Don’t fight the friction, go with the flow.
Engineer an Effective Environment.
Willpower is weak.
Unlock the secret to strong systems when you subscribe to fitlicity +for life
Unlock the secret to strong systems when you subscribe to fitlicity +for life
Unlock the (not-so) secret superpower when you join fitlicity +for life.
I’ll let you in on a secret sneak-peak: Willpower is weak, but Strategic Systems are strong.
You know what they say, “start where you are with what you have.” So, You Are Here. What are you workin’ with?
Defined by a set of practices, skills, systems, behaviors, and beliefs, The fitlicity Five are born out of my very own experience choosing grease over greens, and backed by applied science.
What began as a skin-shallow means of body composition change bred a soul-deep method of radical behavior change.
What I learned, practice, and preach is that above – or shall I say below – all else, it’s the why and how of what we eat that is critical to success, where success is ultimately defined as looking, feeling, and functioning our very best.
It is possible to be precise, and to be excellent, without being perfect. In fact, it’s preferred. The pursuit of perfectionism encourages you to stall. It allows you to play it safe, to dumb it down, to remain the same, to keep it comfortable and generally to avoid doing the thing – anything – that will move you closer to your goals. Perfection paralyzes the possibility of progress. There is no action-plan for perfection, but there is an action-plan for being your best, and for increasing that standard every day. That action-plan is persistence and perseverance. It’s continuing a course of action despite difficulty and delay in success. It’s challenging yourself and exposing yourself to opportunities for mishaps, mistakes, and failure so that you can adapt and evolve. This, above all the tips, tricks, and healthy hints for choosing the quality and quantity of your food, is the ultimate takeaway I want you to repEAT, over and over again.
When you participate in an activity that makes you feel good in the moment but serves no future value or is in avoidance of your goals and values, you are choosing something for gratification. Gratification is the temporary act of pleasing, whereas satisfaction is the lasting feeling pleasure obtained by fulfillment. When it comes to eating, pleasure comes in different disguises: as the immediate sensation of wanting and liking a food in the moment or as a longer lasting feeling of total well-being after a meal. Apply this philosophy to your eating choices by plotting the increase or decrease in pleasure over time. What things merely fill you up, and what things fulfill you to the brim?
There is major power in active awareness of your choices, especially when it comes to what you put into your body. As a member of the fitlicityfam, you subscribe to the belief that you are not a product of your circumstances, but rather a result of your choices. A reflection of your systems and beliefs. Chalking up choices that act in avoidance of your goals to weak willpower and “whoops!” is not an option. Rather, we have to take ownership of our actions by implementing The fitlicity Five Triple-A Triage: Acknowledge, Analyze, Adapt.
Your approach to a nutrient-dense lifestyle is not a capital-D “Diet,” it’s simply the way you choose to eat. The food you eat is not good or bad, nor does it impose that implied morality onto your sense of self. Remember to think like a scientist, not a judge. Guide with policies, rather than policing. Prioritizing nourishment is not a means to an end, but rather a way of life that integrates physical, physiological, and psychological wellbeing.
I give you full permission to “fake it til you make it,” y’all. RepEAT after me: if you don’t believe you’re the kind of person who can achieve the goals you have set, no amount of resolve is going to lead to action. And ultimately, it’s action that yields results (or not). Identity-based habits are formed by acting like the person you want to be, until you actually become them.
Life hack: stop setting outcome-based goals and start setting identity-based intentions.
How do these Philosophies of why and how you eat apply to what is on your plate and in your belly? With The fitlicity Five Principles!
The fitlicity Five, my group program designed to guide you in building your foundation to a sustainable happy, healthy, and habit-based nutrient-dense life with added accountability from the fitlicityfam!
With The fitlicity Five, you will learn how to nourish your body from temples to toes with delicious food, how to make intentional, intuitive choices based on your body’s biological needs, how to cultivate connections between the way you eat and the way you navigate the world, and how to build a sustainable lifestyle founded on an attainable approach to nutrition and habit-based health.
