Category Archives: sane eating

Healthification of junk food


Healthified Junkfood:

I see it all around these crazy interwebs. Recipes for your favorite recipe but HEALTHY now or LOW CALORIE!! The ones that try to mimic some junkfood that you think that you shouldn’t eat.

There are a few varieties of this that you can find:

The recipes that try to reduce the calories by using artificial sweeteners and maybe ‘lite’ ingredients (which do have less calories but are usually laden with additives).

Or the “healthy” variety which use whole foods to recreate your ‘favorite’ food. I found a recipe the other day that was almost the same calorie count as the treat that was being substituted and yet a huge number of sugars because of the excessive use of dates in the recipe.

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You BETTER eat your Breakfast OR maybe you should skip it?

IMG_1107Nutrient timing is for the dogs…or is it?

This article is fantastic for breaking down some of the different aspects of nutrient timing. Some of the myths and some of the things you have heard your whole life: you better eat your breakfast!!!

What the article underscores is that if you are not an endurance athlete or a body builder, but just someone who is trying to maintain or lose weight in a sensible typical manner by eating whole, unprocessed foods and getting some exercise, you *really* don’t need to worry about nutrient timing. Whew…thats a relief!! BUT the article also underscores the need for you to experiment and figure out what works for you because ultimately…everyone is different.

I’m about to use myself as an example, which is not scientifically significant as I am a data point of one, but the truth of the matter is that no volume of scientific journal articles will really tell you about YOU and how YOUR body does best with its own food timing. Journal articles can give a place to start, but ultimately if eating a certain timed way makes you feel the best, chose the best food for your body the most frequently and supports your level of activity then that is the right meal timing strategy to chose. Some people need to eat more frequently, some need to eat less frequently. There really is no wrong or right about meal timing, but what ultimate nutrient timing is best for you is whatever timing strategy that supports you choosing healthy, whole, unprocessed meals majority of the time. As far as meal timing, I may not be the best case study as a former endurance athlete and currently in training for kettlebell sport. But one thing I can provide insight into is that at any given time what your body needs may change. You need to be always adjusting and challenging what works and what doesn’t work for YOUR body because ultimately it will give you the best feedback overall of what really is working.

Here is my story of exploring meal timing:

Back in 2000 I visited my first nutritionist because I realized I had gained some weight and needed to lose about 20lbs. First thing she did…put me on a 6 meals a day plan. One thing I found helpful about eating more frequently is that for me it helped me not eat so much at my main meals. I also started food logging. So…were lots of little meals the right choice? Or was logging my food? I don’t know but the combination did work for me at that time and I lost some weight.

Then I went to grad school and meal timing became somewhat non-existant. I don’t actually recall what I did most of the time. I just remember it being stressful. The last 10 months got extremely stressful and I gained 20lbs. No bueno. What ever I was doing, didn’t work  for me…at that time. This was most likely because the last 6 months I hardly exercised. Your body can’t distinguish between ‘good’ stress like exercise and bad stress like writing a dissertation. There is a limit to the amount of cortisol load from stress that a body can handle.  I was so stressed out I remember running a mile and it just being too freakin hard to do.

Then I graduated, moved and got into endurance sports, found a new nutritionist and got a little freakish about meal timing…exercised a lot…lost 18lbs of fat…gained 10lbs of muscle while endurance training. Since I was endurance training, nutrient timing IS suggested and it definitely worked for me…at that time.


Then in 2010 my body had enough of all this high volume endurance stuff and I got mysteriously sick, which was diagnosed as possible overtraining syndrome. After I got sick, I don’t remember what I did for food at that time, but it felt like I didn’t eat much but magically gained 15lbs. Guess what ever I was doing didn’t work for me…at that time. 


July of 2010 I discovered kettlebells and the next year I spent falling in love with kettlebells, training for my RKC certification and believing I was eating appropriately, but when it came down to it after 7 months of kettlebell training all I had to show for it was 4lbs of fat loss and 2lbs of lean muscle gain. At the time I was still in ‘endurance training’ mindset and still eating 5 meals a day because that was what I was used to doing. Since I was training pretty hard for the RKC my food intake supported all of my training so I got a lot stronger, but I had wanted to drop 15lbs I gained when I got sick in 2010. For me there was nothing magical about kettlebells and fat loss (and in truth 80% of fat loss is what you eat, not what you do) so all of my fussing about nutrient timing really wasn’t working for fat loss at that time.


