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Overcoming The “All-Or-Nothing” Mentality

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We’re in the midst of a tough time on the nutrition and exercise front.

The parties are everywhere.

The chocolate, the gingerbread, the candy canes…perhaps even the wine, cocktails or beer.

‘Tis the season, right?

Hopefully you haven’t decided to throw in the towel and get back on track in 2019.

That’s something I refer to as the New Year’s Fallacy.

Are you planning to “go on a diet” soon?

But not now, of course, because it’s THE HOLIDAYS.

Technically, you already ARE on a diet, even if it’s not a diet that keeps you healthy or gets you the results you want.

We nutrition people define DIET as what someone eats on a daily basis.

I’m well aware that most people have a different idea.

And there are times when there may be a need to follow a specific dietary prescription, like a gluten-free diet for celiacs, a dairy-free diet for the lactose intolerant, or a low-sugar diet for diabetics.

There’s also this diet:

In my Online Coaching practice, I’ve tried to get away from the idea of “diet” altogether.

Losing the “diet” word gets rid of all those nasty connotations:

* The idea of starving yourself.

* Supplementing with questionable products labelled “natural” (a meaningless term) so that you can fit into a certain outfit in a pre-prescribed amount of weeks.

* The notion that you need to give up all sorts of perfectly-good foods, like dairy, meat, grains, beans or corn to healthy (you don’t!).

If you want to be successful with losing weight and keeping it off, the most important thing to do is drop the “All-Or-Nothing” mentality.

Many people hold themselves back by adhering to this philosophy.

If they’re not 100% committed to doing every step perfectly, they don’t bother at all.

Success with nutrition and exercise suffers when you follow that concept.

Expecting yourself to do everything perfectly will only disappoint you and leave you feeling like a failure.grass-cutting-all-or-nothing-mentality

No one wants that!

I was a master of that destructive all-or-nothing mentality for a long time.

In my 20s, I’d go on a very strict diet and exercise regime for weeks or months.

I wouldn’t allow myself any chocolate, ice cream, alcohol or cookies for weeks at a time.

Eventually, my will would give in.

I’d probably keep up with the exercise (because, for the most part, I enjoy it), but I’d soon decide that the struggle with food wasn’t worth it.

I’d have some chocolate.

A LOT of chocolate.

Then maybe some ice cream the next day.

When I went out with my friends on the weekend, I decided I didn’t need to stick to water anymore.

I was completely off the rails again and gaining plenty of fat to prove it.

Eventually I realized that I was making a mess of everything and I put myself back on a diet again.

No more “bad” food…just “clean eating” (another meaningless term).

And the Diet Cycle began again.

Only to be repeated countless times over a decade or so.

I eventually realized that I didn’t have to be perfect to get leaner.

The biggest difference now is not expecting everything to be exactly on the mark.

What does that mean specifically?

It means that you head to the gym for only 35 minutes instead of skipping it altogether when you’re busy.

Maybe you only workout once or twice that week, but you decide to be more careful with what you’re eating by reducing your calories and carbs slightly.

One weights session is better than none.

A single glass of wine is better than three or four.

Maybe you’re craving a hot chocolate when you go to the Christmas Market.

Your meals that day can be slightly adjusted with sugar and calories to keep things in balance.

And even if you eat a bit more one day, it’s not a reason to keep doing that.

Just go back to your usual plan without guilt.

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There will be treat foods that you’ll want and there will sometimes be things you have to do besides workout.

Don’t give up.

Life throws you challenges for kicks so you need to be ready…and not imploding with the slightest pressure.

Giving up on your goal because of a small setback is like slashing the other three tires when you find out your car has a flat.

Not helpful!

The satisfaction of my lifestyle now is that I enjoy my food without guilt.

I tend to know when I’m getting carried away and I can pivot quickly to make sure that I don’t sabotage myself by giving in completely.

My client Kathyne, who always thought she needed to stick to a “clean diet” to stay lean, has realized that she can have the delicious cheese that her husband brings back from his work trips.

She just has to plan the rest of her day (or the next day) accordingly to account for the additional calories and fat.

You can hear what Kathryne (and some of my other clients) has to say about my approach HERE.

So this season, and next year, try to take a more balanced approach.

You can have some potato chips.

You can order the fries on the side sometimes when you go out.

That dessert place that your spouse has been dying to check out doesn’t have to feel scary.

It takes time to change your relationship with food this way.

In truth, many of my Online Coaching clients are still working on it.

It’s a process that can’t always be undone in a few weeks or months.

That’s fine.

The habits of a lifetime are not undone just because you read this article.

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You have to remind yourself every time you sit down to eat.

Sometimes you need support to guide you through the inevitable hurdles that you’ll face.

Know that the process is worth it.

Believe that you can do it, as long as you follow a practical strategy and look at your limiting beliefs around food.

You don’t have to be perfect.

You just have to make progress.

Ivana Chapman

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Are You Telling Yourself The Wrong Story?

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I recently joined up for Netflix (late to the party, I know!). One of the TV shows I was curious about was “This Is Us”. I had seen some powerful commercials advertising the show and after passing the posters on the Toronto subway for weeks, I couldn’t resist anymore.

So I binge-watched two seasons of the show in about three weeks (being sick for a few days helped!), which is something I haven’t done for about a decade.

Anyway, there are plenty of interesting life lessons in there…a few about weight loss and having an unhealthy relationship with food.

In the second episode of the Season 1, the character Kate had a moment that summed up the weight struggles that many people go through.

Kate is morbidly obese and joins a weight loss support group to lose weight after a lifetime of struggling.

She starts a relationship with Toby, a man in the group, and takes him to a Hollywood party as guests of her (lean, fit) TV star twin brother.

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Kate and Toby by the pool

After getting drunk and dancing near the pool (all Hollywood parties are pool parties!), they have a quiet moment together.

This is when we find out what really makes Kate tick.

