Showing posts tagged with: Nutrition

My “Moderation Moto”: Why the “Unsexy” Approach is Sustainable

by Emma Hammond 0 comments

Habits Mindset Nutrition Uncategorized

Let's chat moderation shall we? One of the most frequent conversations I have with clients who are struggling with consistency in their dietary choices deals w/ the dreaded ALL OR NOTHING eating mentality. We absolutely live in a go big or go home kind of world.

Insanity Workouts OR Netflix Binge Watching

Chicken & Broccoli OR Pizza & Beer

ON the Diet Bandwagon OR I'll Worry About It Come January

We swing from one extreme to the other on the emotional rollercoaster known as the health & fitness world. Sucks right?

Yet when I talk about practicing moderation, I often get the eye roll of "that's not sexy" or "it won't get 20lbs off the scale in 20 days". And people aren't wrong! Eating moderately probably won't lead to a picture perfect before & after 60 day transformation challenge. It also means you have to experiment a little, stop following all the guru's magic meal plans & actually make a little effort to figure out what moderation means for you.The benefits? It's a lifestyle. It means you can be imperfect & still make progress. It also means you take it one step at a time & can improve a little every single week. You can make your own rules of what works for you, makes you feel best & stop "cheating" the system. Why? It's your damn system to make, break or bulldoze through.Ok lots of vague rambles later, what do I mean by moderation? All I can tell you is what moderation means to ME & what it's given me.everything-in-moderation

Emma's "Moderation" Moto:

~ Eat the majority of my meals based around whole foods: vegetables, fruit, proteins, single ingredient labeled foods & food labels I can actually read all the ingredients. Truthfully I could leave it at this philosophy without a single over answer. WHY? Because WHEN I make the majority of my diet based around whole foods, the few things that sneak in like a piece of momma's poundcake or slice of pizza on a Saturday just don't matter that much. My body functions well, my cravings are in check & the imperfect foods I still enjoy are such a small proportion it's no big deal.~ Stick with food's & portions that make me FEEL good: I don't tolerate gluten well & dairy is only so so. I am NOT demonizing these foods as good or bad. BUT I'm not going to eat them because I feel like shit doing so. The same as eating too much raw broccoli hurts my belly but a handful or pumpkin candy corn is a-ok. It's not good vs bad, it's listening to what my body is telling me. It's loving a big ass salad but still stopping when I am full. Leaving a few bites on the plate at night because I am satisfied instead of stuffed. Having an extra snack when I am truly hungry, not just bored. Or skipping my mid-morning snack because I'm just not hungry today. Slow down & listen!~ Having wine on the weekends: I freakin love wine, this is NO secret. MODERATION for me is keeping it in my diet for my happiness & pleasure. The unfortunate part? I absolutely gain weight when I drink daily vino. I also feel hungover & unhappy when I drink more than a few glasses, man i've gotten old.. BUT that's the reality. Not to mention I don't think it's healthy to drink a glass or two every day to use as a coping device to deal with life. So I have found the balance that works for me is to be 100% ok with skipping the weekend wine & enjoying it on the weekend. I pick GOOD quality wines & enjoy the flavor, how they pair with food & the memories shared over bottles. I don't binge just because "i'm not allowed" to drink during the week & when I'm not in the mood, I don't. Although let's be real with how often that happens.. ;)~ Saying NO to foods I don't actually want to eat out of social pressure: This is a big one for me. I use to really struggle going out with friends, hitting a dinner party or holiday gathering & being able to say NO to foods. I didn't want to "stand out" or be the weird one that says no to the morning donuts everyone is fawning over. I also never wanted to sound rude when I told my mother in law "no thanks" to another piece of her amazing layer cake. BUT ultimately at the end of the day it's my body & I have to live in it. No one that actually cares about me is going to fight with me over what I consume. And if they do? Honestly that's not someone I want to spend my time around. Harsh? Maybe BUT if someone cares about you they should respect & WANT you to feel your best. Frankly I stopped caring about what others thought of me because I was a better person for them when I felt my best self.~ Cooking the majority of my meals at HOME: This one has really become so much more important to me over the years & it has nothing to do with saving money, calories in restaurant foods, making poor choices out or whatever else you typically hear. This is about building a better relationship with where my food comes from, prioritizing spending the time to prepare it, taking pride in eating something I prepared & valuing quality food over the instant gratification huge quantity of food we can get in a drive through. Really think about it? You prepare a home cooked meal of even the simplest breakfast like scrambled eggs, w/ some greens & fresh berries from a farm near you. It's a totally difference experience than hitting McDonald's & shoving it down on the go. For me, this is a self care technique I truly think is not prioritized in this modern age of on the go eating. *Insert "back in my day" answer*~ Enjoying special meals & memories guilt free: Food absolutely has so much family history, bonding & connects us all to each other in meaningful ways. I cherish times of baking cookies in the kitchen w/ my mom or seeing my husband light up like a kid when his mom mentions eating cupcakes straight out of the oven. I've gotten "healthy" & "not so healthy" recipes from family that has emotional meaning I can't describe. So does that mean every holiday I stay away & bring my tupperware of healthier meals? NO! I eat a pancake my mom makes on Christmas morning or have the peanut butter brownies that are my absolute fav! I don't have guilt or anxiety about these activities. Why? Go back to #1 on my list. My pancake is often accompanied by scrambled eggs & fruit. Or I eat a big stack but eat something more nutrient dense for lunch because it makes me FEEL better. I eat a brownie & enjoy every bite, knowing they are in abundance so I don't have to down them all right now. It's memories that I want to BE AROUND FOR, which means taking care of my health. Moderation..As you can see these aren't hard & fast rules or a diet to follow. It's guidelines I hang out in the middle of that fit MY lifestyle. They ebb & flow as everything does in life. What has moderation giving me? The POWER to FEEL good physically, FEEL good about my choices & LIVE the life I want to in a healthy active way. To change my mindset from that of deprivation & self loathing to abundance & self love.Ever thought about your "Moderation MOTO" that could change the game of how you think? Maybe take a few minutes to jot it down, journal it out & even share out loud. I'd love to hear & help!

More on HOW this actually looks for me & what it could look like for YOU in Part 2...

