Breakup with the Scale.

There was a time, not that long ago, when I would wake up, pee, strip down to my skivvies, step on the scale and allow the number staring back at me to control my entire day and demeanor. 

If the scale read what I wanted it to, which, let's face it, happened almost never because my expectations were ridiculously unrealistic, I'd continue to compulsively weigh in multiple times a day to ensure that it was still there (or going down) and not headed in the opposite direction. 

If the scale didn't read what I wanted it to, I'd punish myself with exercise and obsessive food rules that eliminated more than they allowed for and I'd repeatedly weigh in after each event. Step on the scale. Go for a run. Step on the scale. Eat a meal. Step on the scale...yeah, not a lot of self respect. 

For years I viewed that number as something that dictated my self worth. I spent countless days, months and years allowing how I looked at myself in the mirror, the size on my jeans and the number on the scale to dictate who I was and what I was or was not worthy of. There are a lot of reasons for my behavior, but the bottom line is, I allowed the calories I consumed and burned and unrealistic societal standards to dictate how I regarded myself as a human being and as a woman. 

This is not how I want to live my life. Do you? 

Changing the way you regard yourself. Learning to accept and love yourself and your body in today's climate. Those are acts of pure defiance. And I'm here to tell you to be defiant. It takes time. It takes grace. It takes resilience. It takes the ability to fail over and over again, continuing to pick yourself back up and charge forward. 

But I'm here to tell you that it's a practice you can't afford not to commit to. Despite what the world is telling you, or what your scale is trying to convince you of, it's time. It's time to breakup with the scale, rendering it powerless against you. And it's time to begin redefining your self worth. 

Earlier this week, I stepped on the scale. I do this from time to time as I continue to reshape my perception of weight as a number that can be used, or not used, as needed. What I experienced was both reinforcing and discouraging. The scale reflected my lowest (healthy) weight yet, paired with my lowest (healthy) body fat percentage yet. I looked at the numbers and my thought process wants something like this... 

"Wow",

"I wonder how much lower I could go...",

"Eh, this is just a number. It will change tomorrow and the day after that. Keep moving forward." 

So, my breakup with the scale? It's an ongoing process. But it is, hands down, one of the best decisions I ever made for me. Because I am so worthy of love and acceptance. I am worthy of living my best life regardless of what the scale says. 

Ready to begin your breakup with the scale? In 2018, I'm opening up a select number of 12-week coaching spots for women who are looking to break up with the scale, redefine their self worth and work towards healing their body image while reaching their health & fitness goals and feeling good about the way their body looks. If that sounds like the road you want to take this New Year, fill out this application to be put on the waitlist: https://goo.gl/forms/60m0qW0wuM7FiTgn2.

I'd gladly have you join me on this journey toward self discovery and unhindered acceptance. 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

Un-merry.

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I am all about tradition. This time of year, I love being smacked across the face by twinkling lights, the smell of that douglas fir, carols on the radio and the giving of magical gifts. From the time the air starts feeling like Christmas, I'm pretty grossly full of holiday cheer. 

But here's the deal, holidays pretty much suck now. 

I mean, they aren't a total drag, but once upon a time I had the family life people dreamed of. Two loving parents, a kid brother, a dog, a unifying faith to carry us through anything...it sounds sickening, but I loved my life. It felt happy and all was right with the world. 

Flash forward to current day and I'm an only child with a dysfunctional family (sure, everyone's a little dysfunctional) trying to stuff the grief that has become the air we breathe deep down inside. I hate to sound like the Grinch, but it's not Christmas cheer we're breathing anymore. 

Not a day that goes by is easy, but some sure are harder than others. The holidays, they're always hard. There's this big emphasis on family and togetherness and those of us without a family, or with missing pieces in our family get lost in the cracks.

Good tidings are being handed out like Christmas cookies, but here I am watching all the holly jolly from the outside of this snow speckled globe. Some of that is because I'm still learning how to build my new narrative, learning how to celebrate holidays on my own terms with these new missing pieces. Some of it is because our culture doesn't know how to appropriately acknowledge grief and suffering, especially during what is supposed to be the "best time of year". 

So if you're having a hard time this holiday season and you just can't seem to get on board with all the "deck the halls" business, there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, there's nothing wrong with not having a holiday at all. And there's nothing wrong with having a holiday that doesn't feel like holiday or act like a holiday. Despite the tidal wave that is Christmas in our culture, you do not have to be merry if you don't feel merry. 

Just in case you needed to hear it from someone else who's a little less-than-merry. 

 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

Breaking up...with my relationship with food.

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"No, this isn't like any of the other diets. I'm changing my relationship with food." 

I heard these words from a client just the other week. She and her husband were taking a look at their budget (as we often do) and trying to find ways to trim around the edges. Having previously been a self-proclaimed chronic dieter her husband looked at her and said, "what about your Nutrition thing? Could you drop it?" 

When she said "NO!" her husband looked at her with questioning brows but she proceeded to explain to him that this wasn't just another thing. This wasn't going to be a temporary fix like the diets that had come before, but rather a long-term solution and an investment in her relationship with food.

I almost cried. And I would have been totally okay with it. 

Because, guys. Here is a kind, sweet, compassionate woman who, for years, has been battling with emotional eating and an unhealthy relationship with food - at times uncomfortable in her own skin, not proud of the things she had eaten and the accompanying shame she carried. But this kind, sweet and compassionate woman is now seeing the bigger picture. She is saying no to the obsession with shrinking and feeling like a stranger in her own body. And she is saying yes to being a powerful, radiant, autonomous human being who is the boss of her own body!

How beautiful is that? Because, yes, it is an investment. And just like any relationship, it takes time and nurturing. But it is always - ALWAYS - an investment worth making when you are left with the power to define what your relationship with food will look like and how it will empower you to be a stronger, sexier, more satiated woman. 

How are you investing in your relationship today?

 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

"I'm stressed out of my mind"

This is the No. 1 thing I hear from my clients as a nutrition coach. You might think it'd be something about diet or exercise, and while I hear about those too, nothing rings louder than the "I'm stressed out of my mind" plea from the men and women I work with. 

Whether it's the mom with four kids trying to remember to eat because she can't keep track of much else outside of the extracurricular activity schedule, or the overworked husband who can't seem to turn his brain off even after his 12+ hour days, or the twenty-something female struggling with her weight because school, friends, moms bad relationship with body image and her own struggles with disordered eating seem to take more energy than she has to give...the stories go on. But the story I want to talk about today is yours. 

Are you stressed? 

Let me rephrase. Are you struggling to lose weight even though you're trying to make strides in the kitchen or the gym? Do you find yourself eating emotionally whenever a particular event or interaction occurs, despite your best efforts? How about your self-care, does it exist? Do you battle with losing (and finding) the same 10 pounds over and over again? 

If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, it's safe to say you're overstressed. But, I probably could've guessed that. Because we're all stressed, overworked and overly busy, right? I mean, it's even a cliche to say we're busy because everyone's busy. I don't know what the heck that's all about. 

