Are you out of alignment with your values and is this what’s keeping you stuck? Getting real about how we actually behave and comparing that to what we believe is right is hard but it’s the path to living the life we want and deserve.
People come to the Paleo diet for all kinds of reasons - weight loss, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, or simply because it makes sense. The problem is, many people find Paleo hard to stick to, even when it makes them feel amazing.
This article isn't about gimmicks. I'm pulling back the curtain and sharing my top strategies for helping my clients get out of their own way and finally jump over the hurdles that have kept them stuck. The top hurdles are both internal (excuses, self-limiting beliefs, fear of failure) and tactical (food prep and food environment).
Below are my most powerful coaching tools for helping you get out of your own way and eat in a way that supports all your long-term goals.
Build Your Tool Box: My Most Powerful Tools for Helping You Stick to Your Plan
1. Practice slowing down your decision-making.
So often, people tell me they don’t know what happened. The fries were down the hatch before they were even aware they’d made a decision. S-L-O-W down. Own the pause. I guarantee this will get easier as your blood sugar starts to normalize, usually after about a week.
Create a toolkit of self-soothing techniques that you can use anywhere. These might include deep belly breathing, going outside and looking up at the sky, jumping on a Pinterest board and looking at beach photos, putting on a favorite playlist, listening to a comedy skit on Pandora, or going for a short walk. These should be fast, easy to access, and proven to calm YOU down.
2. Learn to sit in the friction between what you want NOW versus what you want MOST.
In the now, your brain just wants pleasure: the cookie, the wine, the bagel, ice cream, candy. But that pleasure is momentary and it feeds the sense that you’re not in control of your choices.
What you want MOST is to feel great in your skin, confident that you can follow through on whatever you set out to do, and to have calm, consistent energy. (This may sound counter to the self-soothing techniques above but, trust me, you need both of these tools.)
This skill is imperative because you’re going to be faced with temptation every day. It’s critical to be able to recognize the excuses your brain comes up with (I’ve been so good, this one little thing can’t hurt, screw it I don’t even care anyway) and be able to know that the urge to indulge WILL pass if you let it.
3. Get rid of (or hide) trigger foods in your home, car, and office.
The food around you is the food you’re most likely to eat. Do your best to ensure you have food around that you’re going to feel great about having eaten an hour from now.
This is a very simple strategy but it's one many people overlook.
We think "I have to keep Doritos in the cupboard for my kids!" or "What can it hurt to buy Paleo cookies since they're better than what I used to eat?"
The key here is to be honest about which foods are potential triggers for YOU right now. If the Paleo cookies nag at you from the pantry, are you making life easier or harder for yourself?
Remember, this isn't a "forever" decision. You can always reevaluate and experiment in the future. This is about giving yourself the gift of a food environment that is filled with choices you feel great about, rather than surrounding yourself with potential landmines of regret.
4. Prep food you love that loves you back.
This one is related to #3. You need to be strategic about making sure you have plenty of prepared Paleo foods (proteins, veggies, herbs, fresh fruit, and healthy condiments) on hand so that you can quickly throw together meals you truly enjoy.
The last part is non-negotiable. If you're making healthy Paleo meals that taste like a plate of sadness, you're going to derail yourself. When you push away from the table, you should feel completely satisfied, not just physically full. Experiment with the combinations, flavors, and textures that light you up.
For example, my breakfast this morning was a cup of cauliflower rice (previously frozen from Costco but thawed and ready to use in my fridge) topped with 5 or so ounces of seasoned ground grass fed beef, ¼ cubed baked sweet potato, a bunch of freshly chopped cilantro, a dollop of Sriracha, and a liberal sprinkling of Himalayan pink sea salt. It took me about 3 minutes to put this meal together since all the components were ready to go in my fridge. This meal was absolutely delicious (to me, which is all that matters!) and I felt ready to move on with my day when I was finished eating.
Note: Be sure to have plenty of glass/Pyrex containers on hand so you can take your prepped food with you to work or on the go. It might feel awkward to pack a cooler with meals and snacks but it's an amazing feeling when you aren't tempted to grab fast food or stuck with what's on offer at the office lunch meeting.
But....This sounds HARD!
If developing these tools sounds like a lot of work, I encourage you to recognize that feeling tired, out of control, and uncomfortable in your body is even HARDER.
Just because your current lifestyle is more familiar doesn’t make it any less difficult.
Continuing to make food choices you later regret keeps you stuck, both in terms of your health goals and in terms of your ability to show up fully in other areas of your life. Creating new habits feels awkward at first. That's true for all of us. As a veteran coach, I can assure you that, if you're consistent, you'll be surprised how quickly these become your new normal.
Sometimes, we need some support
Sometimes, we need additional support. The stories we have about ourselves, past trauma, unsupportive family members – these can make going it alone feel like an uphill battle with a backpack full of rocks.
If you’ve tried to do this on your own and think you may benefit from guided support, I encourage you to schedule a time to chat with me. You can book your free consultation here.
I work with women every day who came to me thinking they were uniquely broken and that nothing could ever work for them. I’m happy to say that none of these things are true and I have plenty of evidence to back this up.
If you try some of these tools and have questions or feedback, I would love to hear from you in the comments below this post! My goal as a coach, blogger, and human is to provide tools and information that work for actual people living in the real world. With that in mind, I value your feedback to make sure I'm hitting the mark.
The food you surround yourself with – your "food environment" - is the #1 predictor of what you will eat. This means that the food you keep at home, at the office, in your car, in your go-bag, or in your luggage – is the food you are most likely to eat.
