Should You Eat Low Carb?

Should You Be Eating Low Carb?

A diet trend that circulates all over the internet, magazines, and social media outlets is low carb. The message usually tends to be the same: if you eat low carb, it is a promise to the weight loss you’ve been longing for. 

This may (subconsciously or not) impact how you view the foods you choose to eat and consume, causing immense guilt if you “choose the wrong thing”. If you are someone who worries about eating carbs, wonders if you should be taking a low carb approach, or simply are just confused on where to start…we have you covered. 

Why do low carb diets always end up being the route people take?

Low carb naturally limits your food choices, which limits caloric intake. Being in a caloric deficit = weight loss. 

Taking a “low carb” approach tends to be “easier” and more appealing than taking the route of tracking all macronutrients, measuring food, and starting small. People like fast results, and low carb usually simplifies a very nuanced topic. This simplification decreases the factors involved in making a diet change, therefore making it a go-to route for dieters. 

In our current food system, ultra-processed foods make up the majority of people’s diets. While it is reckless to equate ultra-processed foods to carbs, it is important to note that when someone cuts out carbs they will inevitably lower their ultra-processed food intake. These highly processed foods are calorically dense when compared to whole foods, leading to a caloric deficit. 

When an individual cuts out an entire food group, not only will their caloric intake potentially lower, but they may start to become more aware of the foods they are eating. This awareness could lead to more conscious health and food choices. 

Is low carb better?

Over the years, I have become less and less concerned with finding the “perfect” approach and more concerned with finding approaches that make sense long term for the person involved. I can’t sit here and say low carb isn’t a good option for some people, because it can definitely work for some people. If you feel your best, you aren’t obsessing about your food, and you are doing something that will last long term…good for you. 

BUT, if you are choosing low carb because you have guilt associated with eating carbs, you think carbs will make you fat, or you’re doing it for a quick fix- we need to reevaluate and dive a little deeper into the issue. 

There is no *quality* research that shows low carb is a better approach when individuals are eating appropriate protein amounts (Aragon et al, 2017). A 12-week study done in 2017 compared two groups. One group ate around 281g carbs and the other ate 56g carbs. Over the duration of the study, both groups had a 23lb weight loss (Veum et al, 2017)!

But sugar is a carb and sugar is bad!

Sugar has been demonized as being “just as bad as cocaine”. There was flawed research done that equated the impacts of sugar to cocaine, but since then has been debunked. First and foremost, the research was done on rats…and spoiler alert: rats aren’t humans. Second, the rats in the study showed addiction-like behaviors towards sugar ONLY when sugar was restricted for periods of time. When the rats were allowed the sugar at any time, they did not show addiction-like behaviors. There is “little evidence to support sugar addiction in humans, and findings from the animal literature suggest that addiction-like behaviors, such as bingeing, occur only in the context of intermittent access to sugar” (Westwater et al, 2016)

When you allow yourself to eat food on a spectrum and avoid restriction of food groups you will be able to control yourself around said food. 

What now?

At this point, you may be reflecting on your current beliefs and rigidity around carbs and sugar. A great way to approach your intake is being sure to eat a balance of carbs, fats, and proteins at each meal. View foods on a spectrum, which means ridding yourself of black and white labeling of the health status of foods. Read more about that here

Recognizing that food is so much more than a weight loss mechanism can allow you to eat a variety of foods and enjoy your nutrition long term.

Aragon, A.A., et al., International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2017. 14: p. 16.

Veum, V.L., et al., Visceral adiposity and metabolic syndrome after very high-fat and low-fat isocaloric diets: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr, 2017. 105(1): p. 85-99.

Westwater ML, Fletcher PC, Ziauddeen H. Sugar addiction: the state of the science. Eur J Nutr. 2016 Nov;55(Suppl 2):55-69. doi: 10.1007/s00394-016-1229-6. Epub 2016 Jul 2. PMID: 27372453; PMCID: PMC5174153.

Feeling like you can’t stick to your nutrition goals?

As health coaches, we consistently hear the same story. Clients come to us saying how “good” they were on their *overly restrictive* diet, but for some reason find themselves unable to stick to their goals and they gain all the weight back (and then some). Typically, they beat themselves up for not having enough willpower or motivation. Spoiler alert: willpower and motivation typically aren’t the problem.

