I have been where you are.
In my 48 years, I have lived many different diet and exercise programs and I can assure you it has not been a linear process. I have been fat / overweight. I have been through stages of extreme dieting and extreme exercising. I have suffered from disordered eating and starved myself down to 95 pounds. I know what it’s like to not want to look in the mirror. I know how it feels to hate being naked. I know how it feels to be so unhappy with your body that you hide it under layers of baggy clothes. I have been where you are.
I was constantly researching the latest diet and exercise strategies (and fads) searching desperately for that magic pill. Every time I heard about a new diet, I had to try it. You name it I’ve done it. I was frustrated that no matter how hard I tried I was never able to achieve lasting results.
After every failure (which was often) I always defaulted to the same behavior. And instead of figuring out why I had failed (or rather, what habits / behaviors had failed me), I’d move on to the next extreme diet / exercise strategy hoping this time things would be different.
I swung between rigid control or diligent restriction and uncontrolled release. I was either “on the wagon” or “off the wagon”. In between was what I call the “fuck it moment”, known formally as disinhibition. I spent my teens and twenties on a roller coaster ride of starvation diets, binge eating, diet pills, over-exercising, self-destructive, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and lots of therapy.
Whenever I’d “fall off the wagon”, this confirmed the “I’m a failure” mindset. I became frustrated, demotivated, and even more convinced that I could not succeed. Or that I was somehow different and broken. I made my diet and exercise reflections of who I was as a person. When I was not what I would consider perfect I deemed myself a failure. My self-worth was based on my appearance. I compared myself to everyone around me, and I never quite measured up. At least not in my mind (huge self-limiting belief).
Because I didn’t trust myself, I would look for rules and regulations to follow. I didn’t have a basic idea of what reasonable eating looked like. So, I’d find some doctrine to live by. I spent years weighing and measuring my food, keeping a detailed food log, rigidly sticking to rules or plans. I used advanced strategies such as carb cycling, intermittent fasting, etc. I couldn’t see how unhealthy my “healthy” behaviors had become. By engaging in these behaviors so stringently and aggressively, my habits, thoughts, and feelings around food and eating (and training) had become disordered (again).
I had to admit that I had, once again, developed an unhealthy psychological and emotional relationship with food. I came to the realization that I had been using food to numb out, escape, or self soothe when I was dissatisfied with other areas of my life. It became a compulsion. I wasn't actually hungry for food, but I couldn't stop eating. And I can assure you, I wasn’t bingeing on chicken breast, steamed broccoli, and sweet potatoes. It was what Melissa Hartwig, co-founder of Whole30, calls “foods with no breaks” – the nutrient-poor, calorie-dense, low-satiety foods that promote overconsumption – the stuff that once I start eating, I just can’t stop (pizza, cookies, chips, ice cream, chocolate, etc.).
I ate for comfort and reward and to manage my emotions or unwanted physical feelings (such as boredom, stress, loneliness, or anxiety). I tried to fill that void or emptiness or anxiousness with food. It (sometimes) worked temporarily because it numbed me out. But usually, it left me still wanting. I knew from experience that this was a sign that something – some part of me – was wanting my attention. Perhaps I had been working too much, and self-care had been put on hold… Or I was wanting more quality / social time with friends and family… Or I wasn’t prioritizing sleep and stress management. But instead of recognizing the message in this “hunger” I only seemed to recognize the feelings of dissatisfaction or anxiety and quickly turned to food to medicate myself.
I understand that using food as comfort, to feel good, and to stop feeling bad isn’t a problem on its own. Almost all of us do it sometimes. It’s normal and it makes sense. The problem happens when:
We do it to excess.
We can’t or don’t stop when we’re satisfied.
We don’t have any other way of creating connection or comfort or managing our feelings.
We feel out of control or compelled to do it.
Check, check, check, and check.
I struggled with all-or-nothing thinking and the "Either I'm perfect or I've failed" mentality. I started experiencing mental and emotional health problems such as anxiety and depression. My social relationships and other interests - which we need for overall wellness and quality of life - suffered. I couldn't detach my own self-concept from food and eating. Food and eating choices defined who I was. I was deeply attached to my strategies and outcomes. I was reluctant to give them up and was anxious about "losing control." I just accepted these things as trade-offs if I wanted to look and / or perform a certain way. But when I was honest with myself, I had to admit that I really wasn't living happily (or sanely). My "healthy eating" had passed the point of being healthy.
