My Own Worst Critic: Check!

I am seriously privileged to work out with some amazing women. Last Friday morning, during the stretch after a workout, I had a very sweaty conversation with one such amazing woman. She told me how much she was enjoying the blog. (As have many others; I am truly grateful for all the positive feedback and honored that so many folks are reading. THANK YOU!)

But she did tell me one other thing (well, actually two…) She said she didn’t like the name of the blog, and that she thought I was way too hard on myself.

Okay, okay. I plead guilty to beating myself up on a regular basis.

Just to be clear, I am creating a sort of semi-humorous self-deprecating persona on this blog. But, to be even clearer, that’s pretty much who I am. I make jokes–often at my own expense–when I am nervous or out of my comfort zone. (Sometimes it’s just because I’m hilarious, but you get the idea.) As for the name, “Fit Fat Girl” is kinda catchy, and it will transition perfectly into “Fit (Formerly) Fat Girl” at some point in the future.

But overall, yeah, this friend is right. I am definitely my own worst critic. In my own mind, much of the time I’m not smart enough, strong enough, funny enough, cool enough, ANYTHING enough.

Image

I’m not really sure this fits what I’m saying, but it had to be included. For obvious reasons.

I do have my moments when I realize I am all those things, but they are precarious moments for sure, and they can be blown over by the slightest wind. Or even a tiny hiccup.

Take today, for instance. I just came off a truly amazing weekend. I watched people I love absolutely CRUSH the Fugitive Mud Run. (Completing a mud run was not my goal this year–I just don’t feel like I can afford to split my focus; I have to be 100% focused on my body transformation goals. Next year, watch out, mud runs!)

Afterward, we celebrated with a legit scheduled cheat meal, and then on Sunday we spent more time with great people. Oh, and I worked out about a million times. Five tough workouts in a row is no joke, but I finished it strong this morning. And all week, I’ve been getting such awesome feedback on the blog. I felt EVERYTHING enough, and more.

And then.

I let one comment from one person knock me down. Well, maybe two comments from two people. No need to get into the deets, but basically I had my efforts ignored by one person and sort of belittled by another. Aaaaaaand, despite dozens of compliments and empowering moments in the last week, I have been completely deflated, miserable, self-loathing, throw-myself-a-pity-party discouraged. Lame. I am so freakin lame.

Why am I lame? Because: I. LET. THIS. HAPPEN.

Yes, I know you’re all hearing Eleanor Roosevelt in your heads along with me. (Aren’t you? Am I the only one who hears her?)

ImageThe point is, whether you can hear Eleanor in your head or not, whether the two people noted above were uncool or not, this is MY fault. My deal. My hangup. I let it get to me; I allowed myself to be made to feel less than I am. Shame on me.

That shit’s gonna stop.

So these are now new goals for me: to be kinder to myself. To try to focus more on how far I’ve come instead of how far I still have to go. To surround myself with people who build me up, and tune out those who might be insensitive, thoughtless, or looking to cut me down.

Don’t get me wrong–I still plan to kick my own ass on a regular basis. There will be no getting complacent over here, and that’s the flip side of being too hard on myself…the good that comes of being my own worst critic: I keep pushing. I keep working. I always look for the next challenge, the next goal, the next step forward. How much better can I be? How much faster can I go? How much more can I lift? How much more can I give?

So even though I’m discouraged TODAY, even though I let stupid crap get to me TODAY, I’m still moving forward. Tomorrow is a new day, and I will wake up and be awesome. Like, Chewbacca on the drums awesome.

How about you?

Advertisements

Christa Doran: Mom, Entrepreneur, Athlete, Trainer, BADASS.

christa doran reason for your challenges

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time I saw Christa. To set the appropriate context, you should know that it was May 2010, and I was over 250 lbs –at my heaviest and my unhappiest, knowing I had to make changes but having no idea where to start or how to find something I could stick with. After hearing about Tuff Girl Fitness “boot camps” from a friend who was already taking them, I had set up my first complimentary class. I drove to East Rock Park, where classes used to be held in the old days, and sat in my car for over 10 minutes trying to work up the courage to get out. I was terrified.

When I finally did start making my way to the class, I immediately picked Christa out. She was wearing a sweet pair of Top Gun-ish aviator sunglasses, and I was totally intimidated, not gonna lie. But as soon as she saw me, her face opened up into a huge warm smile, and she came right over to me. “You must be Stephanie! I’m Christa. I’m so glad you’re here!” While I can’t say this welcome put me completely at ease (since I was still crapping myself about the workout) it lessened my anxiety and reassured me I was in the right place.