July 2011 I joined Lean Eating over at Precision Nutrition and discovered a lot of new habits. I discovered that I was eating out of habit and not because I was hungry and I had this idea that being hungry was a bad thing.  I discovered I was eating because my scientific brain was telling me I *should* eat but not listening to my body of when I needed to eat. This lead to me taking out my morning snack and eating only 4x a day instead of 5x.  When I started to listen to what my body needed and not the idea of I needed a certain number of meals, I started to lose weight. Which worked for me at that time.  


20120603-134028.jpgI have also experimented briefly with intermittent fasting (leangains) and what I found was that for me…chronically doing intermittent fasting was a really bad idea for me for a number of reasons.

     1) I was training in the morning before work so working out and then not eating to lunch really screwed up my system even my sleep!

     2). I couldn’t focus for the life of me in the morning.

     3). It threw me into a crazy afternoon carb craving and I started craving and eating things that didn’t support my goals.

This didn’t work for me…at that time.

Below is the nutritional hierarchy of importance of eating according to PN that you should focus on first before you even worry about meal timing. Once those are squared away and you are doing them consistently…meal timing is a piece of the puzzle to take into consideration, but for most of us it is best to first figure out the How, Why and What we are eating and then possibly start experimenting with the When afterwards with some personal experimentation.

Your nutritional hierarchy of importance

  1. How much are you eating?
    (Recommendation: Eat until satisfied, instead of stuffed, follow PN’s Calorie Control Guide .)
  2. How you are eating?
    (Recommendation: Eat slowly and mindfully, without distraction.)
  3. Why are you eating?
    (Hungry, bored, stressed, following peer pressure, social cues, triggered by hyper-rewarding foods?)
  4. What are you eating?
    (Recommendation: Minimally processed proteins, veggies, fruits, healthy starches, and healthy fats.)
  5. Are you doing #1 to #4 properly, consistently?
    (Recommendation: Shoot for 80% consistency with these items before moving on.)

And only then consider…

  1. When are you eating?
    (Now you can consider breakfast, late-night, during your workout, etc.)

For me I have settled into 4 meals/day. 3 main meals and then a snack in the afternoon. The snack tides me through my evening training so I feel fueled up and not hungry. This works for me…at this time.

That being said, I am challenged by the PN article to try something different. One thing I have learned is that I can’t abandon breakfast because I saw with my ‘leangains’ experiment that it wasn’t helpful for me to skip breakfast, but I’m wondering how my hunger/eating would change if I ate a heavier breakfast? I usually only consume 300-400 calories in the form of a protein shake. I wonder if I ate solid food and ate around 600-700 calories how I might feel differently throughout the day? I know on weekends when I have a big brunch I will eat brunch and then maybe dinner. This could be an interesting experiment…

What kinds of experiments do you think you would like to try?

Eating Breakfast?

Eating more (5-6) smaller meals a day?

Eating only 3 meals a day?

Skipping breakfast?

Challenge your assumptions and see if you can figure something new about how best your body runs. Give it a try for a month and then see if you see any positive changes.

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Trying to be prepared

It’s been a wonderful weekend full of travel, fun, and friends so the last thing I really felt like doing when I got back to Vancouver is cook a bunch of food for the week.  I started to think about this week, I realized the week is full of evening commitments and general chaos and mayhem…but I knew I still needed to figure out what to eat for lunches and snacks or I’d end up eating out too much and resorting to protein ‘bars’. Protein bars are marginal choices when you are in a pinch…but too many of them are glorified candy bars and filled with all kinds of unpronounceable items, sugar alcohols, and really aren’t that great nutritionally. So in an effort to keep things as easy peasy as I could, I realized I really only needed to fix one dinner (and survive on the leftovers), something for lunch and make some snacks.

So my easy peasy go-tos are:

Clean and put some fresh fruit in a bowl for snacks and munching


Lunches this week will be salad with chicken, a few almonds, a little bit of goat cheese, a few tablespoons of pomegranates. I can easily eat this every day for lunch.