1/2 Marathon Training Updates + Nutrition Tweaks

by Emma Hammond 0 comments

goals Nutrition Recap Uncategorized Workouts

OK I might have failed on those weekly training recaps I spoke about... OOPS! Never the less I am back with a little update of how the last month of training has gone, a few nutrition changes i've made & how I am feeling overall. Let's dig in!!14330080_697935553693035_9048511778216656836_nLast we spoke, my schedule looked like:

  • 2x a week run (one long run & one speed or tempo)
  • 3x a week total body lifting (sticking with a program my coach wrote)
  • 1-2x a week cross training on the bike or swimming (triathlon future?)
  • 1-2x a week yoga (restorative)
While nothing has drastically changed, a lot actually has...
  • Running: I have upped my mileage from less than 15 miles a week to 20-25. I have felt REALLY good on the road lately & have naturally leaned towards wanting to do so a bit more frequently. I am TRYING to stick with only running twice a week BUT a 3rd day has slipped in on occasion. Physically I am feeling ok minus a recent knee flare. I'm going to take it easy from now until race day, as I am not going to get any faster 2 weeks out. The best I can do is rest the knee & see how the day goes!
  • Strength Training: *Sigh* This has me a little frustrated but as previously mentioned, I knew it would take a hit with the extra running. I am still loving lifting BUT it's changed a lot. A month ago I was doing heavier barbell movements in low rep ranges. Example my workout would start with 4 sets of 3 rep back squats or 1 rep max of bench press. With the extra running my central nervous system isn't feeling recovered enough to work on max effort lifts. Instead I am doing a lot more dumbbell & kettle bell work which is a fun change. I am also only going heavier on my legs twice a week. This stinks a bit BUT I wasn't recovering enough from those heavy days 3x a week to have a quality run. I can't have it all, sad I know. However it's still just as important for me to maintain strength training during this time, even if it looks a little different. I am doing a lot more upper body, single leg training & hips/glute work. The key to staying injury free.
  • Nutrition: Damn running! It makes me chronically hungry, which is exactly why I DON'T recommend it as an optimal option for fat loss. I run a lot & I want to eat a lot, it's that simple. The problem? It's very easy to overeat, no matter how many calories you burn through exercise. I have absolutely increased my calorie intake to maintain my weight & fuel my runs. It's not the time to undereat or diet so I am trying to include quality foods to stay more satiated. I have also upped my carbs & more importantly protein! Why protein? I want to maintain as much lean muscle mass as I can & protein is my best way to do so.
  • Body: I don't weigh myself these days so I can't say in terms of lb change. I actually feel as though I have gained a slight bit of weight but who knows OR CARES. As mentioned, I tend to get HUNGRY running & the mix of that with my body never reacting well hormonally to the stress, well it can leave me feeling puffy. Do I like it? No BUT I'm trying to be honest with myself with what I am eating, drinking & keep that balance in check. It's easy to say "I deserve to eat those fries because I ran 10 miles" but I really don't like that mindset. Instead I NEED to eat quality food because my body is recovering. I also don't have to EARN a glass of wine or dessert through exercise so I don't feel the need to justify that either.
I thought I'd give a little sample week of my workouts & day in the life of eats just for fun! This was a day's worth of eats on an upper body lifting day:Breakfast: Roasted sweet potato & broccoli topped w/ goat cheese, eggs & hot sauce. Totally digging the savory breakfast & love getting veggies in to start the day!image1

Lunch: I grabbed a salad from this awesome local shop called Good Greens. My newest addiction! This big box included baby kale, spinach, quinoa, edamame, beets, carrots, pumpkin seeds, feta & chicken. SO GOOD!

image2

Afternoon Snack: Plain greek yogurt bowl w/ pumpkin & gf pumpkin O's (yay Trader Joe's!). I usually have an afternoon snack to hold me through PM training sessions & not leave me hangry by dinner time. Nothing good comes out of hangry...

image1-1

Dinner: Steak salad bowl, which we enjoyed using leftovers that we grilled on Sunday night to make a hearty dinner salad. Steak, sautéed asparagus, onions, tomato, gorgonzola & balsamic dressing. A great way to end the day & took about 10 minutes to whip up. My fav!

image2-1

**I think I ended the evening w/ a little Halo Top Ice Cream. That sounds like me.. ;) This day felt great on the food front, as it include all my nutrition non-negotiables! Protein at every meal, lots of veggies & plenty of H20. I also like to include grassfed beef &/or salmon 2-3x a week in addition to pasture raised eggs. Yay high quality fats!

Workouts Lately:

Monday: Upper Body Lifting Day 

1. Incline Bench Press: 4x8-10

2. Pull Ups: 3x5-8

3. Incline Hybrid Flyes: 3x10

4. BB Bent Over Rows: 4x8-10

5A. Strict OH BB Press: 4x8

5B. DB Lateral Raises: 4x10

6A. Straight Bar Tricep Pressdown: 4x12-15

6B. OH Tricep Extension: 4x10

6C. Cable Bicep Curl: 4x10

6D. Cable Bicep Rvs Curl: 4x10

Tuesday: Run + Lower Body Lifting Day

AM: 6 Mile Run

PM: Leg Workout -

1. BB Back Squats: 4x12

2. Leg Press: 4x30 - 20 Wide Stance, 20 Close (OUCH!)

3. BB Front Squats: 4x8-10

4. Walking Lunges: 1:30 minutes on/45 seconds restx3

5A. Lying Leg Curls: 4x12

5B. Glute Kickbacks: 4x12

Wednesday: REST DAY! WOOHOOThursday: 45 Minute Bike Ride + Upper Body Lifting Day (Similar format to Monday but w/ flat presses & arnold presses)Friday: Lower Body Lifting Day (Similar to Tuesday but w/ straight leg deadlifts sprinkled in)Saturday: 12 Mile RunSunday: And again we rest!In total 4 strength days + 3 cardio days + 2 total rest days = 1 happy Emma! I could have squeezed in a yoga day but I didn't. No biggie!So that's a wrap as to what's been going on with me lately! With the race 2 weeks away I'm excited to accomplish a goal & see what I will be aiming for next.Are YOU in tune w/ how to adjust your diet based on your activity & top goals? Let me know in the comments below!

To Snack or Not To Snack… Or Does it Even Matter?

by Emma Hammond 0 comments

goals Habits Nutrition Uncategorized

c9bc43b2-c6a4-4849-ace2-4acbb175e807

3 Meals a Day + 2 Snacks

6 Small Meals a Day

3 Meals + 1 Snack

3 Square Meals a Day

Eating every 2 hours..

