We tend to think that fitness and nutrition professionals transcend the real world, living on an upper level where dumbbells are swung with joy and everyone is happily gnawing on broccoli. They workout all day long and meal prep to their heart’s desire. When it comes to exercising and eating well, the pros have it dialed and do it all the time, right?
Nope! At least I don’t, and I won’t ever pretend to. You need to be enlightened to the fact that even the professionals are not perfect.
Here are my confessions as a Strength & Conditioning Specialist and a Certified Nutrition Coach:
1. I eat junk food. Last week I had a bacon cheeseburger with onion straws and fries. I eat pizza weekly. I have chocolate every day. We eat donuts when we go camping. Pancakes are a regular thing at our house, and nachos make an occasional appearance.
2. I don’t eat really weird “hippy” foods. Quinoa is about as weird as it gets at our house. I’m not really into farro, spelt, kombucha, tempeh, seaweed, acai, etc. Yes, I know the health benefits of these foods, but I also know that you can get the exact same micronutrients and phytochemicals from familiar foods. Why be weird?
3. I don’t eat organic. (Cue the collective gasp from all the moms…) That’s right. I eat conventional produce and proteins. I understand that this topic unleashes some very strong opinions, but I personally prefer to buy conventional food. I won’t dive into this too deeply right now, but if you’re curious about it, you can read more in this study and in this article.
4. I drink beer and wine on the weekends. I also drink several cups of black coffee every morning (only half caffeinated, though). Yes, I drink green tea daily, but adult beverages are just plain delicious...cheers!
5. I don’t take supplements on a regular basis. I take fish oil daily, sometimes a multivitamin, and I put whey protein powder in my smoothies, but that’s it. I’m not big on supplements—I’m just not. You can learn more about supplements here.
6. I don’t follow dieting trends. I have never detoxed, cleansed or juiced. I don’t eat paleo or grain free. I don’t do intermittent fasting or carb cycling. (Yes, these are all things. There are so many diet things. What a confusing time we live in.) Instead, I simply eat like this.
7. I’m not a gym buff. I don’t have a gym membership, and I haven’t had one for about 8 years, although I do crave a legitimate squat rack and plyometric boxes from time to time. But I more than thrive in my little home gym, kicking my own butt with what I've got.
8. I frequently don’t want to workout. I train Monday through Friday at 5:30 in the morning, and lemme-tell-ya, some mornings popping out of bed to go break a sweat is the last thing I want to do. This happens to me about 2-3 out of my 5 workouts every week. Seriously.
9. I occasionally skip a workout. Alright...this one is a stretch because I probably only skip about 5 workouts total per year. But it does happen.
10. I sometimes get injured. This past year, I pushed some stretches too far and have been battling knee pain as a result. My low back aches from time to time due to my forward tilting pelvis (I’m working on it). And, I also get kinks in my neck when I’m not carefully managing my stress. My body is not always pain free--injuries happen.
11. I don’t run. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that many of the best conditioning coaches spend a lot more time lifting weights than running. I used to run like crazy, though. I have done several full marathons, quite a few half marathons, and countless 10k’s and 5k’s. I used to adore running, so I understand if you love it. (It's ok!) But my body feels so much better when I spend my time with the weights verses pounding the pavement for miles. Plantar fasciitis is one injury I just don’t deal with anymore!
12. I still struggle with my body image. I can pick my body apart like nobody’s business, noticing squishy spots, a lack of curves, thicknesses and any other thing I feel is less than perfect. I’m getting better at this, but this mindset is still there.
So there it is. These are my confessions of my imperfections and deviations from what people may think as textbook. Contrary to what we believe, the professionals don’t live up on kale pedestals.
So, why am I confessing to you? Why would I air my dirty laundry?
Let that burden lift!
First of all, I want you to feel the pressure lift off of your shoulders. I bet you have felt like you’re not doing enough and you’ll never get this figured out. Perfection is not the end game, for any of us!
You don’t have to subscribe to all the health trends to get it right. This is very difficult if you have a lot of friends that are particularly “health conscious”, passionate about their latest and greatest workout or eating habit. It can be stressful and confusing, making you feel like you don’t measure up. Move in the general direction of being healthier, doing a little bit here and there, but it never has to be perfect (whatever perfect means!).
If you find that you’re particularly passionate about something, then go for it! If that kombucha is truly your magic juice, then I’m you’re biggest fan. But please don’t feel like you’re failing if you’re not doing it all. Because you just don’t have to. (This is where a coach is incredibly helpful, to help you wade through the fads and get you pointed in the right direction.)
Secondly, I practice what I preach, and one thing I preach is moderation. What you don’t see with every single junk food confession I shared above is that I enjoy the splurges in moderation, eating only half a cheeseburger or having only one donut in a month. Nothing is overdone. Follow the healthy eating habits 80-90% of the time, but eat whatever you want the other 10-20%. Enjoy a burger every once in a while. Have a cookie. Go wine tasting without counting up the calories or feeling guilty. But learn how to moderate these splurges by listening to your body and knowing when to put the fork down. This takes time and practice. (Read more about how to cheat here.)
Finally, I have earned most of these leniencies over many, many years of hard training and healthy eating. My body is simply more forgiving if I miss a workout or have a splurge meal. If you are just starting your health journey and you have a long way to go to reach your goal, a pancake breakfast and a missed workout can make a huge difference, because your body is simply not tolerant yet.
You need to put in the time and be disciplined now. But there will come a point when you will have earned it—when you can go on vacation, not workout all week, enjoy all sorts of food in moderation, and come home without gaining a pound or losing any strength. This is possible. But once again, it takes time. (#easyisearned)
Never, for even a second, think that you will have arrived once perfection is obtained—when you’re exercising six days per week, running marathons, suddenly allergic to donuts and subsisting on organic kale and tofu meatballs. This sounds like prison to me, and it’s just not practical anyway.
Being truly healthy and fit involves a certain amount of psychological health in the form of moderation. Know when to say no and how to say yes. And always remember that even the pros aren't perfect 100% of the time.
Interested in having me help you wade through the trends to find a level of moderation that fits into your life and still helps you achieve your goals? Let's talk! Click here to learn more about Coaching Calls. I can help you troubleshoot and point you in the right direction with an effective workout and nutrition plan.
Megan P. Dahlman
Hi friend! I'm a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Precision Nutrition Certified Coach, Wife to Scott, and Mom to two crazy boys, Calvin & Peter. I train hard, eat well, rest just enough to keep going, and do my best to maintain a heavenly perspective. I'd love to coach you to do the same. Cheers!
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