Its now been 3 whole weeks since Reign entered this world and its honestly so crazy to remember a time when she wasn’t part of our family. Given our public following and the fact that so many people seemed so interested and had so many questions about my pregnancy and then about my birth – I wanted to put together something to explain how our perfect daughter entered this world. Then, I didn’t want to. I felt that in telling our story – people might compare or try and draw similarities (good or bad) from their experiences and that is not at all my intention in detailing her birth story. Quite the opposite.
I finally decided to do this because if I write this all down, in detail, as its fresh in my mind – I will always have it. I can share it with Reign later on, I can always go back to those few moments before I met her, the moments I waited SO LONG for. I can relive over and over again in detail what my body went through and the effort, faith, and determination it took to get her earthside with us.
If you are reading this – please read it as a story that is totally separate of anything you have experienced or are going to experience. Just as every pregnancy is unique, every baby is unique, and every mother and family is unique – so is every birth story.
Here is ours.
SETTING THE STAGE
I want to give you just a quick recap to set the stage, and add some drama to the whole thing. I had a really “easy” and low risk pregnancy. Everything was as it should be. I stayed active, and was confident my body would know what to do when it was time. After all, I WAS CREATED FOR THIS. I talked to my doctor about wanting to deliver with as little intervention as possible. I wanted to be able to move around freely in labor and I had no intention of getting an epidural or having them use instruments unless anything was medically nessecary. I wanted my body to be able to do as much as it could on its own – uninterrupted. She was on board and suggested I work with a doula who could help me with some pain management techniques when the time came as well as helping to kickstart labor when it came time. I took her advice and we prepared for Reign’s birth as a team of 4 – my OBGYN, my doula, my husband, and myself. I had my last doctors appointment on my due date (Friday, Sept 13th). At that appointment, my doctor checked my progress and said she was pretty confident we would not see a baby that weekend. She scheduled an induction for the following Friday (the 41 week mark). I was pretty bummed with this and I remember being near tears in the shower that night over it (LOL hormones). I wanted so badly for our baby to come when she was ready and when my body was ready. I was even plotting how I was going to beg the doc for more time if Thursday night came and I was still pregnant. However, in all of that, I just kept praying. I kept praying that whatever God had planned to bring our baby into this world I was going to accept and trust that he would protect us and we would both be healthy in the end. That had been my prayer since the day of conception and it was crazy to me that 9 months later on my very due date, I was saying the same prayer. It wouldn’t be the last time.
Between that appointment and Reign’s arrival I made it my sole mission to focus all my efforts on helping my body progress as much as it could. I felt that if I got to induction day, I wanted to know I did everything I possibly could have to go into labor naturally. I went to the gym and exercised (some stair master, elliptical, walking, and squats). I took hot baths with calry sage oil, and slept with some diffused into my pillowcase. I continued to drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea and eat pineapples. I used a breast pump for nipple stimulation. I bounced on an exercise ball every chance I got. I am not sure if any of these methods helped – but they sure didn’t hurt. I was giving it my all.
EARLY LABOR (Sunday, Sept. 15th)
We had people over Saturday night. I felt really crappy all day – something was different and I had NO appetite. I didn’t want to jinx it though and I just kept thinking “its just in your head, you’ve felt this way all week”. I went to bed early and said the same prayer I said every night since the 39 week mark haha “Please God, wake me up in labor”. Sure enough my prayers were answered that night (however, I was still afraid to jinx it). At 1:00 am I woke up to really intense back pain – I checked my watch out of habit and then all of a sudden, as quick as it came, it disappeared. I decided to check my watch again, just in case – it was 2 minutes later. I fell back asleep, only to wake up to another surge of back pain about 20 minutes later. Again, I checked my watch and then checked again when it stopped. Again, 2 minutes. After this happened about 3x, almost exactly 20 minutes apart I remember thinking “THIS IS IT!” and then another voice in my head said “your back hurts silly, labor comes from your abdomen – you’re just having back pain, probably from sleeping so uncomfortably”. So, I kind of shrugged it off even though this lasted until about 5:00 am. After that one, I didn’t wake up until around 7:00 am. My husband was playing golf early that Sunday and I woke up to him getting ready. I didn’t say anything to him, again not wanting to jinx it. I figured I would let him go play golf and tell him later if it was the real thing. I mean, I hadn’t felt anything from 5-7am anyway, so it probably was nothing. I got up and went about my morning routine. I did some computer work from the exercise ball and texted my good friend Jenny (who happens to be a doctor) as well as my doula, and sister in law (who is a mom of 4) for their thoughts. They all agreed it sounded like something was happening and encouraged I move around a bit.
At around 9:00am I went out on a walk with my dog, Biggie Smalls. We walked the same 1.5 mile course we had been walking for weeks now. We did it at a pace that was almost 10 minutes slower than normal (which I didn’t realize until after I gave birth and looked back on the Fitbit data!). About half way into the walk, the back pain I felt the night before came back. This time, it was around 12-15 minute intervals, still lasting about 2:00. This is when I started tracking it on my app. Jenny had mentioned something about “back labor” and so I figured this is how it was going to be for me – I would simply feel contractions in my back instead of my abdomen (maaaannnn I had NO IDEA what I was in for with this!). By the time I was approaching my driveway at the end of the walk, I was wincing in pain – it felt like someone was starting to hammer on my tailbone and I knew all I wanted to do was take a hot shower and try to lay down.
Before getting in the shower, I noticed some discharge I knew meant baby was on its way. However, I still wasn’t sure HOW SOON that would mean, I just was pretty confident it was the real thing at this point. I laid down and tried to take a nap, thinking I was likely in for a pretty long night ahead and then weeks and months of little sleep when Reign came. It seemed like the best idea in the moment, however the back pain was getting worse and worse, and closer and closer together (now about 8:00 apart consistently) so falling asleep never happened. I finally texted my husband at this point (probably around 1-2pm) and said something like “Hey, pretty sure well see a baby here within the next day”. He responded something like “okay, should I come home now?” and I assured him he didn’t have to rush, he was fine to finish playing and head home – but when you get here, its going to get real.