No food after dark..

Yes I have experimented with them all! Back in the day I would hear the newest guru promoting the magic number of meals you should eat each day for forever fast fat loss & jump on board. "You should eat every 2 hours to stoke your metabolism"! Of course that makes sense! "Breakfast is a must", well duh! "Don't eat 4 hours before bed?" or "Have snacks between every meal". They all can make sense in a well presented article if the author does a great job selling the idea. And that's not to say they are all wrong.But IS there a optimal amount of snacking you should do to lose weight? YES THERE IS! The magic meal plan is out there & perfect for you. What is it? Easy, whatever works for YOU & you can stick to! I have seen ALL of these formulas work for fat loss success. Ultimately the best plan is what fits within your lifestyle, keeps your hunger, energy & cravings in check & makes you feel good.So how do you know what will work best for you? Let's look at a few common snacking slip ups to see if you fall into any of these categories:

Common Snacking Snafus:

  • Eating Pre-Packaged Junk Food: if you are someone on the go, hates to plan ahead or pack nutrient dense options then snacking may not be for you. People's who's only options (whether options by what they WILL eat or has readily available) are bars, crackers, chips & other lower quality foods then it might be time to rethink their snack game.
  • Overeating on "snack foods": a few crackers with hummus or a handful of nuts? Eh that didn't really satisfy so let me grab another handful or two. These foods can be super easy to overdo the portions & end up calorically adding up to an extra meal or two per day. If you find that a small snack never actually happens, might be time to try a new method.
  • Forcing Smaller Meals to Includes Snacks: I find from a psychological perspective, the 5-6 small meals or snacks approach can be a real negative for certain people. These tiny meals never really fill you up or provide satiety. So instead you fixate on waiting another 2-3 hours for the allowed snack, leading to a constant state of hunger & food fixation. That's not a physically or mentally healthy amount of energy to expend on food.
  • Using For Non-Hunger Needs: We often start to use snacking as a way to soothe stress, boredom, sleepiness, frustration or lack of energy in the office. A bandaid to cover up the underlying issues never fixes the problem.

Tips to Avoid Unhealthy Snacking:

  • Eat Bigger Meals: if you are snacking on bad options out of hunger, why not try adding some extra staying power to breakfast or lunch. Experiment with meal size to cut out the physical need to fit in that mid-day munching.
  • Determine the Cause: keep a journal & start paying attention to when you snack, what you choice & the why behind it. If it's a none hunger related decision, brainstorm alternative options to begin implementing in place of food.
  • Exercise Induced: overdoing cardio or other excessive exercise can wreck havoc on hunger signals. I find the incessisent hunger a big warning signs that fitness may be interfering with your hormones. If this sounds like you, I would take time to re-evaluate your regimen to consider if it's the culprit of your unhealthy eating practices.
The truth is you don't need a snack mid-morning & mid-afternoon to achieve fat loss, maintain a healthy bodyweight, keep your metabolism moving or any of that. Those goals will be determined by the totality of the food you eat throughout the day, week, month & lifetime. I have absolutely struggled with finding my perfect formula over the years & what I have come to realize is it CHANGES. Depending on the day, my exercise intensity, my current goals & so on I adjust as I go. On days I am busy & know I won't have time for a healthy snack, I eat a bigger breakfast. On days I am short on time & grab a lighter lunch, I have go to snacks that satisfy. I know my trigger foods & don't set myself up to have them around during my mid-day slump when energy & willpower are at their lowest. It's taken trial, LOTS of error & permission to trust myself. It's a PRACTICE!

KEY TAKEAWAY: Stop looking for other gurus to tell YOU what works for your body  or lifestyle . That means you have to put in a little work & self experimentation to find the answers. Tough I know BUT it's also way more satisfying & sustainable.

Tell me your BIGGEST struggle with trying to optimize your meal timing? 

Demystifying Post-Workout Nutrition: Who, What & WHY?

by Emma Hammond 0 comments

Fitness goals Nutrition Uncategorized

Post-Workout Nutrition Confusion? You are not alone! Flipping through every magazine, you can read a different "must do" from varies gurus about the perfect post-workout food! From the most popular "you must have a protein shake within 5 minutes" to newer "fasting is the way to go" for fat loss. There is ample reasons to be more than slightly confused.
So are you ready to dispel some myths & clarify what's best for YOU? Here goes:
design-3
 
I work with a wide array of clients who are all striving towards different goals:
- Fat Loss
- Muscle Building
- Increased Athletic Performance
- Increased Cardiovascular Function
- Maintaining Bone Density
& Just for Freakin Fun!!
 
All awesome reasons to hit the gym!! One of the most common questions every gym goer asks upon starting a new routine is "what should I eat post workout?". A protein shake? Carbs? No Carbs? How About Healthy Fat? 
These answers all depend on my cliche phrase of who are you & what are your goals! The intensity of your workout, when you ate last, your goals in the workout/recovery & most importantly overall daily intake factor in to the post workout equation. So I thought I would quickly breakdown a few different scenarios of IF, HOW & WHY you need to be concerned with your post sweat-fest intake.
 
WHO:
 ~ The General Fat Loss Client:
Post yoga session, no immediate refuel needed.

Post yoga session, no immediate refuel needed.

IF: you are a beginner fitness enthusiast looking to lose fat, working out at a low-moderate intensity level (which may feel strenuous to you but is mostly bodyweight/cardio/lower intensity lifting) & are eating an adequate total daily caloric intake.
THEN: The answer is no, you don't need to slam a shake or even eat within that often touted 30-45min  post workout window. You already have enough glycogen in your system & haven't solicited a demanding enough physical output to need to replenish immediately. Eat your next meal as normal & make sure it's balanced with protein to maintain muscle.
~ Advance Fat Loss Client:
 IF: you are an intermediate to advanced lifter, runner or whatever your workout of choice is & are looking to lose a bit of fat while maintaining your workout intensity.
THEN: It probably would be safe to fit in some type of post workout fuel just as a "can't hurt" measure. Will you lose all your gains if you don't? Definitely not. Simply on the more intense training days, you should aim to maintain all of your lean muscle mass. Therefore a safety net of protein post-training can't hurt. Now this doesn't mean you need to keep your shaker bottle glued to you at the gym. It just means have a small snack or plan to eat your normal next meal within an hour after training.
image2

Post Interval Cardio, I skip & enjoy my next meal.