Setting up your food environment so that you're surrounded by healthy food is a simple but often overlooked piece of the “how do I avoid sabotaging my diet?” puzzle.
Below is my 3 step process for setting up the food environment that supports your goals:
Get clear on YOUR “food without brakes” or trigger foods. These are different for everyone. Yours might include things like ice cream, crackers, chips, cookies, cereal, or even the tastier protein bars (this is mine!).
Don’t buy these, at least for now. If you feel you must buy them for other family members, be sure to store them where you won’t run into them easily. Avoid the counter tops, frequently opened cupboards, or center shelves in the fridge or freezer.
Stock up on foods you DO want to eat more of. Get plenty of protein, a wide variety of veggies, and some low sugar fruit (berries, apples, and citrus fruits). Prepare these foods immediately so you the food you have ready to go is the food you’ll feel great about eating!
Note: Food prep is the #1 strategy for sticking to a healthy diet because it ensures the healthiest option is also the most convenient option.
Make sure you’ve got some grab and go healthy food options. These are items that can be tossed in a container and taken in the car, to kid activities, or eaten as a quick meal without needing to be warmed.
Grab ‘n Go Examples:
- Meatballs (homemade or Aidell’s pre-cooked meatballs)
- chicken or steak strips (pre-cooked or cooked at home)
- Washed and cut raw veggies (peppers, carrots, grape tomato, jicama, radish, etc.)
- Guacamole cups
- Original flavor beef jerky (few ingredients, usually gluten free)
- Hard boiled eggs
- Apples or berries
- Clean protein bars such as Primal Kitchen, Rx Bar, or Epic Bars
Paleo Snack Foods:
While there ARE healthier versions of chips such as Jackson’s Honest Coconut Oil Sweet Potato Chips or Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips these can be tricky. Just because they are healthier doesn’t mean they are fat loss friendly. You have to decide for yourself whether you can keep things like this around of if they’re an occasional treat that you only buy on occasion.
Don’t Go Nuts:
Be judicious about things like nuts and nut butters. Nuts are very high in calories and fat and are very easy to overdo. In my experience, more people slow their weight loss on a Paleo diet with nuts than with any other food. Use them as a condiment rather than as a whole snack. For example, sprinkle a small amount on your stir fry or salad to add texture and flavor or measure out a tablespoon to eat with apple slices. (You may be surprised just how small 1 tbsp really is!)
Fat is Not Free:
Another mistake people make on Paleo is adding multiple fat sources to meals or snacks. At 9 calories per gram of fat, the calories add up quickly and can slow your fat loss goals without even realizing it. Use a moderate amount of healthy fats (avocado, butter, olive oil, avocado oil, or fattier cuts of organic meat) to make meals taste good. Unless you’re about to hike the Himalayas, I don’t recommend eating ALL the bacon, stirring butter in your coffee, or downing packets of coconut or almond butter. Again, this is in the context of fat loss and everyone's needs will be different.
Paleo Snack Foods:
Just because it’s technically “Paleo” doesn’t mean a Paleo snack food is nutritious or fat loss friendly. Examples of healthier options of regular foods that can trip people up: Paleo granola, Paleo pancakes, Paleo brownies, Paleo chips (Jackson’s Honest, Siete brand). These are all wonderful, healthier options but they shouldn’t make up a large percentage of your diet. These are all calorie dense and easy to over-consume so take that into consideration before you load up on Paleo products or make multiple batches of Paleo brownies, pancakes, or cookies!
Healthy Carbs are the “Magic Fairy Dust”:
It doesn’t get talked about enough in the Paleo community but I’ve found with myself and my clients that adding a small portion of carbs to meals or snacks IS likely to make you feel more full and satisfied.
By carbs I do NOT mean added sugars, even the natural ones like maple syrup, dried fruit, or honey. Rather, I am talking about nutrient dense, natural carb sources like root vegetables (potato, sweet potato, beet, parsnip, squashes, and small amounts of whole fruits).
For most women, adding a small amount of carbs to meals allows you to get to the end of your meal feeling satisfied, rather than searching around for something else even though you’re physically full.
Protein is your new BFF:
As a general rule, I encourage my clients to eat 4-6 oz of protein (25-40 grams) of protein 3-4 times per day. Protein is THE most satiating macronutrient, which means it keeps you feeling full for longer. It also protects your lean muscle mass as you lose weight.
Most people lose about 50% lean muscle and 50% fat when they lose weight. Eating adequate amounts of protein AND including some resistance training can mean you’re losing more like 25% lean muscle and 75% fat when you lose weight.
Lean muscle has a huge impact on your ability to keep the weight off and on the appearance of your physique. Eat your protein!
If you surround yourself with healthy, delicious food, you're likely to EAT healthy, delicious food. Again, this sounds obvious but so many of us torment ourselves by bringing home foods that don't align with our goals but we invariably wind up eating!
Give yourself the gift of cleaning up your food environment so that you are one step REMOVED from trigger foods and one step CLOSER to a body that feels healthy and vibrant.
Many of you have been asking when the next Primal Transformations Coaching Group will open up. I will be sharing specifics later this week! I’m committed to keeping my coaching groups small so that I can deliver value and help each person as much as possible. Watch your inbox as slots tend to fill up quickly. More info to come!
How to Make Better Choices Without Freaking Out
How many times have you started a new diet or exercise plan and immediately starting stressing about whether you have the motivation, time, support, or willpower to stick to it for the long haul?
Let's be honest: Our brains do not like big, sweeping changes.
No, our brains much prefer our old, familiar eating habits and routines, even if they make us unhealthy, exhausted, and unhappy.
