The Importance of Flexibility: Food Choices

There is a popular fitness meme that is often brought up in terms of nutrition:  “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, which I believe is drawn from a popular Benjamin Franklin quote:

I must have first heard this concept back in 2007 or 2008 at the beginning of my BootCamp career and I loved it. It resonated with me and made so much sense:  knowing in advance what you’ll eat is an amazing way to lose weight or to simply eat healthier. It takes the stress off of the everyday because you don’t think, you just pull out the food you prepped on Sunday and eat that. The weeks I planned my meals and prepped food in advance, I ate better, hands down. Keep it simple, right?

Of course maintaining that degree of meticulousness when it comes to food is a challenge for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into now. As such, I can only think of a few distinct periods of time over the last 7 years that I was able to do it religiously. They didn’t last long, but they yielded positive results in terms of weight loss, body fat reduction and general well-being. It works. It just isn’t very sustainable for the long-term.

For much of 2014 I had been maintaining a very good balance of weekly food prep along with real life eating, so not 100% on either path, just a very good balance in the 80:20 range, which is basically ideal and sustainable for me. To me, real life eating is when on a busy day, going to a place like the Fatted Calf and grabbing a sandwich for lunch isn’t a stressor.  Let me call a spade a spade:  their meatloaf sandwich is the bomb and I would never sacrifice the joy of food like that for a “diet”. Life is too short and as long as I am eating something decadent that is well prepared with high quality ingredients, I neither make it an every day thing or stress about the one day I do have one.

Much of what I’d been doing on my food prep days this year has been pretty basic and obvious:   chicken breasts, sweet potatoes and kale salad. And no, I don’t just tolerate these things, I actually like them. My palate is pleased, which I think is because I season and cook my food pretty decently. So, I’ve spent most of the year eating just that. Preparing a lot of chicken at the start of the week, making or buying a kale salad and just going to town every night. Some weeks I’ll mixit up by having salsa, brown rice and avocado for healthy burrito bowls, #nomnom y’all.

And then, this happened. braceface

Braces. At 33, I’m staring down the tunnel of jaw surgery and one of the nonnegotiable items to prepare for it is to have braces in advance. This is because my teeth need to be re-aligned to match what my bite will be after the surgery.

I’ve had consultations over the years and have been told I would need to to do it at some point…I just never felt committed to doing this surgery. But in June I just hit a tipping point with jaw pain.  And once I made the decision to go full steam ahead, it all happened sort of quickly, from consults in June to braces on July 31st.

To say it’s been an adjustment to braces would be a slight understatement. It has basically required me to re-assess almost everything I put in my mouth. It has required me to be conscious of WHEN I eat, as eating in the car on the way to teach BootCamp simply doesn’t work anymore as I am not comfortable teaching with almond butter stuck in between all the brackets.

I knew it would be different, but I honestly didn’t think my teeth would be as sore as they have been. I don’t know if I wasn’t this sore as a teenager, or I just didn’t care back then. Either way, it hurts now and it’s a factor that affects my life.

During that first week of having them, I was pretty darn hungry since my eating habits changed drastically so quickly:  eating a chicken breast just wasn’t happening. And one afternoon I found myself really wanting a protein bar. It’s a snack that I often turn to in the afternoon. But the ones I like are too sticky, too chewy and I knew I just couldn’t have one. And then I remembered these guys:


They frankly are really not my jam. But, I used to buy them for my ex-boyfriend because they were his favorite. So I knew a few things from stocking them in my kitchen for years:  they were soft, they have a decent amount of protein and are mostly palatable.

I bought a box of them. And you know what? They work. I don’t love their ingredient list at all. But they have been a good snack for me, as I can just break the pieces off one by one and they are soft enough to not be painful. I am compromising to make things work in my life without having hanger* induced panic attacks.

You may not have braces, but I know that there are times when you have to do things differently and those choices might make you feel uncomfortable. It might mean going off a plan you were committed to:  a diet plan, an exercise program, etc. It might mean you need to sacrifice one thing for the other. What I urge you to always do when faced with these choices is to:

1. Know What Your Greater Good Is.

Mine is to not be hungry! To make sure I’m getting enough protein, as my main sources have changed so drastically. It’s to fuel myself for the crazy workouts I need to accomplish for StrongFirst training.

2. Know What You Won’t Compromise On.

I won’t eat foods that hurt my teeth. I won’t eat foods that might tear a bracket off. And while the Balance Bar doesn’t have my ideal ingredient list, it is far superior to other items I could eat.

3.  Figure Out What You Can Compromise On.

I can compromise on the Balance Bar ingredient list — it has a fair amount of sugar, which is my main concern, but knowing how active I am, I will likely burn that off in no time. I can also compromise on the flavor.

4. Know That It’s Okay To Do Things Differently.

I know that a lot of fitness pros and regular folks wouldn’t make the same choice I do in terms of what I’m eating lately. I know that some people would encourage me to make my own protein bars at home, from scratch. I know that a protein shake with my favorite powder (Tera’s Whey) that has an excellent ingredient list is a far better choice. But, I don’t live in my kitchen. I am on the road teaching BootCamp 12 hours a week and girl needs an on-the-go snack. I might find a better choice as I navigate the waters of braces over the next year, but for now this works. It is always okay to do what is best for you.

5. Be Mindful Of Your Choices.

I know that it’s okay to compromise on these things, but it isn’t carte-blanche to throw my entire nutrition plan out the window. When you compromise in one area you might need to change another area too to compensate. In my case, it’s to ensure I am still getting a well-rounded diet. I never liked putting kale in my smoothies before, but I am doing this now because chewing kale and other veggies is hard for me. I don’t love it, but I’m doing it…because it’s good for me!

The goal here is to be comfortable and confident enough in your choices overall that you don’t worry that one thing is going to tear down all the work you’re doing in your life. One french fry doesn’t mess up your healthy eating plan, but a serving everyday certainly can. Remember that you are the sum of your choices, not the small serving of french fries you had last Saturday. Please, don’t let the bad apple ruin the barrel of your life.

I am adjusting my life to make room for these brackets on my teeth. It isn’t fun, but it is good for the long run of my life. It’s causing me to compromise on things that I hadn’t considered I would need to stop doing:  eating kale salads, for one! But instead of spending energy on feeling guilty about it, I am trying new foods. I am compensating in other ways. It’s not perfect and frankly I wouldn’t have my life any other way. It’s an adventure and I’m more than ready for the ride.

Do you have something that you are struggling with compromising on? Share it with me and I can help you figure out a good compromise for your life!


*hunger + anger = hanger


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