WHAT: This is somewhat dependent on your sport/performance goals. In general always include a solid source of protein! Carbs & fats are variable based on the activity. If you find yourself losing strength, muscle, have another intense workout the same day or are not recovering well, include carbohydrates. If you have no energy issues or any of the above symptoms, just consuming protein for fat loss might be the ticket.
What about Fat? It's not necessary & does slow down the replenishment of nutrients from protein & carbohydrates to your muscles. Which is why I actually recommend healthy fat consumption for most meals because we want slow absorption of food to sustain our hunger for a longer period of time. So if your post-workout nutrition is a meal that is suppose to sustain you for multiple hours? Go ahead & include that healthy fat from cooking oils, avocado, nuts etc. That way you are not ravenous an hour later. If the food you consume post workout is just a snack to get you through for an hour or so? Skip the fat.
~ Athlete or Musclie Building:IF: Top priority is muscle building or athletic performance such as training for a race, then yes I always recommend eating within the notorious post-workout window to be safe.
post heavy lifting, I always refuel

post heavy lifting, I always refuel

WHAT: Choose a snack or meal based on a close to equal ratio of protein to carbohydrates to quickly replenish glycogen stores to muscle. The best post-workout carbs comes from quick metabolizing sources of glucose, such as starchy sources like oats, sweet potato, quinoa, yam, or rice. That plus your standard protein shake or a real food meal like chicken breast + starchy carbs is a great way to make sure you are building muscle & fully recovering to perform optimally next workout. This is a time to skip the fat if you are concerned with refueling as quickly as possible. As mentioned, healthy fats are much needed but do slow absorption rates. So have a quick post workout shake & then include healthy fat in your next meal.
Ok that that was a bit science heavy so heres a simple recap:
~ Newbie Fat Loss Client: No need for immediate post workout meal. Eat next meal per normal.
~ Advanced Fat Loss Client: Aim for protein only post workout UNLESS performance/energy suffers OR if it's a full meal meant to sustain you. If that's the case, a balanced healthy meal of protein, some carbs & a little healthy fat is best to keep you from being ravenous a few hours later.
~ Performance Athletic or Muscle Building: Consume protein & carbs within 45 min to an hour post workout. Skip the fat on this snack.
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My Go-To Smoothie Formula:
  • 1 scoop high quality protein powder (or 6oz plain greek yogurt/cottage cheese)
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2c frozen berries
  • 1c unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 handfuls of spinach
Optional Add Ins: for a meal I add healthy fats such as ground flax, avocado or 1tbsp nut butter.
QUESTIONS? Just ask!! Want more tips, tricks & exclusive FREE content? Don't miss out on a thing, click here to sign up for bi-weekly news. Never any junk!

Are you OUT EXERCISING your fat loss? Plus 5 ways to stop!

by Emma Hammond 0 comments

Fitness goals Nutrition Uncategorized Workouts

3Fat loss is simple right? Move more + eat less = scale down. Follow this simple template & all will be right with the world...You look at this equation & say ok move more. How can I burn ALL the calories, sweat it out hard & make the fat drip away the quickest? I got it! The more days I workout, hours I can fit in cardio sessions & calories I can cut will definately get me in my skinny jeans asap. Because after all, 1 pound is equally to 3500 calories. Therefore if I can only eat 1000 calories a day & spend an hour on the elliptical (which says I burned a 500...lies btw), mathematically that means I will lose 3lbs a week. Perfect, I can handle that for a month or two no problem!Maybe that works for the first week. You drag yourself into the gym every single day & sweat it out on the treadmill. You eat your egg whites for breakfast, tiny salad for lunch & a bit of chicken with broccoli for dinner. You step onto that scale & SCORE! Down 4lbs!!Yet come week 2 you find yourself struggling to get in quality workouts because you are fatigued. Duh! You aren't feeding your body enough so why should it give you energy to burn away? Next you are not just a little hungry in between meals, you are STARVING. From the second you get up to when your head hits the pillow. H-A-N-G-R-Y! Heck you may even wake up in the middle of the night in need of sustenance. Sure you fight it off for a day or two but let's be real? Eventually you succumb. And you not only eat a normal amount of food, you eat twice that. All that exercise you are doing is making your body scream for nutrient replacements. Insert the binge on crappy fast food, sweet treats or at minimum oversized portions. But wait? I'm exercising a TON. Cardio all day long. That burns a lot of calories so eating a bit more is fine. Wrong! Because you have now down regulated your metabolism by trying to starve it into submission PLUS burned all your muscle via that lovely treadmill. Muscle = faster metabolism, which you worked ridiculously hard to kill.Ok I say all this in a harsh sounding tone. I know! But after YEARS of doing this myself I am super passionate about helping people understand HOW to get the results they are working so hard for. Which rarely involves listening to the stupid magazine covers telling you the perfect 1200 calorie diet paired with how to get your bikini body in 2 weeks. *insert eye rolling*

Intro into running, because I desperately wanted to "tone up".

Intro into running, because I desperately wanted to "tone up".

Let me tell you my personal experience now that a rant is out of the way. Back when I was in the constant "must lose last 10lbs" cycle, I assumed that the more I exercised, the more weight I would lose. The best way to burn calories? Running of course! Or cardio of any kind would do. As I usually ran as much as I could until my knees hurt, then jumped on the elliptical on my "rest days".Heck I even decided the best way to lose that weight would be to run a marathon. All that running HAD to result in weight loss. So I did it. I ran 40 miles a week & watched my watch tell me how many calories I burned with every mile. On paper I should be losing at least 2lbs a week!To fast forward a bit let's just say instead of losing 10lbs marathon training, I GAINED 10lbs. And I can promise you it wasn't 10lbs of lean sexy muscle. In fact I had the most cellulite i've ever had, no muscle definition & felt quite "soft" all the way around. Skinny fat is what I would call it. So how did I gain 10lbs while marathon training?
Marathon Finished! Super proud BUT a good 10lbs heavier & no muscle.

Marathon Finished! Super proud BUT a good 10lbs heavier & no muscle.