LABORING AT HOME (Sunday, Sept 15th)
I spent the rest of the day walking around my house doing last minute things. Making sure the dishwasher was loaded and running, doing laundry, answering as many client check ins as I could, sweeping our house, loving on our dogs, making sure I had everything in my hospital bag, getting my paperwork together. At one point, Brenton asked me something like “Are you walking around non-stop to try and break your water or something?!”. “Not at all” was my answer – “my back just hurts way too bad to sit or lay down”. The ONLY position that felt comfortable, the position I would be in until about 2am that night was walking, swaying, or standing leaned over on a counter or bed or chair. Being upright on my feet was my best bet and sitting or lying down was almost out of the question already.
At about 5pm Brenton and I had the REAL conversation “Okay, so when are we going to go in?”. We decided I would stay home as long as I could tolerate it (we live a mile from the hospital). He finished watching the Sunday night football game, showered, packed, and got us some dinner. We fed and took care of the dogs for the night, packed the car, loaded the car seat, and were ready to go. I barely got down half the sandwich he got for me and really only did so because I honestly didn’t know when my next meal would be. At this point, my back contractions were about 3 minutes apart and were still lasting about 90 seconds. I was in a good amount of pain and was honestly worried if we waited much longer the – although short – drive to the hospital was going to be way more painful than it needed to be. So, instead of going to bed Sunday night, we left for the hospital shortly after 9pm. The drive to the hospital was one of the most surreal and exciting drives of my life. Its like the thing you have been wondering about for MONTHS now is only hours away. I said more prayers, promised it was all in God’s hands, and got excited for everything that was about to happen. I could not believe we were finally going to meet her.
ARRIVAL AT THE HOSPITAL (Sunday, Sept. 15th)
We get to the hospital, they check us in and put me in a small holding room. While we are waiting, I tell Brenton “with how close these are and how painful they are already, I wouldnt be surprised if I am already at a 6-7”. LOL.
The doctor working checks me and says “Ehh about a 3, but I can feel her head right there”. She THEN tells me “We are going to give you an hour to progress and if we don’t see much progress we will send you home and you can come back when you are closer”. At this point I CANNOT sit down and its painful to even lie down for her to check me. She leaves and I tell Brenton there is no chance I am going back home tonight. Minutes later, my OBGYN walks in the door! She said she was on call that night and saw we checked in. (I cannot say enough good things about Dr. Jessica Standeford – she was amazing from start to finish.) She sees the state of pain I am in and that I can’t sit down. I explain everything, how long this has been going, how its progressed, etc. She agrees there is no need for me to go back home and would talk to them and explain. She comes back a bit later with the news that “they agreed, but you have to walk the halls for an hour before going up to your room” – she also came in with the ultrasound machine as protocol to check baby and make sure she wasn’t breech. As soon as the wand touched the top of my pelvis – we saw my daughter’s cute little nose facing up! The doctor looks at me and says “THIS is why your back hurts so much – she’s what we call ‘Sunny Side Up’ and her skull is rubbing along your tailbone as shes coming down”. “AWESOME” I thought, “Reign isn’t going to make this easy”. My doctor then looks me in the eye and says “I know the epidural isnt in your plan and we have you in a low intervention room, but know that if you feel you need it, all you have to do is ask.” She said it so reassuring and positive in a way that didn’t make me feel like she thought I COULDN’T get through this without it. Instead it actually gave me more confidence that no matter what happens tonight – this was all going to be okay.
LABOR (Sunday, Sept. 15th)
I did as I was asked and walked the halls for an hour. The entire time my doula and I were trying to rotate Reign so that she turned facing my back (an anterior lie) to relieve the back labor. I had done this numerous times throughout late pregnancy when I could feel her back to back (a posterior lie) with me. However, NOTHING seemed to work likely due to the fact that she was already wedged in the birth canal or at least close and turning her through movement at this point was almost impossible.
This is where it got pretty bad. My team and I worked together to manage pain as best we could in the hallways. I just remember walking and stopping every few steps – leaning against the wall and focusing on my breath. At one point, I had to stop and puke in the janitors cart because the back pain was so intense. Still, I would just focus on making it through one contraction at a time. I had prepared for some pain and discomfort and just kept focusing on breath work and trusting my body. Eventually, I told them “okay I am done walking around like this, I need to get to my room”.
We finally got upstairs into a room and I was SO EXCITED to get into the jacuzzi. The low intervention room had a nice large tub with jacuzzi jets and I had been thinking about this for the past hour and how it would help. I thought for sure getting in there with the jets on my back would be of some relief and I couldn’t wait to try it. Joke was on me though, as even in the tub I couldn’t sit down without making the pain much worse. I opted for this wide squat stance leaning over the side of the tub. It helped for just a bit. Brenton put some worship music on and honestly conversations that I had while in the tub are the last real conversations I remember having with anyone in the room until after 2am. Things started to build while I was in there and eventually I needed to get out and stand, leaning over something again, as that was still my most bearable position.
From the time I got out of the tub until about 2am is a blur – I have no idea how long it actually was. I remember leaning over the side of the bed as things escalated. Brenton was rubbing my back as the contraction came for some counter pressure. But when the contraction would leave, I would still be left with excruciating back pain until the next one came again. I remember a few things during this time: I remember repeating over and over again that I just NEEDED A REST, I remember my legs shaking from standing for so long at this point, and I remember praying over and over that this wouldn’t last for much longer. I then remember nearly crying through two contractions in a row despite all of my effort to stay calm and breath through the pain. I remember looking down at the heart rate recorded on my watch and seeing numbers between 150-160 bpm – my thoughts immediately shifted from dealing with my pain to realizing what my body was actually going through and remembering my daughter was inside, trying to make her exit. I think that’s when it all came to me – this was not a workout I had to be tough in, this was not a score on a leader board I was fighting for, this wasn’t a championship game I needed to grind in – I WAS HELPING ANOTHER HUMAN INTO THE WORLD.