“It’s always going to be about the weight for me, Toby. It’s been my story ever since I was a little girl. And every moment that I’m not thinking about it, I’m thinking about it….It’s just at the core of who I am, it’s just deep inside.” 

In a later episode, Kate talks about how she managed to lose weight at one point in high school, but she was more comfortable hating herself for not being able to slim down.

Being fat is Kate’s story.

She doesn’t know anything else.

Emotional issues can have all sorts of causes and dealing with those is beyond my scope of practice as a Fitness & Nutrition Coach.

What I do know is that changing Kate’s story is the only thing that would change her future…and her weight.

As long as she sees herself as “The Fat Girl”, she’ll continue to perform the behaviours that are associated with that role: eating too much food, not exercising, and binge eating under stress.

Changing your view of yourself is not a simple, linear process.

I wrote a blog post called “Why Most People Never Change” that highlights the problem.

It’s not as simple as saying a positive affirmation once, or even every day.

You have to silence the inner voice that pops up constantly when you’re not even paying attention.

Every action we take is influenced by that voice.

Kate’s story may not seem similar to yours.

What you may have in common is the limiting stories that you’re telling yourself.

We all have them.

“I’m too old.”

“I’m tired.”

“I have too many injuries.”

“I’m just not one of those ‘Gym People’.”

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What do those stories DO for you? 

Sure, they hold you back, but they also protect you in some way.

If you don’t try to workout, you won’t fail.

You won’t look silly and weak at the gym.

Unless you go to the gym you won’t have to face how unfit, weak, and immobile you’ve become.

And telling yourself that working out isn’t for you will keep you from facing those fears.

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There’s a feeling of comfort staying as you are, even if it’s not how you want to be.

In a later episode, Kate finds herself at a singing audition and has to face that fact  that it’s her lack of training (and perhaps talent) and NOT her weight that keeps her from getting the job.

Kate had to admit that she was using her weight as a form of protection against rejection – a painful revelation.

Many people use their age the same way.

They use age as a reason why they can’t get fit and lean, when it’s really their commitment to a sound workout and nutrition plan that’s the problem.

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I’m never going to tell you the process of change is easy.

There are ups and downs, relapses, and moments of feeling that it’s not worth it.

If it were easy, everyone would be walking around healthy, fit, and lean.

Facing the pain of your natural human fragility is tough.

But knowing that you have the power within yourself to make the change you need should be comforting.

Take the first step by telling yourself a new story.

Ivana Chapman

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The Mental Shift That Gets You Lean Permanently

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If he can change his thoughts, he’ll finally be able to stay lean.

There was a time when I struggled with my weight. It’s not that I was overweight, per se, but I was definitely carrying more fat than was ideal for me, especially as an athlete (I competed in Karate for 14 years).

The main issue was the weight fluctuations.

I’d get myself down close to my target weight (never quite there) and then I’d struggle. Maybe a special event came along that triggered a week’s binge on treats. Or I’d go through an emotional time and I used food to comfort myself.


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“The solution’s in the fridge…I’m sure it is.”

This cycle would repeat itself over and over.

I’d diet by “eating clean” and avoiding any “junk foods” and then after weeks or months of deprivation I’d cave in and totally blow my diet.

Any of that sound familiar?

It’s a common scenario for many people, and it’s a struggle that goes on for years and often for decades. I recently went through some old handwritten papers in my files from my late 20s. Written into my goals for the year was, “Get my weight down to 145lbs and stop fluctuating”.

At that time, I was also pursuing an acting and modelling career and my size was tied strongly into my self-confidence in this endeavour.

I never felt like I was good enough.

I resisted putting myself out there  because I didn’t feel ready until I was a certain size.

I’m now able to maintain my weight in the 135-138 pound zone (at a height of 5’10), with what feels like no effort. So what’s changed now, over a decade later and after having a kid?

I’ve changed my whole thought process around food.

chimp-mental-shift“I can have that banana…if I REALLY want it.”

No food is banned from my nutrition plan.

If I really, really, really want a particular food I have it, but in much smaller quantities than I would have in the past when deprivation would lead to a binge. It’s now rare for me to eat mindlessly, stuffing myself with sugary foods to try to feel better.

I LOVE FOOD and I recognize that it’s part of my social and family life.

The shared experience of having great food with people I care about is something that I value. Yet I know that food is only one of the pleasures of life. Food doesn’t heal pain and overeating makes me feel physically ill and lacking in energy afterwards.

Banning particular foods makes you more likely to crave them.

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“I want this chocolate SO BADLY, but I can’t. I just can’t.

And craving foods means you become obsessive and then overdo it when you do end up consuming those treats.

Getting lean isn’t about excessive restriction and constant hunger.

It’s about developing a way of eating that nourishes your body, satisfies you, and doesn’t make you feel deprived.

It takes time and experimentation to develop the skill, but if you pay attention to your desires and your psychological state when eating then you’ll have more control over the food you eat…and it won’t feel so hard.

No nutrition plan is perfect and denying yourself foods you love will only cause you more stress.

Changing the way you think about food is the mental shift that will get you lean and keep you lean.

Ivana Chapman

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Get Lean By Changing Your Relationship With Food

Don’t feel guilty…it’s OK to eat treats once in a while.

There’s a theme that comes up with nearly every client I’ve ever had over the course of my 17-year fitness coaching career. Many people like exercising, or at least don’t mind it, and have developed a fondness for getting stronger with weight training over time. And then we get to the nutrition side and there’s a groan, followed by statements like:

“Food is my weakness.”

“I love food too much.”

“I can be good with my diet for a while, but then I crave chocolate/fries/chips/burgers, etc.”

And if you’re looking for why most people aren’t able to stay lean consistently, nutrition is almost always the answer.

Exercise is important, for sure, and it helps you develop the muscle shape you want while increasing important physiological factors like insulin sensitivity.