A few simple facts:
  1. I was only doing cardio & lost a significant amount of muscle mass. Muscle mass is GOLD when it comes to a speedy metabolism & being able to eat enough to fuel my recovery.
  2. I was hungry ALL the time! Yes I burned 400-1000 calories on many a run. Guess what? One burger balanced out that equation quickly. You can easily out eat any amount of exercise. But I couldn't help it. I was hungry ALL THE TIME. So I ate. Not unhealthy foods but too much, too frequently. I earned it right?
  3. I was training for performance, yet attempting to eat for aethestics. My goal was to run a marathon. That was the focus, the training & I really needed to do was eat to support that. Yet instead I tried to starve it! You need to create a deficit when trying to lose body fat but NOT when you are trying to perform at a sport. Those are two SEPARATE goals!! Can they be balanced? Yes, sometimes you can work to find that small caloric deficit that meets both needs, but it's tough. And often not sustainable.
  4. I was causing havoc on my hormones! That much physical stress in the form of exercise plus dietary stress majorly impacted my hormones. I actually had blood work done & my cortisol was threw the roof! I was waking up in the middle of the night, exhausted midday, cold all the time, lost my period & my body was in no place to function efficiently. AKA fat loss stalled. PLEASE NOTE: these are all BIG warnings signs of overtraining!!!
Now I am not JUST bashing cardio. Overtraining happens in so many different ways including high intensity cross training, heavy duty weight lifting, crossfit, HIIT workouts & even intense yoga. Stress is stress & MORE is not always better. This is why I encourage clients to decide what their TOP goal is.~ Is it performance such as I want to train for a race & need to provide my body sufficient fuel to do so. ~ Is it fat loss? ~ Muscle gain? ~ Maintaining your current weight while enjoying your lifestyle?There are different optimal training programs to achieve different goals. Burning the candle at both ends all the time won't get you there.
Strength training a few days, very little cardio, balanced diet & feeling great.

Strength training a few days, very little cardio, balanced diet & feeling great.

So how did I recover from my marathon weight gain? This is the awesome part. I worked out MUCH LESS! I went from spending 10+ hours a week on the roads running to maybe 2-3 hrs at most in the gym. Most of my workouts did not include any huffing, puffing or sweating bullets. Instead I lifted weights a few days a week to build muscle & did a few shorter but intense cardio sessions that didn't overstimulate my appetite. Plus took a lot more walks & enjoyed time recovering.Due to that balance of building muscle & not creating havoc on my hormones, I was able to keep my hunger & cravings in check. Therefore able to live relatively comfortably in a small caloric deficit, aka I saw a steady
Muscle is that you?

Muscle is that you?

decrease on the scale while not feeling miserable. Which was much easier to maintain over the time needed to drop fat, actually see muscle definition & feel much more energized in & out of the gym.Magic? Nope not at all. Just counter to what seems to make sense, the tabloids have told us & fighting that all in mentality. Let's recap the take aways for how to AVOID overexercising yourself out of fat loss goals:
  1. PICK ONE GOAL: performance, fat loss, muscle building or maintenance. There is no right answer & it will change over time. BUT there are more efficient ways to achieve each. If you just need to de-stress & that's what working out is for then GREAT! Do what makes you happy & never feel bad about that. But understand your top priority so you have realistic expectations.
  2. KEEP HORMONES IN CHECK: if you are performing at a high level of intensity & not putting it back into your body. It will at some point rebel. You can't use & abuse it into submission.
  3. MUSCLE RULES: this is the best tool you have in the body composition game. The more you have or can at least maintain, the more calories your body burns at rest. Cardio builds endurance & heart health but NOT muscle. Aka lift something!
  4. THINK LONG GAME: if you are trying to lose fat, it didn't come on overnight & won't disappear that way. Bummer I know. But find the exercise balance & dietary intake you can maintain comfortably for the duration needed to hit your goal. Not to mention you can see yourself sticking somewhat close to after. AKA if you can't see yourself eating that way in a year, it's too restrictive. Find a better balance.
  5. MAINTANENCE IS OK: you don't always need to be in diet mode. Even if you still want to or need to lose body fat, it's ok to hang out in maintenance for a bit. In fact it's a must! If I sign up for a face & train for it, it's with the understanding I may lose a little muscle & not be as defined as I'd like. BUT my goal is to fuel performance. That is awesome!!! Fat loss is something I can come back to IF & when I want to. We shouldn't stay in a deficit all the time & it's important to exercise for fun! Not just to change our physical appearance.
Ultimately my #1 goal of fitness is HEALTH.
Balanced & simply maintaining :)

Balanced & simply maintaining :)

To keep me moving into my old age, my heart ticking, my brain stimulated & my inner competitor challenge. Whatever your method of moving, it shouldn't be solely focused on fat loss. What's the fun in that?There is nothing wrong with having aethestic goals but thinking that you can abuse your body into looking the way you want, well it won't ever happen. Nutrition rules the physique world, fitness keeps you strong & empowered. Take care of your body, it's the only one you have. If you have a specific goal & aren't sure the optimal path to get there, invest in yourself by finding a coach. We are all too harsh on ourselves so having an unbiased guide is well worth the investment.What's your WHY behind your fitness program?Healthy_Balance02

Healthy Upgrades + Homemade Granola Recipes

by Emma Hammond 0 comments

Meal Prep Nutrition Recipes Uncategorized

The weekday breakfast is what starts our busy day off on the right, or often totally wrong foot. Most people are rushing out the door & lucky to give their bodies any fuel to power through their mornings. The standard diet is a high carb, high sugar option such as cereal, bagels, pastries & granola. I totally understand the lack of wanting to dedicate much time to dirtying up extra pans. Our brains are on so many to do's that building the perfectly balanced breakfast isn't always feasible. While I do suggest some awesome make ahead meals such as a healthy frittata, sometimes you just have to grab what's on hand & go!My husband is absolutely one of those people & for years grabbed his individual flavored yogurt, topped it with some pre-packaged granola & quickly consumed on the way out the door. Insert Emma...*evil laugh*...Image-1Overtime I started to offer him a few simple swaps to upgrade the nutrition he was getting. I knew he would not be on board with adding any more difficulty to his morning routine so instead of aiming for perfection, we aimed for homemade higher quality.Old Breakfast:

