Why healthy eating doesn’t necessarily lead to weight loss

I eat fairly healthily.

I try and ‘eat clean’.

I follow the 80/20 rule.

And yet, I can’t seem to lose any weight.

I bet the above sounds familiar. We all know somebody whose body never changes despite their claims of watching their diet and eating ‘healthily’. Heck, you may have even found yourself uttering one of the statements above; I certainly have ūüėČ

In my experience as a personal trainer and healthy living coach, it often comes down to semantics (and of course, implementation…).

One person’s definition of ‘healthy eating’ isn’t the same as another’s. I have healthy (and unhealthy) weight friends who are Paleo. Some who eat low-carb. And others who’ve adopted the ‘Mediterranean’ diet.

The 80/20 rule can be interpreted in so many ways (80% of calories from ‘healthy’ foods, making ‘healthy’ choices 80% of the time, 80% of each meal coming from lean protein and veggies…) as to be almost useless as a guideline to eating for ‘health’, much less fat loss.

And don’t even get me started on ‘clean eating’. While it used to be a useful phrase (back in the day when it was primarily used by people who read and adopted the principals of Clean Eating Magazine), the word ‘clean’ is now fraught with judgement (“if my food’s not ‘clean’, does that mean it’s ‘dirty’?”) and widely applied to anything that’s not processed, regardless of how it’s raised or farmed.

In my opinion, many of us grab onto¬†these terms and use them to identify our nutritional strategy because it makes us feel like we’re doing the right thing. Even if we never force ourselves to specifically define the approach or adhere to it on a daily basis.

Below are five reasons I commonly see ‘clean’ and ‘healthy’ eaters stall in their weight loss attempts. Feel free to add your own in the comments section at the bottom of the post.

5 Reasons Why Healthy Eating Doesn’t¬†Necessarily Lead to Weight Loss
  • Too much of a good thing; Just because you fill your plate with lean protein, minimally dressed veggies and heart-healthy fats doesn’t mean you’ll lose weight. Weight loss depends on energy balance; if you consume more calories than your body expends in a day, you’ll gain weight. Regardless of whether those calories come from a grilled chicken breast or a piece of chocolate cake. Sure avocado and flax seed and coconut oil are all ‘healthy fats’, but add them all to your daily protein smoothie and you’re likely to end up with a super-sized meal rather than a post-workout snack. If you’ve truly managed to eliminate¬†processed food and added sugar from your diet, take a good hard look at your daily caloric intake as compared to your daily metabolic rate (the number of calories your body burns in 24 hours). The easiest way to do this? MyFitnessPal. Food tracking may be a bore, but it’s always insightful and a great place to start if you truly want to understand why you’re not losing weight.
  • The devil is in the preparation; What types of methods do you use to prepare your meals? Steaming? Frying? Grilling? Marinading? Do you add dressings and sauces during the cooking process or at the table? It’s all too easy to forget about the tablespoon of oil you saut√©ed the veggies in. Or the half a can of coconut milk you added to the brown rice. Or the bottled salad dressing you used to coat the romaine lettuce with. Just because these ingredients don’t seem like ‘food’, doesn’t mean they don’t add calories to your meal. Make sure you’re including these extras when you track your food. You may find that they add up to a few hundred calories a day; the calories that make all the difference between losing a 1/2 a pound a week and maintaining your weight.
healthy eating doesn't necessarily lead to weight loss

All I had for lunch was a salad….

  • Out-of-whack macros; Our bodies require three types of macronutrients to function; carbohydrates, protein and fat. According to government nutritionist guidelines, a ‘healthy’ diet will have 45-65% of the day’s calories coming from carbs (preferably complex, like veggies and grains), 10-35% from protein (the leaner the better) and 20-35% from fat (unsaturated are better than saturated and trans are to be avoided altogether). Many midlife women find that aiming for the lower end of the carb range and upping their protein intake accordingly can jump-start a weight loss plateau. Again you’ll need to track what you’re eating now in order to decide how to proceed. And then pay attention and re-evaluate depending on how your body responds to the changes.
  • ‘Treats’*** are no longer treats; I’m all for including occasional ‘treats’ or indulgences in your meal plan. The operative word being ‘plan’. If you know¬†that you’ll be going out for dinner on Saturday night and are likely to join in a glass of wine or a piece of dessert (I always choose one over the other; that’s why you’ll find me looking at the dessert menu before the waiter comes to take our drink order…),¬†plan the rest of your day accordingly. Maybe you eat more veggies for lunch. Or pass up on the afternoon cookie-with-tea. The thing about ‘treats’ is, once they become a mainstay of your diet, they’re no longer ‘treats’. I’ve found that those who self-identify as 80/20-eaters often grossly underestimate their ‘treat’ intake.
healthy eating doesn't necessarily lead to weight loss

