health

Why Too Much HIIT Is Killing Your Progress

...And How You Can Incorporate Intense Training For Maximum Results

HIIT workouts are EVERYWHERE. From Barry’s on the east coast to Orange Theory on the West Coast. Think those combo treadmill/dumbbell workouts are it though? Soul Cycle and Flywheel are the HIIT of cycling. In most cases, your neighborhood hot yoga class is probably an HIIT workout more than it is an ancient mobility practice. The magazines and the Instagram fit-pros pretty much deal in nothing else. And oh yes, Crossfit is an HIIT workout too. 

There are multiple reasons to explain why  HIIT training has become the new go-to workout. But, they aren't what you might think.

HIIT training is (on first glance) accessible. It’s what we call in the industry low-barrier-of-entry. Don't be fooled, though. That does not mean that the workouts are easy. Decidedly the opposite is true. What it means to boutique fitness is that instructors can pack a class in a relatively small space with dozens of bodies and minimal equipment. And similarly for the IG stars and fitness editors, they can provide a workout that followers can perform in their living rooms without registering for a class. 

HIIT also fits our deeply engrained ideas of what an effective workout is. We believe that training should be ALWAYS be hard. It should leave you feeling spent, sweaty, and sore, right? This assumption is not true. But HIIT checks all those boxes we’re tempted to tick. 

But wait! Isn’t HIIT so popular because it’s good for fat-loss???

Well, yes. Of course it can be. But any new and novel training style will result in initially favorable fat-loss. And HIIT certainly has it’s place as PART of a well rounded fitness regimen. But as most things go, too much of anything is too much. 

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And that too much - that high level of intense acute stress can turn into chronic stress that threatens your health and sabotages your success.

Now anecdotally, you may have already come to this conclusion on your own without knowing exactly why. You want to lose fat but no matter how much you increase your effort, you seem to have plateaued. And you’re supposed to be getting strong, but in fact you’re realizing more aches and pains than when you started.

So why does progress seem to reverse when you’re working out hard? And how can you incorporate HIIT into your program with favorable results? Those successful studies on the multitude of benefits must have some merit, yes?

Well, I went to my friend Justin to get some clarity on this very complicated and potentially frustrating issue. Justin Janoska is a clinical nutritionist and coach who helps women facing autoimmune disorders turn their lives around. He is an expert when it comes to hormones. And that’s what we spent much of our time chatting about.

It All Depends On Stress And Hormones

You see, different types of workouts elicit different hormonal responses. And workouts that are super stressful, just like life situations that are super stressful, temporarily cause a spike in cortisol. This acute elevation isn’t bad as you might have heard. Chronically elevated cortisol is a problem though.  It’s persistent and prolonged bouts of stress that result in excess cortisol and subsequent belly fat buildup.

“Hormones dictate your ability to lose weight before calories can even be spoken about,” says Justin. “If abnormal cortisol and thyroid hormones levels are present, no amount of caloric restriction or deficit will push the needle.”

This is why consistent under-eating and frequent hard workouts may have little or no effect on your ability to make physique progress. 

What’s even more startling is that this particular kind of hormone dyregulation can result in digestive havoc and induce cognitive changes in your brain - i.e. giving you problems like IBS, depression, and a multitude of autoimmune disorders that seem unrelated.

“It literally puts the kabosh on any chance of weight loss because the body is too preoccupied with overcoming the challenges. Bionergetically, its shifting towards immune function and inflammation, which is costly in energy requirement.” says Justin. Think of it like going into fight or flight-mode. Basic body functions gets under prioritized as your body struggles to adapt.

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Too little cortisol is not good either. Your training program should provide the RIGHT amount of stress, an appropriate challenge that your body can adapt to. But without any stimulus, there can be no prompted change either.

How To Incorporate HIIT Correctly

You can totally avoid the negative health effects of chronically elevated stress hormones, and find your own RIGHT amount of HIIT for the positive results you’ve read about, if you follow these simple but important guidelines.

1. Realize that HIIT is one course of the meal that is your personal fitness plan.

 And if you want to get really specific with your metaphors, consider it dessert. It’s the “use sparingly”, indulgent treat of the fitness pyramid and should be treated as such. Your training plan should be grounded in mobility and highlighted by focused strength and rhythmic cardiovascular sessions. But that doesn’t mean that Barry’s class you love to take with all your friends and your favorite instructor doesn’t belong. Fitness should be fun. Simply try scaling back to just 1 or 2 times per week.

Monitor your body’s response.

It can be difficult to know if you're pushing too hard. But you can ask yourself these guided questions: Do you feel at least 80% recovered at the beginning of each new interval? Is your heart rate back to normal by the time you get to the subway or your car? Do you sleep well that night and wake up feeling rested? Just these simple questions can start a really good inner dialogue, which Justin says is key for figuring out what works for you.

