I am who I am

In my last article I talked about the importance of finding your why as it pertains to goal attainment.  As the saying goes, when you find your WHY, you will figure out the HOW.  

So let’s say you’ve taken the time to find your why but you’re still feeling like you’re spinning your wheels when it comes to achieving your health and fitness related goals.  What should you do next?

When all of the fluff is stripped away, we find that every meaningful goal comes from who you think you are (your identity) and what’s important to you (your values and priorities).  I have found that there is a lot of confusion as to what this means, so allow me to take a minute and break it down.

Let’s start with identity.  Whenever we make any decision or choice, we start from the same deep place – our sense of self or who we think we are.  Essentially, how and what we think of ourselves often determines what happens next.

For example, here are a couple of common “identity” examples I hear quite often:

  • “I’m a busy person.”
  • “I like to have a good time.”
  • “I take care of everyone else.”

Taken by themselves, these examples are neither good or bad.  The deciding factor is what they mean to you and how you choose to apply them.  Let’s examine each of these in a negative and then positive light.

What affect might these identity statements have on the outcome of your goals?

  • “I’m a busy person.  I don’t have time to plan, prep, and prepare healthy meals at home.”
  • “I like to have a good time.  I’m not able to get to bed at a decent hour.”
  • “I take care of everyone else.  There isn’t enough time in the day for me to exercise.”

Now compare the above to the following:

  • “I’m a busy person.  My time time management and organizational skills are top notch.”
  • “I like to have a good time.  Getting good sleep is essential so I can continue to play at 100%.”
  • “I take care of everyone else.  But I take care of myself first, because in doing so I’m better able to take care of everyone else.”  

Exact same statements.  Two entirely different ways to perceive and act on them.  Who do you think will be more successful?

When you’re on the outside looking in as I tend to be, it’s not hard to see those struggling with their sense of identity.  Comments like “I’m fat” or “I could never be a fit person” said repeatedly over one’s lifetime can be damaging in many ways and for many reasons.  

Yes, there are certain individuals who can use this as fuel and propel themselves to success, but they seem to be the exception to the rule.  More often, it just leads to more of the unwanted behavior.

For much of my life I identified as that of a runner.  Early on I realized that not only was I good at it but I enjoyed it too.  I thought like one, ate like one, lived like one… I was one, in every way imaginable.  

When I think back to my college years, it was not that of a college student.  It was as a cross-country and track runner.  Most of my choices and decisions were based on this and this alone.  Yes, it did serve me well at the time.  And yes, I did have many great opportunities and experiences that I would otherwise not have had.

However, unless I was good enough to make a living at it (which I was not), there came a point where something would need to change.  For many years this was very difficult to sort out and process because I realized I was letting who I was at the time – interfere with who I needed to be – in order to get to where I wanted to go.

So ask yourself, does your identity – who you think you are, help you succeed when it comes to achieving your health and fitness goals?

This can be hard, so to get a better understanding of your identity, try completing the following statements:

  • I’m the kind of person who…
  • People who know me would say…
  • I want to be known as…
  • Co-workers would describe me as…
  • If I were to draw a picture of myself, it would like…

Next time I’ll talk about the next two pieces – your values and priorities and how those fit into the puzzle.

What’s Your Why?

Given that the calendar just rolled over and many of us have been busy setting and embarking upon new goals for the year, I wanted to take a minute and share what I feel is the most  important part of this process – finding your why.  

Simply put, what it is the real reason a particular goal is so important to you?

For purposes of this article, my focus will be on one’s fitness, nutrition, and overall health related goals.  However, this principle can be applied to virtually anything.

As I begin my 16th year in the industry I’ve learned many things, but one thing stands out amongst all others when it comes to goal attainment.  If you are struggling to achieve your health related goals it’s because you either don’t know what your why is or you don’t have a strong enough why.

Consider the following.  Do you wake up each morning and go to work?  Chances are you do.  Do you take care of and provide for the needs of your children and loved ones?  Do you make time each day for social media or Netflix?  What about vacations?  

