Your Health

This post is similar to my post from last week about comparison.  The focus of this one will be on physical health.  Last week was a broad discussion on comparing yourself to others, but this post is going to talk more about social media, eating, and overall health.

Today, anyone that has an Instagram and has some muscle tone thinks they are a health guru.  They will caption their overly edited, overly thought out, incredibly posed photos with things like “eat this and workout like this to get abs like me” or “Follow this plan for guaranteed 6-pack abs, and rapid weight-loss”.  These ‘influencers’ and captions are detrimental.  People with zero qualifications (outside of them having a “picture perfect body”) to be giving out nutritional and fitness advice in the matter-of-fact terms in which they do.  The constant pushing of the message at the core of it all of ‘do all of these things so you are like me and not like you’ is a major issue when it comes to self-love and self-esteem.  Everyone has a smart phone, which makes access to these kinds of messages incredibly easy, especially for teens.  The main demographic that uses various forms of social media are teens, whom are already constantly thinking about fitting in and being liked, and now are followed (pardon the pun) by the never ending need to appear a certain way.  In terms of body image, this is where unhealthy relationships with food and even exercise begin to develop.  When your health becomes something you are concerned with so that you can look a certain way, in order to fit in, it no longer becomes your health.

Like I said last week, living to be someone you are not is not how you win at the game called life.  You are merely existing when you are striving to be someone other than who you are.  You should exercise because you like how you feel after you finish and because you want to, not because “Samantha got 1000 likes on her picture at the beach and has abs and I want to be like her”.  Be fit for the life you want to live, eat foods you enjoy and that support a healthy life, and stop worrying about the likes and follows and comments you get on your social media accounts.  With that, I will leave you with this quote I saw the other day.  If my words don’t register with you and you take only one thing away from this post, let it be the image below.  We are all amazingly different people and should strive to be the best version of our self that we can be.  Originals are so much better than remakes or sequels, so live life as yourself and not as the attempt to be someone else.




If you open the dictionary and read the first definition for the word diet you will see this; Diet(noun)= the kinds of food that a person or community habitually eats.

If you walk around asking random people you pass what the definition of diet is you will likely hear something along the lines of “foods you eat so you can lose weight”, or “something followed in order to lose weight”, or maybe “not eating sugar and carbs”.  This is the issue today and the issue I have with the word diet, not because it is a bad word, but because the connotation has become something negative and restrictive.  Diet should not be removed from the language, because the word at its core refers simply to a food consumption pattern of a person or group of people; a lifestyle if you will.  To keep this post short, I want to talk about a mindset shift from hearing diet and thinking restrict to hearing diet and thinking lifestyle.  Your diet should be something that supports your lifestyle in the most nutritious and health-beneficial way,while still giving you a sense of freedom.  Change the mindset from “I can’t eat this or that because…” to “I want to eat this, so I will have it while still eating foods that align with my lifestyle”.  Think of your diet as a toddler.  You know you don’t tell a toddler to not touch something or do something because the toddler will inevitably do exactly what you said to not do.  If you have a restrictive diet, full of “I can’t eat” foods youare very likely to constantly think and want those foods.  Telling yourself you can eat anything you want to eat, so long as it supports your lifestyle, you are more likelyto desire the most beneficial foods most often. 


One of my shorter posts, but nonetheless a thought that was in my head, so I decided to type it up and share with you all.  If  you are looking to move from a restrictive mindset to a lifestyle mindset when it comes to your diet and need some help head on over to Smarter Athlete Fitness and Nutrition and you can sign-up to get a coach to help you through the process.

Listening to Your Body

Listen To Your Body | Harmony Yoga Redondo Hermosa Manhattan Beach ...

Your body has a lot to say and is in constant communication with you.  Whether or not you are listening is the issue.  From waking up in the morning feeling tired to craving certain foods to feeling sore; your body is trying to tell you what it needs in order to be at its best.  I am going to try to cover these various messages your body is giving you in as succinct a way as possible, because each message could be a blog post in itself.

Let’s start with cravings.  Cravings can indicate anything from you aren’t taking in enough calories to support your expenditure, to some type of memory has been triggered that is making you want a certain food, to your hormones being at work, just to name a few reasons.  To avoid turning this into a psychology and physiology paper as I explain the interplay of memory and hormones on food cravings, I will just be talking about taking in calories to meet expenditure.  When you are undereating your body wants to get in energy as fast as possible in order to refuel.  This is why we tend to reach for the bag of chips or the cookies because our bodies have learned we can get a lot of calories in very quickly and often it is pretty tasty.  Learning to take in the proper number of calories to support your daily life is very important.  Your goals determine how you should be eating; when looking to lose weight and get leaner you will need to take in calories at a deficit, when you are looking to put on mass and get bigger you will need to take in calories at a surplus, and when just looking to stay where you are and support your daily life you should be eating at a balance.  This equation doesn’t look the same for everyone though, it isn’t as simple as just eat less than what you expend to lose weight and eat more than you expend to gain weight.  Each person is different and will respond to diets in a different way.

