The word macronutrients or macros for short is a fancy term for nutrients that we as humans need to consume to survive. There are 3 essential macronutrients; carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Each individual food contains different proportions of all three macronutrients. Counting macros has gained popularity recently, replacing traditional calorie counting. Let’s breakdown what each of these essential macronutrients are and where to find them.
Carbohydrates A.K.A. “carbs”
Carbs are your bodies main energy source. They provide 4 calories per gram. We need carbohydrates for brain function, muscle recovery and growth, digestion, basically all of the functions to keep us alive. Carbohydrates are found in many plant based foods and processed foods. When you think of carbs, these are foods that are traditionally thought of as sugary or starchy, be it natural or processed.
Examples of carbohydrates are: fruit, vegetables (especially potatoes, corn, squash), legumes, grains-based food (rice, pasta, breads, quinoa), dairy (milk, yogurt), and processed items like crackers, granola bars, juices, and candy.
Understanding the role of carbohydrates in your diet is essential when it comes to performance and body composition.
Fat is another main energy source. It is the most concentrated energy source, providing 9 calories per gram. Fats are needed in many important bodily functions such as energy use and storage, satiety, insulation, and fat-soluble vitamin absorption (Vitamins A, D, E, and K).
Fat sources include oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut, butter and margarines, and marbling in meats (found in red meats).
The type of fat and timing of intake can influence your hunger levels, workouts, and overall health.
Protein has many important roles in the body. It provides 4 calories per gram. Protein breaks down into amino acids in the body and are used for many functions such as maintaining lean muscle mass, skeletal mass, the structural component of all cells in the body, and energy use.
Food sources of protein include red meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, soy (tofu, tempeh), legumes, and protein powders.
Protein plays a very important role with the development and maintenance of lean muscle mass, and can be maximized with guidance around timing and frequency of intake.
Why this approach might work for you
For some, taking the focus away from “calories” and instead focusing on getting the right amounts of macronutrients can take away that feeling of restricting. It can encourage a more balanced diet by including a variety of foods that provide all three essential macronutrients. It discourages individuals from thinking a 1500 calorie diet is sustainable on only salads, egg whites and avocados. You may be feeling sluggish (I mean, where are the carbs?!) which impacts the quality of your workouts. For some it takes away the negative thought process of “I can only have” and instead allows for more positive thoughts like “wow I can eat THAT much protein?!” For those that like to plan ahead and meal prep, macro counting makes sense. Many athletes who macro count feel a sense of control over what they are having and feel more knowledgeable and in charge of their nutrition.
Why this approach might not work for you
As with calorie-restricted diets, it is another form of counting. Trying to stick to your allotted macronutrients can seem like a daunting task, think of Tetris on expert level. It can be very time consuming. Some of the food diary apps are not monitored for accuracy, so certain foods are incorrectly entered. What you think you are consuming might not be true. For example, if you type in “chocolate chip cookie”, you might get a dozen chocolate chip cookie options, all of varying carb, fat, and protein amounts. How do you know which one is most accurate? Measuring and weighing your food is needed to know exactly what you are consuming. This can be quite overwhelming for those who don’t have a lot of time for meal prep, those who don’t make their meals, or those who have little nutrition knowledge. Like calorie restricted diets, macro counting can allow for poor quality food choices, given they fit into one’s macros. It’s easier to count macros off of a nutrition label than it is weighing and measuring your fresh vegetables and lean proteins.
To learn more about macro counting and if it would benefit you in your particular sport, speak with Sports Dietitians.
Writer: Emilie Trottier (Specialties: Crossfit Nutrition Specialist, Weight Lifting, Mental Health, Chronic Disease Management, Weight Loss, Body Composition Change)
“Health at Every Size” is a term you probably have seen all over social media and news. People either embrace it or demonize it. Some claim that it helps with self acceptance, positive body image, while others argue it enables obese people to remain obese, and those suffering with eating disorders to justify their behaviour. But what does it really mean? What is the purpose of the “Health at Every Size” movement.