So why do you do these things?  You might not even particularly enjoy doing these things all of the time, but you still do them.  Earning an income is important for many reasons, as is taking care of our families.  We might not always want to, but at the end of the day we always do.  Can you see where I’m going here?  We have a very strong why as to do so.  

Some find trolling facebook and taking vacations fun and enjoyable, so we’ll make sure we take time for those as well.  Even if it feels like we don’t have the time.  Either way, I’m sure we can all agree that we have compelling reasons for doing the things we do each day.  

We do them because there is always a deeper meaning than what the given task suggests on the surface.  And it’s this deeper meaning that drives us and pushes us forward each day.  In other words, it keeps us from giving up.

Now take this and compare it to everyone’s favorite health related goal… losing weight.  Virtually everyone wants to do it, yet very few actually do.  Why do you think that is?  Hint, I already gave you the answer above.  

When someone comes to me and tells me that they would like to lose 10 pounds and can’t deliver a good reason as to why it’s important, I know it’s probably not going to happen.  Losing 10 pounds is a surface goal.  It doesn’t have any deeper meaning.  And if there is not any deeper meaning attached, it will not be attained.

If by chance it is achieved, it will not be maintained long term.  That is, unless you can unlock the deeper need or the true reason why losing 10 pounds is so important.

The “5 Whys” was a system originally used by the Toyota Motor Company that cuts to the core of why we want something.  The idea is whenever you want to accomplish something you ask your self why.  With whatever answer you come up with, keep asking yourself why a total of 5 times.

It sounds easy, but I assure you it’s not.  When I use this exercise with clients, most start to get stuck around why number three.  Why?  It forces them to dig deep and that can be uncomfortable.

Here’s an example from a past nutrition coaching client who wanted to lose weight:

What do you want to accomplish?

I want to lose weight.

Why do you want to lose weight?

I don’t know, I just do.  After a long pause…because I don’t like how my jeans fit.  I want to fit into a smaller size of jeans.

Why do you want to fit into a smaller size of jeans?

Because if I fit into a smaller size of jeans I’ll look better.

Why is looking better important?

I don’t know, because it is.  Okay… I guess because I’ll fee better about myself.

Why do you want to feel better about yourself?

If I feel good, I’ll have more confidence.

And why do you want to be more confident?

Because I’m tired of lacking self-confidence.  If I can be more confident with how I look, I’ll be more in control and able to get more out of life.

I could continue but I think you get the point.  While on the surface it appears to be about weight, yet it’s really about control, self-confidence, and wanting to get more out of life.  I think you’ll agree that this is much more powerful than just picking some random number to focus on.  

Past experience has taught me that you’re a lot less likely to give up on the prospect of increased self-confidence and getting more out of life, as opposed to wanting to lose 10 or 20 pounds.

So how do you know when you’ve achieved your real why?  Honestly, it’s hard to say for sure.  However, when you start getting that “uncomfortable feeling”, you’re probably on the right track and getting close.  If you start to notice some tears, I’d say that you have probably found your why.

If you think you might enjoy a deeper dive on this topic or could use some additional help, consider Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why or our on-line nutrition coaching program where we cover this and much more.

Superhero Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raisns
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 oz. coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper muffin cups.
  • In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt, and walnuts, raisins, and dates.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, zucchini, carrots, butter, coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Add to the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.  The batter will be thick.
  • Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each to the brim.  Bake until the muffins are nicely browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25-35 minutes.

 

 

 

Recipe adapted from Run Fast. Eat Slow. Nourishing Recipes for Athletes by Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky

 

It Happens to Us All

I just sent this out to my January online nutrition coaching group.  We started getting into some mindset stuff last week and the need to always be “perfect”.  Here’s a snipit of the original email.