Stay conservative.

This can be tough if the prescribed parameters from the instructor are extreme to begin with. And that added pressure of class competition and having your results displayed on a huge screen can also tempt you to screw it and go beast mode. But, don’t be afraid to be that girl doing something different(this is bigger if advice too). I always recommend my lovelies begin at a 1:2 work:rest ratio. So if you have 30 second bouts of burpees, break 60 seconds. This will also allow you to crush the pace and keep the intensity high. When you can no longer recover in 60 seconds, take a longer break, switch things up, or call it.

Monitor the intensity of other stressors.

Like your emotions, job, relationships, finances, etc. Stress is stress. If the intensity in these other areas of your life is high, you may not need to add additional fuel to the fire by ending the workout in a puddle of your own sweat and starting the next day too  gassed and stiff to be productive. What’s the cost? What’s the benefit? If the benefit isn’t higher, find a less intense outlet to move your body and blow off steam. Resume when conditions improve. 

And most importantly, remember that fat-loss and fitness are about working WITH your body, not against it. 

Ready to try something new? For just

Five Tips For Managing Stress And Winning at Fat Loss

Managing stress is hard. And when the hits are piling up on you as the week goes on, it can feel like there’s literally no end in sight. Worse, it can also feel totally hopeless, like theres no way you could possibly manage the barrage of obstacles, work crisis, and relationship issues that are sure to come at you.

But alongside proper sleep, nutrition, and fitness; dealing with this stuff—and handling it all gracefully—is just as important for hitting your fat-loss and muscle-building goals. Not some, but ALL of these factors play a role in balancing our hormones and helping our bodies to run most optimally. And that's really what physique goals are all about: making things run nice.

So, while there’s no real quick fix to dealing with stress; and you’re totally right girl, you cannot control all of the things that the universe has in store for you; there’s definitely some proactive steps you can take that will not only give you quick relief and a little more center, but also help you become more mindful of the relationship between your body and your mind. So that down line, you get learn to get better at responding to the beautiful mess that is life, rather than succumbing to it.

I know, I know. If you’re like me when I’m feeling bratty, trapped, sorry for myself, and even defensive of my stress; you’re already thinking “this is just the way it is right now.” That’s one of my favorite excuses for shirking off the responsibility of self-care as well. You're not alone. The body and mind naturally resist change. 

But trust me. You can change your mind. YOU have the power to make it better in this very moment. And I bet you’ll feel a whole lot less stressed when you start making progress on your fitness goals again.

Uh-huh, girl. I went there. So, save yourself some time and misery. Let’s get to feeling better, so that we may also look better, shall we?  

This particular post is about some quick interventions that can serve as catalysts for turning your thoughts around when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed. So that you have space in your brain for long term improvements that we’ll discuss later on.

Do a Quick Movement Flow

Your brain holds a map of your entire body. And the more you move, the more clear that map is. But when you dont move, that map gets blurry and so does your perspective. All the negative sensations like irritation, pain, and anxiety become amplified and stress can become increased. One of the easiest ways to decrease threat and calm yourself down is to move! And you don’t need a full on workout to send your brain those good vibes it craves. Making some shoulder and neck circles at your desk every hour helps. Getting on the floor for a quick side plank or a shin box can totally turn things around. A little bit of movement here and there will dial down your nervous system and put your body in a more advantageous state to make progress on your goals.

 

Go For a Walk

Walking is one of the best activities for alleviating stress. Walking is movement, so you will absolutely benefit from all those good vibes we talked about in the previous paragraph and improve your mood. But walking also helps improve digestive function. The quality of your thoughts relies heavily on the quality of your gut. If you can improve your metabolism, you can improve your response to stressful situations. Not to mention, you can ensure that you expend as much energy as you absorb, which is key for weight-loss and weight maintenance.

 

Call a Friend

Go for that walk, and call up a friend to go with you. That stress ball gets infinitely larger when we imagine that we are alone or that we are the only ones who have to deal with whatever it is that’s going on. But, the truth is, you’re never alone unless you choose to be. And EVERYONE has their own struggles. Just like we are meant to move, we as humans are also meant to be highly social. Blowing off some steam doing positive activities with someone who knows you and supports you can completely shift your perspective and help you get back to focusing on crushing your life and fitness goals.

 

Zone Out

There’s tons of pressure from your boss and social media hustle culture to be super focused and on your grind all day long. But, there’s a reason you are driven to scroll through instagram or pull up a game window behind your actual work. The brain fatigues just like any other muscle in your body. And while I encourage you to instead use this time to get away from all the screens, make sure it feels just as mindless. I like to grab a book for a few minutes or wash the dishes. For real. But, you can simply use the yoga practice of finding a drishti gaze and literally try to stare off into space as far as you can, even if there’s a wall two feet from you. Look past it. Zone out. And then get back to business when you’re ready with greater productivity.

