5/13/13

Change can be good



When I work with athletes and fitness enthusiasts during my lifestyle service (2 month program) it is my goal that by the end of our time together, the individual has a new or improved tool set to live a more balanced healthy and active lifestyle. It is not my job to tell a person how to live, eat or train/exercise as I don’t feel there is one best way of living. Certainly, there a tremendous amount of long-term research as to the most appropriate ways of living a healthy life but we are not a controlled science experiment in a laboratory and we all have different ways of describing a quality filled life. Although I feel many people have an impractical definition of a quality filled life, I believe that most people would like to live a disease-free, active lifestyle with a healthy body and mind. So, it is my hope that I can continue to inspire, educate and motivate others to live a lifestyle that feels balanced and moves you closer to personal life, diet and exercise related goals.

On the detailed questionnaire that I ask each individual to fill out for the 2 month program (additional questionnaires for each of my services) one of the questions is “
what are you least looking forward to during our time together?”


I sometimes receive the response “NOTHING! Can’t wait to get started” but generally I get the response of “I am afraid to give up my favorite foods” or “I am afraid of failing” or “I’m not good with change”.

Because I understand that we don’t go to visit the doctor when we are feeling 100%, but instead, pay  money for a professional opinion/advice when we need help and want to feel better, I welcome all responses. Because of that, I also ask the question of on a scale of 1-10, how motivated/excited are you to make changes for a more balanced lifestyle? Certainly, a person who is afraid to give up favorite foods but let’s me know that they are a 10 on the motivation/excitement scale, allows me to recognize that they are open to change. However, if someone ranks their excitement as 4, I know that the journey may move slowly and that is still OK. It’s all about making progress and moving forward as one of the most frustrating things in life for us all is wanting a change but being afraid to change and thus, finding yourself staying the same or worse, moving backward.

This has all been on my mind here in Czech because as I try new food creations and live a lifestyle that is out of my control, I am a firm believer that we can all change and change is not always as bad as we may think it may be. We can change our outlooks, our moods, our dietary choices/cravings, our activity routine and anything else that involves healthy living. The problem is that people don’t like change for it is uncomfortable and even more so, people have this false idea of the outcome of change which makes it easy to resist change. Sometimes change isn’t always good but how do you know if you don’t try?

I have given this example in my talks when I speak to women but I have expressed my thoughts on body composition as it seems to control many people (males included) in terms of how they live life. Not sure how we got to this in our society but it has been so great to be free from “Dr. Oz says not to eat this” and to not hear “new research says that eating this food will make you healthy” or what I hear the most “this food is so bad for you …..today.” Of course, diet and fitness is my profession and I am strong with my philosophy of food for fuel, nourishment and pleasure but being here in Czech has reminded me why I am so happy with the changes I have made in my lifestyle, although not all were easy and I had many doubts, it’s nice to be in a good place in my life for the past few years….especially with Karel in another country.  So, at 5 feet tall, I have told others that I could be 100 lbs. However, I choose not to be this “ideal” weight for my height because I don’t feel it would make me happy. I don’t need to see my veins and have my bones sticking out and I don’t need to sip ripped abs. My body is trained to performed so I expect it to be strong but I am not training for a fitness pageant, I need to use my body, not look “perfect” in a mirror. I have maintained my healthy weight for almost all my life due to exercise and a balanced diet. I have never been overweight but to be “skinny” I  would have to restrict food, I’d likely have a headache all the time due to low blood sugar, I would find myself being inconsistent with life, with every thought revolving around diet and exercise and I would not find myself energized like I am now with 10-14 more lbs on my body. I didn’t say that those extra lbs were disgusting fat or that I hate my blubber on my body. But unfortunately, when you think about a quality life when it comes to body composition, there’s this concept that if you gain weight to live a happier life, you are going to be unhappy and “fat” compared to others who are happy and skinny. Truth be told, it doesn’t have to be this way and life isn’t about a number on a scale. Sadly, I feel that when people eat, they are constantly fearing weight gain or have body image on their mind. Sadly, I feel those who are body composition focused (not in a “health conscious”, extreme way) are too focused on the outcomes of eating and exercise and thus, fear change when it comes improving daily living, possibly outside of your comfort zone.


As many people know, I love trail mix. It is part of my daily diet and my absolute favorite food. Back at home, I couldn’t imagine a day without nuts, raisins and cheerios. It makes me happy, feel energized and satisfied. But here in Czech, I have not had any trail mix for 5 days and I am surviving just fine. I don’t miss it, I don’t feel deprived and I don’t feel as if my life is over because I have “given up” my favorite food…for I didn’t give up anything and I have some with me in my travel bag but I have so many options here to enjoy for food choices that I am enjoying changing up my routine to discover new foods or a different way of eating. I am not on a diet here so it isn’t as if I have an off-limit food list as so many people do when it comes to wanting a change.
Here in Czech, aside from a few chocolates that Karel’s family have mailed to us over the holidays, I don’t have favorites. Karel shows me food in the grocery or shops and tells me stories “Oh! This was one of my favorites!” but if I have never had those foods, I can’t say that I am missing out on anything. It’s interesting because here in Czech, fruit is very seasonal. Like US, some of it is expensive if not seasonal but for the most part, fruit is not a big part of the diet here. I love fruit and certainly miss eating it like I do at home but I am surviving just fine. When I was in the Philippians, we ate very little veggies and ate a lot of fruit and it was all exotic and delicious!