The truth is 95% of dieters regain their weight back in 1-5 years. Diets set us up for failure! Rather than dieting, we want to shift the focus to developing a nourishing nutrition routine.

When nutrition habits just can’t stick, we usually see these things:

  1. A poor relationship with food. Many people struggle with a very rigid mindset when it comes to nutrition. A rigid, “black and white” mindset is detrimental because it doesn’t allow any freedom or flexibility. It also ignores that food does a lot more than just influence weight loss. 
  2. They hit the ground running too hard and too fast. Aggressive lifestyle changes don’t work out long term. In the moment when you feel highly motivated, you underestimate how difficult your actions are to sustain.
  3. Eat way too little throughout the day. Have you ever felt out of control when you got home from work and ate an entire bag of chips? Often times, people aren’t eating enough during the day and wonder why they lack control around certain foods. Lacking control around food can also be due to a poor relationship with your food. 
  4. Cutting out entire food groups. There is 100% zero reason to eliminate food groups to reach your health goals, unless specifically directed to do so by a doctor. Low carb, carnivore, no fat, etc are not magic diets that lead to weight loss. 

You may have experienced one or all of the 4 points above, or you may know someone who has. Being caught in the cycle of yo-yo dieting and never feeling happy with yourself is exhausting, and it is up to you to change it. 

Well, how do you make nutrition habits last? Here are our tips:

  1. Reflect on your relationship with your food. Are you constantly feeling guilty after eating certain foods? Do you label foods as strictly “good” or “bad”? The book If not dieting, then what? is a great place to start.
  2. Build small habits first. Set yourself up for success by making habits in your day by starting small. 
  3. Fuel up! Stop skipping meals, eating as little as possible, or cutting out food groups. Make sure each meal is filled with protein, carbs, and fats. Allow yourself to enjoy the foods you love and be sure to view foods on a spectrum. 

How do you practice sustainable nutrition habits?

What Shoes Should You Choose?

Choosing the right training shoe can make a significant difference in your workouts. If you constantly find yourself achey, uncomfortable, slow, and unstable… it may be time to reevaluate your shoe choice!

You may have one pair of shoes that you wear to run, lift, walk, and do all of your activity in. Or, you may be stuck on what pairs of shoes you need for what activities. Your shoes should be chosen based on the activity you are doing, which means you should have one shoe for running/walking and one for lifting.

What shoes do we love?

We are going to break down shoe choices into two categories today: running/walking and weight training. 

Running/Walking. For running/walking, you’re going to want a shoe that has more support. 

Weight Training. For weight training, you’re going to want a shoe that is flat (unlike a running shoe). 

  • Vivo Barefoot
  • No Bull Project
  • New Balance (Minimus: men or women)
  • Converse
  • Just wear your socks! Seriously! Taking your shoes off and training with just your socks on can help you engage your muscles and ground the feet, without having to purchase new shoes. 

How often should you get new shoes?

Frequency can depend on the individual, but it is important to be sure to replace shoes throughout the year. Running shoes should be replaced every 3-4 months and lifting shoes every 6 months, depending on how frequent you use them. A good time to replace shoes is if you notice the bottoms of the soles becoming smooth.

As you try new shoes, you’ll find the ones you like and don’t like. My personal favorites are Brooks for running and Vivo Barefoot (or just socks) for lifting! 

Have a favorite shoe for exercising? Let me know!

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is always important, but now that it’s warming up you may want to focus more on your water intake.

There are numerous ways to ensure you are hydrated, with the obvious being drinking water. Drinking plenty of water has many positive health benefits including:

  1. Assists in carrying nutrients throughout your body
  2. Helps digestion
  3. Benefits a healthy blood pressure
  4. Regulates your body temperature
  5. Aids in maintaining good skin
  6. Manages bodily fluids
  7. Promotes a healthy body weight

...and so much more.

A good rule of thumb is to drink at least 64 oz of water per day, which is equivalent to eight 8 ounce glasses. However, depending on your age, health conditions, and other factors, you may need more than that. According to The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, men should aim for 15.5 cups and women should aim for 11.5 cups (Mayo Foundation, 2020). Be sure to check with your doctor on how much you should drink, as some health conditions may require more/less water per day.

