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nutrition

How to Structure a Well-Lived Life

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How to Structure a Well-Lived Life

As the year is well on its way towards spring, it is likely that ‘we’ - San Francisco professionals - are feeling overwhelmed. As much as we’d like to structure our time to live a more balanced lifestyle, we end up prioritizing our careers over our health, personal development, and loved ones. What we’re always telling ourselves to do, and what we may often try to do, is “find time”. This, however, should be looked at differently - you need to make time.

As San Francisco professionals, we value knowledge, and we value experiences. We trust experts to help us, whether it’s through online research, counseling, or coaching services. However, do we really take full advantage of these insights and services? Or do we just go through the motions to get a little help, without actually living the lessons that we’re taught? The key to forward progress in almost any aspect of life is structure (funny, I know, coming from a guy whose thoughts are always racing a million miles per hour). However, what I’ve come to notice about myself, my family, employees, and my hundreds of clients and athletes over the years is that what gets us off track is the lack of effort in structuring our lives. After interviewing some of our top P4L athletes, we found that one of the main cravings that they have is the need for more balance in their lives, and the need for more structure in their training regimens.

What I would recommend is this: ask for help. Yes, you heard me. This actually means two things. The first: hire someone to help you with the lack of structure in a given area. If your nutrition is out of whack, make it more of a priority and hire a nutrition expert or food-delivery service to help guide you. However, there’s a second component many people lose sight of after hiring an expert or purchasing a service. Setting expectations with them about how the service is structured and making clear what you need from them is essential to success. Take a moment from time to time to reassess the value you’re deriving from the service, and also to note any progress made. From there, you can decide whether the progress is coming along great or is subpar at best. There should always be ample opportunity for discussions around how you and the expert expect to improve the structure of the program if you feel that it’s lacking. Make sure to keep in mind what’s realistically attainable in the time that you’ve given yourself. Overall, remember to not get discouraged. Structure is a good thing, and so are goals, but if you don’t reach them, keep moving forward. A little forward progress is better than no forward progress at all.

Structure helps us get the most out of our time, our services, and our lives in general. Here at Perform For Life, every new athlete’s fitness journey begins with a designed alliance: a contract that outlines the expectations of both trainer and athlete. This gives the athlete the chance to talk about his/her goals, requests, or even any worries they may have, while also giving the trainer a chance to discuss their planned exercise program structure and to get the athlete’s thoughts on it. We want to ensure that the athlete is involved in the plan every step of the way, and also that the plan is always aligned with the athlete’s goals. Goals often change, as do people, and that should always be expressed so that the trainer can adjust the structure of the program accordingly.

We know that structure is essential to success in almost all facets of life. At Perform For Life, it’s the key to our athlete’s success. Make a structured plan, stick to it, and go forth to achieve your goals.


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Earn Your Carbs

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Earn Your Carbs

As much as people argue otherwise, ultimately, the most important piece of being successful in altering body composition is energy balance (i.e. how much energy do you expend relative to the amount that you intake). There are a lot of variables that alter energy balance and create some nuance in truly figuring this out, but the old adage of "move more and eat less" is basically true - assuming your goal is fat loss.

There are a ton of diets out they're preaching all kinds of food restrictions. There’s paleo, which suggests you need to eat things that we’ve been eating as a species for some arbitrarily long amount of time. You have intermittent fasting, which basically suggests you skip breakfast and eat only in a small window of time during each day (or sometimes fast for entire days). You’ve got ketogenic diets, which restrict you from eating anything that has more than an insignificant amount of carbohydrate in it. There are, of course, many many more. What do all these diets have in common? They cause you to decrease net caloric intake. Paleo causes you to ingest fewer calories by mostly consisting of foods that are very satiating and have a lower amount of processing, meaning that the thermic effect of food is higher (it’s harder for the body to digest, and thus, it takes more energy to do so). Intermittent fasting simply makes it such that you don’t ingest as much food because it’s hard to overeat in such a small eating window. Ketogenic, or low carb, dieting is the one most relevant to the topic today. It succeeds by removing a massive source of calories in our modern, plentiful diets.

