Thanks to Oakley Women and Shape Magazine, I was able to have an amazing venue to speak about topics that have changed my life. Because "healthy" can be a word that is often overused and not clearly defined in our society, I enjoy helping others live a more balanced lifestyle.
In San Diego, Boulder and DFW, I spoke to over 600 women (combined) for over 6 hours (total) and loved every minute of it. When you are passionate about something, it is easy to talk about. But when you can practice what you preach, it is easy to communicate to others with happiness, joy and satisfaction that the lifestyle that you live is so amazing that you hope that others can share it with you. Sure, this can be taken out of context as many people strive for a lifestyle that is unrealistic, extreme and often, unhealthy but I feel that to be healthy, you have to be happy. Sadly, as many people go about changing habits, they are not happy and feel that only the end result will bring happiness. With tomorrow being my golden birthday (wow - turning 31!!) I can only think back to the last year and smile when I think about all that has happened, thanks to a balanced life. Living a healthy life is not about a number on a scale, sticking to a certain diet or bragging about how many hours of weekly exercise you can do. Living a healthy life is about your quality of life and I hope my 7 top tips for balanced living, help jump start or enhance your journey to an active and healthy lifestyle.
Keep in mind that it's not about how well you balance everything on your plate but instead, making sure everything you do has a purpose and brings meaning to your one and only life. You don't have to be perfect or be like others. It's better to be really awesome and great at a few things (and spend the time working on being great) than to be OK at a lot.
1) Develop a mindful eating plan– Eat with attention and intuition. Does anyone not like to eat? Eating mindfully means that you don’t feel guilty when you eat and you always feel better after you eat than before. To eat mindfully - you have to eat! Aim for 3 balanced meals a day to nourish your body and then snack wisely. Snacks should serve 3 purposes: to fill in nutritional gaps between meals, to control blood sugar and to honor hunger.
2) Train smarter to train harder – You don’t have to be a triathlete, training for an Ironman to be "healthy". You also don't have to be a "runner". Recognize the difference between training for an event and exercising. Remove the pressure that you have to do x workouts a week and for x-minutes a day and just focus on ways that you can move your body more - athlete or fitness enthusiast. In addition to your current cardio routine, I recommend to strength train 2-3 times per week, add in yoga, cross training and flexibility work. Also, if you own a GPS –HR enabled device, be sure you know how to use it for consistent training? Take advantage of gadgets, equipment and anything else that will take the guessing away from working out and will help with more consistent performance gains. Thus, training harder by training smarter. Focus on quality workouts, not quantity. For more info, read here for an article I did on training smarter.
3) Develop a positive relationship with food and the body – Consider this example. I bring Campy into the vet and put him on the scale. He has gained 5 lbs and in disbelief, out-loud I complain "uggh, how disgusting". The vet, on the other hand, doesn't seem to be concerned as he is telling me how healthy Campy is, how strong his bones are, how he has a good heart beat and that he is really fit and happy. However, I hear nothing of how "healthy" he is because I am obsessed with that number on the scale. So, as a result, I think about how I can get that weight off...quickly. Detox, cleanse, over-exercise, restrict his food.....Should I exercise him obsessively during the day? Should I cut out carbs and his calories? Should I not take him to the doggy park because they other doggies are going to notice his extra wiggle and talk about how bloated he looks? Should I put him on detox for 5 days?
Certainly, I'd never do that (I only give him lots and lots of kisses because he gives me unconditional love every day) but that just sounds like crazy talk, right? But what about you all or someone you know. Do you let a household appliance tell you how your day is going to go? Are you going to let numbers tell you how to eat, how to exercise and how to act for the day....do you let a number run and ruin your day and affect your self worth? Certainly the scale can be a positive thing but for many, it is used irresponsibly.
I want everyone to designate at least 2 rooms of your house (the bedroom and kitchen) where you avoid using words like bad, off-limit, restricted, cheat, fat, skinny, gross.. Stop counting calories, see food for nutritional value and give your body a little credit for what is allows you to do on a daily basis like crossing finishing lines and being productive at work. Every time you look at your body - thank it, don't bash it.