You may dread drinking water throughout your day, but we love adding fresh fruits and herbs (like mint) to our water to make it taste better! The photo below may inspire you to try new combinations in your water.

Speaking of fruit… fruits and veggies are a great way to increase your water intake. Produce is full of water, so make sure you add in plenty of colors to your day to stay hydrated and healthy.

As we mentioned, staying hydrated is even more important now that it is warming up. Be sure to fill up your water bottle and drink up!


​​Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, January 6). How to add more fiber to your diet. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved December 22, 2021, from Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, October 14).

Our Favorite Protein Powders

We have talked about the importance of protein and wanted to share our favorite brands of protein powders! While supplementing with a protein powder isn’t necessary, it sure can make hitting your protein goals a lot easier. With hundred of brands and supplements on the market, choosing a protein powder can be overwhelming. Here is our list of favorites. 

Kristen’s Picks

  • Protein2O, found here. Sometimes I am not in the mood to drink a creamy protein shake! This product offers a more refreshing option throughout the day.
  • Vital Proteins Collagen, found here. This collagen protein is dairy free, so it is great for those who may get upset stomachs from protein powder. 
  • Morphogen, found here. This is a local company and they have a ton of fun flavors to choose from. 

Ravi’s Pick

  • Cymbiotika Plant Protein, found here

Christie’s Pick

  • Muscle Feast, found here. Christie loves the chocolate flavor!

Gabby’s Pick

  • NutraBio Vegan Protein, found here. Gabby’s favorite is the Snickerdoodle flavor. 

We hope this list helps narrow down the options of brands you may want to try out. If you have any favorites that you don’t see here, let us know!

Ditch the Scale

We live in a society where being skinny, “toned”, and underweight is glorified as being the epitome of health and sexiness. We also have been taught that if you weigh yourself often, you’ll magically be more accountable and more successful in your weight loss journey. 

This has been ingrained in our minds for the majority of our lives. But lucky for us, there are a lot of professionals and individuals with platforms that are beginning to challenge this view and share insight/research as to why body weight isn’t the best indicator of health success. 

Body weight can drive people crazy. You (or someone you know) may have fallen victim to the poor messages of society and felt chained to your scale. I have heard so many people saying that they have to weigh themselves daily because it holds them “more accountable”. These same people end up in an obsessive cycle of weighing themselves, extreme weight fluctuations, feeling down on themselves, and crash dieting. 

“Subjects who weighed themselves everyday for 2 weeks reported a deterioration in mood in terms of increases in both anxiety and depression compared to subjects in the non-weighing group. In addition, repeated weighing was also related to decreased self-esteem.”

–Ogden and Whyman 1997

Maybe you felt the need to weigh yourself once every single day, if not more. And you may have felt like your day + self worth was dictated by what number popped up on the scale. 

It is important to note that utilizing a scale can be helpful in certain situations. If you are tracking progress over time, a bodybuilder/sport specific athlete, looking at lean body mass changes, etc you can use data from things like a 3D scan to see physical changes in your muscle mass/body. But, if your goal is to “get healthier” and you find yourself relying on the scale often to feel like you’re working hard enough, we recommend ditching the scale and find other self-monitoring techniques that work for you. 

What is self-monitoring?

Self-monitoring is ability to monitor and regulate your behaviors. It involves being aware of your actions, habits, and responses and the impact they have on your environment.

When it comes to health and weight loss, many people believe the only way to successfully self monitor is through tracking macros and weighing themselves religiously…which is far from the truth.

Self-monitoring can look very different for everyone but a great place to start is creating a list of small habits you check off each day. For example, it may be making sure you get 8,000 steps, drink 1 gallon of water, eat a color at each meal, and eat 100g protein daily. These habits have nothing to do with weighing yourself, but have very positive impacts on your health and body weight. 

Why is weight not a good indicator of success?

There’s numerous reasons why weight isn’t a great indicator of success, and here’s a few:

  1. Weight fluctuates daily, especially if you’re just starting out. You may see 5-10 pound weight fluctuations based on the last time you used the bathroom, how much water you’ve been drinking, the foods you’ve eaten, etc. 
  2. Weight loss may happen fast at first, however the longer a person is working towards a weight loss goal their weight loss may slow down.
  3. Weight isn’t always a direct indicator of health concerns.

