Weekend Wrap-Up For 8/29/2015: All Around the Internet

Hey all!

Happy Saturday! I hope everyone is having a fantastic weekend. Here in Iowa people are getting a little R&R after a week of sending kids off to school. The weather has been cool and rainy and it feels like the end of summer. I’m ready for fall: bring on the sweaters and pumpkin spice lattes. I’m on the fence about pumpkin beer though. This seems wrong. Anyone give it a try?

I got outside my comfort zone and went to the Iowa Yoga Festival with my girl Emily Friday night. Yoga isn’t something I regularly practice but I probably should. Even though I was pretty awkward at it and have the zen focus of a fly, I left with a happy glow and my body felt soooo gooooood.

Face plant during crow pose, not even once.

Face plant during crow pose, not even once.

My Own Training This Week
I’d been stuck in my strength training for a good month, despite following my routine 100%. My coach reviews my videos after every session and every time he’d tell me that he can tell I can lift more. Yeah right, I’d think. But he could read the expression on my face and see the fear and apprehension. It was time for a mindset re-boot. Something had to change, and it was the way I talked to myself before I trained.

I’m the least new-agey person among my friends. In the past I’ve scoffed at those catch phrases that you’re supposed to repeat in front of the mirror, but I found myself actually googling ‘positive affirmations.’ And I repeated them. Out loud. I felt like a dork but I knew that I had to stop telling myself that I might not be able to do it. So instead I told myself I was strong, hard working, and absolutely capable of lifting the weight. Also I grabbed a donut beforehand, so there’s that.

The result? I crushed it this week, lifting 25 pounds more in my deadlift than I had just a few weeks ago. I PRed my bench press by 10 pounds. What?? So there’s something to mindset, eh?

bonus angry deadlift face

bonus angry deadlift face

Clients Who Are Killing It

My client, Becky, is improving her lower body strength and stability by leaps and bounds lately. This week she began doing an exercise you may never have heard of: the deficit lunge.

Who it’s for: people who already lunge well and want a move that challenges your single leg stability, builds your butt and legs, and also challenges hip mobility.

When to do it: this one feels good early on in the workout because it gives your moving side some extra movement through the hip.

How much: I like 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps per side.

Technique pointers:
-keep your working leg grounded on the step. push through your midfoot and heel so that you don’t come up on to your toe.
-you don’t need your shin to be totally vertical. A little forward lean is fine, but keep your knee behind your toe.
-use a fairly long step back.

Want to apply for a spot to train with me online? Click here to fill out a short form and I’ll get back to you soon! 

Things to Read Instead of Finishing Your Home Improvement Projects/Cleaning the House/Working on Actual Work

I may slack on some home improvement projects on the weekend but I always take some time to sit back and catch up on reading articles that I bookmarked during the week. Grab a drink and cozy up for some great reads. I recommend a pumpkin spice latte. 😉

1. Squats squats squats. First of all, did you catch my article on setting up your squat? Read up if you know how to squat but want to make them mo betta.

2. Weight Loss Motivation: 3 Mind Hacks to Stay Motivated to Lose Weight. Jordan Syatt of Syatt Fitness is a brilliant motivator. I know because I’m his client. He’s really improved my ability to approach fitness with a healthier mindset and his advice here is wise.

3. Cardio Revisited. If you read about fitness online, you probably have a headache over debates about cardio’s place in your training. Tanner Baze’s article on the benefits of cardio is worth the read.

4. Vacation Workouts. Sohee of Sohee Fit is one of my faves to follow for nutrition and training. I’m super envious of her recent trip to Italy and liked reading about how she was able to use moderation to stick with her fitness goals AND eat the gelato. Because you don’t go to Italy and not eat that up. Her advice comes with excellent video demos to snatch up for your next vacay.

5. The 4 Most Abused Words in Fitness. Dr. John Rusin lays it out and should drop the mic at the end. If you read fitness magazines or go to fitness classes you’ve probably heard all of these words tossed around. Yet what the hell do they mean and are they even worth using? Get the straight dope here.

