Ask yourself – what are your nutritional habits? You work your tail off in the gym. Everything is pre-planned from your spin class to your strength training days to your rest days. You aren’t necessarily tracking your calories but you are eating a well rounded, healthy diet for the most part. You have a few alcoholic beverages 1-3x a week and sleep pretty well but you still cant seem to get past a nagging plateau. I have clients everyday say that they eat ‘healthy’ and they think they are eating enough but they get crazy cravings for starchy foods like pastries and bread or sweet foods like chocolate and ice cream on the regular. There is NOTHING wrong with eating these foods, in fact eating what you like in moderation is highly encouraged, but there is a reason that your body may be having certain cravings, not budging when you ‘think’ you’re doing everything correctly. It may just be that the way you are eating needs a bit of a shake up. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results and when I work with clients who haven’t been seeing the results they are hoping for, I go straight for their nutrition and urge them to take a long hard look because something has to change.
I want to share my tips for what happens when your body is signaling that it needs a change in your nutritional habits.
If any of these or even ONE of these sound like you, I get it-I’ve been there and the best advice I can give is to take things 1 step at a time. Attack one of these points and nail it to the ground. Don’t try to re-haul everything all at once. Fat loss takes TIME and PRACTICE.
1) You have NO idea how much you are eating but know that you are eating ‘healthy’
I don’t even know what the term ‘healthy’ means anymore. So many people throw around this word healthy or ‘clean’ and its so convoluted because it means so many things to so many people. Clean to one person could mean NO sugar, NO processed foods, NO meat, NO dairy, NO gluten. (and good luck to them!) Obviously the term is meant to basically mean eat only whole processed foods with ingredients that you can pronounce and excess sugar. Of course I follow a mostly unprocessed way of eating but the term has gotten out of hand and makes us only think that we have to force-feed ourselves kale and quinoa everyday. It can make us feel bad about ourselves if we want to eat some M&M’s instead of the vegan avocado pudding.
Bottom line: Healthy is an umbrella term and there is no straight up definition. Eat what you want in moderation and just because you are eating ‘healthy’ doesn’t mean you should be automatically losing fat. For post workout meal today I had 1C of low fat milk and honey nut cheerios. I didn’t have a lot of time and it was the perfect combination of protein, carbs and fat for my body after my upper body lift. Was it the ‘cleanest’ ? Nope. I don’t really care. It was delicious and as long as it fits in my daily caloric intake, I can eat it! For lunch i’ll have a big salad with chicken and some avocado, so I make sure to balance my meals daily. I urge you to TRACK YOUR FOOD. If you aren’t seeing progress, I encourage you to track a few days worth of food in MyFitnessPal. Every single thing you eat. There are plenty of databases that help guesstimate what you should be eating in a day such as www.IIFYM.com and click on ‘calculators’
2) You wake up very hungry or wake up in the middle of the night very hungry
If you have poor nutritional habits, in the sense that you’ve been on a pretty big calorie deficit for an extended period of time; I mean very big calorie deficit, a few things will happen to your body which include:
- You will stop losing fat
- you will be fatigued
- You will crave junk
- You will wake up hungry in the middle of the night and/or morning
When are on an extended calorie deficit, this will limit the amount of hormones released that we need to function on a day to day basis which can cause all of the above and also fogginess, loss of concentration, depression, achy muscles, amongst other things. When are aren’t taking in a balance of calories and nutrients, the hormones get all sorts of messed up causing inadequate sleep which thus can impact cortisol levels even more.
If you wake up ravenous or wake up in the middle of the night from hunger, I URGE you to increase your calories a bit which will also help with metabolic damage. My best advice would be to add protein and starchy carbs to your dinner meal such as sweet potatoes, rice, salmon or chicken. You will not gain weight, you will most likely help to jump start metabolism and your body and hormones will thank you. If you do not want to add so much food to your dinner, try a glass of 1% milk or cottage cheese or rice cake with peanut butter. Get in a couple hundred more calories and gradually you will begin to feel like a million bucks!
3) Your workouts plummet and/or you are losing motivation to workout
I have experienced overtraining and under eating, luckily many of you never experienced nearly what happened to me with my health scare 4 years ago, but rather, you did experience the agony of tired muscles, loss of motivation, lack of recovery, and fatigue all of the time. I know when I get to the point where I DON’T want to workout, I need to rethink the way I am eating. Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand so it is not at all surprising that when you lose motivation to workout, this usually is because your diet is lacking in some MAJOR ways. If you are going to the gym and even two days off in a row doesn’t give your body enough time to feel energized and ready to crush your next workout? Lets take a look at what you’re eating. With workouts, less is more. These days it is SO hard to just do a ‘hard’ workout. We take to instagram and we see these women with washboard abs with hashtags #sosoreandloveit #havetobesore #2hourworkoutcrushed #2ndworkoutoftheday #iliveatthegym. These sound terrible. Soreness isn’t the sign of a good workout. Stop basing your workout on instagram. You are your own person with your own needs. Looking at these IG posts can not only make you depressed as if you are not doing nearly enough, but also force your body to emulate what they’re doing; why would you want to be someone you are not?