 

Focus On Your Breath

Breathing is something that happens whether we try or not. But if we can think about it consciously for just a few minutes throughout the day, we can guide the whole unconscious side of it in a better direction. Shallow breathing, mouth breathing, chest breathing—all the ways breath can go wrong—these inefficient strategies can send your thoughts in the wrong direction. But, a few good breaths—with focus on expanding the sides of your ribcage and belly— can bring you back to center, Sit tall, lay on your belly, or throw your feet up the wall. Get your spine nice and long(the surest way to neutral) and try to elongate your exhales, and the pause between the exhale and the inhale, as long as you can. Around 8 seconds is a good goal to shoot for. Be sure to inhale through your nose and blow air out through pursed lips. Two rounds of 5 breaths can calm your body and help you think and act from a more positive place. 

 

Be Proactive

Maybe you have some other strategies that work really well for you already. Maybe only a few of these will resonate with you. The point is, you’ve got to know and trust that you have the power to change your mind at any time, and it's a simple as taking one small action with the decisive intention of feeling better. 

Looking for more advice to look and feel your best? Getting your nutrition and fitness dialed in is one of the most important ways to both manage stress and make progress on your fat-loss goals. Don’t know where to start? Message me today to learn more about distance coaching and how it helps my clients find confidence and clarity. 

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The Easiest Nutrition Fix For Fat Loss

As I discuss in an upcoming vlog (you can peep the latest one here), I've got a few major priorities when it comes to fat loss. You can certainly never underestimate the impact of consistent sleep and workouts, but right now, I'm talking about the easiest nutrition skill you can starting practicing right now!

And that is to simply eat more protein.

Eat More Protein

Eating more protein has multiple benefits. This macronutrient is involved in pretty much every chemical process that your body carries out. Proteins are kind of like the raw material of all your body's projects. Of course, they are first broken down into amino acids and reconstructed into more purposeful combinations that your body can use. But, in any case, they are needed and necessary.

By ensuring our bodies get enough protein, we fulfill an essential requirement of the myriad of processes we commonly refer to as our metabolism, making the whole thing run that much more efficiently . In simple terms, that means that we can make the most of what we've got with the least amount of energy expended.

And that my friends, is what fat-loss is all about: finding the most benefit, with the least amount of cost.

SNAP!

*** BTW You should write that one down in your notes. It's a gem.

Anyways, let's move on to your potential protests regarding this recommendation...

You're Not Eating Enough

Now you might say "But Coach, I heard eating too much protein can damage your organs."

Well, dear I have an answer for that.

Of course, if one eats TOO MUCH protein (which is a very subjective value btw), it's reasonably possible to assume the kidneys can be affected. BUT, it's also very unlikely that you are anywhere close to this very subjective amount. It's also very unlikely that you are anywhere close to consistently hitting the number you need to support fat-loss in the first place, which is typically the lowest benchmark that nutritionists suggest you hit. So, we really don't need to discuss what "too much" is anyway.

And even further, formation of kidney stones and other potential harm to these vital organs (which is really what we're talking about), has much more to do with the amount of water you are drinking. Byproducts of increased protein intake are excreted normally, without any harm done, in the pee of adequately hydrated humans.

"But Miss Ashleigh, I eat enough protein every day."

Oh dear, I've got an answer for that too. I know you came up with that reply way too quickly. You likely scanned the last 24 hours, and the ease with which two to three instances where you ingested some protein came to mind, led you to conclude that you're doing just fine. But, unless you ran some numbers and calculations in your head, I'm going to say this is not really a fact you could know with any kind of certainty.

Not to worry. It's a common human error to highlight the negative possibilities and grossly overestimate the actuals, as demonstrated by both of these complaints.

The Fix

Let's work together to figure out the truth. In the next three days, I want you to plug in what you eat to any macro app. I personally like to use MyMacros+ as it easily connects me to my clients, but choose whatever program suits you. 

Figure out the average amount of protein you eat. You'll find this number represented in terms of grams. And then just try to increase it by about 20 grams. That's as easy as adding one quality Greek yogurt, two eggs, or half a cup of chicken. And since that amounts to an average of less than $2 per serving, it's also way cheaper than that weird skinny tea or the currently trending fat-loss superfood.

Hit that number consistently for a few weeks(I said weeks, not days! And a "few" means at least three. I did not say "a couple"). Forget about why you were practicing this skill in the first place. And then pull on that pair of skinny jeans you reserve for the moments when you feel really good about yourself, and try em' on again. I know you also save these for your greatest self-shaming moments too, but this won't be one of those. See also: stop doing that.

And stand in front of the mirror as long as you like admiring your work. Because real talk: you're most beautiful when you're being the most kind to your body. And giving it the nutrition it needs is part of fulfilling that purpose.

