A couple of weeks ago, we shared an article called Small Nutrition Changes For Big Results where our favorite fitness professionals told us about the smallest changes they made to the nutrition that subsequently had the biggest impact on their health and physiques.
Today we wanted to talk about, “A-Ha! Moments.” These are the moments where things just click for you, and you suddenly have a greater understanding of whatever your A-Ha Moment was about. People have these with personal relationships, their finances, a hard math problem, a major life events… whatever.
The important thing about A-Ha Moments is that you don’t ignore them or forget about them, but instead you use them to positively impact your life in whatever way you need it most.
Below, 12 of our favorite fitness pros talk about some of their Nutrition A-Ha Moments. We asked them:
What was your “a-ha!” moment with food when you realized that it’s not the enemy, that your life shouldn’t revolve around your next meal, and that guilt shouldn’t be associated with something you eat?
It’s our hope that one of their A-Ha Moments will resonate with you, and give you an A-Ha Moment of your own.
Whenever I pause and think about what’s truly important in my life, that’s when I can put this into perspective. As long as the people I love and I are in good health, what more could I ask for? That’s when I realize obsessing over food, or fitness in general, is a waste of energy. And, once again, learning to relax and let go of the minutiae is incredibly beneficial.
My “a-ha” moment was when I realized that it’s just food. If I started thinking too much about serving sizes, or feeling crappy about something I ate, I would repeat this over and over again in my head. I still do this for really nutritious foods (that I mostly eat) and for the not-so-nutritious foods (that I sometimes eat), to remind myself that “its all just food.”
I looked at four pictures of myself at four different weights. None of the pictures were any different. I realized right then that “weight” was simply a word, and I loved myself now as much as I did a year ago at a “lighter” weight when I was eating pretty much the same food. I realized that food was not the issue. How I perceived myself was the issue. I love food. And finally, I can see it loving me back.
My story is probably a bit different than most women’s stories in that I have struggled with being underweight for years. Before you send me hate mail, let me assure you that being underweight is just as difficult as being overweight. Nothing fits right, people constantly ask you if you’re sick, and you feel like your efforts in the gym just aren’t paying off.
I finally realized that I needed to change my workouts if I wanted to gain mass. I cut down on the long distance cycling I was doing, and switched from metabolic conditioning workouts to lifting heavy weights. The combination of lifting heavy 2-3 times a week, eating huge quantities of nutrient dense food, and sleeping 8-10 hours a night have made a huge difference in how I look and feel. I have gained 10 pounds of lean mass and made huge strength gains.
As crazy as it sounds, my “a-ha” moment came when I began competing in figure/physique. Being a slave to the food clock (which is necessary for that short time) makes me appreciate when I’m not prepping. As dedicated and on-point as I am for prep, I realized that I can enjoy “dishes” and not just individual macros. I enjoy having chicken tacos with my family, stuffed green peppers, broccoli/cauliflower bake and BBQ pulled pork. I can stay on track with quality foods and get the nutrients I need without eating in macros (plain chicken, plain rice, plain everything.) It’s ok to enjoy food and even plan a treat or two a week with your family.
I love food and it is most decidedly not the enemy, but I think it’s also important to recognize is it not the white knight. In other words, ice cream is not a solution to stress. This is a lesson I still re-learn periodically.
A big a-ha moment came for me when I discovered that I had a gluten sensitivity. It’s too bad my favorite food was raw cookie dough! But what a transformation for me without gluten. Arming body and mind with the right fuel for you will never fail you.
Several years ago, I read on Rachel Cosgrove’s blog how important it is for us ladies to stop what she called “fat talk.” She mentioned you have to start believing you are a fit female before you can really become one. This idea struck a chord with me big time so I committed to not participating in any more fat talk. Who likes it when their girlfriends constantly complain about their “fat thighs” anyway, right? Somehow, just knowing I couldn’t complain about the results of my actions later made it much easier to start making better choices.
When I thought I’d found the perfect diet (again) and after a couple weeks the cravings started, and I wanted to binge. I was sick of the cycle, so I got out. I just said, “F*CK THIS. This time I am just gonna keep it simple, and g*ddamn eat normal and stick to the most basic habits.”
I’m not gonna diet, I’m gonna eat. Best thing I ever did for both my body, my education on diet, and my sanity. I stopped fearing foods especially sugar and carbs, stopped obsessing about organic this or clean that, etc. I just focused on eating enough. My cravings stopped, I grew some muscle, my exercising felt great, and best of all, food did not occupy so much of my time and thoughts all day. I could move on to better things in life.
One of my biggest a-ha moments actually happened during several retreats last year in San Francisco and New Mexico. For the most part, I’d been eating gluten-free for three or four years, and limiting my total grain consumption. Well, on these retreats, there was a lot of spiritual and emotional healing, and whenever that happens, I believe the body tends to crave heavier food to ground us. On both retreats I didn’t bother with going gluten-free or avoiding grains. When I came home, my body was leaner (I’d lost about five pounds and have kept them off), and I felt as if my metabolism reset itself. The combination of spiritual healing and just feeding my body what she craved helped me shift my perspective on how our thoughts about food actually affect the way we metabolize them.
I struggled with amenorrhea (no menstrual period) for seven years straight. At first, it was nice not having to buy tampons and dealing with monthly cramps. However, I knew something was really wrong. I was someone who used to count every calorie and avoided social events because I couldn’t control every macro that went in my mouth.
After ditching this obsession, my period came back naturally. This “Cognitive Dietary Restraint” I was putting myself under was hurting my body more than doing it any good. Today, I enjoy my life more, I still eat well, but I don’t restrict myself to the point of causing my period to go MIA, and I am much healthier woman than I ever was.
My biggest nutrition “A-Ha Moment” has actually happened pretty recently. For the last 10 years I’d done everything you can imagine diet-wise: low carb, low fat, low carb and low fat (yikes!), six meals a day, intermittent fasting, 1400 calories a day, 3200 calories a day, Paleo, Primal, you name it. I’ve done Figure Competition prep diets. I’ve had cheat meals, cheat days, cheat weekends, and cheat months. It’s. Been. Exhausting. And my poor Mother never knows, “what I can eat.” She’s always asking what she can feed me when I go to her house, bless her sweet heart.
About a year ago, I literally stopped caring what I was eating. The intensity with which I had focused on food for the last decade had finally gotten to me, and I just stopped caring. I started eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it. Lucky for me, several effortless habits had been ingrained in me for quite a while, such as: eating protein with every meal, seeking out vegetables and fats for every meal, gravitating towards good high-protein snacks like almond butter, cottage cheese, and jerky. Unfortunately I also had some bad habits such as: if I were going to eat carbs, I’d eat all the carbs, or all the ice cream.
Within a couple of months, after I had been essentially eating whatever I wanted for a couple of months, I start listening to my body more. I would eat something if I wanted it, but I would stop eating when I no longer enjoyed it, or when I was full. I started realizing that because I could eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it, nothing was off-limits and I no longer binged. This “food freedom” and ability to listen to my body has been a game changer.
Did you notice what they all had in common?
I don’t know about you, but there seems to be a theme here with all of these fitness professionals, and the theme is to relax a bit when it comes to food.
Listen to your body.
It’s just food.
Food is not the enemy.
Food is meant to be enjoyed.
Avoid total restriction.
Make good choices.
There are plenty of things that will come up in your life to cause you worry. Food should not be one of them.
Do you feel that you could use a little guidance to reach a balanced approach to your fitness and nutrition? We can help!