From Fast Food to Home Cooking: A Journey to Better Eating (Part 2)

Another Piece to the Puzzle – Developing Self Awareness

We want to get healthier, to eat better, but how do we get from where we are to where we want to go? Last week we talked about desire and responsibility. This week were going to look at developing self awareness.

As any navigator would assure you, in order to find your ‘heading’ (the direction in which you need to travel to reach your desired destination) you must know two important things: where you are and where you want to go. In this instance we know where we want to go — healthier lifestyle and eating habits, we need to develop an awareness of where we are — our current habits. Identifying this will aid us in our ability to set our course and build a bridge to close any gaps. We need to take an inventory of what we are putting into our bodies on a regular basis. From here we can begin to identify changes we can make as we navigate the road to healthier eating. The easiest way to do this is to keep a food log/journal. There are many tools we have at our disposal to aid us in this; from small notebooks like these pocket notebooks, or food journals like these to apps such as myfitnesspal and FitBit we can choose the method that best suits our lifestyle.

While self awareness can be a wonderful aid it can also lead us to pitfalls, I know because I myself have fallen for them and watched clients fall for them as well. So as we take this step keep in mind the following traps. 

First, we want to avoid the trap of ‘I know what I eat.’ It is so tempting to believe this.  After all, we are the ones who feed ourselves right?! Except many times we vastly underestimate (or overestimate) the amount we eat, the hidden & empty calories we consume, and the nutritional value of our food choices. Almost without exception we find ourselves surprised when we take an honest look at what we are putting into our bodies. I know I was! 

Let’s take a look at what an early food log looked like for me…

Food Log Example (circa 2010)

Breakfast – Usually Nothing Or a Pop-tart

Lunch – Usually Nothing Or Hot Pocket/Ramen Noodles/Ravioli

Dinner – Take Out (Taco Bell/Wendy’s/Burger King/Pizza) Or Boxed/Freezer Meal (Pizza Rolls/Cheeseburger Helper/ Fish Sticks&Tater Tots)

Snacks – Chips/Oatmeal Cream Pies/Oreos/Popcorn/etc

Yikes! What a reality check I faced, I had been under the illusion that I knew what I ate and confidently told Tim (my health coach and mentor) I ate relatively well. What we discovered in truth was that most days I didn’t eat anything until 4-6pm. I often consumed large portions in the evenings because I felt like I was starving (gee I wonder why … rolls eyes), snacked late at night, and even though I was only eating usually once or twice a day, I was taking in a considerable number of calories and very few of them were providing much nutrition to my body if they even had any at all! Plus this was not even counting the monster energy drinks I would consume to get through the day. Fun fact a can of monster is actually 2 servings which includes over 200 calories and 30g of sugar! I never knew just how poor my eating habits were until I took an honest look at where I was. 

I fell into this trap again after I had achieved my initial results and began getting really into my fitness journey. I hit a wall and was seemingly stuck at 21% body fat, my goal was 17%.This was almost a year into my journey and I was so frustrated! I was sure I knew what I was eating but hadn’t tracked to check in on my direction in quite some time. When I finally did, low and behold … I wasn’t eating enough! While I was much better quality nutrition my activity had more than doubled and I had not accounted for that. I was only taking in 1500-1700 calories a day and was burning close to 2700 calories! My body thought I was starving and was therefore clinging to its precious body fat! No wonder my progress was hindered. Even with good quality foods my body didn’t have the resources it needed to thrive! Without checking in with my food logs I would not have been able to bridge the gap to my goals in either instance. 

Second, we want to avoid the trap of tracking “good days” or selectively omitting the “bad” items. Listen, until we are willing to get really honest with ourselves, we cannot hope to make true lasting life change. We must be willing to truly face where we are even when we don’t show up our best. I hit this trap hard. I don’t know about y’all but I can be a bit of a perfectionist and that is how this trap got me. Anytime I would ‘slip’ in my nutrition plan I would scrap the whole day! If I had meals with me but I forgot to eat them as so often happens in my busy schedule (yes meaning it still happens to me even now). I would get so frustrated with myself and toss in the towel for the whole day! I would not bother to track when I got home and ate everything I could find in my fridge because I was starving. I would tell myself I was just ‘making up’ the missed calories .. but if I had tracked I would have seen that I often over-ate in these scenarios. Conversely I wouldn’t track my ‘Cheat Days’ or my alcohol intake! For a time I followed a super strict plan 6 days a week and on the 7th … oh buddy did I let loose. Craft Beer, Pizza, Wine, Cheesecake, Brownies, Long Islands! .. I would eat/drink anything and everything I wanted. Again when I was finally willing to take a closer look I found I often way over indulged and disrupted any positive progress I had made through the week. Did you know a single Long Island is 276 calories?! A bottle of Dragon’s Milk (one of my favorite stouts); 325 calories! And I rarely had only one drink.  Beyond the extreme excess calorie intake, I was creating a super unhealthy mentality around my eating habits. Telling myself I can’t have this or that is bad for me, etc … if one thing holds true of us humans it is this … We crave what we ‘can’t’ have! Ultimately it was better to embrace that life is a imperfect and a little messy sometimes but a missed meal or an indulgence doesn’t have to equal a wasted day… unless we let it.

Which leads into the last trap, self-judgement. This is such a dangerous trap! Becoming self aware is NOT about using our current position as a club to beat ourselves up or to guilt and shame ourselves to better habits… Oh, how many times have I berrated myself for being ‘less than perfect’ in this whole healthy lifestyle journey! And ya know? That method may work for a time, but eventually it leads to resentment and disdain for the very habits we are trying to create. We can only think of ourselves as a failure so many times before we lose the will to keep trying. We find ourselves thinking ‘Why bother, we’ll just muff it up anyways!’ 

The process of developing self awareness is an honest, zero-judgement assessment of where WE are so we can set our navigation and begin moving in the direction we want to go. So we can build that bridge between where we are and our destination. It’s not about good or bad. It’s simply taking a look at where we are so we can choose to move in that new direction. It’s about learning that Food is not biased. Food is food. It has no agenda, no motive. I love something I heard Rachel Hollis say the other day on her podcast. When deciding what she eats she simply asks this: ‘Will this food bless my body?’ I’ve adopted the same mentality. If I’m feeling kinda junky from a weekend on the road or less nourishing food choices, I’ll choose wholesome nourishing options like a healthy meal shake and some aloe or a fresh salad with lots of veggies to blesses my body. If it’s been a crazy hectic and stressful day and I just need to unwind, I may indulge, a glass of wine and some chocolate may be just what I need to bless my body.

While it is true some food is more nourishing than others, that does not make the less nourishing foods ‘bad’ or ‘evil’. It just makes them less nourishing. It is also true however, that we are what we eat. If we put less nourishing, highly processed foods into our bodies consistently, then over time our bodies begin reflect that in decreased health, weight struggles, lower energy, etc. If we put wholesome nourishing foods into our bodies consistently, our bodies repay us by maintaining their health and vitality. Our Food is our fuel. Just like we wouldn’t put bad gasoline in a car and expect it to run we can not put poor quality food into our bodies and expect them to run. So what are we putting into our bodies?

Are you ready to begin practicing self awareness and take an honest look at what you’re putting into your body? To get an accurate snapshot try to track a minimum of 2-3 days a week for several weeks and share it with your health coach.  Include EVERYTHING! There’s no judgement here, change MUST start with honesty. From that honesty we can set a new course direction and accountability to maintain it! 🙂

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Please Like and Subscribe if you find this helpful. Comment with any questions or feedback and join me next week as we talk about another piece to the puzzle; know your numbers – the unique needs of your body!

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