I feel like this first meeting perfectly demonstrates who Christa is. She can seem intimidating–she is, after all, a determined, driven, totally kickass strong woman who will stop at nothing to achieve her goals–but she is also a warm, compassionate person and a fierce advocate for and supporter of the women she trains. It is my privilege to share her badass story with you.

About Christa

Christa is a dedicated mom to two adorable girls: Liv, 3 years, and Lea, 14 months. She and her husband Mike are co-owners of Bodyology Fitness Studio in Hamden, CT. Bodyology is the home of Tuff Girl Fitness (Christa’s original classes for women only) and Bodyology Co-Ed Group Performance Training. Although she has always been fit and committed to living healthfully, Christa recently undertook a no-excuses journey to earn her best body and has reached a level of fitness awesomeness that most women would call “impossible.” But that’s Christa for you–tell her it’s impossible and she’ll work her ass off to prove you wrong.

What Makes Her a Badass

This is sort of ridiculous when it comes to Christa, because everything about her screams “badass.” She pretty much defines the term as I perceive it. In fact, so overwhelming is her badassery that I have to split it up into several different categories.

Badass Athlete

Christa credits much of her determination to her high school basketball coach. He was the first person who really pushed her beyond her limits, who broke her down and then built her back up again. Ever since then, she’s been through many different levels of fitness, pushing herself to get faster, get stronger. She was an avid runner in her 20’s, often running 6+ miles almost daily.

While she was always “fit,” Christa wasn’t getting the results she wanted. Over the years, she refined her training, gradually moving away from running and into High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and lifting progressively heavier weights. She got real with herself about her food and eating habits, and committed to eating clean and cutting the crap. Over the 2+ years that I’ve known and trained with her, she’s continued to tweak her eating habits to best fuel her body, build serious muscle, and lean up.

Have a look at this progression, and notice that in none of these photos would you say Christa was heavy or out of shape, but DAMN! You can definitely see the amazing results in physique that come from dedication to clean eating and training hard:

before photo

fitness photos

And here’s what Christa looks like now, after a year of focused dedication to hard work and clean eating, 95% of the time:

fitness photos back

fitness photos shoulders

I know exactly what you’re thinking, and “Holy Shit!” about sums it up. Christa set a goal, worked her ass off, and crushed it.

Badass Mom

Some idiot doctor told Christa she would never be tough enough to have an unmedicated vaginal delivery. (Pause for laughter. Seriously. What a moron.) As with all her other goals and decisions, Christa knew what she wanted to do, and opposition that she faced only strengthened her resolve.

She gave birth to her daughter Liv in January of 2009, an unmedicated water birth. Just over two years later, little Lea was born the same way:

unmedicated water birth

If you can look at this picture and not shed a tear or at least catch your breath, check your pulse. You might be dead. Or maybe you’re a Vulcan. Seriously.

After Lea was born, Christa set out to prove that having a baby (or two) doesn’t mean a woman has lost her ability to have an amazing body and, most especially, cut up abs. And as much as I love words, I’m going to let these photos speak for themselves:

post-pregnancy abs

post-pregnancy abs

post-pregnancy abs

And, the finished product:

Beyond her dedication to being a role model of healthy, fit living for her 2 daughters, Christa has just about perfected the art of the work/family balance. She created the life and livelihood she dreamed of so she could be be there for her children and not have to compromise her family OR her passion for training. And speaking of her as a trainer…

Badass Business Owner

Badasses are huge risk-takers. They know that unless they’re willing to put faith in their awesomeness and make some scary leaps, they’ll never get the huge rewards, and instead will end up living humdrum mediocre lives. Unless you’ve been asleep for the last 900 or so words, you know that’s not how Christa rolls.

She started out as an Occupational Therapist, helping kids with varied issues and disabilities rehabilitate. When the bureaucracy of the job began to get in the way of her actually helping kids, Christa left. She worked in pharmaceutical sales next–a job that she hated, but it paid good money so she stuck it out for awhile. This is where she met her husband, Mike.

Christa was always training clients on the side, doing in-home boot camps on nights and weekends, driving all over hell and creation because her clients were so widely dispersed throughout Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. That all changed when Liv was born, and she left her job in pharma for good.

