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The Guilt Trap: Eating “Badly”

bingeeatingThe Guilt Trap begins with the statement, “I fell off track with my plan to eat well and I feel so guilty about it.”

Feeling guilty is not at all productive in this scenario. You might think feeling guilty will help you not do it again or help you get back on track, but I believe it’s the primary reason people stay derailed. It becomes a negative cycle you can’t get out of. You CAN fix it, though, if you’re willing to work on your mind.

Instead of entertaining negative thoughts about what you just ate, allow yourself to be human and say, “well, that happened” and move on. It’s not easy and it won’t get easy overnight. It takes time to retrain your brain, especially because most of us have conditioned ourselves to feel guilty about food for most of our lives. Have patience, and allow yourself time and practice to reverse that.

Later, when the moment has passed, ask yourself WITHOUT JUDGEMENT “why did I eat that / why did I eat that much?” Being able to pinpoint where you were at emotionally or physically at that moment can help you acknowledge it when it happens again. Here are a few examples:

• Maybe you haven’t been eating much during the day and then binging at night. That means you need to start eating more during the active portions of your day.
• Maybe work/life has been stressful and you’re using food in an attempt to feel better. If it happens a couple times a week, so what? This too shall pass. If it’s every day, check in with yourself when it’s happening, and find something else to do/eat.
• Maybe you’re out with friends, feeling happy, and eating everything in sight because it’s there. Again, if this is an occasional occurrence, let it be. If it lasts an entire weekend every weekend, ask yourself where you can make some modifications. Maybe breakfast and lunch are healthful meals, then you incorporate something you’re craving for dinner.

I believe that if we spent less time feeling guilty and judging ourselves, we would get out of our own way, and it would be a whole lot easier to accomplish our goals. I have one more scenario for you to consider: What would you say to your overweight child that just ate a few too many cookies? How long would you make your child think about the cookies he/she just ate?

I think you know where I’m going with this… so I will leave you with that 🙂

Ashley Brodeur, MS, CPT
Owner, Active Lifestyle Fitness, LLC

Binging and Purging: More Common Than You Think!

Healthy-eatingMany diet programs and pyramid schemes make their money off of the thought that women eat too much. It must be true that, if you are overweight, you must sit around all day and stuff your face. You must be eating brownies for breakfast and ice cream sundaes for lunch and by simply “controlling your portions” and exercising, you will lose weight. Would you believe me if I told you that I don’t buy into that for the majority of the female population?

Ok, you’re thinking “…but I watch ‘My 600lb Life’ on TLC and that is definitely the issue!” For some people, it is, but I’m talking about the average woman that has 30-50lbs to lose and can’t seem to get it to budge. Do you eat healthy snacks at the office, order a salad for lunch, and still struggle to lose weight? These might be some reasons why…

1) You’re binging and purging. No, you’re not vomiting in the toilet, but you exhibit disordered eating that needs to be addressed. You are stuck in a negative cycle that keeps you at the same weight. You’re going wild on the weekend (binging) and then eating very little during the week to compensate (purging) until you do it again the next weekend. Another common issue: You’re eating very little during the day, binging at night, and eating very little the next day because you’re not hungry from the binge the previous evening.

2) You’re lying to yourself. I can’t preach enough about the power of food journaling. When you do it correctly, it forces you to face the music. Your weekend binge is 3000+ calories each day. When you come home from work and eat everything in the cabinet because you didn’t eat enough during the day, that’s an extra 1000+ calories. You can’t fully comprehend what you’re doing to yourself and your progress, though, if you’re not journaling or not journaling honestly.

For some women, it is an issue of eating too much, and that can easily be corrected. But if you fall into the binging and purging category I described (as I believe a large majority of women do), you have disordered eating habits. You’re compromising your health, quality of life, and weight loss progress. How do you fix it? Get rid of the thought that food is a reward for a tough week at work and/or a coping mechanism for stress. Eat enough high quality food during the day so that you’re not starving at night. Enjoy your weekends, but turn the binge into just one special dessert or meal you’ve been craving. Strive for balance, not extremes, and your body will align with the goals you have set for yourself!

