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My Epiphany

Lately I’ve been starting to question how structured my approach to nutrition and training is. Everything from meal frequency to training ‘musts’ to stringently avoiding or eliminating anything that could throw me off track. But off track from what? I sometimes wonder whether it’s really all worth it. This anal, overly rigid approach to healthy living. And there are definitely days when I really just can’t be bothered. With supplements, or 6 small meals, or preparing protein-snacks in advance so that I’m not tempted to give in to something else, or with doing the ‘right’ sort of training.

It’s not as though I’d ever wander too far off track. For example, I love working out. It’s just I don’t always love following a pre-planned regime. And I love eating healthy. But sometimes I just want to have a piece of toast and not beat myself up about it for the rest of the day! I even love taking my supplements. 4 days without them last week (I decided not to bother while out of town) was a MAJOR lesson in how much of a difference they really do make. Not just to me, but to my daughter (breastfeeding).

So the truth is that I’m still not 100% sure where I’m going with all this, but I do feel I’ve had a bit of an epiphany of late. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on myths of health and fitness. And as you know, I’m all for dispelling myths. Just a couple of examples spring to mind right away.

  • The myth that (real) fat is bad for you
  • The myth that wholegrains (or any grains) are healthy
  • The many many myths around cardio and ideal exercise for fat loss
  • The myth that high-protein is bad for your health and the environment

The Need For Structure: Just Another Myth?

Clearly, I’m not adverse to going against the grain. Which is why I got quite a shock to realise over these past few weeks that I have, in fact, become one of them. A person so caught up in their idea of what is right and wrong that she can barely manage to even consider a different approach.

Recently I read this great list over at Fitness Spotlight. 50 or so very simple and direct points about what it really takes to achieve ideal health and fitness. Mike really sums up a lot of the stuff that I often think or say about being in great shape, but the point which really stood out to me was the first one:

“Here’s the secret to lasting weight loss…find an enjoyable way to eat less (without feeling deprived and giving up) and move more. Done.”

It made me realise that for whatever reason, I’ve lost sight of the enjoyment of living well these past few months. I think this is because – for the first time in years – I’ve been dealing with the frustration and fear of not being in the shape I want to be; of having to fight to get there. And so the things which I used to take for granted are no longer there, and therefore a lot of the (probably smug) enjoyment of eating well and training tough all the time has been replaced with a sense of a constant battle. I said as much in my comments on the above list.

“Great list, but I think point #1 is the winner. As someone who has been in ‘great’ shape for several years, my recent pregnancy has left me heavier and frustrated. I’ve spent the last 6 months (post-birth) structuring every tiny little aspect of my training and eating regime and freaking out when something goes astray. Refusing to eat certain things at people’s homes, panicking if I forget my supplements or – god forbid – run out of food.

Long story short? On both a personal and professional level this has been an AWESOME learning experience for me. Particularly because I’m now getting to the good part :) I’m re-learning about loving training, doing things the way I enjoy to do them, and now eating when and how I feel like it rather than according to a clock. Read your IF e-book 3 days ago and it blew my mind. So I just wanted to say thank-you, I feel like the blinders have been removed and I can relax on the food front. It’s only been 3 days but the lowered stress, if nothing else, has already shown itself on the scales!”

Mike was kind enough to write back, and said this.

“I am like you, whenever I tried a strict diet plan and/or workout schedule in the past….my life was always more stressed over it all….and I would soon burn out. I think everyone needs to get away from the OCD thinking that have come about with structured “diets” and “workouts”. While they can be a learning experience for some, it is never a lasting happy one for most. I find more happiness and less stress. (which is a huge benefit in itself) when I just now focus on “eating” (instead of “dieting”) and “training” (instead of some rigid “workout”). Eating what and when I want by listening to my body (while knowing what I should be taking in as well). Training as my life activity for things I enjoy and want to improve on (such as riding a bike, playing ice hockey and lately just getting better at bodyweight movements). Life is always full of change, to have a rigid schedule is almost going against what the essence of life is all about…and only causes more stress. To embrace a more flexible lifestyle that can move and adapt with life, goes in harmony….and it will show in our daily happiness levels.

I’ve been thinking about this more and I have come up with a motto of what I believe summarizes what I want from life:

“Eat…Play…Live”

Eat – when I want to and enjoy what I have, no stressing over planning and times (this is where IF fits in as a tool to help get the results I am after)

Play – as that is how I want to get my exercise in…moving through life, something we all enjoyed as kids. No one likes to “workout”….everyone loves to “play”

Live – because there is more to life in a day than worrying about counting calories, carrying around food in Tupperware, and spending hours in a gym.”

Now is it just me, or is it freaking amazing that the motto he’s come up with here is incredibly similar to the tagline of this blog?! Great minds must think alike. And I’m ashamed to admit that I seem to have forgotten to take my own advice here. I’ve forgotten how to ‘play’, how to enjoy the day to day. And, just as scary, I’ve forgotten how important it is to learn to listen in to your body’s changing needs. Yes, there are certain rules of health that basically apply to everybody, but there’s also so much that works on an individual level, and that’s true for food, for lifestyle requirements, for supplements and training, and certainly for motivation and mindset. Again, a case of me not practicing what I preach, especially as BioSignature is all about individualised protocols for success!

Where to from here?