But you won’t find your long-term solution to leanness until you fix your nutrition game.

I know this personally since I’ve exercised consistently pretty much my whole life (primarily martial arts and weight training) and my level of leanness has varied considerably over that time. In my adult years, I’ve varied from about 130lbs (right before a fitness competition) to a high of over 165lbs. My normal weight these days hovers at 134-138lbs (at 5’10). And believe it or not, that highest weight WAS NOT during my pregnancy.

It was in my early 20s when I was struggling with an unidentified digestive disorder (later labelled IBS and GERD), periods of mild depression, and binge eating.

It wasn’t until my 30s, when I discovered a higher-protein and lower-carb lifestyle that I finally developed a healthy relationship with food. Gone was the “all-or-nothing” mentality, the overly-restrictive diets, and the use of food as therapy for everything that hurt me emotionally.

Food is fuel. Food is for enjoyment, including to enhance social experiences.The right quantity and quality of food helps you feel good, stay lean, and adds to your enjoyment of life.

When your eating balance gets tipped in either direction, either too careless or too restrictive, negative things happen.

I got thinking about this after a visit to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition), a massive two-week celebration in Toronto that has a midway, exhibits, shopping, and a lot of (often completely outrageous) food. Think Fried Mac and Curd Chimichangas, massive heavily-loaded burgers, deep-fried spaghetti balls, and cheesesteaks that use donuts instead of a bun and topped with whipped cream.

I actually feel kind of nauseous thinking about it!

People rush to the CNE to get their crazy-food fix and many people leave having consumed several thousand more calories than they should in a day…and with very upset stomachs.

And that’s not the end of the world, as long as they don’t do it every day.

Sometimes eating too much (like on special occasions) and eating food that doesn’t make us feel that well is a good reminder of why it’s better to eat well most of the time.

I love food.

But food isn’t the only thing that brings me enjoyment in life, and I don’t use it to try to soothe any of the pain or hurt that I may endure anymore.

Your relationship with food is what makes or breaks your success in staying lean long-term.

As long as you keep thinking of yourself as “being good” when you’re eating a certain way and “being bad” when you eat in another manner, you’ll never really have a healthy relationship with food.

That roller coaster ride of restrictive dieting followed by binge eating is what keeps most people from long term success with fat loss…and makes them unhappier each time it happens.

So do what you can to break the cycle.

I wish there was a magical solution to change your psychological food associations, but there isn’t. I’d love to be able to recommend a specific diet that will stop your desire to eat crappy food when you’re feeling down. There’s no quick-fix for a lifetime of bad food habits and you’ll have setbacks as you try to heal your negative relationship with food.

Here are the important points:

  1. Never feel guilty about the food you eat.
  2. Move on quickly after you’ve had too much food, or if you’ve had a period where it was hard to keep your nutrition plan on track.
  3. Practice mindfulness when you’re eating, and do a daily short 5-10 minute meditation (HERE is a simple way to get started) to help you reduce the stress that can lead to making bad choices with food.
  4. If you suffer from frequent binge eating episodes, think obsessively about food, or feel that you have a chronic lack of control around food, seek out professional help in the form of a psychologist that specializes in eating disorders.

You can move forward into a healthier, happier mindset by taking your lifestyle changes one step at a time, and by not making yourself feel bad because you don’t have superhuman discipline.

This isn’t about discipline at all; it’s about the impact of your emotional state on your eating habits.

You can hop from diet to diet, but if you don’t find a way to manage the emotional side of your eating you’ll never make a permanent change in your life.

When you learn to appreciate and accept food for what it is, and for what it’s not, you’re on your way to a lifetime of leanness, and a more positive outlook.

Ivana Chapman

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How to Change Your Relationship with Food

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Want to have a better relationship with that donut? 

Many of us have a tenuous relationship with food. We only have to look at the state of our health (about 66% of North Americans are overweight or obese) to know that we aren’t eating the way we should be. The struggle with food is real.

Diets don’t work. Well, at least not the conventional type that involve very restricted eating or meticulous calorie counting. Many of those diets that litter the bookstores would certainly work if people adhered to them exactly as described. That’s precisely the problem. Adhering to most diets is setting yourself up for failure, since they require an obsession with food that most of us aren’t willing to commit to. Still, millions of people buy diet books in the hopes of finding the holy grail that will finally change their lives.

Stop Searching for the Solution

You know what makes the biggest difference in your ability to get lean and have the body you want?

Having a positive, uplifting relationship with food.

Stick with me; it’s not as cheesy as it sounds.

Most people have some sort of issue with food, whether it’s feelings of guilt or a lack of control around certain favourites (like fries, donuts, or pumpkin pie). Other people do well during the week and then just run around eating all the processed garbage they can find on the weekend.

Blocking Out the Pain

Many people use food to sedate themselves when they feel anxious or overstimulated. I’ve personally suffered through my share of experiences with binging and eating under stress. I remember mindlessly eating two or three very large Kinder Chocolate bars at my mom’s place in 2004, a couple of hours before heading to my dad’s funeral. When my mom told me to stop eating so much chocolate, I replied:

“My dad just died. I can eat whatever I want!”

She didn’t have a reply.

It’s ridiculous, really, when I think about it. I wasn’t even enjoying the chocolate. I barely remember consuming it. I was just using it to make me feel numb to the pain of my dad’s sudden death.

I know some people who can’t eat at all when they’re under extreme stress. They’re the ones who get painfully thin and weak when they’re suffering.

Neither of these uses for food is helpful.

Overeating

I’m not saying you’ll never overeat again. We’ve all gotten a bit carried away at Thanksgiving or Christmas at some point, haven’t we? We’re not perfect, and we shouldn’t expect to be. That only makes our relationship with food worse.

Having a structured plan for when and what you’re eating will help, but it’s not a magical cure that lasts forever. For many people, trying to keep their food desires under control is a lifelong battle.