Instantly, my first motherly protective instinct kicked in and I knew that if I “toughed this out” for much longer – my baby would run the risk of being in distress and it would likely mean an emergency to get her out. Maybe that wouldn’t of happened – but in the moment, I wasn’t going to run that risk to prove anything. This wasn’t about me. On the third contraction that nearly brought me to tears – I finally looked at the nurse in charge and said “GIVE ME AN EPIDURAL”, without hesitation she started making moves to make that happen.
I then looked at Brenton saying “I want the epidural” affirmatively, almost looking for acceptance from him. I remember feeling guilty over it. Guilty that I somehow failed my husband and my child for asking for the drug. Guilty that I didn’t stick to my plan, or do what I said I was going to do in not using interventions. Before that guilt could last any longer, my husband – just being himself – said something along the lines of “okay, that’s your call!” with the very assuring attitude of “I trust you.” Instantly the needless guilt disappeared. I asked the nurse if she could check me one more time. I thought to myself “Okay – if I am at an 8 or higher I will just make it through without the drug, it won’t be much longer”. She checked and I was still only 6cm dilated! (Contractions with back labor come closer together and more intense so it sort of gives the illusion you are further along in labor than you actually are.) I confirmed with her that I wanted the epidural and before I knew it the anesthesiologist was in to administer it.
This is probably the point of labor I was most proud of and thankful for my husband. Without him, I am not so sure the epidural would have been possible. Remember, it is incredibly painful for me to even sit down at this point. So, needing to sit still for long enough to get large needles in a specific place in my spine was for sure not easy. They raised the table up getting my feet were off the ground so I wouldn’t instinctively try to get up. Brenton stood in front of me as I squeezed him SO HARD as each contraction came. He was scrubbed up so really all I could see of his face was his bright blue eyes which were HUGE at this point. I just remember staring into them and squeezing as I prayed through each contraction. I’m sure it was pretty quick but I promise it felt like the longest minutes of labor. However, within seconds of them completing the procedure, it was instant relief throughout my body.
The mood in the room changed 100%. I could finally hold a conversation and think about something else besides my back pain. They laid me down comfortably, dimmed the lights, sat my husband next to me and around 2:00 am, Brenton and I finally got some rest. We both fell asleep (FINALLY some rest!) and woke around 4:00 am to the nurse who came in to check progress. As she was getting setup, my mind was racing. I was so worried I may have stalled labor with the epidural and that I wouldn’t have progressed. Turns out, just the opposite happened and she told me I was now at an 8. In that moment I knew I had made the right call for my family and I knew God was laughing like “Dang, I TOLD YOU I GOT YOU!” Another hour later, shortly after 5:00 am, my OBGYN came in and checked me again. She said “You’re about a 9.5 right now. How about we break your water and have this baby?!” Brenton and I both looked at each like like – okay, HERE WE GO.
DELIVERY (Monday, Sept 16th)
After my water was broken, it was time to start pushing. It was now right around 5:30am on Monday morning. I think this was the part of it all that I was MOST unprepared for. Pushing was way harder than I thought! I knew first time moms usually push for longer (especially with an epidural). However I guess I really didn’t know all that actually entailed. About 10-15 minutes into pushing, our good friend and resident doctor Karissa Merritt (now Connolly) entered the L&D room and took the hands on lead delivering Reign as my OBGYN sat behind her and guided her. I trust Karissa SO MUCH and it was such a sense of security having her hands on my daughters head helping her enter this world. Because my contractions were long, I was able to get 4 pushes per contraction (instead of the usual 3). They set up a mirror for me (I highly recommend this!) to be able to watch Reign making her way out. It helped me focus my pushing efforts in the right area and also served as encouragement as I could see the progress she was making with each push.
I pushed for what felt like FOREVER. I would spend my time between contractions breathing, regaining strength, and zoning in on Reign’s heart rate that I could hear on the monitor. At one point, I knew I had been pushing for over an hour and that my baby had been mushed in the birth canal for that long. There were so many nurses and doctors in the L&D room talking, but all I could hear was her heart rate as I prayed it would stay strong and consistent. The last thing I wanted after all of that, was her heart rate to drop and they have to emergency her out. With my husband at my head and shoulders helping me push – FINALLY after almost 2 hours of doing so, at 7:07am on September 16th, Reign Marie joined us weighing 7lb 12oz and measuring 20.5 inches long. My husband, the Patriots fan from Nebraska, will tell you about how she was first conceived in Boston and how she was then born to Tom Brady highlights as ESPN was on in the background and that it was all perfectly meant to be. I will just tell you of a sweet little baby that brought her brand new mama to tears – even after a painful and drama filled labor and delivery failed to do so. Yep, I cried when she was laid on me.
I cried because all the things I had worried about happening leading up to and through delivery – I didn’t have to worry about anymore. I cried because every prayer I had through the entire process had been strategically answered one by one. I cried because I knew all the places this could have gone wrong and didn’t. I cried because my husband got to finally meet and feel his daughter after I carried her for 9 months. I cried because my baby’s screams were SO LOUD I knew she was so stinkin’ strong and just as relieved as I was for it all to be over. It was total relief the second I saw her, and I honestly was on such a high from it. I was so proud of myself for making decisions along the way to get her here safely. I knew more than ever that God has a strong hand on my family and we are loved and protected.
This is OUR story and one that I will cherish forever. I was encouraged by some moms to make sure I recorded it while it was fresh in my mind and man I am SO GLAD I did. If you are pregnant, or a new mom, seriously think about documenting your birth story. As I said before, each one is incredibly unique and special.
Reign’s mama, Nicole.
Let’s talk Thanksgiving Day! Too often, I hear how much anxiety a day like Thanksgiving brings to my clients. A holiday that is basically centered around how much food we can stuff into our face in one sitting terrifies many people who are on a weight loss, or health and fitness journey. I put together a quick list of my favorite strategies to help you relax and enjoy the day!