The Goldilocks of boiled eggs. Not raw and runny. Not gray and dry. But juuuuuuuust right.
These high-protein, meal-prep friendly breakfast bites are a staple in my weekly menu until further notice.
To prevent overcooking, microwave gently in 30 second intervals until warm.
Tune into the ‘gram every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday… and you’ll find this combo on my plate. Can’t imagine eating vegetables for breakfast? Just trust me on this one…
And don’t get it twisted, I use this method no matter the hour of the day.
Air fry on medium heat for 6 minutes!
If ya haven’t tried this cheesy, comforting, veggie-based good and good-for-you bake yet… RUN, don’t walk, to a kitchen nearest you.
Allow to cool completely in the casserole dish prior to transferring to a storage container. I personally set mine in the fridge, uncovered, for several hours before portioning it.
Top with fresh scallion and pair with a side of green veggies (I love simply roasted brussels or steamed broccoli) or a side salad.
Pro Plate Tip: pair it with roasted brussels, pear, and onion and a side salad.
Healthy Hint: Meal prep the egg cups and “breaky brussels” up to seven days in advance. RehEAT the egg cups gently in 30 second microwave increments, and crisp up the veggies in the air fryer.
Featuring seven-minute Jammy Eggs a la @fitlicity, smoked salmon, turkey bacon, crunchy raw veggies of every color, texture, and flavor profile… and a special appearance by a cauliflower “bagel”.
I operate on a “leftovers for lunch” planning strategy, so each of the meals below yield at least four servings for myself and Mo.
Spatchcock is simply a preparation method of a whole chicken that involves removing the backbone and breaking the breastbone so that the chicken lays flat – cooking more evenly (and quickly!). The marinade du jour in honor of Super Bowl Sunday is buffalo!
Pair it with: cacao e pepe brussel sprouts and roasted cauliflower.
I’m modifying one of my own culinary creations to bring you something a little bit new with a bite of familiar flavor! Stay tuned. But until then, use this recipe for ooey-gooey but totally ooey-gooey-good-for-you deliciousness.
Pair it with: sautéed green beans and asparagus
If you’re wondering what in the heck Spanakopita is… so was I! But the photo of this dish was so dang pretty, it was worth a trip to the Google machine. A quick browser search informed me that these meatballs are inspired by a Greek culture classic – savory spinach pie (sans phyllo dough).
A trip to the Weather app (one of my Meal Planning pro tips – check the forecast!) showed me that a cozy, rainy evening lay ahead. Cue: a comforting bowl of curry. This recipe uses one of my favorite packaged products – Yai’s Thai Curry!
My mods: I’m making the fat content a bit more modest by using 1/2 can of Yai’s Thai sauce
Pair it with: cauliflower rice and extra spinach
A surplus stock of frozen jumbo shrimp inspired this “Fish Thursday” dish… and girl, I am glad about that!
My mods: I’m subbing confetti rice, a colorful blend cauliflower, broccoli, and carrot, in place of the called-for grain
Pair it with: roasted lemon parmesan broccoli
Spoon out a base of 1/2 cup cottage cheese and let your fridge and pantry inspire the rest. If you’re afraid cottage cheese isn’t your thing… make sure you try it first! May I suggest Good Culture or Nancy’s? If it’s still not your thing, opt for greek yogurt or ricotta, instead!
Pair it with: sweet fresh or frozen berries nuts and nut butter (maybe even a piece of dark chocolate or sprinkle of cacao nibs!) or savory tomato, cucumber and bell pepper with olives and basil (go crazy with a balsamic drizzle!)
I like to mix and match my snacks bistro-box style. All you need is protein, fiber, and fat!
