To Cheat Or Not To Cheat

I have found myself struggling with this question for years now–when I am following a strict diet plan is it better for me to follow that plan ALL of the time or to incorporate cheat meals once a week like many bodybuilders? After years of testing, failing, and trying again, my final conclusion is that it all depends on YOU and what gives you greater peace of mind.

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I used to use cheat meals as an excuse to binge-eat after months of extreme dieting. I would feel so run down and deprived, but I would not want to break my strict diet, so I would allow for one meal that was “outside of the plan.” However, of course this backfired because rather than alleviating the struggle feeling deprived most of the day, I would proceed to go on an all out eating frenzy that would continue anywhere from a single night to a few months of being unable to regain control.

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I am in a much different place now. Monday was my birthday (22!) and as part of my new training plan I am allowed one “free meal” per week where I can eat whatever I want as long as I don’t eat to the point of discomfort. My family took me out to eat at the Oyster Club, a high end and scrumptious restaurant on the CT shoreline for my birthday dinner. I looked forward to it all weekend, prepped my normal meals for the trip, and replaced one of them with this meal out to eat. I ate warm, sweet cornbread (YUM), a light summer salad of tomatoes, peaches, and ricotta (yes I chose this over pasta hehe), fluke with white beans and had my very own dessert–a warm almond cake with whipped cream! This meal was satisfying in every way, but the highlight of it was the glaring sign of ED recovery–I did not have any urge to binge afterwards, as I often would when I was younger, calorie deprived, and feeling out of control. (It might sound weird that I would want to binge after a full meal but it’s actually quite common–once you break down the wall keeping you from eating a little you end up wanting to tear the whole thing down). Rather, I simply decided I did not need the last meal I had planned for the day. I went on to enjoy a great night’s sleep and was energized for my workout the next day.

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Despite these up-sides, I still decided that I think I will save these decadent “free meals” for rare occasions like my birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. While the extra calories energized me for my workout the next day, I personally don’t like feeling bloated from the extra salt and gluten (which I don’t usually consume) and I realize that my weight loss goals are more important to me than a pleasureful meal each week. I rank my consistent progress over that meal, and I find that sometimes when I focus on the meal ahead too much it is a little too close to my old disordered-eating mind for my liking. For some people, however, this is exactly the meal they need to keep them on pointe throughout the week! Maybe one day I will get to that place, but for now I’ll stick with a piece of fish, veggies, and a complex carb on my weekly(ish) meal out to dinner 🙂

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When the Gym Becomes the Playground

The first few weeks of an exercise routine are always rough. Maybe you’re out of shape, maybe you have been inconsistent with your training, maybe you’re starting a completely new program and the exercises as foreign to you as that language you always wished you spoke. Whatever the case, the excruciatingly sore muscles are never fun, nor is wandering around the gym like a freshman on their first day of college, trying to make out the miniscule directions on the exercise machines without anyone noticing, or dimming your phone so no one can make out the “How to do a deadlift” YouTube tutorial you are analyzing. Your workouts are a chore, a necessary part of your day that you can’t wait to get over with. You’re not seeing results anyways, so what’s the point?

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Hold out because there comes a shift. It is mainly a mental shift, but of course your mental state and physical state are always closely intertwined. Let me explain: in the beginning, going to the gym always seems to negate time from my day. Then, one morning I wake up and it has transformed into an enhancement of my day. I look forward to it. I view the gym as a playground. I will look down at my phone at the end of my workout session, shocked at the fact that 2 hours had gone by?!? I was just enjoying myself. Testing my body. Exploring my limits. Exhausting every fiber of my being. So what changed?

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I think part of it has to do with the fact that after a month of following a consistent workout and meal plan, you start to see definite changes in your body. This is empowering. You realize you have autonomy over your life! You can reshape your body all through your habits! And of course this makes every day seem worth it. Once you have lost enough body fat, you begin to see the previous day’s hard work taking shape every morning you open your eyes and see your new reflection staring back at you. These are real, tangible, visible results that drive you to put more effort in each and every day. And suddenly you are reframing (a positive psychology technique!!) — and the gym becomes a playscape.

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Photos: Pixabay.com

Operation Taste My Food Again

If I’m being honest with myself, I have an addiction. And that addiction is artificial sweeteners. It has been a long time coming for me to finally quit. The other day I read an article saying that they are more addictive than cocaine, and that same day I listened to a podcast by Mind Pump Media exaggerating how problematic artificial sweeteners can be. Not only do they claim to enhance weight loss, but Stevia is 200-400 times sweeter than sugar, and Splenda is 600 times sweeter than sugar! Of COURSE they are addictive! They are manufactured to make us want more of it.

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I already know this will be an uphill battle for me. I know I have chronically overused these little packets of evil for at least ten years, dumping Truvia, Splenda, Equal, Stevia, Purevia, into my coffee, fruit, oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, cottage cheese, smoothies, etc. Multiple times throughout the day and between meals I would consume. I did not discriminate. I tore open any little packet I could get my hands on, hoarding them in the cupboards, my car, my purse. The gum addiction is a whole other story. While in Denmark, it is much more difficult to find these chemicals (classic Denmark always doing it right), so I even had my mom bring a dozen packs of my favorite gum brand (Five Peppermint).

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The irony is, I felt so much better when I wasn’t having these sweeteners. And whenever I tried to limit my consumption, it would steadily increase to an obscene amount–again pointing to their addictive properties. I knew I was making a mistake every time I bought a new massive box of this poison, but I couldn’t stop, even when I had terrible side effects such as bloating and gas, etc. that I knew was caused directly by this fake sweetness.

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Until now. When I heard these sweeteners can cause Metabolic Syndrome, Insulin Resistance, and even Type 2 Diabetes I felt sick to my stomach. No wonder I can’t lose weight when I eat 1200 calories and workout 1+ hours every day. I promptly dumped everything artificial sweetener anything into the trash–crystal light powder, gum, stevia. Stevia doesn’t have a bad rap yet, but the FDA states that “stevia leaf and crude stevia extracts are not considered GRAS and do not have FDA approval for use in food”– meaning that they are not generally recognized as safe. It seems to me that the FDA is covering their bases just in case stevia ends up causing cancer in the long run. I’m not going to take my chances anymore.

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Stay tuned for an update on the changes I notice in my body with this lifestyle change! 🙂

 

To Think Or Not To Think

Do you guys ever wake up feeling like a lump of trash? Groggy, sore, and possibly sick? Well that was me this morning. There was really no explanation for it besides going to bed too late and training legs really hard yesterday. 

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Not sure what I was doing at the Colosseum but I definitely wasn’t as distressed as it appears in the photo…

But then I recalled thinking to myself yesterday, “Wow, I haven’t been sick in a long time!” And it occurred to me—our brains are WAY more connected to our bodies than we think, so I probably brought this upon myself.

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I always feel like my mind and body are in synch at the beach. Especially Barcelona beaches!!

Of course, lack of sleep and overtraining can weaken the immune system but I’m convinced that our thoughts can too. After all, stress is directly connected to our nervous system and can even cause terrible digestive issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, along with tons of other health problems.

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A castle in Lisbon, Portugal

If that is true, what’s to stop us from thinking our thought patterns can’t predict our physical health? In the wise words of my mother (When telling her about the sickness coincidence), “Don’t think about it in the future.”

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Trevi Fountain, Rome. Definitely not thinking about sickness here!