Carbs get a bad rap, and for misguided reasons. I do think removing carbohydrates from your diet works for fat loss, but it’s not because carbohydrates are "bad for you." The problem is that carbohydrates, especially in some of the forms we find them today, tend to be our greatest source of empty calories. Think about the things that people overeat: pasta, rice, breads, desserts, soft drinks, etc. All of these things are primarily carbohydrate-based. In my opinion, there are a few reasons this tends to happen. First of all, we have simply been conditioned to recognize what actually amounts to several servings of carbs as being a single serving. I’m not sure how or why this has become the norm over time, but usually the amount of rice or pasta we put on our plate, or the serving size found at a restaurant, is actually several servings of carbs. Second, the type of processing carbs are subjected to means that they’re a great way to sneak in a lot of extra fat and/or sugar into a package of the same size. A great example is french fries. Potatoes are actually a very healthy food, but if you deep fry them, they absorb a huge number of extra calories from the oil. Additional processing can also reduce the thermic effect of food by “pre-digesting” some component of the food (so your body doesn’t have to expend as much energy to digest it) and can also make it less satiating (so you feel less satisfied, likely leading to overeating). Another great example is a pastry at a coffee shop. You can easily find a muffin at Starbucks in excess of 700 calories. For a small and sedentary female, that might be half the intake, or more, she needs to consume for the day to successfully lose fat. A Starbucks muffin does not keep you satiated for very long, either - the tradeoff between calorie consumption and nutritional value/satisfaction is very poor. Finally, carbs are a great vehicle for sauces, which is another large source of extra calories. In a place like SF with a great food scene, you find tons of aiolis, gravys, and cream sauces. While they may be delicious, they’re usually very calorically dense. The vehicle on which you often find these things is some form of carbohydrate.

I’m not telling you to stop eating carbs, but I do want to a propose a solution. Because these foods tend to be the most dense source of calories out there, I suggest “earning your carbs.” What I mean is this: don’t feed yourself starchy carbs unless you earn them through expending a decent amount of energy. Otherwise, stick to fruits and vegetables for carbs. So, if you go on a hike, hit the gym, walk 3 miles home from work instead of taking the train, or something along those lines, allow yourself some starchy carbs. This does two things: it only allows the most calorie-dense foods to be consumed when you balance out the other end of the energy balance equation (energy expenditure), and it promotes being more active. Do you want to stay home all day on Sunday and watch Netflix and chill with your significant other? Fine! However, you’ll be eating only protein, fruits, and veggies for the day - you didn’t do enough to earn anything more than that. Let’s flip it and say you’re traveling and hike for several hours to see a beautiful view of the town you’re visiting. Great! You expended a lot of extra energy, so go enjoy that pasta dish you’ve been wanting to try later that night. Let’s say you do something somewhere in the middle. Your day is largely sedentary, except you get in the gym and do some weight training for an hour. Alright, you weren’t totally lazy today, but you didn’t go on an epic all-day hike either. In this case, the meal after you work out can include a sensible amount of starchy carbs in it. For some kind of reference, jogging or walking a mile expends around 100 calories (This does vary pretty significantly, depending on body weight). So, in order to work off the 700 calories you consumed with that Starbucks muffin, you need to walk or jog about 7 miles. Keep that simple rule of thumb in mind next time you succumb to an impulse food purchase like that.

This is not a hard-and-fast rule. I don’t like giving people overly restrictive suggestions when it comes to cleaning up their diet. Most of the time, I think that’s a recipe for failure. However, I do think this strategy is a useful proxy for balancing energy expenditure with energy intake, hopefully helping you lose fat or maintain your weight if that’s what you want. Go forth and sensibly include delicious carbs in your diet, and I’ll catch you in the next blog!

 


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Hunger : An Overlooked Dieting Tool

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Hunger : An Overlooked Dieting Tool

If you’ve ever been told that you shouldn’t be hungry while dieting for fat loss, then you’ve been lied to. It sounds nice to be reassured that hunger is not a necessary part of dieting. However, if you really think about it, dieting is simply controlled starvation. You are intentionally forcing your body to eat away it’s precious fat stores, which it saves for a rainy day (a.k.a. a day that you are starving). I know that sounds terrible, but that’s only because of the plentiful lifestyles we lead. We are not used to being hungry because of how readily available food has become.

Let me clarify my earlier statements just a bit: if you’re constantly hungry while dieting, then you’re probably dieting to an unnecessary extreme. Conversely, if you never experience hunger while dieting, then you’re likely not ever creating a significant enough calorie deficit to make a noticeable change to the amount of fat you’re storing. Our body’s hunger signals are a finely-tuned mechanism that help to alert us when we start tapping into our body’s energy reserves. My suggestion is that once you start experiencing hunger signals, sit on that sensation for a couple of hours before immediately satiating yourself. I think this is one of the most underutilized dieting tools in existence. Why not use your built-in mechanism for detection of energy balance rather than using complicated formulas - formulas that are merely estimating what your body is already good at measuring?

I know this sounds crazy, extreme, or unhealthy, but being hungry isn’t dangerous. In fact, there is a growing body of evidence that some amount of fasting is actually beneficial for health. Again, most people in our society just used to never experiencing hunger, so when we do, it can be very uncomfortable. Let me clarify once again: when I describe experiencing hunger, I am talking about true physiological hunger, not the psychological taste hunger that all of us experience when we have cravings for something. You know, the sensation where your stomach is growling and and feels as though it’s eating itself. That is what you want to experience for a couple of hours before eating.

