66 days to change: Keeping life fun

Through years of teaching fitness, many students have become friends. One thing that they like about me is I’m a


Through years of teaching fitness, many students have become friends. One thing that they like about me is I’m a ‘real person’ ‘ we go for lattes after class, and often have each other over for dinner parties. Before I had kids I taught a Saturday 10 a.m. spin class in downtown Toronto, and at least half of the people who came had been out on Friday night. Myself included sometimes.

So when I announced this journey, one of my friends said: ‘Please don’t become that annoying, uber-healthy fitness freak.’ You know the type: the girl who talks about how many ways she cooks kale, who doesn’t have any wine on Friday night because she’s going for her ‘long run’ in the morning, the one who never eats birthday cake. You don’t want to become ‘that person’ ‘ no one likes the killjoy.

My vow is this: I’m never going to be that person ‘ I like being a real person who has a glass of wine at book club, and drives several city blocks to get a Dufflet Chocolate Mousse Cake; I like being the mom who whips up a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies on the fly, and goes to the movies, sharing a big bag of M&Ms once in a while. One day we will be reunited, chocolate and I. Our relationship will be different then, but I will cherish it like a friend I see once in a while and savour every moment. I am only 21 days into the no-sugar habit and already it has had an impact on me: I see sugar everywhere.

Here’s why: sugar is everywhere. If you’ve ever eliminated a food from your diet ‘ be it sugar, salt, wheat ‘ you know you have to check labels. So, you end up spending an inordinate amount of time in grocery stores checking labels. Who has time? But here’s the thing: you should read labels. How much sugar and sodium does everything you buy have? Do you know? A lot. On any given day, Canadians consume double Health Canada’s recommended amount of sodium, mainly from processed and packaged foods. Check out the ingredient list on a popular sweet tomato soup: it packs 22 grams of sugar per carton ‘ five teaspoons.

My next challenge is to eat to fuel my body. My diet is sensible and not groundbreaking: oatmeal, green juices, fruit, soups, salads, organic meats and fish, healthy grains and tons of vegetables. But until recently, I was not eating in tune with my body. Anyone with young children knows that some days it is a race ‘ shoving breakfast down their throats to get out the door to school, forgetting that coffee you poured and not eating breakfast.

Before, I was teaching six fitness classes, running three times a week and chasing after two preschoolers, and not always eating properly. I redefined the term ‘sugar low.’ Snappy? Yeah. Somewhat manic? Sure, I’d cop to that. Psychotic? It depended on if you were standing in front of me at the coffee shop and there was only one sea salt caramel brownie left.

Now, it feels like my blood sugars have stabilized. When I get hungry I grab a protein and carb snack ‘ like almond butter on apples (delicious ‘ try it!), bananas and Greek yogurt, almonds and cheese.

Dietitian Stefanie Senior says that if you’re exercising, your nutrition should match your needs. ‘Nutrition for exercise is very individualized. It depends on the person, the type of activity and the intensity.’

‘People often overestimate how many calories they actually burn in a workout,’ says Senior. ‘Or, they might eat too little on days when they are active ‘ because they want to lose weight ‘ which prevents them from building muscle or strength. Maintaining and building muscle are important for metabolism. The more lean body mass, the faster your metabolism,’ says Senior.

So if you have started exercising, check out these ideas from Best Health. Senior also has a list of ‘must-have’ healthy foods for the kitchen: plain Greek yogurt; large flake oats for homemade muesli, bananas, eggs, almond butter, organic milk, wild salmon, organic frozen berries, organic spinach/kale, yams.


And, for the record, I am the girl who knows a lot of ways to cook kale ‘ and I’m not ashamed of that.

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Erin Phelan is a fitness trainer and mom of two. She’s a regular contributor to Best Health and will be blogging here every Tuesday and Friday for the next 66 days.