Knowing this about our brains, how can we begin to make healthy changes without triggering the “I'm already freaking out next month” blues??
Take a deeeeeep breath and say to yourself: Just for today, I will do/not do___________.
This simple phrase has been a complete game changer for so many of my clients.
Each of them expressed some version of dread at the idea of giving up all their favorite things for the rest of their lives (ever and ever!). This powerful tool allowed them to shift their thinking from worrying about the future and focus instead on what they were willing and able to do just for today.
To understand the power of these three simple words, check out the two scenarios below:
Scenario 1: (aka "How to Derail Your Goals in Under a Minute”)
You’re driving by your favorite donut store. You ask yourself: “Can I really give up donuts foreverrrrr?”.
All you can think about is how frustrated and bitter you feel at all the people who get to eat donuts while you’re over here resigned to a life of wilted celery and deprivation. (Ok, maybe this was just me…)
In this moment, you feel like you’re making ALL the decisions about what your future will consist of (sadness, in all likelihood). You can’t remember one good reason you wanted to get healthier in the first place.
Scenario 2: (aka: How to Stay Calm, Avoid Drama, and Adult Like a Boss)
You’re about to pass the donut store. Instead of freaking yourself out about your soon-to-be donut-less future, you simply say to yourself:
“Just for today, I’m going to drive past the donut store and go home and eat the food I prepared.”
Driving past the donut store is now just what it is: Driving home on just this one day.
It doesn’t signify a long-term break-up with donuts. It doesn’t mean you’re on a tightrope over the Grand Canyon with no way out of this decision.
The donut store (tacos, pizza, whatever) isn’t going anywhere.
Tomorrow, you can make another choice because you're a grown-up living in America. No big deal. You are calm.
Can you see how powerful this is?
Instead of generating friction about your future choices, the phrase “just for today” allows you to focus your energy on THIS moment.
As cliché as it sounds, life really is an accumulation of single moments and individual choices.
In order to show up for these moments, we must learn to harness our thoughts. Instead of dwelling on past choices (shame) or worrying about future choices (fear/uncertainty) do your best to be here now.
Focus on THIS moment, on THIS choice, on what you can do “just for today”.
It’s amazing how quickly these “just for today” wins start to create momentum.
Give it a try. What can you do “just for today?” I'd love to know what you discover.
There is a lot of conflicting information out there about what it takes to be healthy and fit. It can be hard to know what really matters OR where to start!
As a Paleo Transformation coach, I don't work with athletes, fitness pros, or bikini models. I work with REAL women (and a few men!) who want to feel confident, clear-headed, energetic, and healthy. They don't want to devote their lives to My Fitness Pal, the gym, or rigid meal plans. They want balance. They want joy. They want to eat nutritious food that tastes delicious. They want an end to yo-yo dieting. They want to feel awake and ALIVE.
I am proud to say that I help my clients reclaim their bodies AND their lives, often in ways they never expected.
The tips below are key tenets of my coaching/transformation process. None of them are revolutionary. None are trademarked (lol). None are very sexy! But I guarantee that if you incorporate these, you will move the needle in areas that you currently feel stuck.
You will start to build new habits that feel easy sooner than you can believe.
You will begin to feel a sense of calm ownership over your choices rather than constantly feeling frustrated and inconsistent.
You will start to get perspective on what truly matters to you and what you're willing (or not) to do about it.
If you're scared to try anything new because you're afraid of yet another failure, please know these tips are designed to help you get back on your own team, not add to your Dead Sea Scrolls to-do list!
They are meant to help you nourish, replenish, and care for yourself. Read through them with this in mind. xo, Lisa
1. REAL FOOD FIRST
Creating meals around protein, veggies and healthy fats insulates you against cravings, allows you to trust your hunger and fullness cues, and restores health at a cellular level. New to Paleo? Check out my Paleo Start Guide.
2. FOOD/MEAL PREP
Having healthy food prepared and ready to go is your #1 tactical tool. It ensures that the healthiest option is also the most convenient option. Pick a day or two each week and MAKE IT HAPPEN. My article, Simple Meal Prep on a Paleo Diet, will help get you started if this is new to you.
3. FOOD ENVIRONMENT
The food within easy reach of you is the food you’re most likely to eat. If it’s going to take willpower not to overeat something, don’t bring it home or to your office. Instead, fill your refrigerator and pantry with the foods that will make you feel healthy, proud, and peaceful.
4. OWN THE PAUSE
The space between trigger and response is where your power lives. This is your opportunity to assess whether the choice you’re about to make is one you’ll feel proud of an hour from now. Skip the pause and you give away the power to make conscious choices and own your destiny.
5. BE A FOOD SNOB
You are worth SO much more than stale tortilla chips, store bought cookies, or fast food. Be sure your indulgences are genuinely worth deviating from your goals. Rate indulgences on a scale of 1-10. Is this worth it? If it is, savor every bite. But be honest and make a conscious choice.
6. MOVE THROUGHOUT THE DAY
We humans are meant to move. Make a standing work desk, set your phone alarm to go off every hour and do 2 minutes of body weight exercises, walk over your lunch hour. What you choose to do matters less than the fact that you just move. This approach will have a profound impact on your body composition, food choices, brain function, and energy, I guarantee it.
7. FILL YOUR MOJO BUCKET
We need things to look forward to which remind us that life is not all about work, errands, chores, bills, and a sense of drudgery and dread. When we let the things fall away that light us up, we are much more likely to resort to food or alcohol for joy and relaxation. Each Sunday, make a plan for the week ahead. Reach out to people and schedule get-togethers (walks, a coffee, a class, etc.). Block out time each day for restorative activities such as outdoor walks, crafting, taking a hot bath, or whatever activity makes you feel calm, centered, and happy. Note: If you don’t get these things on the calendar, the likelihood they will happen is close to zilch. Don’t wing it. Schedule your mojo time.