It’s crazy to think that despite all the success that Oprah Winfrey has had in her life, the one thing that she wishes she could change about her life is her struggle with her weight.

Outrageous, right?

This insanely successful woman still worries about her weight struggles and relationship with food.

Binging, Dieting, and Deprivation

I’m no stranger to unhealthy relationships with food. I’ve binged on chocolate and overeaten “healthy” foods.  In my unhappy days, I managed to eat an entire loaf of thick, crusty whole grain bread at one sitting!

Whenever I overate foods, I felt guilty and tried to be extra strict with myself for the weeks afterward. I’d be successful at sticking to a perfectly “clean” diet through sheer willpower and I’d applaud myself for being so “good”. Then the deprivation sent me running back to the foods I’d been avoiding – in an even more frantic way.

Sound familiar?

It’s a common refrain for women and men alike. I’ve had male and female clients tell me about their unhealthy relationships with food.

If it’s something serious and longstanding, consider getting professional counselling to deal with whatever issues are causing unhappiness and a dependence on food. I’ve never met a person who was significantly overweight who didn’t have some personal issues or underlying unhappiness in their life.

Yet even those people who maintain a healthy weight often have obstacles to overcome. They may be managing – through a combination of good genetics, exercise (often excessive), and self-discipline – to stay lean, but their unhealthy relationship with food takes over too much of their lives.

Being “Good” and Being “Bad”

As far as I’m concerned, the worst thing to do is to label yourself “good” when you’ve been restricting yourself to only certain foods you consider “good for you” and “bad” when you’ve had less-healthy options.

Many a client has returned to me after a weekend telling me:

“I was really bad this weekend.”

I’m secretly hoping it’s a story that includes car chases and steamy sex a la “Fifty Shades of Grey”, but inevitably it’s a boring sob-fest about how he/she couldn’t resist the hot wings at the restaurant or had excessive quantities of pasta salad at a BBQ.

Judging yourself because of every morsel of food isn’t helpful.

Have a plan, for sure, but don’t beat yourself up over every little thing that doesn’t go exactly according to that plan. Do your best. Don’t label yourself “good” or “bad” based on what you ate today…or last week.

What Food Is

Food is nourishment, fuel, and pleasure. The right foods at the right time will give you energy and build the body you want.

Having food with other people is part of our daily ritual, and enhances our social experiences, and family and community ties. Eating certain foods during holidays with loved ones is associated with feelings of pleasure and allows a beautiful shared experience.

What Food Is Not

Food is NOT a substitute for love, a way to numb pain, or a method of controlling the success of your life.

Food is important, for sure.

It can give you energy and give you healthy vibrance that you never had before.

Food can support your goals and make you feel like you’re on top of the world.

The tricky thing about food is that you can never avoid it altogether, and if you struggle with food issues it’s a challenge that you face several times a day. Master your relationship with food and you’ll discover just how important – and also unimportant – it is in your life.

Ivana Chapman 

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Are You Being Judged Fairly?

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You shouldn’t be judged as lazy if you aren’t yet successful with your physique goals.

I admit it. I can be judgmental.

Sometimes when I see someone who’s wearing those scary earrings inside the ears

(I think the technical term is ear gauging):

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I say to myself…

“What were they thinking?!”

Instead of: “Wow, what a unique individual. It takes guts to do something that most people would find outlandish.”

Coaching is about Respect

The one area where I try not to be judgemental is with my coaching clients. When someone comes to me for help with their nutrition and training program, I want to give them the most effective assistance that I can. I try to understand my clients and the challenges they face on a daily basis.

The Personal Training World

I recently got thinking about the attitude many personal trainers have towards their clients. My own coaching journey began as a karate instructor at the age of sixteen, and continued when I started full-time personal training in the year 2000. I’ve spent many years “in the trenches” helping clients get the physique results they want. If the client wasn’t successful, I came to the conclusion that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped (since all my other clients were successful).

I still think that’s true, but if someone does want to be helped then you need to understand them better in order to give them the right strategy. As a young coach, I don’t think I understood that some people needed a different approach.

Role Models for Success

When I think about the hundreds of people I’ve coached over the years, I realize what an impressive group of people they are: Lawyers, TV personalities, financial gurus, scientists, real estate tycoons, IT and medical professionals, Presidents & CEOs of multimillion dollar companies.

They are all extremely successful with their work, and many also have fulfilling family lives.

It seems hilarious that the average 20-something personal trainer, making say $40,000 a year, would look down on these people and say:

“You’re so lazy. You’re not committed enough to exercise and nutrition. You should be more like me…   single, 26-year-old dude who spends all day in the gym for a pitiful wage and hopes one day to be the gym manager.”

That doesn’t sound right to me. Why would a successful person want to be like this hypothetical “hot shot” guy at the gym?

They wouldn’t.

The Oprah Paradox

Think about Oprah Winfrey. Media mogul. Oscar-nominated Actress. Producer. Billionaire. This woman who overcame a poor childhood and sexual abuse to achieve all these things… is overweight. And has struggled with her weight issues her whole adult life.

Interesting, right?

What if Oprah looked down on everyone who wasn’t a billionaire like she is?

She certainly wouldn’t be the beloved icon she has become…because she has empathy. Most of us could stand to be more empathetic and a lot less judgemental.

Different Priorities

My clients aren’t lazy. Their priorities are just different than those of fitness professionals. In order to connect with my clients, and help them overcome their nutrition and workout challenges, I try to understand the world that they live in. By understanding their challenges, I can use my skills to help them succeed – without turning their lives upside down.

Because not every millionaire professional wants to quit their job to live “the fitness lifestyle” of the average personal trainer. And I certainly don’t blame them.

Ivana Chapman 

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How to Multitask Your Way to Success

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You can accomplish many things at once…if you pick the right things.