The term “Health at Every Size” was coined by Linda Bacon, PhD in her very popular book The Surprising Truth about your weight: Health at Every Size released in 2008. According to Linda, the problem with weight is not fat itself, but with dieting. “A society that rejects anyone whose body shape or size doesn’t match an impossible ideal is the problem. A medical establishment that equates thin with healthy is the problem.” Additionally, Linda states, HAES is not a weight loss book, diet book or exercise program. The book is designed to encourage healthy living and support a shift from a client hating their themselves and fighting their body to learning to appreciate their body and their life.
There are five main principles to HAES®:
As one can see, the overall principles of HAES®: are positive and meant to support a healthy, well balanced lifestyle.
Unfortunately, this term has been skewed by media and persons around the world to support unhealthy lifestyles and lifestyle behaviours including eating disorders, clinical obesity, sedentary behaviours and excessive food consumption.
You are probably wondering, can someone be overweight/obese and be healthy. The answer to this is not a simple yes or no. It would depend on the definitions of the terms. Is someone judged overweight/obese based on the BMI alone (an outdated measure of body health); or is it based on weight circumference, body fat percentage? Is healthy based on the numbers found on a laboratory report or how active the person is? Or is it based on how balanced their life is with respect to food, exercise, sleep, social activity, etc.?
As you can see, there is no simple answer and there is no single answer that is perfect for everyone. It is individual and specific to each person. What I can tell you, HAES®: is not a means to justify restricting, binging or purging food. Nor is it a justification for living as a couch potato. Engaging in any of these activities is not healthy for the body, mind or soul.
So, what can you take away from this. Health comes in many shapes and sizes. The judgement of healthy comes down to more than a number on a scale, miles run, calories burned. Being healthy is about finding balance, acceptance and self-love. It is about being kind to our bodies, respecting our bodies and engaging in thoughts and behaviours that enable a positive lifestyle.
Written by: Catherine Rose-Loveless, RD (Registered Dietitian, HAES Practitioner, Yoga Instructor and Wellbeing Coach)
For more information on HAES® visit:
It’s back-to-school season. That means back to routine and (hopefully) some sense of normalcy compared to summer. Regular schedules make it easier to predict mealtimes. However, school commitments can also lead to less free time. What does this mean in terms of healthy eating? Meal planning is key. Many of my clients get so overwhelmed by the idea meal planning they don’t know where to start. Following the steps outlined below will help provide you some guidance.
Step 1: Determine the number of meals you need to plan for
Our routines may be predictable, or they may change week-to-week. Consider prep time, food budgets and eating environments when planning meals. For example, perhaps you want to have 3 dinners and 2 lunches planned for the upcoming week. Do your lunches need to be ‘grab-n-go’, or can you heat up food in a microwave? Do you have time to prepare dinners from scratch at home, or should one be a ‘set-and-forget’ meal done in the slow cooker. Write down the number of meals you need to prepare for the week and any necessary details (e.g. packed lunch, quick dinner).
Step 2: Plan your menu
Balanced meals should contain a variety of whole foods (i.e. food that doesn’t come out of a wrapper or package). Ideally, ½ the plate should be veggies and/or fruit, ¼ of the plate lean proteins and the last ¼ whole grains.
There are many places to find healthy meal ideas and recipes. Cookbooks and food magazines are great resources. But, most of my clients search the internet. I personally use Pinterest to find new recipe inspiration. Just be sure to read ingredients lists and find recipes that align with your nutritional goals. Also look at serving information if you are feeding a family or are planning for leftovers.
Family favourites list
I encourage my clients to create a list of at least 10 recipes that the whole family enjoys. These meals should also be easy and quick to make. Keep this list on the fridge when you run out of meal inspiration and ensure you are always stocked with the necessary ingredients. Some examples of quick last-minute meals include:
Overlap ingredients & plan for leftovers
To save money, time and food waste, plan to make recipes that use similar ingredients. For example, if you want to make a recipe that calls for ½ a red onion, choose a second recipe that also incorporates red onion so that you use it up!