Listen to The Mind Your Body Podcast Episode #15 where Jenny and I discuss the importance of filling your mojo bucket!
8. TRACK AND/OR JOURNAL
It’s very easy to drift without realizing it. Simply writing down what you’re eating (and approximately how much) as well as movement and sleep, dramatically increases self-awareness. This gives you the opportunity to determine what’s working and what needs to be adjusted. Journaling your thoughts, fears, dreams, self-limiting beliefs, and goals will help you figure out what's holding you back and what you really want. Don't commit to more than 5 minutes per day to start, otherwise you're likely to ditch the whole thing.
9. ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY AND REESTABLISH SELF-TRUST
Your past choices and your current circumstances do not dictate your choices. This is a fact but it takes practice to internalize this. Use this knowledge to break free of the limiting narrative you may have about yourself and your life. No one else can put food in our mouth. You don't need someone else to give you permission to take care of yourself (food, exercise, sleep, relaxation). In order to effect meaningful change in your life, you have to assume responsibility for every choice you make. This is not about shame or self-judgment; this is about having integrity and building self-trust. When we wake up in the driver’s seat of our life, we can finally start building a life we’re excited about.
10. MAINTAIN HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE
You are worthy now, at whatever weight, size, or health status you are. Stay calm. Avoid the lure of emotional drama about your choices. Avoid black and white thinking and, instead, be a solution seeker. If you drift, simply course correct with your next choice. You do not need a complicated 30 day plan. You need to make one good choice after another and then one more. Laugh, play, take responsibility, create healthy connections with others, and schedule time to care for yourself. This is how you keep perspective and avoid over-complication, isolation, and obsessiveness.
I hope you find these helpful. I would love to hear your comments, questions, and feedback, either on this post or on my Primal Transformations Facebook page, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to check out The Mind Your Body Podcast where Jenny Helms and I dive into all the things that help you get unstuck and on your way to living a healthy, fit, and epic life! Find all the ways to listen here and be sure to subscribe!
The stories you have in your head about who you are, what you're capable of, and what you deserve are very likely holding you back from your goals.
Where do these stories come from? They come from our childhood, our past experiences (trauma, abusive relationships, neglect), and from our media culture.
The good news is that once you become AWARE of your stories, you can take your power back. You can create NEW stories about who you are and what you deserve in this life. You will no longer be victimized by the self-limiting, and often toxic, narrative in your head! The process is easier than you think. Read on to find out how to free yourself and start moving toward the body and life you want and deserve!
Have you been considering trying Paleo but haven't jumped in? Do you feel like you need to know all the answers about whether or not it will work for you? Are you in a variety of online groups, asking questions, and amassing reams of detailed information? If so, I encourage you to check out this post about how to escape inertia and GET STARTED! Action is how we learn, make progress, and iterate. Action helps us build confidence, momentum, and motivation. Do something today your future self will thank you for!
If you're considering a Paleo diet or have just gotten started, this guide will give you the essential information, resources, and motivation you need to get rolling! Once you've started, you can begin experimenting, asking questions, and refining your approach. Don't wait! You are one step closer to feeling so much healthier!
You need MORE, not less. More of the things that nourish you, that fire you up, that fill the empty spaces in your soul, that create vibrant energy....more of the things that light your path out of shame, disappointment, and inertia. We've spent way too long thinking less is the solution. It isn't. Less is not joyful AND it doesn't work. Start giving yourself more of what you need to live an epic life. MORE is your ticket out.
How to Avoid Feeling Awkward, Deprived, or Left Out While Dining With Friends!
Dining Out on Paleo is Absolutely Possible! Learn How:
Real Life Strategies for Preventing and Addressing Cravings that Actually Work!
For some strange reason, I used to be intimidated by farmers’ markets.
I’d ask myself: How do I shop there? What should I purchase and how much? Is it a better deal to shop there than at grocery or natural foods stores? All the questions… (Yep, I’m an overthinker!)
When I starting a Paleo diet in 2012, I made a pact with myself to try one new vegetable each week. I would go to the store, grab a random thing I wasn’t sure what to do with (or what it even was if I’m being honest!), and I’d go home and channel the power of Google to figure out how to cook it.
I grew up on an island in Alaska where produce wasn’t plentiful so I was really starting from scratch. Combine that with the fact that, up to that point, I had a narrow range of preferences and cooking skills so you can imagine what a culinary adventure this was!
My efforts didn’t always turn out (steamed turnips? nope) but over time, my family and I have developed a love for veggies such as beets, Brussel sprouts, and leeks that we never would’ve imagined.
ENTER THE FARMERS’ MARKET
As you’ve no doubt discovered, organic produce can be expensive. I’d heard that shopping from local farmers was not only a better deal (you avoid the middle man) but you also get much fresher produce and reduce your carbon footprint (produce isn’t being trucked or flown hundreds or thousands of miles).
Despite my trepidation, I decided to give it a go. There are several in the area (I live in Wichita, Kansas – the heart of America’s farmland).
My experience was amazing. Not only was there a huge variety to choose from, I got to visit with farmers, learn about their practices, and gain a sense of community. How fun is it to know where your food actually comes from?!
And the prices. Whoa. On average, I spend half of what I would at either a standard grocery store or natural foods store.
