HALE – Priorities and the problem with ‘all or nothing’

I sometimes feel guilty about doing things for myself. And it’s a problem.

I’m the owner of a fast growing, highly demanding private nutrition practice, The Healthy Eating Hub. It’s actually Canberra’s largest team of nutrition professionals and I’m obviously biased, but we’re pretty awesome!

I have two kids. They’re 7 and 8 and they’re involved in two extra-curricular activities each and also attend a VERY busy little school. I feel like I need a PA just to handle all the school notes some days. And the school app? Don’t even getting me started on those incessant notifications!

I have a very supportive husband who works in a sometimes high pressure job and has extra-curricular activities of his own. We share the child rearing and household chores 50/50.

I’ve been slogging away at growing my business for a long time now and I’ll be honest with you:

I haven’t consistently participated in exercise for almost 3 years.

Are you shocked? Well, you shouldn’t be. I’m not superhuman. Health and fitness experts aren’t unusual people. I’m a normal person. With normal pressures and stressors. Juggling competing priorities is a huge challenge that I’m not sure I’ll ever master. I find it hard to prioritise myself when it comes to exercise. I occasionally rely on ready made connivence foods. In saying that, despite the busyness of my life, I do have a pretty good handle on my food. Here’s how I do it.

About 3 years ago, I was regularly exercising. About 6 hours per week. My business was smaller. My kids were littler. I prioritised the exercise because it was a wonderful social connection time for me with great friends and it made me FEEL SO GOOD.

But then I injured myself. Badly. I couldn’t move my head for weeks. Then the business took a massive step forward. My youngest started school. I started working LOTS. And that was that. Blah Blah blah… I sporadically exercised from then on. Since then I’ve found it difficult to switch off from work and take a break. I find it difficult to exercise with my kids in tow. The whinging, complaining and fighting. Argh! Drives me crazy! I feel guilty about taking even more time to do some exercise by myself.

I’ve been in a pathetic manky slump about it all.  Just a grumpy, cranky workaholic, feeling guilty and sorry for myself.

I miss the fitness. I miss being strong. I miss muscle tone in my body.

But no more. I’ve decided that prioritising my health is NOT selfish. And for the good of men and women everywhere, I’m taking a stand with advocating that if we don’t change our mindsets about prioritising our health and stop being victims and start being ‘doers’, then we’ll NEVER turn long term changes (with exercise or diet) into long term habits.

So, how do I plan on making this happen?

Well, I’m the consulting nutritionist for Canberra’s newest luxury fitness destination Hale Gym + Spa. I’ve written the nutrition plans for The Hale Method, a 12 week program designed to build fitness, flexibility, mobility and boost overall health. The training program has been designed by Pete Sutton, a highly experienced trainer and coach. With my nutrition knowledge and Pete’s training style, The Hale Method is going to get results!

As part of my involvement as Hale’s nutritionist, I’m going to complete the 12 week program myself and record my progress and results. It’s the perfect opportunity for me to prioritise my exercise (it’s only 4 trainer guided sessions per week) and also follow my own nutrition plans. I want to put myself in the shoes of the other members and also my broader client base.

I’ve talked about 12 week challenges before and how following meal plans is not always a great idea. So I’m going to show you how I would follow a meal plan, with a balanced and long term mindset, and use it to help me shape long term habits.

There’s always more healthy habits that I can work into my daily routine and I want to demonstrate a healthy way to do it.

We often approach 12 week challenges or meal plans with an ‘all or nothing’ mindset. If we can’t follow the plan 100% perfect, we give up and then deviate for the rest of the day or the rest of the week. “I’ll start again on Monday” is a common phrase chronic yo-yo dieters tell themselves. This is completely unnecessary and why most diets don’t work. Better you follow a plan at 80% consistently long term than 100% for 1 week!

If you’re following a meal plan here are a few keys to make the most of them, rather then letting them get the better of you:

  • Learn from the principles – if they’re good plans they’ll incorporate lots of vegetables, have thought about your daily fibre needs and will ensure lots of whole fresh foods so you get plenty of nutrients. If the plan helps you eat more vegetables, snack smarter or choose better quality carbohydrates, great! These small changes maintained long term WILL make a difference!
  • Practice the art of weekly organisation – meal plans can help you prepare for the week in advance. You cannot eat well without being prepared to do so. You’re going to have to PLAN your meals long term to maintain long term health. It’s the nature of the food environment you’re in. There are no shortcuts. Check out this post for more info.
  • Learn to make tweaks to suit your preferences – meal plans don’t teach you anything if you blindly follow them. Making tweaks and changes to suit your needs is actually a really important part of learning how to feed yourself in a way that suits you! Don’t force down food you hate. You won’t repeat behaviours that you hate. You have to enjoy your food or you’ll self-sabotage, get bored and give up.

The other thing I want to mention with the food is that I’m going to be following the muscle building plan. For two reasons: One, I want to get strong and two, I don’t want to be restrictive with my eating. Also, I want to prove that healthy eating isn’t about restriction and that, if you’re a woman, if you regularly choose good foods and do regular exercise, you can eat large meals, feel full and satisfied and not get ‘big’!

My main challenge will be waking up for training.

I’m attending the 5.45am sessions. Thats right. 5 fricken’ am. That’s what time I need to wake up.

I’m the worst morning person you’ve ever met. I’m not even kidding. Not perky. Not friendly. Not even pretend polite. I’m a down right grumpy bitch with nothing better to say than a grunt. I’m not going to lie, this is going to be hard for me. However, I do know that if I can get into a routine with it, it’ll be one of the best lifestyle changes I’ve made all year!

I’m all ready to get started with the plan tomorrow. Here’s what I’ve done or haven’t done (because that’s also important) to get prepared:

  1. I haven’t binged on all the junk food to ‘get it out of the house’ or because I’m never eating it again. I’m just following an eating plan, I’m not leaving on a rocket ship to orbit earth for 3 years.
  2. I’ve gone shopping. My fridge and pantry is stocked and ready to roll full of fresh food.
  3. I’ve popped the meal plan on a little stand on my kitchen bench so I can see it each day and know what to pack for my lunch and snacks.
  4. I’ve got the family on board. They are all prepared that the eating plan on the bench is what we’re eating for the week!
  5. I’ve packed my gym bag and left out my gym clothes.
  6. I’ve written this blog post to keep myself accountable to you all that I will be rising at 5am to train of the next 12 weeks (and beyond).
  7. I’ve got a long term mindset. This is not temporary. This is 12 weeks to practice prioritising myself and my exercise so it can be a normal and regular part of my week.
  8. I haven’t chosen to follow a restrictive meal plan that’s drastically different to my regular eating habits (perks of being a nutritionist). Restrictive meals plans are hard to follow. Sometimes we think we can’t stick to meal plans because we have no will power, but mostly it’s because many meal plans are too strict and you’re starving.

If you’d like to follow my progress, I’ll be documenting my journey (food and exercise) on my Instagram story. @kfnutrition. I would love to take you on the journey!

See my meals, snacks, drinks, training sessions, and an inside view of Canberra’s most luxurious gym! Plus get heaps of tips and tricks about how to stay consistent with your eating and exercise habits long term!

Make sure you also follow Hale Gym + Spa @halegymspa and check out this beautiful  gym. The place is immaculate, top level quality and I actually cannot wait to get started!

Article by Kate Freeman

Registered Nutritionist. Writer. Presenter. Home cook. Mother. Wife. Runner. Hiker. Amateur photographer.