We’re all busy, and we want to do as much as possible in the shortest possible time. There’s a limit to what you can achieve at the same time, but we all want to get the most out of the precious little time we all seem to have.

Let’s take a look at some useful multitasking…and some less useful examples that will just make your lifeless productive.

In Life

Useful multitasking: Listening to an audiobook while cleaning your house

Silly multitasking: Applying makeup while driving your car

Useful multitasking: Walking across the street while listening to music

Silly multitasking: Walking across the street while reading a book (I have seen this many times!)

With Workouts

Useful multitasking: Listening to music while lifting weights

Silly multitasking: Reading a magazine while slowly peddling on the stationary bike – who hasn’t seen this one?!

Useful multitasking: Taking short rest periods between weights exercises to produce a cardio effect

Silly multitasking: Doing a barbell squat with torso rotation while standing on a stability ball

With Food

Useful multitasking: Reading a book while waiting for your chicken to roast in the oven (set a timer!)

Silly multitasking: Writing a novel while frying scrambled eggs on the stove (hint: you’ll burn them!)

Useful multitasking: Sipping a protein shake while driving home from the gym

Silly multitasking: Shelling and eating a lobster tail while driving home from the gym

Ok, so a few of these examples were obviously jokes that no one in their right mind would try. You get the idea though, right?

Use multitasking wisely!

Ivana Chapman 

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Treating Yourself is Part of Good Nutrition

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She’s having that muffin and she’s not going to feel guilty.

I generally support the idea of “clean eating” in terms of keeping your food as close to actual food, as opposed to processed crap. Yes, I do believe that vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, poultry, nuts, and unprocessed oils like coconut oil and olive oil are the way to go most of the time.

I feel a certain contempt for McDonalds, Burger King, and Krispy Kreme for the options they provide that many people consider normal daily sustenance. But what would my life be like without the occasional Lindt chocolate ball or New York Style cheesecake with caramel sauce on the side?

Certainly it would be slightly less joyous than it currently is.

Most of the Time…

I have an issue with the evangelical nature of some “clean eating” proponents. You’re not a bad person if you love chips and indulge in them a couple of times a month. Life is all about daily choices and I certainly think that you should be feeding your body regularly with foods that fuel your body properly and contain the right amount of protein, carbs, and fats for your body type, genetics, and metabolism.

Choose whole foods that your body recognizes as food and that nourish it rather than drain your energy resources. Find out what works for you and consider real food the staple of your diet on a day-to-day basis.

Treat Yourself

Now it’s time to pick your battles. Do you love cheeseburgers? Do you crave spaghetti and meatballs? Does the thought of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough get you salivating?

I personally have no interest in burgers, french fries, potato chips, sandwiches, pasta, or muffins (is that 600 calories of sugar and fat worth it? Not for me!), but offer me a chocolate molten lava cake and I’m unlikely to turn you down. Pick your favourite treat and enjoy it occasionally without any remorse. You probably can’t do it every day. And you can’t have your cake…and sandwiches, pasta, ice cream, donuts, pizza, and pie too.

Life is all about choices. So pick which foods make your life significantly better and drop the rest in favour of healthier whole foods.

A Life without Chocolate…not for me!

I could try to be disciplined and decide that I’m never having ice cream or chocolate (not the dark organic kind either!) ever again. Maybe I would feel better or be healthier…or maybe not. I’ve tried in the past to completely eliminate certain foods that I love, but it never ends well. The problem with restricting yourself too much is that it usually ends with binging and feeling guilty – not positive things.

Make your choices wisely and you can have the body you want, the energy you need, and the health that sustains you for a lifetime.

End the guilt, and enjoy a satisfied nutrition life.

Ivana Chapman 

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I Wish I Wasn’t a Fitness Freak

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I eat nutritious food, work out regularly, and enjoy the lifestyle that those things include. I’m active and passionate, and yes – I enjoy exercise.

Are you a Freak?

I’ve never been crazy about the term “Fitness Freak”. Maybe it’s because the word “freak” tends to have a negative connotation, but recently I’ve been giving it a bit more thought and I’m even more disturbed by the term. Let’s think about the definition for a second:

Freak

A very unusual and unexpected event or situation.

Hmmmm.

So a healthy person who enjoys working out and moving her body is a freak.

Isn’t it a bit sad that being physical and living a beneficial lifestyle is “a very unusual and unexpected event or situation”?

When the majority of people (over 65%, the latest reports show) are overweight and 80% of people don’t get even the minimum government recommended amount of exercise (only 2.5hrs a week of moderate activity) it’s only a “freak” that works out 4 or 5 times a week and maintains a lean physique.

Isn’t that a sad statement about our society?

It’s more common for people to sit around watching five hours of TV and eating cheeseburgers and fries with Coke than it is to be physical and eat healthy foods that nourish your body for activity, happiness, and longevity.

I hope you’re with me in thinking there’s something wrong with that.

So have you got the guts to be a health and fitness “freak”?

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably a bit of a freak already.

Embrace it. Join me in embracing your fitness freak.

Who’s with me?

Ivana Chapman 

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How to Move Forward in Life

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Keeping moving in the right direction in life.

I learned a very unhelpful habit from my mom many years ago and I’ve been trying to correct it in recent years. She has a habit of thinking about what “could have” been and stressing herself out about it. Most of the time it’s related to money and spending it unnecessarily.

You know the pain of booking a holiday and then finding out that the price has dropped shortly afterwards? Or buying a dress only to have it go on sale the next day? That’s what I’m talking about.

Your Lifestyle

So how exactly does this same attitude effect your lifestyle (ie. your workouts and nutrition)?

Have you ever eaten way too much and felt so bad afterwards that you continued medicating yourself with food later in the day?

Did you beat yourself up about not having a great workout and it discouraged you from going to the gym the next day?

Have you ever eaten something that you felt bad about and used it as an excuse to binge on bad food all day?

Stop it!