Definitely a ‘beer over dessert’ night out…

*** I know that some of you don’t like the word ‘treat’. Or ‘indulgence’. Or ‘cheat’. But whatever you call it, we all know that we’re talking about the same thing; foods that shouldn’t be part of our daily nutrition plan because they don’t meet our health and fitness goals. The end.***

  • You’re easily swayed by product labels; When I asked the members of my Facebook page for their definitions of ‘healthy’ eating, nearly every single response included reference to reducing one’s reliance on packaged and processed foods. Even the ones whose labels include the words ‘healthy’, ‘low-fat’, ‘no added sugar’ and ‘whole grain’. Especially the ones whose labels include the words ‘healthy’, ‘low-fat’, ‘no added sugar’ and ‘whole grain’. Almost all the respondents emphasized the importance of eating foods that still resembled the way they’re found in nature. Food companies are in the business of selling food. They understand that consumers care about their health. They’ve found ways to package and market their products to make them appear more health-giving than they actually are. Cereal and yogurt companies are particularly clever in this regard. Pay attention to the ingredient lists and the nutrition information, not the large font superlatives on the packaging.

Do you follow any of the nutrition approaches mentioned above? Clean eater? Healthy eating? 80/20 advocate? 

Has your approach helped you lose weight (or maintain significant weight loss)?

If so, why? If not, why not?






Five steps to a successful ‘pantry raid’ | tips for healthy eating

Have you recently made a commitment to cleaning up your diet?

Focusing on better nutrition to improve your health, gain energy and lose a few pounds? Eating to fuel your body rather than combat stress, fatigue and frustration? Happy to have set some goals but have no idea where to start?

How about¬†a ‘pantry raid’? (It’s almost summer camp season after all ūüėČ )

Getting rid of the foods that¬†don’t support your goals and replacing them with healthier, nutrient-dense options¬†is the easiest way to set yourself up for success.

Five steps to a successful ‘pantry raid’

1. Remove all items from the pantry. Place everything on the kitchen counter or table. Take a look at ‘best before dates’ and immediately toss anything whose expiry date is passed (make sure you’re composting the contents of cans and jars and recycling the packaging wherever possible).

I like to take this opportunity to clean out and wash the shelves; who knows when the next opportunity to do so will arise!

2. Separate the remaining items into canned and jarred goods, unprocessed dried items (fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, rice, pasta, oats, flour), junk food (chips, cookies, candy, chocolate bars, flavoured syrups, ice cream cones etc.), processed and packaged dried items (macaroni and cheese dinners, noodles with seasonings, most breakfast cereals, pancake, cake, cookie and muffin mixes and all forms of sugar).

Throw the junk food out. All of it. Take the trash bag to the curb immediately if you’re likely to recant.

3. Read all labels and ruthlessly discard items with high sugar, salt and trans fats. This will mean most processed foods including crackers, granola bars, cereals and cookies. It may also mean jars of spaghetti sauce, apple sauce, fruit (if packed in in syrup rather than water), dried fruit with sugar added and flavoured or salted nuts. If you think you need to keep a small amount around (for baking special desserts or entertaining company), make sure to place it out of your line of sight. Get rid of all trigger foods (those foods that you can’t even have a little bit of without eating the whole bag, box or bar). If you’re brand new at reading nutrition labels and ingredients list, have a look at this post.