The freezer is also a key tool when it comes to saving money and time. You can pretty much freeze anything so plan to cook once and eat twice by making extra recipe servings that you can freeze away for busy weeknight meals.
Step 3: Make a grocery shopping list
Shop your fridge and pantry first to make note of ingredients you have on hand. Then based on the recipes you’ve planned, create your shopping list. I’m a pen and paper type of person, but there are many apps to help with creating grocery lists (e.g. myShopi). The key is sticking to it!
I also advise my clients to stock up on non-perishables as back-ups when they are on sale. Examples of non-perishable food items to keep on hand that make healthy additions to last-minute meals include:
Step 4: Schedule time to shop and prep
If you are new to meal planning, set aside 3-4 hours each week to meal plan, write your grocery list, shop, and meal prep. Practice makes perfect. Over time you’ll become faster at every stage of the process.
Healthy eating is hard work and meal planning takes effort. But, coming home to a delicious healthy meal, without the stress of figuring things out on the fly, is well worth the time and energy put into meal planning.
Writer: Kerry Miller (Private Practice Registered Dietitian & Sport Nutritionist)
Given the recent Mayweather/McGregor fight, a fight with a clear size difference between fighters, I thought I’d explain the art and science of weight-cutting, and how this phenomenon relates to nutrition, health, and performance.
If you didn’t see the fight or weigh-in, a few key facts include:
The fact that McGregor was TKO’d in the 10th round is actually of remarkably little importance here. I’m not usually one to say that winning and losing is not important; it is clearly a performance indicator. But in this case, I really don’t think you can measure his performance on a binary scale given all the other variables (i.e. their existing skill sets and experience in boxing). What I would like to focus on more is that McGregor had what appeared to be a slight size advantage at weigh-ins, become quite a large size advantage on the night of the fight. So how did McGregor put on what looked like 10-20 lbs. of lean mass in 24 hours?
Now, I’m speculating here that McGregor followed this standard weight-cutting process I’m about to describe. He was the larger athlete and had a what looked like a drastic increase in size from Weigh-Ins to Fight, but keep in mind that I don’t actually work with him, and don’t actually know what he weighed leading into weigh-ins or on the night of the fight. However, I know this process intimately. I’ve work with athletes on weight management, but more importantly I have personally cut-weight more times than I can count. Near the end of my wrestling career, my weight would bounce from 65kg (143lbs) at weigh-ins, to about 73kg (161lbs) in competition the next morning.
It is important to remember that I am not condoning “cutting-weight”, but merely explaining the phenomenon in hopes that a more knowledgeable athlete can make smarter choices. “Cutting-weight” can be very dangerous, and should be done so in a supervised manor, if done at all. Involve coaches in the decision, and speak with a dietitian about it. Think about the potential advantages, and how they weigh against the possible disadvantages and safety concerns of this practice before making any decisions.
Writer: Kevin Iwasa-Madge, Sports Dietitian, CSCS
Are you an active individual eating a healthy diet and puzzled as to why you can’t take off the last 10-20 pounds? Specializing in sport nutrition and weight loss I see a couple common mishaps.
Could a few key “health” foods be kiboshing your weight loss efforts? These 3 come to mind.
2. Nuts and nut butters
The common denominator in this list is they are all deemed health foods with a number of nutritional benefits. While this is TRUE, there are some key considerations.
Sure Granola can be super nutritious. But don’t be deceived, I’ve had more than one client shed pounds JUST by being mindful of their granola snacking habits!
The Good: Points go to the nutritious and fibre rich ingredients, including nuts and seeds, oats, quinoa, coconut, and dried fruits.
The Bad: Granola and granola bars, even homemade varieties, use a high volume of sugary ingredients like dates, and honey, providing that desirable crunchy and cohesive cluster. Technically ‘natural’ sweeteners, these are also very concentrated forms of carbohydrate. Furthermore, nuts and seeds, as well as nut butters pack a calorie punch.
