I’d like to introduce you to Roger

Roger Zetah knows a thing or two about investments, to say the least. He spends his weekdays clocking long hours at the office as a 58-year-old CPA (certified public accountant). Though, that’s not the particular facet of his life that fascinated me: it’s his investment in health in and out of the CrossFit gym we attend together.

When he’s not hitting the workout of the day with the class, he’s in the back training to improve his olympic weightlifting mechanics. He’s an accomplished athlete, missing qualifying for Regionals as a Masters competitor by only 35 spots and 5 spots, respectively, the last two years. And for those who know as little about the Masters category as I: it’s a worldwide competition where only 200 of the best move on to Regionals. I got curious about what keeps him going; age aside, at a time when so many people across the board struggle to maintain consistency of gym attendance. So I asked him if we could chat after a workout.

He’s certainly got an admirable level of determination, which became painfully clear when I found out his first CrossFit workout ever, five years ago, involved 100 thrusters.

I loved a particular story he shared: when he was focused on getting his muscle-up, he actually changed his license plate to say “muscle-up” to constantly remind him. Then he got it! Maybe if I borrow his car, my gymnastics will improve too.

With my knowledge on nutrition I was pretty convinced he was killing it the kitchen too, but of course I had to ask.

“It’s huge how much eating impacts performance,” Roger said.

He wasn’t at all shy to admit he absolutely dreads cooking, but suffers through time in the kitchen every Sunday to meal prep and set himself up for success, thus being able to avoid the task for the next six days. Chicken breast (particularly prepared through his newfound love of the crockpot), ground turkey, a variety of vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, sweet potatoes and small amounts of fruit are on the menu for his typical day.

He explained that weighing and measuring his food doesn’t interest him, though he did go strict Paleo for 42 days at an old gym for a group challenge where he dropped to an unsustainable 4% body fat.

“For the first two weeks (on Paleo) I didn’t want to be around sharp instruments,” Roger joked. “And performance wise I didn’t have enough energy.”

After ditching that method, he’s discovered that intuitively eating quality foods keeps him feeling good in the gym and satisfied throughout the day. Well, that and a little bit of dark chocolate.

“I have a small piece of dark chocolate almost every day. I get my fix and I’m done,” he admits. The minor indulgence keeps him on track, as he doesn’t entertain cheat meals or cheat days. He went on to tell me that he doesn’t ever feel deprived by structuring his nutrition this way.

“Once I started eating better, I stopped craving things. I look at bread and ice cream and to me, it’s not food,” he said.

I pressed for what motivates him to keep his health on the forefront of his priorities, especially with his circumstances: his wife is a recent cancer survivor, he works full-time and hates prepping his food. Crushing excuses like thrusters.

“I feel better. I like working out and I can do things people my age can’t do,” he said. “Everyone at Magna that comes to workout that works out hard inspires me, whether they’re a beginner or have been here 5 years.”

He offered me some of his best advice to share: “If you fall off the track, don’t stay off. And be patient, everything will come in time with discipline.”

I really believe that every person you meet has something to offer. And all too often the opportunity is missed. How frequently do you stare at your phone checking out at the grocery store, instead of engaging with the associate helping you? Or come to the gym and make friendly nods, but never actually learn about the people you’re sweating with? These people all have stories, passions, inspirations and knowledge that is just waiting to be shared.

Thank you Roger, for sharing a piece of your story with me.

 PHOTO BY BRETT BARTLETT

PHOTO BY BRETT BARTLETT

Eat, Breathe, Work Hard, Repeat

I’m going to tell you something, and you may be shocked. Drum roll please… I eat ice cream sometimes. Gelato specifically, it’s my fav. And cheesecake, like on my birthday last month. And even chocolate, because every 20-something girl loves chocolate, it’s science. I know, I know -- you’re totally shocked. A nutritionist eats things full of fat, sugar, processed ingredients and insane amount of calories sometimes? Sometimes, yes.