6. Are Wellness Bloggers Doing More Harm Than Good? One of the reasons that I wanted to start featuring articles from other bloggers on my page is that far too few people know about the really excellent fitness minds in the industry. They don’t get nearly the amount of exposure that people on Instagram and Pinterest seem to garner. Just because you have a rockin’ bod doesn’t make you qualified to dispense safe, reasonable advice. Learn more about why in this article.

Get something good out of this or have a question? I’d love to hear from you – send me an email at fit@amydix.com. Have a wonderful weekend!

Setting up to Squat – 5 Pro Practices that Anyone Can Use

squatforfun

It wasn’t until I took up powerlifting as a hobby/sport/crazy obsession this year that I really started to rebuild my squat. I had the basics covered: my body gave me a decent amount of stability and mobility that let me move through the pattern appropriately. But when I saw others around me leveraging a hell of a lot more weight than I could ever imagine lifting, I wondered if there was something more than raw strength at play. Was it the doughnuts? (I wish it were doughnuts).

You can see it as they prepare to squat. The folks at my powerlifting gym looked different than I did even before they got under the bar. And yes, those small details can make a big difference in our ability to not only lift more weight but feel better doing it. There are a billion resources to help you improve your squat mechanics. I won’t cover those here today. But just setting up effectively will  make an improvement in your ability to squat.

I’m not a squat guru but making these changes has quickly improved my overall lift. And you don’t need to be participating in a strength sport to use these techniques! They can help anyone get a more powerful squat. Even grandmas. That’s right, badass grandmas who squat.

1. Know your stance. 
Take time in your warm-up to play with foot position. There is no one correct way to position your legs in a squat. It’s more of a continuum of positions that work depending on your mobility and hip anatomy.  Many, many people feel better when they turn their toes out just slightly. Some people move more easily with a wider stance, others narrower. If you take the time to groove that stance, you won’t have to think about it when you approach the bar (or the kettlebell or whatever you’re using for your squat variation).

2. Get your mind right. 
Go into your happy place, or your zen place, or your asskicking place. For my own needs I prefer a zen/asskicking combo of self talk that says “f**k yeah, I’ve got this.  I own the hell out of this weight.” But in a calm way, so I’m not so amped up that my heart races too much. I might be a weirdo, but hey, it works for me and many others. Every experienced lifter I’ve seen has used some kind of focusing technique before they approach the bar for their working sets.

2. Walk it out.

When you’re getting ready to go for a really heavy squat,  the way you walk the bar out matters. A lot. Wasting energy on too many steps can kill your effort. Even if you’re not going for a huge lifting attempt you will have a better set if you take a little time to get your bar positioning set up well. For a high bar back squat, pull that bar right down into your delicious cushion of a trapezius muscle and pull your shoulders back to make a shelf. Awww yeah, sweet spot.

Some people squat with the bar lower. It doesn’t really matter for most of us: just get the bar into a good place.  Most advice for hand placement directs us to keep our grip fairly narrow because it helps create stiffness. If you have shoulder issues, a medium to wide grip might feel better. Do what works for your body.

Grab the bar hard. From the moment you touch the bar, you are creating tension.

Finally, stand up and walk the bar out like you’re large and in charge instead of wobbling around without much thought. From the moment that the bar leaves the rack, you are ready to lift. No Gumby bodies.

photo credit: worker101 flickr

photo credit: worker101 flickr

3. Show me your t-shirt. 
Puff your chest out a little, like you have swagger.  This helps keep your spine from flexing. Some people like to think about arching their upper back a bit too. That way you end up getting your chest out and help set your back into a good position to squat.

4. Keep it tight. 
Get tight get tight get tight! This is what I’ve heard yelled at me.  At first I felt confused by this. What does this mean exactly?  I didn’t yet understand what a big advantage tension can bring. I’m not talking about emotional tension. I mean bracing the abs and getting the lats tight.

Understanding and executing are two different things entirely. In the back squat, pulling the bar as if you were pulling it down to you will help activate your lats. This will give you more stability through your torso. That translates to a bigger squat that feels better.