There are some advantages to using this tool to help you properly moderate calorie intake. Unless you’re planning your consumption in pre-proportioned meals, it’s hard to count calories accurately. Eating out or heaping leftovers into a tupperware that you haven’t measured leads to eating an unknown amount of food. Healthy choices or not, you can gain or lose fat eating any type of food out there if the calorie balance is adjusted accordingly. With that in mind, having a tool that helps to adjust when you have an unusually small or large meal is very helpful. If you have a massive dinner out with friends, you may not be hungry first thing when you wake up the next morning. You don’t need to force breakfast down just because “it’s the most important meal of the day.” Basically, using hunger as a guide is inherently very adaptable to things that occur in our lives every day.

Hunger isn’t just a tool that can be used between meals either. Using satiety and hunger signals in the middle of eating a meal can be very helpful as well. Try to avoid eating until you feel stuffed, bloated, and gross. Slow down your eating a bit so that satiety signals can kick in, and you have time to experience the sensation of being sufficiently fed without overdoing it. Thankfully, that between meal hunger I was talking about earlier will help regulate things properly if you overdo it. If you go until you’re stuffed (Let’s be real; it’s going to happen sometimes), then you will likely not experience hunger for a longer period of time than if you ate to mere satisfaction instead.

I know this can sound a little hokey compared to all the detailed diets you can find out there. However, I truly think that this system can be very effective if you’re honest with yourself and develop the connection to your body’s built-in signaling mechanisms. The more tools that help us live the lifestyle we want while achieving our goals the better. Now go forth, and be hungry with a purpose!


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5 Ways to Get Excited About Your Packed Lunch

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5 Ways to Get Excited About Your Packed Lunch

Day after day, we tend to be creatures of habit, and that will more often than not be reflected in what you eat. Bringing your lunch to work can seem like a drag and a hassle, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are 5 ways to spice up your packed lunch!

1. Ditch the salad.

Don’t dread what you eat - switch out your salad for zoodles (zucchini noodles)! They’re super easy to make, and you can top them with your favorite salad toppings. Zoodles can be treated like pasta, so you can top them with your favorite protein and sauce of choice to get your pasta fix. Grab a spiralizer on Amazon to help make your zoodle dreams come to life!

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2. Amp up the flavor.

If you’re bored of salt and pepper, try some other flavors to add to your protein or sauce. For those of you that like spice, adding in cayenne pepper or even smoked paprika can give your meal a nice kick. A quick teriyaki sauce only takes 3 ingredients: 2 parts soy sauce, 1 part rice vinegar, and a little honey.  

3. Fill your sandwich with color and texture.

If you’re a sandwich person, ditch the boring cold cuts. Treating yourself to shaved turkey from the deli adds a more rustic feel to your lunch and can alleviate your lunch box blues. Adding texture to your sandwich also helps - take a look at a banh mi: typically made with carrots and cucumber, which add freshness and a nice crunch.

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4. It's all about the presentation.

Who doesn’t like presents?! If you don’t want to change up what you’re eating, packaging your food differently can make you more excited to eat at work. There are plenty of great bento-style boxes to store your food on Amazon or other food-related websites. A little homage to the cafeteria tray can spark a friendly lunchtime conversation with co-workers. Using a bento box allows you to portion the components of your meal, giving you a better idea of just how much you’re truly eating.

5. Treat yourself!

You may occasionally be okay with the monotony of eating the same thing every day, but cravings may still arise. If you’re craving the ice cream, let yourself have the ice cream! Grab a friend from work and plan a dessert outing for later in the week - by the end of the week, you’ll have something to look forward to during lunchtime.

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These little tips can be very helpful when stuck in a rut with your food. Don’t be afraid to try a new recipe or to get out of your comfort zone! You never know - you may even inspire others with your creativity. Now, get out there and eat!


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Lessons on Loving Yourself

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Lessons on Loving Yourself

A DAY IN THE LIFE

My average day looks a little like this -  It starts with a 20-30 minute commute to work. I clock in, check my inboxes, and get to work. Four hours later, I tend to get hungry, so I might go walk to a nearby cafe or grocery store to grab a quick bite to eat. Back to work, and I'm grinding until it's 5 PM, and now I'm getting "hangry" and restless, but it's almost time to go home. 6 PM -it's time to clock out. My eyes are fried from looking at the screen all day. My fingertips have probably punched thousands of keys. My index finger feels lost without my trackpad, and my body is sore from sitting at a desk.