Every time I’m at a social gathering and indulge in something less-than-nutritionist-worthy, heads literally explode and I hear comments ranging from “oh my God you eat things like that?” to “how do you look like that and eat like that?” -- there’s flaws all in, out, and around the logic of those statements and I’m going to break them down for you really quick. Partially for my sanity, but mostly to help you take better control over your approach to nutrition as well.

Eat

First, I eat things like that sometimes. I’m a BIG advocate of balance, and my clients know this well. If you hate what you’re doing, you’ll grow resentful and create an unhealthy relationship with your approach and possibly foods. Anything that doesn’t bend will eventually break, and your “diet” should allow for flexibility.

Balance is open for interpretation, but with something like sugar, it’s fair to assume it should be consumed far less than the higher-priority, nutrient-dense foods like vegetables (especially the green ones), lean proteins, whole grains and fruit.

Next, I’m not actively trying to lose weight right now. I’m eating for maintenance, which supplies my body enough calories to train hard, be less strict with my calorie intake and/or macronutrient distribution, have plenty of energy, and hold consistently at the same body weight. If your primary goal right now is to lose weight, it’s also fair to assume your balance should be more strict than the person who is trying to maintain. Note: you can still eat delicious things and lose weight, but as a general rule of thumb, less frequently.

Furthermore, maintaining is pretty easy (especially once you’ve been doing it a while). Basically: keeping abs is generally easier than getting them. So don’t fret if you are trying to drop pounds, you’ll have even more flexibility once you’re trying to maintain, too.

The 80/20 approach means eating nutrient-dense food 80% of the time, and enjoying other things 20% of the time. Of course, these percentages will vary based on if you have specific goals you’re working toward, but for maintaining weight and overall wellness, this structure works well for most people. So if you’re absolutely just craving that doughnut, consider it part of the 20% for that week. Keep in mind: in order to stay within that 80%, you want to get right back on track after an indulgence -- be mindful of that, and don’t let one meal turn into a weekend.

Breathe

It’s so important for your mind, body and overall health to not beat yourself up when you do indulge. Way easier said than done, I totally get it. But the practices below really help me keep that “guilt” in control.

I make the meal count. I don’t eat indulgences in my car, alone at home (unless that’s your happy place, no judgement), or at the office. Don’t let your circumstances dictate your decisions; you can always find an excuse: it’s so-and-so’s birthday, but there’s a work happy hour, someone else is in town and your aunt is having a baby shower -- if you indulge every single time something comes up, you’re probably further from the balance concept we just addressed. You are in control of your nutrition choices, the food sitting on the break room counter is not.

Try to eat well most of the time so you can really enjoy the pieces that don’t fit in the “most”. Do you ever eat something and think “man that wasn’t worth it?” — “it” being the calories. I strive to avoid that feeling. If I’m going to splurge on something sweet, it’s going to be planned and in-line with what I’m really craving. This notion can be applied to events, too: if you know you’re going to a dinner party, eat well most of that week to allow yourself to embrace whatever delicious items are available in that scenario. Be in control when you can, so that when you aren’t it doesn’t set you back (thus, ladies and gents, an example of the 80/20 approach).

Another thing that really helps with the breathe component is meditation. I used to think meditation was rah-rah yogi stuff and totally not for me. Since I’ve let that assumption go, I’m in the process of writing a piece on how much guided meditation has positively impacted my, and many of my friends’ lives, but in the meantime, know that I use an app called Headspace. Download it on any smart phone -- your first 10 sessions are free. It REALLY helps with the whole “letting things” go thing. Seriously, look it up, right after you finish this post.

Work Hard

Lastly, work hard! My clients know we don’t call them cheat days, we call them reward meals (not “cheating” because you’ve earned the indulgence, this is a lifestyle not a diet, and it’s not full days). Reward meals are earned for, you guessed it: following the plan 80% of the time, not making excuses, and working hard.

