Monika Nowak, Nutrition Coach (Pn1)

My name is Monika Nowak, founder of Power Nutrition LLC, Nutrition Coach, Personal Trainer, and food blogger.

My goal is to help you develop healthy eating habits so that you can feel great, enjoy your life, love the way you look, and most importantly, stay that way for the rest of your life.

I can help you transform your body, health and life by improving your food choices, discovering your true goals, keeping you motivated and guiding you through fitness and diet fads so that you can finally see long term results.

No magic pills, no special diets, no gimmicks.
Timeline
As I was thinking about writing this article, I was walking around various stores and supermarkets on empty stomach for about 2.5 hours.... 
I should have known better but hey, I thought it wouldn't take me so long to do what I was supposed to do, so I didn't come prepared. 
Lesson no.1 always... see more come prepared. 
Long story short, anything in sight that had TONS of sugar looked super tempting.
I also thought about stopping at Starbucks, Chipotle, Panera Bread, Bagel Man and a dozen of other places...about a hundred times...
When I was at CVS I almost bought multiple bags of M&M's (which I don't even like).... I had no idea they had so many flavors! 
 
Have you ever experienced anything like this? 
Experiencing temptation and trying to fight your way through it?
I'm sure you have. 
Today, I want to teach how to deal with temptations and urges and show you exactly how my own thought processing allowed me to come home without buying anything but Kombucha tea. 
 
Here are 3 steps in dealing with urges: 
1. Thought stopping & reframing - when you experience a cue, switch off the associated thought. No ambiguity, no maybes, no debates. Work on absolute and rigid responses to cues, that leave no room for doubt. 
How I did it? 
Whenever I had the urge (which was pretty much in every store I visited) to buy something from the junk food category I tried re-framing the situation. 
I actually replaced
CANDY (cue) = DELICIOUS (associated thought) 
with
CANDY  = MAKES ME FEEL LIKE CRAP 
or 
CANDY  = I DON'T EVEN LIKE THESE 
or 
CANDY = SUGAR CRUSH (I.E. NOT A HAPPY MONIKA)
 
2. Conditioning cues with negative associations - undercut the rewards value of food, and cool down the stimulus. 
How I did it? 
When I wanted to stop by Starbucks or Chipotle to get something for lunch I reminded myself that they use tons of fats, artificial ingredients and preservatives in their foods and that's not exactly what I like to put inside my body. 
 
3. Talking down the urge - "eating this food will satisfy me only for a bit", "eating this will make me feel bad and keep me trapped", "I will be happier if I don't eat this". 
 
How I did it? 
If I was still struggling with being tempted I told myself that I felt that hungry because I was also really thirsty. As soon as this hit me I bought myself a cold Kombucha Tea at Trader Joe's and everything started to make sense again. I no longer felt the urgency to eat right now and was able to come home and make myself healthy and satisfying lunch. 
  
I don't know if you've experienced this in your life but overeating, with its power to take us hostage, can be deeply demoralizing.
But when you gain the upper hand, by practicing the steps described above, the opposite effect can also occur.
The satisfaction of breaking the cycle that leads to the pursuit of unhealthy food can be reinforcing and it's own right.  
You will gain a new sense of competence and pride.  
Practice these 3 helpful steps and hopefully you will less tempted each time around. 
 
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to email me. 
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People are creatures of habit. Our lives are filled with daily rituals that are set into motion as soon as we wake up.
Habits such as waking up at a certain time, brushing our teeth, getting dressed, taking medicine, making coffee, eating breakfast, going to the gym are all strongly engrained into... see more our brains.
They make our lives really efficient because they are performed on auto-pilot leaving our brain time & energy to solve more complicated tasks at hand such as dealing with a screaming baby. 
You realize how powerful habits are once you pull into your driveway from work without even remembering the actual drive. 
We all have both good and bad habits. That's just our nature. 
Today, I want to discuss, how you can start reversing some of your bad habits related to eating and drinking. 
 
Before I tell you how to do it there are three absolutely necessary conditions for any successful habit reversal: 
1. You need to be READY to make a change. 
2. You need to be WILLING to make a change. 
2. You need to be ABLE to make the change. 
 
One of the worst habits, and hardest to break is the FOOD/DRINK = REWARD habit loop. 
 
If we think rewarding food is a friend, we are likely to pursue it.
If we think it's an enemy, you will turn from it with distance.
 
Changing habits requires making a critical perceptual shift which behavioral psychologists call counterconditioning. 
Our perception of the food stimulus directly influences our behavior in response to it. 
 
So if our perception now is: 
ICE CREAM = YUM, DELICIOUS, FUN
we need to be able to make a shift in our brains and start creating a new loop that looks more like this: 
 
ICE CREAM = YUCKY, TOO MUCH SUGAR & FAT >> MAKES ME PUT ON WEIGHT, KEEPS ME UP AT NIGHT 
 
The goal is to extinguish the learned associations that encourage us to pursue a reward in the form of sugar, fat, and salt, and instead to develop a new associations that turn us away from them. 
 
So how can we put this knowledge into practice? 
 
6 steps to reversing bad habits: 

Awareness - you first need to be aware of your bad habit, and have a conscious knowledge of all the triggers that are causing you to want to engage in a particular behavior. 


Develop competing behaviors - to resist the pull of the behavior, you need to develop and learn alternative responses that are incompatible with it. To compete successfully with old habits, this new competing behavior needs to be planned before you encounter a cue and needs to be as rewarding as your previous behavior. 


Think competing thoughts - you need to start formulating thoughts that compete with, and serve to quiet, the old ones. Instead of telling ourselves how good this donut is going to taste, we can start telling ourselves how yucky it is instead. Re-framing the situation is of utmost importance. 


Find the right kind of support - your support system cannot work against you, endorsing the type of behavior you are trying to reverse. Especially in the beginning of the habit reversal process, stay away from anybody who can cause you to relapse. Don't worry it's only temporary, till you get comfortable with your new habits and no longer feel urges for the bad one. 


Learn emotionally - you need to learning how to evaluate a familiar stimulus in a new way, developing negative associations. This goes back to developing that critical perceptual shift in your mind. 


Practice practice practice! 

 
Do you need help with getting rid of some of your worst habits?
 