Waking up in the morning feeling tired can indicate that your quality of sleep during the night wasn’t that great or that you are not getting enough sleep.  Getting enough sleep is an easier correction to make than trying to figure out how to improve sleep quality.  Having a daily schedule and bed-time routine helps make getting the proper number of hours of sleep a little easier.  If you know you are going to wake up at say 6am every day, and that you want to get 8 hours of sleep then you should be in bed and asleep by 10pm every night. In order to make that happen you should develop a bed-time routine that allows you to be in bed and asleep at 10pm.  This can look something like finishing dinner by 8:30pm every night, turning off the television and putting away other screens (phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) by 9pm, having a book to read before you go to sleep, and maybe you have a white noise machine to help you fall asleep as well.  We as humans like structure, and by creating a routine for falling asleep it will help signal to your body over time that once ‘x,y,z’ happen you should be asleep.  Now waking up feeling tired due to poor sleep quality can be signs of not eating enough as well, having high levels of stress which causes your body to release cortisol outside the natural circadian rhythm, or you could have some illness present causing you to not get in a good sleep.  Depending on what the reason is for sleep quality determines what step you need to take next to improve the quality of sleep. (That is post for another time though)

Now to address being sore.  It is good to be sore because it means you have challenged your muscles enough be in a state of re-synthesis.  You worked out hard and now your muscles are repairing themselves.  It is not good to be so sore you can’t move every single day of the week.  Being in a constant state of muscle repair means that you never give your muscles a chance to fully recover and this can lend itself to injury.  Click here to read a previous post of mine on the benefits of resting and taking a day off from your training.

So, if you are reading this sentence, I am going to assume you clicked that link and read (or re-read s/o my loyal following) my previous blog post.  Taking a day off from anything is important to both physical and mental health.  You need to step back from whatever it is you do during the week in order to come back to it refreshed and excited to work at it again.  My fitness fanatics are probably thinking in their heads right now, but what about an active recovery day?  Yes, those are good but what are you calling active recovery?  For me an active recovery day is a leisurely walk or a casual bike ride.  It isn’t me jumping into the pool and swimming laps (no matter how slow I am going, swimming is actually a very interesting exercise modality when it comes to energy expenditure), or going for a long run, or going to the gym and doing accessory lifts.  Active recovery should be incredibly low impact compared to your weekly training.  There is nothing wrong with moving on an off day, but this movement shouldn’t be intense or high impact.  Off days are intended to be for taking your foot off the gas and giving your body the chance to recover and refresh.

This turned out to be longer than I intended, but the thoughts just kept flowing.  The sad part is I could have written even more, the science behind all of this are textbook chapters in exercise physiology.  What I want to be the takeaway here is listen to your body, it knows what it is saying and wants to support you as best as it can.  Taking a day off is fine, taking multiple days off is fine, you need to listen to what your body needs when it comes to rest.  Eat well and eat to support your goals, you get one chance and one body when it comes to living life, so live life well and treat your body right.

Freshmen (Quarantine??) 15

So, this post started out as advice on how to make better food choices during your time at college, since it is often a difficult transition to go from being under the watch of your parents to making decisions on basically everything on your own.  Now with the presence of COVID-19 and the new ‘normal’ (is anyone else as tired of hearing that phrase as I am?), I decided I would make this a two-for-one kind of thing.  The concept is pretty similar between the two.  Going off to college and living in quarantine/isolation/social distancing introduce a whole slew of stresses and anxiety triggers.  Whether it is the stresses of new people, new experiences, and not having your parents there to help guide you in your decision making process that comes with freshmen year; or it is the stresses that come with the uncertainty of COVID-19, not having a job, worrying about the health and well-being of your loved ones, or having your everyday schedule completely thrown, your body will respond to stress the same way.

When things get stressful your body craves those ‘junk food’ options, and it becomes a viscous cycle; you get triggered by a stress I said above(or another one because the list is endless) and so you reach for the bag of chips or the pint of ice cream, and then you get down on yourself for making that choice, then life steps back in so you need another bag of chips or chocolate bar, and on and on.  So, I am going to share with you a list of things you can do to help you make better choices and hopefully help you combat those stressful moments, while still living the college life or the quarantine life, or just plain old life.  You can keep these in mind when walking into the dining hall, walking into your kitchen, or heading into the grocery store.