Weight can be a useful tool in certain scenarios, but it isn’t a necessity to make health progress.

Weight should not influence our self-worth. 

Weight can be tied to self worth in some people. Earlier we touched base on how the scale could ruin your entire day if that “ideal” number didn’t show up. We aren’t a better or worse person based on our weight, and there are more productive ways to view our worth. 

What are some other ways to reflect on your progress?

After ditching the scale, reflect on the following to check in on your progress and hard work:

  1. You feel confident 
  2. Your energy levels are up
  3. You are getting restful nights of sleep
  4. You have a consistent workout schedule that you stick to
  5. You nourish your body with a wide variety of carbs, fats, protein, and colors
  6. You may have had to stop taking a medication (ex: blood pressure)
  7. You get a PR in the gym
  8. You are making yourself a priority

Do you have any other aspects of your day that make you feel proud of the work you’re putting into your health? Let us know!

Protein + Age

Protein + Age

Protein is usually the macronutrient people struggle to get enough of in their day. Protein plays a large role in our health, outlined in our previous blog here. In short, protein helps repair and rebuild cells, promotes muscle growth and recovery, aids in keeping us full and satiated, and supports so many other bodily functions. 

Contrary to what many may think, individuals need more protein as they age. As you get older, you need more protein in your diet. Why is this?

The condensed answer is that with age, your body needs more protein to get the same job done as a younger individual eating less protein. To dive into greater detail, we have put a graph below that showcases muscle protein synthesis (MPS) in a young and elderly individual. 

Leucine Threshold

Muscle protein synthesis is the “metabolic process that describes the incorporation of amino acids into bound skeletal muscle proteins” (Witard, et al, 2022). This metabolic process occurs when an individual consumes protein, and is facilitated by the amino acid called leucine. While all amino acids are important for MPS, leucine has been found to the “most potent in activating anabolic signaling” (Traylor et al, 2018).The research also supports that  “there should be an emphasis on the intake of the amino acid leucine, which plays a central role in stimulating skeletal muscle anabolism” (Traylor et al, 2018). For a younger individual, the leucine threshold occurs earlier while for an older adult it occurs later. Therefore, an older adult needs more protein to stimulate MPS in their bodies. 

What Now?

You may be wondering what this information actually means for you. The information above serves as a reminder that protein is important at every age, and even more important as you get older. It can be overwhelming when trying to shift your nutrition habits, but simply aiming to get a protein source at each meal is a great place to start. A registered dietitian or other qualified professional can guide you on more specifics on how much protein your body needs per day. 

Where Can I Find Protein?

Protein can be found in a variety of food sources, both plant and animal-based. Here are our go tos:

  1. Meats- Chicken, fish, beef, turkey, etc
  2. Dairy- Whey protein, yogurt, milk, eggs
  3. Plant-based- Tofu, edamame, beans, pea protein powder, Banza pasta
  4. Others- Protein bars, collagen, bone broth

Traylor DA, Gorissen SHM, Phillips SM. Perspective: Protein Requirements and Optimal Intakes in Aging: Are We Ready to Recommend More Than the Recommended Daily Allowance? Adv Nutr. 2018 May 1;9(3):171-182. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmy003. PMID: 29635313; PMCID: PMC5952928.
Witard, O. C., Bannock, L., & Tipton, K. D. (2022). Making Sense of Muscle Protein Synthesis: A Focus on Muscle Growth During Resistance Training, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 32(1), 49-61. Retrieved Mar 14, 2022, from

Come as you are

Podcast review: “What the fitness industry gets wrong about the obesity epidemic”— Iron Culture Podcast episode #146, featuring Dr. Gabrielle Fundaro and Dr. Ben House

By: Adam Reeder

Fitness Podcast Review: Series primer

“You can find a study to support anything.” This is a phrase heard often during debates surrounding health and fitness. If you’re searching for answers as to how to improve some aspect of your health, there is no shortage of information on the internet. If your job and your livelihood doesn’t require you to objectively analyze this data, it can be downright overwhelming to know who to trust. Should you eat low carb or low fat? Should you run or lift weights? Which fitness influencer is actually trying to help, and who is just trying to sell you something?