TIPS I WISH I’D KNOWN
- Bring your own reusable shopping bags. You’ll be wandering around and plastic shopping bags are flimsy and hard to manage.
- Check out several stands to see what’s on offer before you purchase. Produce may be better quality or less costly from another stand so it pays to shop around.
- Focus on ingredients. Produce, grass fed beef, pastured pork and chicken, eggs – all of these can be found at farmer’s markets at lower prices. You will undo these savings if you get too carried away at the juice stand, coffee bar, or pre-made food vendors.
- Take a moment to visit with the vendor/farmer if you and they have time. It really is amazing to make the connection with where your food comes from and understand the process a little bit better.
- Get there early for the best selection or get there near the end for great deals (farmers typically don’t want to haul their produce home).
- Locate a farmer’s market near you by typing your zip code and the distance you’re willing to travel in the search boxes of the USDA Local Food Directory.
FIRE UP THE GRILL!
As it’s summertime, I love to grill whenever and whatever I can. I enjoy the flavor and I don’t have to heat up the house.
On today’s grilling menu:
- grass fed burger patties with grilled onion slices
- grilled zucchini and yellow squash with balsamic vinegar
- smashed new potatoes with olive oil and Thai basil
I’m curious – what has been your experience with farmers’ markets? Let me know by leaving a comment, reaching out to me on the socials, or shooting me an email:
Personal responsibility is a big theme in my coaching practice. Many of us have somehow lost the thread that we are the CEO’s of our own life and health. Instead, we’ve allowed ourselves to become somewhat passive observers, allowing diet book authors, Internet ‘experts’, and doctors to dictate our actions.
Over the past 5 years, I’ve woken up. The good news is it’s never too late to take the initiative with our health and I am living proof of that! I now get to spend my days teaching others that reclaiming their health is something they have a great deal of control over.
Having said that, I’m going to be honest: Within the conventional medical paradigm, taking ownership isn’t always a smooth process.
I encourage many of my female clients to get a full thyroid panel with antibodies, particularly those on thyroid hormone replacement. At least ½ dozen of these women were shocked to discover their hypothyroid condition was caused by Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition.
When they presented their test results to their prescribing doctor and asked why they hadn’t been told they had an autoimmune condition, they were each met with some version of a shrug and “We don’t discuss Hashimoto’s because it doesn’t change our treatment protocol”.
To discover you’ve been suffering from a condition no one told you about is seriously frustrating. On top of that, to be told ‘There’s nothing you can do anyway so don’t worry about it’ – only to find there is a LOT you can do – is mind boggling.
We know from research, and thousands of anecdotal cases, that removing gluten, correcting micronutrient deficiencies such as Vitamin D status, and reducing stress can dramatically improve autoimmune conditions and, in some cases, even put them into remission.
Most conventional doctors understand that having one autoimmune disease predisposes you to developing other autoimmune conditions (it’s an immune system issue!).
What most doctors haven’t been trained in, and therefore don’t discuss with patients, is how diet and lifestyle can improve, and even reverse, chronic health conditions such as Type II diabetes, hypothyroidism, PCOS, high blood pressure, and uterine fibroids. Instead, patients are told that these conditions are only responsive to prescription drugs and/or surgical interventions.
Why wouldn’t doctors talk to patients about healthy lifestyle changes before recommending prescription drugs or surgery? I have several theories:
- Most doctors aren’t adequately trained in nutrition and biochemistry;
- There is no money to be made from diet and lifestyle changes;
- Doctors are often jaded into thinking people won’t implement meaningful changes so there is little point in offering recommendations.
My point here is not to beat up on conventional doctors. In terms of crisis care, we have the best medical system in the world and I am deeply grateful!
I wrote this post as a call to action and a reminder:
- We deserve to know as much as our doctor knows so we can be empowered to choose the approach that’s right for us.
- We deserve to know the range of treatment options available for addressing chronic conditions.
- We deserve to have the option of seeking alternative care should we decide to.
- We deserve to make empowered decisions about our own health care.
The women I’ve worked with took immediate ownership and made meaningful diet and lifestyle changes when they learned about their health condition. The result for all of them has been drastic improvements in cognitive function, elevated energy levels, and improved skin health. The majority of them have also seen marked improvements in body composition.
Am I saying we shouldn’t listen to our doctors? Of course not! I’m saying that we must be bold enough to insist that we be active partners in our care. This isn’t comfortable for many of us who have been raised to believe that anyone in a white coat is all-knowing and should never be questioned.
Remember: A confident doctor respects a well-informed patient.
My recommendation is this: Step out of your comfort zone enough to ask your doctor to provide you with all of the information about your health status (test results, options, etc.).
From there, it is your responsibility to seek high quality information about all of the treatment options, mainstream and otherwise, so you can choose the course of action that is right for you.
Knowledge is power. Start reclaiming yours.
PALEO BREAKFAST MADE SIMPLE
BONUS: EGGS NOT REQUIRED!
One of the most common questions I get from clients and individuals just starting Paleo is:
What do I eat for breakfast?! [insert frantic voice]
I get it! My pre-Paleo breakfast menu included toast, cereal, bagels, or oatmeal (carbs, carbs, and more carbs…). When I transitioned to Paleo, I was flummoxed. Sure, eggs are great. Bacon? Hadn’t had that in years! But after a few weeks, I was ready for something different.
WHY PALEO-IFIED BREAKFAST IMPROVES OUR HEALTH:
Paleo breakfasts are typically much lower in carbohydrate, higher in protein, and more nutrient dense than the SAD (Standard American Diet).
Why does this matter?