Let's talk about why your stress is keeping you from your weight loss goals. 

When stress is chronically high your body pumps cortisol and adrenaline like a well-oiled machine. When this happens, your "non-critical" functions like digestion, metabolism, immune function and reproduction are inhibited. The result of all of this chronic stress is hormonal havoc, reproductive dysfunction, muscle loss, fat gain and chronic fatigue. GAHHH! But that's the opposite of what I want, right!? 

Right. Less stress = more weight loss. But don't give up just yet. Because research shows us that even if you are currently under a lot of stress, there's still hope. People who are able to reduce stress while losing weight have better weight loss. In the big picture of weight loss we often talk about calories burned and calories eaten but we're missing one crucial component. It appears as though reducing stress may be just as important as reducing calories.

Diet + Exercise + Stress management and Self care = Fat loss

Okay. So, you're stressed. And reading this is making you more stressed because now you're stressed about your stress. Breathe deep my friends. Help is on the way. 

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If good health and weight loss is the goal, aim to get 6-8 hours of sleep (more if you’re working out  regularly) and make relaxation techniques a part of your day.

No, this is not the part where I tell you that you need to buy a yoga mat or start taking Tai-Chi, because there's even better news ahead - the activity you choose doesn’t matter. Say whaaaa?? It's true. The only thing that matters is the state you achieve by doing the activity.  For example, one person might be able to achieve a relaxed, parasympathetic state while practicing yoga. Me on the other hand, I use that 90 minutes to think about everything I need to do, everything I haven't done and...did I remember to turn the Crock-Pot on this morning!? Clearly, yoga isn't my activity. But again, it’s all about the state, not the activity.

Think about exploring activities that can help you get 30 minutes of quiet, restful, worry-free parasympathetic activity each day. Performing these activities regularly is the best way to get control of your stress. But just like with anything, it's not simply going to happen. You won't magically find the time, but rather, you'll need to invest the time to reap the rewards. 

Rest and recovery are as important as what you’re doing in the gym and what you’re doing in the kitchen. Because they aren't as segmented as we like to think. If you're stressed and unrested, do you feel like going to the gym? And if you do happen to drag yourself to the gym are you going to get a lot out of that workout? Likewise, if you're overworked and stretched thin are you going to have the mental or physical capacity to make the healthy choice over the teasing temptation? Obviously, the answer to all of these is no. 

So do yourself a favor and start taking care of your whole self. You know, your brain AND your body. Then, and only then, will you find the results you're looking for. 

As always, if you need some help with this, I have recently opened up three coaching spots. This time of year can be e x t r a stressful so don't let self care fall by the wayside. Manage your stress and work toward that sexy body with the help of a coach who can see you through to your goals! 

 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

...my first thought was probably just another crazy fad diet!

Let me tell you about my friend, Luke. 

When you look up consistency in the dictionary, you'll find Luke's picture there. Luke is someone who has spent much of his life dedicated to his health - both in and out of the gym. This time last year, Luke was willing to take his health and fitness goals one step further. Luke knew he wasn't looking for a quick fix, but was willing to start slow and focus diligently on changing his everyday behaviors to reshape his body and his life is a sustainable, life-giving way. 

Over the past year Luke has lost 20 pounds and over 8 inches, but Luke's story is less about what he lost and more about what he gained. But don't take my word for it, take his. 

"...my first thought was probably just another crazy fad diet!  Within a few weeks of lessons, I recognized advice that would be useful the rest of my life.  So glad I embraced and followed each lesson wholeheartedly.  After doing what I thought was pretty good on my own with nutrition and fitness, PN Coaching helped me lose 20 more pounds and 8.75 inches of total girth.  Outside results, such as muscles and definition never seen before, are nice.  More important are the inside results. Feeling years younger makes me believe PN Coaching improved my body’s functions contributing to better health. Who knows? I may have extended my life by years because of one decision to get serious about my appearance and health.  PN Coaching is about more than what to eat, when to eat it, and why.  For me, it was the start of a journey I intend to enjoy the rest of my life."

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Are you ready to try something useful for the rest of your life? Ready to say no to diets that last only days? Feel like your body is working against you? Learn how to stop dieting and start feeling better immediately. 

This is your opportunity to get in the best shape of your life, and stay that way for good! 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

Building A Base

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By, guest blogger: Patrick Hagen, Strength Coach

Preface: There will be several references to hiking and climbing as you read along here. Don’t let me fool you into think I’m an avid climber; but the illustration is appropriate.

 

As I scroll through fitness accounts on Facebook and Instagram I see an overwhelming number of videos and photos featuring amazing lifts, skillfully sculpted individuals and inhuman feats of strength. While there’s nothing wrong with this, so to speak, we fail to factor in everything that’s come before. We’re inspired or perhaps even jealous of the all-out max effort lift or the “ripped” physique without acknowledging the days-weeks-months and years that have led that person to that point. In most of these cases, someone has dedicated a lot of time to food prepping in the kitchen or working diligently on form in the gym (most likely both) in order to achieve these amazing results. I want you to think of these results as mountain peaks. In the split second we see these images, we get hung up on getting to the peak of the mountain and we forget all the terrain that needs to be crossed at the base of the mountain in order to support the steep climb up to the peak. It’s an amazing view from up there, but it’s also a long, hard climb up to that view. That’s what I’m here to talk about - building your base!

Let’s take a look at your mountain for second. Let’s pretend your mountain is an equilateral triangle. For those of you who did not like geometry, an equilateral triangle is a triangle where all sides are the same size and all angles are the same. So if your mountain is an equilateral triangle, the peak of your mountain will be determined by how big the base is.

Let’s say your goal is to lose weight, and your overall weight loss goal is 50lbs. The peak of your mountain is that new you, 50lbs leaner and lighter! If you’re like most of us, as soon as you set this goal all you do is worry about the peak of the mountain. How do I get there? Why isn’t it happening faster? I want it so badly! You’re so desperate to get to the top that you begin climbing at an unsustainable speed. You cut out a whole food group because someone on social media told you to, or you count every calorie that enters your body because it worked for your friend... Before you know it, you reach a plateau. Out of breath, tired and feeling defeated. Let’s stop here for a second though. Is this really a plateau? Or did you choose the mountain with the small base (not a lot of good habits to support you) in an effort to get to your peak faster? You chose the quick fix, but without a firm foundation there’s no way you can make it to the top.

Let’s rewind this scenario and choose the mountain with the bigger base. Before you think about climbing up, you take your time covering the terrain at the base. You learn the appropriate skills and practice the habits that you know will push you to the peak. Instead of resorting to extremes you focus on your hunger cues and what it means to eat to 80% full. You learn to slow your eating down and listen to your body. You focus on hydration and learn what amounts of carbs, proteins and fats work for YOU. This is your base. You now begin to climb, focusing on sleep and stress and how those affect your nutrition and vice-versa. You start to look at the quality of your food, not just quantity. But you don’t look at everything at once. Instead, you take one step at a time, working your way closer and closer to the top.