Numbers to watch out for? Single servings with more than 8 g of sugar or 250 mg of sodium. Ingredient lists with sugar (or a sugar substitute; fructose, glucose, maltose, dextrose, most ‘oses’) in the top 5. Sugar substitutes are a point of contention. I don’t buy them or consume them myself, as I believe that they have the same action on your brain as the real thing. Decide for yourself.

4. ¬†Return what’s left to your cupboards. Healthiest and most frequently used items go at eye and chest level. Less healthy and (hopefully) less frequently used options go on the very top and bottom shelves (although if you have young children who are prone to foraging and you’re attempting to clean up their diets as well, put it all as high up as possible).

Place items with the shortest shelf life towards the front of the pantry, longest shelf life at the back. Group items according to their function or packaging. I have a shelf for cans and boxes. Another for baking ingredients. And a third for healthy snack items. (The coffee and tea have an entire shelf to themselves…)

5. Create a shopping list of clean eating pantry staples; items that you can easily incorporate in lunches and dinners. Include beans and lentils (dry or BPA-free cans), tomatoes/tomato sauce/tomato paste (no sugar added), raw nuts, sugar-free dried fruit, oats (steel cut), rice and quinoa (brown, whole grain or ‘black’), almond/coconut/whole wheat flour, an assortment of spices, healthy oils (extra virgin olive, grape seed, avocado, coconut), low-sodium broths (chicken, vegetable, beef for making soups and stews), canned or dried sources of on-the-go protein (tuna, salmon, jerky) and¬†protein powder (whey, vegan or hemp).

Now that your pantry is clean and well-stocked with healthy ingredients, head on over to Pinterest and check out my Clean Eating, Innovative Salads, Quintessentially Quinoa and Recipes for Menopause Symptoms for some clean eating cooking inspiration! (Go ahead and give me a Pinterest ‘follow’ while you’re there; I’m working on sharing more of my favourite pins each and every day).



More important than being a ‘foodie’? Being a ‘healthy foodie’

Last week I joined in a Facebook challenge¬†to find out how much of a ‘foodie’ I am.

healthy foodie quiz

Click on through to take the test yourself, then come back and share your score in the comments section below

Of the 100 foods listed, I’ve only tried 53. And as such, am not much of a foodie at all.

Now this surprised me, as I (1) live in a city with lots of cultural diversity, (2) love to explore new recipes in the kitchen and (3) like to think of myself as a somewhat adventurous person.

Upon a bit more reflection, I realized the reason why my score was so average.

Of the 100 dishes listed, many were less-than-healthy (Pocky sticks and deep-fried pickles?) or included ingredients that are not ecologically sustainable (caviar and turtle soup, anyone?).

Rather than bemoan my ‘lack of foodie’ status, I decided to create my own ‘healthy foodie quiz’.

Of the 37 items listed below, (1) how many have you tried and (2) how many do you include in your weekly menu plan? Give yourself 3 extra points if any of those items are organic, wild-caught and GMO.

healthy foodie quiz

I’m happy to say that I scored 49 out of a possible 50 points on this quiz (perhaps a bit biased, since I wrote the quiz‚Ķ). I’ll be adding gojii berries to my shopping list next week.

What does your ‘healthy foodie’ score say about you?

40-50; ¬†You’re a healthy foodie rock star. You know the value of fuelling your body with nutrient-dense foods and are probably a dietician, nutritionist or healthy living blogger!

30-39; While your diet is fairly healthy, it wouldn’t hurt to brush up a bit on the benefits of including more nuts, seeds and healthy fats in your diet.

20-29; Time to get a bit more adventurous in the kitchen, I reckon. Start by adding one new-to-you food from the above photo each week. Search out ways to prepare it; Pinterest is a great place to find recipe ideas.

0-19; What the heck are you eating if you’re not eating the foods pictured above? (And was there an inverse correlation between your ‘foodie’ and ‘healthy foodie’ scores?)

Any other ‘healthy foodie’ items you’d like to add to my list?

Of the items on the original ‘Foodie’ quiz, what was the strangest one that you’ve sampled?