In May 2009, Christa took a leap and started Tuff Girl Fitness with just 5 clients who met up in the park. Her plan was to grow the business over time, and eventually get her own studio once her kids were in school. You know what they say about the best laid plans…

What happened next was truly amazing, and I credit Christa’s passion, dedication, and hard work 100%. Her business exploded, pretty much all through word-of-mouth. When I started with her in May 2010, I’d say there were maybe 30-50 women attending classes regularly…I don’t know, maybe it was closer to 100 at that point? I’m not sure. (Stop badgering me about it! You know I’m not good with numbers!!!) She added a few more classes. They got more crowded as more and more women kept showing up at the park to work their asses off with Christa.

In early November 2010, with Liv not quite 2 years old and Christa just a few months pregnant with Lea, Bodyology Fitness Studio–home of Tuff Girl Fitness–opened.

I just want to make sure you caught that: Christa opened her own fitness home for a huge group of clients that she attracted with her passion and awesomeness, all while she had a toddler at home AND was pregnant with another baby. A. MAZ. ING.

fitness studio

Christa at the opening celebration for the studio

The cycle continued. More classes added, followed by a part time trainer, the also-awesome Karin Christley. Annnnnnd, more growth. Classes got fuller and fuller as the word continued to spread about the fitness family Christa had created.

Just before Lea was born in the spring of 2011, Christa and Mike took a SERIOUS leap, the one that completely awes and inspires me. Mike left his secure, very-well-paying, benefitted job in medical sales to come on board full time at Bodyology as well. (And Mike is pretty awesome, too…check it out:)

deadlift form

Mike, demonstrating good form on deadlifts

trainer TRX

Mike coaching a client on the TRX

Now, they had a family business that they were putting everything into. Is the idea of both earning spouses walking away from steady paychecks and benefits as terrifying to any of you as it is to me? Terrifying! REALLY!

But Christa’s doubts were few and far between. As she told me, she was never afraid of failure; that wasn’t even an option. She was afraid she wouldn’t be able to balance her passion for training and empowering women with her role as mom; she didn’t want her kids to lose out if her attention was divided. Her other fear was that, in trying to accommodate the overwhelming growth of the business, they would have to compromise the integrity of their program.

I’m here to tell you that her fear was completely baseless. She and Mike–and Karin, who came on full time in June to accommodate ever MORE growth–are all conscientious and relentless trainers, completely focused on driving each of us to give our best and nothing less in a safe and motivating environment. Just look at how badass they all are:

fitness trainers

I can only imagine how amazing it is for Christa to see what she has grown from her own hard work and passion, to know that she has not only taken huge risks for huge professional payoffs, but that she has also done it in such a way that doesn’t compromise her family or her integrity. Talk about inspiring.

IN HER OWN WORDS

What have been your biggest challenges along the way?

The challenge for me has always been finding time for myself and my family. The lines were becoming really blurred for awhile, so I had to work to set some clear boundaries between work and home life. For example, I won’t answer emails after 2pm on a Saturday. Saturday afternoon, and through the day Sunday is our time for our family. I want to be there 100% with my family, just like I’m there 100% with my classes, with my own training–with whatever I’m doing!–and setting those kinds of boundaries lets me do that.

What are your proudest moments?

“[As a Mom], my proudest moments were the birth of my two daughters, and having a natural and unmedicated birth for both of them. I am also extremely proud that I am raising respectful, kind, polite kids.

[As a trainer], I receive 3-4 emails a week from women thanking me for helping them, and these are all proud moments. Sometimes, it’s as simple as doing a box jump or a deadlift–an exercise they were afraid of–and my encouragement helped them do it. But it goes beyond that…I am so proud to empower women with fitness. I’ve had clients who have found the courage to leave abusive relationships because of the empowerment they felt during our workouts, and I am so proud and so honored to be a part of that moment when women conquer things they are afraid of and overcome their challenges.”

What advice would you give to all of us on a fitness (or other) journey into badassery?

“Hard work pays off. If you’re not willing to work, don’t expect to get it. The best things in life take time and patience. All of my accomplishments didn’t happen overnight; I saw every day as an opportunity for growth and used it to get to where I am. You’re stronger than you think you are, and you don’t know what you’re capable of until you put yourself out there and go after what you really want.”

With this long of a post, there’s really only one thing left to say: Christa Doran is a total BADASS, and I am so lucky to have been able to share her story with you.

Hey Steph, What’s a Badass?