You are starting to realize this mountain might take longer to trek, and you might not always have a great view but when you do get to that view, it’s everything you were expecting and more. Picking the mountain with the bigger base pays off every time.

And yes, you’ll still hit plateaus and get out of breath, but you’ll have an arsenal of skills and healthy habits as your foundation. Even if you misstep, you wont’ slide all the way back down. There may be periods when you have to climb down a portion of the mountain (revisiting old habits) but you’re always moving, always making progress toward sustainable weight loss.

Any journey in the fitness world, whether lifting or nutrition will contain both peaks and valleys. And once you reach your ultimate goal you might find that there are new mountains to climb with even greater peaks. Or hey, maybe you decide to stay at your current peak and just enjoy the view for a while because it’s so damn great and you hiked your ass off to get there. Either way, appreciate a solid base. Don’t get so caught up with the promised peak that you miss out on the journey. Learn along the way. Take time to listen to your body and adjust based on your feedback. Put the work in at the beginning, create a solid base and the payoff will be grand. Don’t spend your whole life climbing only to keep sliding back down. 

 

PS. If you need help building a base when it comes to strength training, fat loss, injury rehabilitation or athleticism, this guy is who you want to see! Message me if you'd like to get on his client list. And, if you need help building that base when it comes to nutrition, you know how to reach me. 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

Take this QUIZ to find your holiday coping style!

Just kidding. There is no quiz. That's just what you're supposed to say to get someone to click on your link, right? Marketing ploys aside, read on and let me know if you can relate to any of these holiday coping styles. 

It's coming. The season of endless social functions, cocktail gatherings and incessant opportunities to justify your Santa-sized cookie consumption. It always happens, around this same time of year in fact, and yet most of us are completely unable to float through the festivities without gaining the weight of a Thanksgiving turkey (give or take a few pounds). 

You'd think we'd be used to it by now. You'd think we'd have developed skills and habits that allow us to both enjoy and sometimes indulge while still feeling great about ourselves, our bodies and where we're at in perspective of our health and fitness goals. But, no. Each year comes and goes and the New Years resolutions stay the same: "Lose 10 pounds", "Go to the gym", "Eat fewer sweets". I know the drill. 

But I'm here to tell you that you don't have to stay on that hamster wheel. Break free from the coping style that's no longer serving you and try something new - something that works! But before we get into that, let me know which coping style sounds the most like you: 

1. The Resolution Roadie: You love looking to Monday to start something new. There's a thrill to starting with a clean slate, although too bad it never sticks. The holidays are meant to be fun, festive and you're not about to say no to Christmas cake and cocktails. January is right around the corner, you'll start fresh then. It's a New Year! And in the meantime, you'll just wear that cute chunky sweater with those stretchy pants to hide the holiday bloat. 

2. The Justification Junky: It's all about calories, right? So if I'm going to my company Christmas party tonight, I'll just skip lunch...or maybe I'll just eat celery all day so I can afford to eat whatever I want tonight. It's all about balance right? Less good stuff leaves room for more bad stuff. It's the weekend/Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years after all. Maybe I'll just have one more drink - one more bite - and then go for a long run tomorrow to burn it all off. 

3. The Sentimental Sap: Cue the nostalgia. The holidays are full of so many special moments and you just can't wait to relive them all. I mean it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the turkey, stuffing mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie! And of course, we just HAVE to spend an entire day baking cookies (it's tradition!), keeping dozens in the house pretending we're only going to eat a few. The holidays only come around once a year, and my mother in law would just kill me if I didn't eat her sweet potato casserole (made with more marshmallows than actual potatoes). 

4. The Good-Intentioned Goon: Okay. This year is going to be different. I can't afford to gain weight like I did last year. I can swap those sugar-filled beverages out for seltzer and try to make healthier cookies for the kids...only before you know it, the calendar is full, your healthy swaps are less satisfying and you've resorted to eating the leftover pumpkin pie straight out of the fridge. Better luck next year!

It's no wonder January is most popular time for gym memberships and commercial diets. None of these coping styles leave you where you want to be come January 1st. Does it sound familiar? 

If it does, you're not alone. Many of us survive the holidays by clinging to one (or several) of these coping styles. But what if this year you did more than simply survive? What if you THRIVED? What if you learned healthy habits that applied whether you were eating in or dining out? What if you had a nutritional skill set that allowed you to enjoy holiday treats guilt-free and still make progress toward your goals? 

Sounds pretty perfect, huh? 

If you're ready to try something new this year and feel as though having accountability throughout the holiday season could help you stay on track with your goals, let me know. I'm starting a three month non-New Years Resolution Challenge that kicks off October 15th. This challenge will walk you through the craziest time of the year guilt-free. Show up this holiday season - authentically, intentionally and fully empowered to live the inspired, purposeful life that you crave. Because you can be free in your body, comfortable in your skin and still be in fa-la-la-la love with the holidays. 

Interested? Register using this link: https://goo.gl/forms/IeaNk6xKQeyV09Bh2 

Or drop me a message to start your non-New Years Resolution Challenge!! 

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Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear" - C.S. Lewis

Grief. What comes to mind when you think of that word? Losing a parent? Saying goodby to someone too soon? The loss of a loved one? That's what quickly comes to my mind. Grief, to me, has always been the emotional suffering I experience because someone has been taken away. 

But did you know that grief can also occur after the loss of something? Even subtle losses in life can trigger a grief response. In fact, any loss - that's personal to you in some way - can trigger emotional suffering and pain. 

I never really gave this much thought up until a week ago. It all started with a therapy session (oh boy, here we go). I started seeing a grief counsellor after my brother Kevin died. It's been over two years now and I still go to therapy. Because, yes, I'm still learning to cope with the loss of my brother but also because there are other areas of my life in which I experience trauma and/or loss and need the guidance of a mental health professional to, in essence, sort my shit out. 

We talk about all sorts of things like how sadness doesn't have to be a bad thing and how joy isn't something I need to constantly express to those around me, or how maybe I should get better at expressing anger once in awhile instead of suppressing my emotions...all that typical therapy stuff. But we also talk about my job, Patrick's job, finances, what our life goals are, how Patrick and I can effectively communicate with each other given our different attachment styles, my disordered eating brain and how that impacts my body and my brain today, even after six years of being in recovery.

It's because we talk about these things that I have a better understanding of just how closely my identity is connected to my ability to perform. Academically, occupationally, but also recreationally with tasks like staying fit and healthy, being active and eating well. For many reasons, this isn't ideal. Sure, it's okay to prioritise these things and value them, but who I am shouldn't be all about what I do or don't do. I learned this lesson back in 2012 with a fractured hip but apparently I didn't learn it well enough because here I am again in 2017 relearning the same lesson only this time with a fractured spine. 