Shoot me an e-mail I would love to help. 
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One of the easiest ways to put on weight is to eat too much dietary fat, regardless whether it's the healthy or the unhealthy kind. 
Fat is very calorie dense which means that gram by gram it has over twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrates. 
Most people don't even realize that they... see more are overeating on fat as the calories add up from multiple unsuspecting sources spread throughout the day such as handful of nuts here and there, avocado toast, popcorn, creamer in the coffee(s), fruit dipped in peanut butter and drizzles of olive oil.  
Today I wanted to show you exactly how a serving of fat looks like so you can have a better idea on how to pick your fats in order to achieve your body composition goals. 
For reference purposes, on average my clients (who are trying to lose weight) consume between 50 to 70 g of dietary fat a day so keep that in mind when going through the photos.  








 






 






 






 






 






 



 





 



 






 



 



 



 



 



 
Some other sources that I didn't have pictures for:
Whole Milk - 1/2 cup, 73 calories, 4 g fat 
Half & half cream - 1 tablespoon, 19 calories, 1.7 g fat
Heavy whipping cream - 1 tablespoon, 52 calories, 5.2 g fat
Butter - 1 tablespoon, 102 calories, 11.5 g fat 
Chocolate chip cookie (subway) - 220 calories, 10 g fat
 
 
Anybody surprised with some of the numbers? Have I forgotten a source you wished you saw here? 
 
Let me know your thoughts!
 
Leave a comment on Facebook or shoot me an e-mail. 
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This pudding could easily be a healthier dessert substitute but you can also eat this for breakfast or as a snack. You can also customize it to your own liking, play with different fruits and toppings. Some of my faves are pear & peanut butter and this one blackberry & coconut... see more flakes. Hope you like it! 
Prep time: 3 minutes
Servings: 1
Nutrition info: 288 calories, 29 g carbs, 12 g fat, 19 g protein, 15 g natural sugar
 
Ingredients: 


1 container (5.3oz) Organic Greek Plain Yogurt (I used Stonyfield here)


1/4 cup water


1 cup blackberries


2 tablespoons chia seeds


1 tsp vanilla extract


sprinkle of coconut flakes


Directions: 


Mix yogurt, water and vanilla extract in a bowl  (make sure the mixture is pretty soupy as chia seeds will absorb the water and make this a lot thicker than in the beginning). 


Add chia seeds and stir well. 


Add fruit. 


Refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours). 





 



Notes: For more protein you can use more greek yogurt, or mix in some collagen powder or your favorite protein powder. 
 
For more articles and recipes check out my website: www.powernutritionct.co…
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Quick answer: absolutely no.
 
Defined by the World Health Organization, probiotics are
 
"live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host".
 
Basically, probiotics are live bacteria that can be ingested in a pill, powder or liquid form in... see more order to help with the composition of your microbiome (gut flora). 
 
The composition of our microbiome affects everything from our brain chemistry, mental health, weight, mood, emotions, personalities and overall health. 
 
So how can we benefit from ingesting probiotics?
 
Bacteria in our guts perform a number of important functions such as: 

digest food, produce digestive enzymes, help with absorption of nutrients


help control the body's inflammatory pathways (high inflammation = high risk for virtually any chronic disease); 


create a physical barrier against potential invaders such as bad bacteria, viruses, and parasites; 


convert sugars to short-chain fatty acids for energy;


act as a detoxification machine by preventing infections - can even be viewed as a second liver (when you decrease the good gut bacteria, you increase the workload on your liver);


neutralize cancer-causing compounds;


metabolize drugs, modulate genes, synthesize hormones, neurotransmitters and vitamins;


keep pH balanced,


train the immune system to distinguish friends from foes. 

If you suspect that your own gut bacteria is not sufficient (you can read more about it here) or you have been recently taking antibiotics, it may be a good idea to start taking probiotics. 
 
I remember even as I kid, doctors in Poland would always prescribe probiotics with antibiotics but in the US I see this as not so common practice and honestly I'm very surprised. 
 
But before you buy and start taking probiotics it's important to know these 5 things: 
 
1. Get your gut tested. 

​​SMXLL

Find out what's really going on in your gut. If you have any issues with digestion, bloating, overall GI function, immune function, skin problems, depression, anxiety, acid reflux, weight loss issues, fatigue, brain fog, etc. ask your physician to order a gut test. There is a growing number of research that shows that most disease start in the gut. 
 
If you don't have any symptoms but still want to find out what's going on, you can order a home kit from company called ubiome. That's what I did. The results listed the exact bacteria species colonizing my gut and what that could mean for my health. The report also included recommendations on what I could do to improve my flora. 
 
2. Probiotics are not one size fits all. 
 
If your gut health is compromised taking probiotics may actually make you feel worse. That's why it's so important to test before you start taking anything. While most people don't experience any problems while taking probiotics, it doesn't mean that you won't. If you have a diagnosed medical condition and/or take medications, consult with your doctor prior to buying any supplements, including probiotics. 
 
3. Probiotics should be taken daily. 
 
Probiotics don't necessarily colonize the intestine and a lot of the bacteria simply pass through and are excreted. Fully half of your stool is made up of discarded bacteria. You may need to take probiotics indefinitely to experience continued benefits. 
 
4. In order to thrive, probiotics need to eat.

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Probiotics that you ingest feed on prebiotics - non-digestible foods or ingredients that promote the growth of benefits microorganisms in the intestines.
 
If you are consuming probiotics without sufficient prebiotics in your diet you are starving your good gut bacteria, and probably feeding your bad gut bacteria (which feeds on junk we eat). 
 
Foods acting as prebiotics are: 

green bananas,


green banana flour,


green peas,


lentils,


uncooked rolled oats,


acacia gum, 


white beans,


artichokes,


raw asparagus,


bananas,


chicory root,


raw dandelion greens,


dandelion root,


raw garlic,


raw leeks,


raw and cooked onions,


psyllium husk. 

If you are looking at this list thinking that you've never heard about half of those things, don't fret. Good news is that there are probiotics on the market you can buy that include some prebiotics in them already. 
 

​​SMXLL

Additionally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, pickles serve as synbiotics - combination of prebiotics and probiotics. So not only they are good for your gut bacteria, they also provide a significant amounts of live bacteria themselves. In order to get full benefits of ingesting these foods, make sure you always buy raw & lacto-fermented varieties. 
 
5. Probiotics should never be taken with hot liquids or chlorinated water. 
They will get killed before they even get to your intestines.
 
Additionally, choose a probiotics with enteric coating to protect the bacteria from being destroyed by stomach acid. 
 