The Truth About Weight Loss

Weight-Loss-PlateauWeight loss is a tricky beast, and sounds easier in theory than it is in reality. Many people have misconceptions about weight loss and set themselves up for disappointment by not understanding what it actually looks like. Here are some of the key points to keep in mind on your weight loss journey:

1) You have to be ready to reach your goal. Are you willing to give up ALL of your excuses? Really? Weight loss takes a lot of focus and dedication, and excuses are obstacles that will hinder the process. Before you set your sights on a big goal, make sure that you are really ready to take on the challenge and accept no excuses from yourself. Giving up the excuses will clear your path to the finish line.

2) Don’t expect a running start. Expect your body to do weird things in the first 6 weeks of starting a new training program. Some people lose weight, some stay the same and lose inches, and some lose weight and lose inches. The reality is, your body is trying to figure out WTF you’re doing and how to respond to it. After 4-6 weeks, it will respond to your brain’s mojo, and the scale should start trending downward.

3) Even as you’re losing weight, you will have “fat days.” Yesterday you were svelte and defined, and today you feel like a bloated sausage. That is perfectly normal, and does NOT mean what you’re doing is not working! One day of bloated sausage is just that – ONE DAY. Do not throw in the towel and invite your friends Ben & Jerry over for a pity party. Tomorrow is a new day, and you may feel even better tomorrow than you did yesterday!

4) The road to success is not a straight line. You will have times that your body will plateau for a week or two, especially if you have a lot of weight to lose. Your body needs time to readjust and balance itself out every once in a while, and you should let it. If you still have a lot of weight to lose and your weight plateaus for more than 2 weeks, you should re-evaluate what you’re doing, because it’s probably time to make some changes.

5) Your body has a “happy weight,” which you may not agree with. I don’t like to set final weight goals with my clients because, the reality is, nobody knows what that’s going to be. If you’re 45 y/o, you are not likely going to weigh what you did at your best shape at 25 y/o, but you may be able to wear the same size jeans! Your body will eventually reach its “happy weight” and plateau. It may not be at the number you want, but who cares? You will be happy with your accomplishments at that weight, and it will have been worth all the hard work!

Ashley Brodeur, MS, CPT
Exercise Physiologist
Owner, Active Lifestyle Fitness, LLC

9 guilt-free foods at the Big E

I decided this would be the year I tackled the Big E in all its junk food glory to find food items our members could eat without ruining their hard work. I can’t say this was an easy task, but I did come out with a few gems for you. The main criteria for my search was that these items would not encourage a blood sugar spike causing more junk food cravings after the food is digested, ultimately leading you to a dark place where deep fried Oreos live. Stay away from simple carbs and sugars if you’re trying to keep yourself under control!


1) Smoked Salmon (Maine Building)
A great source of protein and healthy fat, I would agree with their claim that this is the healthiest food at the Big E. Wicked convenient, too, since you can carry around your salmon on a stick.


2) A Cup of Chili (Massachusetts Building)
A plain cup of chili (not chili cheese dogs) should keep you satisfied and provide a good source of protein if you get turkey, beef, or emu (what?) Kielbasa here shouldn’t be too bad either depending on the marinade.


3) Shrimp Cocktail (Rhode Island Building)
There are lots of other seafood items at this stand that I found questionable, but plain shrimp cocktail is a safe bet. It’s a great source of protein; and keep the cocktail sauce to a moderate dose!


4) Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Salad (Connecticut Building)
This looked very fresh and easy to eat! Cheese is not high on my list of “healthy” things to eat, but it is portioned out for you in this dish.


5) Chop Chop Salad (Delaney House Tent)
There are several tents where you can sit and have a salad if you have time; this is not the only one. Just make sure the toppings are not saturated in sauces or marinades and that you ask for a dressing on the side. Ceasar, Greek, Blue Cheese, or Olive Oil-based dressings are higher in fat but are more satisfying than dressings higher in sugar.


6) Greek Salad (Everywhere!)
There are a lot of tents and stands serving Greek food. While I might stay away from the white bread gyro (or just eat the guts and throw away the bread), Tzatziki sauce and other Greek dressings have a yogurt and/or olive oil base which isn’t bad for you like a lot of the dressings and sauces on American food. I might opt for a place that looks somewhat authentic, though, than a random food truck that’s also serving donuts.

7) Beef Jerky (Better Living Center)
Jerky is usually a safe bet as long as you make sure it wasn’t heavily marinated. It can be high in sodium, but unless your doctor has placed you on a low sodium diet for medical reasons, it’s not going to hurt you.