Truth be told, in addition to the ongoing comments aforementioned during the introduction, the inspiration for this blog post came from a conversation with my CrossFit coach. On the first Friday of each month, our gym does Fran (a famously terrible workout in the functional fitness community). After everyone sweats their heart out, our coach brings in something fun like snow cones or a waffle truck. It is his intention (and him and I are quite aligned on nutrition-based things) that members eat well most of the time, work really hard during the workout, enjoy the indulgence with their fellow CrossFit friends, and then don’t stress about it and get right back on track the next day. Hmm… it’s almost like, that is what I just outlined as my approach, too! :)

I hope you find these concepts helpful and apply them to improve your mental health, quality of life and relationship of food. Cheers!

Be easy, my friend

While sitting in my car waiting for the light to turn green, the car behind me honks the moment it does. Perhaps he was in a hurry, or he thought I was texting and not paying attention. He probably doesn’t know that I just had an injection of medicine 40 miles from home, like I do every week, which causes me to be excruciatingly uncomfortable, therefore moving and reacting a little slow.

Then, after ordering my coffee at Starbucks, the cashier seems frustrated with me as I fumble through my wallet, because the pain I’m in can be so distracting that it’s hard to focus.

And at the gym, I move slowly through a workout and appear less driven or competitive, though I’m really mentally wrestling with the fact that my fitness isn’t up to par with where it was when I was healthier.

I don’t say these things to gain sympathy. I don’t want that, for many reasons; one of which is that everyone has something going on. Some issues are more critical than others, though conflict magnitude is relative to the person. Personal struggle is a universal emotion: death of a loved one, medical issues, break-ups, financial insecurity, the list goes on. At some point everyone is plagued by being seriously upset about something, rightfully so.

Take a moment to think about how you would treat someone who just shared with you that they’re having a hard time. Then, picture how a loved one spoke to and consoled you during a rough period. A gentle tone, soft embrace, compassion and selflessness are probably a few characteristics that you just envisioned.

So if we all have been through a challenging time, thus empathizing with how incredibly difficult it is, why wouldn’t we treat everyone like we understand them? Naturally, each person you encounter is not always emotionally drained due to their current situation (thank goodness!), but think back to the traits you appreciate in both a confidant and random strangers when you’re struggling. What if you treated each person you meet with those same qualities, regardless of what’s going on in their life? What is the worst that could happen if you treated every individual like you sincerely cared about them?

Next time I’m at a light, and the person in front of me doesn’t go right when the light turns green, I won’t be so quick to honk my horn. Maybe he’s on Facebook and should be looking at the road, but maybe his little boy is sick, or he just lost his job. My honking gesture won’t make him a better driver if it’s the former, and will make him feel worse if it’s the latter.

Take a few minutes today to consider how you could treat people more the way you would like to be treated, whether it be your best day or your darkest hours, because we all experience both.

CrossFit Games athlete and entrepreneur Jason Khalipa recently said during a podcast interview that after seeing his daughter receive Leukemia treatments in the ICU, surrounded by other toddlers fighting for their lives, nothing really ever seems that bad. The California traffic, crowds, and daily inconveniences, really seem so insignificant comparatively. He suggested we all calm down, “life is good, be easy.”

Set up for success: Eating while traveling

Hitting your macros, eating well, resisting temptation: those things are all hard enough when you’re in your usual environment such as work or in the comfort of your home. Once you throw traveling into the mix, people tend to completely fall of track. Finding healthy options and maintaining some sense of positive nutrition habits while flying, on the road or in unfamiliar towns can be challenging -- but it’s absolutely doable.

Many of my clients travel often for work and have utilized many of these strategies already to consistently work toward their goals, regardless of where they are. I’ll reference tracking macros in the information below, although even if you’re not diligently following your protein, carb and fat intake, these tips will help you stay on track and feel your best while on vacation.

Restaurant research

Prior to arriving to a new city, or first thing when you get there, scout out a couple top-rated restaurants in the area; you might as well try the best food while you’re there! Once you’ve identified ones within your proximity and price point, pull up their menu online and look through some options of things that fall within your macros from an estimated perspective. 