  1. Fill one plate up with veggies. This can be a salad or some raw veggies.  You can choose cooked veggies but try to limit the amount of the cooked veggies if prepared in a lot of oils and butters.
  2. Fruit with every meal. A cup or half a bowl berries or diced melons. An apple, orange, or banana.
  3. Opt for water. You can also have your coffee, if you are like me and can’t go a day without it.  But limit the sugar/sweetener in it if you drink multiple cups day, that way you aren’t taking in calories through sugar in your beverages.
  4. Lean protein options like chicken and turkey will be the best animal protein go-to.
  5. Fish and other seafood are good options when you are bored of chicken and turkey.
  6. If you want a burger or pizza try to double the veggies you get at that mealtime. You will still enjoy the burger and pizza but will fill up more on the ‘better options’ so you don’t overeat and go back another slice or another handful of fries and back again and again.

And just remember to be kind to yourself.  Don’t approach mealtime or snacking with a “I can’t” mindset, as this will only make decisions harder.  Feeling restricted will box you in and make every choice you make feel robotic, and that isn’t how life should be.  If you approach your meals and snacks with the mindset that you are choosing ‘X’ because you know it will make you feel better that will give you a sense of empowerment; knowing you are in control of what you eat and thus your health and your life.  Freshmen year and quarantine are hard enough times in themselves and you don’t need to add to the already stressful moments by getting down on yourself for food choices.

Self-Experimentation #1

Hello friends.  Today I am sharing with you all my plant-based diet experience.  For starters, I did this to give myself some experience with this diet prior to conducting a possible study that asks participants to partake in a plant-based diet intervention for a 4-week time period.  I am an advocate of being your first client, especially when you are going to be asking someone to make a change to their lifestyle, you should be able to relate and pull from your own personal experience when looking to help someone else.  I also did this from a place of interest.  There has been increasing talk and ‘popularity’ when it comes to a plant-based diet, so being the nerd I am I wanted to see how I would respond to this dietary change.

So, for 2-weeks I went plant-based.  My shopping cart at the grocery store didn’t look all that different from my normal omnivore diet shopping cart.  The veggies, fruits, beans, and grains remained the same, the only difference was there were no eggs, cheeses, yogurts, or chicken to be found.  I also decided that I would be eating ad libitum (without restrictions).  This means I ate when I was hungry and did not track macronutrients or calories.  I felt this would reflect how many people who change from an omnivore diet to a plant-based diet make the change.  I did not purchase any plant-based protein powders because 1. I wasn’t tracking macronutrient intake, so hitting a protein goal wasn’t on my list, 2. This dietary change wasn’t one I planned on doing for more than 2-weeks due to things going on in my life, and 3. I prefer to get most of my food requirements from actual foods and I didn’t want to get a protein powder because I don’t want to use whatever I didn’t finish after I switched back from this plant-based diet.

I really didn’t feel any different in daily life or at the gym compared to when I was eating my omnivore diet.  I did actually feel a little more run down and would wake up some days feeling sick.  I also was feeling more sore than usual.  Some things that could account for how I felt beyond diet was the amount of stress I was feeling from school and work, poor sleep, and possibly not enough caloric intake compared to what was being burned throughout my day.  I will say that the day after I ended my 2-week experiment I woke up feeling like garbage, super congested and was waking up every hour that night to blow my nose because I couldn’t breathe.

I’m about 1 week back on my normal omnivore diet with macronutrient tracking and I am feeling much better than last week and like my muscles are recovering much better post exercise.  I am not sharing this to persuade people to eat a certain way, just merely sharing my personal experience.  Like I have said many times before diets aren’t one-size fits all, and what works better for me won’t necessarily work best for you or someone else.   This was not the most scientific experiment as I could have controlled for chance much better, but it was overall an interesting experiment.  I don’t think I will be removing animal-based foods from my diet anytime soon, especially with my current exercise goals, but I am glad I did this and stay tuned for my next nutritional self-experiment.

You and your diet were on a break!!!

First off if you get the reference from my post title then I love you.  Second, this is me explaining why calling it a cheat meal/cheat day kinda makes me roll my eyes.  Before I get started I just want to say that I’m still working on removing that phrase from my own lexicon, so I indeed roll my eyes at myself and I don’t want you people to think I am attacking you all and being holier-than-thou.  Now with that disclaimer out of the way let me explain.

The more people in the field of nutrition that I meet and learn from, the more I become aware of the effect language has on mindset and people’s relationship with food.  The word cheat has a very negative connotation that is associated with some hefty consequences.  In school, especially colleges, if you are caught cheating you can get expelled.  In relationships if someone is found to be cheating trust is lost and the relationship may even come to an end.  When we refer to cheating on one’s diet we immediately think of eating ‘bad’ food.  This thought process and phraseology can lead to individuals having unhealthy relationships with food.  Everyone is different, no one is the same, and thus no one should eat the exact same foods and in the exact same way.  Someone’s diet should be individualized and made to meet the needs of the individual, and so if someone wants to eat a burger or have some cookies for a meal than that’s cool.  This person is meeting a specific need or desire.  Having a burger every single meal or eating 5 cookies every time you walk into the kitchen is not the best nutritional decision one can make(But this is a whole other post topic in itself).  Lets say someone has 2-3 servings of fruits and vegetables with every meal they eat throughout the week along with lean meats, hearty-whole grains, and essential fats, and little to no processed foods and refined sugars; and Saturday this individual just wants to enjoy time with friends and they go out to dinner at the best burger place in their area and finish at their local creamery for dessert.  Most people in that situation would say, sounds like a great cheat meal/cheat day, but there will always be that negative connotation that is pinned to the word cheat, and that could lead to some feel bad about making those food choices.