The Bottom Line: Snacking willy nilly on granola is too easy. And, since it’s deemed healthy, you don’t think twice about it. But with a 1/4 cup of granola being very high in carbohydrate, relatively low protein, and easily hitting upwards of 250 calories, your seemingly harmless, healthy snack habit may be a sugar spiking extravaganza that’s looking more like a meal.
Solution: Search recipes for smaller quantities of sweeteners (dates, maple syrup, honey) and nut butters or modify yourself so it fits your needs. Compare recipes that provide nutritional info and serving sizes to give you a sense of what’s coming in. Strategically, using a measuring cup and closing the jar up out of sight can help ensure you don't overdo it.
2. Nuts, Seeds and Nut Butters
A convenient addition to snacks, salads, breakfasts and more, nuts, seeds and nut butters are healthful and something I recommend to clients to boost their intake of healthy fats. With an upsurge in paleo, keto, and other low carb diets, nuts and nut butters fill the void. But could it be that your peanut butter habit is sticking to your waist-line?
The Good: I’m all for adding fats. Whole nuts, seeds and natural nut butters are a great source of heart healthy fat, high in omega 3s, fibre, and nutrients. They offer some protein and due to their fat content offer some satiety, which is a plus.
The Bad: Per gram, fats are more than twice the calories as carbs and proteins. Nuts, seeds and nut butters, being a significant source of fat are thus calorie dense. How many of you measure your nuts or pay attention to how much nut butter you spoon out? Since psychologically 12-15 almonds or a mere tbsp of PB seems pretty meagre, it’s easy to overdo it.
The Bottom Line: Including these healthy fats is a definite DO for our diet but portion control is key. For all the low carbers out there, your fat needs are indeed higher, just know that these tasty little bites are not a free for all.
Solution: Measure Measure Measure. If you’re a sucker for nuts and nut butters pre pack them in controlled quantities or find them already pre packed in individual sachets (black diamond brand sells these and found at most Costco stores). Avoid mindless snacking on nuts in front of the T.V., or having a nut jar on your desk which could facilitate overdoing it.
So you heard it here, salads and raw veggies could be making you fat! No, it’s not the plate of romaine or a few baby carrots that's the problem, but how about the dips and toppings on your greenery? Peruse the nutritional facts on some popular chain restaurant menus and have a look at how your salads could be adding up.
The Good: Veggies are very high in water, fibre, vitamins and minerals and the ruffage takes time to chew and digest helping with satiety. The veggies themselves are nutritionally dense NOT calorically dense. Filling your plate with loads of veg is great for preventing hunger, and keeping us super healthy.
The Bad: Most don't eat a plain plate of leaves or raw veg unadorned. Tune in to the fancy toppings, adding loads of calories, including bacon bits, shredded cheese, chèvre, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, crispy tortilla bits, and the list goes on. Then add on the dips and dressings poured generously on top. You get the picture. One tablespoon of dressing or dip alone runs you 120 calories or more. I’ve seen restaurant salads racking up to over 600 calories per plate.
The Bottom Line: Salads and raw veg are a great choice. Most of us need to be eating more! They don’t have to be bland to be healthy, but added dressings and crunchy bits can add up. When it comes to raw veg, how many times does your carrot hit the dip?
The Solution: Compare labels, or make your own dressings and dips that are more healthful; for example replacing oil with greek yogurt and herbs or higher ratios of lemon juice, and vinegar. Measuring out your dressing and asking for it on the side when dining out gives you the most control and can be a significant calorie saver.
The message here is that there CAN be too much of a good thing. Sometimes it’s not what you’re eating but how much! Practicing mindful eating and proper portioning with all foods ensures you don’t overdo it. Learning more about food and the nutritional value of your snacks and staples can help you make more educated decisions. Check in with a nutrition expert, compare labels and menu nutrition data, or try out a food app tracker periodically to clue you in.