So, I’m going to start this whole new section on the blog, “Profiles in Badassery.” And I talk about peeps who are “badass” all the time throughout the blog (in case you haven’t noticed).

You probably have your own idea of what defines a badass, but so do I, and I wanted to make sure that you knew exactly what I was talking about when I call someone a badass–because it’s really one of the highest compliments I can give. And it’s what I aspire to be.

Steph’s Components of Badassery

1. Determination

determination

A badass sets goals that seem impossible–or are at least seriously challenging–and then proceeds to crush them at every turn. No excuse gets in the way, because excuses are recognized for what they are (e.g., total bullshit) and then flushed down the toilet.

Badasses may stumble along the way, or even fall flat on their faces. They don’t let it stop them. Ever.

Takeaway tip for being a badass: It’s going to be hard, maybe close to impossible. You’re going to want to give up. DO IT ANYWAY.

2. Courage

nelson mandela courage

Nelson Mandela: BADASS

Badasses are afraid, but they never let it stop them. No risk is too great, no obstacle too large or scary to stand between a badass and his/her goals. A badass looks fear in the face, acknowledges its presence, and then says, “Suck it, fear!” (Maybe not out loud…but you get the point.)

fear and courage

Takeaway tip for being a badass: It’s going to be scary. You may want to crap yourself. DO IT ANYWAY.

3. Hard Work and Perseverance (aka Hard Work…again and again and again and again and again and again…)

hard work and perseverance

Badasses don’t dick around. They don’t flit about, wondering when their ship will come in. They build the damned ship themselves, even if it takes years.

You won’t hear a badass calling a leisurely stroll around the track a “workout,” or blaming “bad genes” for their obesity.

A badass takes responsibility for mistakes, then puts in the work needed to get the job done. Over and over and over. Even when there are challenges, badasses keep working. Even when they are tired, badasses keep working. Even when no one else is doing it, badasses keep working. Even when it gets harder when they think it should be getting easier, badasses keep working.

Takeaway tip for being a badass: It’s going to take a lot of work over a long period of time. You’re going to get tired, and you might want to make excuses so you can stop working. DO IT ANYWAY.

Do you know someone who is a total badass by my definition? (Maybe it’s you!)

Shoot me an email at thefitfatgirl@gmail.com and tell me about them. Maybe I’ll feature them!

A Slightly Terrifying Photo Story!

Listen, I know I just posted on FB that I was going to get you a new blog post asking you to answer three really-hard-but-actually-pretty-simple questions. This is not that post. I swear that one is coming; I’ve been writing it in my head for like the last 3 days. You’ll love it when it’s done.

But I started getting a little lost in FB, going through some old photos…you know, dicking around and not being productive. And I thought it was high time I fully horrify and embarrass myself with a little photo story. Fun!

So, if you’ve been reading, you know my story: not always a fat person; high school anorexia, college bulimia, yadda yadda yadda…had some kids and got fat.

Here’s what I looked like back in the days of high school, at a pretty good place when I was actually exercising regular and eating like a normal person:

Image

Obviously, I carried much of my weight in my spectacular 1991 hair.

College graduation, spring of 1996.

Image

This was around 2000…shortly after getting married, about a year before I got pregnant with Cooper.

Image

Let’s not belabor this. I’m going to stop stalling, because you don’t need to see a million pictures with lame comments like, “Here I am after losing 10.25 lbs 3 months after Cooper was born,” or “This pic shows me at the exact midpoint of my highest and lowest weight within the 2 year period following the birth of my second child.”

I’m just going to get this over with. This is a picture of me at my absolute heaviest, and sadly, it was taken at my younger brother’s wedding. As you can imagine, I didn’t allow many pictures of myself, and I wish I didn’t look this way in the photos associated with his wedding. It was a great day; they got married in Vegas and…STOP STALLING, NASH!!! Okay, here’s the damned picture:

Image

Um.

Yeah.

So, there it is. That photo is from fall of 2009. I would remain that heavy for another 8 or 9 months before deciding that I really needed to get my shit together. That’s when I found my current trainer and started working up to now. There have been stops and starts along the way, but I’ve made good (albeit slow) progress.

The triathlon photos on my homepage are pretty outdated–I did that in September 2010. I need to start taking some action shots and videos during my workouts so I can create a more current masthead for this blog.