1) Be Active During The Day.
Avoid sitting around for extended periods of time. Come up with ideas ahead of time as to how to be active and get your family involved! Maybe it’s playing with younger cousins, helping in the kitchen, taking a walk with a grandparent or another family member you want to catch up with, or serving at a homeless shelter for lunch. It may even be as simple and fun as a game of charades, Twister, or Wii Sports! But, find a way to NOT be sedentary all day.
2) Pregame With Plenty of Water.
If you are hydrated properly and consistently drinking water the day before and day of Thanksgiving, you will be a lot less likely to overeat. Fill up some of that empty room in your stomach with a constant supply of water and watch as your ability to stuff yourself goes down. Proper hydration will also offset some of the excess sugar and salt that may be ingested and will make you feel better the next morning.
3) Don’t Deprive Yourself.
Do not fall into the trap of not eating all day and waiting until Thanksgiving dinner to stuff your face. When you are overly hungry, it is much easier to overeat at a meal because your “fullness” cues are slightly delayed. A better strategy? Eat your normal breakfast and lunch, and treat dinner as “just another meal” (filled with your favorites of course!)
4) The “One Plate” (plus one) Method.
I always recommend this strategy for any kind of potluck, gathering, buffet style meal. It especially applies to Thanksgiving which is almost always a buffet style meal of only the best stuff on earth! Fill a plate. Fill it with your favorites, your less than macro friendly, best meal of the year, only get it that one time of year when I see Aunt Sue, favorites. But after that one plate, you are then allowed ONE more scoop of your BEST pick from the meal. This is plenty of food. I promise you. Refer to #5.
5) Enjoy The Company.
I understand Thanksgiving is often all about the food, but have something planned as a light discussion topic for dinner. Focus your energy on the company – catching up, remember whens, learning more about a loved ones current life. Invest in the people around you and really listen and engage with them. Coming up with these topics on the spot doesn’t always work well. Start thinking about what you want to learn, ask, and conversate about ahead of time. Saving these topics for dinner will shift your focus to the REAL joy of Thanksgiving while keeping you from solely focusing on the plate in front of you.
6) Eat Dessert.
No catch here. Just enjoy it! Pick your favorite dessert from the options available and have that. Thanksgiving, the holidays, and family time, are just as much about enjoying things that make you happy, and lets be honest – Grandma’s pie makes us happy! By having dessert, ONE dessert, and moving on, we are eating responsibly and enjoying the moment.
7) Get Back On Track The Next Day.
Don’t let Thanksgiving open up the door to “eat mindlessly until Christmas, hashtag holiday season”. There are 32 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Get back into your routine for another month, and then follow these simple guidelines once again!
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When I started competing in the sport of weightlifting in 2013, my biggest weakness was the catch of my snatch. I could clean and jerk and I could power snatch pretty naturally, but anytime I had to catch in a full overhead squat there was a high probability I was not going to be able to hold the bar strong enough to finish the lift. For almost a year, I could snatch more than I could overhead squat from a rack – that is not an exaggeration! This did not just happen in weightlifting. When competing in CrossFit, anytime a workout came out with overhead squats I knew it was going to be a hard workout for me because of the poor position I had overhead. In fact, the most difficult and “scariest” workout I have ever done in competition was at the 2015 Regionals with pull-ups and overhead squats at 125#. It was just a very large weakness at that time.
Looking back, I know the biggest issues were the instability of the smaller muscles in my shoulder as well as a lack of proper understanding on how to actually push up and into the bar – I would simply try to “hold” or “catch” the bar overhead instead of actively pressing on it with a locked down shoulder girdle. One of my biggest regrets in weightlifting is not spending more time on correcting this right off the bat. I struggled with inconsistency in the snatch for the first half of my competitive weightlifting career for this very reason. Working on it, and fixing it sooner, would have resulted in a lot less frustration in the snatch.
Fortunately, in the past 5 years I have had many people come into my life that have helped me improve this overhead position, my overhead squat, and as a result my snatch. I now, come into contact with others all the time that have a similar issue I once had and I really wanted to put together some information to help. Typically, I hear “I have bad mobility” as an excuse/reason for a poor catch and I am here to tell you that 90% of the time “bad mobility” is not the cause of the poor catch position – it is simply lack of understanding of how to utilize and stabilize the muscles of your shoulder girdle, and lack of repetition of the movement. Simply snatching more will not improve a poor catch position – you actually have to drill the catch position and overhead stabilization specifically!
Here are the top three drills that I believe improved my overhead position in the snatch:
1. 10-10-10 Tempo OHS
Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like and 100% as miserable and demanding as it sounds. Take an empty bar and perform a 10 second decent, then sit in the bottom for 10 seconds, and begin a 10 second ascent. Be sure to have a clock somewhere in view as counting to 10 in your head usually results in about 6-7 seconds! Be sure to stay active into the barbell the entire time. This drill gives you IMMEDIATE feedback of instability and weakness in those stabilizer muscles as well as keeps you under a barbell for an entire 30 seconds. This was one of the hardest drills I have ever been asked to do, and my go-to for helping others improve their overhead position as I feel it made that much of an impact on mine. I would incorporate these into my warmups in sets of about 5-8 with about 1:00-2:00 rest in between reps. Stay very light here!
2. Snatch Drop With Pause in the Bottom
I like this drill as a progression from the Tempo OHS and something that I still use as a snatch warm up before each session. The barbell should start on your back to perform a standard snatch drop – however, when you hit bottom stay there for 3-5 seconds pushing actively into the bar with a locked down shoulder girdle and stabilizing. The idea is to now dynamically move into the same bottom position we found and held in the 10Tempo drill. There should be no movement in the bottom and you will know you are improving at this exercise when you can hit the bottom and stabilize through the entire pause with no movement or fidgeting. As you get better with this drill, begin to add weight!