As in any other movement, your abs need to come to the party too. You’ll brace them as if you were about to be punched in the stomach. Again, this creates stiffness that makes it easier to squat more powerfully. However, I brace just as I take my breath. Learning to set my air is the most dramatic change I made in my squat set up. Let’s take a look at that next.

5.Breathe, baby.
Learning to take in and hold air for heavy squats was my biggest game changer. This is something that every serious strength athlete knows how to do but the average gym goer rarely practices. Take in a huge breath that expands your entire rib cage. Not a dainty breath – you need a big, POWERFUL breath.

Put your hands just above your waist and try to push them out. If you have a hard time doing this, lie down on the floor. This forces you to use your diaphragm instead of taking shallow breaths. Get comfortable with how that feels and then go back to try it before your squat.

As you take that big breath, do you notice how your ribs flare? Now lock it down as you brace those abs. Here’s what that looks like:

 

This is me practicing my breath for a set. 

It’s go time. Reset between reps. When we lose our air during a squat, we lose our power. We bleed the capacity to generate force because we lose so much tightness. I blow out my air as I finish my rep. Then I reset and do it all again.

How to get started: if you haven’t been doing any of these things, don’t smash all of these cues into your head at once. That would hurt. Use warm-up sets to practice. Work on your breath for one. Think about your lats on another. In time, those new habits will become second nature. Squat smarter and improvement will come.



What To Do When You Lose Your Fitness Motivation

photo credit
photo credit

I asked my friends the other day what fitness goals they wished they could tackle. I half expected to hear things like “lose the last 10 pounds”, “know what to do at the gym”, or the common yet vague desire to “eat better”. But what resonated over several conversations was the frustration with keeping their plans in place over time. “How do I stay motivated?”  “I always give up after awhile and lose interest”.

Motivation is a complicated beast, isn’t it? Feeling motivated to do something is almost always easier at the beginning. Once we make the decision to begin, we might buy a new pair of running shoes or sign up for the gym. We prepare ourselves to begin a new journey. It’s like the first day of school. We carry in our pristine, empty notebooks just waiting for us to fill them with new ideas. The promise of a better year and a better self is powerful.

spiralnotebook

Those first weeks are the golden period. We rapidly get better. Getting better at something is motivating in itself. Each week we can palpably feel a difference. The weights get lighter. The jog feels less like death. And the new rush of endorphins feels pretty damn good. We’ve got this.

That is, until the shiny newness wears off. Every year, my 8 year old begins school with a great attitude. He declares this year will be the best grade ever. He is sure that his class will be way cooler than the last year, when he was just a pathetic, second grade scrub. But after a few months the novelty wears off. He begins to drag his feet when I tell him to get his butt ready for school and tells me he’s “over it”.

Unlike elementary school, our workouts are not mandated by the government. We don’t have to just slog through every day. But we do need to expect that at some point, motivation isn’t enough to keep us going. Enthusiasm ebbs and flows, just like everything else in our lives. We need support in place. There are several sources that can help you get your mojo back. (Hint: it’s not ‘fitspo’.)

1. Ask yourself about the convenience of your routine.  Surprisingly, researchers found that motivation wasn’t the primary factor in why people work out regularly. Instead, convenience came out on top.  1

How easy is it to fit your workouts and nutrition into your life? It’s common to find that a new routine throws everything else in our lives out of whack. Starting with one small change that easily meshes with your actual life will breed more success than self talk that includes “suck it up”.

I’ve watched far too many people abandon their programs because they demanded too much out of themselves. You don’t have to workout for an hour 6 days a week to see the benefits of exercise.  If you begin with something ridiculously small, you can piggyback off of your success and add a little more. 10 minutes every day. Is that too much? 5 minutes. It’s okay. Go back to the smallest thing you are certain you can handle.

why

photo credit: BuzzFarmers, Flickr.