(Campy says he doesn't care how much you weigh.....he has a lot of love to give and doesn't judge people by a number on a scale. I agree.)4) Welcome change by relying on the power of goal setting – Do you like change? Change can be scary and it can be exciting. One of my favorite quotes is "if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you." If you have goals in your life, don’t wait until tomorrow as there is no perfect time to get started. Set 3 short and long term goals, in the areas of lifestyle, exercise and nutrition to keep you motivated and excited to wake up every morning wanting to see what you are capable of achieving by the end of the day. Life doesn't always get easier, you just discover new limits.
5) Think beyond diet and exercise: work on sleep, stress and attitude management.– Everyone wants to blame diet and exercise when it comes to "health" and there's always a quick diet and exercise fix/fad to help us be "healthy". As an athlete and coach, I know that there are many variables that affect performance and to be a good athlete, you can’t just focus on the miles or a perfect nutrition plan. For a balanced lifestyle, focus on the other variables in your life that can affect your health. Aim for a restful night of sleep most days of the week and surround yourself with people who give you energy and not take it away from you. You can't avoid stress but you can know how to deal with it with an action plan. Make time for you, don’t be afraid to say no and make your health a priority.
6) Prioritize a real food diet. – In my mind, one of the most important components of living an active and healthy lifestyle is to create a balanced eating plan that prioritizes “real” food. The keys to longevity are not special K bars, coconut ice cream, kale and chia seeds , but rather a diet rich in foods that are straight from mother nature, from the Earth. Every day you can emphasize foods that are produced by farmers and made in gardens or chemical "food" concoctions created in a factory. Think about emphasizing foods that your body knows how to metabolize and use. I don’t believe in off-limit foods or “bad” foods but rather to emphasize foods with little to no ingredients and when you choose to indulge be sure to savor and enjoy that "occasional/de-emphasized" food – don’t devour it or stress about it.
To help you reach your fitness, health and body composition goals, consider a plant-strong diet filled with colorful fruits and veggies, alongside lean/low-fat protein, heart-healthy fats and whole grains. It's not about what you do occasionally that matters but what you do regularly.
7) Adapt to training stress with nutrient timing and sport nutrition –
Now that we covered 6 tips, it’s time to talk Sport nutrition. When it comes to sport nutrition, I do not expect you all to formulate your own sport drink or energy gels.
There’s no reason you need to make your own protein powder. Sadly, however, many people
confuse or associate the daily diet with sport nutrition and thus, many people have no idea how to properly "fuel" workouts when the body is under a tremendous amount of stress. Sport nutrition is there to support the physiological demands of training. When you are running for an hour, your body needs fuel. When you are sitting behind a computer at 3 in the afternoon, your body does not need an energy drink so you can sit for 2 more hours.
When it comes to eating before a workout, your choices should be easy to find, easy to prepare, easy to consume and easy to digest. Yes, you should eat a high fiber diet to keep you satisfied throughout the day and you should monitor your portions and calories to meet your individual needs, and Yes, you should eat protein and whole grains throughout the day. But before a workout your primarily focus is energy dense food– foods that can digest quickly so you can focus on your workout, not on digestion. During a workout – fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates depending on the intensity and duration of the workout. And immediately after your workout, your body requires quick recovery fuel - generally protein, but often a mix of carbs + protein.
If you are an athlete or fitness enthusiast, focus a bit more about how you are fueling around your workouts so that your body is primed to perform when you want it to perform. As for the rest of the day, nourish it so you can do it all over again tomorrow.
For more info, I have many articles and blogs dedicated to sport nutrition, here is my most comprehensive blog post on sport nutrition. If you need additional help, email me via my website and we can discuss my services to help you move closer to your fitness and health related goals.
When you have a healthy relationship with food, have a positive body image and appreciate food for fuel and for health, your life will change and you will find yourself living a balanced life. Remember, if you don’t take care of your body, your body won’t take care of you. Don’t forget to thank your body on a daily basis.