nutrition

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.

The Sophisticated Way To Tackle the Holidays

It's my favorite time of year!

The windows at Saks. Choosing gifts for my loved ones. Cuddling up on the couch with my siblings to watch Christmas movies. Getting together with old friends. The good cheer from strangers on the street.

I love it all.

And let us not forget the holiday parties and traditional meals!

Don't even talk to me about Paleo this or that. I have a list for Saturday's Thanksgiving shopping and the first item on it is butter. The second is vodka.

I'm going to keep this post short, because we're all about to be very short on time; and for very good reason.

Do yourself a favor. Don't go overboard in the gym. Don't restrict yourself. And don't look on the upcoming temptations to indulge, with any kind of dread. 

Stay consistent with your fitness. Give your body what it needs to feel good. And be present in the moment. 

These practices are easier said than done. So, I'm going to give you my top tips for tackling the holidays like the cool and confident chick you are the rest of the year.

Because truthfully, a couple of cookies won't kill you, but a month of spiked cortisol from stressing over every little bite and workout might.

Prioritize Protein

If you've been through my Sophisticated Eats challenge, you know this is basically rule #1 for me. Protein helps you keep up with your physique goals and will also keep you more satisfied and full throughout the day. Translation: you won't want to eat the whole pumpkin pie, just a piece.

Get Those Greens

If you're going to eating less than stellar, planning ahead to ensure you get your greens every day will help you make the most of your nutrition through digestion, and keep your tummy happy at the same time.

Do Your Own Baking And Cooking

This one has a way bigger impact than you can imagine. Food is about sharing. Through it, we share culture and experience. Cook with family. Share recipes with coworkers. Throw a potluck with friends instead of meeting at a restaurant. Connect your brain to the process to create mindfulness. How we think about food is powerful stuff. Plus, by preparing your own dishes, you're likely avoiding excess preservatives and other gunk that can challenge your digestive system.

Stay The Course

Business as usual in the gym. There is no need to punish yourself with workouts. It's that kind of extreme behavior that sabotages our success. Start a progressive program now. Something that will keep you motivated to stay on track and empowered to fight the guilt that keeps us on the treadmill until last call. 

Don't have a program?

I'm hosting a FREE Holiday Challenge to help keep you fit through December. 25 days of workouts, plus more helpful tips. Don't have a gym? With two weights -- dumbbells of kettlebells -- and a pair of running shoes, you can do these workouts anywhere.

Plus, I'll be hosting some Facebook LIVE sessions to walk you through the program and teach you the moves. Come one. Let's beat the holidays together.

SIGN UP NOW!

The Ultimate Photo Shoot Prep Protocol

I Was Wrong

As a seasoned lifestyle coach and fitness model(I'ma use that second title loosely), I used to handle planned cuts as a "Do as I say, not as I do," sort of thing. I'd carry around my gallon jug of Poland Spring and answer the inquiries of my clients all day long, but still warn them NOT to try this at home. 

I can be really stalwart sometimes, almost to a fault. My heart is always in the right place. I simply don’t want people to think that a shredding protocol is a normal, every-day-appropriate kind of thing. That’s just not the kind of platform I want to find myself shouting from. And I so dearly love to shout.

I mean — cuts are only for momentous, life-changing events, like baring butt cheeks on Instagram or strutting the bodybuilding stage in stripper heels, covered in nine layers of tanning gunk. The real deal, body-on-display kinda shit, right?

IMG_1055.JPG

But, after the past few years, I’ve experienced a revelation. I have radically changed my philosophy, realizing now that my inflexibility was actually misplaced righteousness and a blemish on my credibility.  All because I've gotten the chance to work with clients who became my best girlfriends. 

The Brides Changed Everything

I train a lot of brides. I've built a respected name on the bridal boot camp circuit in NYC. And I've prided myself on getting my gorgeous girls sustainably skinny, something they can maintain well past the big day.