When we start our day with a large dose of carbs, we set ourselves up to ride the blood sugar roller coaster for the rest of the day.
Not only does this impact our mood, energy levels, and ability to be metabolically flexible (read: burn fat!), it sets us up to make less optimal food choices later in the day. Once we start eating sugar, it’s very hard to stop.
Starting our day with 30-4o grams of protein, some healthy fat, and fiber rich veggies allows us to feel full, energetic, and calm throughout the morning. We go into the lunch hour without that hangry, I-need-to-stuff-my-face-now feeling, which is a total game changer.
Some Paleo followers enjoy intermittent fasting, or skipping breakfast. That’s great if it works for you! However, there is research to show that we can optimize our circadian rhythms by eating breakfast. We need to find what works for us as individuals and I encourage you to experiment. For myself, and for most of the clients I’ve worked with, breakfast is important.
BACK TO WHAT TO EAT!
The InterWebs are chock full of amazing Paleo breakfast recipes. Here’s the problem: Most of us are BUSY in the morning.
We need quick, grab and go options.
Sure, it would be nice to sit around the breakfast table and enjoy a farmhouse breakfast but, for most of us, that’s not the reality. I’m all about reality!
SIMPLE PALEO BREAKFAST IDEAS
With that in mind, here are some of my favorite [read: simple!] Paleo breakfast recipes that can be made quickly OR prepared in advance.
Slow Cooker Breakfast Meatloaf: This recipe, from Meatified, is absolutely delicious! It’s simple to make and you can set your crockpot to have breakfast ready when you pop out of bed. Don’t be intimidated by the long list of spices. The main ingredients are few and, if you’re like me, you’re not going to run to the store for fennel. If you can get comfortable improvising, it will make your life easier.
Paleo Sausage and Sweet Potato Casserole: This recipe, from Plaid and Paleo, has everything I look for in a hearty breakfast: Protein, veggies, and fiber rich veggies. If you’re not ready for greens in the morning, simply substitute another veggie such as chopped zucchini, bell pepper, or diced tomato. Personally, I do well with a small portion of carbs in the morning (I don’t have insulin resistance) so this recipe is a good fit. If you do better without carbs, there are many low carb Paleo casserole and breakfast muffin recipes available on the Web.
Bacon Avocado Cups: This recipe, from Primally Inspired, is uber simple and tastes like it’s from a gourmet chef. It calls for balsamic vinegar and garlic but I can vouch for the fact that it’s delicious without either or both of these ingredients.
Fiesta Breakfast Bowl: This is another one from Meatified and it is beyond delicious! It’s egg-free and a great alternative to the standard Paleo breakfast fare.
EVEN SIMPLER: PALEO BREAKFAST ASSEMBLY
I don’t get down with a lot of recipes. It’s just not how my brain works. I much prefer bulk meal prep (post and video on that coming soon!). This allows me to have ingredients on hand that I can throw together in any combination that suits my fancy.
I start with a palm sized portion of cooked protein, add 1-2 cups of veggies, a serving of healthy fat (the amount depends on how much fat the meat already contains), and some herbs or other seasoning for flavor.
Sound like a Paleo Pile? It is! This method works extremely well, especially if you’re short on time and don’t mind experimenting a little. Honestly, this is the way my family eats most of our meals. It’s convenient, tasty, and everyone can tailor their meal to the own preference.
Below are some examples of foods to choose from in each category:
- Cooked ground beef
- Sausage patties
- Hamburger patties
- Ground Turkey
- Bacon slices
- Leftover roast, cooked fish, chicken thighs, etc.
- Baked sweet potato slices
- Sauteed zucchini
- Steamed broccoli
- Bell pepper slices
- Leftover salad (I make a huge mixed salad bowl on Sunday)
- Coconut Oil
- Grass Fed Butter
- MCT oil
- Organic Lard
- Raw nuts or seeds
- Fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, cilantro, parsley, etc.)
- Himalayan or Celtic Sea Salt
- Sriracha or other hot sauce
- Any organic spice blend
I’d love to know what works for you! We’re all different and we can all learn from one another. Reach out to me on the blog, social media, or via email – I’d love to chat! Email: email@example.com
(HINT: NONE OF THEM INVOLVE LACK OF MOTIVATION OR WILLPOWER)
We decide, once and for all, it’s time to shed those extra pounds. Or, perhaps we want to improve our health, boost our energy, or lower our disease risk. In each of these scenarios, a targeted nutrition strategy is required.
It seems relatively simple, doesn’t it?
Find a Diet Plan + Follow Said Diet Plan = Achieve Goal
Collective cheer from public! Collective groan from billion dollar diet industry… Oh, how I wish it were this straightforward!
In this post, I’m going to lay out the REAL reasons many of us struggle to stick to a nutrition plan and what you can do about them.
You may struggle with all of them or only a few but, based on my coaching experience, few are exempt from the entire list.
Let me be clear: My goal with this list isn’t to give you an excuse to stay stuck.
My goal is to to help you IDENTIFY and ADDRESS your unique roadblocks before they happen so you can craft a nutrition strategy that fits your unique goals, lifestyle, and circumstances.
Note: I am barely scratching the surface in this post. In future posts, I will dive more deeply into each of these.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or therapist. Everything I write on this blog is for educational purposes only and is based on my research and experience helping women achieve their health and body composition goals.
#1 EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS
Heightened emotional states often trigger non-nutritious food cravings. These include:
When we’re experiencing any of the above emotional states, many of us seek food as a way to self-soothe.
Eating triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine, our brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. Eating hyper-palatable foods, such as a chips, ice cream, cookies, etc., triggers these in far greater quantities than whole foods such as steak or broccoli (this is likely NOT a news flash, ha!).