Snacks each day:  2 hard boiled eggs and half of a yellow pepper


And ‘cheater’ chicken as a friend of mine calls it. Sometimes you just have to resort to the rotisserie chicken as it is easy in a pinch. So I shred all the chicken for the week for my lunches and prepare my lunches the night before.

For dinner for the week I picked up some pasta sauce that doesn’t have any sugar in it and some hamburger. I’ll brown that up with some onions on Wed when I will eat at home and steam some veggies to go with it. On Wed, I’ll add a potato as it will be post workout…but on Thursday it won’t be…so I’ll have a double serving of kale or asparagus and mix it all together. I would have cooked up some spaghetti squash to serve the hamburger over…but alas…this girl didn’t prepare quite as she should have and let her spaghetti squash go bad and now I have no pretend ‘spaghetti’ for my spaghetti sauce…which really isn’t that big of a deal as I’m content dishing it up over veggies.

Another easy to cook up meal would be picking up some fresh fish and doing a quick pan fry up and serving over veggies.

It’s always good to have a few ‘go-to’ meals that are easy to throw together when life just gets TOO busy and maybe the planning for the week’s meals just didn’t quite come together. That’s life…and just happens sometimes.


Change is sometimes hard. Moving is considered top 10 most difficult life changes for a person. Sometimes I laugh at myself because I tend to throw myself into new things, but forget I’m really not in love with huge amounts … Continue reading

Bacon and wine

20131020-224103.jpgI owe this blog an update on IGSF Worlds that was in Athens, Greece two weeks ago…but I need to save that for another day at the moment.

Since Worlds has been over for the past two weeks I have not been on a DIEt. I have another post coming on being on a DIEt, but think of every bad thing related to DIEt and DIEting and that was my most recent experience with needing to lose 10lbs for Worlds.

But that is not my point at the moment. Needing to lose 10lbs for IGSF Worlds was necessity and very specific and being restrictive I knew would last for an extremely short amount of time. But life is not confined in those types of little boxes and now that I have relaxed what I eat and when I eat it.

You see…I believe in moderation. Since I had something very specific, like a timeline for weigh-ins for IGSF Worlds…I was extremely strict with my diet. And I was OK with that. There was an end point for that DIEt. (and yes…i am emphasizing DIE in DIEt…because it is no fun). It was specific. It was measurable. But it wasn’t fun. There was minimal sugar, no alcohol, regimented food intake, lower carbs, and in general…food was a chore. The reason I say it was a chore was because it was all about macros and carb counts and calorie counts. I pulled out my body bugg and checked my calorie expenditure and tracked my stepps taken. Did it work? yes. Did I make weight? Yes. But it isn’t living. In the sense of Throeau: “I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow out of life…”.

Food is an interesting, emotionally charged issue. We commune with people when we eat with them. We break bread. Food gives us neurotransmitter uplifts like serotonin that makes us feel good about what we are eating…hence we find comfort in our food. And this is not a bad thing when taken in moderation. But finding that moderation is not an easy challenge. I want to find a balance in my life where I can drink some wine, eat some bacon, enjoy a sweet or three and be comfortable with the choice. Too often we berate ourselves for every little food choice  that we deem ‘not good’. But the reality is…it is ALL good…but sometimes it is just too much. But sometimes you just eat bacon and wine for dinner and call it ‘good’.

How do we get to a homeostasis with our body that both supports a weight that is healthy as WELL as a way to live and chose food that we LOVE. And a way to LOVE our body in a manner that allows for the times when it jiggles just a little too much and might not be some Photoshopped image that we have to compare our self to…but we understand that fitness and fatness are a continuum and some days we get it right and some days we realize that maybe we need to pay a little more to eating more veggies and getting more exercise.

Here is a secret…and it shouldn’t be a secret. If 80% of the time you make really, really good food choices…the other 20% of the time (which amounts to 2-4 meals/week)…you can do whatever you want as long as you don’t go super crazy. But what I want every client to learn is how to fully be present and fully  enjoy that 20%.  I don’t want that 20% to be ‘ooops’…I want them to be: I ate this amazing meal with my significant other or with a close friend and I discovered this amazing restaurant that made the most amazing dinner and desert and I ate it…enjoyed it…didn’t over eat…but savored every moment of it…and then the next day thought about how wonderful the evening was because I didn’t feel guilty about the food I ate and loved every moment with the person I was sharing that moment with and today…I’m back on track…(because I never was OFF track with a dinner like that) and happily eating food that helps me achieve the goals I want and nourishes my body the way that it needs.