But no matter how many inches we eliminate from their waistlines (five in six months on my last beauty, Meghan, pictured below), they always ask about that little something extra they can do the week before; quite obviously hinting at my #1weekout progress checks on social media. 

The gorgeous, Meghan.

The gorgeous, Meghan.

Now, as I said, when it comes to my brides, we usually end up transcending the traditional trainer-client relationship. We might only be #sweatingforthewedding six months in advance, but we go through a major stage of life together.

It's an honor, really, all the trust they place in me. We talk about exes and go to dress fittings and gossip about in-laws… everything I'll do with my best friends when they get married.

That particular personal perspective really changed everything for me -- thinking of my girls as friends rather than clients. Really shifted the authoritative do-as-I-say mantra. 

I realized I had only one question to consider. If my girl, Lauren, asked me over drinks what she should do to get her body looking it’s absolute best on her big day, how would I answer?

Let's be real. I would grab a cocktail napkin and start jotting down the protocol immediately.

And here's why...

The first and least important fact is that if I don't give these ladies or my friends the answers they're looking for, they will find an answer. Because the internet. And who knows what kind of wild and crazy advice they'll end up following after that search. I googled the subject myself, and anything that appears on the first results page is woefully misinformed or simply incomplete. 

The second, and more important truth is this:  the altar, chuppah, beach or whatever holy ground they stand upon to exchange those vows is way more significant than any auditorium stage I will ever strut across in a fitness competition. 

You better believe that should I ever choose to make that matrimonial commitment(and I have no designs on any kind of big expensive event even), I'll look better on my wedding day than I have in my whole life. I am not even a little bit ashamed of my vanity or femininity in wanting to look and feel beautiful for myself or whomever stands next to me at the courthouse(should I be so lucky to want to). 

I'd help my best friend cut for literally any important event. I do it myself. I refuse to be a hypocrite.

And if you've got a major life event or photo shoot that you want to look absolutely on point for? Well, you have absolutely every right to. So while I generally promote sustainable change, for the sake of my integrity, I am not going to be the girl to tell you no. In fact, I plan to give you all of my time-tested, trial-and-error secrets in a three-week plan below.  

You Can Get Lucky But...

The third and most important reason has more to do with confidence. But we need to talk a little science, here.

Pictured Left: 1 day out from the shoot picture Right: looking significantly leaner and meaner

Some days you just get lucky. You wake up and look shredded. Your muscles are defined. Your tummy is tight and flat. Everything you hope to look in the mirror and see, is before your eyes. So you praise yourself for your hard work and good choices. You proceed to avoid carbs all day and hit some extra cardio because you are on a roll here! Its's working. You are the most motivated! And the next day BAM, you look kinda bloated and your muscles seem to have disappeared. 

What the fuck, right?

This is because the of the chemical bonding properties of glucose. We could get really into it, but the short story is, your carb molecules bond really easily with water. So the more carbs you eat, the more water you tend to hold onto.

And we all know salt can help our bodies retain water well, too.

All of these things don't really matter from day to day. It's just a little bit of chemistry -- getting the perfect balance of water, salt, and carbs. If you're really lean, you'll look it no matter what. I promise you. Just stay the course and follow your regular training plan. 

But, if you do happen to have a special occasion, and there is real possibility to get it just right... Why leave it to chance? 

Now, I’m not going to try and sell you on the shred. That is again, not my soap box. But there is this truth:

My typical bride is standing between Stella McCartney and an over-zealous mother-in-law(WHY are they ALWAYS like this?) while a pretty major life event looms ahead.

If I can ensure they don’t wake up and text me “I feel bloated” on top of everything else they’re dealing with? 

You bet your bottom I'm going to do everything possible to help. To know they can (and will!) look their absolute bests is one more worry off their(and mine!) minds. 

And when it comes down to it. the real thing we’re talking about here is the confidence that comes with knowing you are prepared and feeling you look your best. It’s really the psychological shift that occurs.