When asked how I was doing in regard to my injury my response was, "I think I'm under functioning as a result of my depression" (clearly someone is a psych undergrad). Stephanie, my therapist, smiled and said, "Nicole, I know you well enough to know that you don't ever under function. Why do you think that?" I explained that I've been suffering with this debilitating back pain for over a year now and there doesn't seem to be any concrete guidance as to what I can do in order to relieve it and get back to my normal life. So instead of being proactive I feel like I've just given up and given in to being depressed about it. "I'm tired of talking about it. I'm tired of waking up in pain and going to bed in pain. I'm tired of doing half workouts. I'm tired of not being able to do all the things I want to do, so, I think I've just resigned to being depressed and dealing with chronic back pain for the rest of my life..."

You know what she said? "It sounds like you're grieving". Ha! As if. How can she say that? How can a back fracture cause grief similar to that of a lost loved one? That's ridiculous...isn't it? She went on to explain that just like after losing Kevin I had to grieve the loss of him but also the loss of my identity as a sister, the loss of a family of four, the loss of not only who he was but also who I was with him. I'm still learning all of that, only today, I am also learning to grieve the loss of the life I want to live/should be living/could be living. Instead of losing a someone I have lost a something. Both can push us into a grief response. 

Whether it's an injury or a miscarriage. Losing a job or losing a pet. The loss of a cherished dream or the loss of a relationship. Loss of health or loss of safety. Any loss can cause grief. The more significant the loss, the more intense your grief may be, but whatever your loss, it’s personal to you, so don’t feel ashamed about how you feel, or believe that it’s somehow only appropriate to grieve for certain things. 

So, while the purpose of this blog post is ambiguous I want to invite you to join me in taking a look at your life and identifying areas of loss that might need healing. Be gentle with yourself as the stress of a loss can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Look after your physical and emotional needs, and remember: 

- Trying to avoid feelings of sadness and loss only prolongs the grieving process. Unresolved grief can also lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems.

- Express your feelings in a tangible or creative way. Write about your loss in a journal or get involved with a cause or organization that was important to your loved one.

- Look after your physical health. When you feel healthy physically, you’ll be better able to cope emotionally. Combat stress and fatigue by getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising (but for those of you who are like me, remember not to over train or under eat). 

- There's comfort in routine and getting back to the activities that bring you joy and connect you closer to others can help you come to terms with your loss and aid the grieving process.

- Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment.

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Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

When was the last time you made the list?

As I reflect on our 1st Anniversary (eek!) I've been reminiscing on a lot of beautiful memories, but among them is a piece of advice I hope never to forget. 

Your marriage doesn't have to make sense to anyone but you. 

As someone who tends to care a little too much about what others think, anxiously worrying about how I might appear to those around me (regardless of whether or not those perceptions may be true), I found these words to be extremely refreshing. Not just in the sense of marriage, but life as a whole. Why should I be consumed by whether or not my marriage - my life - whether I make sense to anyone else? 

Why do I care? Why should someone else's opinion of me dictate what I do or don't do? Why should I live up to someone else's standards if they aren't also my own? What about what's best for me? Best for my body? Best for my life? 

^^^ Clearly, this is something I'm still working on.

But the point is, what if you (and I) applied this piece of advice to all other areas of our lives? Like our diet, for example. What if we ate, moved and made lifestyle decisions in a way that made sense to us, yielding everyone else's thoughts and opinions as inconsequential...like a suggestion box that never really gets looked at? 

Some of you reading this are thinking, "Oh, I could never do that", "But what if people think..." and others are shouting, "Hell, yes!!" Do you know why? Self-worth. 

We like to talk about it, but I'd argue that very few of us actually know what self-worth is or spend much time (if any) contributing to it. Sure, you know that without it your mental and emotional well-being will suffer, but do you know that YOU are the only one who defines your self worth? NO ONE else. Self-worth comes from within. It is, by definition, the value you place on yourself. YOU (and me), we are in control of how outside factors influence our inner sense of value. Outside factors like the actions, judgments, reactions, demands and expectations of others. 

Up until not too long ago I allowed these external sources to completely dictate my self worth. You're happy with me? Okay, I'm happy with me too. You're disappointed? Oh gosh, why am I failing? I need to try harder, do more, be better. I spent waaaaaayyy too many years trying to build my self-worth by meeting and exceeding every anticipated expectation and let me tell you, it sure is a shitty way to live. Because you never win. When your primary source of self-worth is everything around you there's a lot of room for disappointment, confusion and shame. 

Why, when you know yourself better than anyone else, do you give everyone else the power and control to dictate how much you're worth, who you should be and what you should do? What about your own strengths? Your individual potential? Are you blinded to those? Can you see your worthiness despite how you may be failing to live up to the external expectations around you? Many of us can't. Because we're not on the list. This list that somehow dictates what our priorities are and where our energy needs to be spent. This list that determines who is important and who gets loved, treasured and taken care of first. This list that teaches everyone around you that you come second, or dare I say, last. 

When was the last time you made a decision for YOU with YOUR best interest at heart? Sister, let me tell you, if you're not on the list we've got a major problem. 

A large majority of my clients (they're amazing people, let me tell you) struggle with making themselves a priority. They take care of so many other people, making decisions for everyone but themselves and guess what - they struggle with weight loss, disordered eating and body image, among other every day stressors. Why? Because they've forgotten that they too are amazing creatures who are worthy of love, care and belongingness. Sound familiar? 

You are allowed to be a priority. You deserve to make decisions that make sense for you. There will always be someone who can't see your worth, don't let it be you. 

Make the list. 

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Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

You're breaking my heart.

Did you know that according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting? Ninety-one percent. That means that women who dislike their bodies, engage in self-defeating, negative self talk and who are victim to the societal pressures of perfection are the MAJORITY. 

I think it's safe to say that being unhappy with who we are - what we look like - and how we feel is the perpetual struggle for the modern woman. Ladies, pardon my French, but this is bullshit. 

Would you tell your 10 year old daughter/niece/sister that her worthiness was dependent upon her body fat distribution? Her stretch marks? Her cellulite? Or the number of "likes" she gets on an Instagram post? Of course not! And yet, 81% of 10 year old girls are afraid of being fat. So, be it intentional or not, that's exactly what we're telling ourselves and the 10 year old young ladies in our lives.  

Before I dive into coaching with a client I like to ask them a few soul-searching questions so we can establish goals and resistance to change together. 

These questions look something like, "what do you want to achieve by going through coaching?", "why haven't you achieved this yet? what's standing in your way?" and "what might happen if you achieve this thing?" 

Recently, I enrolled 50 young ladies (aged 21-60) in my coaching program for a free 4-week Body Comp Challenge. The responses came flooding in and here's (a paraphrased version of) what some of them had to say in response to these questions: 

...because I hate my body. 

...I want to be able to get dressed and go out without feeling depressed. 

...I feel like hiding every time I'm out in public because I look disgusting. 

...I want to be confident with my intimate relationship. 

...because I want to believe my husband when he tells me I look beautiful.

...I don't want to run away from social situations because I hate the way I look. 

...because I want to like myself. 