Example: if I know I’m trying to keep my carbs within reason, a dish with a pasta base, served with bread, topped with something crusted and breaded, probably isn’t the best choice.

Doing this research ahead of time ensures two things: you have some places to go ready to reference when you’re hungry which helps you avoid stopping at some semi-decent hot dog hut, and secondly, you already know what on the menu sounds appealing before you get there and are tempted by smells, other customer’s plates, and so forth.

If the restaurant's nutrition facts are available online, great! Definitely reference those to get an idea of the composition of their dishes. Consider that if their veggie-based plates are super high in fat, they may be cooking in a lot of oil or butter. You can use this information to eat less fat throughout the day to maintain some balance, and/or to track the actual macros.

Estimated nutrients

The reality is that when you’re eating out, protein is expensive and served in small portions. Always look for ways to add lean protein to your meals, and ask your server what’s available for cooking methods: grilled is more ideal than fried, for example. Fat is usually used in excess (because it tastes so good!), everything has more salt than you can taste to preserve ingredients longer, and most things are carb-dense. This doesn’t mean you should just eat less, but rather be more mindful of the nutrients you’re looking for. If you haven’t had many vegetables that day, add some in at dinner on the side. If you had a huge omelette at breakfast, maybe skip the cheese or bacon to keep your fat in check. These small tips go a long way and require no measuring or counting. And always, always, always: drink more water. Being out of your element, it’s easy to forget to get those fluid ounces in.

Reasonable expectations

It’s a good idea to have a conversation with your traveling partner or family in regards to your restaurant suggestions, and share ideas for healthy snacks and ways to stay active during your trip. It’s also important to remember that consistent progress is key: whether or not you got significantly closer to your goal while on vacation isn’t important, but as long as you made some conscious healthy decisions and made an effort to stay enough on track to continue working toward progress, you’re golden. Don’t be too hard on yourself; having unrealistic expectations of eating perfectly and working out every day while traveling will only make falling short of those more upsetting. Let go of the perfection mindset, and prioritize consistent progress.

The adherence “rule”

Let’s start with this: we’re always shooting to hit your goal nutrient intake about 90% of the time to move consistently in the right direction on the progress scale. If you’re eating four times a day (for example), in a given week you’d not want to stray too far off track for more than two meals. 90% of 4 meals per day x 7 days per week = 25 meals to crush perfectly. Over the course of months and a year, you really do have some wiggle room to allow yourself to go a little off track while still achieving progress.

With that said, there’s always going to be some flaw in your measuring -- even at home. Sometimes we don’t have our food scale or measuring cups (like, at a work lunch or on vacation) and we have to eyeball the ounces of chicken or cup of rice. When eating out, you don’t always know how much or what oils food is being cooked in, so we do our best to guess. And furthermore, nutrition labels aren’t 100% accurate, but we go off the information anyway. This small, common discrepancy is called what I refer to as your margin of error. If you’re not totally new to tracking food, you probably have a good sense for what portions looks like. If you tracked everything on vacation pretty closely, you’d probably only be off about 10% (or less) of the time, given all the mentioned variables. That would still put you in the 90/10 area of adherence we’re striving for.

This is a lifestyle

Whether you’re eating healthy or counting macros, it’s a lifestyle -- not a short-term gig. Consider the importance of balance and quality of life before you make yourself miserable avoiding treats or “cheat meals” on a trip. Consider that every time you eat, you’re making a choice. You’re saying,This is good fuel for my body, and what I want to spend my calories/macros on today.” Make your indulgences count and cash in on really good, tasty food that’s worth it if you’re going to stray away from your norm.

Back on track

The problem most people have with getting off track is the ability to get back ON track. When you get back in town, your body may crave sugar or extra calories a little more once you’ve given it some, so already having a healthy meal in mind and the ingredients on hand helps you steer your wagon in the right direction quickly, and avoid detours. Consider ordering some food ahead of time to have ready to go when you get home, or have some easy-to-prep ingredients on hand so vacation doesn’t roll into a week of “off” eating once you’re back in town.