2. Did you find your whyLooking back to why you started your new activity or made a goal in the first place can tell you a lot about why your enthusiasm is strong or waning. People who make goals based on what they feel like they ‘should’ do have a much more difficult time sticking with things after the initial “shiny happy period” wears off.

In addition,  it’s important to distinguish why you feel unmotivated. There isn’t just one kind of slump. Are we bored? Are we anxious about our activity? Do we feel overwhelmed because we’re not sure if what we’re doing is on the right track? When I coach my clients, we dig into what’s behind the lack of enthusiasm, and we let that drive the next action.

3.Track your progress. As I said before, getting better at stuff feels good, doesn’t it? There are so many ways to be able to have tangible reminders of the benefits of your change.

  • Strength training journals: look back a month.
  • Consistency reports: keep a calendar and check off each day you completed your task. Not only does it keep that behavior fresh in your mind, it can boost your morale to see that you are successful with making your change.
  • Measurements and progress pics: if you’re trying to lose body fat, the scale often screws with people’s heads. Seeing a visible change boosts confidence.

4. Enlist support. My clients stick with their programs in part to not having to bear the burden of motivating themselves all the time. Cheerleaders, comrades in sweat, and people who get your love of yoga pants become your peeps – your community. Can you find a community of your own that is committed to an activity you’d like to enjoy? Running groups for beginners, cycling clubs, yoga events, and powerlifting teams are all popular places here that create friendships and support networks.

5. Be okay with not always feeling motivated. Some days are sucky. It’s not realistic to think that you’re going to be pumped about going to the gym every day. I know some days I’m itching to go workout, and other days I drag my feet in. For me, having the habit in place helps but so does a clear picture of what I get out of my activity. That gets me there every time. The more you build these resources, the easier it will be to stay on track.

6. Watch this video. 

Ok not motivating maybe, but hilarious. I remember watching this stuff in the ’80s . Feel pumped? I hope so!

 

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. Gay, Jennifer L., Ruth P. Saunders, and Marsha Dowda. “The Relationship of Physical Activity and the Built Environment within the Context of Self-Determination Theory.” Annals of Behavioral Medicine Ann. Behav. Med. (2011): 188-96. Print.

Polish Your Pushups!

pushup problems

Pushups are an exercise that many can do poorly, but few can do well. I used to believe I could bang out a whole bunch of pushups.
It was a humbling experience to learn to do them correctly, but I’m glad I learned to do them the right way. They’re still a challenge for me but they get better every day.

Done well, pushups are an excellent tool to build scapular stability (those are the muscles that stabilize your shoulders – your traps, lats, and serratus anterior, if you want to get geeky). They also require a lot of core control, and not just from your abs. Your butt needs to engage too. It doesn’t want to be left home from the party.

Here are 3 things to remember while attempting to rock a pushup:

1. Keep your abs and butt tight. Imagine that you are bracing against a punch to the stomach to turn on your abdominals. Squeeze your tuckus.  Remember that your torso is one piece, like a plank of wood. Your butt shouldn’t be up in the air, and your hips shouldn’t be sagging.

2. Make a double chin. A lot of hacked up pushups include pecking like a hen with the head.

3. Aim for your elbows to move at a 45 degree angle. Many people flare their elbows out, which is no bueno.

Pushups Still Too Tough?
Once you get your body in the correct position, you may find that you can’t do them, not even one. I feel you, friends. Instead of struggling with the final movement, modify your pushup by elevating your hands. I like to start people out with a bar on a rack and then lower the rack position over time. A bench works too!

incline pushup

Get out there and perfect your pushup!

 

Banana Blueberry Protein Pancakes with a Super Secret Ingredient

protein pancakes

How mysterious do these sound? Ok, there’s really  very little mystery, but I’ve been tinkering around with protein pancakes for awhile now.

My first few experiments resulted in ugly faces and bites spit into the trash. Seriously, they were that disgusting. I’m also highly suspicious of recipes that come from fitspo sites. Some of these people have been deprived of delicious, gluteny, rich treats for so long that they actually believe that their concoctions taste good. That’s sad. I cry tears for these sad substitutions.