3. Power Snatch (don’t stand!) + Overhead Squat
This is my favorite drill for people who have an issue puling into a full squat when the barbell gets heavy. It is also a great way to prevent the “starfish” that often happens with people as they try and compensate for lack of comfort in the overhead squat catch by throwing their feet wide to get lower. Start light here and complete a technically sound power snatch. Hold that catch position (DO NOT STAND) for about a second. Then, without moving your feet perform an overhead squat. If you find your foot position needs to change, or it is not comfortable when you try to overhead squat – you need to address your foot mechanics. Ideally, this drill should get you comfortable with holding a high overhead squat (the catch of the power snatch) and then finishing it by finding depth. The more you can drill this into your mechanics, the more comfortable you will be will pulling under the barbell in the full overhead squat position! Start light with this one and as you improve work up to a maximal weight (for this drill). In a perfect world, you would get to a point where the bar is too heavy to catch power anymore and you accidentally snatch into a full squat!
Try these out and let me know if they are working for you and if you have seen improvement!
As always, if you have any questions email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website at Honor Your Nutrition
If you follow me on social media, the past few weeks you have probably noticed me reference a Nutrition Challenge at some point. You probably have also noticed there is a lot more pictures of clean food on my plate and a lot less pictures of the treats that I love so much. I’ve promised a blog and some more information about it a few times – so here is me delivering!
My husband Brenton and I eat well for the most part – as I preach so often, we track our intake 80% of the time, and fill that intake with clean, nutrient dense food 80% of the time. We are busy, prioritize fitness, and enjoy structure and eating well. However, we are also human and enjoy the occasional date night, nights out with friends, glass of alcohol, and sporadic trips to Andy’s (the best frozen custard, EVER.)
I have eaten Paleo for 2 years straight, cut weight numerous times, as well as done different month long “parameter” diets such as the Daniel Fast in the past. However, Brenton has done none of the above. He had never put parameters on his nutrition for a certain period of time. He is also the man that likes about 2 types of fruit (we may have not stretched it to 5), and chokes down vegetables just because I tell him he should. So, you can imagine my surprise when he came to me and said he wanted to “eat clean” for a certain period of time. He asked me to put together some guidelines and said he would execute what I thought that should look like. I told him I would lay out a plan that we would do for just under 30 days (from July 5th until he leaves for the CF Games on August 1st).
When creating the plan I took some things into consideration:
- We would still be very active between training, coaching, and working and I needed to make sure we stayed properly fueled in the process.
- Brenton has a history of injuries, many that leave him with some serious inflammation day to day and I believe it gets irritated even more by certain aspects of his diet
- Without a community doing it along side us, I knew it would be pretty challenging to stay the course
I took my knowledge of various ways of eating and developed these guidelines for our challenge which we have nicknamed “The Brenton-Get-Jacked Challenge”
- dairy (excluding eggs)
- processed food
- fried food
- added or artifical sugar
We made a few exceptions to this as we kept in plain oats and potatoes of any kind to keep carb intake where it needed to be. We also kept in whey protein supplements, and dextrose for intra-workout fuel. We would still be tracking and weighing our food as much as we could in order to make sure we didn’t have too much of a drop off in caloric intake.
Once we came up with this plan, we invited everyone we knew to join it on it with us. It was pretty awesome how many friends jumped on board and are doing this along with us now! We created a WhatsApp group and have been sharing recipes, questions, struggles, and progress pictures! Having the support of friends around you during something like this makes it a heck of a lot easier.
I coach nutrition daily. If you are one of my clients or have ever worked with me before you know this is not the way I coach, or my initial recommendation. Actually, I am very well known for coaching FLEXIBILITY with nutrition and encouraging that treats, sweets, and not so nutrient dense food here and there are actually good and encouraged for longevity, as it keeps you “sane” and satisfies those real life scenarios and social situations that we all enjoy so much. However, I do think it is really important to do a bit of “annual cleaning” and some kind of “challenge” like this one month out of the year – last August was the Daniel Fast for me. When deciding on a route – do your research! Do not do anything drastic like trying to eliminate one entire macronutrient group and be sure to keep an overall BALANCED nutrition no matter what your parameters are!
I encourage this method with most of my clients at some point and I think it is really important for a few reasons. First, it challenges you to a dose of mental toughness and shows you the discipline you are truly capable of when you commit to something. Second, it teaches you ALOT. It teaches you to read ingredients (you learn how many items sugar is actually added to), it teaches you how to get creative and how to think outside the box to build meals, it teaches you some new food you might like that you may have never tried before. When you are left to eat fruit and veggies in abundance, you often try new things to keep variety! And most importantly, it teaches you how to clean up your order at restaurants and make substitutions or better choices in social situations.
Health is also an obvious answer to “why”. So much of the food we eat on a day to day basis is damaging to our bodies, and doing a full nutritional clean up like this once a year can give our bodies a much needed rest and reset.
ONE WEEK IN:
The first week was very likely the hardest part (as it always is with a major adjustment like this). First, I had to make sure the house was stocked with everything we could have and that all the “elimination foods” were out of the house or just replaced with other items. We were eating a ton of rice and bread, so a lot of that needed to go and I needed to get creative with what we would have instead. The hardest part for both Brenton and I for sure was the sugar withdrawal that comes the first 3 days. It is actually pretty scary how awful your body feels coming “off” added or artificial sugar. We were both suffering from headaches, irritability, fatigue, and just overall yucky feeling – almost as if we had the flu. By day 4 however, that passed and we finally felt back to ourselves and feeling even better.
Physically, my performance has felt great and I feel like my aerobic capacity has increased which I know is a direct result of eliminating sugar. Inflammation has also decreased (as Brenton feels it has for him as well). I often suffer from an uncomfortable stomach and that has also seemed to subside eating this way.
Aesthetically we have noticed a big difference as well. I feel less inflamed visually and less puffy which I think was a result of water retention from the excess sugar I was intaking. We have both lost a bit of weight, but nothing significant as I do not want to wither away simply because I have changed up my nutrition parameters. Below are some Week 1 progress photos that we all have shared so you guys can see exactly what I am talking about!