Protein: deli meat slices, smoked salmon, hard boiled egg, canned tuna, chicken slices, yogurt or cottage cheese
Fiber: raw crunchy veggies (snap peas, celery, carrots, bell pepper, zucchini) or fresh berries (blue, black, straw, or rasp)
Fat: cheese wedges, nuts, nut butter, avocado, or olives
Calorie Counting, a tale as old as time…
If the relationship between the Calorie and the Counter is the 1991 VHS original Beauty and the Beast, macronutrient tracking – and specifically If It Fits Your Macros, otherwise coined IIFYM – is the 2017 remastered remake starring Emma Watson. In either case, I’d say that both the Calorie & the Macronutrient, and the Counter and Tracker, play the part of Beauty and Beast interchangeably as the plot thickens and chorus crescendos.
A quick browser search or scroll through Instagram’s native Explore page will prove, without pause, that calorie counting – a dietary approach that emphasizes the input and output of total energy – is still quite relevant and that it’s cool-kid cousin, macro tracking – a dietary approach that emphasizes the input and output of total energy plus added specifications – is gaining ground.
The concept of tracking macronutrients – particularly from an IIFYM point of view – is that once you’ve “figured out” how many calories you “need” per day along with which portions of them should come from each macronutrient, that is – protein, carbs, and fat, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want – so as long as you stay within the confines of your designated macro split.
I’m using quotes around figured out and need here to represent the air quotes I’d be using if I were speaking about this topic instead of writing about it. You see, although there are formulas we – and by we I mean everyone from Registered Dietitians to that Instagram Influencer – can use to estimate ideal caloric intake, it’s not a perfect science. No matter what the online calculators want you to believe. Many factors influence an individual’s caloric needs from genetic predisposition, to goals, to activity level, to biological blueprint, and beyond. This last point, biological blueprint, is most important. It tells us that two people with the exact same body weight, waist measurement, and even exercise routine, will have different caloric and nutrient needs based on their individual ability to process and absorb specific nutrients.
While Calorie Counting and Macro Tracking certainly can have their place in a holistically healthy, nutrient-dense diet, I believe that the two practices fall short on their own.
I write reduces, because science supports my personal belief that quantifying food into just four compartmentalized components – caloric value and percentages of protein, carbs, and fat – is an extremely narrow way to view what you put into your body. Imagine having to describe yourself only in a set of four quantitative classifications – your age, weight, height, and pant size. What do these numbers actually say about you? About what you do and believe? How you think, talk, and live? Your likes and dislikes, fears and dreams, skills and passions? Absolutely nothing. Not unlike the way categorizing food only by calories or macros eliminates the many, many qualities that make food so much more than “fuel”.
Sure. Calories, or rather the breakdown of macronutrients, supply our bodies with the energy we need to survive, much like fuel supplies an engine with the substance it needs to run. However, that’s about where the car analogy crumbles. Fuel doesn’t turn the wheel, push the peddles, or initiate windshield wipers. Fuel may provide the option – the potential – to get from Point A to Point B, but it contributes little to if, when, and how that journey unfolds.
Beyond calories and macronutrients, food offers countless compounds that influence individual health without directly providing energy. Think micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and phytochemicals, and compounds like fiber and water. These substances may not provide the potential for life on their own, but they dictate the way in which we live. In sum, calories allow us to survive, but nutrients allow us to thrive.
Furthermore, each individual responds differently to food. Without dismissing allergies, sensitivities, illness, think even of sensory preferences like flavor and texture. And let us not forget culture, religion, and tradition, the historical human nature of breaking bread. In this sense, food caters to facets far beyond our physical function, nourishing relationships and connecting cultures.
Caloric and macro values alone also don’t take into account how different combinations of nutrients affect the body within each feeding. Nor do these practices take into account the distribution of nutrients throughout the day. Though the combination and distribution of nutrients will have no impact on over all calorie intake, it will set off a series of chemical chain reactions that impact energy levels, mood, and cravings just to name a few physiological functions. For example, eating a simple sugar by itself – such as candy – will likely send blood sugar levels skyrocketing, which can then set off a chain of other metabolic reactions including cravings, lethargy, and mood swings to name a few. But combine that with protein, fat, and fiber, and the effect on blood sugar is blunted, completing changing the way the body absorbs and processes the food. Candy aside, this can be applied with two seemingly similar and characteristically “healthy” meals, as well, as shown below.