  • 1 Individual Strawberry Chobani:chobani-cacao
140 calories/20g carbs/14g protein/0g fat/19g sugar
  • 1/2c Cherry Vanilla Granola (Back to Nature):
200 calories/38g carbs/5g protein/4g fat/12g sugarMeal Total = 340 calories/58g carbs/19g protein/4g fat/31g sugar

Current Breakfast:

  • 6oz Plain Whole Milk Greek Yogurt (Atlanta Fresh Local)peanut-butter-yogurt
136 calories/12.5g carbs/16g protein/8g fat/12g sugar
  • 1/2c Homemade Granola (recipe below)
152 calories/23 carbs/4g protein/5.2g fat/7g sugarMeal Total = 288 calories/35.5g carbs/20g protein/13g fat/19g sugarStill the same simple breakfast, but with way less sugar & based in single ingredient foods. I buy whole milk yogurt for some healthy fat in the meal & he often include a handful of berries to his bowl. The ingredient list on plain yogurt to the sweetened varieties is WAY shorter, as well as skipping the preservatives from both the yogurt & "healthy" pre-packaged granola.My easy to make granola recipe is just a few ingredients that can be made in a big batch to last for weeks. Not to mentioned be tweaked to your preferences. You can add in nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds & much more!

Classic Homemade Granola:

IMG_3244
  • Ingredients:

2 cups Old Fashioned Oats (we use gluten free)

2 tbsp coconut oil

1/4c honey or maple syrup (I use 2tbsp honey + 2tbsp maple)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanila

  • Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees & line baking sheet w/ foil.

2. Whisk together coconut oil, honey, salt & vanilla in a bowl.

3. Add oats & stir to coat throughly.

4. Add granola to baking sheet & cook for 30 - 35 minutes or until golden brown, stirring once midway through.

5. Let cool & store in airtight container.IMG_3249

* I have reduced both the oil & honey for a less sweetened version which turned out great. I usually add chopped almonds to this basic mix for extra crunch!

You may not be completey ready to do a full pantry clean, ditch every food habit you're attached to or strive to be the next healthy iron chef. BUT that doesn't mean that the small upgrades over time won't add up! Change your mindset to view it as what nutrition can you ADD to your meals, instead of what has to be taken away!

Small changes over time creates consistency. Consistency trumps perfection every time!

What's one staple in your diet you KNOW is not ideal but need help to upgrade? Let me know so we can troubleshoot it together! Leave me a comment or email me at: emma@healthybalancewithemma.com

Want more recipes like this? Sign up HERE for my weekly newsletter to receive even more recipes, nutrition tips, tricks & easy ways to find your healthy balance!

Healthy_Balance02

Chimichurri Recipe – 1 Sauce, 3 Meals!

by Emma Hammond 0 comments

Nutrition Recipes Uncategorized

chickenchimichurriIn the gym, I am a big fan putting in the hard work, embracing the process & truly believe that trying to take shortcuts won't get me results! In the kitchen however, I am always seeking ways to be a bit lazy while still getting what I want. If I can skip a step or two, fine by me!! As long as the end result tastes good I am all about it.I am also relatively cheap in my grocery shopping. Don't get me wrong, I spend money on quality ingredients such as organic meats, eggs & certain veggies. Yet I still want my budget to stay on the lower side so I am often looking for ways to utilize every last bit of what I buy. I HATE throwing out food, which often leads to a bit of...creativity in the kitchen? Or as my husband call it, my special concoctions. Luckily for you this isn't that type of recipe.Technical report templatesWe found top sirloin steaks on sale at Whole Foods on Sunday & decided to cook those up but wanted a sauce to go with. We both enjoyed a chimichurri sauce at a restaurant recently & decided to give that a go. Which meant buying a big bunch of parsley, cilantro & oregano. Yes I should start growing my own herbs but I struggle with black thumb syndrome. AKA I am too damn lazy to water them daily..Instead of wasting 1/2 a bunch of each herb we doubled the recipe & ended up with a ton of sauce. We knew we didn't want steak every night this week so my brain began wondering how to reuse the extra. I saw a packet of chicken breast in the freezer & decided that would be a perfect vehicle for meal #2. This sauce is quite versatile, super easy to throw together & filled with whole food ingredients.Basic Chimichurri Recipe:

Servings: MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPSchimichurri-sauce-940
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preparation:

  • Combine vinegar, 1 tsp. salt, garlic, shallot, and jalepeno in a medium bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, parsley, and oregano. Using a fork, whisk in oil. Remove 1/2 cup chimichurri to a small bowl, season with salt to taste, and reserve as sauce.*Adapted from Bon Appetit recipe.*
Meal #1: Grilled Steak w/ Chimichurri Sauce, Sweet Potato Soup & Sauteed Red Wine Kale6Meal #2: Marinated Chimichurri Chicken w/ Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice & Spicy Broccolinichimichicken*Preparation: I simply defrosted a pack of 4 boneless chicken breast overnight, in the morning put 1/4c of the sauce in a plastic ziplock, tossed in the chicken & let it marinate while at work. When I came home I heated up my cast iron skillet to medium, added the chicken w/ extra marinade & cooked it about 10 minutes. Make sure you don't move it around to much in order to get that nice crust on the outside. We added a little extra chimichurri on top & enjoyed!Meal #3: Eggs, Leftover Steak & Potato Hash w/ Chimichurri (the hubby's breakfast recipe)IMG_0668* My husband even used up the last few bites of the steak we cooked for a breakfast treat. Steak w/ eggs & chimichurri sounds fancy for breakfast right? In reality this took about 5 minutes using last night's leftovers. It's an easy way to have a quick grab & go breakfast for the busy work week.Shockingly by the end of the week I was still not tired of any of our meals. Choosing simple ingredients that are easy to use in a multiple of ways keeps actual cook time short but variety of meals endless! Although I can honestly say, eating the same meal 2-3x a week is just fine with me. As long as I like the meal that is. Which is why I eat foods I enjoy & don't force myself to eat "superfoods" I hate. It's all about finding what works for you! Any eating plan can work if you stay consistent, but that's the struggle right? That's why you have to experiment with what makes you feel good, fits your lifestyle & gives your body what it needs. Is figuring out how to balance your busy life with healthy goals still a struggle? Email me today & let's troubleshoot together!Any favorite versatile ingredients you use for multiple meals throughout the week?Ready to receive exclusive weekly updates straight to your inbox? Sign up for my weekly newsletter to get access to recipes, new workouts & practical tips to maintain YOUR healthy balance. Click HERE to sign up today!
 