Is your heart breaking? Because mine certainly did. After reading response after response, most of them fragrant with a similar tone of disgust and defeat, I was broken. Broken because I know how these ladies feel. We all see the same images on social media. We all hear the same critiques - whether of ourselves or of others - claiming to be too fat or too round or too this or that. It’s never been easy for women to deal with the ever-mutating standards of female beauty, but now more than ever (thanks to the incessant bombarding of air brushed perfection that crosses our social media sites each and every day) women constantly doubt and define themselves according to how they look - as if that dictates who we are as human beings, as women. 

What if we refused to let others dictate how we live our lives and what our bodies should or shouldn't look like? 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and are trying some sort of diet or weight loss system. That means, some of those women have perfectly healthy, beautiful bodies - something to be proud of - and yet, are still discontent and resorting to extremes in an effort to shrink and change their physical form. Where does it end? Do we ever arrive at a place where we feel happy, worthy and content in our skin? At what point do we stop and say, "I am looking pretty damn good and I’m OK with it"?

If we don't learn how to love ourselves despite not emulating societies standards of perfection (or whatever other unattainable standards we've built up in our heads), I don't think we ever will. Perfect is a state that is completely unreachable and mythological, but happiness is a state you can reach any time, anywhere, in any body you please.

You are a goddess. A warrior. A strong force of feminine power. Sure, sometimes you're a bit of a mess. And other times you don't feel strong or capable, but you are still a goddess. You are still worthy of all the love you yourself have to give. 

Life is far too short to go another day at war with yourself. It's time to fall in love with everything that we are - even our changing bodies that will wrinkle and sag with time. 

"You are imperfect. Permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful." - Amy Bloom

If you're looking for a way to nurture and nourish your body, while learning how to love it, let me know. I'm here to help. 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

Why you shouldn't waste time working on your diet.

How many times have you heard someone say (or have yourself said) something along these lines? 

"I need to work on my diet"

"I need to get more strict/serious and work on losing weight"

"Eating healthy/exercising is too much work. You only live once!" 

Last week I read an article about marriage. The article was discussing how marriage is less about working on keeping something beautiful than it is about continually building something beautiful and after I applied this thought process to my own relationship I thought, how true this is for nutrition too!

So often we dive into a diet/cleanse/meal replacement plan thinking, okay, I need to do this perfectly and then I'll lose weight. Then we (inevitably) fail, gain some, all or more of the weight back and look for the next answer to our weight loss woes. Why do we do this? Repeatedly? How on earth can we expect ourselves to execute something perfectly when we don't yet have the skills to execute something consistently? 

I am here to tell you that your nutrition is not something you need to work at in an effort to maintain perfection - a perfect meal plan; a perfect body, but rather, something that you continually build in order to construct skills that allow you to create a sustainable well-balanced diet that doesn't feel like work at all. 

With marriage, after all the vows and the va-va-voom, you're left with a piece of paper and a commitment, expected to create something out of nothing. WHAT!? What about the bumps, wrong turns and detours along the way to that Instagram-perfect picture of sacrifice, fidelity and love? Relationships are not prescriptive. What works for one couple might not work for another. There's no end or arrival, but rather a constant refinement of what works and what doesn't. 

Nutrition operates on the same principle. There will be bumps, wrong turns and detours. What works for your Isagenix-loving friend won't necessarily work for you. There will never be one ultimate and true diet that works for you regardless of slip-ups, sickness, emergency and inconsistency. Your diet (at least, an effective one) will be a constant refinement of what works and what doesn't. 

So why, WHY do we keep expecting it to be something different? 

Why do we spend so much time on trying to eat perfectly and be "strict"? 

Why do we spend so much energy on trying to create something out of nothing instead of building the skills that will get us where we want to go, albeit promising a longer road to get there? 

Why aren't we grateful for the detours and the distractions when they help us to better define what works (and doesn't) for our bodies? 

And why are we so afraid to invest our time and commitment into building something that will last instead of wasting our time and commitment on so many things that just. don't. work. 

It's time to stop working and start building. 

 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

 

This is for the intern

Yesterday at work, one of our summer interns said to me, "Nicole, I saw your blog and I loved it!" and instead of accepting the compliment for what it was, I rambled on about how I don't update content as often as I'd like to and felt reeeeaaaally guilty for not posting more regularly. The truth is, writing is therapeutic for me and I love that my stories might be, in the smallest way, relatable to what you're going through. But, writing is hard. It takes time and commitment, like any other habit and more vitally, it takes vulnerability. 

As many of you know, several years ago I struggled pretty aggressively with overtraining and underfeeding. As is often the case, after a few years of disordered eating my body started to break down. After my first stress fracture I was forced to change my eating and exercise habits to be more health-giving. My only coping mechanisms - running and calorie control - were, in a way, taken away from me. 

Flash forward half a decade and I've made a 180. I eat for fuel, not for fashion. I train for strength, not for skinny. And I use more helpful (and healthier) coping mechanisms to deal with my grief and the random shit life sometimes showers down on us. My life changed so much that I committed my career to helping other people - just like you and me - create healthier relationships with food and fitness. I couldn't be more confident that my past experiences make me a better coach and allow me to have more compassion for those who are struggling and I wouldn't change that for the world. 

And while I still had my struggletown moments (because let's face it, who doesn't?), I felt like I pretty much had things figured out. What on earth did I have to be blue about? 

Segue to the part of my life when I lost the one thing that was most important to me, my little brother. I experienced deep, soul-churning sadness, denial, anger, depression and all those other little characters depicted in Inside Out. The worst part of it all? He was gone and I had absolutely no healthy coping mechanisms to help me deal with the feelings that he left behind. I was certainly tempted to retreat back to my safety net of obsessive control and restriction, but that hadn't worked for me before, so why would it work for me this time? With the help of my then-boyfriend I stayed the course and continued taking care of myself (although it wasn't easy) - mentally and physically, because, even though it didn't feel like it, I was worth it.

Flash forward years of therapy and figuring out how to live with loss and learning how to take care of myself even when I just felt like feeling sorry for myself and I was doing ok. At least that's what everyone kept telling me. Saying that I was handling the situation with such grace (if only they could see how I handle it when no ones watching) and that I continued to be their inspiration for health and wellness (even when some days I didn't feel 'well' at all). Everyone kept talking about how much I had given when the only things I could feel were what had been taken away. 

I married that man of my dreams and to this day he continues to pull me out of the dark spaces and lift me up into the light. I still go to therapy (because grief is never truly gone, you just start learning the language a little better) and I'm still learning how to truly take care of myself. 

Today, today I'm twenty-eight. I've been learning to live life without a sibling and best friend for two years. I've been learning to live life without obsessive control and disordered eating for about five years. But I'm sorry to say that I haven't yet arrived. This is a lifelong journey my friends. There will be bumps and bruises, slip ups and slaps in the face. Take for example, my most recent stress fracture. 

A year ago today I injured myself at the gym. No big deal, I thought, it happens. My goal was to get better before our wedding in September. When that didn't happen I took an even more conservative approach and started going to PT. After months of corrective exercises, modified workouts and still no relief of the excruciating pain, I got an MRI that revealed I had additional stress fractures, this time, in my spine. Talk about a reality check. 