 
If you are interested in learning more about the gut health I wrote three articles that can help: 
 
1. Why do I need bacteria in my gut? 
 
2. Is my gut out of whack? 
 
3. Eat clean, live dirty diet tips - how to take care of your gut. 
 
Hope you enjoyed this article. Do you have any questions or feedback? Shoot me an e-mail. 
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Last week we've explored some reasons why, often times, it is easier to stick to exercising than to eating well. If you have missed the article, make sure to check it out here.
Today I want to focus on some of the reasons why we can't always seem to stick to good eating habits, and provide you... see more with tips on how to change that.  
So, what is preventing people from developing good eating habits for life?  
1. Impatience.
Let's be honest, most of us want to improve eating habits because of health or aesthetics reasons, not because we really really want to eat better. And once we start to incorporate some changes, we want the results to happen RIGHT NOW!!! If things didn't go as planned and as quickly as we had hoped, we often throw in the towel and stop trying.  
2. Lack of stress management. 
Stress is by far a number one factor, in my experience, on why people over-eat and over-drink. Food is comforting, stress-relieving and is always there whenever we need it. Not having alternative ways to relieve stress can be a great hinderance in a weight loss journey. 
3. Not having family & friends on board and/or having junk in the house. 
It's very hard to follow a healthy diet (especially initially) when everybody else around you eats junk. Or when you are surrounded by non-nutritious foods brought to the house by family members, or unhealthy things that you buy for them. Sooner or later somebody is going to eat it, and chances are it's going to be you. Even if you reach your health goals yet remain surrounded by temptations, you risk a relapse. 
4. Misconceptions. 
Most people think eating healthy means meal-prepping chicken and broccoli on Sunday for the rest of their lives, or that healthy eating is boring and just simply not fun. Filling your diet with nutritious foods does require some planning but it's not as time consuming and boring as most people think. 
5. Not giving it enough time to work. 
Kind of goes with point 1.  but I still feel like it needs to be said again. 
As you get older, the results are slower, especially when it comes to weight loss. The fact that you don't see the difference, doesn't mean it's not happening.  
6. Cutting corners. 
Buying pre-packaged foods labelled as organic, cholesterol-free, all-natural, fat-free, sugar-free (you name it) under the assumption that they are healthy. Anything with a barcode should be put under scrutiny. Remember food manufacturers are there to make money, not to make you healthy.  
7. Cost
No doubt eating healthy, especially when out, is going to be more expensive. A small side salad costs as much as an order of chicken wings or nachos. Not to mention lean cuts of meat or fish. But health is worth every penny and you should see it as an investment not a worthless purchase. 



 



What are the things you can start doing today to help yourself stick to eating better for life? 
1. Get rid of the junk in your house.
I really can't stress how important this point is. Just throw it out. 
If you are worried that people in your house will notice, make a pledge that you will throw 1 junk food item a week and have them get ready for it. Schedule this task in your calendar. That's a start. 



 



 
2. Start with small changes and be patient. 
Today, think about adding one simple habit that could help you with reaching your goals. Pick a habit that is almost too easy to stick to so that you cannot fail. One of my clients' favorite habits is to add a tall glass of water upon waking or use a small plate when eating dinner. 
 
3. Stop eating fast food. 





Make a hard rule of not consuming any liquid or solid calories from places like Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, McDonald's, Taco Bell, Planet Pizza, Burger King, etc. Foods and drinks sold in those places are designed to make you crave sugar, fat and salt over and over again. They are in business of creating cravings that drive people crazy. 
 
4. Re-frame your situation. 
Whatever the situation you may be in right now (body composition wise), you can either chose to make it more or less miserable for yourself. Your mindset greatly influences whether your attempts at getting healthy are successful. If you tell yourself that you have no willpower over your choices, then most likely you will grab whatever there is in sight next time you are hungry. 
If you need help with finding ways to re-gain control over your emotions, check out this article. 
5. Add vegetables (and fruit) to your diet. 



 



Start with adding one serving of fibrous vegetables such as cauliflower, zucchini, broccoli, kale, chard, spinach to your diet. Then you can try and replace a processed sugar snack (e.g. granola bars) with fresh fruit. Your gut, your heart and your waistline will thank you. 
 
6. Manage your stress levels. 



 



Work on finding pleasurable yet non-food related ways to de-stress. Exercising, petting your dog, reading, listening to music, meditating, yoga, spending time in nature as some of the best ways to relax. Give it a try - again, schedule it in your calendar. Put time aside for things that can make your life so much better. 
 
7. Visualize. 





This is a simple yet very powerful exercise. Close your eyes and visualize the kind of person you want to become.
 
How does this person look and feel?
How does this person behave?
What does this person eat and drink? 
 
It's important to realize that if we want to become a certain kind of person (healthy, fit) we need to start acting like one. 
 
8.  Make a list of advantages of getting healthy. 



 



This is an exercise I often use in my practice. I ask my clients to write down two lists: 
 
1) Advantages of reaching their goals (whatever they may be).  
2) Disadvantages of NOT reaching their goals.
 
It's very important to recognize what are the actual things that will improve once you reach your goals, and what are the actual things that will get worse if you don't. 
 
One mistake that people make is thinking that things will remain the same if they keep on eating/drinking the way they do. But that's simply not true. Realizing that could be very powerful. 
 
Do you need help with your eating or drinking habits?
Are you struggling to find the right balance or motivation to do it?  
Send me an e-mail and let's meet to talk about it. 
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Majority of my nutrition coaching clients are physically active individuals, who exercise vigoruosly at least 3-5 hours a week.
Despite the fact that they have been gym members for most of their lives they come to see me for nutritional advice mostly related to fat loss and/or muscle gain. 
How... see more is it that strong, physically fit people still need help when it comes to having the body composition they want? 
Isn't exercise enough? Not in my experience. 
In today's article, I want to explore the following question: 
Why is it easier to stick to exercising than to eating healthy? 





1. Exercise is less time-consuming. 
You may be surprised by this one, but hear me out. 
Once you commit to exercising you work out 3-5 hours a week on average. Maybe 10 hrs if you include moderate activities such as walking the dog, yoga, gardening and cleaning the house. 
When it comes to consistently making healthy food choices your commitment grows to about 28 hours a week (my math comes from estimating that roughly 4 hours a day is spent on eating, thinking about eating, snacking, prepping, cooking and/or shopping for food).
If you are a mom this number is probably going to be even higher since you are constantly surrounded by food, making breakfasts, lunches and dinners for your whole family, and running to the grocery store every other day. 
 