Come prepared

Bring snacks that don’t need to be kept cold in your suitcase: protein powder (and shaker bottle!), protein bars, those kind of things. If you have access to a cooler, pack in tons of veggies, fruit and extra water. For some more snack ideas that are easy to bring along, check out my recent blog post here

On my most recent road trip, I ordered pre-portioned meals from FitChoice Foods to eat during the day, with the intention to treat myself to a restaurant meal each night. These stay great in the cooler, and can be quickly heated in a microwave at a gas station, hotel room, or hotel dining area if there’s no microwave in your room.

Due to my own recent traveling and busy weekends, I looked into ordering my meals from a prep service to make sure I stay on track consistently when my time to meal prep falls short. After ordering from FitChoice several times over the last couple months, I reached out to the owner (based in Mesa) and asked if they'd consider a partnership because I'm a big fan of their service. I'm stoked to announce they provided me a discount code to share with you all!

Here's a brief rundown of why I’m a big fan:

  • You order your meals online, choosing from pre-selected options OR create your own meals by picking a protein, veggie and carbohydrate to pair together

  • You can select your size of protein with each order, and the macros are listed on the container

  • There's a TON of options for carbs, proteins and veggies -- and each meal comes with your choice of a sauce (score!)

  • You can have it delivered to your house, or choose to pick it up at a gym located near your house during set times given on the website

    • Make note of the order cut-off times for ordering listed on the website.
      Tip: I put these deadlines in my calendar, so I don't forget to order!

And, bonus: I've been buying one meal for lunch and/or dinner every single day, and I'm spending less on food each week than I was when I was meal prepping all my food.

If you give it a try, please let me know how much you love it, and don't forget to use heypreslie10 at checkout for 10% off your order for the discount, and so they know I sent you their way. :) If you need suggestions or have any questions while navigating the site, please don't hesitate to reach out to me.

Cheers to happy, safe traveling and a summer full of progress toward those goals!

Nutrition Survival Guide: Memorial Day Weekend

What doesn’t bend will eventually break. This concept applies to many situations, and in this case: your diet and lifestyle. If your nutrition regimen is so strict that it allows for zero flexibility, you’re far more likely to binge eat, create an unhealthy relationship with food and feel deprived. You’ll realize (I hope) that none of those three side-effects are desirable results, or ones you’d associate with a sustainable, enjoyable lifestyle.

Being satisfied and actually liking the food you eat while simultaneously working toward your goals, AND having a social life is not a lifestyle only found in a mythical land far away. It can be your reality! It does take time, and you’ll get there through small steps and little efforts at a time. I’ve compiled tried-and-true strategies and suggestions to help you enjoy your Memorial Day celebration while keeping your nutrition goals in mind.

Eat before you eat

Pre-eat. You read that right. You’re thinking “you want me to eat...before I go to eat?” Yes. Your body craves the good, basic stuff: proteins, fats, and carbs. Protein is found in chicken breast and egg whites, just like it is found in hot dogs and hamburgers. Fat is in avocados and dairy products, and in the mayo that makes chicken salad so tasty. And, in simple terms, your body sees the carbs in brown rice and fruit the same way it does hot dog buns. Therefore, eat some wholesome food (such as what you’d meal prep for lunch during the workweek) before you head to the BBQ, so you’re already quite satisfied of the things your body needs and craves, before you’re put in a will-power testing situation. 

This practice has a dual purpose: in addition to being content from a macronutrient perspective, you won’t be as hungry. We all know what happens when you grocery shop on an empty stomach, and a pool party is no different. You end up buying and eating things you didn’t even know you wanted (and in most cases, really don’t want). Set yourself up beforehand so when you arrive, you’ll only want something if it’s absolutely worth it.