I will write another piece toward the end of this challenge with final updated pictures!
If you have any questions, are looking for nutrition coaching, or want to get started on something like this and need more advice – send me over an email or visit my website at:
**Most of our daily meals are made easier by Trifecta Nutrition. We trust Trifecta for quality and care of our food 100%. If you have not checked them out, click HERE to take a closer look.
Dietary fat is one of the three macronutrients that make up our diet. It is an essential part of our nutrition, but can be pretty complex to understand. There are so many subgroups of “fat”, that we, as a society, have formed these stigmas or preconceived notions on what is “good” and what is “bad”.
I am sure you have heard that fat makes you fat, that eating too much fat increases cholesterol, and that the key to a low calorie diet is eliminating all dietary fat. While there is some underlying (very underlying) truth to these statements, when taken to the extreme they are without question – incorrect.
On the other hand, I am sure you have been fed some information explaining how eating an incredibly high fat but low carbohydrate diet is the key to losing fat and “becoming lean”. You were excited to hear this, and ran to the grocery store throwing every fatty meat, cheese, egg, avocados, oil and nut you could find in the store in your cart feeling like you finally cracked the nutrition code!
But, then you started asking more questions, doing more research, and you learned there was a bit more to it. You were told all fats weren’t created equal, that there was “good” and “bad”. Now, things got a bit more confusing when it came to fat. What about the different TYPES of fat?! Saturated/unsaturated? Monounsaturated? Polyunsaturated? Omegas?? What are those? How does cholesterol play into the whole thing? You were more confused than ever.
I understand how all of this information can be confusing, and trust me – there really is no simple explanation. However, I am writing this in hopes to clarify and simplify some facts about FAT and allow you a bit more understanding one piece at a time. There is a ton of information that would take up more than this single, short blog piece – but we will focus on one aspect of fat.
This piece will be focused on Omega Fatty Acids and how they come into play in our nutrition.
What does dietary fat do for us?
*note: the below benefits are from ALL fat – both saturated and unsaturated,
including Omega 3’s and 6’s so we would not want a diet that is absent of one particular type
– provides us with the most energy of any macro nutrient (9 calories per gram)
– primary energy source for babies and kids under 14 years old
– secondary energy source for adults
– helps make steroid hormones (sex hormones, courticosteroid hormones)
– forms cell membranes, primarily those of the brain and nervous system
– helps transport fat soluble vitamins (Vitamin A, D, E, K)
– provides us with TWO fatty acids we cannot make on our own: OMEGA 3 and OMEGA 6
We will discuss that last one a bit further.
OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS
Where can I find Omega 3’s
– marine life (I.e. salmon, sardines, mackerel, cod, algae)
– seeds (chia, flax, hemp)
– Brussel sprouts
– egg yolks from Omega-3 enriched hens (fed the above seeds)
– wild rice
There are three types of Omega 3’s:
1. Alphalinolenic (ALA)
2. Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
3. Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
ALA is a popular Omega 3 source amongst plant based eaters as its is mainly found in seeds such as chia, flax, and hemp, as well as walnuts. But, the latter two, DHA and EPA, are the fatty acids we are most concerned with in Omega 3 supplementation, as they are the most beneficial to our body. They are found primarily in marine sources like fish and algae. It is important to get direct forms of these two, as we are unable to covert ALA into DHA or EPA in our bodies.
Why are 3’s so important?
– dilate blood vessels
– prevent blood coagulation (clotting)
– lower inflammation
– decrease pain
– dilate airways
– keep cell membranes more fluid causing: improved brain function, increased insulin sensitivity, and improved joint health
– aid in fat transport
OMEGA 6 FATTY ACIDS
Where can I find Omega 6’s?
– most oils
– fried foods, snacks baked in oil (chips)
– most nuts (excluding walnuts)
– dairy (cheese, milk, butter)
– cookies, candy, pastries, muffins
– dark poultry, pork, beef
There are three types of Omega 3’s:
1. Linoleic Acid ( (LA)
2. Gamma-linolenic Acid (GLA)
3. Alpha-linolenic Acid (AA)
Why are 6’s so important?
– constricting blood vessels
– clotting blood
– increasing inflammation
– increasing pain
– constricting airways
Essentially, 6’s do the exact opposite of 3’s. These may seem like negative effects for the body, however we do need these processes to occur to be able to come back from injuries and recover from daily training sessions and workouts.
What does this all mean?
We need both Omega 6’s and 3’s – but in proper balance. It may be surprising that the proper balance does actually mean getting more 6’s than 3’s. However, in the current American diet, the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is about 10:1 and can even be unbalanced up to about 20:1. This ratio is so off because we are so often consuming an abundance of refined oils and processed foods in the modern world. Years ago, our ancestors had a more exemplary and much healthier ratio of about 2:1 and only up to about 8:1 on the higher end.
There are some simple steps you can take to ensure that you are able to get your 6 and 3 ratio back in proper balance:
1. Eat less industrial oils and processed foods (less corn and soybean oil).
2. Eat a more varied spectrum of plant and animal foods (fatty fish, wild game).
3. Consider supplementation (fish oil, or vegan algae oil).
The main approach we should have toward fat, as with nutrition as a whole, is balance. We should never look to eliminate, or negatively view one specific macronutrient (I.e. “sugar is worse than fat”). Nor, should we view the macronutrient subgroups that way (I.e “I am going to eat NO Omega 6’s because they are bad!). We want to incorporate a balanced ratio of macronutrients and their sub groups into our diet. When it comes to fat, eating a wide variety of natural, minimally processed sources, as well as supplementing with a reliable Omega 3 product, we can ensure we are getting proper quantities of dietary fat daily.
Personally I use Driven Nutrition for all of my supplement needs. Omega’s are no different. I trust their products and I know their Omega Drive formula has the highest quantity of DHA and EPA. You can get your own Driven Nutrition Omega Drive by clicking on this link!