My name is Emily, and I am the Marketing and Graphic Design Coordinator here at Perform for Life. Before I start talking about my journey to healthyness, I'll give you a little background on who I am and what my life is like. I recently graduated from the University of San Francisco, and I quickly jumped into "adulting." My way of doing that was working multiple jobs to pay for rent for the first time in my life, but working at this gym specifically has made me realize how unhealthy and unbalanced my life has been.

When you read the P4L blogs, you're used to hearing from an expert. I am just an everyday person, and honestly, I've never been fit or athletic. Let's take it back in time - I was the kid who was picked last or finished last in the mile. The other kids used to make fun of me and say, "You're skinny, why are you last?" This made me even more shy about exercising because I felt that my body type gave people the expectation that I must be fit. 

In college, I was blessed with gym membership at Koret...but I only went to eat their sandwiches. I was intimidated by all the "gym rats," and I couldn't even bring myself to work out with my friends, because I was self-conscious about the way my body moved or that I was doing it wrong. Long story short - I've never worked out and this needed to change.


THE WHY

I decided to embark on this journey for a few reasons.

  1. Simply put, I need to move more! A sedentary life makes me restless and damages my body in the process. If I'm in my twenties, why do I feel like such a grandma on the inside? 
  2. My energy tank is feeling low, and I'm going to have to start paying attention to what I'm eating. Was the food I was eating making me feel sluggish?
  3. I want to look and feel good. I want to feel confident in my body as a whole and comfortable in my own skin. My overall goal is to have a better relationship with my body.

THE PLAN

  • Personal training once a week for 3 months.
  • Swing dancing or another form of exercise at least once a week for 3 months.
  • A focus on a low-glycemic diet every day for 3 months to help me store less fat and get more complex carbohydrates instead of simple sugars. 
  • Cutting down on some of my guilty pleasures - cookies, pastries, and boba.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED IN 2 WEEKS

1. The more people there are involved, the more exciting it is. Happiness and healthyness are contagious. My boyfriend felt inspired and joined me along the way, my bosses are helping me figure out ways to eat better, and sometimes people occasionally cheer me on or check up on me. If you're doing it alone, it's harder to keep yourself accountable.

2. Being healthy is an investment in yourself and your future. Everything adds up quickly, especially as someone who didn't have a good diet or workout routine as a part of her life before. I bought new shoes, new clothes, and new food. Plus, if I wasn't already working here, I would've had to search and pay for a gym and personal trainer.

3. It's super hard to be a one woman crew with a whole lot of extras. Now, this is more on the technical side, but working out while recording myself or just editing the videos, in general, is a lot of work to manage on my own.

 
This is an example of one of my set-ups.

This is an example of one of my set-ups.

 

4. You're stronger than you believe. I'll admit, I am a carb queen! I love love love bread, and I've always loved sweets. It's been hard for me to resist sugar, because I never realized how many things had added sugars.

5. Social settings can be hard, and I feel like there's a stigma around being on a "diet." I put it in quotation marks because I'm basically weaning myself off of processed foods. I also often feel shy about telling people I'm changing my diet, because from my exterior appearance, they would assume I am trying to get skinnier. Let's face it - here in San Francisco, we've got a lot of great food, and it's hard to go out with friends and not eat all of the things I used to eat so freely. The first day of my low-glycemic diet my boyfriend decided to take me out on a date - let's just say I started the diet the next day.

6. These minor changes have fueled the foundation for a better me. It's like Emily 2.0. Upon exercising and eating healthier, I started wanting to do more to keep improving myself and taking better care of my body.

7. I really crave the taste and feeling of eating cookies. My favorite dessert is a freshly baked, chewy chocolate chip cookie, and I've been thinking about it every day since I started. Dark chocolate alone and Arctic Zero just aren't enough.

8. It's challenging to prioritize meal prepping. For one, I don't usually like eating the same thing all week. Plus, by the time I get home, I'm exhausted. As someone who works an office job, I find myself eating out more often than not, but I'm working on it!

 
 

9. I'm crooked! In high school, my godmother stopped making a dress for me, because she said my shoulders were uneven. During my first session with Brandon, I discovered she was right! One of my shoulders is higher from the other (as seen in the photos below), so we're working on correcting that.

10. Cheat day turns into cheat week, and suddenly, you've fallen off the tracks. My best friend and I went to Ghiradelli Square this past weekend, and I caved. I got a strawberry nutella crepe AND clam chowder bread bowl. From that day on, I had been craving cookies more often and found myself cheating more frequently. Justine has reminded me of the 80/20 rule (or sometimes 70/30), which allows me to eat the things that I loved before but in moderation and to not judge myself for it. We're all human. This is a process.

 
This is the smile of someone who was overjoyed to be eating a crepe after over a week or not having sugar.

This is the smile of someone who was overjoyed to be eating a crepe after over a week or not having sugar.

 

Follow Emily's P4L journey on our Instagram and Snapchat to see more videos like this!


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