I Blamed the Broccoli

  house-of-margot-personal-branding-photography-3I remember playing defense in the infield on my 2002 college softball team when a hard hit ground ball hummed my way. I bobbled the ball, messed up the play, and the runner was safe at first base. I stared dumbfounded at my glove, as if it were my glove's fault that I botched the routine play.

"It's not your glove's fault, Fowler!" my coach yelled out to me from the dugout. She was right. It was obviously MY fault, but it was easier to look at my glove and try to find the reason for the error there rather than be embarrassed for my mistake.

You'll laughingly witness the same thing at a little leaguer game. The cute little players with baseball pants up to their ears blame their gloves for pass balls all of the time. And if you're lucky you'll get to see them launch their gloves across the dirt in an effort to stop a moving ball. Ball gloves served a fine job of assigning blame for many plays on the diamond. Aw, the days of sunflower seeds and bubble gum.

Speaking of bubble gum.

gum

In 2014 I participated in three fitness challenges that required me to be on a very strict eating regimen. I wasn't competing for anything, but the weight loss challenge featured a money back option if you lost the allotted weight within the challenge. In addition to the strict meal plan provided, we were given unlimited access to workouts, accountability, and weigh-in.

I lost a lot of weight within those three challenges that I completed. I was at my smallest weight as an adult (smaller than I was in the 4th grade), and I was determined to play by the rules, follow the eating plan, and revel in my weight loss success. Having struggled with obesity at a young age, I was navigating into a new me, and it felt good at the time.

The problem was that I was starving myself. If we weren't on a high carb day, I was eating under 1000 calories for my meals. That's ALL of my meals put together. I would eat my breakfast, only to count down until I could have my next protein shake. Once I'd have my protein shake, I'd count down until I could heat up my prepped chicken and broccoli. Then I'd time it just right so that I could have my afternoon protein shake and a small, small handful of nuts, and then the count down ensued for my tilapia and asparagus dinner. Every. Single. Day.

I didn't fully understand this at the time, but I was starving, you guys. I couldn't drink enough water to make the hunger in my belly go away. I couldn't even complain about being hungry because I was losing weight. I was supposed to be hungry, right? The goal was to lose weight to feel more confident, but my social life and my outings with family and friends revolved around food. I measured my food, and I obsessed with every day results.

In an effort to avoid "cheating" and eating more than I was supposed to (I always ate more than my allotted nuts - TRUE statement), I chewed on gum all day long. I'll admit, I'm that person that always asks for two pieces of gum BECAUSE I LIKE TO POP BUBBLES. Don't judge me. But I began to chew gum incessantly. When I felt hungry, I chewed gum. When the flavor went away, I popped in a couple more pieces of gum. Directly after dinner, I'd have GUM for "dessert" so that I wouldn't get hungry before bed. Every trash can in my home and at work left proof of an obsessive gum chewing monster roaming the house. Gum was deemed as my saving grace in this weight loss challenge.

Until the gas bubble came.

I was still dropping weight in our bi-weekly weigh ins, but my stomach started to experience major bloat and constant gas. It even became a joke in my inner circle of friends. WHY WAS I SO GASSY?

"It's gotta be the broccoli."

brocc

My naivety in this situation is admittedly pretty embarrassing. But you really don't know something until you know. You know?  ;)  At that time I was blaming broccoli for my gut issues. I was even going so far as to searching the internet for broccoli side effects. (I'm SO serious, you guys. WTF!) I once faked sickness in my graduate level class because I could not comfortably sit in a classroom without flatus outbreaks. Embarrassing as it might be for both the physical and the ideological sides, it all happened because of my obsession with gum. Apparently excessive artificial sweeteners do not sit well with me.

For me, the gum obsession was a side effect of the restrictive eating plan. I was resolving my "overeating" problem, but I was bandaid-ing the issue with another obsession - gum. Replacing a problem with another problem isn't the answer. The ACTUAL answer is forming healthy habits, ones that don't fall on extreme sides of the spectrum - the good or the bad.

Sometimes smokers pick up unhealthy eating habits when trying to quit smoking. Sometimes drinkers pick up unhealthy shopping habits when trying to quit drinking. I wasn't cognizant that my new gum obsession was detrimental in so many ways.

After my challenges, I quickly gained weight back (hello water and carbs and satiable food), and I discovered that not only was chewing gum messing up my digestive system, but I had lost my menstrual cycle, I was losing my hair, I developed night sweats, and the list goes on. I'd gotten to a body weight 1) that I'd never, ever been at before and 2) I believe this body weight was much too small for me.

Hindsight is 20/20, and I can look back at that time in my life and still be thankful. The problems that I experienced forced me to become more educated about nutrition and body awareness. I now talk about eating in moderation, and I never blame foods for the problem. The problem is our relationship with food (or gum), and the outcome is the response to our actions with those specific foods (or gum).