Still, I’m reining in my calories lately and don’t have a lot of wiggle room for eating pancakes on the regular unless I make them a bit less calorie laden. These help me meet my protein target AND they taste delicious. Boomshakalaka!

Here are truths that I’ve found about making protein pancakes. Man, that sounds serious for a post about breakfast food.

  • Greek yogurt is the secret ingredient. It makes them have a little something something: a tang, if you will. It also seems to help the texture be  thicker.
  • A vehicle for protein powder that is not a smoothie was my initial purpose for making protein pancakes. However, protein powder can make your cakes really dry. Using a little extra liquid in the form of yogurt, milk, or egg helps.
  • You’ll need some kind of pancake mix or flour + 1/2 tsp of baking powder. Kodiak Power Cakes have a higher protein content than most mixes. I find it at Target.
  • Certain brands of protein powder give pancakes a really funky, awful taste. I haven’t yet found a whey protein powder that meshes well in pancakes from a flavor perspective. Egg white protein, at least the Jay Robb brand, blends in perfectly. (Note: I’m not affiliated in any way with Jay Robb Protein. However, I’m a big fan. Sup, Jay Robb?)
  • A little bit of fruit really helps with taste and texture. Bananas in particular helped combat dryness while adding a hit of sweet.

 

Blueberry Banana Protein Pancakes
Print Recipe
Protein-filled fruity pancakes that don't taste like bro tears.
Servings Prep Time
1 person 5 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
5 minutes 0 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 person 5 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
5 minutes 0 minutes
Blueberry Banana Protein Pancakes
Print Recipe
Protein-filled fruity pancakes that don't taste like bro tears.
Servings Prep Time
1 person 5 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
5 minutes 0 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 person 5 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
5 minutes 0 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: person
Instructions
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients except the blueberries and the bananas. Fold in the bananas, Preheat nonstick pan over medium heat. Spray nonstick spray into pan. Pour in batter, and sprinkle blueberries over the top. When the sides begin to look set and there are bubbles on top, flip your pancake. Cook another minute or so and serve.
Notes
  1. To top these pancakes, depending on how extravagant you want to get, you can top these with syrup, a bit of low-sugar jam, peanut butter, or a squeeze of lemon juice and powdered sugar. 
Recipe Notes

proteinpancakenutrition

Eat em up and enjoy!

Share this Recipe
 
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Plank Party – Get More Out of the Plank in Less Time

Ready to change it up and have more fun with the plank? I know, the plank isn’t exactly synonymous with excitement. That’s because planking for a minute is really freaking boring. The truth is, you don’t need to hold a plank for eternity, and you probably shouldn’t. Read on for the basics on the plank exercise and how to spice them up to make them more effective AND interesting.

The plank is a great exercise to have in your fitness arsenal: it can help you learn to activate your core muscles, which will help stabilize your spine. It can teach you to feel what it’s like to brace your core, a skill that you’ll take with you into  the rest of your lifting workouts. For those new to fitness, building a solid plank will give basic core strength to build upon.

Learning to properly hold a basic plank is important: If your hips are saggy, your lower back kicks in and your abs won’t be properly firing. If your butt is too high in the air, the lower back and hip flexors do the work that your abdominals should be taking on.

plankamydix

 

Once you have the basic plank mastered, it might be tempting to try to increase the time you’re able to hold it. Fitness classes and online challenges often encourage us to try to hold the plank for as long as possible. While this might be fun for occasional bragging rights, these marathon sessions miss the point of the plank:

Planks should involve your entire body contracting forcefully. If you’re engaging your muscles properly, you shouldn’t be able to casually hold a plank while daydreaming. If you can, your hip flexors are likely doing more of the job anyway. The point of the core is to fire forcefully for short periods of time, not hang on for endurance.

Basic Plank Tips

  • Whether on forearms or hands, keep your shoulders away from your ears.
  • Make sure your elbows are lined up with your shoulders.
  • Your arms should be about shoulder width distance.
  • If your wrists hurt while planking on your hands, try the forearm variations or hold on to dumbbells.