2. Exercising is fun, while eating healthy not as much.  





Most regular gym goes love to exercise. They love how it makes them feel. On the food/drink side, usually it's the unhealthy foods and drinks that make us feel good, at least temporarily. They make our brains feel really good. Correct me if I'm wrong, but nobody serves grilled chicken, green salads with fruit platters at birthday parties. It's pizza, hot dogs, wings, cupcakes and Doritos. If you had a choice, would you rather go to a pizza place or a vegan salad bar? Yeah, I thought so. 
3. Exercise is easy, while eating well requires planning.  
One of the easiest things to do is put on a pair of sneakers and go for a run or walk. Or exercise at the comforts of your home with a DVD. Changing your eating habits, especially at first, requires a lot of thinking, planning and prepping. It's a lot easier to stop by Dunkin Donuts on your way to work than to make your own lunch. Or to get take out rather than to spend 1 hr prepping ingredients and cooking a healthy dinner. 
4. Exercise can become addicting and rewarding a lot quicker than healthy eating. 
Do you know the sensation that you get after a tough workout of feeling totally exhausted but also strong, happy and accomplished? It's very easy to get addicted to this "high" of positive emotions that you get pretty much every time you work out. You may not feel quite the same after having a salad.  On the contrary, it's the junk food that really lights up the reward centers in our brain. Brain images shows the same areas of the brain lit up when exposed to junk food as to cocaine. Nobody is drooling over kale salads. 
 
5. Exercise can become a gateway to indulgent foods without the feeling of guilt. 





There is still a lot of people out there who go to the gym so that they can have Caramel Frappucinos at Starbucks or BigMacs later.
I look at dozens food logs daily and honestly, and a lot of people eat the most junk on workout days. 
Somehow, on those workout days we don't feel quite as bad about having those French Fries. 
Exercise =  food reward. It's a tough habit to break. 
 
5. Exercise can be done in public while most eating is done behind closed doors. 





Like I said before, most of my clients go to the gym therefore they work out with or next to other people. It's stimulating, supportive, motivating and social. But since all eyes are on you everybody in the gym is on their best behavior. 
Eating (especially over-eating) often happens at home or work, when nobody is watching. 
 
6. Exercise is a lifestyle, while eating healthy can feel like a chore. 
Somehow people understand that committing to exercising is a lifestyle change. They know it will improve their health and it's worth sticking to for the long run. They want to be fit, and lean and strong, and see their grandkids grow up. 
However, when it comes to eating well, we seem to want to do it only for a few weeks. Only till we drop a size or two. Then we are right back to the cookie drawer. 
Ok, that's it for the day. 
I've explored some of the reasons why people may be more willing to work out regularly than to stick to eating well for life.
 
Are you struggling to find ways how you can make eating healthy a lifestyle rather than a chore?
Sent me an email and lets' talk about how we can change that. 
Do you have any feedback or suggestions? Please share them with me! 
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The way I measure success with my clients is not by how many pounds they lost in the shortest amount of time, but by how long they can keep the weight off.
As hard as weight loss is, keeping the weight off is the golden nugget. 
It is estimated that 45 million Americans a year go on a diet.... see more How many of them, do you think, will be successful at maintaining their new weight? 
Think about the "Biggest Loser" contestants. A 2016 study published in the Journal Obesity found that 13 out of 14 studied contestants have regained weight. When you go back and look at where they are now, they not only regained their weight, they put some more on. Are you surprised?
Extreme fat loss has its consequences. Human body can only handle so much stress. They lost tremendous amount of weight fast and their bodies eventually showed them the middle finger.
Cutting corners always backfires. 
Anyway, back to my point.
How exactly setting food rules can help us get healthier, feel better about ourselves and allow us to lose or maintain out weight in a sustainable way? 
ENTER: FOOD & DRINK RULES
Let me be blunt here. When I'm talking about food and drink rules I'm not talking about setting rules in terms of consumption of broccoli or carrots. 
I'm talking about setting rules that will help you control your (possibly) excessive intake of non-nutritious, empty calorie foods and beverages. 
After all all most people don't say:
"Oh, I've had such a long and stressful day at work today. Let me make a kale salad. I always feel better after having a salad."
Why do we need rules? 
Simply knowing the right behavior is not enough.
If it was, I wouldn't have a job right now.  
Reversing long-standing habits is not easy. The older the habit, the stronger the connection in the brain, and the more automatic the behavior. 
Think about how mindless brushing your teeth is. Or reaching for that nightly glass of wine to finish your day. Or not stopping when you've had enough food. 
Rules provide guidance, telling us exactly what to do when a tempting stimuli arrives. 
Rules gives us an alternative to an otherwise conditioned response. 
Rules close the door to no longer acceptable behaviors. 
When the brain knows that a reward will not be forthcoming, it shifts its attention elsewhere, i.e. that craving feeling in your body will disappear the more you enforce your rule.   
When you develop a sense of your own capacity for control and recognize that you need not engage in habitual (and assumingely negative) behavior, that sense of arousal will begin to diminish.  
When should you start thinking about setting rules? 
When you feel like you have no choice but to engage in a particular food/drink related behavior.  
When you feel like a particular food/drink has more control over your life that you would like it to. 
When you feel like a particular food/drink is compromising your health and/or the quality of your life. 
When thinking about not having a particular food/drink for one day puts you in a full panic mode (like me not having chocolate for a week)
When you cannot control yourself around a particular food/drink, i.e. you repeatedly overdo it and never learn the lesson. 
 
What are the rules for setting rules? 
Make your rules as specific and categorical as possible such as: "I only drink on the weekends and it's only 1 glass per day".
Don't leave any wiggle room: "No junk food in the house".
No blind spots, no discussions: "Leftover birthday cake gets thrown out in the end of the night".
 
I didn't realize how many rules of my own I've had, until I started to write about this subject. One reason behind it is that I've enforced them for so long, they are such no-brainers to me that I no longer perceive them as rules.  
So what are some of my own food rules? 
No fried food. Like never. Not even on vacation. 
Sweet potato fries, chicken wings and fried calamari used to be my favorite things when eating out.
I don't consume anything with artificial flavors, sweeteners, preservatives or dyes.
That cuts out a nice chunk of processed foods. 
I drive by Dunkin Donuts every day. I used to want to stop in to get a donut on daily basis. It drove me bonkers. So I went on their website to look up the ingredients of their donuts. Once I read what they put inside, I was done. Never craved it since. 
I don't drink soda, fruit juices or any other sweetened beverages or liquors. 
Few weeks ago I tried the "no added sugar for a week" rule - you can read about it here. Although it was hard the first day, after that my brain never craved it again. Even weeks afterwards I feel like I have much better control over my chocolate consumption than before the experiment. 
From time to time I will also enforce some rules on my wine consumption or added sugar (I'm the kind of person who would trade dinner for dessert any day). When I feel like I'm losing grip of what's considered moderation and I'm starting to overdo it, I will throw a rule on myself and work at it until I feel in control again. 
Do you have any rules of your own? Please share them with me and my readers. 
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One of the most common questions I get from my clients is, whether protein bars are good for you and which ones are the best. 
 