Friends don’t let friends eat grocery store dessert

“Worth it”, what does that mean? Great question. You know that favorite dessert you have? Maybe it’s a certain flavor at the Cheesecake Factory, or that award-winning combination at Coldstone Creamery. Picture that item in your mind for a moment. Now, think of what a cookie from the box at the grocery store bakery tastes like, or a brownie from the gas station. Would you say they are comparable? Probably not. Consider that every time you eat, you’re making a choice. You’re saying “this is good fuel for my body, and what I want to spend my calories/macros on today.” Do you feel confident saying that about a crappy, store-bought cookie? Make your indulgences count. This philosophy has really helped me, and I have a post dedicated specifically to it you can check out here.

Similar to the dessert example, there are plenty of foods that don’t seem indulgent that you may eat at a pool-side BBQ that you wouldn’t ordinarily. An average hot dog bun is 21 grams of carbohydrates, 2g of fat and 3g of protein. And be honest with yourself: do they even taste that good? If you do love it, try having half of the bun with the whole hot dog. This concept introduces moderation, which is further explained in the next tip. 

Moderation is key

I know you hear this a lot, largely because it’s true. Let’s say you eat 4 meals a day: breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner. That’s 28 times you eat in a given week. Now if you “cheat” or eat something less than ideal for one of those meals, that’s not even 4% of all the food you ate in those 7 days. Any dietician or statistician can assure you that if you’re doing something quite well 96% of the time, the 4% won’t make a huge detrimental impact to your overall success. LeBron James, one of the best basketball players of all time, has a career shooting average of only about 50%. If he misses almost half the shots he makes and is still that good, you’ll be okay going a little off track on one meal in a week.

The nice thing about a wagon, is you can get back on

It’s your wagon; you’re the one driving it! If you fall off, stop your own wagon, dust the dirt off your pants, and get right back on. The problem most people have with getting off track is the ability to get back ON track. A “cheat” meal is that: a meal. If you choose to have all of the food, calorie, indulging freedom on Memorial Day, keep it to a meal and remember that the next meal, and next day, should go right back to normal. In this situation, it can be really helpful to have your next meal planned. Your body may crave sugar or extra calories a little more once you’ve given it some, so already having a healthy meal in mind and the ingredients on hand helps you steer you wagon in the right direction quickly, and avoid detours.

Wait, there’s more!

For some additional practical tips and healthier picks, here are some ideas:

  • Ditch your hamburger bun, and wrap it in lettuce
  • Grab a single plate and toss it when you’re done, instead of grabbing a second helping
  • Pickles have ton of salt, so snack some of those instead of potato chips for the salty satisfaction without the extra carbs and oils
  • Use your fist as a guide; have only that much (in size) of any potato, egg, or chicken salad
  • Keep the condiments to a minimum; try having less than you usually do. Two tablespoons of ketchup packs 10g carbs, and you’ve likely spread on more than that in the past out of habit
  • Drinks lots of water: it will not only keep you hydrated in the heat, but feeling fuller as well. You’ve heard this tip before, but actually do it — have some water, and then have some more.
  • Add fruit to your water for some flavor and summer flare. Skip the carbonated beverages, even those without sugar, such as diet soda, dehydrate you and can make you feel bloated
  • Don’t sit by the food table: distance yourself from the temptation by getting out and enjoying the pool water, weather, green grass and outdoor activities
  • Chew gum so you don’t nibble on something just for the sake of nibbling
  • Bring one of your favorite healthy dishes to share, so you’re in control of at least one item available to snack on
  • Don’t think about what you can’t/shouldn’t eat, instead add more good stuff! Pack on the veggies, fruit, and wholesome ingredients to whatever you’re eating -- which in turn, makes less room for the junk, both on your plate and in your belly.
  • Look for better options, regardless of the options you’re given: when possible, pick leaner proteins like chicken, turkey or fish over beef. Choose whole-grains or plant-based carbs (like corn or rice) instead of highly-processed ones like breads and desserts. 

And at the end of the day remember: you’re building a healthy lifestyle, this is a long-term game. Enjoying yourself without guilt isn’t an easy feat, but I encourage you to embrace life balance. Your nutrition goals, friends and family, and happiness will thank you for it.