So with that out of the way, how do we progress the plank to make it more challenging as well as more interesting? If you can hold standard plank for 45 seconds to a minute, you’re likely ready to move on. If you’re like me, you’d probably rather work really hard for a short period of time rather than hang on for 3 minutes while watching the clock. ZZZZZZZ.

silly pledge plank

Instead, check out these variations and give them a whirl. Pics from the video are outlined clockwise starting at the top left side! 

Pledge Plank
From a plank position on hands, bring your hand to the opposite shoulder, and repeat on the other side. Go back and forth for reps. Try 10 reps per side at first, trying to keep your body as stable as possible. Think about your hips being quiet so they don’t rock from side to side.

Push Up Plank
My coach Jordan gives these to me from time to time and they’re harder than they look! Again, the less movement out of your torso, the better. Move from a plank on your hands to a plank on your forearms. I like to go through half my reps leading with one side, and then switch to the other side for the rest. Try beginning with 4 or 5 per side.

Spider Planks
I don’t know if there’s an official name for these. “Knee to outside elbow plank” sounds wordy. I think about Spiderman’s crawling legs when I do these. Aim your knee to the outside of your elbow while you hold a plank on your hands or forearms. If your spidey sense is mighty, you might crank out between 10 and 12 reps per side.

Plank Roll-Out
In my mind, I move the ball waaaaay out. In reality, it barely slides forward. These are tough! Consider these an advanced plank variation but they’re a great challenge. Begin in a forearm plank on a stability ball. Push your forearms forward. Hold there for a second or two, then pull them back into your starting position. Yowzers! Start with as many as you can muster!

How to Fit Them Into Your Workout
Sets: 1-3
Timing: Try putting a set of these into your warmup routine. They also work well at the end of a strength workout or as part of a circuit.

Get out there and plank up! Leave a comment and tell me your favorite, or at least the most fun in that “I hate it at this very moment but I’m sure I’ll be ecstatic later” kind of way.



4 Sneaky Reasons Why You Aren’t Losing Weight While Tracking Calories

sneakycat

1.Count calories.
2.Enter them in a food log.
3.Lose weight.

It seems so straightforward, doesn’t it? Then why do so many people feel frustrated that their fat loss stalls, despite faithful calorie counting?

Learning to eat in a way that sustains our goals is a skill that we have to build. For the long haul, building sustainable habits should make meticulous tracking unnecessary. However, for many people, counting calories can be a very useful way to gain data when they’re initially embarking on a fat loss program.

Yet so many people encounter brick walls when it comes to progress, despite feeling like they’re doing all the right things. I feel you — it is frustrating! We swear up and down that we’re eating at a number that should easily produce results. It makes NO SENSE to us that we aren’t losing weight. So what gives? Read on for 4 ways that calorie counting goes off course and what you can do about them.

1. Humans make mistakes. 
User error is a huge factor in tracking. It doesn’t make us stupid. It’s just what people typically do. In the 1980’s, the USDA’s Beltsville study demonstrated that the vast majority of people underestimate their calorie intake. During a carefully-controlled study period, people’s actual intake was on average 13% higher than what they reported. 1 Yikes! Those 200-300 calories a day might not seem like that big of deal, but they can definitely put the kibosh on your progress.

Bites, Licks, and Chews
We tend to forget about little nibbles throughout the day. I’ve become pretty good at remembering to track my food when I’m monitoring my intake, and I still forget about things here and there. The 4 bites of my kid’s insanely delicious mac and cheese at dinner the other night. 6 Jelly Belly Jellybeans.  Cream in my coffee counts too. Those are no big deal on their own, but the calories can quickly add up. Don’t eliminate them, for heaven’s sake, but if you have given yourself a calorie intake range, be aware of what you’re eating and account for them, at least at first so you have a better idea of how many calories you need to consume to actually put yourself in a deficit and lose fat.

If I eat these 1 at a time, they don't count, right?

If I eat these 1 at a time, they don’t count, right?