The quickest answer I can provide is as follows:
1) Protein bars are dietary supplements just like vitamins, fish oils, minerals, etc.
2) They are not... see more suppose to replace meals comprised of unprocessed, nutritious foods - they should serve an addition to a balanced diet when protein insufficiency has been identified. 
 
Bottom line:
If your diet is comprised of mostly unprocessed, nutritious foods, but for whatever reason, does not provide you with enough protein, then protein bars are a good option to add to your diet. 
However, like with any other dietary supplement, there are number of things worth considering before purchasing and consuming protein bars. Let's look at the pro's first. 
 
Protein bars - pros: 
1) Convenience - great on the go snack, emergency food, fits in your pocket, doesn't have to be reheated. 
2) Good substitution for unhealthy, nutritionless choices, such as, donuts, cakes, cupcakes, etc. 
3) For the most people they satisfy their sweet tooth cravings, without the insulin spike, other sweet foods can cause. 
4) They are quite filling and come in variety of flavors and textures. 
5) 20g protein bars are an equivalent of consuming roughly 3 eggs therefore they offer a decent amount of protein in a small serving. 
 
Protein bars - cons: 
1) Very calorie dense - you can have a plate full of vegetables with a side of protein for the equivalent amount of calories of a 3 inch bar; 
2) Most of them are highly processed, with most ingredients created in labs not kitchens;
3) Claims they make on the packages are nor evaluated or regulated by the FDA;
4) Most of them will have at least one controversial ingredient (artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, natural flavors, GMO ingredients, etc.);
5) If consumed often they can cause upset stomach, bloating, diarrhea and even cause development of food insensitivities;
 
Having all of the above in mind, there are no amazing products out there that will be super healthy for you. If you can get protein from whole foods sources, do it. If you can't, you need to take the protein bars for what they are, and consume them in moderation. I would also recommend to try different ones, and rotate them, to ensure that your stomach responds well. 
 
Below I share some of my favorite power bars (with nutrition info), pros and cons and my personal experiences with them. 
 
1. Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Protein Bar - MY TOP PICK
 



 



 



 



Pros: This is by fat the cleanest bar I've found. Tastes great too. Not too chewy or too hard. It's soft with little crunchy bits. It's organic, vegan, gluten free, and plant based. Haven't heard about any digestive issues while consuming this bar from any of my clients. Large bar so can easily be divided in two. My favorite flavor is the Salted Caramel Sea Salt but I hear the Peanut Butter Chocolate is nice as well. 
Cons: Calorie dense. Although sugar alcohol content is not listed, erythritol is an ingredient in the coating of the chocolate bars so I would avoid chocolate flavors if you ever have any bloating issues. 
You can buy it here on Amazon - best price I've found.  
 
2. RX BAR 

 

Pros: Whole-foods based, minimal ingredients, naturally sweetened. I would recommend using this bar post-workout only (especially after endurance ordiented activities) due to higher sugar content. If you had a strength training session I would eat this bar with a protein shake (plain powder with water). Blueberry flavor is really yummy. 
Cons: Very chewy. Calorie dense yet seems very small. Only 12 g protein. 
Buy here on Amazon.



 
3. Think Thin - High Protein Bar (Gluten free)



Pros: I like the fudgy texture and all of the flavors I've tried were good. 20 g protein, gluten free, low glycemic index. They don't give me upset stomach however I most often consume 1/2 a bar at a time. 
Cons: Highly processed (see ingredients list below).
 You can buy it on Amazon here. 
 



 






 



 



 



 
4. Quest bars 

Pros: Variety of flavors
Cons: highly processed, sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, palm oil. I used to love them, but after having one pretty much every day, I developed an insensitivity and can no longer have them.
Buy here on Amazon.
 
5. Kind bar (4-5g sugar variety ONLY) -
Not really a protein bar however, it is currently the least processed, lowest in sugar, snack bar that I've found so it's worth mentioning. High in fat so keep that in mind.  
Buy here on Amazon. 








 
 




 


Any comments? Feedback? 
Please share your favorite protein bars. I'm always on the lookout of new products. 
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Let me tell you about my incredible friend and her remarkable weight loss journey. 
First, a little background. 
My friend's name is Agata, and we've known each other since 2007. We meet in Scotland through our university and have kept in touch ever since. 
Agata's main sport since she was... see more a kid was volleyball. She played for Junior National Volleyball Team in Poland and when she moved to Scotland she played both for the university team and various local teams during her school years, and Scottish National Team after she graduated.  
Although she would spent hours on the court or at the gym, somehow her weight went up year after year, reaching 176 lbs in September 2015. 
That whole year was huge for Agata. She moved to a different city, got a new place, a new job, ended her career in volleyball and adopted a dog named Roger (that has been returned to the shelter 5 times before she got him). 
Roger has been an extremely energetic dog and in order to keep him tired, and herself active, Agata embarked on a new journey exploring the sport of canicross, i.e. running with a dog. 
Long story short she's lost 39 pounds in under 2 years without any diet fads or gimmicks, and best part, she's keeping the weight off. 
She's also stronger, faster and have more energy than ever before. 
 
How did she do it? Was it just the exercise change? Well let's explore a bit further.
 
1. What's your age, height and weight? 
31, 5'9, 137 lbs. 
 
2. How did your weekly training schedule look like back in September 2015? 
2 x 2 hrs intensive volleyball training
2 x 1 hr weight lifting at the gym
1 x 2-3 hrs volleyball game at the weekend
plus I would walk around with my dog too 
 
3. What’s your weekly workout routine right now? 
3 x running with my dog (canicross max 6km/3.7mile)
1x bikejor (riding with a dog max 6km/3.7mile) 
3-4 km bike riding on my own
1 x running on my own at an easy pace
a lot of walking at the beach or hills with dogs too 
 
4. How did your diet look like in 2015? 
I was eating and drinking everything and anything and didn't care when it was (night or morning, before training or after training).
I was eating out with friends a lot, consuming a lot of fast foods after training or games. Every lunch time at work I snacked on chips, chocolate or candy and drank soda. 
 
5. How does your diet look like now? 
My diet right now is a lot more planned. I think ahead about what kind of day I am going to have (work and training wise) and I will eat according to my energy needs. 
I totally gave up on eating in restaurants or fast foods. I no longer want it or enjoy it. I also decided that alcohol doesn't help with weight loss and sports performance so I stopped drinking regularly and instead I have a pint once a month as a treat. 
I started to eat more vegetables, fruits and meat. No pasta. No soda. Candy, chips and chocolate in moderation. I drink a ton of water. 
On days when I don't feel like eating meat, my diet consists of mostly vegetables and rice. 
Finally I start my days with a good breakfast that makes me full at least until lunch time: porridge or scrambled eggs work really well for me. 
 