I mean, if you care enough to have come across this article in your research, I know you’ve done the work and you’ll look gorgeous anyway. I can't stress that enough. 

But, like I said, I wouldn’t leave it to chance either. I’m a 28-year-old single girl in New York City. Damn straight I'm gonna make sure I rock that dress, slay the stage, nail the audition, or totally shove it in an ex’s face(I’m a righteous BRAT sometimes, too), if that’s what the occasion calls for.

This is a four week program but we're going to break it into parts. Four weeks out, five days out, and one day out from your intended date.

Note: My brides DO NOT do the full water cut at the end of this article. I have an abridged version for special occasions. Shoot me an e-mail if you have interest in that. I also post about quick cutting on snapchat.
I learned what I know from a couple years on the figure circuit and further years building a portfolio and going to auditions.

I learned what I know from a couple years on the figure circuit and further years building a portfolio and going to auditions.

6 Months Out

You thought this was a four week plan? It is. But, it must be stated that to look any level of shredded on the other side, you need to be doing a dedicated strength training program in the first place. And you also need to be eating healthy to begin with. 

This protocol is somewhat of a magic trick, but even magic has limitations. There has to be muscle to strip water and fat off of, to get that defined look. Hypertrophy does not happen overnight. 

My client Kim followed a very solid program, lifting three days per week to get arms that were the envy of all of her wedding guests. My jaw literally dropped when the texts started coming in the day after. 

Kim trained with the very complimentary intentions of building strength and improving mobility in mind. So, look for a program that is progressive and contains the big, traditional lifts. Deadlift. Squat. Bench. Pull-up. 

I happen to be an expert on this subject. BUT, I also think you can find some awesome programs or coaching by Nia Shanks, Jordan Syatt, or Dan John, to name a few. These are a few people I respect. And I've personally used a few different Dan John programs like Easy Strength to get to a show.

It’s also a perfect time to start a solid creatine regimen if you’re into that sort of thing. Creatine is naturally occurring in the body and has a load of benefits listed here by Poliquin Group that will result in superior strength and physique gains.

4 Weeks Out

Food

Take three weeks to carb cycle. And that’s nothing more than eating more carbs one day, and relatively less the next day. On high carb days, get your rice and potatoes, your starchier carbs. On your low carb days, focus on looking for healthy fats: coconut oil, salmon, avocado, egg yolks, cashews, even butter if it’s grass-fed good stuff. Fill in with fruits where you need them to feel fresh and energetic.

On all days, primary to your fat and carb considerations, prioritize protein. Josh Hillis, Co-author of Fat Loss Happens on Monday, says that you need at least .75g protein per pound of body weight to lose fat. I completely agree. I think for this particular three weeks you should even strive for 1.0g. In fact, I advise my clients who are trying to get EXTREMELY lean,  competition-ready, to hit 1.2.

Know where you fall on this spectrum. Consider things like how much you are consuming now and what your end aesthetic goal looks like when choosing your sweet spot. For instance, if you are currently at .7g, hitting .85 or .9 every day is life-changing. You don't need to force anything more.

Prioritizing protein also intrinsically controls the amounts of fat and carbohydrate you consume. For this very reason, it’s not terribly important to have exact numbers in those categories as you increase protein. You’ll just be less hungry and naturally cut those things by listening to your body. 

Some other miscellaneous things

  • Kiersten Weber-Schunke (Nutritionist and Elite Trainer at ONE Human Performance) taught me to eat as many leafy greens as possible. All that extra spinach ensures you can better metabolize all the extra protein you’ve added. If you have some stomach issues and greens are tough to digest, try cooking them, blending them down or utilizing a green supplement like Onnit Earth Grown Nutrients
  • Branched-chain amino acids during and post-workout are another great add-in. Consider that your muscles are the back-bone of the fat-loss machine you are building. They get beat up when you exercise. A BCAA supplement will stop them from breaking down and preserve your fat-blasting tools.
  • Keep your feeding window under 12 hours. So if you eat dinner at 7pm, don’t break the fast until 7am. I’ve found that, if possible, shortening to 8 or 9 hours is ideal. Note: You still need to eat the same amount of food you would have in this smaller time frame.