Anywho, to move on with the photo journey, here’s an example from April 2011; making some progress and feeling a little better about myself:

Image

And, below on the left is September 2011, and on the right is April 2012 (a few weeks after I started eating clean again after many months on “hiatus.”)

ImageImage

It is clear to me that my stylist keeps cutting my hair just a little bit shorter every time I go. And also, that I have a goofy smile before an early morning workout. But I digress. The changes in these 2 are subtle…a little less around the middle in the April photo.

What’s the point in all this? Well, fasten your seatbelts, because here it is: Slow progress is progress. Even painfully slow progress is progress. While the difference between the two photos above (last September and early this April) is not huge, it’s there. And over time, the slow progress really does result in MAJOR changes. Like this:

ImageImage

I can’t wait to add more to this montage and see the progress continue. Gotta stick with it! Change happens when you keep working. Let’s do this thing!

Reflections on Perseverance.

I read a book a couple of years ago about this awesome woman who went from over 300lbs to being a seriously fit and trim marathon runner. It was a pretty inspirational read.

But once I finished it, a couple of things just didn’t ring true to me. I have no doubt that this woman wrote truthfully about her own experiences, but these things just didn’t jive with mine.

Here’s the first thing: She wrote about her “aha” moment, which was cool, and basically woke up the next morning and changed her life. Also cool. She adopted better eating habits and committed to doing some sort of physical activity 30 minutes a day, every single day, even if it meant walking her cul-de-sac at 10:30pm at night…which she says she did a number of times. I had a lot of respect for her commitment.

Then she went on to say things like, “It was so liberating knowing I never had to go back to my old lifestyle,” and “I never missed a day, no matter what it took.” (These are definitely not direct quotes; I am generalizing from a book I read 2 years ago. You know how committed I am to complete and utter accuracy.)

My deal is this: I believe her in fact, but I don’t believe her in my heart. I get what she was saying about her liberating new lifestyle, but it just sounded too easy. Like anyone could just wake up and DO IT (true) and never have a doubt or struggle with it (serious bullshit).

Maybe she did write about struggles, but I don’t remember. They weren’t highlighted enough in her book for them to have stuck with me.

And for me, it’s all about the struggle. I struggle with my journey every single day. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I feel amazing about my fit lifestyle and choices, but just as often I want to eat whatever the hell I want and not have to work my ass off 5+ times a week. I don’t give in to that, but I do want it. A lot.

So how could this chick not miss the chocolate chip cookies that she wrote about baking almost daily before she changed her life? How could she make it sound like a total piece of cake? This is some hard shit to do, people!

I agree with her 100% that anyone can wake up, decide to change their life and DO IT. But…to do it, you have to work your ass off every single day, every single hour, every single minute. Especially when your journey might stretch into years…because that is a LOOOOOONG time to persevere. It’s worth it, but it is seriously friggin hard.

You mess up along the way, you hate the journey sometimes, you have your “screw it” moments, you really REALLY crave a big honkin piece of pepperoni pizza–or two or three or seven–and you might just kill your mother to get it some days (sorry, Mom). That’s the reality of my journey.

Strength and persistence

That’s one of my trainers, Christa Doran, the original Tuff Girl. She is pretty amazing, and is a true testament to the power of perseverance.

So look at the guns on my trainer Christa. And the quads, and the perfect form. She is such a badass, but she will say time and again that achieving this amazing body was not easy. She had to sacrifice again, and again, and again, and again, even when she didn’t want to.

For a full year, she ate clean and worked her ass off, and she’s still doing it to maintain this awesomeness. THAT’S what it takes, and she’s had her share of struggles along the way. But she kept going.

Perseverance pays off.

So back to the book: I mentioned this woman ultimately ran a marathon. But I’m not sure how, because one second she was walking on the treadmill or riding the recumbent bike for a half hour a day, and all of a sudden she said, “oh, and BTW, I ran a marathon, too!” There was like a huge middle piece missing there…and it was the piece I really, really wanted to hear about. THE HARDEST PIECE!

I trained for a sprint triathlon: swim 1/4 mile, bike 12, and run 3.1 miles. My time was god-awful (well over 2 hours) but my goal was to finish, and I did.

Training SUCKED. I hated nearly every minute of it. There were a few seconds of joy, sometimes when I was coasting down a hill on my bike with the wind flying at my face, but mostly, it sucked. I was a big fat girl in a dorky helmet on a bike. Or a big fat girl flopping around in a pool trying desperately to do that breathing thing without panicking. Or a big fat girl clomping around on a treadmill.