6. What do you think contributed to your weight gain despite all the exercise you did when you played volleyball? 
I think I was totally eating incorrectly after and before my training sessions. My body didn't have the right combo of nutrients to perform at its best and the fat just decided to stick around. 
 
7. What do you think contributed to your weight loss? 
I think dropping the bad habits such as fast food after games, and replacing them with homemade meals such as salads, vegetables and cut fruit. 
I think the whole planning and thinking about what I'm actually putting in my body made it easier to lose weight.
When I saw results, I started to enjoy the kitchen more and got creative with my meals. 
 
8. What were the biggest changes in your diet that happened overtime? 
I think the biggest changes were that I was drinking more water and started to enjoy snacking on vegetables. Also, slowly replacing bad habits with good habits. Now I make better choices automatically. 
 
9. Any last tips? 
Start slowly, be patient and be consistent. I changed my diet in small steps but I worked at it week after week. 
I didn't throw my body into deep water with multiple changes or crazy restrictions. I did it gradually and my body didn't fight me as much along the way. 
Also, it definitely helps to have support through the tough times (and there is going to be tough times) from your family and friends. 
Don't give up. It's easier to give up than keep at it, but believe in the process and things will start to move down. 
 
10. Any last thoughts? 
I have managed to achieve this weight loss and I am looking at myself and thinking: Yes I am a champ! It was hard work but it was so worth it. 
 
Agata currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, works in Marketing and besides Roger, she now has another dog named Laferra (adopted from Greece). She's training Laferra (left) to run with her, just like Roger (right) does. They are a great team, getting faster each month and placing higher in the rankings.
 
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As I was thinking about writing this article, I was walking around various stores and supermarkets on empty stomach for about 2.5 hours.... 
I should have known better but hey, I thought it wouldn't take me so long to do what I was supposed to do, so I didn't come prepared. 
Lesson no.1 always... see more come prepared. 
Long story short, anything in sight that had TONS of sugar looked super tempting.
I also thought about stopping at Starbucks, Chipotle, Panera Bread, Bagel Man and a dozen of other places...about a hundred times...
When I was at CVS I almost bought multiple bags of M&M's (which I don't even like).... I had no idea they had so many flavors! 
 
Have you ever experienced anything like this? 
Experiencing temptation and trying to fight your way through it?
I'm sure you have. 
Today, I want to teach how to deal with temptations and urges and show you exactly how my own thought processing allowed me to come home without buying anything but Kombucha tea. 
 
Here are 3 steps in dealing with urges: 
1. Thought stopping & reframing - when you experience a cue, switch off the associated thought. No ambiguity, no maybes, no debates. Work on absolute and rigid responses to cues, that leave no room for doubt. 
How I did it? 
Whenever I had the urge (which was pretty much in every store I visited) to buy something from the junk food category I tried re-framing the situation. 
I actually replaced
CANDY (cue) = DELICIOUS (associated thought) 
with
CANDY  = MAKES ME FEEL LIKE CRAP 
or 
CANDY  = I DON'T EVEN LIKE THESE 
or 
CANDY = SUGAR CRUSH (I.E. NOT A HAPPY MONIKA)
 
2. Conditioning cues with negative associations - undercut the rewards value of food, and cool down the stimulus. 
How I did it? 
When I wanted to stop by Starbucks or Chipotle to get something for lunch I reminded myself that they use tons of fats, artificial ingredients and preservatives in their foods and that's not exactly what I like to put inside my body. 
 
3. Talking down the urge - "eating this food will satisfy me only for a bit", "eating this will make me feel bad and keep me trapped", "I will be happier if I don't eat this". 
 
How I did it? 
If I was still struggling with being tempted I told myself that I felt that hungry because I was also really thirsty. As soon as this hit me I bought myself a cold Kombucha Tea at Trader Joe's and everything started to make sense again. I no longer felt the urgency to eat right now and was able to come home and make myself healthy and satisfying lunch. 
  
I don't know if you've experienced this in your life but overeating, with its power to take us hostage, can be deeply demoralizing.
But when you gain the upper hand, by practicing the steps described above, the opposite effect can also occur.
The satisfaction of breaking the cycle that leads to the pursuit of unhealthy food can be reinforcing and it's own right.  
You will gain a new sense of competence and pride.  
Practice these 3 helpful steps and hopefully you will less tempted each time around. 
 
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to email me. 
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People are creatures of habit. Our lives are filled with daily rituals that are set into motion as soon as we wake up.
Habits such as waking up at a certain time, brushing our teeth, getting dressed, taking medicine, making coffee, eating breakfast, going to the gym are all strongly engrained into... see more our brains.
They make our lives really efficient because they are performed on auto-pilot leaving our brain time & energy to solve more complicated tasks at hand such as dealing with a screaming baby. 
You realize how powerful habits are once you pull into your driveway from work without even remembering the actual drive. 
We all have both good and bad habits. That's just our nature. 
Today, I want to discuss, how you can start reversing some of your bad habits related to eating and drinking. 
 
Before I tell you how to do it there are three absolutely necessary conditions for any successful habit reversal: 
1. You need to be READY to make a change. 
2. You need to be WILLING to make a change. 
2. You need to be ABLE to make the change. 
 
One of the worst habits, and hardest to break is the FOOD/DRINK = REWARD habit loop. 
 
If we think rewarding food is a friend, we are likely to pursue it.
If we think it's an enemy, you will turn from it with distance.
 
Changing habits requires making a critical perceptual shift which behavioral psychologists call counterconditioning. 
Our perception of the food stimulus directly influences our behavior in response to it. 
 
So if our perception now is: 
ICE CREAM = YUM, DELICIOUS, FUN
we need to be able to make a shift in our brains and start creating a new loop that looks more like this: 
 
ICE CREAM = YUCKY, TOO MUCH SUGAR & FAT >> MAKES ME PUT ON WEIGHT, KEEPS ME UP AT NIGHT 
 
The goal is to extinguish the learned associations that encourage us to pursue a reward in the form of sugar, fat, and salt, and instead to develop a new associations that turn us away from them. 
 
So how can we put this knowledge into practice? 
 
6 steps to reversing bad habits: 

Awareness - you first need to be aware of your bad habit, and have a conscious knowledge of all the triggers that are causing you to want to engage in a particular behavior. 