Even More Fat Loss

Increasing your protein intake by 20 grams will make a huge difference. However, you might have even further room for improvement, and by that I mean, more room to create in those sexy, skinny jeans. To find out what that fat-loss benchmark is, plus even more fat loss habits, check out my latest vlog here.

Four Exercises That Are Better Than The Ones You Are Doing Now

Trade Up

The universe always trades up. I PROMISE. I have no choice but to believe this truth after my last failed dating escapade. I mean, you really couldn’t get any worse than your beloved pretending not to know you on the street. Except of course, if he was with his “ex-wife.”

OK, ok. Before this piece gets too dark to recover, let me just say, I learned some very valuable life lessons from said relationship — even though he was a complete bonehead. 

See, you must understand, even the unworthy people who will inevitably move in and out of your life always show up for a reason. They appear, to help you uncover some deeper karmic lesson about yourself. 

As this relates to fitness, I believe there are a lot of just ok or even not so great exercises that may show up on your template and still teach you some very valuable lessons you may not have received otherwise.

They fulfill a purpose. But they don’t deserve to stay very long.

I’m talking about the exercises that aren’t serving you very well. Maybe they don’t offer you the results you are seeking or they cause you pain. Maybe you just kind of dread them even before you set foot on the gym floor. 

Maybe you’ve even been working on them forever, going around in circles and you seem to make no progress.

Time to move on to something better, better. No more tryna make it work. Deuces.

Of course, we should always look back. We must evaluate the good and the bad of our programs and practices. We need to meditate on what we’ve learned about our bodies.

But we must not stare too long before it is time to get started on the next layer, the next challenge -- Something that gets us closer to our bigger goal without all the negative drama.

You know, you can’t keep messing with the same lifts (assholes?) forever and expect a different outcome. 

And really, it’s not you. It’s them. Some typical strength exercises are just a little more party trick than they are real world applicable. They make for a really cool Facebook status that garners a lot of likes, but they leave you unfulfilled.

And that’s when it’s time to trade up.

The Full Get-Up

Being raised in the kettlebell world (it was my first and favorite strength certification post basic CPT way back in 2009), I have a special place in my heart for full get-ups. It is an exercise that demands and deserves all of the respect for it’s sophistication in execution and purpose.

A full get-up is an elegant dance. The seven steps are even a beautiful metaphor for human life. No matter what, you always need to be strong enough to get up off the floor with little difficulty.

But to be honest, I really only program the half get-up for class or clients on a regular basis. And that’s for a few reasons.

Regardless of most dysfunction, almost all humans can perform the first two steps without any serious compensation. Whereas, if hip stability is questionable and shoulder mobility is lacking (maybe you cannot reach your arm to true vertical over head), the full get-up could actually worsen these issues.

The half get-up is also much easier to program in a traditional sense. I can throw it in the middle of a workout as an accessory on any vertical pressing or upper body day with sets and reps. Whereas the full get-up typically needs to be programmed alone in the beginning of the session with low volume as it requires a high level of skill and so many complicated steps

You can however, practice the half get-up with much more ease. Get to the half-sit position, and return back to the ground.

Try it for 3x6 as your vertical push for the day!

Better Option: The Half Get-Up

 

The Pistol Squat

I believe that the fraction of the population that really deserves to do a pistol squat is something like less than 5%. And I’m not exaggerating. That’s a very low projection from someone who only sees the fittest demographic of the population from day to day (I work at a high end luxury gym in Soho, so I actually have more hope than I probably should). 

The requisite foundation of mobility, stability, and motor control required for this exercise are all huge! Even the expert fit pros who show their skills on social media rarely meet the criteria for a confidently controlled repetition.

Much like the get-up, the pistol also presents some programming problems. One perfectly executed pistol squat is often the equivalent of a max effort lift. Meaning, it has no business in any program with sets and reps. Past 2 repetitions, and you’re likely just jamming joints together to get it done.

Think of this way: If your top deadlift is 300lbs, you wouldn't be hitting that over and over again every day. That's as silly as repeating this eating mistakes over and over again.

And don’t get me started how trainers include the pistol in “quickie” or “metabolic” workouts. Face palm.

That bottom one is just not good enough to train. Even if you're only in that position for a split second.

That bottom one is just not good enough to train. Even if you're only in that position for a split second.

As you can surmise, I’m a little bit passionate about this one. And that is because, the risk in programming pistols outweighs the benefit. The cost is just too high. Even for me. And my dears, I once did a perfect pistol with a 32kg bell. That's a half bodyweight pistol.

Even the kettlebell people quietly stopped testing it at workshops as a requirement to pass. Because it was that ugly.