Writer: Debora Sloan (RD, certified personal trainer and Crossfit coach)
Everywhere you look, there are social media posts and articles claiming coconut oil to be the magical answer for digestion, dry skin, weight loss, and everything in between. This has people going out to buy buckets of the high fat oil and using it in cooking, baking and whole body care. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence has provided some mixed reviews, which confuses not only the general public, but also some health professionals too! Today, we look at the benefits and cautions of coconut oil and provide an ultimate conclusion to sum up what we currently know about this fad ingredient.
Coconut oil comes from extracting and pressing the oil from the flesh of coconuts. There are two different versions available- unrefined and refined. Unrefined, or virgin coconut oil is a stronger tasting and flavourful option, while refined is more processed with a higher smoke point, making it better for cooking.
What are the benefits?
First and foremost, if you enjoy the flavour of coconut then this will be the oil for you. As mentioned before, unrefined coconut oil is richer in flavour and may be more pleasing to you for that reason alone.
Some brands may differ slightly in the shelf life, however; in general, coconut oil can be stored for one to two years. Since the melting point is approximately 24 degrees Celsius, the consistency of the oil will vary depending on the temperature of the storage space. In order to keep your coconut oil in solid form, it is recommended to store it in a cool and dry area.
The smoke point of oil is important to take into consideration when cooking at high temperatures, such as when frying foods. Exceeding the smoke point (the temperature at which the oil begins to burn and smoke) will create an unpleasant odour and alter the chemical make-up of the oil. Due to the reduction in the amount of nutrients in the oil as well as potentially creating harmful free radicals, it is suggested to avoid overheating oil in general. Luckily, the saturated chemical bonds of coconut oil can withstand some heat before it begins to break down. The smoke point of unrefined/virgin coconut oil is 350 degrees Fahrenheit, while refined is around 400 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. It is still recommended to not use coconut oil for frying foods, as these high temperatures will likely exceed the smoke point.
Medium Chain Triglycerides
Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a form of saturated fatty acids that largely make up coconut oil and have been the topic of many research studies in the recent years. Evidence has suggested MCTs provide some form of weight loss aide, improvement in insulin sensitivity in Type 2 diabetics, increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol, increased fat oxidation (fat burning), and may play a dietary therapeutic role in the treatment of epilepsy for children.
Why should I be cautious with coconut oil?
This is where the recommendations get tricky. As you can see, there are some potential benefits to including coconut oil in your diet. However, there is still a need for additional research to assess the long-term health consequences of a diet high in saturated fat/MCT.
A number of studies surrounding the benefits of coconut oil were performed on mice, and although this is a common occurrence, translating this information is not as easily done. There are many differences that need to be taken into consideration when applying mice/rat studies to human recommendations, so be aware of this.
Here is a doozy: coconut oil does not necessarily completely correlate with the MCT researched benefits. Although coconut oil does contain MCTs, the actual amount of and available “benefits” have not yet been identified. Recently, there have also been research papers delving more into the effects of a diet high in MCT, suggesting that there may be an increase in hunger/appetite, which is the opposite of what has been previously understood.
Additionally, the American Heart Association released a statement in June of 2017 that read “The advisory, an analysis of more than 100 published research studies dating as far back as the 1950s, reaffirmed that saturated fats raise LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. Tropical vegetable oils such as coconut oil contain high levels of saturated fats, and the authors reported that coconut oil raised LDL cholesterol in seven controlled trials.” Keeping heart health in mind is extremely important with the modern day high fat, highly processed and super-sized culture of North America. Be cautious with the amount of coconut oil, and saturated fat in general you are including in your diet.
In summary, there are a lot of mixed messages when it comes to coconut oil. Human research is still needed to provide more applicable and concrete recommendations for the general population to follow. That being said, consuming high amounts of calorically dense fat, WILL set you up for weight gain. If you want to switch up your options for oils, give coconut oil a try in small amounts. Opt for unsaturated fats such as extra virgin olive oil or canola oil more often, as these have been heavily researched and are known for their heart healthy properties.