Your coaches at Paragon pride themselves on taking an evidence-based approach to health and fitness. This requires us to stay up to date on recent research as well as being able to identify high quality sources of information in order to establish best practices in helping you towards your goals. We started the Fitness Podcast Review series as a way to help you sift through the noise and provide you with resources which are both relevant to your goals as well as high quality in terms of integrity and approach. 

Come As You Are.

  1. Our modern world is such that highly palatable, calorie-dense foods are more available than ever before: A Honey Bun can be purchased at most gas stations for around $1, providing around 250 calories and close to 1/3 of the recommended daily intake for both sugar and saturated fat.
  2. Rather than our jobs being physical in nature, “going to work” often consists of rolling out of bed and logging onto a computer, or sitting at a desk in an office. The average American gets fewer than 5,000 steps per day, making us one of the most sedentary countries in the world.

So we’re less active than ever before, and have more access to delicious and highly caloric foods than ever before.

And yet, we live in a society where searching for the term “fitness” in Instagram leaves you with:

As humans we are genetically driven to store excess energy (calories) in order to survive during periods of famine, and our modern world is set up for us to do this quite efficiently. It is only over the last 100 years or so that society has created a stigma around excess weight. Many people we meet as coaches are afraid of adding muscle (let alone fat) when they begin to exercise, a clear sign that society has created constant pressure to become smaller- to restrict our intake and subtract from our body size in order to feel accepted.

The system is broken. Picture the following scenario:

A woman in her 50’s joins a gym and starts working with a personal trainer. She tells the trainer that she wants to lose 10 pounds. The trainer puts her on a workout program which calls for her to workout 5x/week and cut carbs out of her diet. The woman sees some great initial success, and by her third month she’s lost the 10 pounds she initially set out to lose. For some reason, she’s still not satisfied with how she looks.  She sets a new goal of getting back down to what she weighed in high school which means another 10 pounds of weight loss. Three months later she gets back on the scale and has only lost 2 pounds.  Now she is frustrated, embarrassed, and still hates the way she looks. Not to mention, she’s exhausted by the strenuous protocol it took to get there.

If you’re reading this blog, you’ve likely either been through a similar process yourself, or you know someone who has. This process of yo-yo dieting and exercise aimed at weight loss tends to play itself out in a very similar manner over and over again. In fact, research suggests that diets aimed at weight loss are almost always unsuccessful long term. Depending on the study, anywhere from 80 to 95% of people who lose weight on a diet will regain 100% of the weight lost within a 3 year period. As a new client recently quipped, “I’ve been losing the same 15 pounds every year for the last decade.” 

Recently, two experts in the field of health and nutrition, Dr. Gabrielle Fundaro and Dr. Ben House, were on the Iron Culture podcast discussing the merits of weight loss and dieting. I’d highly recommend listening to the whole episode by clicking here, but I’ve given my thoughts below:

Takeaway point #1: Weight loss vs. Behavior change

A major point of emphasis for both guests was making a distinction between intentional weight loss versus weight loss which happens as a result of modifying behavior. When weight loss happens almost “accidentally,” as a result of a client taking steps to become healthier in general, it tends to be both more satisfying and more sustainable long term. If we can move away from thoughts of “how little do I need to eat in order to keep losing weight?” or “how many calories do I have to burn today in order to work off that burger and fries?” I think outcomes are going to be more favorable long term.

Let’s replace those “avoid” strategies with “approach” versions:

  • Instead of “how little do I need to eat,” ask yourself “how can I add more nutrients to my day?” or “What steps can I take to be healthier overall?”
  • Instead of “How many calories do I need to burn in my workout,” ask yourself “How can I take steps towards making myself stronger today?”

Takeaway point #2: Come As You Are

In the earlier example, what was the trainer’s biggest mistake? Should he have given her a 7 day per week program? Fewer calories? Sold her a juice cleanse?

I’d argue that the program doesn’t matter.  The trainer never bothered to ask the most important question: Why? Why do you feel you need to lose weight?

Another important question not asked often enough: Are you approaching this goal from a place of self-compassion? 