My Trick To Eating MORE, While Losing Weight!

by Emma Hammond 0 comments

goals Habits Nutrition Uncategorized

As much as I preach ditching the diet & balanced eating, the reality is if you are trying to lose weight it is necessary to create a caloric deficit. It is MUCH more complicated than eat less & move more! Quality of food matters, type of exercise is important & so many other factors that I will rant about another day. Regardless there may come an appropriate time to reduce your food intake in order to lose body fat. Plain & simple. You may even have to deal with a bit of hunger here & there while you try to find a balance between your energy out versus energy in.  However you should be able to find a middle ground where you can maintain a deficit while not binging on the closet pint of ice cream if left alone for 5 minutes. This is where eating more while losing weight comes in to play..201406_2335_edbgd_smContrary to most people's experiences, "dieting" can be done in a healthy, safe & not completely torturous way. Yes I know because YES I have at times reduced my calories intake in order to shed excess body fat. In fact at one point I shed over 30lbs. Trainers & health coaches struggle too! In recent years I play with leaning out for special occasions, vacations or simply to self experiment with different nutrition protocols as research. The great part of my good & bad experiments is I learned a lot about how to lose body fat, keep cravings in check, maintain strong workouts, skip the starvation/binge cycle & actually achieve the results I desired.One of the top tips I still use daily to maintain my weight is VOLUME eating. Volume eating? So eat tons of foods & still lose weight?!? Well yes, kind of! I am a person who needs to chew my food & enjoy the experience of eating. I don't get satisfied off a smoothie, I am displeased with a tiny portion I can eat in 2 bites & even enjoy fairly frequent eating. Yay snacks! The issue with that is when I consume foods that are a higher caloric bang for the buck compared to their portion size.the-oils-that-make-up-junk-foods-like-fried-chicken-make-you-feel-less-full-than-the-same-number-of-calories-eaten-in-the-form-of-fruits-and-vegetables-because-they-take-up-less-volume-iFor example I am feeling a midday snack coming on. I generally aim for a snack to be in the 200 calorie range.Option A: I could eat a 2 tbsp of peanut butter that contains around 200 calories. Delicious yes? But also disappears in one quick bite which = not super satisfying for ME.blog peanut butter spoonOption B: A cup of nonfat plain greek yogurt w/ sliced strawberries, 1/2 a tbsp of peanut butter & a cup of coffee or tea with almond milk for just under 200 calories. Delicious, takes time to eat, has texture, protein & a bit of that peanut butter I was craving.2015-03-02 16.23.15For me this is a no brainer! The fact that I have to sit down & eat the yogurt in multiple bites as opposed to eating one big spoonful of peanut butter that let's be real, I'm likely to refill, is an easy decision. Same calories but more volume for the win!It's a part of the reason I include a big ass salad every day. I know it drives my husband crazy when he has to wait 45 minutes for me to finish a salad the size of my head, after he's done in a few bites of a sandwich. Which probably had twice the calories of my salad btw.. But the time it takes to slow down & eat plus the high fiber & volume of vegetables does the trick every time.greentrucksaladI would much rather eat 100 calories of crunchy carrots & salsa than 5 potato chips. I get more enjoyment & satiety eating 1/2 a plate of roasted broccoli then 1 small scoop of mac & cheese. Having a big bowl of berries satisfies my sweet tooth more than struggling to eat just one bite of cheesecake for the same caloric amount. I also frankly don't have to overtax my willpower by trying to just eat half of the plate or just one bite of ice cream. Again that is what works for ME!527124_10150927577387486_895183356_nWhat are great foods to help fill you up, provide you lots of texture, taste & time to actually eat? Here are a few of my favorites when I feel the urge to eat but want to stick within my intake goals:Vegetables: I choose those that are non-starchy, fiber filled & that I actually enjoy!~ Big ass salads for meals (watch the cheese, heavy dressings & crunchy tortilla type toppings).~ Snack on cucumber, carrots, peppers, cooked or uncooked broccoli & dip in salsa for more flavor.~ Fill 1/2 your dinner plate with vegetables over other sides. You still get a full plate & fill up quick!thFruit: I don't believe anyone ever became obese by eating too much fruit BUT I have seen clients over do the amount they eat in a day. Hello "5 apple a day client", you know who you are.... ;)~ Try sticking with mostly berries as a great sweet tooth satisfier. I promise your waistline will thank you for overeating berries as opposed to cookies. I love dipping strawberries in yogurt mixed w/ cocoa powder!116608ee26c7cb2ca97abd909b566835Protein: If I am struggling with feeling full I lean towards filling up on protein over carbs & fats. That protein is more likely to fuel my muscle growth, recovery from workouts & less likely to be stored as body fat.~ Increase the portion of leaner meats such as chicken, turkey & fish.~ Plain greek yogurt is a great option, as I eat a full cup with 24g of protein for less than 200 calories.~ Cottage cheese is another protein filled option, if you like that lovable curd...:)~ Make a big ole smoothie if that floats your boat. Throw in some protein powder, spinach, unsweetened almond milk & berries for a lot of nutrition in~ Egg Whites are another option if trying to keep calories on the lower side. Yes I prefer to eat the whole egg BUT when I am trying to lose a few pounds I am ok with a big egg white omelet filled with tons of veggies. Especially if I know I will be going out to eat that day & consuming a higher fat meal. It's about balance!egg-white-omelet2Did notice that all of these options are REAL FOOD. Not 100 calorie packs of cookies or weight watchers muffins. No I am not bashing weight watchers per se but YES I do think when you are in a calorie deficit it's even MORE important that you include foods that have nutritional value. Empty calories = empty energy, satiety & so on that WILL lead you to being hungry & undernourished. Of course you can't sustain that! Why should you?In the end take time to learn & listen to what works for you. Not your friend, the magazine cover or newest trendy diet guru. If a diet isn't sustainable I can promise you it won't KEEP you at your goal. Try out some of these swaps & enjoy what it feels like to eat more, while getting the nutrition your body needs to do all that you ask it to do.Struggle with this concept? Email today & let's troubleshoot volume eating for you! Emma@healthybalancewithemma.com :) 

Finding Your D.E.A.L. Breakers

by Emma Hammond 0 comments

goals Habits Mindset

deal breakersLately I have had the topic of goal setting on the brain. Every day I chat with my training or nutrition clients about what their goals are for the week. I want to hear where their mind is at, ask what they feel they could improved on & help them determine realistic action items to get there. I'm constantly trying different methods to help them make the behavior changes needed to achieve their desired outcome.