Did you know that improved nutrition can offset some of the most annoying symptoms of mid-life hormonal change? Just one of the issues we work on in my 40+ Female Online Group Fitness Program. Next session starts January 12, 2014. For more information and to be the first to hear all the registration details, subscribe to my email list NOW.

Healthy eating on the road: food at FitBloggin

FitBloggin Recap Part III (Did you miss Part I and Part II?)

While I love to travel, the prospect of healthy eating on the road causes me considerable anxiety. I am a creature of habit. My breakfast, lunch and dinner menus are fairly set. 

I snack on the same things every day. I eat a lot of protein.

I like to know what’s in the food I’m eating and how it’s been prepared.

What better place for healthy eating on the road than a fitness and health bloggers conference? Breakfasts, lunches and snacks were included with the costs of registration to FitBloggin and were almost identical to the meals I would have prepared for myself had I stayed home (so glad I didn’t!)

Fruit, grains and protein for breakfast? Check

healthy eating on the road

Quinoa oats, vegetable frittata and fresh blueberries

Dried fruit, nuts, energy bars and hard boiled eggs for snacks? Check

healthy eating on the road

Fresh greens, lean protein and varied grains at lunchtime? Check, check and check!

healthy eating on the road

Of course, a few indulgences crept into the weekend. I’m a firm believer in the 80/20 rule (eat healthily 80 percent of the time, enjoy less healthy options no more than 20% of the time). I enjoyed a wonderful pasta dish at a local, Baltimore Italian eatery, complete with fresh baked bread and butter.

healthy eating on the road

And a decadent piece of Caramel Pecan Turtle Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory had my name written all over it (can you believe that I’ve never visited the Cheesecake Factory before?). Note that I had eaten half of it before I thought to snap a pic. You’ll have to conjure up an image for yourself!

Do you have any tips for healthy eating on the road?

What’s your favourite flavour of cheesecake? (I LOVE pumpkin and chocolate!)

Both my trip to FitBloggin and my recap posts were generously sponsored by Gaiam. I thank them for giving me the opportunity to meet so many other healthy living bloggers and giving me the chance to cross ‘eat at the Cheesecake Factory’ off my foodie bucket list!

5 healthy emergency snacks: no refrigeration required

Last week I wrote about my plan to give up snacking on protein bars and meal replacement treats. For me, these are trigger foods that don’t satisfy and leave me wanting a second or third. (9 days without and still going strong!)

As usual, you guys had tons of great snack ideas for me. (Thanks so much!)

But my problem wasn’t so much that I couldn’t come up with healthy snack options but more that I needed healthy EMERGENCY snack options. You know, no fork, no fridge required. Snacks that could sit in your backpack or purse or glove box for more than a day or two without turning mouldy and going bad. Snacks that could be eaten in the car between clients and before grocery shopping!

When I started buying protein bars, I did so for just that reason. To have healthy emergency snacks readily available for days when I ended up with too few clean eats in my cooler. Yep, it happens to me too.

Over the last week, I’ve spent several hours perusing various grocery stores and markets searching for options. My criteria?

  • Each snack must combine complex carbohydrates with lean protein.
  • Added sugars (and fake sugars) are to be avoided wherever possible.
  • Single servings packs are preferred (although more expensive and less environmentally friendly, these aren’t every day snacks, but things I might rely on once a week)
  • Refrigeration not required.
  • Finger food wherever possible.
I managed to come up with 5 healthy emergency snacks that I’ll be using to make car and gym bag care packs!
1. Seasoned tuna and melba toast (Spicy Thai Chili is my favourite!)
clean eating snacks
2. Dried apricots and pumpkin seeds (packaged separately to keep the almonds crisp)
clean eating snacks
3. Dried apple rings and raw pecans (my 13-year old found the apple rings and ate the whole bag before I could get a picture)
4. Whole grain rice cakes and nut butter (I have yet to find a local shop that sells individual servings. I KNOW they exist; I’ve seen them on Instagram!)
 clean eating snacks
5. Unsweetened applesauce cups and unsalted almonds

clean eating snacks

Note that numbers 1 and 5 do require cutlery; do you know how hard it is to find protein with a shelf life?

Now it’s your turn.

What would you pack in your healthy emergency snack pack?