I don’t want to be at war with the food that I eat and I don’t think the clients that I coach should be that way either. If I can teach them how to find balance…then I’ve done my job. Life is too short to eat 10 cups of cabbage in one sitting and call it  a sane eating plan. Finding a balance where we can find a healthy weight and a way to eat and approach food that is sane…and sensible and supports a healthy weight and % bodyfat…now THAT is my goal with my clients.

And for the record…all I ate for dinner tonight was bacon and wine…and it was GOOD…and I don’t feel guilty.

Eating Healthy

IMG_2176 What is eating healthy? I think that is one big crazy question these days and no one really has a great answer. I can say that NOT eating healthy usually involves a lot of fast food, eating out a lot and packaged food…but in today’s confusion of vegan, paleo, primal, gluten free, low fat, high fat, Atkins, etc…it is hard to know what is healthy and what is not. Some fruit and lots of veggies are pretty well agreed upon as far as those are good things to eat. How little or much of the rest of the food groups: dairy, meat, legumes, grains…it becomes up for debate.

I think this is actually quite individual provided that the processed foods are very, very minimal. If you subtract out any food that has a food label with more than 2-3 ingredients, eat 2-3 servings of fruit and 5-10 servings of veggies at a minimum…and then layer on top what works for that person, I think a lot of this food dogma would be wiped away.

But full disclosure…I follow a mostly paleo type of food space…why? Because it works for me.

How did I figure this out? I experimented. I did the Whole30 approach a year+ ago and discovered the following things when I re-introduced different foods:

  • Alcohol makes me really tired the next day, even after 1/2 a glass
  • Sugar makes me cranky and tired
  • Gluten makes me feel awful
  • Dairy makes my skin look bad
  • Legumes don’t agree with me
  • Soy…never felt compelled to re-introduce it, but I don’t advocate soy unless it is for woman going through menopause.

So…for ME…it is better to follow a Paleo style type of eating. But I’m not a zealot about it with other people, nor myself. Except for gluten, the rest of the things float in and out of my diet in small quantities fully knowing that I won’t feel as great as I could if I were to be really, REALLY strict with my paleo…but I enjoy those things and it is way too hard to try to eat that way outside of the house.

But here is the one thing that does trip me up…peanut butter. Peanuts are  a legume. They don’t upset my stomach like other legumes do…but they aren’t perfect. For awhile I tried to only eat almond butter, but really…it’s just not even remotely the same! I just bought a container of peanut butter…oh the beauty of it. YUM! I may have to stop buying it more because I eat too much of it rather than it being not ideal for me…lol

I just got back from 1.5 weeks in Greece and ate more dairy in a week than I have in over a year. I didn’t feel fantastic, but weirdly my skin didn’t break out and no other adverse effects. Makes you wonder what the differences are between North American dairy and European. I didn’t eat much to begin with…but I definitely enjoyed it when I was in greece!!

The past few months I’ve been on a weightloss path due to my competition and the fact that the stress from the move caused a lot of stress eating and I gained 10lbs after the move. So alcohol and sweets were totally out of the equation. But having a glass now here or there or a treat are beautiful things to enjoy!

So my point is more that sometimes there are certain things that really, really don’t work for YOU. And that means you should avoid it. For me that is gluten. In my case I don’t avoid it because it is trendy. I avoid it because the ramifications on my life are so negative eating it wrecks my system. For people who are not gluten intolerant…by ALL means eat those whole grains. BUT if you have never taken it out for a month (and REALLY taken it out…all labels read) and then done a challenge with it, don’t assume that you are gluten tolerant. The side effects of gluten intolerance are a bit far reaching beyond GI issues and can be surprising if you are not aware of them.

But life is too short to be overly restrictive with all foods. Eat lots of veggies, some fruit, get enough protein in some form and then with some of those ‘questionable’ food choices…In my opinion…moderation is the key unless you have an intolerance to something.