While both of these oatmeal bowls boast nutrient-dense ingredients and would certainly “Fit Your Macros,” one option is loaded with starch and sugar, while the other is topped with fiber and protein. Though either could round out your nutrient pie chart for the day, each would be metabolized completely differently – resulting in equally different effects on body composition and physical and physiological performance.
Macronutrient timing, which is crucial when performance is a priority, may also be ignored with the IIFYM approach. When it comes to fueling workouts, there are times when you might want little to no fat or fiber, and specific ratios of carbs and protein. Sometimes highly-refined and quickly-digestible foods are best for the body and at other times, the opposite. For those with performance priorities, eating for post-workout recovery should consider caloric and macronutrient values different than a pre-workout meal, intra-workout meal, or “anytime” meal.
As mentioned, but worth repeating, calorie counting and macronutrient tracking emphasize quantity, but on their own, quickly dismiss quality of food. You can easily meet your carb quota with sugary drinks, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily should for optimal physical and physiological function. Similarly, living off of pizza, french fries, and protein powder isn’t optimal – even if you can achieve your macros with those options alone. This is the concept of being fed, and in many cases overfed, without necessarily being nourished.
Overfed but Undernourished refers to exceeding energy (caloric) needs but not meeting micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) requirements. For the first time in history, obesity correlates with malnourishment. Research indicates that lack of proper nutrition is at the root of obesity – even when people over consume calories. Take, for example, a power lifter with the goal of increasing muscle mass. In order to gain weight, she will need to consume more calories than she burns. In order for those calories to be metabolized efficiently and primarily converted into muscle mass as opposed to body fat, she needs to consume more high-quality, micronutrient-rich calories than she burns.
That’s because “empty calorie” foods like pizza, donuts, ice cream, and french fries are low in nutrient quality, and high in processed fats and sugars. Though a caloric deficit and corresponding weight loss can certainly be achieved by “eating whatever you want,” losing weight does not automatically equate to improved health. And, we cannot truly find our healthy homeostasis until we address our insides just as much as our outsides. Beyond calories in vs. out, we have to provide our body with the nutrients it requires (remember those vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and probiotics?). Without these key elements, it is nearly impossible to treat the root causes of most health problems and weight management issues: gut health, hormone balance, and inflammation.
Consider, for example, two different meals with very similar macronutrient profiles:
Though these meals would register as virtually identical on a MyFitnessPal macronutrient pie chart, they are hardly comparable outside the confines of a calorie tracking app and inside the body.
Check out the same meals when we layer in just two compounds among countless nutrients: sugar and fiber. One meal is packed with simple sugar, artificial additives, and processed products, while the other provides plenty of slow-burning complex carbs and lean protein. One meal would result in a sugar spike, crash, and burn, while the other would provide sustenance and nourishment in the form of lasting energy. And not only will these meals feel totally different on the inside (energy levels, cravings, mood, and more), but they’ll look totally different on the outside, too. Over time, one meal would promote insulin resistance, and ultimately the storage of body fat, while the other meal would promote a lean, muscular physique.
Lastly, counting calories and tracking macronutrients can lead to a lack of interoceptive awareness: the ability to acknowledge and apply individual inner body sensations, involving the sensory process of accepting, assessing, and appraising internal bodily signals. When relying numbers and percentages alone to determine when, what, and how much to eat, you may suffer a lack of attunement to your internal cues.
For certain individuals, reaching a numeric cap to food intake can spur feelings of restriction, and corresponding acts of rebellion. For others, reaching the end of the day with a bunch of macros left to backfill can send them reaching for energy-dense, nutrient-poor choices or eating past the point of physical fullness. In other words, if it’s 9 p.m. and you’re still hungry but have “hit your macros” for the day, the internal instinct to honor hunger may be blunted. Likewise, if it’s 9 p.m. and you are satisfied and satiated but haven’t “hit your macros,” the internal instinct to periodically fast may be disrupted.
