put your fork down in between bites. They might say do something healthy like drink a glass of water or go for a walk to try to distract yourself. I have tried all of those concepts and they are a big load of crap that just don’t work for me or for most people either. It’s like telling a heavy drinker to put their glass of scotch down in between sips or to only have half of a beer; it’s not going to work. Most people can’t handle just one cookie or a few fries. If you’ve ever had a problem overeating or binging or overdoing it on your weekly treat meal and turning it into an entire day instead (as I have and still do), then those concepts of moderation just won’t do.

Not all hope is lost though. The way that I see it is that these slip ups are not as intense as they used to be and since I am far more advanced in my training, my body handles it a lot better than it would have even just a year ago. After a few days of working out and eating nourishing foods, the bloat goes away and the definition finds its way back. It’s not about looking a certain way, and a definitely don’t have any distorted view of how my body looks, in fact it’s actually the opposite. The way that I feel physically sometimes doesn’t line up with how I actually look. I’m always amazed with my leanness and definition, but I don’t always feel it. Many times after a treat meal or an extra little something, I get that heavy bloaty feeling, but when I look in the mirror I’m still pretty close to stage ready, which is the goal of every bodybuilder even in off-season.

What I’ve come to realize is that unless I am in a contest prep my willpower is not enough on its own. Contest prep creates such clarity for my goal that nothing tempts me and slip ups just don’t happen. I’ve always been able to get super focused and completely block out even the thought of going off-plan. I’m not bragging here at all; it actually amazes me that this is the case. I know that it’s because the goal is so clear and the structure and path is laid out in front of me by my coach so there’s no guesswork, I have all of the answers already so I don’t even think about it. Since this is my first time in about a year and a half of not being in a prep, this is foreign territory for me, and old/unhealthy habits are popping up again.

My post-contest recovery phase from my coach included 2 weekly off-plan treat meals and at first I was excited, but then I realized that it was hard to control myself with that second meal; it always snowballed into an entire day. I never felt physically good after, who does after overeating? But in the last couple of weeks I’ve come to see that it is helpful and gives me a bit of leeway if my husband and I decide to order in Chinese food or if I decide to partake in my office’s weekly Friday brunch or for when I have my monthly book club meet-up. Letting go of guilt is helping to alleviate the potential of the “ah screw it” moments that we all go through when we decide to plow through a bag of chips or bucket of pasta.

The best thing that works for me time and again is to mix up my meals throughout the week. As much as I love meal prepping and appreciate that it simplifies my life, I also know that eating the same thing every single day gets boring. Even if you love these meals and flavours, it gets old really fast. So my goal going forward is to change up at least one thing I eat each day. That doesn’t mean entirely new meals each day because that would be super time consuming, but more so along the lines of swapping sources of macros to keep it interesting. Instead of white rice, I’ll opt for baked potato or rice pasta with tomato sauce. Instead of oats, I’ll try sweet potato fries or sprouted grain toast. Instead of grilled tofu, I’ll go for tempeh meatloaf or a veggie burger patty. And every few days I’ll swap my rice and beans for sweet potato – black bean brownies or chickpea-oat flour muffins. These simple swaps are super easy to prep in advance and massively impact how I feel; it’s a healthy alternative treat to keep me feeling good without feeling deprived or restricted. I think that’s the key when trying to be healthy, you have to find what you can do for the rest of your life without feeling restricted.

I’m certainly not perfect and I’m still dealing with trying to find the right healthy mix for me, as I think most of us are, but I’m definitely getting closer and making progress each day. Each of us is completely different, so this might not work for you. You might be better off including a small treat each day (like a couple squares of dark chocolate or a small bowl of Pop Chips) or maybe you just can’t handle any treat meals at all without overdoing it each time, that’s ok too. Just pay attention to what you need and what comes naturally with ease to you. It might take some time and tweaking to figure it out (as it has with me), but once you get there and gain that self-awareness, you’ll never fear overeating again.

Start Strong, Finish Strong