8) Dill Pickles (Craft Marketplace)
There isn’t much to dill pickles, except a little bit of sodium. It may not be completely satisfying, but it will take you a while to munch on it, so it will keep you occupied while your friends/family are eating ice cream!

9) Roasted Nuts (Rhode Island Building)
Nuts are a healthy fat source that will keep you satisfied and provide energy during your trek across the junk food jungle. Just make sure you count out a serving and don’t eat the entire bag because the calories add up quickly! Some other stands also have nuts, but they’re coated in sugar. Opt for plain, salted, or roasted!

After hustling through the Exposition and finding myself parched, I also thought it would be helpful to list some drinks in addition to water:


Sugar-Free Lemonade (Outside the Better Living Center)
I was disappointed to find that most of the lemonade stands (even in the state buildings) were pouring syrup and sugar into their drinks. I asked a few if I could get fresh squeezed lemon in water and this was the only stand that would do it. It was very refreshing! Del’s in the Rhode Island building has a sugar-free lemonade option, but there is some kind of artificial sweetener in it that I wasn’t too sure about.


Coffee (Everywhere!)
When all else fails… coffee! As long as you don’t fill it with sugar or order a mochalatte coffee-flavored sugar bomb, a plain iced coffee will provide some hydration and also serve as a mild appetite suppressant!


Vodka/Seltzer: no cranberry (V1 tent, Delaney House tent)
I get it, some of you go to the Big E to drink alcohol. Your best bet is to stop by the V1 tent (not for the deep fried martinis) and get a vodka/seltzer (you don’t really need a sugar splash of cranberry). The Delaney House tent also has Spiked Seltzer if you want something more convenient in a can. Just keep in mind that alcohol consumption can lead to poor choices, and poor choices can include mini donuts.


Lastly, you may decide to use your visit to the Big E as your cheat meal for the week, and there is nothing wrong with that. Just make sure to eat in moderation and not drag the junk food out over the course of a day. Cheat meals are fine, cheat days can easily erase a whole week of hard work!

Cheat Meal: Friend or Foe?

Many fitness coaches and nutritionists have different thoughts on cheat meals and how they play into your weight loss journey. Some programs do not allow cheat meals at all, which I find to only work for people short-term. If you don’t learn how to incorporate “bad food” into your diet on occasion without completely falling off the wagon and rolling down the hill, or you live your life terrified of ever eating a cupcake again, you will have a very difficult time maintaining your weight loss results long-term. While I don’t have a degree in nutrition, I have worked with many different clients over an extended period of time on their eating habits, and I have developed my own opinions on cheat meals based on my clients’ success. Cheat meals can be your friend or your foe, depending on how you choose to utilize them.

Woman and pizzaThe bodybuilding school of thought is that a cheat meal sized and placed appropriately can actually speed up your metabolic rate if your metabolism is working effectively. I have seen this work with many fitness competitors and with my clients. The key terms here, though, are “sized and placed appropriately.” Here are some tips on how to do just that:

1) Make a cheat meal a cheat MEAL, not a cheat DAY! Your metabolism has the ability (if it’s working effectively) to rev up and burn off a cheat meal as energy, but a cheat day will most likely end up as stored fat. I like to use the analogy of your metabolism as a bonfire. If you throw one log on it, the fire will grow and burn up the log. If you keep throwing logs on it before it has a chance to burn them for energy, the fire will get smaller, and burn less efficiently.

2) Don’t have more than 2 cheat meals per week. If you love food and are feeling restricted, I find that 2 cheat meals allows you to space them out to psychologically keep you on track. It’s easier to talk yourself through eating well for 3 days than 6 days (or forever) until your next cheat meal. Or, if you like to go out on the weekends, you can allow yourself a small break on Friday and Saturday nights. If you’re going to have 2 cheat meals per week, though, that means the other 5 days must be CLEAN eating! If you allow small bits of cheat to scatter throughout the week, the 2 cheat meals will not work to your advantage, and you will have a much harder time reaching your goal.

3) LOG THEM! And don’t let them grow to more than a few hundred additional calories. Back to my point about not having cheat days, you’re more likely to keep control of your cheat meals if you log them in your food journal. Face the music and let the numbers stare you dead in the face – pizza calories add up quickly! Keep your cheats to a reasonable size and don’t eat the whole pizza because it’s a cheat meal. If you throw 20 logs on the fire all at once, the fire won’t be burning normally for quite some time. The goal is to always keep the fire burning strong!