It’s not worth it. Don’t waste your time and energy worrying about what you might have done or what you could have done. You’re filling your head with unnecessary worry. Worry only makes life difficult. And life is difficult enough.

Can You Do Anything About it?

Let’s say you’ve made a blunder. Can you fix it? Let’s assume that in most cases you can’t. What’s the point in beating yourself up over it? You need to treat yourself with respect and allow yourself to make mistakes occasionally. The more you focus on your mistakes, the less energy you’ll have to devote to improving yourself in the future.

The Past is Past

Don’t worry about anything that you can’t change. Once the issue has past there’s no point in dwelling.

Free yourself…and move on.

You’ll be glad you did. And so will everyone else around you.

Ivana Chapman

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How To Make Every Birthday Special

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Doesn’t it feel good to celebrate another birthday?

It’s that special time of the year again – my birthday! Yay!

Special for me anyway. I don’t expect all of you to celebrate me. If fact, on this occasion of my birthday I want you to think about how you can make your next birthday extra special.

Celebrating and Appreciating

Every year during this time I celebrate my birthday week. Yes, birthday week.

One day just doesn’t cut it.

What I do for this week is celebrate all the things that make me happy and grateful to be alive.

Treating Myself

Ok, some of it is just me buying myself fun treats that I don’t regularly partake in.

A Frappucino at Starbucks.

Lots of bocconcini and buffalo mozzarella.

A fashion or trashy celeb magazine.

English toffee covered in chocolate.

I usually also buy myself some new clothes or workout outfits. This year I also bought myself a new pair of Nike Free flyknit shoes.

For that one week of the year I want to feel especially good.

The Party

Yes, even fitness chicks like myself like to party! This year the alcohol consumption is pretty limited because I’m a breastfeeding mom, but the joyous celebrations will go on.

I like to spend time with friends and family and make them all realize how much I appreciate having them in my life.

Gratitude

I spend my birthday week thinking about all the people and things in my life that I’m grateful for. My husband, Ryan, of course. My mom and sister and adorable niece. All the amazing friends who bring different elements to my life. All the people I respect and admire, including those who I’ve never met, but whose books I’ve read and learned something (Richard Branson, Ariana Huffington, Sheryl Sandberg, Charles Poliquin, etc.).

This year I have my baby son Kai to add to the mix. I’m very grateful to be a mama. It took me a while to get there, but it was well worth the adventure.

This Year

As with New Year’s, on my birthday I vow to make this year even better than the last. It’s going to be a tough one to top, but I’ll do my best!

Ivana Chapman

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Why Age is an Attitude

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A positive, adventurous attitude is the best anti-aging remedy you’ll find.

I’m 37 years old.

There was a time when I wouldn’t be able to tell you that.

My age. Eeeeek!

Having dabbled in modelling since my teens and enjoying a few sincere years in my late 20s of trying to be an Oscar-winning actress (I managed a few infomercials and some student films), I have long been acutely aware of a woman’s need to hide her age.

A Range of Ages

An actress is never supposed to say how old she is, just the range she plays…let’s say “20-25” or “35-45”. That’s how commercials, TV, and movie are cast, by identifying an age range for a character and then finding an actress who looks that age.

As you can imagine, it’s often a source of great pride for an actress that she plays in a younger age range than she is.

Being 5’10, I was able to buy alcohol without ID at the age of 16 so playing my age was more likely early on.

What You Put In…

By the time you hit your 30s though, I think that changes. The lifestyle choices you’ve made (eating right, exercising, not smoking) in the past start to bring you benefits.

Many people would guess that I’m a bit younger than my age now.

What does it matter?

It doesn’t.

Most people’s idea of what a particular age looks like is based on a norm created by their immediate circle. If you’re in a circle of healthy fitness people you probably realize that 40 or 45 still looks pretty damn fine. Yet if you make your judgements based on the average customer at McDonalds then you might have a different perception of age.

Who Cares?

I honestly feel better than I did in my 20s. I’m energetic, have more confidence and knowledge, and have more to show for my life than ever before. I haven’t felt the physical and mental decline that many acquaintances of mine claim. Taking care of myself, body and mind, must be an important part of that.

Believe it or not, I’m actually about 30lbs lighter than I was at my peak weight at the age of 24. I didn’t even exceed that weight during my pregnancy! There’s a story there (for another blog), but you get my point.

Age Isn’t Just a Number

Age is an attitude. Youth carries the spirit of adventure and feels awe and wonder with the world. You can be youthful at any age. You can be old before your time by being stuck in a rut and disenchanted by life.

Whatever age you are, promise yourself that you’ll do the best you can to take care of your body and mind. Eat well, exercise and move daily, learn inspiring things, and meet amazing people.

Then you’ll never feel old.

Ivana Chapman 

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YOU First! Why Taking Care of Yourself Should be a Priority

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Sometimes it’s important to make yourself #1.

There are plenty of excuses out there for not taking care of yourself.

“I need to help my husband/wife get her business off the ground.”

“My kids need so much of my time.”

Or just the usual:

“I’m too busy!”

Whatever. We all have the same amount of time in the day and you need to make the most of what you’ve got. If you’re not eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising, you’ll never get the most out of your day. If you stagger through a day full of to-dos and never give yourself time to take care of your body and mind then you’ll never really be successful.

Sleep First!

Theoretically you’d get a lot more done if you only slept 4 hours a night, but it’s false economy. If you short-change yourself on sleep, every one of those other 20 hours will be a lot less productive. You’ll need a steady supply of caffeine just to keep awake, you won’t feel enthusiastic about working out, you’ll be tired during that afternoon meeting and grab a muffin to perk yourself up, and you certainly won’t feel like having sex with your spouse at night and you’ll probably plop yourself down on the couch to watch TV instead. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Skip sleep and you’ll be missing out on the energy to enjoy your life.