This may sound touchy-feely, but if the reason you want to lose weight is because you think weight loss will be a solution for your happiness, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

This is the narrative that we need to change quickly. I used to be the type of coach who would listen to his clients’ goal, take it at face value, and help them do whatever it is they said they wanted to do. Want to lose 50 pounds in 6 months? Want to lose 5 dress sizes? Okay, that’s your goal so let’s get after it. 

Earlier in my career, I didn’t give enough credence to understanding the “why.” Do you want to lose this weight because your doctor told you that you need to? Because your friends are all thin and you think they judge you based on your weight? Because you want a closer relationship with your spouse? The answers to these questions could all potentially point us in different directions when it comes to determining the best course of action for you.

I’ll never be that kind of coach again. Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to talk anyone out of their goals. However, if weight loss is your number 1 goal, we will not start working together until I have a very good understanding of why it’s your goal and I’m going to make damn sure you know that you do not have to lose weight. It’s completely normal to identify things about yourself that you want to improve, and then set out to change those things. It’s a different story when you start to tie your identity and your self worth to what you look like or how much you weigh. 

One thing that helps make Paragon different from other gyms is that we accept you for who you are. You are capable of being healthy at any size, any shape, any weight. The fact that as a society we’ve tied morals into body size and body shape is a shame, and isn’t helping anyone.  

Takeaway point #3: Healthy at any weight

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that weight loss, or achieving some “ideal” body size and shape is completely unnecessary when it comes to improving health. We’re told over and over again that this country has an obesity epidemic. I’d argue that we actually have a narrative problem, where people who are “overweight” or those categorized as obese are blamed for draining the health care system.  But is there actually evidence proving this to be true?

Challenging the narrative: 

Is excess body weight actually the independent causative risk factor for cardiovascular or metabolic disease? In other words, is excess body fat actually what’s causing high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, or hyperglycemia?

Dr. House makes a great point during the podcast, that if we are going to be discussing cardiovascular or metabolic health, we should be talking about actual markers of cardiovascular and metabolic health; things like blood pressure, blood sugar, or blood lipids. These numbers can be quickly and inexpensively tested and do not have the stigma or moral baggage that comes along with using a person’s weight or size as a judgment of health.  

When all of our attention is placed on weight (often BMI) or body fatness, we are assuming that BMI is a proxy for those objective markers of health. But is BMI or even body fat percentage a good proxy for metabolic health?  

If a doctor or anyone else has labeled you as either “healthy,” or “unhealthy,” based solely on your weight, BMI, or distribution of body fat,  you have received inadequate care.

Depending on the criteria used to define “metabolically healthy,” some studies suggest that 35% of people with obesity are metabolically healthy. This might indicate that simply having obesity isn’t what’s causing metabolic disease, rather obesity and metabolic disease are simply correlated with one another. One of the most basic rules of statistics is that correlation does not imply causation, and there are many risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic disease which have nothing to do with body weight.

This is great news, because if weight loss does not have to be the primary focus in order to achieve greater health, we’ve just opened ourselves up to a massive array of behavior change options, all of which generally come with far fewer side effects when compared to weight loss. Focusing on healthy behavior change options can be as simple as:

  • Increasing your daily step count
  • Increasing lean body mass
  • Engaging in social activities
  • Getting more sleep
  • Reducing stress

Compare this to what happens when a weight loss approach goes wrong:

  • Decreased quality of life
  • Decreased social activity and enjoyment
  • Worsened body image

When weighing all of the pros and cons of a weight loss focused approach compared to a weight neutral approach, weight neutral is the clear winner. We’re left with the ability to improve our objective markers of health, a healthier relationship with food as well as our own body and healthier, more high functioning habits overall. Nobody wants or needs to be the person who weighs every gram of food they eat or says no to going out with friends because they don’t know if the menu has low carb options. 

I think we’re always best served to stop thinking in terms of weeks or months and focus on years or decades…what does this look like 5 years from now? If I practice these habits over the long haul, what are the outcomes I can expect?

For more information:

Check out the entire podcast here: What the fitness industry gets wrong about the obesity epidemic

Read more from Dr. Gabrielle Fundaro here:

Read more from Dr. Ben House here:

3 Ways to Make Your Life Easier

Meal prep can suck, we know. Some weeks you don’t want to cook, some weeks you can’t, and some weeks you just don’t want to eat anything…”healthy.” So here are a few ways to address nutrition to make life easier instead of forcing yourself to try harder.

