body image · diets · eating · fat · fitness · motivation · sports nutrition

“Nutrition is the foundation of health and fitness. You simply cannot out train a poor diet.”

The quotation above is from Greg Glassman, the founder of Crossfit. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between nutrition and fitness and thinking about where there’s room for improvement in my efforts to be the ‘fittest by fifty.’

Unlike my co-blogger Tracy who has decided that sports nutrition counseling isn’t for her and who has stepped away from the scale, I’m continuing with habit based nutrition counseling. I’m a numbers geek, I like tracking, and I’m looking forward to getting leaner in the year ahead.

It’s not about hating the body I’m got, I’m quite fond of it thanks, and it can do amazing things, but I need reminders to give it the love and attention it deserves. With three kids and a busy career, I sometimes struggle to take care of myself. I’m not quite the opposite of the food obsessed dieter but it’s true that for me, more often than not, convenience and the needs of others, take precedence over my own food choices.

Whether it’s a banana and a protein bar before Crossfit, a drive thru coffee and bagel on the way to rowing, a pizza slice post Aikido or instant oatmeal as a warm bedtime snack, some of my food choices aren’t the best. And given the demands I place on my body, I need to do better.

For some reason, for me, physical activity is easy. I love it, can’t get enough of it, but nutrition is another matter. And yet, eating well supports everything else I do. And I do a lot so I need to eat very well. So I’m setting out to work on the foundation this year, to try to pay as much attention to nutrition as I do to other aspects of sports performance. I’m trying to think of eating as part of sports training. Nutrition counseling helps serve as a reminder that this matters.

I’ve blogged here about my reasons for wanting to be leaner but I need to balance that goal with making sure I eat enough to support my physical activity.

I just did another check in at the Bod Pod this week and I’m happy with my progress so far. I’ve lost another 4 lbs overall but more importantly, as part of that overall, I’ve also gained 2 lbs of muscle since my last check in, and so my per cent body fat is down 2%. Yay Crossfit! Yippee new muscles! I’ve joined Tracy in the merely “excess fat” category, heading towards “moderately lean.”

I’m also now following the Lean Eating program at Precision Nutrition.

You’ve probably read a few wonderful rants I’ve linked to by Krista Scott Dixon. Here’s my faves:

In addition to having put together the best women’s weight lifting site on the web, and having a PhD in Women’s Studies she’s also the Coaching Program Director for Precision Nutrition.  I’m actually working with another Precision Nutrition Krista though. Krista Chaus is another woman with a pretty impressive bio.

“Since beginning her competitive career as a strength athlete 10 year ago, Krista has become one of the Canadian Powerlifting Union’s Top 20 Female Powerlifters. She is also a National champion, provincial record holder and two times Commonwealth Championship medalist.

Recently, Krista has turned her competitive attention to the physique side of the industry, capturing 7 overall finishes in bodybuilding in 2008 and placing 5th at the 2009 Arnolds Amateur Bodybuilding Championships.  She’s currently working towards a National bench press record with the Canadian Powerlifting Association.” from her PN bio

It’s not a diet, in terms of short term change. Instead, I’m trying new habits on for size and trying to make them part of my life. The first big change for me is that one will sound familiar to those who’ve been following the blog: slow mindful eating.

There’ll be no vibrating forks for me though. I’m hoping to pay more attention to my food and less attention to electronic gadgets at the dinner table.

Anyway, wish me luck.

body image · diets · eating · fitness

Shame, social networking, and fitness

I am one of those people.

I’m the friend who posts details of my workouts to Facebook. Using the check-in function I tell friends when I’m at Aikido, Crossfit, or more recently, the London Rowing Club.

Sometimes I even give details. This morning I did 5 rounds of the following: 40 medicine ball throws, 30 sit ups, 20 push ups, 10 burpees.

Using Endomondo, I track distance, speed, and route when hiking and biking and that too, I share to Facebook. I’ve started tracking hikes in part because I’ve gotten lost twice recently in parks and it’s nice to be able to look at the map in progress and see if I’m heading back in the direction of the car. This summer, on a 30 degree + day, a 1 hour hike turned into a 3 hour hike without water (for me, the dog was happy was the river) so now I always turn on Endomondo for the map if nothing else.

Indeed, the idea for this blog came about about when I posted a note to Facebook about my “fittest by fifty” idea. A lively discussion about what it means to be fit ensued, Tracy joined in, and thus our blog was born.

I’m not one-sided about this. I like it when friends share their fitness activities too. I smile when I see Tracy’s been out running, or that J has been to karate, or that S has lifted a ton of weight at the gym. I cheer them on and their active lives serve as a source of happiness and inspiration for me. Besides if it’s tiresome for others to read about what I’m up to, they can always learn to use the “see fewer updates from this person” function in Facebook or opt to not see posts from Endomondo.

So all of this is just to say, I’m a big fan of social networking for support for myself and others with our fitness goals.

But social networking has a dark side it turns out. And that dark side is shame and punishment.