Training

Less is more. Seriously. This is not the time to forget your head and break all the rules to #sweateveryday. Especially since, from a fat-loss standpoint, it’s much more optimal to split your strength and cardio into two different sessions. You could easily alternate lifting one day, and sprinting or rowing the next for the two weeks, taking a day off if your body tells you it needs a break — waking up tired, having trouble falling asleep, significant drop in power output or strength… just feeling BLAH is also valid here. Like I said, stress loss is synonymous with fat loss. Don't allow the devil on your shoulder, the impending date, to take control here.

On your lifting days, focus on some heavy volume. Lift relatively heavy weight for more reps than you’ve been doing.  But do not, I repeat, DO NOT go to failure. Lots of shredding protocols recommend failure sets. I think this is silly. You’ve got to focus on getting strong, so leave some reps in the tank. Note: this is also a great day to be low carb.

On your cardio days, focus on high intensity intervals with more than enough rest (like 1:3 or 1:2) and amp your rounds to 8-12 intervals. And get creative here: 45 sec runs with 90 sec breaks; 30 sec sprints with 2 min breaks. Stop when you know you could do one more, but you’d be slower. Don't make me tell you again about failure.... Note: This is a great day to be high carb. Situate some carb servings before and after the cardio workout.

Sleep

Get at least 8 hours every night. When I’m in photo-shoot prep mode, I shoot for 10 hours on the weekends. And if I wasn’t on the weekday grind I’d be at ten all week. Your body needs time to repair. Workouts are sophisticated breakdowns, with the hope that the body responds by building itself to be even better than it was before. But most of this happens while you catch some z’s. So getting a bare minimum of eight hours is ideal.

It’s also good to pay attention to your nightly routine. Inability to fall asleep quickly can be an indicator of significant deficits like dehydration or insufficient carb intake. Or it could be as simple as what I call tech scramble. Stay away from screens and artificial lights as these things can mess with your brain and circadian rhythm. Use natural dim light from candles and turn off your cell phone prior to bedtime.

Miscellaneous

Recovery is the name of the game. During this time, I like to ensure I don't miss yoga, I get some extra cryotherapy sessions in, and I just generally focus on body care and regeneration. Schedule your float tank sessions, your facials, or your massages in this three week period.

One of my faves, taken the day before a figure competition

One of my faves, taken the day before a figure competition

 5 Days Out

 Food

Cut yourself down to almost zero carbs. Ok people, I know that literally everything has some amount of carbs! But stick to mostly lean meats and veggies for the next four days. A handful of berries here and there is fine to get your energy going. Also, to preserve your lean muscle and stay fresh, get at least two servings of BCAA before and after your workouts.

Note: This “no carb diet” is NOT sustainable. You go past 10-14 days and you will absolutely hurt your body and hit a wall in progress. This particular part of the cut was the reason I initially hesitated to let my clients try it. It’s easy to get caught up in the satisfaction of the daily transformation you’ll see and try to stretch it out longer or try it too often. Let me be clear. IT DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT. You’ll lose fat first. And then very shortly after, you’ll lose your mind.

#eatcarbs

Water

Your muscles are made of water and there is also lots of water sitting on top of them, just below the skin. The trick is to get rid of that subcutaneous water and hope that the muscles can retain some to create that magical shredded effect exactly when you want it. It's really not that much hocus-pocus. It's fairly simple if you follow this protocol.

We kick off the process by getting your body to start flushing water. And how do you achieve that? By drinking wayyy too much. So much, that your body just starts throwing it out as fast as it comes in.

Your goal is to get at least 2.5 gallons of water per day, 3 if you have the constitution. So prepare yourself for all of the meathead jokes: the easiest way to track is to get a gallon jug and fill it and empty it 3 times per day. Do this until 10-12 hours out from the event. Then you'll have new instructions.