You and your body would be much better served with a more traditional single leg squat. Add in a box and you’ve got ample freedom to focus on that working leg. Just don’t forget about the other one. Tense it up and reach through the heel of the “non-working” side to maintain balance. Add in a counterbalance if you need it!

Better Option: The Single Leg Squat Off Box

 

The KB Push-Press

For a hardtyle push-press, you are required to keep your heals glued down to the floor. After years of debate with elite trainers and my own experience with clients, I don't teach like that anymore. 

It’s just awkward and I hate it. Ok, but seriously, it’s difficult to generate a lot of force for a number of reasons.

The cue in a push-press is to slide your back down the wall as you dip, rather than sit back like a squat or deadlift. This can help to prevent any leakage from the core. In other words, it can help you to keep your trunk together, without moving through your lower back, as you press.

However, you need a significant amount of ankle dorsiflexion to initiate the push when the feet are trapped on the floor -- to allow the knees to come forward.

And even if you do have real nice ankles, the lift still doesn’t feel one bit powerful.

As the goal of this exercise is to generate explosive force, I believe the feet need to be free to leave the ground during a push-press.

Easy fix: Just jump.

Complete your KB push-press while jumping up and stomping your feet into the ground. 

And if we’re talking about power, we want to create a more challenging situation in which you’d have to generate it.

So I love love love a log press. It’s also awkward. But, in a more appropriate manner to the goal of the exercise. So you will have no choice but to literally throw it up overhead. 

And that is exactly what you want to do.

Better Option: The Log Press

I have zero access to my own log press vids so let www.startingstrongman.com whow you how it's done. 

Remember, you can simply complete your usual KB push-press... Just jump!

 

Bent Over Rows

If I hardly ever program full get-ups, then you could say a bent over row is more rare in my programming than meeting a good one on Tinder. Like almost never happens.

And that’s because, it’s a little too complicated for most. You’ve got to be able to hang back in a perfect hinge position, stabilize the shoulders really well, and then also move some heavy weight.

Accordingly, they usually look damn ugly. Necks jutting forward with each rep. Backs rounding out to a nice curl by the end of the set. And not to mention the unhappiness your body may feel the next morning as you go to roll out of bed.

And so instead, I like to set up a sumo deadlift alternating row. That’s a mouthful, I know. However, it’s worth remembering and repeating to all of your friends who experience any kind of back pain.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction in order for an object to stay in place. Normally, you’d have zero external feedback to stay stable in your hinge. In this row variation, you’ll get to push into the unmoving arm as you pull from the other. The added punching action will actually assist you.

Try them! You'll still build a beautiful back but without all the stress on your front side body and lower back.

Better Option: Sumo Alternating Row

Got any other exercises that aren't suiting you?

Leave them in the comments and I'll offer you more options!

#tradeup #deuces #sophisticatedstrength

The Four Agreements Of Nutrition: The Third Agreement

Don’t Make Assumptions

For the last two weeks, I’ve been exploring how Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements could be applied to nutrition. The first agreement, “Be impeccable with your word,” relates to self-honesty as well as self-love. “Don’t take anything personally,” the second agreement, teaches us to not internalize the projections of others, which Ruiz calls a “dream.”

This week, we’re going to take a look at the third agreement: “Don’t make assumptions.”

Because duh, that makes you an ass. We all know this.

But in the realm of fitness, it also means you miss the results you work so hard for.

There is perhaps no field of information that has more conflicting information, misinformation, and assumed information than nutrition. It's the wild west out there. These days even previously respected fitness info establishments are lowering their content standards.

So, how do we tangle apart what’s true and what’s not, when we’ve been barraged with other people’s beliefs and social mores about food since we were kids?

The solution, according to Ruiz, is simple. Don’t make assumptions.

The opposite of making an assumption is having the courage to ask questions and having the open-mindedness to accept new information.

Courage

We may think we know how our body works and what it needs. And we very well may have. But sometimes a shift in lifestyle occurs, and we realize that we don’t have all the information. Having a baby, getting a new job, moving, getting injured, or developing an illness can all be incredibly challenging milestones for people.

Shifts can be less dramatic, as well – you may wake up one day, see a picture of yourself, and think, how the fuck did this happen?

Either way, these are times when fitness assumptions are shattered and you know in your heart that your old solutions and band-aids don’t work anymore.

These are the moments when it’s very important to ask questions and get the support that you need.

And that does not mean asking Google.

Think of it this way. If you don't know what the answer to a question looks like, do you think you'll be able to spot it in a pile of different answers that's a mile high?

This is doubtful.

Instead,  it's a real life fitness professional that can give you solid answers to your new questions, and help guide you to a lifestyle that works for you.

To do this, you need courage. It takes bravery to say, “What I’m doing isn’t working anymore. Please help.”

Much like a new relationship, you have to step off the ledge and make a brand new meaningful commitment. And that can be terrifying. To be really vulnerable. It's so much easier to hide behind the keyboard and our preconceived notions.