During my training, I was exhausted. And discouraged. And terrified. But I kept going. I started it, and I was determined to finish.

I had to drag my kids along most of the time because my husband was on a travel assignment during my 3 months of training. Sometimes they had to sit on the bench in the aquatic center while I swam laps. Sometimes they were sitting in the middle of the track with snacks and toys while I ran/walked laps, and they were not always well behaved (hellooooo, understatement). My son used to sit on the rock wall at the edge of our yard and read his book while I biked the .45 mile circuit that is our block about 20+ times. Once, I fell off my bike for no apparent reason near the corner of a major road, making a complete ass of myself as cars went by. I got back on.

That’s the stuff that I want to hear about, and that’s what I missed from this woman’s story. The nitty gritty. The details. The sweat and tears. The scraped knees and crying kids. The determination that moves you to grind your way past all those things and Just. Keep. Going.

So what are your struggles? Your nitty gritty details? And how do you push through them and persevere?

Remember: Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged people who kept on working.

Keep fighting, peeps! It’s going to be worth it.

Quick Inspiration from My Close Personal Friend, Tina Fey

Tina Fey

Tina Fey is such a badass.

Okay, so we’re not actually close personal friends. More like acquaintances. Okay, not really even acquaintances. But I DID read her book and obsessively watch 30 Rock and all her SNL shows AND all her movies. So I feel like we’re almost friends. Well, we could be, because I think if she got to know me, she would really like me. And possibly even think I’m somewhat funny. And then maybe I could be like an assistant writer for her or something, and then we’d go get coffees together and laugh about…you know what? Just forget it.

My point is, I love the simplicity of this. We tend to overcomplicate our shit sometimes, don’t we? And the more we think about all our excuses–why we can’t work out, why we SHOULD eat that cookie, why we can’t possibly get out of bed for such an early class, why “just this one time” it won’t matter–the less we get done.

STOP THINKING SO MUCH, and just get it done. Nike got it right, people. Sometimes, you just have to do it, whether you want to or not. Even when it hurts. Even when you’re tired. Even when all the odds are stacked against you.

So, listen to the woman, bitches! (And dudes, too…) Get your stuff done.

This morning, I felt lousy. I heard that annoying voice in my head telling me it was too early, I was still getting over being sick, the workout probably wasn’t a good idea, I could take another day off, blah blah blah. I had to shut it down. I had to stop thinking and just put on my workout gear, stumble downstairs for my coffee and then GO.

So what stuff did you get done today? Tina Fey and I want to know.

Hey Steph, What is Clean Eating?

Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or a personal trainer. I am only sharing the practices I am adopting at the advice of nutritionists and trainers to lose fat, become more fit, and feel healthy, and it’s working. Do your own research and consult your own peeps if you want to undertake a similar journey.

Disclaimer #2: What I write below is what I am aim to eat MOST OF THE TIME. It is not easy, and I struggle with it just about every friggin day. I don’t always get it right, but I keep coming back to it because, when I stick with it, it works for me.

So, I’ve written a few posts and talked a lot about clean eating but never really explained it. I’m sure there is a fancy pants explanation for it somewhere, but I’m going to give it to you in Steph-Talk. Clean eating is not eating crap: not processed crap, not sugary crap, not fake-food crap. Eating real friggin’ foods. Something that grew from the ground or used to make noises like “moo” or “cluck” or “glub” (that’s a FISH, for Pete’s sake! Don’t judge my animal noises!!!)

My diet consists of mainly lean, high quality meats (I shop largely at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, and buy meats without antibiotics, hormones, etc.), fresh fruits and veggies (organic and/or local whenever possible), legumes, and whole grains.These shopping choices support both my nutritional and environmental goals.

I am fairly judicious about my grains: I hardly ever eat pasta, even the whole wheat kind, which is very sad, but ultimately more doable than I imagined it would be. I eat sprouted grain bread (the brand name is Ezekiel bread), quinoa, and whole grain rice.

I don’t eat a whole lot of dairy, with the exception of Fage 2% greek yogurt, which I eat every day mixed with peanut butter.