Take a week off. That is my advice here. A FULL WEEK. This doesn’t mean go running or do HIIT workouts. It means REST;
- Pick up a book
- Revamp your eating habits
- See your friends
- Go to a movie
- Do a a puzzle
- Play with your dog (thats me!)
I don’t care, but stay away from the gym besides just for light mobilty or yoga
4) You want to eat a meal before your meals
This is a sign I am all too familiar with. When I was eating in a low calorie deficit for an extended period of tie, one of the most obvious symptoms I noticed was that I always wanted to eat before I ate. Does that make sense? As I was throwing dinner together, I wanted to have a rice cake and peanut butter with some chicken. Like, no big deal? but thats about 200 calories of food. Thats a small snack and I wanted it right before dinner and was still ravenous for dinner. It’s as if I had that bottomless pit feeling all day. No food satisfied me and I found that I was trying to curb hunger by munching on celery or raw veggies which have next to no calories. “Oh this will fill me up” WRONG. I knew after weeks of this that I needed to add more calories to my diet and for me, I preferred these calories be in the evening.
Another thing we have to stop worrying about is how many meals a day we’re eating. That is one of the greatest nutritional habits. The body is an amazing thing and it basically knows macronutrients. Calories, carbs, protein and fats. You can have 3 meals or 6 meals. You can SWEAR that intermittent fasting is the ‘only way to do things’ or that eating 6 small meals is king. Let me let you in on a secret. It does not matter. As long as you are hitting your macros, you can eat however many times a day that you want! This means, if you want an afternoon snack before dinner but previously ‘scared’ that this would make you fat, think again. You may just need that afternoon 250-300 calorie meal to keep hormone levels at bay and ensure that you are eating enough throughout the day for your activity level and body!
5) Nutrition and Exercise are ALL you think about- therefore, you STRESS
Again, this one hits home! After every show I did, all of my coaches and co competitors know the drill, its a slow reverse diet and ease back into the workouts. There is no NEED to get back to the gym ASAP, in fact I took a few days off from the gym because my body felt weak from the peak week diet. After I regained some proper nutritional habits, I couldn’t help but want to maintain that ‘show body’ To say it was all I thought about was an under statement. I will honestly say that I have NEVER had an eating disorder, but I have certainly had some disordered eating habits that took me years to get out of. If we are working hard in the gym and working hard to eat clean and healthy foods outside of the gym, it’s no surprise that this can consume your entire being.
- What time is my workout
- What is my post workout meal
- I forgot my post workout meal, OMG I don’t know what I’m going to do
- My best friend planned her party at the same time that I have scheduled spin class that I CANNOT MISS
If you have ever had thoughts like this for an extended period of time, you know it is time to back off and take a deep breath. Not to mention too much thinking about something can cause STRESS which is one of the #1 silent killers of fat loss and health. Stress increases cortisol, cortisol makes you fat. It’s simple. There is absolutely, NO NEED to think about diet and exercise 24/7. The thought of that now just makes me cringe. I spend all day training clients but I make sure to have a balanced lifestyle by reading books and playing board games, dressing my dog up (just kidding, kind of) seeing friends, drinking wine and eating cereal. You need to take a step back if this bullet point speaks to you. Just CHILL. Your body and your mind is not going anywhere and I PROMISE you, nothing will happen to your body in 5-7 days.
In conclusion: lets be real here. You KNOW if you feel off. Not just ‘oh I’m not in the mood to workout today” off, I mean your body just isn’t right.
- You’re hungry
- You’re edgy
- You’re not sleeping well or really tired
- You’re body is achy
These are signs that you NEED to take a break and look at your nutritional habits.
- If you’re not eating enough, you have to be patient, increase calories by 5-10% and get your hormone levels stabilized in order to get out of this metabolic damage.
- If you are eating too much, figure out your TDEE using an online calculator (note: these aren’t spot on, the are an estimate) so you can figure out how to eat within your range.
- Listen to your body and track your food for a few days to make sure you are eating the minimal amount of what you are supposed to. It may be shocking to you to discover that you need to eat more in order to stabilize hormone levels and get your body to budge. If you choose to read this and continue to not do anything, thats your choice but I would really try to work on attacking one or two of these items if you felt that this post hit home!