My story today is that of the hero who has overcome adversity and has become transformed as a result. Through research, experience, trial-and-error, self-examination, and self-experimentation I have developed a sustainable plan that creates real significant lasting results. With multiple certifications and 25+ years of experience in the health and fitness industry in a variety of outlets, I can relate to and assist a wide variety of individuals seeking self-improvement through exercise, fitness, nutrition, and habit change. I have dedicated my career and my life to empowering people by giving them the tools to live a more health- and fitness-focused lifestyle. I achieve this through:
progressive, systematic, results-driven training methods
the application of strategic, individualized, goal-focused nutrition
the utilization of strategies and methods scientifically proven to help people uncover their own self-limiting beliefs that could be holding them back from achieving their true potential in all areas of life.
My goal is to draw from my experience and share what has worked for me, the specific actions I took, and the habit change strategies I employed that have allowed transformation to happen and resulted in lasting change. I want to share any details of my journey that may help you reach the same results in your life, even if your path looks slightly different from mine.
SOME THINGS I’VE LEARNED…
1) YOUR BODY IS THE MOST POWERFUL, LEAST EXPENSIVE, AND BEST DIETARY EXPERIMENTATION LAB IN EXISTENCE.
In February 2009, as an experiment, I completed my first 28-Day hypoallergenic / elimination diet, and it completely changed my life. Seriously. Certain foods cause allergies, intolerances, sensitivities, hormonal dysfunction and dysregulation, gut irritation and intestinal permeability, (i.e. leaky gut) and systemic inflammation (excessive ongoing immune activity), which puts you at high risk for autoimmunity, digestive disorders, and a host of other problems.
Elimination diets, often prescribed by health care professionals, are the most inexpensive and accurate method to determine whether food allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities are to blame for specific symptoms you may be experiencing – from aches and pains, year-round stuffiness, and bloating, to bad breath, dark eye circles, and dizziness, to migraines, acne, asthma, excessive perspiration, and inflammation anywhere in the body. Many people have issues with these foods and don’t even know it! The ONLY way to know for sure if you have an issue with certain foods is to completely remove the common culprits (gluten, grains, dairy, legumes, soy, sugar, and alcohol) from your diet for a period of time. Then in systematically reintroducing each of these, one at a time every seventy-two hours, you'll know how these foods that you used to eat were affecting your energy levels, sleep, mood, skin, hair, joint pain, physical performance, digestive tract, along with other hard-to-define symptoms, etc.
When I first learned about elimination diets, I had some reservations. By that point, my diet was pretty good compared to most people I knew. I was finally healthy, and I felt good. At least I thought so. The modifications I needed to make to my diet were relatively small. I couldn’t imagine it would make much of a difference. But I was curious enough to give it a try. Boy was I in for a surprise!
Within days, I noticed a dramatic improvement in my energy levels and sleep quality. My sinuses were clearer and my skin glowed. Within a week I started to notice a change in my body composition (with seemingly little effort). In less than two weeks I stopped craving the foods that at one point I could not imagine living without. Over the next few weeks my bowel function normalized (Halleluiah!) and I no longer experienced the post-meal bloating and indigestion that I just attributed to overeating. My athletic performance improved – I got measurably faster and stronger. I also gained a keen awareness of which foods trigger me (promoting cravings and overconsumption) or have an otherwise negative impact on my physical (and psychological) health and wellness. Based on what I know to be true I can now choose how often I include those foods as part of my regular eating plan, if at all.
2) YOU DON’T NEED TO COUNT CALORIES OR MACROS TO GET THE RIGHT PORTIONS FOR YOUR GOALS.
I discovered an approach that would dramatically simplify the eating and tracking process, and it’s nearly as accurate as the calorie - and macro-counting approaches. Plus, this measuring system provides reasonable amounts of nutrient dense foods and their specific macronutrients (thus preventing deficiencies). It helped me more easily meet my protein, vegetable, carb, fat, and calorie needs – and get into the “zone” - without having to count a gram, weigh a food, or do kitchen math.
3) WHEN YOU CHANGE A HABIT, YOU CHANGE THE COURSE OF YOUR LIFE.