It’s important to note that when we do something that makes our brain happy, you can bet that our brain remembers. Therefore, the more often we use food as a coping mechanism or a way to change our emotional state, the more we entrench this as a habit.
I’m not going to sugar coat this (pun intended, agh..), this is not an easy one to tackle.
- Therapy: Many of us have underlying emotional issues that we haven’t dealt with. I’m not a therapist but am a huge fan of therapy in all its modalities. I was NOT a fan until I kept working to find someone I felt comfortable with. If this is something you think you could benefit from, don’t stop with the first person who rubs you the wrong way. Shop around.
- Set your phone timer to go off every hour. Take a few minutes to get up and stretch, move around, take some deep breaths, drink some water, and possibly get some movement. This helps prevent the build-up of emotions that can lead to non-hunger food cravings.
- List of Non-Food Indulgences: I help my clients create a list of non-food indulgences that help change their emotional state. I also keep a list for myself. My list is short so I don’t need to carry it around but I have clients with much longer lists. They keep copies in their purse, in their car, and taped to their office computer. My personal list of non-food indulgences includes: 3-5 minutes of body weight exercises, a phone call to a friend or family member, or a 5 minute walk.
- We don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable with our new healthy habits so we choose to indulge alongside them rather than sticking to our plan.
- We want to maintain equilibrium in a relationship. Whether it’s a spouse, partner, or friend, we may be afraid that changing ourselves will alter the relationship dynamic.
- Talk to your friends about what you’re trying to achieve. Let them know that you are in no way judging their food choices. If they try to pressure you to indulge, you can jokingly tell them ‘Eyes on your own plate!’ or ‘This is what’s working for me right now’. Either of these should be sufficient to close the topic of your food choices.
- It’s important to note that the dynamics in a close relationship CAN change when one partner chooses to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Having said that, it’s not effective to try to pressure someone into changing with you. We are all adults who get to make our own choices. Instead, try to lead by quiet example. However, you need to be willing to discuss openly any insecurities that may arise from your partner as a result of your improved health or body composition.
#3 LACK OF PLANNING AND PREPARATION
We don’t take the time to prepare healthy food in advance so we resort to take-out, fast food, or other less healthy options.
We have a busy evening transporting kids to events and forget to pack veggies, a protein bar, or a piece of fruit and wind up eating a hot dog or nachos at the game.
We forget to eat before the party and wind up eating chips and stuffed mushrooms because we’re ravenous (I may or may not have done this…).
Cook healthy food in bulk on Sunday so you have the fixings for fast, nutritious meals throughout the week. Example: A roast in the crock pot, a batch of hamburger patties, and a roast chicken combined with a panful of baked sweet potatoes, a huge salad (without dressing), and containers of chopped veggies (or bags of thawed frozen veggies) will allow you to whip up a variety of meals in under 5 minutes.
#4 UNREALISTIC GOALS AND EXPECTATIONS
You decide you’re going to buckle down, get serious, and go ALL IN. Your latest plan involves severely restricting the type and amount of food you eat in order to get quick results. You are GUNG-HO. This time, you’re going to execute perfectly!
Fast forward to day 3. You didn’t plan for your business dinner and overdid it last night. You woke up late and didn’t have time to prepare breakfast. You’ve blown it. You go through the McDonald’s drive-thru and get a burrito and now you are officially ‘off the wagon’ (Reminder: There IS NO WAGON!)
Slow. The. Hell. Down.
Seriously. I know you want results yesterday. I get it. I’ve sooo been there. But it doesn’t work like that. White knuckling it simply isn’t sustainable over the long run (or even the short run). You know this. I know this! How many times have we all tried it and ended up miserable?
This kind of all or nothing approach doesn’t work. Even when it does, the results are temporary because no one can live like a Spartan long-term. Unless you plan to white knuckle it forever, you need to develop some patience.
A better, more effective, but admittedly less sexy approach:
Change one thing at a time (I recommend starting with breakfast). Eat mostly whole, real foods most of the time (skip the fake food and meal replacements!). You know, the stuff I talk about; food that looks like (because it is) actual food.
Focus on quality protein, a wide variety of veggies, a moderate amount of healthy fats with each meal. Eat fruit when you want dessert. Eat slowly and mindfully (not while driving, watching TV, or playing on your phone). Drink plenty of water. Limit alcohol consumption. It’s shocking how effective this simple, common sense approach to nutrition can be for those who are willing to give it a real shot. Bonus: You get a lot of non-scale wins such as clearer skin, balanced energy, improved mood, and deeper sleep.
#5 LOOPHOLES, EXCEPTIONS, AND A VICTIM MENTALITY
Our inner toddler or rebel is a powerful entity. When it hears the word ‘no’, it does not go quietly into that good night. Indeed it does not.
How many times have you told yourself, ‘I’ve been so good, I deserve this!’ or ‘I’ll get back on plan tomorrow’, or worse, ‘My metabolism is broken and nothing works so to heck with it.’
All of these are lies we tell ourselves to avoid doing the work that will lead us to our goals. Here’s the reality: You’ve been so good that you deserve to reap the reward of optimal health. Now is all we have. Tomorrow is a mythological creature that continually eludes us. Your metabolism is not broken. Your body may have adapted to all the crazy diets you’ve put it through over the years but it can be healed in time and with the right protocols (this is a big part of my work with clients).
Get honest with yourself. The stories we tell ourselves about why we eat what we do, why we gained weight, and why we stopped exercising aren’t helpful. They get in the way of clarity, growth, and living the life we truly deserve.