Each person is a little different & responds to varying types of goal setting. One client may need a daily check in, specific tracking tools & a detailed program to follow. However another person may find that inflexible & become irritated by the restriction to where they rebel in the other direction. Challenging!!However I have found one awesome method that really seems to click with the majority of people. It's all about following the daily D.E.A.L. breaker principle. What do I mean? It's about determining the top 3 non-negotiable health behaviors you can at minimum accomplish every single day. These habits typically set you up for success in other choices you make throughout the day & as long as you hit them, you feel positive about staying on track. So what's the D.E.A.L.?DOABLE - behaviors within your control that can't be interfered with by schedule, job etc.ENERGY - choose actions that ADD to your life, not something else you "can't" have or do.ACCOUNTABILITY - what is track-able & specific you can hold yourself responsible for.LIFESTYLE - fit it within your lifestyle for the long term! This isn't an "until I reach X lbs".Water-DrinkingI absolutely practice what I preach & have my own D.E.A.L. breakers which I am fairly inflexible in achieving daily. Yes I said inflexible! My approach towards health is fairly laid back & I try to be patient with myself. I am not perfect in eating healthy, working out daily or keeping a positive mindset. Life is busy & being inflexible to sway with the day doesn't get me anywhere in the long run. Hence last night after meal planning, shopping & posting about it, I ended up at Jalapenos for dinner because I was too tired to cook. It happens!!! BUT what I did do was hit my DEAL:
  1. Drink a minimum of 8 ounces of water. For all the reasons you've heard time & time again, it makes a difference in my day & there is no reason I can't nail this one.
  2. Eat a large serving of vegetables for at least 1 meal. I am usually on the go & guilty of occasionally eating a few too many yogurts, fruit, jerky, nuts & other travel friendly foods. But I do not feel good when my veggie consumption dips so low. A meal with a large vegetable ratio reinforces my nutritious food decisions, regulates my digestion & makes me feel like I'm taking care of my body. Which matters!
  3. Move in some way. Rain, snow, heat (more common here), busy day, tired or any other excuse that comes my way may mean I can't move in the way I planned. Some days my long walk with the dog is pre-empted by rain or time that got away from me. Does that mean I can take 10 minutes to do a body weight workout, a core crusher or ever just stretch! Regardless of the activity I feel positive I did something! It makes me feel like I didn't "fall off the wagon" & that tomorrow I can hopefully move more intensely but I DID do something today. #winning
And that's it. It's only 3 items that I have control over, can achieve & that leave me feeling positive that I am practicing daily behaviors that lead towards the healthy lifestyle I strive for. I may have several other goals I want to knock out each week, many of which I achieve & some that never get checked off the to do. These D.E.A.L. breakers are a no excuses part of my life.Need some ideas? Think about the actions you go through daily that can make or break your positive habits. What triggers your success or perceived failures. Those should be your non-negiotiables. How about being in bed by a certain time, journaling for 10 minutes, having a staple breakfast, keeping a snack on hand so you make a good decision, a 30 minute walk or a big ass salad for lunch! KNOW YOURSELF! Or at least start to learn what matters to you. :)How about you? Give me 3 actions you can & will achieve every single day to boost your healthy mind, body & soul!!Ready for more healthy tips, tricks, recipes & practical solutions to find your healthy balance? Don't miss out on my weekly newsletter, filled with helpful content geared towards your needs. Sign up here to stay up to date!

How to cope (& struggle) through injury.

by Emma Hammond 0 comments

Fitness goals Injury Mindset Uncategorized

There is nothing like the feeling when you return to the gym after 6 weeks away! Almost 4 months ago I injured my back in the gym. What I hoped would be a few rest days turned into a several month long battle with my body. I tried to push through or work around the injury until reality hit. I wasn't getting any better, I hurt all day long & wasn't getting in effective workouts by pushing through pain. I had to get real with myself & commit to 6 weeks or longer out of the gym until I was 100% good to go. Sucks right!!!
Injuries are frustrating to deal with but I've learned to respect when my body needs a break. Even though I needed to take time away from lifting, I didn't just throw up my hands up & quit on my healthy habits. Instead I set new goals & learned a lot along the way.
image1
 Goals:
~ Keep a fitness routine that would help & not hurt my injury: I knew incorporating yoga would be beneficial to my back issue so I aimed for 3-4x a week. I went above & beyond most weeks, averaging 5-6 sessions! I saw my physical & mental practice improve greatly & absolutely plan to maintain a 2-3x a week practice moving forward. I also ran a bit more & built back up to 8 miles. I enjoyed a race with friends which I hadn't done in over 3 years which kept me challenged without the gym. I did see notice a bit of muscle loss probably due to the endurance training but I accepted that would be the result. Nothing that can't be rebuilt! image2
~ Keep my nutrition in check: when our activity levels change our nutrition may need to adjust as well. However I did NOT go into diet mode out of fear of gaining weight. Yes that was my natural instinct at first but I remembered that's not the best plan for my goals. I wanted to retain as much muscle as possible so I just sought to maintain my weight & support the recovery process. I simply cut out that pre or post workout snack & payed more attention to my hunger levels. They naturally went down because I wasn't exercising as strenuously so it was just a matter of honoring my instincts.
image1
~ Keep my happiness high: my number one reason for working out is because I enjoy it. It keeps my mood boosted, energy high & attitude positive. The first week off I noticed I was moody, grumpy & having a bit of a pity party. That wasn't going to magically heal my back or make the time fly by faster. So I started a gratitude journal, which I wrote in every morning & evening. I also made sure to talk to my husband when I was feeling down. Instead of bottling it up, it helped to talk through my feelings to better understand how to work on my mindset. My last mindset key was to keep it all in perspective. I was allowed to be upset but fitness is just one part of me. I am MORE than my workout routine, number on the scale, lbs I can lift, miles I can run & any other way we measure ourselves.
Ever had to deal with an injury & struggled through the process?