Several years ago, I started researching habit change and developed an understanding about the key elements in the formation of a habit. I discovered practical success strategies I could use to build positive habits and eliminate negative ones. I learned how to successfully introduce several key positive habits and practices to benefit different areas of my life and reinforce them to the point where they are “automatic”, eliminating the need for constant willpower and motivation.
Most people have a fairly good idea of some important changes they would like to make in their lifestyle, right? But the powerful pull of habit keeps them stuck.
Why is that? Old habits die hard. Habits are literally wired into our brains. Neuroscience is showing us that changing habits is not as simple as making a New Years’ Resolution. Functional MRI research has shown us the brain in action. And we’ve discovered that our strongest habits have formed neural pathways there. The neurons that fire together, wire together.
So, when a client is attempting to change a daily habit that they’ve performed thousands of times over 10 or 20 years, it’s no wonder they find it challenging to change. That’s why just giving a client a list of what to eat and what not to eat might get a short-term result but won’t facilitate lasting change. My approach is not about quick fixes, it’s about lasting change. And for that lasting change to occur, we’ve got to start with habits.
4) WHAT AND HOW MUCH YOU EAT IS ONLY HALF OF THE OPTIMAL HEALTH EQUATION, BUT THERE IS MORE TO THE STORY OF GOOD NUTRITION.
Now, most people think of good nutrition as kind of a numbers game, meaning that, if you have the right amount of nutrients, and if you avoid certain junk foods or toxins, and if you cut calories, then you’ll have the best chance of greater nutritional health.
It’s very common for clients to focus on two things:
WHAT they are eating: carbs, gluten, calories, protein, vitamins, etc.
HOW MUCH they are eating: how many grams, how many calories, what % of fat, etc.
And while these are important topics, what I want to suggest is that HOW (and WHY) you eat - meaning your thoughts, your emotional state, your level of stress when you eat, and the level of attention that you are bringing to each meal - is just as critical (maybe more so).
If you are eating meals in under 90 seconds standing over the sink or one-hand eating while driving to work, it doesn’t matter if you are eating organic kale and imported goji berries. HOW you are eating will likely hold you back. The good news is that if you focus on the HOW and WHY… the WHAT and HOW MUCH often takes care of itself. You can make huge strides in all sorts of health conditions if you can transform HOW you eat. Often, even more so than changing WHAT you eat. Success in any area of your life is 25% what you are doing and 75% who you are being.
5) YOUR HORMONES ARE STRONGER THAN YOUR WILLPOWER ANY DAY OF THE WEEK
Every time you eat a meal, your different food choices stimulate a powerful hormonal response that will either promote stress in the body - which leads to digestive upset, decreased nutrient assimilation, an inability to control your cravings, and unwanted fat storage which leads to weight gain - or help reduce it. The smallest, gentlest intervention you can make, that will also have the biggest impact, is balancing blood sugar. Blood sugar is the concentration of glucose in the blood. It is a simple sugar and the body’s preferred/main energy source.
When there is either too much or too little glucose, or sugar, in the blood, it will trigger a significant stress response in the body. Eating in the “zone” is about keeping hormonal responses (in particular, the hormone insulin) generated by the food you eat within a zone: not too high (which would prevent you from accessing stored body fat for energy), not too low (which would cause your cells to starve to death).
The key is learning how to control hormonal responses through diet. This critical hormonal balance depends on two things:
The size of the meal you eat – Excess calories stimulate the secretion of insulin (i.e., portion sizes)
The ratio of protein, carbohydrate, and fat in each meal (i.e., balanced meals)
6) MANAGING AND REDUCING STRESS IS KEY TO IMPROVING DIGESTION, ASSIMILATING YOUR FOOD OPTIMALLY, AND BURNING MORE FAT. (YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT).
Stress leaks into what we call the “Big Five Areas of Life” (health, money, love / relationships, your calling / career, a connection to That Which is Greater). These are the big areas that mirror back to you whether you are in alignment with your truth; with the best version of you (or not). If your health is affected by stress, this will be reflected in another area of your life as well. It is impossible for one of the Big Five areas not to affect the others.
Most clients come to me to address their health, but the longer I work with a client, the less it becomes about food. Because how you do anything is how you do everything.