Ashlen Leonard, RD, BASc, PMDip
How did you sleep last night? A question that is more often than not answered with not that great or not as long as I should have. People underestimate the value of getting a good night’s sleep to their weight loss goals, yet alone their health.
If you’re feeling sleepy at work, you may be tempted to reach for a cup of coffee and a doughnut or sugary treat for a quick shot of energy. Later you may skip the gym, too tired to get your workout in. Then, you pick up takeout on your way home to your family -- no time to cook. When you finally find yourself back in your bed, you are too wound up to sleep. It’s a vicious cycle, and eventually this sleep deprivation can sabotage your waistline and your health.
It starts out innocently enough. When you have sleep deprivation and are running on low energy, you automatically go for comfort foods. The immediate result? You may be able to fight off sleepiness. The ultimate result? Unwanted pounds as poor food choices coupled with lack of exercise set the stage for weight gain and further sleep loss.
Let me clear something up first, it’s not so much that if you sleep, you will lose weight. It’s more the consequences of being sleep-deprived. This means that you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or not enough good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly.
Cutting back your calories? Studies show that a reduction of sleep by 3 hours is associated with more weight loss come from muscle rather than fat compared to a rested people. Not only is it linked to our hunger or activity level, but the bodily functions and hormonal responses leading to a higher body fat percentage.
Not interested in weight loss? Trying to bulk up? This applies to you too! Sleep appears to be somewhat associated with hormone levels that are responsible for building muscle. Yep, slacking on getting those precious hours are going to greatly impact your gains in the gym.
Now we know how important getting good quality sleep is to reaching your goals regardless of what they are, how do we fix it you ask? Well here are some top tips to get you sleeping better by tonight:
1. Stick to a sleep schedule - Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. This applies to weekends, holidays and days off too. Being consistent creates a sleep-wake cycle and helps you ultimately sleep better at night. If you don't fall asleep within about 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing. Go back to bed when you're tired, don’t stress it!
2. Pay attention to what you eat and drink - Don't go to bed either hungry or stuffed as your discomfort might keep you up. Also limit how much you drink before bed. Nothing worse than those middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet.
3. Create a bedtime ritual - Do the same things each night to tell your body it's time to wind down. This might include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to soothing music. Choose a ritual that doesn’t involve bright screens of any kind as they will make you more awake even if you don’t realize it. Make bedtime your time.
4. Get comfortable - Create a space that is perfect for sleeping, meaning keeping it cool, dark, and quiet, with optimal bedding that includes a comfy pillow and mattress that is right for your body.
5. Limit naps – Yes that afternoon or noontime nap. We all love them, but long daytime naps can screw with nighttime sleep. If absolutely have to nap, limit yourself to maximum of 30 minutes and make it during the midmorning or midafternoon.
6. Include physical activity in your daily routine – Activity promotes better quality overall sleep from falling asleep to staying asleep. Make sure you don’t exercise too close to bedtime however, as this will spike those happy hormones keeping you wired.
7. Manage stress – Probably the hardest thing to do out of this entire list. When you have too much to think about or do your sleep is likely to suffer. Consider healthy ways to manage stress like getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Before bed, jot down what's on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.
Writer: Alysha Coughler (Sports Dietitian - Personal Training Specialist - Health Coach)
DNF: an abbreviation for the three words that can shatter an athlete’s world; Did Not Finish. For the first time in my life I received a DNF for MY event of the year, the Muskoka Half Ironman. For many of you, you may be thinking that a DNF is a sigh of relief to make it so that you don’t have to swim 1.9km, bike 90km and run 21.1 km all back to back, but it’s soul crushing for a triathlete.