Boy did I blow it yesterday.  Here’s how things went down.  Yesterday we drove out to Rockford for my wife’s grandma’s 95th birthday party.  On the menu was Jimmy John’s sandwiches and all the other stuff you would expect to find that goes along with it.

After eating what amounted to a handful of raw pea pods and carrots, I declared war on those sandwiches.  They were cut up in about three inch pieces and by my estimates I put away somewhere between 7-10 of them.  Also, if memory serves me, 5-6 cookies and two pieces of cake.  And while I’m being honest, the one I ate at home too.

I’m not entirely sure what happened here.  I don’t usually eat sandwiches anymore and don’t come across much cake either these days.  But it all sure tasted really good yesterday.  It’s like the clock turned back 20 years and I was back in my running mega miles and chowing down heydays.  Yes, the above was common practice back then.  Thank goodness there was no booze at this party.  No doubt I would have partaken in that too!  Unfortunately, I’m still not finished.

After we got home I started getting hungry again!  That can happen when you consume several thousand calories void of any real nutrition.  I was feeling lazy and crappy but felt like I needed a little something to get me through the evening.  So, while we were out walking the dogs we stumbled upon a Taco Bell.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve eaten at Taco Bell but I quickly remembered why so much time had passed, and I’m absolutely positive there will NEVER be a next time.

Enter the shredded chicken burrito on my walk home and that aforementioned piece of cake to polish things off.  By all nutritional standards, yesterday was not good.

Why am I telling you this?  To point out that you don’t need to be perfect in order to succeed.  No one is perfect.  Not even the people you think for sure.  Prefect doesn’t exist.  In this instance I could do one of two things.  I could get down on myself and tell myself I suck and I might as well eat like crap tomorrow too because I already blew today, so what difference does it make?

Or I could recognize it for what it was, one bad day.  And the best thing about having a bad day is that you get an opportunity to do better tomorrow, and that’s what I chose to do today.  It’s called life.  Somedays are up, some down, and a bunch reside somewhere in the boring middle.  Unless you plan to stop living life, it’s important to realize that there will always be choices to be made, challenges to deal with, and opportunities to grow.

In looking back, I realize I broke the single most important principle of portion control right off the bat.  I didn’t eat slowly.  Nope.  I started wolfing down those sandwiches like I hadn’t seen food in three weeks.  Sometimes it’s just fun to eat junk food because it can taste really good.  Truth be told, I was going to eat that food.  I knew it was coming.  However, had I slowed down from the outset, I’m fairly certain it would not have gotten as out of control.

Roasted Chicken with Herbs

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken (4 to 5 pounds), preferably organic
  • 4 to 5 sprigs fresh herbs (such as thyme, oregano, sage, and rosemary, or preferred combination)
  • 1/2 lemon, cut in half
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1-2 handfuls fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Remove giblets from the inside of the chicken and place the chicken in a roasting or cast iron pan.
  • Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the lemon, garlic, and parsley.
  • Brush the entire chicken with olive oil and then sprinkle with sea salt and ground pepper.
  • Finely mince the fresh herbs.  If possible, reserve a sprig or two.  Cover the whole chicken with the minced herbs and place breast side up in the roasting pan.
  • *Note – for added convenience and to save time, substitute dried herbs above.
  • Take any remaining sprigs of fresh herbs that will fit and stuff inside the chicken.  Pull the skin to cover the opening.
  • Cook for 1 hour, or until a thermometer inserted in the inner thigh reads 165 degrees and the juices run clear.

Did You Know This About Your Supplements?

A little while back after a training session, a client asked me to take a look at a protein powder supplement that caught his attention.  He grabbed his current copy of Men’s Health and proceeded to leaf through it until he found the the advertisement for this particular product.

To be honest, I don’t even remember what the name of it was because it was one of those ads that just said “advertisement” in small letters across the top of the page without giving you the name of the actual product.  However, you could proceed to read about all the wonderful things that will happen to you should you choose to try this product.