The phrase cheat day/cheat meal has to go.  I am personally working on not using that phrase myself.  You aren’t doing something bad or something wrong when you eat something that might not align with your normal dietary choices, you are merely living.  So instead of calling it a cheat meal/cheat day, why not try calling it a free meal/free day, or a no-strings-attached meal/day, or a break meal/break day, or even…wait for it… a day/a meal.  It is okay, like I said, to eat something that doesn’t align with your whole-food, non-processed, organic, little to no refined sugar, or whatever nutritional/dietary food choice plan you ‘follow’.  Just remember the next time you stray, and your diet tries to make you feel bad for that, remind it you guys were on a break and you did nothing wrong.  You were and are free to make your own choices independent of it when you decide you need a break.  If you don’t believe me just ask Ross 😉

Eat Your Plants

I don’t want to sound like your doctor during your yearly physical, but eating your fruits and vegetables is very important to living a healthy life.  Last fall I took a very interesting class where I learned a lot about the powerful health benefits found in all plant foods(fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds).  This class made me take a step back from my eating habits (which was already fairly healthy) and made me start to really think about what I was eating everyday.  Eating ‘healthy’ is more than just eating salads and not eating fast foods/junk foods.  Eating healthy requires a mindfulness.  You need to be aware of the foods you are eating and what they have to offer you. 

In the class we talked about organic vs. non-organic fruits and veggies and it was very eye opening.  I know organic options are more expensive, but your health is worth the extra couple dollars spent on the organic options.  The non-organic fruits and veggies are either filled with GMOs or covered in pesticides/insecticides, which are harmful to health.  One way GMO foods can cause health issues is through the introduction of free radicals into your body.  Simply, free radicals are a form of stress placed on the body by introducing foreign substances to your cells.  These free radicals are very unstable molecules that steal an oxygen from our healthy cells (this is called oxidation) and they take over these cells and can cause damaging changes to the DNA of that cell.  Through this, free radicals can cause premature aging and increase cancer risk.  Luckily the best way to fight against free radicals is through antioxidants; and thankfully organic fruits like berries and veggies like broccoli, spinach, and kale are good sources of antioxidants.

So the next time you are at the grocery store take a peak at the labels and make the choice for organic.  It is a little extra, which is extremely upsetting because the foods that will give you a healthier life cost more than a bag of chips.  But honestly you can’t bring this money with you when it is time to leave this Earth, so why not spend a little extra money to make the time you have here as healthy and lively as possible?

That is my rant for this week.  Sorry I suck and haven’t posted in a while, I don’t have a good excuse for that.  I have been trying to enjoy my summer and time just gets away from me.  Thanks for reading!

Organic vs GMOs.jpgGo Organic.jpg


Sorry for being MIA! I was sick last Saturday, and the Saturday before that I spent the day at a CrossFit Comp and it slipped my mind to post, so sorry!! 

Since I last posted I watched some pretty interesting Netflix documentaries and I highly recommend you peeps check them out.  ‘The Magic Pill’ and ‘In Defense of Food’ are the titles of the documentaries and if you like documentaries and like health and wellness things(which I am guessing you must a tiny bit because you are reading my blog) then these are must sees.  I watched ‘In Defense of Food’ the day before I left school to head home for the summer and I saw the most coincidental thing while I was driving. Image may contain: outdoor and textHere I was stuck in standstill traffic and right in front of me is that truck.  If you watch those documentaries I mentioned or have seen them, then you will understand how crazy it was for me to be sitting in traffic and see that truck.  I had to get a picture to capture that moment.  It is one thing to watch documentaries like the ones I mentioned and to here what people have to say about industrialized food, but seeing that truck made those documentaries all the more real.  It was almost a see it to believe it moment, even though I believe what is being said.  

All I have to say is what is the food-like substance in that container and where is it going and who/what is ‘eating’ it?  Isn’t it scary to think something has been created by humans and has to be labeled like?  That can’t be good or healthy for anyone or anything to consume, so why has it been made?  Just some questions that seeing that truck raised in my head, along with watching those documentaries.

I love documentaries, so if you guys have any good ones leave them in the comments because I am always looking for something new to watch on Netflix!  Sorry again for going MIA.  Thanks for reading and you all rock!