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There are two types of people in the world – those that LOVE to grocery shop (me!) and those that DREAD it (most people). If you are part of the latter group, I have put together some strategies to make your life a bit easier. When embarking out on your grocery journey, it is important to find a store that is a “one-stop shop”. If you are going to multiple stores to do your grocery shopping, it is very likely you are going to get distracted, pick up one too many “snacks” that don’t need to be in your pantry, and likely overspend as well.
Have A Plan.
Walk into the grocery store confident and ready to get what you need. Grocery shopping (like most shopping) should be premeditated and purposeful. This will help prevent you from impulse buying junk food, or food that will later lead to over snacking back at the house. The best way to create a fail-proof plan is to make a list and then plan an attack route once inside the store. This strategy will keep you focused on the task at hand, and will serve for a much quicker and painless grocery trip.
Make A List, Check It Twice.
Take a lesson out of the big guy’s playbook here and be sure to make a list before leaving the house, then check it over. Write your list down… ON PAPER. Making the list on your phone and constantly referring back to it while in the store will often lead to distractions while there. I like to go as far as making a list by macronutrient category (I like organization). So, my list usually starts with fruits and vegetables, followed by meats/protein, followed by carbohydrate options, then added fats that I need, and finally finishing with boxed/canned pantry items, condiments, and snacks. Doing this will ensure that you have all of your bases covered. If you are planning on making a special dish this week, double check that you have included all of its ingredients. Organizing your list this way will help ensure you have plenty of options for the upcoming week’s meal prep and snack grabs, while also keeping you from getting distracted while actually in the store.
PRO-TIP: If you are shopping in a superstore (like Wal-Mart) that has other household items as well, those go at the END of your list. Get all of your food shopping out of the way before moving on to non-food items. This will prevent confusion and allow you to focus better while picking up groceries.
Have A Snack, Bring A Drink.
If you are an impulse grocery shopper (see something delicious on the shelf and grab it because you want to try it) this trick will help you. NEVER, I will repeat, NEVER go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Bad choices will be made, I promise. Make sure you have a meal or snack before leaving the house in order to stay focused on the task at hand. That task is grocery shopping for the week ahead, not your current empty stomach. In addition to that, it is smart to bring a bottle of water, some hot tea, or even your favorite coffee drink along with you. This will keep your taste buds and stomach occupied while you get in and get out of your grocery trip successfully.
Every grocery store is set up differently, so it is likely that you will get into your own routine based on your particular store of choice. However, most stores follow a similar flow. Start right in the front of the entrance in produce. Go through your list and collect the fruits and veggies that you have listed. Potatoes and avocados are included here, as well as additives/spices like onions and garlic. Next is usually the bakery section where you can pick up some English muffins, bread, or wraps. Following behind that is almost always the deli and meat/fish sections where you can get the items of that category that you included on your protein list. After that, head to the dairy section to pick up eggs, egg whites, yogurt, and any other dairy item you may have written down. Your list should be 85-90% checked off by now, all we have left are the finishing touches. Attack the frozen food section next. Some of my staple convenience items are found here such as frozen veggies for emergencies, or frozen fruit for smoothies. Finally, it is time to go down the isles. Here is where your plan and your list helps. It is easy to get distracted in the isles and end up camping out in the cookie or chips aisle. Don’t do that. Instead, go through the items you have left on your list and find them one by one in the isles (oatmeal, rice, granola bars, cereal, ketchup, canned items, frozen yogurt, etc) – get them in your cart and get out! Once this is complete, move on to household/non-food items if needed.
Repeat The Same Route.
If this worked well for you, repeat it. Every, single, time you are in the grocery store repeat this process. When you find a plan, a list, and a store route that was successful and painless, just continue to use it. We are creatures of habit and often find the most success and stability in routine. Grocery shopping is no different. Purposeful and goal driven grocery shopping is the best way to ensure you get in and get out painlessly while still stocking up on all the week’s essentials.
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Do you hear the words “Meal Prep” and instantly cringe at the thought of all the time and effort that needs to be put into that task? Let’s be honest, those Instagram pictures of Tupperware perfectly lined up on the counter with every meal for the week specifically weighed out are beautiful, but a bit hard to execute without wasting a whole day! Well, I am here to offer some assistance and help you prep for the week ahead in a very efficient and realistic way.
Personally, I dislike the confines of a meal prep system where you put everything in specific containers for each meal and store them in your fridge. I don’t like being tied to a meal like that, and I love variety and flexibility. Also, I prepare food for both my boyfriend (190-195# active male) as well as myself (145-150# active female), so our meals are very different in size and we enjoy different things on a daily basis.
I found a prep system that works for me, and I am excited to share it with you as I feel it is simpler, more efficient, and easier to execute on a consistent basis than the “make everything and split it into beautiful even portions and eat the same meal every day for a week” approach.
Here we go!
Setup for Success!
BASIC SHOPPING LIST –
– two different proteins (one lean like chicken/turkey/shrimp, one fattier like steak/pork/salmon)
– two veggie options (one green, one non-green/of color)
– two starch options (rice, potatoes, quinoa, etc)
– two fruit options
– avocado, nut butter, nuts/seeds
– olive or coconut oil
HOW MUCH DO I NEED?! –
To decide how much of each item you would need, take the amount of protein you eat per meal and multiply it by 10 or 12 (2 meals per day for 5 or 6 days of the week). That is how much protein you would need to cook. If you are cooking for two people, you would obviously take that into account as well. For example, if you eat 4oz of protein at each meal, you would need a little over 2lbs (16oz) of protein – so about a pound of lean and a pound of fattier.
Vegetables are all dependent on how much you like to eat at each meal. The recommended serving size of vegetable is about 3oz (or 85g). So again, you would multiply that by 10-12 meals for the week. That would be about 30-36oz of vegetable between both your green and non-green options.