Eat Nutritiously

Yes, it takes a bit more time to prepare some chicken and steamed veggies for lunch than it does to get that takeout near your office, but what are you costing yourself in terms of energy and health?

Take time to plan meals. Figure out how to get good sources of protein into each meal. Find out how you can add more veggies to your favourite dishes. Food is your fuel. Don’t fuel up with the cheap stuff.

Move Regularly and Exercise

Most of us are desk-bound for the majority of the day. Incorporate more movement (walking to the store, climbing stairs) into your daily routine and make time for regular workouts most days of the week. Sparing 30 minutes 5 times a week for exercise can make the rest of your hours more energetic and productive.

A Better You to Share

Taking time to sleep, eat right, and exercise will give you more energy. You’ll be in a better mood, be less likely to argue, and get tasks done with more efficiency. With more energy, you’ll have a better version of yourself to share with others. If you were willing to neglect yourself because you care so much for other people, think of taking care of yourself as a way to give more to others.

That’s a win-win.

Ivana Chapman 

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Why Self Discipline Fails

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Trying to discipline yourself may not work very well.

Why does Barrack Obama, leader of the Free World, struggle to give up smoking?

Why has Oprah Winfrey, billionaire mogul and one of the most powerful women in the world, spent her life fighting a battle with her weight?

It seems counterintuitive, and possibly even ironic, right? These powerful people, with so much drive and determination to get to the top of their fields, are unable to control crucial aspects of their lifestyles. You would think that they would succeed at whatever they put their minds too.

Yet they don’t.

What’s going on here?

Discipline Fatigue

It turns out that discipline doesn’t work the way we would expect it to. Instead of being a universal, consistent quality, it actually gets used up.

Think of discipline like a muscle, but not just in the basic way.

If you work your muscles, they get stronger. But if you overwork your muscles, or don’t give them time to rest and recover, you’ll cause fatigue.

What Can Oprah and Obama Do?

Running the US of A or multiple large companies probably wears out a lot of discipline muscle. The solution to that dilemma is far from simple.

I’ve coached many a disciplined CEO, company President, or Partner in a law firm who struggled with working out and eating right.

Maybe you’re worn out with the discipline of your career and feel like they don’t have anything left to commit to your fitness and nutrition regime.

Get Guidance

What are you supposed to do, quit your job?! I don’t recommend that. What I do advise is to get more support in the area that you’re struggling with. Get yourself a coach to keep your fitness and nutrition on track.

The funny thing is that people always say they’ll get a coach when “things settle down” or when they “can find a bit more time”.

That’s backwards.

If you had plenty of time and motivation for your nutrition and fitness routine then you’d probably be able to get by on your own. Get support when you need it the most.

When you feel like your discipline is fatigued by other commitments, get someone else to provide structure for you.

Don’t try to do everything yourself.

You’ll only fatigue that discipline muscle and wear yourself out.

Ivana Chapman 

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How To Find Things to be Thankful For

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It’s important to say “thanks” for all the great things in your life.

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada, the awesome country (apart from the long winter!) where I live. It’s a day spent eating turkey, veggies, and cheesecake with my family, and taking a moment to appreciate all the amazing things I have to be thankful for.

Where do I even start?!

The People

Of course, the people in my life make my world what it is. My husband, Ryan, is my constant support through every challenge I face, and who shares in every happy moment. My baby son Kai has filled my days with happiness and laughter since his birth just over four months ago. My mom has selflessly provided support for all of us over the years. My sister, brother-in-law, and niece provide endless hours of amusement.

I have tons of supportive friends, some local and many in the places that I’ve lived (UK, New Zealand, Australia). Some I’ve known for a couple of decades and some I only met this past year, but I’m grateful that they’re all part of my life. Let’s not forget all those haters. Those people who make snide comments, on the internet and in person. I’m thankful to them too, because they give me extra desire to succeed and prove them wrong.

The Circumstances

I’m grateful to live in Canada, a diverse socially-responsible First World Country where universal medical care is considered essential. There’s clean, safe, plentiful water running from every tap. It’s easy to forget that’s not the case for millions of people around the world. We can debate the different types of diets…because we have more than enough to eat over here.

The Most Important Things

My family and I are healthy and have more than we will every need. We work hard to achieve more and see benefits from our efforts. Because we have so much, we’ve made it our mission to contribute more and make this world a better place. That’s an amazing opportunity we’ve been given.

Your Turn!

So what are you thankful for? For what people and circumstances are you grateful for? Giving thanks is important, and not just once a year. Think about all the things that you’re grateful for and you’ll enjoy a happier, more fulfilled life.

Thanksgiving should be an every day event.

Ivana Chapman 

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Making the Most of Your Time by Focusing on Your Strengths and Interests

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Focus on your strengths and don’t worry about the things you don’t know

(if you don’t want to know them!).

There’s a lot to learn out there. If you actually tried to be a “know-it-all” and be well versed in all the topics that interest you, you’d spend all your time reading books, attending lectures, taking courses, and reading blogs.

Here’s a few topics that I’m fairly well-versed in:

Fitness – weight training, martial arts, strength & conditioning, bodybuilding, running

Health – nutrition, various dietary regimes, digestive issues, pregnancy lifestyle

Psychology – sports psychology, attachment parenting, personal development

Business – marketing, social media, entrepreneurship

Sports – karate, coaching, skiing, scuba diving, swimming, rugby Do I know everything about each of these topics?

Hell’s to the NO!

Those are the areas that interest me the most and the ones that I strive to increase my knowledge in. I don’t even know 0.0001% of what there is to know about what there is to know about those topics, but it’s still more than those people who don’t interest themselves in them.

Here’s a very abridged list of things I know virtually nothing about:

Automobile maintenance, cricket, architecture, astronomy, Middle Eastern history, French cooking, football, submarines, dog training, spina bifida, archery, armed warfare, chess, model planes, North or South Korea, anything that happened in Biblical times, lap band surgery, theoretical physics, Mahjong, knitting, reality TV, etc., etc., etc.