Develop competing behaviors - to resist the pull of the behavior, you need to develop and learn alternative responses that are incompatible with it. To compete successfully with old habits, this new competing behavior needs to be planned before you encounter a cue and needs to be as rewarding as your previous behavior. 


Think competing thoughts - you need to start formulating thoughts that compete with, and serve to quiet, the old ones. Instead of telling ourselves how good this donut is going to taste, we can start telling ourselves how yucky it is instead. Re-framing the situation is of utmost importance. 


Find the right kind of support - your support system cannot work against you, endorsing the type of behavior you are trying to reverse. Especially in the beginning of the habit reversal process, stay away from anybody who can cause you to relapse. Don't worry it's only temporary, till you get comfortable with your new habits and no longer feel urges for the bad one. 


Learn emotionally - you need to learning how to evaluate a familiar stimulus in a new way, developing negative associations. This goes back to developing that critical perceptual shift in your mind. 


Practice practice practice! 

 
Do you need help with getting rid of some of your worst habits?
 
Shoot me an e-mail I would love to help. 
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One of the easiest ways to put on weight is to eat too much dietary fat, regardless whether it's the healthy or the unhealthy kind. 
Fat is very calorie dense which means that gram by gram it has over twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrates. 
Most people don't even realize that they... see more are overeating on fat as the calories add up from multiple unsuspecting sources spread throughout the day such as handful of nuts here and there, avocado toast, popcorn, creamer in the coffee(s), fruit dipped in peanut butter and drizzles of olive oil.  
Today I wanted to show you exactly how a serving of fat looks like so you can have a better idea on how to pick your fats in order to achieve your body composition goals. 
For reference purposes, on average my clients (who are trying to lose weight) consume between 50 to 70 g of dietary fat a day so keep that in mind when going through the photos.  








 






 






 






 






 






 



 





 



 






 



 



 



 



 



 
Some other sources that I didn't have pictures for:
Whole Milk - 1/2 cup, 73 calories, 4 g fat 
Half & half cream - 1 tablespoon, 19 calories, 1.7 g fat
Heavy whipping cream - 1 tablespoon, 52 calories, 5.2 g fat
Butter - 1 tablespoon, 102 calories, 11.5 g fat 
Chocolate chip cookie (subway) - 220 calories, 10 g fat
 
 
Anybody surprised with some of the numbers? Have I forgotten a source you wished you saw here? 
 
Let me know your thoughts!
 
Leave a comment on Facebook or shoot me an e-mail. 
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This pudding could easily be a healthier dessert substitute but you can also eat this for breakfast or as a snack. You can also customize it to your own liking, play with different fruits and toppings. Some of my faves are pear & peanut butter and this one blackberry & coconut... see more flakes. Hope you like it! 
Prep time: 3 minutes
Servings: 1
Nutrition info: 288 calories, 29 g carbs, 12 g fat, 19 g protein, 15 g natural sugar
 
Ingredients: 


1 container (5.3oz) Organic Greek Plain Yogurt (I used Stonyfield here)


1/4 cup water


1 cup blackberries


2 tablespoons chia seeds


1 tsp vanilla extract


sprinkle of coconut flakes


Directions: 


Mix yogurt, water and vanilla extract in a bowl  (make sure the mixture is pretty soupy as chia seeds will absorb the water and make this a lot thicker than in the beginning). 


Add chia seeds and stir well. 


Add fruit. 


Refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours). 





 



Notes: For more protein you can use more greek yogurt, or mix in some collagen powder or your favorite protein powder. 
 
For more articles and recipes check out my website: www.powernutritionct.co…
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Quick answer: absolutely no.
 
Defined by the World Health Organization, probiotics are
 
"live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host".
 
Basically, probiotics are live bacteria that can be ingested in a pill, powder or liquid form in... see more order to help with the composition of your microbiome (gut flora). 
 
The composition of our microbiome affects everything from our brain chemistry, mental health, weight, mood, emotions, personalities and overall health. 
 
So how can we benefit from ingesting probiotics?
 
Bacteria in our guts perform a number of important functions such as: 

digest food, produce digestive enzymes, help with absorption of nutrients


help control the body's inflammatory pathways (high inflammation = high risk for virtually any chronic disease); 


create a physical barrier against potential invaders such as bad bacteria, viruses, and parasites; 


convert sugars to short-chain fatty acids for energy;


act as a detoxification machine by preventing infections - can even be viewed as a second liver (when you decrease the good gut bacteria, you increase the workload on your liver);


neutralize cancer-causing compounds;


metabolize drugs, modulate genes, synthesize hormones, neurotransmitters and vitamins;


keep pH balanced,


train the immune system to distinguish friends from foes. 

If you suspect that your own gut bacteria is not sufficient (you can read more about it here) or you have been recently taking antibiotics, it may be a good idea to start taking probiotics. 
 
I remember even as I kid, doctors in Poland would always prescribe probiotics with antibiotics but in the US I see this as not so common practice and honestly I'm very surprised. 
 
But before you buy and start taking probiotics it's important to know these 5 things: 
 
1. Get your gut tested. 

​​SMXLL

Find out what's really going on in your gut. If you have any issues with digestion, bloating, overall GI function, immune function, skin problems, depression, anxiety, acid reflux, weight loss issues, fatigue, brain fog, etc. ask your physician to order a gut test. There is a growing number of research that shows that most disease start in the gut. 
 
If you don't have any symptoms but still want to find out what's going on, you can order a home kit from company called ubiome. That's what I did. The results listed the exact bacteria species colonizing my gut and what that could mean for my health. The report also included recommendations on what I could do to improve my flora. 
 
2. Probiotics are not one size fits all. 
 
If your gut health is compromised taking probiotics may actually make you feel worse. That's why it's so important to test before you start taking anything. While most people don't experience any problems while taking probiotics, it doesn't mean that you won't. If you have a diagnosed medical condition and/or take medications, consult with your doctor prior to buying any supplements, including probiotics. 
 
3. Probiotics should be taken daily. 
 
Probiotics don't necessarily colonize the intestine and a lot of the bacteria simply pass through and are excreted. Fully half of your stool is made up of discarded bacteria. You may need to take probiotics indefinitely to experience continued benefits. 
 
4. In order to thrive, probiotics need to eat.

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Probiotics that you ingest feed on prebiotics - non-digestible foods or ingredients that promote the growth of benefits microorganisms in the intestines.
 
If you are consuming probiotics without sufficient prebiotics in your diet you are starving your good gut bacteria, and probably feeding your bad gut bacteria (which feeds on junk we eat). 
 