My life is now committed to health. Physical and mental. I spend each day working to build healthy habits that will allow me to live the life I want to live and be the person I want to be, all while learning to love the person I am today and where I am in that journey...only to find out that some consequences come late and suck can still happen amidst the sunshine. 

Is this injury a result of my current lifestyle? No, most likely not. Did I do permanent damage to by body by, at one time, valuing calories above my self worth? Yes, most likely. Is that a really hard consequence to accept when I worked (and continue to work) really hard at shedding that old skin? Yes, absolutely yes. 

So here I am friends. Broken, in more ways than one and still committed, each day, to learning how to love my body more and accepting myself, and my life, for who I am and what it is. Because, we're all human. And we all need permission to BE human. Say what you need to say, do what you need to do, be who you need to be. But please, please take care of yourself and those around you. Because this body is the only one you will get and your mind is a beautiful gift to be treasured. 

It's time that you were seen, appreciated and acknowledge for who you are - wherever you are at this particular moment in life. Show up authentically. Show up with your needs and desires. Show up with your wants and dislikes. Show up and be who you are, broken and unbroken. 

Because life isn't above the arrival, but the journey that takes us there. 

Unhappy Birthdays & Broken Bones

It's been awhile since I've shared anything other than Nutrition Tips of the Day <if you're not getting them, find me on Facebook!> and delicious, healthy recipes. And I wish I could say I had a great reason or even a halfway decent excuse, but the real answer is, I haven't wanted to. 

If you've read any of my writing before, you know I'm a self proclaimed perfectionist. My therapist confirms this, just so you know I'm not fabricating for dramatic flare. My self esteem and success revolves around my being able to execute and perform everything up to my own unreasonable standards as well as the standards of those around me. I'm unforgiving, both of myself and of others. I put my control in external factors and fail to appreciate internal mechanisms such as self worth and belongingness. And on a daily basis I fight with the critic inside my head that shouts some variation of, "you're not good enough!" 

I'm working on all of this, but, lately, it's been a real struggle. Because my life doesn't look like I think it should (I know, I know, does anyones?) Case and point: From about 2010-2013 I struggled with disordered eating. This was my coping mechanism for the stress going on in my life at the time, but the bottom line is, I failed to take care of myself - mentally or physically - during those years of my life. There were certain components of my life that were completely out of my control and I hated that (perfectionist, remember?), so I overcompensated by controlling my calories and my workouts to a detrimental degree. I've been in "recovery" for several years now, and just this past month I was diagnosed with ANOTHER stress fracture. My first thought was, "Seriously!? But I'm healthy now. Why is this happening to me?" The worst part is, I have absolutely no one to blame but myself. These are consequences to my actions, no matter how long ago they occurred. It's a hard lesson to learn twice, let me tell you. 

So here I am, coming up on my twenty-eighth birthday with fractured vertebrae, wanting to do just about anything but celebrate. Not because of my back. Injuries heal, whether they come with hard lessons or not. But because, for me, birthdays aren't just about celebrating another year of life anymore, they're a reminder of the life I lost, on my birthday, two years ago. The life of my little brother. I can't expect you to know or understand how hollow it feels to get Happy Birthday greetings on the day you found out your brother died from an overdose, but let me tell empty doesn't begin to describe the feeling. And please believe me when I say, I'm not asking for sympathy in lieu of celebration (please, none of that), I'm simply sharing my story - that's sometimes sad - because I have no doubt there are days when your life doesn't feel like the picture in your head too. Let's talk about it sometime.  

Birthday memories are now happy and sad, expectant and sorrowful. And you know what? That has to be okay, because this is my life. And I'm learning how to deal with this sadness and stress in healthy(ier) ways. What does that mean exactly? It means, making space for myself. Space to heal, space to grieve and space to grow. Space to focus on the things I can change and to let go of things I can't. Space to be obligation free and cry and laugh and do whatever the hell I feel like doing in that moment. Space to be me, scars, stress fractures and all. 

So tell me, how are you creating space for yourself? 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

 

RECIPES Galore!

Hi Friends. 

As a result of some delicious Insta stories and food prep videos over at @nutritionwithnicole, I've been getting requests left and right for these recipes. Give them a try and let me know what your taste buds think! 

1. Thai Turkey Meatballs 

This recipe can be made PALEO and low FODMAP, if you're into that sort of thing. Me, I just think they taste delicious. Go here for the recipe

2. Slow Cooker Hawaiian Shredded Chicken 

The perfect blend of sweet and savoury. This recipe calls for canned pineapple, but I used fresh, since it's that time of year! Go here for the recipe

3. Cuban Style Black Beans with Cilantro and Lime 

We paired this smart carb with the turkey meatballs and it was de-lish, but honestly, it could be paired with pretty much any protein and veg. Go here for the recipe

4. Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potato 

We love a slow cooker recipe because, easy peasy. But moreso, we love delicious food. And pairing kickin' chicken with a sweet potato is a good place to start. Go here for the recipe

5. Southwest Turkey, Vegetable and Rice Skillet 

Ever crave a one-dish meal that includes everything you need: lean protein, colourful vegetables, smart carbs and healthy fats? Here it is! We chose to omit the cheese and add black beans, but you do you. Go here for the recipe

6. Barbecue Chicken Casserole 

Here's one I haven't had the chance to try, so let me know how it is. Go here for the recipe

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

Addiction is not a disease we can enforce our way out of.

In 2016 there were 117 fatal overdoses in Lancaster County involving heroin, prescription painkillers and fentanyl, according to LNP.  This represents a 40% increase from 2015 and more than double the number of fatal overdoses from 2014.  

If you follow local news, or keep an ear to the recovery world, you might have heard that in some towns prosecutors have resorted to criminally charging drug abusers. Our own Lancaster County District Attorney, Craig Stedman even claims that “there seems to be a lot of sense to that specific approach.” 

My friends, this is not the solution. Criminal prosecution is, without a doubt, the wrong response to this public health crisis. I understand that this overdose situation is out of control and needs to be more efficiently addressed. But instead of expressing how "fed up and tired" we are about the opioid epidemic, let's commit to understanding more about - showing more compassion to - its victims. 

Addiction is a brain disease. Research demonstrates that there are chemical changes in the brain, even after ones very first exposure to opioids. Are we incarcerating people diagnosed with diabetes? High blood pressure? Of course not. We encourage help in these situations, outreach and referral to resources and community support groups. We offer advice, sympathise, maybe even empathise with these fellow men and women. But why, when it comes to the disease of addiction, do we pull away in disgust, criticise harshly with judgement and condemnation and rely only criminal prosecution in lieu of true solutions? 

Is it out of fear and a lack of understanding? Because that, I understand. I remember like it was yesterday looking my brother in the face as we sat squished in his hospital bed, after another overdose, asking him - begging him - if this could please be the last time. The last time he did this to himself. The last time he used drugs. The last time he put mom and dad through this torture. The last time...