Especially when you've spent time trolling through all these cheap and unsuccessful meal plan solutions on your late night quests for nutritional enlightenment. They're everywhere. And they require very little real investment.

But much like your Tinder hook-up, the nominally priced cookie-cutter meal plans allow us to hold on to our ambivalence. The entry price is low both financially and emotionally. And because they often don't work very well in the long run, they only further fuel our fear of commitment.

You need real courage to connect with a Fitness Professional and commit to learning the truth. It's money and time, and effort that you put on the table. Those are all big deals.

Open-Mindedness

And so on top of that courage, you will need the flexibility and teach-ability to accept good information when it's truly in front of you.

It's increasingly common for new training and nutrition clients to come into my studio (or into my inbox), saying, “I need help,” only to reject the solution that I give them, because it doesn’t fit their pre-existing assumptions.

My question back to them is always the same. If that advice worked so well for you, what the hell are you doing here? I say it with a lot more love, of course. But that's basically the gist of it.

Don’t make assumptions. Stay open to new ideas. Be ready for transformation.

If you think you are ready to ditch your old assumptions about food, nutrition, and health, you may be ready to start the transformation. Along with training, my one-on-one coaching program will literally teach you how to eat. It will give you an opportunity for three months to build your nutritional house from the ground up, developing new habits that will allow you to easily and naturally eat for your best body.

Be impeccable with your word.

 

Don’t take anything personally.

 

Don’t make assumptions.

 

Get ready for next week’s fourth and last agreement! 

The Four Agreements of Nutrition: The Second Agreement

Don't Take Anything Personally

For the next few days, I’m taking a look at how Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements relate to making real life changes, specifically nutrition. Last week, I talked about the principles of LOVE and TRUTH from the first agreement (“Be impeccable with your word”), but this week I’m going to take a look at the second agreement: “Don’t take anything personally,” and how it relates to the often destructively dogmatic world of nutrition.

Watch the clip HERE

If anyone caught last fall’s Hulu original Casual, you know that there is a spot-on scene in which a CrossFitter religiously promotes her Paleo diet. If you haven't seen it, I'm sure it's not a scenario too difficult to imagine. Even when her date says, “I’m happy to move forward without an argument,” (like ok, girl… I got it.) she dives into what is clearly (and hilariously) anecdotal “scientific” support for her lifestyle.

Chick would totally need to work on her Functional Dating Screen score. But anyway...

Food and Virtue

We’ve all met those people – whether it’s low-carb-high-fat, Whole30, gluten-free, vegan, 20 million day fix(or whatever), or simply “clean,” the diet becomes the person. You literally can’t talk to this person without the conversation steering back to the superiority of their way of eating. 

Before you roll your eyes just thinking about this person, let's examine this behavior with some love, shall we?

Last week, I pointed out that most diets work well as long as you are consistent. But it’s easy to slip into fanaticism, especially if your diet is complicated, restrictive, or difficult to maintain. For some people, they need to think that their way is the only way to be healthy, in order to justify the increased level of attention that their lifestyle demands. 

They renounce others in righteous support of themselves. Classic defense mechanism.

How does this relate to Don Miguel Ruiz?

You Are Not Your Diet

His second agreement, “Don’t take anything personally,” means that you don’t accept others’ projections onto yourself. He uses amazing language about others’ entire realities being a “dream,” and he points out that we can be more free and happy if we don’t allow others perspectives to define us.

While this could apply to relationships, career, or money, there is an obvious application here for nutrition.

Each way of eating (or exercising) carries with it a certain identity, whether or not the stereotype is actually true for the individual. For example, it could be argued that Paleo is extremely associated with CrossFit (as Casual jokes), while veganism is a hallmark of a yogic lifestyle. Making certain food choices could make you feel a certain way about your value and identity, whether the identity that you want is more tough, more enlightened, or more self-disciplined.

cc:  The Tig

The difficulty of internalizing our identity around our food choices, however, is that sometimes our choices aren’t perfect. Even though I advocate for consistency in the first agreement, the reality of life is that there are ups and downs even in a big picture of consistency. It’s never a straight line, even if you’re moving in the right direction.

Sure, you feel amazing when you’re eating “clean.” You may feel superior, in control, and self-disciplined.

But what if you binge on your favorite nachos when it’s not your “cheat day”? Are you then a failure, or lazy? We’re back at the first Agreement here -- You must uphold love and the truth.

Because the other consideration is that just as everyone’s dream of the world is different, so too are everyone’s nutritional needs.

A paleo persuasion is actually a pretty dangerous diet for someone who puts in the kind of intense effort that a Crossfitter does. Cutting carbs cuts your gains.