Let me also mention - I think striving for fat loss is an admirable goal to have, but I now understand that FOR ME eating a strict regimen and white knuckling my way to the next meal with gum in cheek is not a sustainable way of eating. Sustainable fat loss takes time. It takes knowledge about your own body. There is no one size fits all nutrition plan.

This realization wasn't without disappointment. There are days that I think "Oh, if I can just go back to a really strict diet I could quickly get back to my leanest self." It just doesn't work like that anymore for me, though. I can mutter those words all I want, but I KNOW I have no desire to eat like that again. There's a way to dial in on nutrition without restricting yourself to obsession. If I go about fat loss, I realize now that it can't be a quick fix. The faster we lose it, the faster it comes back. I want to eat the same on Saturday that I do on Wednesday. Making it a lifestyle is the goal.

I obsessively chewed gum for a long time before realizing what the problem was for me. And gum wasn't the actual problem. The amount of gum I was chewing was my problem. The strict regimen was my problem. My inability to ask questions and educate myself at the time also contributed to the problem.

I think it's more important than ever that we ask questions when it comes to nutrition and movement. We can't work on autopilot and expect to get to know ourselves like we should. Ask questions. It's true trial and error. Find the things that work for YOU. It can be an overwhelming process, but credit yourself with the ability to figure it all out. TRUST yourself in the process. Some of us want to be handed an exact meal plan with exact instructions because we don't really trust ourselves. And why should we, right? Nothing that we've done has worked so far.

But it CAN work.

My story has lots of wrong turns, stop signs, and MANY instances of running red lights. But now I pay attention to the signs. I give my body the compassion and grace it needs. I love it right now, regardless of my body fat percentage. And I can still strive for wanting fat loss, but when and if I do that, I can do that in a healthy, sustainable manner. NOT in a manner that forces gum to come to the rescue of my ravenous belly.

I now moderate nutrition with the 80/20 rule, I lift heavy weights, and I practice compassion with myself on a daily basis.

I eat my veggies, too... But I don't blame the broccoli anymore.

 

I Almost Had A 6 Pack

       

These pictures were taken just one year ago - February 2015. I was finishing up a strict nutrition regimen for a weight loss challenge, and I had dwindled down to a scale weight of 160LBS standing at 5'10". 

YOU GUYS - I had never, EVER seen this weight in my adult life, my teenage life, and honestly, I had already surpassed 160LBS by the time I was in 5th grade at 10 years old. 

In that picture I was focused. I was SO determined. And I was so proud of my "almost a 6 pack" abs. I had come a long way from 240 LBS. 

My weight loss journey has occurred in many phases - my college phase (losing the most weight), my running marathons phase (all throughout my 20s), and then my "ah-ha, nutrition matters" phase that started at age 30. 

I was obsessed in the pics above. I awoke every single day to step onto the scale, letting the number dictate how my day would go. I pinched my belly and frowned up my rolls. I constantly looked for reassurance from my wife on my physique. While her responses were always positive, my constant questioning for validation was a tad alarming. I was at my smallest weight since elementary school, and it still wasn't enough for me. 

Once the weigh-in was over for the weight loss challenge, I found myself addicted to the strictness and structure, but my willpower was wearing thin. When I allowed myself to indulge in sweets or less than healthy snacks, I completely and embarrassingly found myself bingeing on those foods. "I deserve this!" Following a binge, guilt would take over. It was a vicious cycle that left me terrified of food. 

I started seeing my extreme leanness disappear, and some of the weight started to appear back on the scale. 

Here's what I learned:

- for ME, strict regimens do not work. Yes, they yield physical results, but the mental ramifications are far too damaging afterward.  

- I'm thankful for the experience (hindsight is 20/20 lol), but going forward I know that mindset guidance is just as important as nutritional guidance. 

- there is certainly a place and a time for fat loss, but extreme measures do not serve ME well. 

- just because my willpower wears thin with strict regimens does not mean that I am any less disciplined. 

- white knuckling my way through nutritional methods leaves me feeling less powerful of my own decisions. 

- the faster I lose it, the faster it comes back.

- today I'm 175 LBS, and I'm wearing the same pant size that I did at that weigh-in 1 year ago. 

- not only am I physically stronger, but today I am mentally stronger in all aspects. 

Listen, last year I was chasing a number on the scale. I was VERY lean in those pictures, but I was NOT HAPPY. I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was living with a measuring cup in my purse. 

This year, I might be heavier on the scale (that I rarely EVER step on by the way), but my mindset has shifted. I have learned to love the skin that I am in, and I don't let a number define me. 