Listen. I get it. I’ve been there with myself and with my clients. I’ve heard it all. The beautiful part is that once you’re able to lift the veil on the stories you’re telling yourself, you’re free. Free to start fresh with grace, patience, and a sane approach.
#6 BAGGAGE FROM PAST ‘FAILURES’
I can’t tell you how many clients have told me ‘I’m not good at sticking to a diet and I doubt I will be this time’. They’ve lost and regained the same 20-30 pounds repeatedly over the past decade or two. They are scared to death to try again.
This is a completely human response; a protective mechanism designed to shield us from disappointment when we inevitably ‘fall off the wagon’.
Let’s recall #4 Unrealistic Goals and Expectations. When we take an all-or-nothing approach to healthy eating, we are destined to feel like a failure.
The reality is this: There will very likely be cookies, pizza, and chocolate in your future.
The idea is to plan for these indulgences, to make sure they’re worth it, to avoid feeling like a victim of our cravings or circumstances.
An overly restrictive, impatient approach ignites our inner rebel. A more relaxed, patient approach allows us to be consistent yet still enjoy the occasional indulgence without derailing our health or goals.
There is a lot of bashing of the concept of moderation. While I do agree that some foods can be a trigger for some and are best avoided for a time, I strongly believe that moderation is a skill that we acquire when we learn to trust ourselves over time.
#7 CHILDHOOD EATING PATTERNS
Kids who were taught to clean their plate or, more insidiously, had food restricted, may unconsciously struggle as adults with any nutrition plan that involves a ‘no’ list.
Depending on your experiences as a child, therapy in some form may be warranted. I have a good friend, Jenny Helms, who does great work in this area and there are many other wonderful practitioners as well.
Bringing awareness to the issue is key whether you pursue therapy or not.
If you were taught to clean your plate, remind yourself that this is no longer a requirement. Some will use cost to justify eating everything on their plate, yet these are often the same people who spend hundreds of dollars on diet plans, meal replacements, and other weight loss gimmicks.
If you need to, use a smaller plate. In any case, it’s absolutely fine, and highly recommended, to stop eating before you’re stuffed.
If your food was restricted as a child, for whatever reason, you may have unconscious fears of not getting enough. This was certainly the case for me. I grew up with brothers who devoured everything in the house like a swarm of locusts! I would hide food and eat my meals very quickly in order to get ‘my share’. It took me a long time to slow down and realize I wasn’t going to go hungry.
#8 PAST TRAUMA
Victims of past abuse or neglect may unconsciously use food for comfort and/or seek to preserve body weight as a measure of protection.
This one is related to #7 and almost always requires some form of therapy in order to heal. It is outside my wheelhouse. When I encounter evidence of past trauma in my coaching practice, I promptly refer my clients to a qualified practitioner.
I urge you to consider whether this may exist in some form for you.
Note: Past trauma does not have to be as overt as sexual or physical abuse. It can be a more insidious form of trauma such as verbal abuse, neglect, shaming, or bullying. Many times, clients blame themselves for lack of willpower or motivation when their issue is not having dealt with past trauma.
#9 SELF-LIMITING BELIEFS
I once had a client tell me ‘I’ve always been the fat girl and I’ll probably always be the fat girl’. Ouch. That was hard to hear.
As odd as this sounds, there are many people who feel defined by their health status or body composition who aren’t convinced they even deserve to change. This may relate to #8 Past Trauma or it may be a result of years of negative self-talk.
Either way, self-limiting beliefs contribute hugely to staying stuck. Unless you a) believe you can achieve your goals and b) believe you deserve to achieve them, you will likely continue to unconsciously sabotage yourself.
Self-awareness is key. Unless and until you become aware of your beliefs about yourself and your self-worth, you can’t break the bonds of these insidious belief systems. Journaling, therapy, talking to someone you trust and respect – all of these can be powerful tools for creating self-awareness and restoring belief in worth and capability.
#10 REDUCED GUT MICROBIOME DIVERSITY
Ok, I know this one is nerdy. However, recent research indicates that a prevalence of certain types of gut microbes can trigger cravings for certain foods such as sweets, fatty foods, or carbohydrates.
Keep in mind: Our guts are home to more than 1,000 species of microorganisms. These microbes are responsible for modulating our immune system, digestive health, and may play a role in body composition.
- Eat a wide variety of non-starchy and starchy veggies. Vegetable fiber is great for our digestion but also provides prebiotic fiber for our beneficial bacteria.
- Limit your intake of processed sugar. Sugar feeds the types of gut bugs that trigger cravings for more sugar. Make it easier on yourself and keep sugar to a minimum.
- Limit your intake of industrial seed oils. Canola oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, safflower oil – all of these can be damaging to our beneficial gut flora and cause inflammation throughout the body.
- Don’t go ultra low-carb for too long. Research shows that by avoiding foods such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, and other starchy vegetable fiber can starve out beneficial strains of microbes. This can lead to gut dysbiosis and other health problems. My baseline recommendation for most women* is not to dip below 100 grams of carbohydrates per day.
*There are those with certain health conditions such as epilepsy, certain forms of cancer, or MS for whom an ultra low carb or ketogenic diet can be extremely therapeutic.
If you’ve made it this far, that’s awesome! It means you’re ready to uncover some of the unconscious factors that may be hindering your efforts at maintaining a healthy diet or nutritional approach.
As I said, I’ll go deeper into each of these in future blog posts.
In the meantime, I’d be honored if you’d share some of your experiences with me and with others by commenting below, on social media, or in an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.