And where do YOU buy individual servings of nut butters?

Raw kale salad recipe: massage your greens

My husband is an urban gardener. Each spring, he trundles off to the nursery, returns home with a trunk full of baby green plants and lovingly transfers them to the raised beds at the side of our house.

kale salad

While he always plants a variety of salad greens, the only ones that don’t seem to attract the slugs and deer are the kale.

kale salad

Consequently, during the summer months we eat a lot of kale! Kale chips, kale sautés and stir-fries, kale in our scrambled eggs and omelettes and smoothies. And now, kale as a replacement for romaine (darn slugs) in our caesar-style raw kale salad!

The trick to eating kale raw is to massage it!

That’s right, squeeze and rub the leaves (after they’ve been washed and the thick, centre spines removed) in your hands until they wilt. Three cups of fresh, raw kale will quickly reduce by about half after handling.

kale salad

Raw kale salad with pine nuts and avocado

  • ¬†6 cups kale leaves, washed and de-stemmed
  • 1/3 pine nuts
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  1. Chop kale leaves into bite size pieces. Massage, by the handful, until wilted and pliable. Place in serving bowl.
  2. Place pine nuts on a non-stick baking sheet and ‘toast’ until golden in a 350 degree oven. Watch them carefully; I have burned more than a few batches.
  3. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper and parmesan in a bowl. Whisk until smooth.
  4. Pour dressing over kale. Toss to combine. Decorate with avocado slices and serve.
kale salad
Voila! A beautiful, healthy, raw kale salad!

Given the abundance of kale we have in our garden, I’d love to try some new kale recipes!

Do you have a kale recipe to share?

Please do! I’d love to do a ‘kale recipe round-up’ post and include your favourites!¬†



Healthy eating on the road: Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference recap

I often struggle with healthy eating on the road. So many high fat, high sugar, high calorie options. When I can, I make sure to pack my own meals and snacks.

But that’s not always possible, especially when I’m traveling by air (fruit, veggies, eggs and meat can’t be transported between Canada and the US) and living in a hotel (with few restaurant or grocery store options within walking distance) for several days.

Thankfully, the organizers and sponsors of the recent Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference in Denver made healthy eating on the road a top priority! Clearly, they understand the importance of energizing food to the creative task of writing! (Healthy living bloggers LOVE to eat!).

Each morning, the conference sponsors treated us to a breakfast of mouthwatering berries (Driscoll’s; I ate at least 6 pints of raspberries in 2 days and lived the benefit of a high-fiber diet!), Greek yogurt (Better Whey of Life; whom I found via Twitter are available at Loblaws and Safeway in Canada!), granola (Love Grown Foods; the granola I’ve recently found at my local Superstore and fallen in love with!),

Driscoll's Berries

and whole grain cereal (Attune Foods; I managed to fit the whole boxy in my carry-on and thanks for the T-shirt Andrew!).

Uncle Sam cereal

Snacks included maple energy bars (Pure Canadian Maple Syrup; the bars were amazing and I ate way more than my share! Didn’t even manage to get a photo but you can grab the energy bar recipe here), chocolate milk (Refuel with Chocolate Milk; great for quenching my never-ending thirst in the 100+ degree sun), chocolate-covered nutty energy bites from Goodness Knows (I’m suffering withdrawal symptoms today), dried cherries (Choose Cherries; fabulous on your morning oats!) more berries and granola and some chocolate covered calcium from Adora¬†(can’t think of a better way to get my daily calcium than through fine chocolate, can you?).

attune foods

These are all products you can pack in your OWN cooler or picnic basket to ensure good health and digestion on your summer travels!

The conference was held at the Anshutz Health and Wellness Center on the Medical Campus of the University of Colorado and included a tour of their metabolic kitchen, a healthy cooking demonstration (with an incredible snack of red lentils, marinated chicken and fennel and watermelon salad)

and dinner (with options for vegans) provided by sponsor Chipotle Mexican Grill and Chef Paulo himself!

Clearly, we ate well (as apparently, the campus wildlife do too!).


There may even have been the odd sweet indulgence;


but you know what they say, “What happens at FHBC12 stays at FHBC12”!