Many of you have seen ‘Ben the Sports Dietitian’’ write before but this is the first time you’ll see ‘Ben the Triathlete’ write and that’s because this post so personal. It was an extremely personal experience; it brought me to tears on the bike course. I was cussing my voice dry and desperately trying to figure out how I could finish the race. But when the downward force put down on my pedal going up a steep hill snaps your chain and the bracket for the derailleur at the 13km mark, there’s just no way to recover. I was so desperate to recover that I even started running with my bike in my clip on bike shoes for at least 1.5km, causing a mild injury.
Why was I so upset? Why did I just fold up and start crying up on the side of the road? Well aside from the fact that I love this sport, I had invested 6 full months of 5am runs and swims followed by nighttime runs and bike rides and sacrificed countless social events to maintain a full 6-month training schedule. All those kilometers I racked up in training suddenly didn’t mean anything at all if I couldn’t finish. I was hopeless and helpless as I watched all the other athletes pass me asking “everything ok?” with the best intentions to see if I needed an extra inner tubing or a small wrench to fine tune something. All I saw was my only Triathlon pass me by. The race officials finally got to me an hour after I just decided to sit next to my broken bike crying. There was nothing the race officials or I could do. My triathlon season had ended.
Why did I end up crying? Why did I have this crazy f*cking emotional reaction? Well aside from everything that I wrote in the above paragraph, this was the first time in my life that I couldn’t find the silver lining.
You see, I have the same philosophy as one of my favourite musicians, Maynard James Kennan; “I never lose, I either win or I learn.” But there was nothing to learn here. It’s not like I could have gone “Ok, your running pace started to slow down after the 8km marker so we need to look at carbohydrate timing” Or “I need to focus more on Hill training.” My f*cking derailleur snapped off my bike! There’s no lesson in that. It’s just a shitty thing that happened. And now I’m ashamed that those three letters, DNF, will forever taint my race record.
Why am I feeling this shame? After all, objectively this is not my fault that a part of my bike decided to fail on me. At one point I laughed because I could take it as a compliment that my quads are strong enough to put enough force to break a solid metal bracket. And then I realized that I’m feeling this shame because I expect perfection from myself. I expect myself to be the best version of myself. Each day I need to know that I’m growing and getting better at literally anything in order to sleep at night. Then I felt more shame because this is one of those things that I counsel, unrealistic expectations. You see, many athletes and people walk into my office daily and expect perfection, which is unrealistic. This unrealistic expectation only leads to disappointment and excess stress (which kind of explains why I burned out 3 times this year before the end of March!) As soon as I realized this, I almost had a follow up assessment with myself on the side of the road (If I had a mirror or my phone I actually would have counseled myself and tried to read my own body language!).
This was my turning point. I was happy again because I could spin this now; I could find the silver lining. I’m not going to lose. I’m not letting myself lose. Another one of my heroes, Bruce Lee, had always said “Defeat is a state of mind; No one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as reality.” For that brief 45 minutes crying on the side of the road with a broken bike I had temporarily forgotten the words of my heroes and accepted the defeat. But the moment I had that revelation, I was no longer defeated. I quickly shot up and said “F*ck you, I’m not losing. I’m going to learn and find that silver lining” and started cheering on my fellow triathletes to send all my good vibes onto them. After all they had at least 77km left in one of the most difficult bike courses in the Triathlon world followed by a half marathon run, they needed all the love and support they could get. I had learned and at that point I began to smile again and the tears started to go away.
Now knowing that I expect this level of perfection of myself I can head into next season stronger than ever. Being a bit easier on myself for the things that I cannot control is the lesson here. We all want control in our lives but sometimes it just isn’t up to us. Sometimes pure stupid luck happens no matter how we try to gain control. And we still can have control, but that control is over how we react to these unfortunate events rather than the event itself.
Triathlons are less about the physical endurance but more about mental endurance. Only the toughest and strongest willpower out there can survive a Triathlon. And the beauty of this DNF is that it’s lit a fire under my ass to motivate me for the 2018 season. This fire burns, always. As long as the silver lining is found, I’ll never lose, I’ll always win or learn. So watch out next season because I’m coming back with a vengeance!