I will never forget his answer, or the look on his face when he said, 

"I wish I could say yes, Nik" 

Would he have given up heroin to avoid 180 days in jail and a fine? I wish I could say yes. But having watched, lived with and loved a boy who wanted nothing more than to be well, to be whole, to be enough without substances, struggle year after year, day after day, fighting the disease he ultimately lost his life to the answer is very clearly, no.

Addiction is not a disease we can enforce our way out of. Education, counselling, treatment, intervention, and recovery communities...these are more worthwhile solutions to focus our efforts on. Solutions that speak to the person, not only to the "addict". 

(I know I normally talk about nutrition, exercise and lifestyle happenings, but every once in awhile you'll have to bear with me as I wear this bleeding heart on my sleeve. Some things are worth standing up for, no matter how many times you're pushed down.) 

RECIPE: Slow Cooker Chicken, Butternut Squash & Lentil Curry

Talk about a hearty comfort food esque meal that is packed with protein to keep you full. I didn't grow up eating curry, but now that I have my own kitchen with my own spice rack and am always looking for delicious, new, good-for-you recipes to test, I've been getting more creative with my culinary skill set. 

Enter, the curry. I slightly adapted the recipe from sweetpeasandsaffron.com to include more muscle-building protein (no surprise there), but otherwise followed the instructions to a T - mostly because there's only one simple step...."toss everything into the slow cooker". It doesn't get easier, or more tasty, than this. 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups red lentils (or any color, really)
  • 4 cups butternut squash, cubed (I keep the big ass frozen bag from Costco in my freezer)
  • 1 sweet onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons curry powder
  • ¾ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¾ teaspoon garam masala
  • ¾ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 19 oz can coconut milk- full fat
  • 19 oz canned diced tomatoes, including juices
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 6 large chicken breasts 

Directions: 

Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker and cook low 8 for hours. I wasn't kidding, this can't be messed up!

unnamed.jpg

I just enjoyed my first bowl and I can confidently tell you that it won't be my last. This meal is a stand-alone. It includes lean protein, smart carbs and healthy fats (not to mention you get a serving of veggies too!) AND it can easily be made meat-free for my vegetarian and vegan friends. We plan to enjoy this throughout the week with green salads, rice and roasted veggies. 

If you like spice, this is for you. 

If you like easy, this is for you. 

If you like food that can be pre-made for the week, this is for you. 

Have I convinced you to make it yet? 

 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

From one infected person to another...

I went to therapy this morning. My therapist told me I'm a perseverating ball of anxiety and that I need to get back into writing to bleed some of it out. So here I am. 

I haven't been writing lately, journaling or blogging. I thought it was due to "writers block", a busy schedule or a lack of inspiration, turns out I'm being avoidant. Basically because I stuff all of my feelings away, behind the skin stretched across my face that's always smiling, and don't truly acknowledge or feel them until I pause, embrace the stillness, and accept all the feels (even the really shitty ones - my words, not hers). 

And when you bottle that anxiety up for long enough, it festers and grows. Like an infected wound or a cancer. And it oozes into other areas of your life until you feel like your watching yourself from the outside, because this pathetic struggling soul can't possibly be you. 

In sum, my experience of life has been pretty crappy lately. In an effort to be perfectly clear, my life itself is the farthest thing from crappy, I am beyond blessed. But my experience of life, my personal reality has been a big pile of (insert smiling poop emoji here). Why? That's a question even I can't answer sometimes despite my very intention to do so. 

Some days I feel depressed. Other days I'm so anxious I find myself rubbing the middle of my chest, as if to get some relief. And some days, are just as they should be. Beautiful, happy. But lately, the beautiful days have been far and few between. It's been building, slowly. I've noticed it piling on over the past few days, weeks, even months. But in true firstborn I-can-do-this-myself fashion I kept shoving the gremlins down, pushing onward and upward, trying to exceed every expectation life, and those in my life, place on me. It's what I do (but I'm working on that). 

Are there signs? Oh, of course. Like crying half of my snow day away because the stillness, the not-being-so-busy-I-actually-have-time-to-feel was just too much. Or the fact that I have intentionally avoided thinking or talking about my dead brother and the grief I carry for the past several weeks. Or maybe the strong aversion to going anywhere or doing anything with people that require sincere emotional interaction. All reality. All signs I've ignored and trampled over because they don't fit my perfect illusion of what I want my life to look like. 

Not being happy, carefree and kind 24/7? What will people think? 

Taking an emotional health day because you're crying your eyeballs out over someone you no longer have in your life? Not acceptable. 

Staying in because you just need to be alone and work your shit out? People will start to talk...

The world doesn't leave space for mental health. I know this both professionally and personally. But then, what are we to do when we struggle? How do we acknowledge something the world doesn't choose to see? How can we talk about it when the conversation is never had?

You can only trample on and hide feelings for so long before they become physical manifestations. An illness. An injury. A headache. A digestive issue. If you shut your mental health out for long enough your body will find a way to express what it needs in other ways, until you're flat on your back and forced to face reality. So whether you listen to your body or your brain, please listen. Those feelings, those thoughts, they're trying to tell you something. And it might not be what you want to hear, but I promise it will be what you need to hear. 

Anxiety is not my friend. And it certainly doesn't belong in the perfect illusion of what I want my life to look like. But anxiety is a part of my reality. And you know what? That's okay. Because I know what to do about it. Pause. Breathe. Be still. Acknowledge the feelings. And I know how to release it. Write. Talk. Listen. Share. And whether or not anybody else is talking about it, I have to. Because beautiful, happy days and depression, stress and anxiety don't have to be mutually exclusive. 

If you're struggling with mental health, for whatever reason, reach out. Talk about it. 

Find someone who is willing to have the conversation. 

And check out the Campaign to Change Direction: http://www.changedirection.org

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

A public service announcement to ALL WOMEN, everywhere.

Ladies, 

I'm sorry. You have been wasting so much of your time trying to do the right thing, only to get unimpressive, unsustainable or absolutely zero results. And for this, I apologise. 

Everywhere I look I see magazines, and other forms of media, claiming to yield amazing results in just about seventeen seconds with little to no effort. I see ads and hear other women talking about wanting to "tone" or "lengthen" their muscles, without getting "bulky".  I have clients ask me what superfoods they can eat in order to get the tight tummies and trim thighs they see on other women...

and this kills me. Because society has done us a huge injustice by first telling us that our bodies are not good enough/beautiful enough/thin enough as they are, but now we're being told that in order to achieve the "ideal body" (or even just an appropriately fit one), we need some sort of special light-weight-only-cardio-crazed "toning but not bulking" magic muscle workout and diet plan so we don't get big and muscley (because, God forbid we embrace our strengths). 

So here it is gal pals, some hard truths. 

A muscle can grow or it can shrink, but there is no way to make a muscle longer or leaner or more or less tone.

How your muscle looks on your skeleton is affected by two things: 

1. Genetics. How long your bones are, the length relationship between muscle bellies and tendons, and insertion points determine what your muscularity will look like on your frame. I don't need to tell you that these things are entirely out of your control, barring some sort of crazy body-morphing surgery.