Stress will show up in different ways for different people but as a coach, helping clients to manage and reduce it is key to helping them improve digestion, assimilate their food optimally, and burn more fat.
7) JUST GIVING A CLIENT A LIST OF WHAT TO EAT AND WHAT NOT TO EAT MIGHT GET A SHORT-TERM RESULT BUT IT WON’T FACILITATE LASTING CHANGE.
Knowing how to train, what to eat, and what not to eat is not enough. The basis of most coaching models is to
Identify a client’s wants and obstacles.
Then identify ways to remove those obstacles.
This is a good start, but it has critical missing elements. When looking to make positive changes in our lives, we also need to understand the role that our beliefs and identity play in driving our behavior. My own experience has proven that willpower and knowledge will not cut it.
Many people have limiting subconscious beliefs which keep them from allowing abundance and happiness into their lives. Before I could change my habits / behaviors (and achieve lasting results), I had to start by updating my habits of thought, opinions, and attitudes about the world around me, and especially my beliefs about ME, about my life. Otherwise, my limiting subconscious beliefs would continue to sabotage every new goal I set for myself.
Your beliefs (or habits of thought) are 1000x stronger than your desires (Not 10x stronger. Not 100x stronger. 1000 TIMES STRONGER)!!! The biggest obstacle to most people’s goals is they consciously or unconsciously do not believe it will happen or that it can be done.
You simply cannot achieve a goal that you do not believe you can achieve, because those beliefs live in the subconscious brain – the part of the brain that’s running the show, even though we are typically not aware of it.
One of the main reasons we fail to stick to good habits and ditch negative ones is that we focus on changing what we’re doing (or not doing) without changing who we are being. In other words, we must shift our identity to match the habits we’re adopting and embrace these habits as a new and valuable part of who we are becoming.
You may be thinking....
"But my eating is not disordered," or
"I don't need to change my life. I just want to lose (or gain) a few pounds," or
"I don't need to lose weight. I just want to get control of my eating habits, so I feel better, healthier, have more energy, etc.," or
"I know WHAT to do. I just need to DO IT."
You may have an "expert" level of knowledge, perhaps even a graduate degree in nutrition... but you do not actually DO fundamental behaviors consistently. And, for that reason, you are not seeing results...
I CAN HELP YOU...
Jump-start your metabolism
End the vicious cycle and get rid of those addictive foods that leave you feeling toxic
Reset your taste buds to desire healthier and more natural foods
Eliminate your cravings for starchy, sugary foods
Change your relationship with and attitude towards food and create life-long healthy habits
Increase awareness of destructive habits, such as: overeating, eating too much of something and not enough of something else, life revolving around food, eating for fuel and function vs. emotional eating
Identify what your cues and triggers are that stimulate a particular food response (desired or detrimental)
Discover which foods are causing bloating, inflammation, intolerances, and weight gain
Look at several of the most common limiting factors that most clients struggle with when it comes to fitness, health, and nutrition, and learn how you can start working through them.
Learn the basics of macronutrients and portion sizing and how to eat the right amount (in the proper balance) for YOUR needs and goals
Learn how to meet your protein, vegetable, carb, fat, and calorie needs without having to count a gram or weight an ounce of food.
Get back into a consistent workout routine
Build habits that will ensure proper functioning of the body and foster a positive mindset.
Understand how habits work and teach you success strategies you can use to build positive habits and eliminate negative ones.
Gain clarity on the type of person you want to grow to become and build a strong internal narrative with behavior priming mantras that will support you in your journey.
Successfully introduce several key positive habits and practices to benefit different areas of your life and reinforce them to the point where they are “automatic”, eliminating the need for constant willpower and motivation.
Easily track your progress and record your small wins daily and weekly, helping you stay accountable and focused, and in this way, build positive momentum and motivation to keep improving.
Bring awareness to areas that may be sabotaging your success that you aren’t even aware of, as well as making sure your mindset and beliefs are in alignment with what you want to create in your external world
Stay motivated, and connect with the Moxie Community.
Whether you are just getting started, coming back, or continuing a solid path, this is your opportunity to nail down the basics and take charge of your health, fitness, and well-being. I have put together a comprehensive plan to help people BE better - physically, emotionally, and mentally - and I will be right here to provide guidance, accountability, and support!