  1. An occasional massive grocery haul.
  2. Whole Foods or InstaCart pick up!
  3. Be really realistic…

A massive grocery haul!

Okay, maybe not massive but at least once every few months we suggest a bigger Costco and/or Trader Joe’s trip. Obviously Costco is great for stocking up on your favorite basics, like a giant bag of rice and oats plus your smoothie ingredients. So, why Trader Joe’s? 

For those weeks you don’t want to eat or cook, having your freezer stocked with easy options that taste good makes a huge difference. Rather than avoid them, let’s accept them and adjust. Here are our favorites:

  1. Frozen sweet potato gnocchi with frozen peas. Top with some pre cooked chicken for a protein bump!
  2. Frozen potstickers with frozen BBQ Chicken Teriyaki. A fair serving of all macros, and way faster than ordering take out! Top with one of the many frozen veggie options available to round this out.
  3. There are always fun new flavors in various frozen foods, cereals and snacks, and the refrigerated section. This is an easy way to change up your routine when you’re exhausting your typical options!

A big haul should include your staples for the pantry and freezer, but take advantage of snack options as well. Accept that you need variation, to try new things, and will eat outside of meals.

Whole Foods or InstaCart pick-up.

If you’re finding yourself using the “I don’t have time” excuse frequently, adapt! Using instacart or the pick-up/delivery option at Whole Foods is a life saver. Schedule it for a day and time when you’re leaving the gym or running other errands. Make it convenient for you timing wise, and be thorough with your order. It’s a great way to make sure you don’t miss any ingredients in a recipe as well! If you struggle to fill your cart up, you can go through a list meal by meal to decide what you need.

For both options, you can order for pick-up the day before. For delivery, it depends on the service and how busy they are. You can occasionally do the day before. Make this even easier on yourself by scheduling the time you order your groceries at or around the same time you do something else consistently. Let’s say you come to Paragon the same day every week, and you usually get there a little early. While you sit in the car before coming in, do your order. Schedule it for a time you can pick it up the following day when you’re already out and about! Booya, that wasn’t so hard.

Be really realistic.

It’s pretty common to attempt becoming an overachiever at feeling “healthy” and refusing to “indulge” or “snack.” It’s more common to fail at this and end up “splurging” (picture Christie rolling her eyes here) to compensate. So instead of trying to look like a fitness influencer’s Instagram feed, be really realistic. 

If you’ve been trying to only eat three square meals a day and consistently find yourself eating again after the third, prepare for your weeks with this in mind. You either need a snack earlier in the day, to expand one of those meals, or just eat the damn dessert. We like to keep some satisfying snacks around or sweets that don’t leave you feeling bloated before bed. This depends on the person but here are some ideas:

  1. A rich chocolate bar. The richer the better! You won’t need to eat much to be satisfied by a good chocolate. 
  2. A filling ice cream that you’re not sensitive to. If you don’t do dairy well, try Mitchell’s vegan options. 
  3. Something crunchy that satisfies your salty cravings. 

You’re less likely to over eat or engage in “non-hungry” eating when you know that you always have access to the foods you crave. Remember the questions from our previous blog: “I can have it if I want it, but do I really want it?” Or, “I can have it if I want it, but will I enjoy it?” And if you answer yes, eat it!

Getting in Tune with Hunger

We’ve talked about viewing foods on a spectrum and food neutrality, which you can review here. We recommend reading that blog again before finishing this one. You’ve been learning a lot of the fundamentals of nutrition throughout this program which is a good foundation to work from. But, knowledge isn’t enough. How well do you know your body’s signals? 