Starch is the option that would vary most, as this all depends on your daily carbohydrate intake. In my house, we go through a ridiculous number of carbohydrates. I eat around 250g per day while my boyfriend eats about 300g per day, so carbs are plentiful around here! I prefer potatoes as my lunch/dinner carb source while he could eat white rice until it is coming out of his ears. So, I find it easiest to buy the biggest box of Instant White Rice and a sack of sweet potatoes. Sometimes we don’t get through all of this in a week, but starches store very well and last longer than the above items.
My rule of thumb for fruit is one piece of fruit per day per person. If you are worried about your fruit going bad, choose options that would last well throughout the week like bananas, oranges, and apples.
My secret weapon of meal prep is 1) a good knife, 2) two cookie sheets, 3) aluminum foil. Get all of your groceries out, roll your sleeves up, and get ready to attack – this is going to be fast! Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Now Lets Cook!
My “go-to’s” are usually Brussels sprouts and bell peppers so I will refer to those two. But remember, you can use whatever is your favorite! I encourage you to rotate your veggies weekly and try new ones whenever possible. Let’s begin by cleaning and cutting your veggies how you would like them. I like to half my Brussels sprouts and cut my peppers into strips. Once this is done, I cover the cookie sheet with foil (you’ll thank me later for this one), spray it with olive oil, and sprawl the veggies out there. I then spray the veggies with the olive oil and season them with salt, pepper, and a garlic/onion powder blend (you can season however you would like!). Set these cookie sheets aside until your oven is at 450. Once it is, cook your veggies for 20 minutes, and then turn the oven to broil for the last 5 minutes to brown them just a bit!
**If you get frozen veggies (just make sure there is no other ingredient added to them), this same method of cooking will also work, just add 10 minutes to cooking time**
Cooking rice and potatoes is very different, yet both very simple. Let’s start with the rice. While your veggies are cooking, prepare the water. Once boiled, pour in the rice and let sit until soft.
When cooking potatoes, you have options. My favorite method is cubing sweet potatoes, spraying them with olive oil and throwing them in my Air Fryer for about 15 minutes! If you do not own one of those (get one!) you can easily throw them on another cookie sheet and stick that in the oven as well – they will cook for 20-25 minutes in the oven with the last 5 minutes on broil.
**PRO TIP: season sweet potatoes with paprika AND cinnamon for the most amazing flavor**
While your veggies are in the oven and your starch is in the works, get to your protein! Decide which method you want to use. My favorite method is an outdoor grill or a grill pan on the stove top. I don’t love protein oven baked, however, some people do. That is always an option as well. I would rather use my oven space for roasting vegetables and potatoes!
I recommend cutting protein up into cubes or strips. I like to do this for two reasons, 1) it makes cooking a lot quicker as smaller pieces of meat and fish will cook through faster, and 2) it gives you more options and variety when building meals later on! Once cut, you can season them however you would like and then they are ready for cooking. This is the piece of meal prep that will take the most attendance, so be sure everything else is in the works and under control before you start cooking your protein.
**PRO TIP: The crock-pot is also a great way to cook protein if you are able to start it ahead of time. You can put raw protein in the crock-pot with some great spices and leave it for a few hours. When you come back you will have a large amount of juicy, seasoned protein ready to eat!**
As you can tell, your entire meal prep time should take less than an hour if done right! Get as many things cooking and working at once and it will be quick and painless. This meal prep method usually takes me one hour from grocery bag to store in the fridge and I love it!
Invest in Tupperware that is big enough to store your prepped food in bulk. Six large containers are ideal (two for protein, two for veg, two for starch). This will keep things neat in your fridge and will allow building a meal to be really simple! I prefer this method over breaking up the food into specific meals as it allows for more variety in meals throughout the week and prevents you from becoming bored!
BUILDING MEALS –
Because all the hard work has been done already, you now have the building blocks to meals all ready to go in your fridge. Whether you need to pack a lunch for work, or are just coming home from a long day and don’t want to spend time cooking – you are ready! Simply take out your scale, pull out the components you want to use for your meal and measure out your portion appropriately! I love this kind of meal prep because although the components may be the same, I can create different dishes very quickly. Grab some tortillas and make tacos. Put your meat and veggies over potatoes and make poutine. You could even load some of the components upon a flatbread and make a quick pizza!
WHERE IS THE FAT? –
So far, we have covered protein and carbohydrates, but have not spoken much about fat. The good news is fat is not something that we really need to “prep”. Fat is the tag along macro that is found as add on’s and toppings. Obviously, there will be some fat found in the protein source you choose. Avocados and nut butters are a great enhancement to any meal. Cheese or ranch dressing are some other fatty add on’s that can make any basic meal delicious, as well as oils and dressings which can also help you achieve some added fat in your meal.
**PRO TIP: I LOVE to put some nut butter on my sweet potatoes, I surely recommend giving that a try. **
The above prep covers your “main meals”. But, it is a good idea to think ahead about snacks so that you are set with some great grab and go options. I like to keep fruit, RX Bars, Think Jerky, 100 Calorie Popcorn bags, Yasso Frozen Yogurt Bars, and Oh Yeah One protein bars stocked in my house. If I have some extra time after my meal prep, I also like to measure out raisins and fruit into little baggies. Another great snack I have found is really easy to build ahead of time is cottage cheese with some strawberry or peach jam (I use the smallest size Tupperware for this and will make 3-4 at a time.
There are so many ways to meal prep. The key is to find the most successful one. REMEMBER, the most successful one will be the method in which you can find time to execute on a consistent basis. I have spent some time sharing with you the most successful method of meal prep for me, I hope it will work for you as well!
*PRO TIP: To eliminate almost ALL of the meal prep, there are services out there to help you. However, the ONLY service I use and trust is Trifecta Nutrition. Their “a la carte” menu provides so many different options of protein, (bison, elk, cod, shrimp, salmon, etc) vegetables, and starch that it is easy to build quality meals very quickly. If any kind of meal prep doesn’t work for you, click through to their website and check it out for yourself!
For more coaching tips and to learn more about the nutritional coaching services I offer, head over to my website at www.HonorYourNutrition.com!