This is how you get super dry/cut abs pictured above. 

This is how you get super dry/cut abs pictured above. 

Training

Keep up the density on your lifting days. But you may want to ditch the cardio here. If it eases your mind or helps you handle stress of last minute changes to your charger plates (another nod to my brides), I’ll give you the go-ahead for a little easy steady state, like walking up a hill. But your kidneys are already under stress. Extra sweat and adrenaline action is pushing your luck. Plus, you're also pushing your luck with inflammation. Don't need it.

Note: You definitely don’t want to work out at all the day before the event. But, two days is often better. This allows natural post workout inflammation to completely dissipate.

1 Day Out

Food

Bring back the carbs! You actually get a small serving at each meal here. Bonus, if you look flat at the end of the day — That undefined, deflated, WHERE DID MY MUSCLES GO? look, eat dessert. Full permission to indulge in anything you want. I typically reach for a brownie with ice cream on top or pizza and ice cream(ok, not together). But that's just me. I respond well to ice cream. I actually believe my body looks better on dairy (for real). If you know something upsets your stomach, like gluten can be another one, avoid it. Back to that inflammation fear again.

If there’s time for another normal meal the next day or later in the day(depending on what time your event is), treat it normally. Eat a regular old meal. Protein, carb, fat, green. 

Water

Stop drinking water at your intended time (10-12 hours out). If you really want your muscles to look extra round, and not everyone is out to look jacked, I get that, go to Whole Foods and grab a bottle of vegetable glycerin (in the body care section). Two tablespoons at night and two in the a.m on the morning of. The glycerin helps suck any leftover subcutaneous water back into the muscle, giving you that extra pumped-up fitness-y specific look.

This is also the time you want to use any natural diuretics you may have in mind. My go-to? A little bit of cooked asparagus. I won’t judge any choice you make in this department. But PLEASE, keep it simple and natural. Lots of bodybuilders swear by dandelion root. 

Salt

Keep your sodium intake up throughout the day. I don't address this one at all specifically. It's a HUGE deal, yes. However, if you just ensure that you get adequate salt, you're going to hit it just fine. I've tried manipulating it. Going from no salt to increased intake. It was really just annoying and made little difference. 

1 Hour Out

Call me superstitious, but an hour before a power-lifting meet, I ALWAYS chug a can of cola. It's an old tradition my coach, Mark Leibowitz, had me adopt to get me revved up. But I also found it did wonders for my physique. I'd start a little under–watered, not drinking a thing before a meet (even skipping my coffee and breakfast) before weigh-in. Then, I’d step off the scale, carb up, and-BAM- that magic moment of shredded perfection. And don't be messing with that diet crap. You need at least half of a Coke heavy here. Wash it down with another teaspoon of glycerin if you choose.

***CAUTION You cannot just go chug a bottle of water after this

You have stressed your kidneys in the process. I typically finish out my figure competitions with a beer. It slows me down and ensures I begin to rehydrate slowly. BUT PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE realize that this process is stressful on the body and should be treated as such.

And now your only instructions left are to go forth and kill it. 

I’ve stepped off my hypothetical pedestal from the auditorium stage of “do as I say not as I do,” and shared my tested protocol so you really can “do as I do.” That said, if you’re committing to looking your ABSOLUTE best (and you have 100% of my support for this), I need you to commit to respecting your body. I can justify sharing these secrets ONLY with your tacit promise that you know this is NOT a viable long-term plan. This is your three-week prep to a major event that you are getting #onfleek for.

So enjoy reviewing the photographic evidence of this big day. Flip through the album. Post all over Facebook.—but remember you earned that extra flight of tequila or side of fries at the afterparty celebration…and throw out that meat-head asshole gallon jug of water, please. #leaning season #sophisticatedstrength

For contest prep or any other training needs, e-mail me at ashleigh@sophistocatedstrength.com

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 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