As you can imagine, just trying to keep up with the latest on the topics that interest me is a bit of a challenge. There’s only so much reading time in the day! Now I may one day decide that submarines are quite interesting and I want to learn more about them, but for now I just keep to the topics that bring me greater satisfaction.

Play to your Strengths and Interests

Sure, you want to step outside your comfort zone and do things that you’ve never done before. That’s not what I’m talking about here. Don’t waste your time trying to know everything about everything and focus on being well versed in the things that interest you and mean the most to you.

In your career, that means developing a niche and staying in that zone most of the time. Stretch yourself on occasion, but don’t worry about not keeping up with everything. If I worried about how much I don’t know about the North/South Korea situation I’d be a mess. It’s good to have some basic awareness of many things so you know what’s happening in the world, but don’t fret if you have gaps in your knowledge. Ask someone that specializes in the area to fill you in and then don’t worry about what you’re missing.

Use Your Time Wisely

Yes, I could learn all about car maintenance by spending hours studying, practicing, or taking a course.

Is that really the best use of my time if it doesn’t interest me?

Not really.

There are people out there – car mechanics – who have spent years learning and practicing their trade. If I try to replicate their efforts I’ll only cause myself unnecessary anxiety and waste time that I could spend on learning the things that interest me. I call in professionals when I want something done well. I don’t struggle through the process of learning and trying to do something that doesn’t interest me.

One day I do want to learn to play chess so I’ll make an effort to do that. As for the other stuff, I won’t bother to learn about most of it. Oh, and I don’t know how to clean my house very well either. That’s why I’ve hired a cleaner.

Now I have more time to blog.

Ivana Chapman 

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The Fine Art of Gratitude

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There’s so much out there to be grateful for. 

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about how grateful I am to have the life I lead. I have a loving (and sexy!) husband, a happy and healthy baby, and a supportive family and friends. I have a career that I love, and I live in a country – Canada – where the opportunities are bountiful.

Being grateful for what you have, even while you work to achieve more, is the most important part of having a fulfilling life. If you really want to feel good about your life right now, here are a few areas to appreciate.

Be Grateful for Where you are

I grumble with everyone when the chill of the winter starts to hit Toronto, where I live. Yes, the weather can suck sometimes, but I’ve made the choice to live here and I need to appreciate all the wonderful things about the place where I am. I’ve done a lot of travelling and I know there’s no perfect place to live. When the winter hits, I try to see it as an opportunity to do some skiing, catch up on my reading and writing (which don’t go as well when the sun-drenched activities of summer beckon), and watching some movies while cuddling with my husband on the couch. I’m also grateful to be living in an amazing country like Canada. I’ve travelled a lot and I’ve lived in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, and I currently chose to be here. I live in a place where women’s rights are respected, different cultures are appreciated and woven into the fabric of our society, and same-sex couples have the right to marry. There aren’t many countries as awesome as that!

When you learn to appreciate the place where you live you feel more settled within yourself. Give thanks for all the benefits of the place where you live. If you know there’s some place you’d prefer, move there! In the meantime be happy for the place you’re in.

Be Grateful for your Health

No matter what your state of health right now, it could always be worse. Remember the saying: “I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes, until I met a men without any feet”. Try to be grateful for the condition of your health and improve whatever you have the power to change. Do whatever you can to improve the quality of your nutrition and the effectiveness of your workout routine to achieve optimal health.

Be Grateful for your Body

Many people are full of self-loathing when it comes to their bodies. No matter where you’re starting from, you should try to appreciate what you have. You may be 20 pounds overweight, but you could be 50 pounds overweight. Be thankful for where you’re at. Exercise shouldn’t be a way of punishing yourself for not having the body you want. Food shouldn’t be a way of torturing yourself. Treat your body with kindness and respect.

Never Forget

Remind yourself every day about all the blessings in your life. Give thanks for all the people who make your life better. Be thankful for where you live and for the strength of your body. Be grateful and you’ll be rewarded with a happier and more fulfilling life.

Ivana Chapman 

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Benefits of Changing Your Attitude

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Changing your outlook can have amazing effects on your success.

Yesterday I went for a walk and I saw a large group of teenage girls doing an after-school run down the path.  The girls were running as a large pack, but most were keeping pace in pairs or threes. As they passed by I managed to hear snippets of conversation.

One girl was clearly not enjoying herself and she said to the girl next to her, “Slow down, who cares?”.

“I do!”, the second girl replied. She was slightly ahead and turned around to shout the words enthusiastically before continuing her run forward.

Then I saw another pair of girls discussing track and field tryouts. The first girl said, “Try out with me!”. “Why?” her companion asked without any enthusiasm.

“Cause it’ll be fun!” was the reply.

Attitude and Enthusiasm

Those two conversations got me thinking about how important it is to have a positive attitude and a passion for life. One girl in each pair was clearly on the right track, showing enthusiasm for participation. The other two girls made me think of the classic sullen teen who can’t be bothered with anything and doesn’t want to make any effort. I can picture the futures of those girls who showed enthusiasm and it looks a lot more exciting than the future of the other two girls. Think about the girl who wants to try out for the track team. Think about the girl who thinks it’s important to do well.

Doesn’t it seem like the world holds a lot more opportunities for her?

Changing Your Attitude

So which of these two sets of girls do you most resemble? Does exercise feel like too much of a chore and you can’t be bothered to leave the comfort of your couch every evening? Do you tackle tasks at work with gusto, or do you put them off until the last minute and then barely complete them? Then you might as well be a sullen teen. If you want to succeed at what you do in life – and bring people up with you, rather than dragging them down – you need to be that upbeat individual and bring an energetic spirit to everything you do.

Think about who you want to be and how you want to influence others.

Be a positive force and bring your best attitude forward every day.

Ivana Chapman