My client’s question was a simple one.  Does this look any good?  A fair question.  And the reason why I’m sharing this with you today is because many of you have probably wondered the exact same thing.

So I proceeded to do what I always do when I evaluate a product – I look at the ingredients.  It listed a few but not all of them.  What was listed appeared to be good quality ingredients but the advertisement was more focused on what this protein supplement could do for you.  And understandably so.  

Notice how I said “appeared.”  Here’s the thing, I honestly don’t know.  And you don’t either.  You might not know this, but vitamins, supplements, or any other health and performance enhancing substance found in the aisles of your favorite store or online are not regulated by the FDA.

What does this mean?  It means that of those ingredients listed on the label, it might have all, some, or none of them and no one is really checking!  Kind of an unsettling thought, huh?

Now compare this to food or a bottle of ibuprofen.  Let’s say you have a can of black beans and the ingredients listed are black beans, water, and salt.  For the most part, you can pretty much rest assured that this is what you are going to get (by law, food labels need to fall within 25% accuracy).  On the same token, 200mg of ibuprofen is 200mg of ibuprofen.  The same cannot be said about a poorly regulated supplement industry.

Here’s what you need to be aware of concerning your nutritional supplements:

  • Anything can be on the label.  What’s listed may or may not be in the bottle.
  • The dose can vary widely between batches.
  • The product doesn’t have to be pure.  You don’t know for sure what’s in it and you can’t simply trust the stated purity of the ingredients.
  • The product can have ingredients not on the label.  These could include banned substances or ingredients you might be allergic to.
  • It might contain things you don’t want.  Sugar, artificial sweeteners, glycerin, soy, artificial colors, etc.
  • The label can claim whatever it wants.
  • A supplement doesn’t have to be proven safe before it can be sold.

I suggest you read that last point again.  Okay, so now that you know much of what’s out there is likely garbage, what can you do?  I have three suggestions for you.  First, you can look for products that have been USP verified.  When you see this mark, it indicates the ingredients listed on the label are actually those in the product in the declared strength and amounts.  It does not contain harmful levels of contaminants, and is made according to FDA and USP Good Manufacturing Practices.

This is all good for the consumer, but there is something else you also need to keep in mind.  When ingredients are sourced for a supplement, they can range from poor to excellent.  Why does this matter?  Poor quality ingredients often will not get the user the intended results.  Unfortunately, this important point is not necessarily addressed under USP verification.

This can also be problematic because the whole reason for taking a supplement in the first place is to achieve some desired result, and not to flush your money down the toilet.  This is why good quality supplements from a reputable company often sell for considerably more.  Excellent quality ingredients are more expensive, and in many cases, just work better than the cheap stuff.

Second, if you or a loved one happens to be an athlete who undergoes drug testing and whose athletic eligibility could be at risk, please only use products that are NSF Certified for Sport.  If you’re randomly using legally purchased supplements right off the store shelf, there’s a 25% chance you’re taking banned substances without even knowing it.  

Third, unless you are lucky enough to personally know someone who works for a supplement company who can vouch for the quality of the products, you need to find someone you can trust and follow their recommendations.

For what it’s worth, I personally use and recommend products from Thorne Research.  Sadly, this can be a pretty shady business where your health and well-being often plays second fiddle to profit.  I hope this information helps you make better-educated decisions the next time you shop for your nutritional supplements.

Scott’s Easy Stuffed Peppers

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 6 bell peppers
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup brown rice, uncooked
  • 1 – 15 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 – 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions:

  • Cut tops off of the bell peppers, remove seeds, and set aside.
  • Combine the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  • Evenly fill the six bell peppers with the above mixture.
  • Arrange the filled bell peppers in a slow cooker and pour tomato sauce over the top.
  • Cook on low for 7 hours.

Could Your Goals Be Getting in the Way of Your Life?

So it happened again.  For the better part of two weeks, I found myself planted in front of the television from 7-9 pm watching the Winter Olympics.  I had absolutely no intention on doing this.  In fact, right before they began, I had basically zero interest and even remember thinking this would be the year I would stop watching.