I don't have washboard abs, but I have strong quads, muscular arms, and a strong core to support my movement. I have the capability to grocery shop and know that while 90% of the shopping cart items are healthy, I'm not scared to allow the other 10%. 

I could easily look at those pictures above and want to be back in that lean body. But I don't. I strive for fat loss in a sustainable way, one that allows me to live my life outside of traveling Tupperware. I eat healthy. I exercise. I lift. But I'm not afraid of a cupcake. 

Today I feel powerful in the skin that I am in. I'm stronger than ever. I'm confident in my body and all that it does for me on the daily. Our bodies work SO hard for us!

No number on a scale can take any of that power away from you. It's yours for the taking! Go get it, 6 pack or not. 

Engage. Empower. Elevate. 

- coach fowler 

PS - yes, I constantly keep chapstick on my bathroom mirror. lolol 

         

Pumpkin Pie Then And Now

before.afterThanksgiving here in the United States is right around the corner (meaning you only have 3 days to get to the grocery store before all chicken stock is obsolete). For the love of your holiday sanity, beat the last-minute-crowd grocery shopping on Wednesday evening! Although I'm not a fan of losing daylight and delving into colder weather, I AM a big fan of the holidays. And with holidays comes feasting with the family. YUM. All things turkey and dressing (i.e. stuffing), green been casserole, sweet potatoes (do you put marshmallows on yours, too?) and pumpkin pie. BECAUSE pie.

I've been through many, many changes in nutrition and fitness in my life, and this year I've got a completely different approach to my Thanksgiving dinner. Before I tell you what it is, let me catch you up on my history with food.

  • kid/teenager- as you can see from the photo above, I lived a life full of overeating that lacked any focus on nutrition. I lifted a lot of weights and played softball (eventually collegiate), but my eating outworked my movement.
  • throughout my 20's - post college softball I discovered long distance running and ran multiple half marathon and full marathons. I lost a lot of weight, but I carb-loaded with donuts and bagels and pretty much had an "I run so that I can eat whatever I want" type of attitude.
  • age 30 - I got married and running became less of a priority. Meanwhile lack of nutrition took over. I gained some weight back and decided that it was time for a change.
  • 31 - I went extreme and started working out and participated in 3 different restrictive meal plan challenges getting down to my lowest weight (ever) of 156 with never-seen-before ab definition, and I had become completely obsessed with the scale.

Right now I'm 32 years old, and I'm certainly not still at 156LBS. With a lot of detail left out between each of those tabs, it's still easy to see that I went through an all-or-nothing type of regimen throughout my journey.

And neither one of them worked for ME.

When I ate everything in sight, it left me with an obese figure and I was completely controlled by food. When I restricted myself on a strict diet, I still found myself controlled by food. And after each restrictive challenge I would slowly binge my way back to a higher number on the scale than what I had ended each challenge on, thus leaving me in a defeated state of mind. That's why I did 3 challenges. I constantly went back for more to chase that number. It worked - but it was also a competition style diet for a mainstream woman. I don't participate in bikini and figure competitions, so I really don't need to eat for one. I needed something sustainable that I could do FOREVER. I am so thankful that I had the experience, and I honestly learned a lot during that interim. But I'm mostly thankful for the things I learned that I should not do anymore - restrict. It just doesn't work for me.

With the help of some fabulous blogs and mentors and a heavy dose of self awareness, I have found myself in a moderate state of eating. I AM NOT AFRAID OF FOOD. FOOD DOES NOT CONTROL ME. I can proudly say that I no longer stand in the grocery aisles clueless as to what I should put into the basket.

"Does that have too much sugar?"

"Is that all natural?"

"How many carbs are in that?"

"These are the foods I have to eat if I want to lose weight."

As I stated above earlier, I've got a completely different approach to my Thanksgiving dinner this year. In the past I would fill my plate (okay, stacked would be a better word) food on top of food on top of food and sit down for Thanksgiving dinner. Then I would go for round #2. And then I would allow myself dessert "once I let my food settle". I've even had to sit with my pants unbuttoned because I let myself get too full.

A little much, yeah? Can you relate?

So how will I eat this year?  I'll eat whatever I want, focusing more on the protein and veggies, but allowing myself to enjoy it all. I will continue my practice of eating until I'm 80% full. A friend and I once had a discussion on what constitutes 80% full - for us, we decided that if we could still knock out 10 burpees or go for a light jog after our meal, then we were probably sitting somewhere near the 80% mark. If we couldn't, then we'd probably pushed the limit.

I don't like feeling FULL anymore. I want to find fullness in other things - not food. I now focus on staying hydrated, getting my movement or workout in each day, and prioritizing proteins and veggies - but I purposefully and mindfully allow daily indulgences. If I wait until the weekend, then I find myself overdoing it. I don't need that. I need moderation - and that's from the school of freaking common sense. It's a simple idea, but it's not easy. I'm still practicing, but I get better and better each day.