Listening to your body’s hunger and cues, understanding why you’re craving certain foods, and enjoying the nourishment that comes from eating is all part of our nutritional intuition. This is where we strike the balance of what we should be eating versus what we feel like eating. Your body knows what it needs, it’s not My Fitness Pal. Establishing an understanding of hand portions and macronutrients gives us a look at what we need in our diet to feel good, but it’s not a linear, step-by-step process. Our tracking blog explains why this isn’t foolproof, and today we’ll discuss learning how to listen in on what your body is asking for. Let’s discuss the following points and small steps we can take to improve or approach them:

  1. Recognizing hunger.
  2. Recognizing fullness.
  3. Non-hungry eating.

Recognizing Hunger

If you’ve spent any extended period of time controlling or restricting your nutrition in the past, recognizing hunger can be difficult. Most diets have a set plan of when and what to eat instead of listening to your body’s cues to decide this. Hunger can be described in a number of ways, but oftentimes if we’ve been eating less than we need we may not be as aware of the feelings that can be signaling it. Having the ability to recognize hunger means we can promptly address it, giving us more opportunity to nourish and provide ourselves what we need. Here are some sensations to look for:

  • A feeling of emptiness or hollowness in the stomach
  • A pain in the stomach
  • A gnawing or rumbling sensation in the stomach
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Shakiness, lightheadedness, weakness, lethargy

If you realize you’re not used to the feeling of hunger or have not practiced pay attention to your physical sensations around food, try this exercise:

Starting with your physical body, answer these questions. Focusing on your mouth, notice if you’re feeling any physical sensations within your lips, teeth, tongue, and throat. Is your mouth dry or salivating? Moving down the body towards your stomach, in the upper abdomen notice if you’re feeling sensations of empty or fullness. Are you noticing any pain, rumbling, or dullness? 

Checking in with your mind, are you irritable or confused? Are you feeling more reactive than normal? Then moving on to your whole body and mind; do you feel low in energy or fatigued?

Recognizing Fullness

Fullness is affected by how well you know your hunger cues. If you’re regularly under-eating, you will get full more quickly and also feel fatigued by the lack of nutrients. 

Recognizing fullness can become difficult for reasons such as taking too long to recognize a craving, eating quickly without realizing, and being in social situations. It becomes easier the more frequently you practice slowing down your approach to each meal. While we all know the sensations of fullness, here are some simple tips to recognize it before you’re beyond your comfort level:

  • Put your fork down between bites (if you don’t usually put your fork down at all, practice doing it between every 3-5 bites or something small)
  • Eat ⅓ of your plate, pause and take 3-5 breaths, then resume. Repeat at ⅔ through the meal!
  • Periodically to ask yourself questions such as: does my upper abdomen feel hollow and hungry, neutral, or satisfied and full? Am I eating because I am hungry or because I’m in the zone or filling an emotional need?

Understand that the process of slowing down your meal and recognizing fullness isn’t always easy. Just by checking in, you’re bringing awareness to actions and physical sensations. If you experience continuous eating past fullness, there may need to be exploration of other needs not being met.

Non-hungry Eating

Most people experience non-hungry eating and everyone has a different label for it. Non-hungry eating happens for SO many reasons and it’s important we don’t categorize it as “bad.” It’s okay to be full and want dessert, just as it’s okay to have a bad day and eat chips on the couch when you’re not hungry. 

Here are reasons for non-hungry eating you may not be aware of:

  • We might not be eating enough and/or let ourselves get too hungry
  • We eat because food is there or out of habit
  • We view or use food as a reward (“I was good this week so I get to eat X.”)
  • To procrastinate 
  • To fill an emotional need
  • We are bored
  • Because we were trained to eat everything on our plate 

As you can see, these are not wrong or bad reasons to eat. While hunger, fullness, and basic physiological needs are obvious reasons to eat, seeking comfort from a cookie when you’re not hungry isn’t wrong. Here is an activity to address non-hungry eating:

  • Ask yourself, “I can have it if I want it, but do I really want it?” Or, “I can have it if I want it, but will I enjoy it?”
  • Pause and remember you always have access to this food, it’s okay to wait until later.
  • If you still want it, eat it! Eat slowly and enjoy the process and allow it to fill the needs you’re seeking from it.

If you know you’re engaging in non-hungry eating to fill an emotional need, explore that need and the root that’s causing it. If you can, talk it out or write down what’s bothering you. You can still enjoy the food, just try not to ignore your emotional state.

Trigger warning: eating disorder discussed below.

This is not the same as binge-eating, which should be addressed with a therapist or specialist. If you think you’re experiencing binge-eating, communicate what symptoms you’re worried about and your coach will help you find the necessary specialist. A common sign is feeling the need to hide your binging or feeling a deep sense of loss of control.