Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

Pulling myself together

denise_k_38

To say that the last two years of my life have been tough would be the biggest understatement ever. Not only have I dealt with health issues, lost loved ones and a job last year, but now just as I thought things were starting to get stable, my marriage is ending. This all happened very suddenly without warning and was a huge shock, now I’m once again picking up the pieces and attempting rally myself back into sanity.

I wish I could say that I channeled all of my anger and hurt into some pretty beastly workouts, but that’s not the case and it’s definitely not what I needed. I decided to not force myself or try to push myself into what did not feel right. What I really needed was a break. I was already planning on taking a week off of training following my photo shoot and boy did I need it. This all happened to coincide with my starting a new job, so that extra time off was not only helpful physically and emotionally (due to my impending divorce), but it was also helpful in giving myself the capacity to focus on some new work.

So I took the week off and gave myself a breather. I started working out again, but keeping it very quick, about 30 minutes of weight training on my lunch break. It’s just the right amount time to work up a small sweat and maintain my mass. Now is not the time to be going full speed ahead that’s for sure. And although I was planning on starting to prep for Nationals and maybe doing a mass gain, I decided to hold off for at least a month. This will give me enough time to get into a good rhythm and routine with my day to day and new life altogether.

In terms of nutrition, well let’s just say that I’m going really easy on myself. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been ordering in or getting take-out, eating whatever I felt like and it’s been good. I’m not binge eating or overeating, but I’m not regimented either. No measuring or weighing food, no macro calculations or anything like that. I am still trying to keep it balanced, but if I do feel like having a bucket of spaghetti and a slice of chocolate cake, then I will. If I feel like ordering pizza and breadsticks and fries, then I do. I’m just eating well without overdoing it or beating myself up over anything. I must say that it’s nice to not be doing a big meal prep and to instead just pack leftovers for lunch or pick up something that looks good and healthy.

The positive thing is that now I’ve started to really develop a good night time ritual where I drink a hot chamomile tea on my balcony in the evening in my jammies and then curl up in bed with a good book and read before it’s lights out. I haven’t gotten into meditation or anything like that, but I’m sure it’ll come along soon enough.

Apart from my changing eating habits and my intense urge in wanting to redecorate my home by going on a daily shopping spree, everything is still good and I’m hanging in there. Whatever message the universe keeps trying to send me, I guess it hasn’t come through yet, but at least for now I can enjoy some extra independence. Maybe having more leeway will allow me to create even better habits in the long run and make my prep for Nationals a little less intense that I had planned. No matter how this plays out, I’m still an athlete and still competing and still coaching people, maybe just at a slower pace for now.

Advertisements
Nutrition, Wellness

Quality over quantity

pexels-photo-264636

“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.

Nutrition, Wellness

Eat what you want, when you want

pexels-photo-29682

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

pexels-photo-95212

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.

Fitness, Nutrition, Recipes, Wellness

Why fitness isn’t for free

business-money-pink-coins

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

pexels-photo-319969

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

Wellness

What Self-Care Really Means

vitamin-b-effervescent-tablet-supplement

Chronic stress is a huge problem. Everyone gets it, everyone feels it. Our lifestyles are busy, our days are jam packed all the time and when we’re not on the go, we’re usually caught in the endless cycle of scrolling through social media instead of hitting the hay. I get it, I’m pretty much there all the time, but there are some things that we can all do to take the edge off. This is where self-care comes in and just like a diet, there’s no “one size fits all” solution.

Self—care has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, especially with all of the wellness coaching programs coming out. People are slowly starting to understand the importance of taking the absolute best care of yourself all the time, especially during times of stress. Self-care is also one of the hardest things to do when the shit hits the fan. As much as you may want to just wrap yourself up in a blanket and shut out the world, it may not be the best solution, although sometimes I must admit that it definitely is.

Think about the last time you were under some serious stress or you got thrown a massive curve ball with no warning. Chances are you probably weren’t getting much rest, the gym was out of the question and nutrition consisted of grabbing a couple of Oreos as you ran out to whatever you were dealing with. Again, that’s pretty much been me; in a time of crisis or super busy workdays where there’s a lot on the line, everything else stops and all of your focus goes into dealing with this big problem. It’s rough and it’s hard to see beyond that when you’re fully immersed in it. Whether it’s a love one who is suddenly unwell or work takes a turn for the worst and your job is on the line or you’re raising your kids and trying to take care of your household, or you’ve suddenly got some scary financial stuff come up, it’s all very intense and it weighs heavily on us.

Apart from the aforementioned raising kids, I’ve experienced all of the above so I totally get it. In the last couple of weeks, things have gotten so stressful for me; I’ve come home practically in tears on the verge of a meltdown. Just last week during my weekly mastermind group session, the woman who runs our group spent 20 minutes guiding me through a meditation and trying to talk me down from the proverbial ledge. In the midst of all of this craziness, I’ve still been going to the gym regularly, but my nutrition is still something that I struggle with (a bite of chocolate here, a little extra pasta there and maybe an extra spoonful of peanut butter) and sleep has been non-existent. But an interesting thing happened yesterday. I had the choice to either go home or go to the gym and I chose the latter, which was without question the smart move for me. A few sets into my workout and I started to feel better, calmer and clear headed. When I did go home, my mood had improved and I was able to enjoy the evening with my hubby and our two baby rabbits that we adopted about a month ago. I ultimately knew that what I needed was to go to gym, not to workout my frustrations or channel all of my anger into weightlifting, but to get some movement in and shift my focus away from the stress. Had I gone home, I would have probably spent a big part of the night bawling my eyes out and letting the stress take over, and that was something that I knew I didn’t need. I knew that that wouldn’t serve me in anyway or resolve anything, in fact it would only amplify it, so I chose to do something healthier instead.

This is not to say that the answer is always hit the gym and grind it out, because sometimes it’s the exact opposite that you need. Although you may hear a lot of fitness gurus say that in times of stress that’s when you really need to hit the weights hard and push yourself. However, if you’ve been training hard consistently and for a long time, then it might be a good idea to take in an extra rest day (don’t worry, your physique won’t suddenly turn to mush). Or maybe you’ve been dieting down for a while and have been losing lots of weight and the thought of steamed veg with grilled tofu is just not gonna cut it. In that case consider eating a treat meal or just having something a little bit heartier and comforting like a warm stew with some sprouted grain bread or some lasagna made with brown rice noodles and tofu ricotta, or even some oatmeal with a little drizzle of maple syrup and some walnuts. Maybe it’s sleep that you really need, so try taking a hot shower and having a warm cup of chamomile tea in the evening before curling up in bed.

The idea here is to tune in to your emotions and do what you really need and what will serve you best. Self-awareness is a big component of that and it does take some time to gain that, but gradually with time you will get there. So if your day is tough or you’re dealing with a lot, take a step back and see what you are in need of and take it from there. Always keep in mind that before you can truly take care of anyone else and really give your best to something or someone, you have to take care of yourself. You have to be healthy as this is what allows you to be in the right mindset and with the right energy to approach whatever is coming your way. Always prioritize your health and your overall well-being above everything else, and then the rest will just happen and fall right into place.

Denise K

P.S. In case you missed it, check out this morning’s FB Live where I went into extra detail on the importance of self-care.