Calorie-Dense Foods
The day I first looked at what 2 tablespoons of peanut butter actually looks like, I nearly wept. I love peanut butter so much I might marry it. Small handfuls of nuts seem like a healthy snack, and they can be — but they are calorically dense and if you’re tracking and mis-measure what you write down, it can heavily impact your overall intake.

How to Fix It: Buy a scale, preferably one with 1g increments. Is it insane to weigh everything you eat for the rest of your life? Yes, yes it is. A healthy lifestyle comes with being able to let loose and eat some cookies without worrying about how many grams of carbohydrates were in them. At the same time, getting a handle on exactly how much you’re actually consuming can be extremely illuminating.

Look at the my sample diary to see how underestimating our portions can result in big changes in actual calories consumed:

What I Estimated I Ate:
 what i thought i ate

 

What I Actually Ate:
frame what I actually ate

2. Reactive Eating. 
Let’s say that you actually ate very few calories each day for 6 days. On day 7, you devoured an entire pan of brownies, 6 slices of pizza, and multiple bowls of cereal. Nobody likes to talk about it, but it happens. This behavior can put your overall caloric balance higher than where you need it to be for weight loss. Most of us can’t even bring ourselves to log it. If we set a poor target initially, all the tracking in the world won’t prevent a nose dive.

The body needs fuel. If you deprive yourself excessively, eventually the dam will give way. These are a different sort of binge than those commonly associated with eating disorders. While those are emotional in nature, reactive eating is your body’s way of trying to maintain homeostasis. Sometimes it takes the form of mindless nibbling, and other times it comes in one big binge.

The Fix: First of all, ditch the extreme diets – the ones that ban food groups or demonize a particular food. There’s nothing that makes us want a damn brownie like a diet that tells us we can’t have one. Secondly, set your caloric deficit conservatively enough that you don’t feel ravenous.

3. Calorie Tracking Apps Can Be Filthy Liars
Let’s be fair, the apps themselves are potentially great tools. But again, user error makes them only as good as the person inputting information. Last night I went onto MyFitnessPal to enter 4 ounces of beef brisket. Here’s what popped up:

calorie countsPretty confusing, yes? These counts are all over the place.

The Fix: 
When you have a label available to verify, use it. Most often I encounter trouble when logging food from a recipe I’ve made or from cooked meat.

  • Raw meat will have roughly the same amount of calories as it does cooked, but due to water loss during cooking, it will weigh less. Some entries on tracking apps are measuring the calories based on the final cooked weight. Others are based on raw weight. Raw meat nutrition labels indicate the calories per ounce before cooked. When some meats are grilled or broiled, fat from the meat drains off and is not actually consumed. So that can skew your totals as well. Understanding that how you prepare your food will help you look for entries that closely match what you’ve prepared.
  • Look for “verified” entries when you have multiple choices. Myfitness pal uses a green check box.
  • Pay attention to how the entry is measured. Where possible, choose entries that measure with ounces or grams instead of cups or slices. What’s a slice? It depends on who’s slicing!
  • For recipes, my favorite trick is to make the entire recipe and enter it as a recipe onto my app. I weigh the entire batch in grams and enter 1 serving in the total grams. From there, I weigh my portion, enter in the total grams, and like magic, it calculates my calories and nutrients for my meal. (I can’t even math, so whoever taught me this along the way, thank you thank you.)

4. Embarrassment over our choices. 
I used to neglect to track my foods accurately on Myfitnesspal, a social tracking app. I mostly did this because I felt embarrassed about writing down that for lunch that day I actually ate a handful of cheetos. What would my friends think? Not all days are great days, but if we don’t have accurate information, then tracking loses its best utility – data.

The Fix: 
Until you get to a place where you feel emotionally okay about eating without guilt or shame, make your diary private. It’s a lot easier to be honest.

Do any of these feel familiar to you? I’ve experienced all of them! Leave a comment below with any questions or challenges you have with tracking. Let’s chat about them!



Notes:

  1. Mertz W, ed. Beltsville one-year dietary intake study. AJCN 1984;6(suppl):1323s-403s.