A new crop of fitness apps work by paying you when you meet your activity goals and keeping your cash when you don’t. Other apps shame you by posting workout failures to social networking sites.

From The Huffington Post:

Dubbed the “Gym Shamer,” this application tracks your fitness goals (e.g. “visit the gym 3 times a week”) and sends a shameful message to your social media contacts if you slack off.

Gym visits are recorded via Foursquare check-ins, while Facebook and Twitter integration maximize the full reach of your potential “embarrassing, degrading, and insulting” shame.

Gym Shamer is the brainchild of New York entrepreneurs Tal Flanchraych and Volkan Unsal and was conceived during an early-January Foursquare Hackathon.

“New Year’s resolutions are on everyone’s mind right now,” Flanchraych explained to The Huffington Post in an email. “So we thought it was a good theme to build on — especially considering that getting in shape is the most common resolution we hear about.”

“The problem with most fitness apps,” she continued, “is that they’re wholly reliant on your existing level of motivation — there are no consequences if you forget to use them or start getting lazy (and don’t we all?).”

Here’s an example tweet, provided by Gym Shamer:
gym shamer

And it’s not just fitness. There’s the diet program Virtual Fridge Lock – which works with a device that attaches to the refrigerator and  senses when the refrigerator is opened, and shames the midnight snacker by posting to  Facebook.

“This person just raided the fridge.”

Aherk! might be the worst. Aherk! describes itself as a goal-oriented self-blackmailing service.” When you sign up for Aherk! you set a goal, such as running 10 km or losing 10 lbs, and send in an embarrassing photo – referred to as “the bomb.”  If you don’t meet your goal, then news of your failure and the bomb get posted to Facebook.

So far I haven’t seen any “Jane didn’t run 5 km today as planned. She missed her workout” showing up in my newsfeed and I’m pretty glad. I don’t think shame is  motivational for most of us.

What do you think? Would the threat of public shaming motivate you to get to the gym? Are there circumstances under which you’d use one of these tools or are you like me, a fan of the positive sharing with no shame involved?

Read more here:

Foursquare Hackathon Winners: Shame Yourself for Your Lack of Gym Motivation and More

Aherk! uses power of shame to motivate

diets · sports nutrition

Another perspective on tracking

My co-blogger Tracy explained why she despises tracking food and doesn’t do it these days. When we first talked about this blog we agreed that it might be fun to share some of our differences in approach to fitness. I offer up my different perspective on tracking not to counter Tracy’s experiences of finding it oppressive but rather to share my own experiences with food/exercise tracking. This isn’t a for/against kind of thing. Rather it’s different experiences of the same phenomena. Unlike my co-blogger, I do track what I eat.  Most days anyway. But I don’t do it because I’m concerned with writing down every morsel I consume with an eye  focused only on eating less and getting smaller. I try to do from the viewpoint of ‘sports nutrition’ not ‘dieting’ though like Tracy I recognize that’s a fine line. I’m much more concerned with seeing that I get enough to eat and that I eat the right foods to support my very active lifestyle.  At different times in my life I’ve tracked different things, usually for my own purposes though I’ve sought feedback from some excellent sports nutritionists over the years. (Right now it’s Jennifer Broxterman but in the past I’ve worked with Tim and Deb at Synergy Wellness and Precision Nutrition’s Krista Scott Dixon .) These days I mostly track with an eye on protein, healthy fats, and veggie intake. I also care about calories and sometimes even count them. But again my focus is usually both on making sure I’m eating enough on my active days and on scaling back when I’m not so active. Hunger has never been a very reliable guide for me.

Here’s another take on why calories matter and why we should track food from one of my favourite fitness blogs Go Kaleo: “Calories DO matter, but most of us can eat a lot more than we think we can if we’re making good food choices and getting regular exercise. Tracking calories is NOT about restriction, and reaching/maintaining a healthy weight is NOT about being hungry and denying ourselves proper nutrition. Quite the contrary, it is about feeding ourselves adequate amounts of nutritious foods that support health, energy and vitality. Here is a tool that will help you determine how many calories your body needs to function properly (I’ve found that the calorie tracking websites, while good for tracking, tend to give a calorie target that is too low for most active people I’ve worked with). Many of you will be surprised at how high the number is. Mine is 3500 a day. Hardly restrictive.”

While I like the idea of listening to my body and eating what I feel like eating but I’m afraid  our natural impulses get it wrong in both directions. Mine do anyway. Our urges to eat were developed in times of feast or famine, when stocking up on high calorie foods was a requirement of survival, so often what we want to eat isn’t good for us and the portions we want to eat are too large. But also I often don’t feel like eating as much as I need to do when I’m training hard.  Without calories you can’t win races, build muscles. or recover  well. So I plan meals, I count grams of protein, and I track. Mostly it feels liberating. Sometimes it feels like a chore.  But in a hectic busy family with lots of meals, snacks, and groceries on the go my food log often serves as a way to remind me that what I eat matters. For me, it’s much more about making sure I take care of myself.