CUT THE SUGAR, PEOPLE!!! By and large, sugar is the root of all diet evil. Read labels–so many things have sugar that you would not even expect. I don’t use or add sugar to anything, and I only eat 1 fruit per day because, even though fruit is delicious and packed with vitamins, it still contains sugar. Since I still have much fat to lose, I choose to cut my sugar down to the bare minimum. I don’t use sugar in my coffee. I don’t eat “no fat” foods because there is always something chemical-y added in to make up for the taste, and lots of times it’s sugar…which is FAR worse than fat. Lollipops are fat free, dammit, and we sure as hell shouldn’t be eating those!!!

I have two different “phases” of clean eating. Sometimes–especially after a week like this–I will go super strict for a week or two. No alcohol, no cheese, no splurges whatsoever. It hurts for a day or two, but it’s worth it to kick my sorry ass back into clean eating shape. Generally speaking, though, I allow myself a beer or glass of wine twice a week, and I have an itty-bitty serving of cheese twice a week.

But cheese is technically clean, Steph! Yes, I know it is, as long as it’s not one of the not-of-this-earth low-fat or fat-free varieties. However, cheese is also calorie dense and happens to be one of the most delicious foods ever to get in my gut. This presents a huge problem for me, because I will go cheese-crazy if given the opportunity. So, not only do I try to limit it to keep my cals in check, but I limit it because I know my weaknesses.

I also aim for one splurge meal a week, which (when I’m on my best behavior), I plan in advance and try to coordinate with birthdays, celebrations, other food-eating extravaganzas that appear on my calendar. In this meal, I eat pretty much anything I want. And then I’m done. Theoretically speaking.

Sometimes, the calendar screws with me and I have to make choices. Will I splurge at this party or that one? Sometimes, I fall of the wagon completely. As you know if you’ve read any other blogs or if you’ve read about me, you know I believe that it’s not the falling down but the staying down that makes us fail. So I keep climbing back on.

I haven’t mentioned portions yet, and I should because they’ll get ya every time. I have been amazed at how small I can make my portions and still feel satisfied. Note: I did not say “feel full”–I said, “feel satisfied.” This is a key difference, because I think many of us have gotten very used to feeling that we’re not done eating until we’re “full.” Not true. Eat enough to not feel hungry anymore. You have to do it to know the difference.

So, I usually start with about a 1 cup serving–no need to go crazy measuring, but measure once so you get a good idea of what a cup serving looks like in your bowl or on your plate and can eyeball it from there–and then I wait a few minutes. I drink some water. I wait a little longer. 90% of the time, I’m fine. But sometimes, when I’ve worked out very hard and my metabolism is firing like crazy, I’ll need another half cup or so to feel satisfied. I realize that in the past, even when I was eating clean foods, I was eating about twice as much as my body actually needed.

Here’s a sample daily menu:

Breakfast:

  • Ezekiel bread with peanut butter (natural, no sugar or other crap added…ingredients only read “peanuts, salt”) and 1/2 sliced banana

Mid-morning snack:

  • 2% Fage greek yogurt (about 3/4c) with one tbsp dollop peanut butter mixed in

Lunch

  • 1 cup serving leftover chicken sausage, beans, and broccoli rabe

Afternoon Snack

  • raw carrots
  • about 1/4c raw organic almonds

Dinner

  • marinated grilled chicken breast with grilled veggies and a baked sweet potato

Regarding Beverages:

  • So many people drink their calories without even realizing it. Make sure you’re not unwittingly doing this. When there’s whipped cream, chocolate sauce, or vanilla syrup in it, it doesn’t STOP being full of sugar because it’s a drink! You might as well be eating a big honkin’ piece of red velvet cake.
  • I aim to drink a gallon of water or more a day. The rule of thumb I’ve heard from my trainers is to drink at least half your weight in ounces of water a day.
  • I also drink coffee with half and half in it, and nothing else. And I’m a girl who used to muck up her coffee with FIVE SPLENDA PACKETS (really!). So don’t go saying, “I could NEVER have my coffee with no sugar!” Because you could, if you decided you wanted to. And if you do want to, I suggest gradually cutting back the sugar, one teaspoon or packetful a week. It took me a little over a month to go from that much sweetener to none.
  • Sometimes I’ll have unsweetened iced green tea with dinner, or get myself an unsweetened iced passion tea from Starbuck’s. SOOOO good.

It’s a pretty common sense approach to eating. No measuring, no counting points or calories, no weird food combinations or whatever. Just eating real food in small portions to fuel your body right. Of all people, I know it’s easier said than done, but my point is that it’s not knowing what to eat that’s difficult; it’s actually eating that stuff–and that stuff only–most of the time.