Don't overthink this holiday. Don't overdue this holiday.

Back then I ate too much pumpkin pie. Now I will eat just enough pumpkin pie. And you can be sure that on Black Friday I'll let myself enjoy a leftover piece of pumpkin pie for breakfast while I sip my coffee and admire our Christmas tree.

Will I feel guilty? No. I don't eat pie for breakfast every day. I'm simply just allowing myself to live the life that I want. No restrictions. No guilt. And if I do it mindfully and moderately, there will be NO waistline consequences.

There is always so much to be thankful for, and not one day goes by that I'm not thankful for every single one of you. Thank you times a million.

Happy Thanksgiving!

xo

engage. empower. elevate.

Coach Fowler

 

 

You Can Stay The Healthy Course Even When Your Spouse Isn't On Board. 

img_6380-0.jpg

I love kale and spinach and then more kale and more spinach. I also love brussel sprouts and zucchini and broccoli and anything else GREEN. I am not a picky eater, which is probably a major contributing factor to my obesity while in high school. I genuinely like all kinds of food. And I never had trouble finishing any meals. "A happy plate is a clean plate." Anybody else grow up hearing that?

My wife, on the other hand, has a strong aversion to most healthy foods. She does like green beans, but I think the word "like" might be slightly exaggerated. I think it's just the one veggie that she tolerates. Oh, and glazed carrots. But those don't really count. Hello, brown sugar.

 

 

Mit grew up on a ranch in northwest Oklahoma. She's talked about meal habits and has expressed that it wasn't uncommon to sit down to "supper" and happily enjoy a dinner with grass-fed protein and 3 sides of starch - corn, mashed potatoes, and bread. This is NOT a foreign concept to me either. I remember the days of eating dinner and enjoying that soft, white, sliced bread and smothering butter on top of it. Sometimes it was 2 or 3 slices. And this was just a supplement to dinner. LAWD help my high school waist line. But the main difference is that I've always liked veggies. ALL THE VEGGIES. She avoided them like the plague at each meal.

So let's fast forward to now. I'm not here to judge eating habits or condemn any foods. That's not my job. But I DO want to express to you that you CAN keep healthy habits even if your significant other doesn't enjoy the same foods.

First off, when I'm cooking a meal at home, 80% of the time I cook the same protein for each of us. The other 20% is when I cook fish. She no likey seafood. Bummer. But when I cook veggies, I get really creative and always cook some sort of varied veggies for myself. Mit - she always gets green beans. Always. So this usually means I'm cooking something extra, or sometimes I might make two completely different meals. It might sound like a headache, but I'm honestly okay with it. I want her to enjoy her food and me enjoy mine.

When it comes to eating at restaurants, if eating healthy is your goal, then stay the course. We sometimes allow ourselves permission to make bad decisions due to our surroundings. And let me be clear, if you decide to indulge in something not so healthy, then by all means OWN IT and move on. But if you want healthy, opt for healthy, OWN IT, and move on.

Here are a few scenarios of what restaurant ordering might look like for us:

Mit orders a cheeseburger plain with mustard and ketchup. I order a Cobb salad.

Mit orders a cheeseburger plain with mustard and ketchup. (She's pretty consistent). I order a cheeseburger, no bun but wrapped in extra lettuce.

Mit orders chicken and waffles. I ORDER CHICKEN AND WAFFLES. I will not live in a world where I don't allow myself to indulge in chicken and waffles every once in a while. That's just absurd. AMIRIGHT? I'm health conscious, but LIFE.

 

Let me also defend my wife and tell you that she certainly has appeased me and will try nearly everything I put in front of her. She strives to eat healthier, but she does this for herself, not for me. She also knows that I opt for healthy meals majority of the time, and she is so very supportive of my journey - even at my most extreme and restrictive times. She never comments on my decisions in any negative manner and vice versa. In my humble opinion, resentment occurs when we judge our spouse for their eating habits. Nobody wants to hear, "don't you think you've had enough of those chips?" Ouch.

Now, would it be easier if Mit enjoyed the same healthy foods that I do? Of course! I'd be making big, BIG salads every single night. ALL THE VEGGIES! But here's what I've learned: There is strength in our differences, and my ability to work around those differences has taught me to demonstrate more discipline. That's not a bad thing.

I obviously like to talk about healthy foods BECAUSE yum. But if your spouse isn't on that same page, don't let THAT be the excuse that keeps you from healthier options for yourself - if that's your goal. 

What are some differences that you and your spouse have when it comes to choosing meals?

Engage. Empower. Elevate. #EEEtribe 

xo

Coach Fowler