 I feel this is one of the biggest issues with our society in that we have too many favorites and when we want a change, it because this horrible, guilt-obsessed feeling that “all is gone that is good” and everything has to be extreme for a new result. Perhaps not everyone is this way but in my experience in working with a variety of athletes and fitness enthusiasts, there are very few individuals who want to accept slow progress and are ok with change for a different, better or new way of living. As I said before, I don’t believe that there is an ideal way of living but instead, taking chances on making changes to see if there is a more balanced way of living to make you happier. Thanks to the media and food companies, everything is big, fast and “easy” in America. People want change yesterday.

When it comes to fitness enthusiasts or those who seek a more active lifestyle, I encourage you to start slow. 10 minutes a day is better than no minutes a day of walking. Not every workout has to be an hour or intense. I wore a pedometer on our travel day from Tampa to Prague and just in the airport alone, we walked 2.5 miles. Sure, for a “runner” that doesn’t sound like a lot but considering the amount of time we were sitting, every little movement added up and that was my point in wearing the pedometer in that I wanted to show that you have opportunities to move (or ‘burn’ calories) and it doesn’t have to be extreme or expensive with a gym membership.
When it comes to athletes, I encourage you to disassociate training from food rewarding. If you  ever think about your appetite while you are training intensely for an event compared to your appetite while you are taking some time off (or an injury), it is likely that you are much more hungry while you are training….and with good reason because your body is expending much more calories than just sitting around or walking. But regardless of the calories burned, there doesn’t have to be the thinking that if you don’t work out for x- minutes a day, you don’t deserve to eat or can’t eat carbs. On the flip side, just because you work out doesn’t mean that you get to “reward” yourself with anything and everything or because you want to indulge, you use exercise as your reason to do so. Sure, there may be times when you can treat yourself because of your activity level (and even without exercising) but I find that in America, there is such a bad relationship with food and the body from both athletes and fitness enthusiasts and I think it all comes down to the lifestyle that we choose to live. Sure, we can blame the food industry and preoccupation with the “perfect” body image but I feel for the most part, our society has no idea how to live a balanced lifestyle.

It’s not as if Karel and I can be in Czech and eat until we are stuffed. I find that we are not eating as large of portions as others around us and we have yet to finish a meal feeling stuffed. We still understand that a balanced diet is not a free-for-all but instead, recognizing the many things that promote a healthy lifestyle and not being obsessed with any one specific component.

I wanted to share some of my thoughts as I have been thinking a lot as I live life like a local in a different country. I can’t possibly get all my thoughts on to paper but Karel and I have really enjoyed an “active” lifestyle here in Czech, without feeling food-deprived from some of our favorite foods (albeit, we will be coming home with new favorites) and there has been no talk as to calories, bad food or diets. That is complete heaven to me for I don’t feel anyone should live a lifestyle of poor body image and a bad relationship with food. Here in Czech, it just feels so great to move our body and to eat around others without negative food/body talk.

When Karel came to the US in 2000, he had never tried peanut butter. It wasn’t until we met in 2006 that I introduced him to peanut butter. He enjoys it now but it isn’t as if his life would be over if he didn’t have it every day. When we met, we use to eat ice cream almost every night. Around 2008, I felt as if the ice cream treat after dinner was not enjoyed anymore like it once was – as a “treat”. I didn’t tell Karel that we were going on diet from ice cream or that ice cream was bad but since 2008, we have not had ice cream in our house, we don’t miss it and rarely do we even get it outside of the home. I find that this statement applies to many people who make favorable replacements in the diet, instead of just eliminating foods that they feel are “bad”. Replace, not eliminate. No ice cream means more room for fruit or perhaps, if ice cream wasn’t needed, an earlier night of rest. But with this concept, I welcome others to the idea that not all food is bad. Karel and I will never rid our diet of fresh bread. We feel so good with it, just like we do with dairy, legumes and any other proclaimed “bad” food that is “in” today (thankfully, we haven’t watched TV in over a week and I can’t speak the language here so I am not hearing about any diet trends/fads right now in the US”).

This trip has opened my eyes in many ways but  a good thing is that I came to Czech with a lifestyle that allowed me to function well in a new country. There will always be treats in life, indulgences and yes, even times when food is too good and you will say you ate too much. But to live your entire life the same, fearing change or being extreme in order to change is not the way to achieve a balanced, healthy and active lifestyle.

I feel my trip here has been enhanced because I am sharing it with Karel. Everything we do is meaningful here to Karel and we are around family who give unconditional love. I wish everyone could enjoy an opportunity like this whether internationally or just within your own state. Consider spending your next few days evaluating your lifestyle choices (wants, needs, can’ts, can’s – you have to make time, not find time) instead of wasting energy on the outcome of your lifestyle choices. For if you don’t work toward making small changes now, you may find yourself living the same, unhappy or monotonous lifestyle 10, 20 or 50 years from now.