2. Body fat percentage. Individuals with a lower body fat percentage will have more of their muscle on display because there will be less fat covering it. The good news - this factor IS in your control, as it is primarily a result of your diet, training, sleep, stress management and various other lifestyle factors. 

So, if your goal is to look long and lean, and you stand at 5' tall and have short limbs, I'm sorry to break it to you, but you won't ever look like (insert your supermodel of choice here) - thanks to mom and dad. But that doesn't mean you can't still look absolutely amazing. You absolutely can. 

...More on that later.

Let's first clear a few things up about the big, bad word, "bulking". Bulking is defined as a muscle growth phase achieved by a caloric surplus. In other words,

You can not, and will not, gain muscle unless you are eating more than your body expends through activity. 

Yes, you heard that right. Building muscle is HARD work. And it won't happen unless you are eating a lot and intentionally training for hypertrophy "the act of building muscle". 

She's talking about heavy weights right?

No. Heavy weights do NOT make you "bulky". Muscle gaining programs - designed specifically to add muscle mass to your frame - incorporate a LOT of volume (to stress the muscles), time under tension, and progressive overload (in addition to a caloric surplus)...but that's getting a little scienc-y. The bottom line is, eating more than your body needs when muscle gain is not the goal and training is not geared towards hypertrophy, is what leads to unanticipated weight gain and a higher body fat percentage. This body fat is what covers your muscles, making them look soft and "untoned". Which sends you into a downward spiral, searching for the next fab food fad and/or exercise regimen, promising to deliver your dreams on a silver ab roller 2000. 

So here it is. Instead of focusing on getting "tight and toned" or "long and lean", you will get better, longer-lasting results if nutrition is your #1 focus. This includes the quality of what you're eating, as well as how much you're eating. The way your body looks, the way it feels and how it performs can all be significantly improved by how and what you choose to eat. And that answer isn't super sexy because it's not rocket science and it's not some "magic pill" that saves you from the commitment of consistency (which is why isn't not on the front cover of any magazine), but it is the truth. 

When it comes to activity, do what you love. Movement is great. Movement you enjoy is even better. You know what's great too? Building muscle mass. And here's why:

1. Your health. Advancing age is associated with a loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia). Preserving muscle mass can preserve strength, and strength is a predictor of survival as one ages. 

2. Your quality of life. Muscle growth improves function. Larger muscles are often stronger muscles, leading to improved daily functioning in most individuals. Have you ever needed to carry groceries from the car to the house? How about laundry? A baby? Additionally, because muscle is metabolically active, individuals with more muscle (and lower percentages of body fat) have better insulin control. 

3. Your appearance. Muscle mass improves your body appearance. Women who gain muscle mass while remaining relatively lean appear tighter, firmer, and more “toned.” Men who gain muscle mass while remaining lean appear stronger, larger, and more athletic. This is, of course, subjective, but most "I want to look like that" body types have a significant amount of muscle mass, along with a relatively low body fat percentage. 

No matter what your goal is - whether you want to get lean, get strong, or get super sexy so you look good naked, start with nutrition. Adjust accordingly based on what you're looking for (muscle growth, maintenance, fat loss, etc.) Then find a great training program that you enjoy and helps support your goals. If you need help with either of these, I'm here for you. If this is still confusing for you and you don't quite understand, that's okay! There's a lot of information out there that muddies the issue. I'm here for you. 

But ladies, for the good of womankind let's please throw out the terms "bulky" and "toned", and instead of dieting and exercising out of fear try eating and training for health because it allows us to feel good, live well

...and look hot as hell. 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

nutritionwithnicole - Food Prep Stories

Hi Ya'll 

Something new and exciting I've been playing around with - sharing some of my food prep stories on Instagram @nutritionwithnicole. If you're not currently following, and you like food, check it out! 

This weeks story includes the following recipes for you to try: 

Quinoa Fiesta Enchilada Bake 

Recipe adapted from: Skinnytaste.com

Recipe adapted from: Skinnytaste.com

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • cooking spray
  • 2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 tbsp chipotle en adobo sauce
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen thawed corn 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus 2 tbsp for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups feta cheese, divided*
  • 1 medium (4 oz) haas avocado, diced
  • 2 tbsp chopped scallions

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly spray a 9 x 12 baking dish.

In a medium saucepan cook the quinoa with broth according to package instructions; when cooked, fluff with a fork and set aside.

Meanwhile in a small saucepan heat the oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic and saute until golden, about 1 – 2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, cumin, 1/4 cup broth and chipotle en adobo. Bring to a boil and simmer 3 to 4 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, green chiles, corn, black beans and 1/4 cup cilantro. Stir in 1/2 cup cheese and mix. Place into baking dish and spread evenly. Top with enchilada sauce and remaining cheese. 

Cover with foil and bake until hot the cheese is melted, about 20 to 25 minutes. To serve, top with avocado, scallions and remaining fresh cilantro and enjoy! 

To make this recipe a delicious, well-balanced meal, we're pairing it with salsa chicken:

(chicken breasts + low sodium salsa + crockpot = easiest protein ever made)

Slow Cooker White Bean Tuscan Vegetable Soup  

Recipe adapted from: Afamilyfeast.com

Recipe adapted from: Afamilyfeast.com

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 cup diced onion (about 1 medium)
  • 1½ cups sliced carrots (about ½ pound)
  • 4 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2 cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Freshly ground black pepper (15-20 cranks from a pepper mill)
  • 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth 
  • 32oz lean beef roast, diced (boneless skinless chicken breasts would work too!)

Directions: 

Add all ingredients to your slow cooker. 

Set to LOW for 8 hours (or HIGH for 4 hours). After 8 hours, remove lid, stir and enjoy! 

Protein Pancakes 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup oats 
  • 1-2 scoops protein powder (I used pea, but whey works too!)
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1/2 cup egg whites 
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 TBSP almond milk 
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder 
  • cinnamon, to taste 

Directions: 

Toss all ingredients in a blender/food processor/bowl and mix until fully incorporated. On a nonstick pan/skillet/griddle coated with cooking spray, pour batter into desired sized pancakes and cook until slightly bubbled and firm. Flip and cook until done. 

Top with almond butter and maple syrup and enjoy! 

 

Double Chocolate Protein Cookies 

Recipe adapted from: ifoodreal.com

Recipe adapted from: ifoodreal.com

Ingredients: 

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 ripe avocado 
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats 
  • 2 scoops protein powder (I used pea protein, whey would work too!)
  • 1/4 cup dairy-free chocolate chips 
  • 6-8 TBSP dark cocoa powder 

Directions: 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking tray with in foil and lightly coat with cooking spray. 

In a bowl, mash bananas and avocado until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and stir until fully incorporated. With wet hands, mold batter into cookies and place on baking tray. 

Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven. Let cool and enjoy! 

 


Let me know what you think of one - or all - of these recipes. We can't wait to try them! 

 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well.