The conference was about so much more than food and healthy eating, but since food is life, I thought where better to start my travel tales!

Disclaimer: Although FitFluential and Refuel with Chocolate Milk sponsored my attendance at the 2012 Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference, all opinions about the products I sampled at the conference are my own!




Tips for packing a clean eating picnic

Guess what today is? International Picnic Day! (I didn’t know either, I had to look it up).

Now that the days are longer and the weather warm and sunny (okay, we’re still waiting for the ‘warm and sunny’ in the Pacific Northwest…), your weekends are likely to include¬†picnics, barbecues and other outdoor eating events. Always lots of fun, but usually a clean eating practitioner’s nightmare!

Potato salad, hot dogs and burgers, fried chicken, spinach dip, pasta salads, beer, chips and chocolate cake were the usual fare at my family’s holiday picnics. While I enjoy each of these ‘treats’ in moderation, indulging in all of them at a single meal would leave me feeling tired, bloated and unable to join in the after-dinner frisbee fun. Instead, I choose one or two to sample and stick with my standard clean eating selections to fill up my plate.

Tips for packing a clean eating picnic;

  1. Choose lean poultry and fish for grilling rather than burgers, sausage or hotdogs. Whip up a spicy marinade and the burger and bun crowd will be asking for some of what you’re eating! My family’s favourite? Low salt soy sauce, orange juice, sesame oil, fresh grated garlic and ginger and a bit of red wine vinegar. Marinade chicken or fish for 2-3 hours prior to grilling. Mmmmm!
  2. Rather than offering to provide the chips and dip, use your artistic sensibilities to create a mouth-watering vegetable platter. Colourful peppers, crisp broccoli and cauliflower, pea pods and radishes; the more variety and unique the veggies the more appealing the dish. Serve with a greek yogurt-herb dip or avocado and tomato guacamole.
  3. Substitute whole grain buns for the usual white. (Or forego the bun completely and save your starchy carbs for dessert!).
  4. Use low fat greek yogurt or ripe avocado in place of mayonnaise in creamy pasta or veggie salads. Tastes just as good without the extra calories and saturated fat. I make a killer salmon salad; canned wild sockeye, ripe avocado, lemon juice, diced onions and peppers. Combine and refrigerate for an hour or so.
  5. Brew up a pot of home made iced green tea. Experiment with flavoured teas and leave the sugar laden sodas at home.
  6. Instead of whipping up a batch of fudge brownies, try angel food cake served with fresh berries. No fat, about half the sugar (and calories) and a great way to showcase seasonal strawberries and raspberries!
  7. Slice up a giant watermelon for dessert. Kids (and grownups too!) love spitting the seeds; something they’re probably not allowed to do around the dinner table at home. High in water content, low in calories and lots of fun to eat! The perfect, clean eating picnic fare!

What’s your favourite picnic food?

Do you stick with your nutrition plan at barbecues and picnics?

Women’s Health Week: share your help-a-friend ideas

It’s National Women’s Health Week!

Now I know that all of my readers try and make healthy lifestyle choices, right?

We exercise regularly, eat healthily, get enough sleep and manage the stress in our day-to-day lives by meditating, practicing yoga or knitting.

But what about our friends and family? We all know at least one woman who could benefit from a bit of ‘healthifying’, don’t we?

This week, I challenge you to help another woman improve one aspect of her health; nutrition, fitness, sleep or stress.

Need some ideas?

  • invite her to take a walk with you; moderate exercise, vitamin D and positive social interactions all have health benefits
  • bake her a ‘clean eating’ treat (recipe ideas here)
  • babysit her children for an evening; best stress reduction gift I know of!
  • give her a copy of ‘Clean Eating’ magazine
  • invite her to come to yoga with you (that’s how I got started)
  • sign her up for my Monthly Newsletter (top left corner of this page; shameless plug, I know)
  • give her a hug (it needs to be at least 7 seconds long to promote the release of oxytocin, a feel good hormone)
  • make her laugh

I’m sure you have lots more ideas about helping a friend improve their health.

Please share! And have a happy National Women’s Health Week yourself!