Furthermore, choosing to eating a specific food for the sole purpose of meeting an arbitrary caloric or macronutrient value fails to support satisfaction by inhibiting an intentional, cohesive, mindful eating experience. Failure to understand and cater to sensory preferences reduces anticipation, pleasure, and excitement around eating experiences, which may be a catalyst for the restrict and rebel cycle, or just plain bring on burnout.
In the end, quantitative practices like calorie counting and macronutrient tracking can certainly contribute to a holistically-healthy, nutrient-dense diet by providing guidance for overall energy intake and as an added level of accountability. If it works for you, I’m here for it. But I’m also here to remind you that food is more than numbers. Remember to factor in quality to your equation.
And hey, maybe you’re totally a numbers guy or gal. In which case, I’ve got some qualitative quantities for you to focus on. Rather than the number of calories or percentage of macronutrients you consume in a day, try cataloging this data:
25 to 35 grams. That’s how much fiber a day we need for optimal health, but most Americans get just 16 grams per day. Adequate fiber intake helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, prevents certain cancers, eases constipation, and keeps you feeling full for longer, which is helpful for weight management. Get more fiber from vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
5 cups or more. That’s how many cups of fruits and vegetables it takes to optimize your physiological health from blood sugar, to mood regulation, to gut function, to hormone production. Healthy Hint: try adding a side salad to your lunch and dinner, and a piece of fruit to your breakfast and snack!
6 teaspoons (100 calories or 24 grams). That is the maximum recommended daily intake of added sugar, whether from artificial or whole food sources, according to the American Heart Association. Did you know that just one medium sized latte from your favorite coffee chain boats 66 grams of added sugar? That’s 2.75 times the daily recommended intake in just one beverage. It’s no wonder that the average American consumes about 19.5 teaspoons (82 grams) of added sugar each day, which is 3 times the recommend amount – adding up to 66 pounds of added sugar per year. But it’s not just lattes, sodas, and candy bars. Sneaky sources of added sugar include your favorite fruit and veggie juices, granolas, and “protein” bars, too!
Half your bodyweight. Though hydration needs vary based on biological blueprint, lifestyle, and even external environment, most Registered Dietitians and Exercise Science Nutritionists advocate a minimum daily water consumption of half an individual’s body weight in ounces. Hydration levels are linked to digestion, nutrient absorption, appetite, mood, cognitive performance, and skin health to name a few.
7 to 8 hours. Are you getting that much sleep every night? Lack of sleep has short-term consequences, such as poor judgment, increased risk of accidents, bad moods, and less ability to retain information. Poor sleep over the long term has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. So, turn off the Netflix binge, power down your devices and get the rest your body needs.
150 minutes. That’s the recommendation for how much physical activity you should get each week, preferably spread throughout the week in increments of at least 20 minutes. This amount of activity helps combat heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, dementia, and cancer.
1,800 calories. Or whatever number you choose or calculate. You don’t need to count every calorie you eat – it’s tedious, often flawed, and it doesn’t necessarily help you choose nutrient-dense foods. If you had the choice between 100 calories of broccoli or fries, why not choose the fries, right? But that wouldn’t provide much nourishment and oversimplifies eating into one number. If you find calorie counting to be a helpful tool, there’s no reason it can’t contribute to your dietary approach, but just remember that it’s not the most vital number for your holistic health.
30-40-30. Or any other ratio of protein, carbs, and fat. While there is proven science behind adhering to specific macronutrient percentages, there’s also evidence of psychological effects like obsessive use of food diaries and apps and reduced interoceptive awareness. Similar to calorie counting, macronutrient tracking can be conducive to a holistically healthy diet… if you remember to focus on quality as much as – if not more than – quantity.
16:8.Or any ratio of hours spend fasted versus fed. Much like calories and macronutrients, when we consume our meals says little about the quality of our diet. If you’re eating french fries within your arbritary window, they’re still french fries – metabolized the same way as if they were eaten earlier or later in the day. Healthy Hint: humans intermittent fast by nature. We don’t eat when we sleep. Intermittent Fasting isn’t so much a new concept, but an expansion of our biological evolution.