A vegan diet can seem super clean and healthy. But it can actually wreak havoc on the health of any individual with a less than extraordinarily excellent digestive tract.

And the fact that you cannot hang on to these habits should not cause you harm. Whether that harm is incurred by trying to repeatedly force the beliefs of someone else onto your body. Or by failing at that diet and feeling bad about yourself for it. 

We need to be free to be objective with our nutrition. To separate ourselves from our food choices. 

The TRUTH, is that all diets won't work for every individual in the long term, and you need to LOVE yourself enough to honor this realization without judgement. 

Taking Food Personally

Like Ruiz advocates, we can’t let diet culture dictate how we feel about ourselves, because that would be allowing others’ projections to define who we are.

That is why I recently released “Sophisticate Your Nutrition,” a three-month course that gives you the education, guidelines, and principles to create an eating lifestyle that gives you the results you want, without adhering to a specific “diet.”

You don’t have to be Paleo to be tough. You don’t have to be vegan to be enlightened. You can be whatever the hell you want to be, achieve your goals, and live a free, happy, healthy lifestyle.

The FOUR Agreements Of Nutrition: The First Agreement

Don Miguel Ruiz and… Diets?

In 1997, Don Miguel Ruiz published a tiny, best-selling book called The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Wisdom. In the space of 138 pages, Ruiz distills what he calls “ancient Toltec wisdom” into four concise principles for life. His simple, insightful writing stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for seven years and secured Ruiz a spot as a “National Heirloom” of Mexico.   

But what the hell does Don Miguel Ruiz have to do with fitness coaching or nutrition?

WELL... His Four Agreements are simply ways of living that help people achieve freedom and happiness in life, whether the struggle is with love, purpose, or success. 

But, I can’t help but wonder — when it comes to our relationship with food, couldn’t we all use a little more freedom and happiness?

If you are approaching the lunch counter or your closet with imminent fear on the regular, I know for a fact there is better. If you are commiserating with friends over brunch on this or that area of stubborn fat and marveling at those insta fit chicks who seem to have it all together, I can tell you there is another side.

So, how do we get to that other side? Where does badass confidence, with regard to nutrition and self image, come from? 

Behold. Over the next four posts, I’m going to drop some practical but revolutionary wisdom. 

Let’s take a look at how the Four Agreements can be interpreted as four pretty much renegade principles for achieving a happier and healthier relationship with food:

 

The First Agreement: Be Impeccable With Your Word

In yoga, we begin class with an intention. It helps us ground to our practice and stand strong in our focus as we ask our bodies to change. Just as you approach flowing movements with implacable grace, you must also set a similar intention for your nutritional changes. And that mantra is impeccability.

Impeccable. What does the word actually mean? While it brings to mind images of faultless perfection, Don Miguel Ruiz chooses to zero in on the sense of integrity introduced by the definition.

When you are impeccable with your word, you speak with an intention to be perfectly real -- to  uphold love and truth.

You step up to the challenge at hand, whatever that may be, with these two motives as your guide.

 

You Should Go and Love Yourself

If you truly seek to change your relationship with food, you’ve got to change your relationship with your self image. And this begins with how we speak about ourselves. You need to talk about yourself with love.

To cultivate love in your speech and your self-talk(we’re not necessarily limiting this dialogue to what you say out loud, as words and thoughts can often conflict), you will agree not to verbally put yourself down, using body image negativity to harm. 

If we are really honest, we know that calling ourselves “fat” or “lazy” does not inspire or motivate us. Self deprecation is definitely not the mantra of choice as you embark on a journey of long-lasting transformation.   

If asked to coach your best friend in the acquisition of any skill you could imagine, you would NEVER speak to her with a derogatory demeanor. You would address her with loving kindness.

This is the way you must also greet yourself every day. Like you’re a white hot goddess with glowing wisdom who's already pretty excellent.

cc: www.thetig.com

cc: www.thetig.com

If you don't believe you are worthy of your own approval now, fake it to make it girl. I wore a necklace strung with 108 beads(that's 108 mantras a day) around my arm for the better part of a year to remind me how worthy I am. And you know the funny thing is... I started to believe it.

As you learn to repeatedly address yourself with respect, you'll find your regard for yourself increases exponentially.

But how do we balance that here and now spiritual swagger, with a genuine need or desire to change? The two intentions seem conflicting.

It’s arguable that the recent rise of body positive culture is a projection of a deeper fear of change, or even dishonoring your self-love by wanting more.

And lovelies, I have to tell you from my behind the filter, real life experience, that these suppositions aren’t completely invalid.

Having goals to eat better, get leaner, and achieve elite fitness goals can be intimidating. Change can incite fear, the opposite of love. And we also cannot ignore that by nature, our bodies are wired to want to stay the same. 

So how do we set out to accomplish these nutritional mileposts while thinking and speaking with the intent to love, rather than hate on ourselves?