Then on the second day after finishing what was left on the DVR, I stumbled upon the slopestyle snowboarding competition.  Here were these guys literally flying around, twisting and turning in every imaginable direction, all trying to outdo one another.  Quite the spectacle for those of us over 40.  Anyway, this 17-year-old kid from Colorado named Red Gerard won gold that night and I was once again hooked.

A week or so later, shortly after watching Lindsey Vonn make what was her bronze medal run in the downhill, I started to think about why I got caught up in these Winter Games once again.

Part of it is the my country vs. your country thing.  Learning more about the lives of your fellow Americans who are at the very top of their sport and the obstacles they had to overcome is always a compelling story.

They also take me back to a time when sport and competition were the central point in my life.  Make no mistake, I was nowhere near Olympic caliber but I did manage to successfully compete at the Division 1 level in cross-country and track.  My running heydays were some of the best years of my life and while I would not trade them for anything, I would not want to go back either.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the competition, the training, the making and achieving of goals and the sense of accomplishment when it all came together, my teammates, the road trips, all those who helped me along the way, and even all of the additional hard work that went along with it.

In fact, I thrived on it.  What I didn’t realize at the time was I didn’t have much of a life outside of my running circle.  At the time, I was fine with that.  I loved what I was doing and pursuing and what I was gaining was worth the cost of what I was giving up.

I’m regularly asked if I ever get the itch to run competitively again, and without hesitation my answer is always “no.”  Why?  Because I’m all too aware of what’s involved to get back there.  The time, effort, sacrifice, pain, and almost-certain looming disappointments are more than I am willing to endure at this point in my life.

And in that moment I realized why the Olympics continue to grab my attention every couple of years.  It’s nothing more than being able to watch others excel at the highest level and yet refreshing to not feel the need to be doing it myself anymore.  In other words, it’s a relief that my goals no longer get in the way of my life.

So why did I just spend the time telling you this little story?  Well, occasionally I’ll run into clients or even folks I meet on the street whose well-intentioned health and fitness goals start to take over their lives.  These tend to be aggressive outcome based types of goals, such as a certain body weight or body fat percentage.

Let me be clear.  I am NOT saying people should not have these types of goals.  What I am saying is these types of goals tend to be very demanding, especially as one gets closer to their stated goal.

There are two basic principles when it comes to fat and weight loss:

  1. If you want to make further changes to your body, you’ll need to make further changes to your behaviors.
  2. The leaner you want to get, the more behaviors you’ll have to change.

Basically, doing more of some things and doing less of other things.  Often times, this can be great on many levels.  It only becomes not so great when the pursuit of the goal gets in the way of living a happy, well-rounded life.

Kale, Andouille, and White Bean Stew

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 12-16 ounces andouille chicken sausage, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 – 1 pound chicken thighs, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 pound red potatoes, diced
  • 2 – 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 – 15 ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Directions:

  • Place andouille chicken sausage, chicken thighs, potatoes, beans, onions, carrots, garlic, and kale in a slow cooker.  Add the red pepper flakes, sea salt, pepper, thyme, diced tomatoes, and chicken stock and mix together.
  • Cook on low for 7 hours.
  • Before serving mix thoroughly and season to taste.

 

 

 

Recipe adapted from Instant One-Pot Meals by Laura Arnold

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 – 16 ounce package frozen pearl onions
  • 4 to 8 ounces crimini mushrooms, diced
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds stew meat
  • 3-5 medium red potatoes, washed and cut into chunks
  • 1-2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 – 14.5 ounce cans diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 – 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1-3 green onions, sliced, for garnish

Directions:

  • Place the carrots, onions, mushrooms, cabbage, potatoes, and garlic on the bottom of a slow cooker.  Add the stew meat along with the salt and pepper.  Then add the tomatoes and tomato sauce and mix it all together.
  • Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with the sliced green onion.