The truth is that I still don’t know exactly where I’m going with this, but I do know that change is afoot. From an advice perspective, I will say this. As stated in my recent post on meal frequency, I believe structure and routine are essential when dealing with new habits and foundation health. I’m just not so certain that such rigidity should apply on an ongoing basis. Certainly not if it means taking the fun out of your journey to ideal health.

Now that I’ve spilled all, I’d love to hear back from you. What do you think about the need for structure as compared to being able to go with the flow day to day? Should it be a matter of one or the other, or a balance between the two?

 

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11 Comments

  1. Eat, Play, Live…

    Love this… It’s all about a balance in life. I figure if 90% of the time we’re on track with living healthy the other 10 we can stray and not be so on point allowing the stress of always striving for a better physique to dissipate …

    Eat, Play, Live… I’m loving this and passing it on 🙂

    Patrick Hitches

    1. Kat says:

      Thanks so much Patrick 🙂 I think you’re right with the 90/10 idea … 80/20 can be too liberal IMO. But then again, it’s all about trying different things isn’t it!

  2. Christina K. says:

    I LOVED your post! It is summer on our side of the world, and I am finding it very hard to drag myself to the gym 6 days a week when the weather is perfect for outdoor activities. And with all the cookouts it is very hard to stick to my strict plan. I have noticed that when I relax and let life happen, my body reacts in a positive way. I think we underestimate the negative effects stress plays on our minds and bodies.

    Also, I would love a post (or a segment of posts) on your journey post-pregnancy. I have no children, and am not pregnant, but with the possibility on the horizon I would like to see how things are going for you as far as fitness is concerned. Have a fabulous weekend!

    1. Kat says:

      Hi Christina. Relaxation is definitely key … recently I took a week off from training, writing, computer, worrying about food or my to-do list, and despite indulging quite a bit I dropped 2 kg. And felt awesome! I think having more sleep helped as well.

      Re your suggestion – I actually have a whole blog on that. I don’t really advertise it 🙂 http://www.bodyafterbump.com

  3. Anita says:

    I agree!

    It is so hard to live life knowing that you have to eat 6 meals a day. My job is constantly keeping me on my toes and I know it may seem like an excuse but it is so hard to keep track of how many times you have eaten, or when was the last time you had a meal. It thens leads to stress, which then leads to eating rubbish which then = NO SUCESS! … Im not saying just blow it and go eat rubbish because its easier t fit in bit definately just take it meal by meal and day by day.

    Speaking of myths I had a slight argument with a friend last night about consuming grains and fats. She said ” If you eat fat you are going to gain fat” I told her that was not true and that more people died from fat deficiency then breast cancer. She looked at me and just laughed…We then had this massive agrument about grains and fats…

  4. Kat Eden says:

    Hi Anita

    It’s hard to have that conversation with a friend if they’ve never heard otherwise! Send her to my blog! Or some other great references that go into a lot of science are marksdailyapple.com; jonnybowden.com; paynowlivelater.com

    I think you’re right in saying take it meal to meal – thinking about massive periods of preparation all at once can be very draining!

  5. Joanna says:

    Hi what a refreshing post it is so nice to be reminded that we are all only human and that its not posible to do things perfectly al the time and that we should not feel guilt over it. I find what works for me is Monday to Friday I am very strict and structured about what i eat and when and I enjoy it and enjoy the way I eat now that the right way of eating has become a habit but then on the weekend I relax and have my treat day which can extend over two days I try not to go overboard but I will eat what i feel like when i feel like and usually we are going out or to friends places and I dont have to stress them out about what i will or wont eat. Its amazing how much more you enjoy that glass of wine or Chocolate dessert when you wait for the wknd and really look forward to it. Then by Monday Im usually feling very over the treats and cant wait to go back to my strucutred good eating plan. And I am still getting leaner!

    1. Kat says:

      HI Joanna – Oh I am SO on board with the idea of enjoying treats more when you’ve earned them! For sure. And it’s quite common for people to extend that cheat meal/day over a few … which can of course be dangerous if it goes too far, but great to hear it’s working for you!

  6. Bonnie says:

    It’s funny. In a lot of parts of the world (especially South America and Brazil), the 3 months after having a baby are all about not worrying about routine. The fittest models even take time off (Gisele for one) and adjust to new demands and a new lifestyle. The ides is that the mother gets a break and while breastfeeding is always a big part of losing baby weight, they theorize that it is also the time in which you ‘let go’ of your old self and embrace being a mother. By letting go its not about eating badly or letting your body go to fat but heralding new routines and growth and in doing so, the baby weight falls off without effort. There is something to be said for holding on to patterns and by holding on we hold on to fat as a protective mechanism…not just in pregnancy and birth but in life in general. The less you think about it too, the less it matters. With children it is also all about being grounded. We are forced to be less strict and regimented. I mean, we hold these ideals for ourself but if our kid ate a piece of toast would we get angry at them? Children teach us to be kinder to ourselves and to ENJOY a little more…again not by overindulging but by not battling ourselves. Just some thoughts…my mother had four pregnancies and lost the weight in weeks…this was her philosophy.

    1. Kat says:

      That’s such a beautiful comment Bonnie. I love it. And I think you’re spot on (and your Mum also!). The funny thing is that intrinsically I’ve known this from the start, and have always been a big believer in the power of emotions such as the stress from putting pressure on ourselves to stop us losing fat or living with ideal health. Yet still I’ve managed to sometimes avoid taking my own advice/ideals to heart! All part of the journey I guess 🙂

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