 

let's just be fucking real: FoCUS ON THE TRUTH

The other side of the love coin is speaking truth, and when it comes to nutrition, truth also means self-honesty and consistency. A little bit of reflective objectivity(We'll get into the power of not taking things personally next post). Practicality is the truer definition of perfection here.

Being “impeccable with your word” means writing down everything you eat in your food log, and taking a real look at the state of your diet right now. You must know the truth of where you are now to be excited about where you’re going.

The not knowing part is what really instills fear and blocks us from love.  

We need love AND the truth for success.

And so being “impeccable with your word” also means making a real commitment. You must seek the expertise of a coach with real nutrition knowledge. To erase your anxiety of failure.

And being “impeccable with your word” means sticking with it. To eradicate the possibility of missing the mark.

The best-kept secret of the tumultuous and controversial dieting world – in which every diet guru claims that their way is the only way that works – is that most diets do work in the short term… if you stick to them.

Are there best practices? Are some philosophies better than others for your long-term health and happiness? Absolutely. But if you follow any plan with consistency, honesty, and positivity, if you are truly “impeccable with your word,” you will indeed find some kind of success. 

It all comes back to love and the truth. The realness. Be comfortable with where you're at. But know where you're going. 

 

Coaching and Impeccability

I want you to find the most success. This is why I released my new program, “Sophisticate Your Nutrition,” this week. As a personal trainer, I also have to be impeccable with my word, and in my case, that means using my expertise to give my clients the best possible tools to succeed in achieving their fitness goals. It also means being honest about what doesn’t work.

As I wrote in my blog post last week, moderation doesn’t work for most people, because most people don’t have the skills or habits to get moderation to work for them. 

Cookie-cutter plans don’t work for everyone because we are are all inherently too different, from biology to lifestyle. 

Meal plans don’t work in the long term because they are restrictive and lacking in intuitive instruction. 

And you absolutely should not need to play Jedi mind tricks with your brain for the rest of your life, trying to convince yourself that you're super content with where you're at. You are not ever obligated to accept relative mediocrity.

Your love for your body should be inherent and easy, not instructed. 

My new program, “Sophisticate Your Nutrition,” will literally teach you how to eat, so that you can incorporate the principles of impeccability that you need for success, freedom, and happiness… into your eating lifestyle. To be the truly confident body positive badass you can be.

Want to Sophisticate Your Nutrition? Learn how you can work with Ashleigh for less than the cost of two training sessions, PLUS a bonus** 3-month strength and conditioning program. 

The Truth About Moderation

Moderation works for me. 

 

I am a ten year fit pro. I've counted macros. I've leaned out for figure competitions. I've cut weight to be lighter on the track. I've adjusted my eating habits to ensure strength gains on the platform. 

 

I have practiced being lean countless times.

 

Right now, what I say is, I’m "being good" on the weekdays and making a mess on the weekends.

 

There’s an average of three pints of ice cream disappearing from my freezer each week. Every Friday night is a cheeseburger with two patties and a large side of fries. Every Saturday, I toss back a few tequilas or a few ciders. But the rest is on point.

 

Without training for 4 out of 12 weeks, I lost ten pounds in three months. There was never a day I didn’t wake up to the same old six-pack. 

 

I feel great and it’s EASY.

 

But you need to know, that on a certain level, when I tell you I'm not trying, I'm really just LYING.

 

Throughout the day I'm mindlessly making better choices, monitoring what my body feels like, and analyzing what it needs. I'm pooling from my knowledge and experience every time I make a decision about food.

 

Is it effortless at this point? Yeah, it is. I’m not really lying. If you know me, you know I’m really incapable of that kind of crime. 

 

The truth is, I barely realize I'm doing it.

 

But, it was work to come out the other side with this level of intuition about my body’s nutritional needs. I had to learn how to eat.  And I’ve been sharpening this skill for the better part of a decade.

 

I want you to remember this realization when another fit pro tells you they are “taking it easy,” or “just practicing moderation.” All the while posting shredded out selfies and you're over here like "Why doesn't it JUST work like that for me?!?" 

 

DO NOT get frustrated and DO NOT compare yourself. 

 

DO NOT even get angry at these folks. I believe that most of the time, people have the best of intentions and really want to help. The insta fit pros included.

 

Moderation is not for everyone. No need to fuss over that fact.

 

You are probably doing the absolute best you can with what you know. And should you want to know more -- to get to whatever the next level is for you -- to get to the point where it's easy for YOU... Find a coach who's going to tell you the #truth #sophisticated strength

 

Are you ready to know more? 

I've been practicing for ten years and I have finally compiled my experiences and expertise into the definitive course that will teach you HOW TO EAT. Learn all my secrets to effortless eating here ---> SOPHISTICATE YOUR NUTRITION