Before getting into the argument of whether or not greasy burgers and fries can have a place in a healthy, balanced lifestyle, I need to say this: I have a problem with cheat meals. It’s not the greasy, salty, high fat, high sugar foods typically associated with cheat meals that I have a problem with, it’s the term itself.
As I’m sure many of you have learned throughout your life, cheating is bad. If you cheat on a test at school, punishments can range from detention to expulsion. If you cheat in sports, you can be disqualified. For most of us, doing something “bad” elicits feelings of guilt. If you have ever cheated on anything, I would be willing to bet that you experienced at least a small amount of guilt. Using the term “cheat meal” implies that your meal is bad and may make you feel guilty for eating it. I am a firm believer that food should be enjoyed. If food is meant to be enjoyed, why do we attach a word with such a negative connotation to it?
Now that I’ve ranted to you about cheat meals (thanks for sticking with me), we can get back to our original question. At this point, I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I say that I wouldn’t call a burger and fries a cheat meal. However, you may be surprised when I say that I would consider it part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Let me explain.
A healthy lifestyle is more than just physical health. In fact, there are 7 dimensions of wellness that contribute to an overall healthy lifestyle:
Having a burger and fries may not contribute much to your physical health, but it may positively impact your social wellness by allowing you to eat out with friends. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you consume these foods frequently, but I do believe they have a place in a healthy lifestyle.
Some people follow the 80/20 rule where 80% of the time they eat healthy, and 20% of the time they choose foods that are considered less healthy. However, this is just a guideline and you will find what works best for you. Maybe you are more comfortable with a 90/10 split, or maybe you would prefer 70/30. Regardless, it is important to remember that taking care of your social and emotional health is arguably just as important as your physical health.
For more information on Cheat Meals/Cheat Days, watch this ESN video with Ben and Alysha!
Remember: ENJOY your burgers and fries, just not to the extreme like Patrick over here:
Three Stages of Chronic Stress
Everyone goes through stress at some point in their life, whether it be monetary, family or job stress. However, most of us can deal with the stressor in a timely manner so that it does not substantially affect our health. But how do you know if you are under acute stress or chronic stress? What are the signs? According to the Centre for Studies on Human Stress (CSHS) there are three stages to stress.
Stage 1: The “Pepto Bismol” stage in which you are repeatedly exposed to situations that trigger a stress response such as racing heart, rapid breathing, increase in blood sugar and blood pressure and decrease in digestion (remember our good friend cortisol).
Stage 2: The “Rhum and Coke” stage. This is when things are starting to get out of control in your life. Stressor after stressor is thrown at you and your cortisol levels remain high. You may feel energized but not in a good way (nervous energy). You continue to take on more and more, feeling overwhelmed, overworked and unable to get anything done. Your mood may change – increased anxiousness, short temperedness. Your mind is always going, trying to figure out how to get through everything. Your sleep may be poor. Digestion decreased. Immune system weakened. For some, cortisol may increase hunger and bingeing on food. Poor coping skills may lead to use of alcohol or other substances.
Stage 3: The “Glass of Water” stage – the full out chronic stress stage. This is when the never-ending stress and our inability to cope with it has wreaked havoc with our personality and our health. You may experience depression, insomnia, burnout, heart disease, weight gain (or loss depending on your intake). Your judgement of situations,people and even your behaviour may be skewed. This is not where we want to end up.
Personally, I can tell you I have been through all of them at some point in my life. But the question is, when looking at your life, do you find yourself falling into any of these stages? Do you feel like things are getting out of control? Do you know how to effectively combat your stress in a healthy way? If any of this sounds familiar to you, then stay tuned for my next blog on “How to Combat Stress”
Catherine Rose-Loveless, RD, Sports Dietitian
Sports Dietitian with Evolved Sport and Nutrition
Complete Lifestyle Management