As you may know from my blog posts, I have learned to be extremely open-minded. Times are a'changin. Things we once thought were bad for us (butter) are incredibly good for us. What we thought were causes of heart disease (cholesterol and saturated fat) are actually the very things that PREVENT it. What we once thought saved us from heart disease (whole grains) are the very culprits attributing to it. And the one thing we thought made us fat (eating fat) is one of the key things that helps keep the pounds off. If we aren’t willing to be open minded, accept new research, and allow our views to evolve as we learn and grow, then we’ll keep getting caught in that vicious cycle of doing the wrong things in an attempt to be healthy. We will simply keep getting sicker, which is what’s been happening with the highest prevalence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer in the history of the world.
At one point I thought fat was bad for me so I bought low-fat things. At another, I thought vegetarianism was the gold standard, so I diligently ate meat substitutes. I used to think milk was necessary for strong bones, but now I am aware of that myth and how it can stand in the way of reaching health goals. I wrote an article for a major publication on the importance of fueling running with complex carbohydrates like bread, oatmeal and brown rice. I no longer believe this to be true and the approach I have to nutrition for running now is avoiding complex carbohydrates and fueling with real food. I once thought soy milk was heart healthy, so I drank it religiously. Clearly, I’m not perfect and not always right, but my mission is to provide you with up-to-date, evidence-based information and to reflect the research, not the dogma. You can count on me to always be seeking the best information to make all of us the healthiest we can be.
In school I obtained degrees in both Dietetics and Corporate and Community Fitness. Back in the day, we thought the equation for good health was 50%nutrition and 50%exercise, so studying both areas seemed to be the perfect balance. We were taught that calories were the foundation of weight balance; if we burned as many calories as we consumed, we'd maintain our weight, or if the outcome was in the negatives, we’d lose. Well, we were wrong; we now know that metabolism is MUCH more than just calories. Many factors impact metabolism: hormonal balance, stress, timing and food quality to mention a few — NOT just the “calories burned” number on the exercise machine. How simple do we think our amazing bodies are?
I used to believe in counting calories. My clients and college roommates know that I would wake up at 4:30 am to get to the Y when it opened at 5 so I could clock in 45 minutes on the elliptical or treadmill BEFORE I taught my 6:00 am Bodypump (weightlifting) class. Why? Because if I burned a lot of calories in the day, I could have a couple extra drinks that evening. Or dessert. Or both if I worked extra hard. Those days, I didn't go to bed until midnight or later, but I would obediently drag myself out of bed at the crack of dawn to get my butt to the gym. I continually made a conscious decision to sacrifice my sleep for workouts. I remember a specific moment when I was half-asleep begrudgingly logging my time on the elliptical at 5:15am. I asked myself if I truly thought it was healthier to sacrifice SLEEP to burn CALORIES. I was skeptical. Now it makes sense why I felt that way: because it wasn't healthy. It isn't healthy. I was doing more harm than good and deep down I knew it.
As you can see, my journey towards becoming the healthiest person I can be has been far from perfect. Sometimes I wish I knew then what I know now, but we can’t dwell on the past. We can only move forward. Life is a journey of living and learning and adapting along the way. I have had to go through the painstaking process of questioning everything I once believed, to making drastic lifestyle changes that contrasted everything I once “knew.” If you’re feeling frustrated at the time you feel you’ve wasted following diets that promised health and instead caused damage that you’re working to overcome, it makes sense to feel discouraged. Don’t let it get you down. You did the best with what you believed, and it’s never too late to change. Start un-brainwashing yourself NOW and be on the defense when it comes to your health. Stick to the basics: Real food for optimal health. Listen to your body, and consume all three macronutrients — protein fat and carbohydrates (PFC) — in balance. Nutrition is not low-fat. It’s not low-calorie. It’s not being hungry and feeling deprived. Nutrition is nourishing your body with real, whole foods so that you are consistently satisfied and energized to live life to the fullest. After all, isn’t that what this life is about?
I can assure you that the peaks and valleys have not been easy, but it has all been worth the ride. If there’s one important lesson I have learned through it all, it’s the necessity of maintaining an open mind. There are things I believe now that I would have vehemently opposed back when I was just beginning this profession. But that’s the beauty of life. Things change, and if you’re courageous enough to go where you feel the current leading you, it will bring you to a place in life you never dreamed you would be.
*The reason I used the picture from my first sky dive was because in the past it would have been something I’d be afraid of doing. I’m so thankful I was open minded because it ended up being one of the most empowering, liberating experiences I’ve had thus far in my life. When you open your mind, you unlock your future! 🙂