Foods acting as prebiotics are: 

green bananas,


green banana flour,


green peas,


lentils,


uncooked rolled oats,


acacia gum, 


white beans,


artichokes,


raw asparagus,


bananas,


chicory root,


raw dandelion greens,


dandelion root,


raw garlic,


raw leeks,


raw and cooked onions,


psyllium husk. 

If you are looking at this list thinking that you've never heard about half of those things, don't fret. Good news is that there are probiotics on the market you can buy that include some prebiotics in them already. 
 

​​SMXLL

Additionally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, pickles serve as synbiotics - combination of prebiotics and probiotics. So not only they are good for your gut bacteria, they also provide a significant amounts of live bacteria themselves. In order to get full benefits of ingesting these foods, make sure you always buy raw & lacto-fermented varieties. 
 
5. Probiotics should never be taken with hot liquids or chlorinated water. 
They will get killed before they even get to your intestines.
 
Additionally, choose a probiotics with enteric coating to protect the bacteria from being destroyed by stomach acid. 
 
 
If you are interested in learning more about the gut health I wrote three articles that can help: 
 
1. Why do I need bacteria in my gut? 
 
2. Is my gut out of whack? 
 
3. Eat clean, live dirty diet tips - how to take care of your gut. 
 
Hope you enjoyed this article. Do you have any questions or feedback? Shoot me an e-mail. 
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Last week we've explored some reasons why, often times, it is easier to stick to exercising than to eating well. If you have missed the article, make sure to check it out here.
Today I want to focus on some of the reasons why we can't always seem to stick to good eating habits, and provide you... see more with tips on how to change that.  
So, what is preventing people from developing good eating habits for life?  
1. Impatience.
Let's be honest, most of us want to improve eating habits because of health or aesthetics reasons, not because we really really want to eat better. And once we start to incorporate some changes, we want the results to happen RIGHT NOW!!! If things didn't go as planned and as quickly as we had hoped, we often throw in the towel and stop trying.  
2. Lack of stress management. 
Stress is by far a number one factor, in my experience, on why people over-eat and over-drink. Food is comforting, stress-relieving and is always there whenever we need it. Not having alternative ways to relieve stress can be a great hinderance in a weight loss journey. 
3. Not having family & friends on board and/or having junk in the house. 
It's very hard to follow a healthy diet (especially initially) when everybody else around you eats junk. Or when you are surrounded by non-nutritious foods brought to the house by family members, or unhealthy things that you buy for them. Sooner or later somebody is going to eat it, and chances are it's going to be you. Even if you reach your health goals yet remain surrounded by temptations, you risk a relapse. 
4. Misconceptions. 
Most people think eating healthy means meal-prepping chicken and broccoli on Sunday for the rest of their lives, or that healthy eating is boring and just simply not fun. Filling your diet with nutritious foods does require some planning but it's not as time consuming and boring as most people think. 
5. Not giving it enough time to work. 
Kind of goes with point 1.  but I still feel like it needs to be said again. 
As you get older, the results are slower, especially when it comes to weight loss. The fact that you don't see the difference, doesn't mean it's not happening.  
6. Cutting corners. 
Buying pre-packaged foods labelled as organic, cholesterol-free, all-natural, fat-free, sugar-free (you name it) under the assumption that they are healthy. Anything with a barcode should be put under scrutiny. Remember food manufacturers are there to make money, not to make you healthy.  
7. Cost
No doubt eating healthy, especially when out, is going to be more expensive. A small side salad costs as much as an order of chicken wings or nachos. Not to mention lean cuts of meat or fish. But health is worth every penny and you should see it as an investment not a worthless purchase. 



 



What are the things you can start doing today to help yourself stick to eating better for life? 
1. Get rid of the junk in your house.
I really can't stress how important this point is. Just throw it out. 
If you are worried that people in your house will notice, make a pledge that you will throw 1 junk food item a week and have them get ready for it. Schedule this task in your calendar. That's a start. 



 



 
2. Start with small changes and be patient. 
Today, think about adding one simple habit that could help you with reaching your goals. Pick a habit that is almost too easy to stick to so that you cannot fail. One of my clients' favorite habits is to add a tall glass of water upon waking or use a small plate when eating dinner. 
 
3. Stop eating fast food. 





Make a hard rule of not consuming any liquid or solid calories from places like Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, McDonald's, Taco Bell, Planet Pizza, Burger King, etc. Foods and drinks sold in those places are designed to make you crave sugar, fat and salt over and over again. They are in business of creating cravings that drive people crazy. 
 
4. Re-frame your situation. 
Whatever the situation you may be in right now (body composition wise), you can either chose to make it more or less miserable for yourself. Your mindset greatly influences whether your attempts at getting healthy are successful. If you tell yourself that you have no willpower over your choices, then most likely you will grab whatever there is in sight next time you are hungry. 
If you need help with finding ways to re-gain control over your emotions, check out this article. 
5. Add vegetables (and fruit) to your diet. 



 



Start with adding one serving of fibrous vegetables such as cauliflower, zucchini, broccoli, kale, chard, spinach to your diet. Then you can try and replace a processed sugar snack (e.g. granola bars) with fresh fruit. Your gut, your heart and your waistline will thank you. 
 
6. Manage your stress levels. 



 



Work on finding pleasurable yet non-food related ways to de-stress. Exercising, petting your dog, reading, listening to music, meditating, yoga, spending time in nature as some of the best ways to relax. Give it a try - again, schedule it in your calendar. Put time aside for things that can make your life so much better. 
 
7. Visualize. 





This is a simple yet very powerful exercise. Close your eyes and visualize the kind of person you want to become.
 
How does this person look and feel?
How does this person behave?
What does this person eat and drink? 
 
It's important to realize that if we want to become a certain kind of person (healthy, fit) we need to start acting like one. 
 
8.  Make a list of advantages of getting healthy. 



 



This is an exercise I often use in my practice. I ask my clients to write down two lists: 
 
1) Advantages of reaching their goals (whatever they may be).  
2) Disadvantages of NOT reaching their goals.
 
It's very important to recognize what are the actual things that will improve once you reach your goals, and what are the actual things that will get worse if you don't. 
 
One mistake that people make is thinking that things will remain the same if they keep on eating/drinking the way they do. But that's simply not true. Realizing that could be very powerful. 
 
Do you need help with your eating or drinking habits?
Are you struggling to find the right balance or motivation to do it?  
Send me an e-mail and let's meet to talk about it. 
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Majority of my nutrition coaching clients are physically active individuals, who exercise vigoruosly at least 3-5 hours a week.
Despite the fact that they have been gym members for most of their lives they come to see me for nutritional advice mostly related to fat loss and/or muscle gain. 
How... see more is it that strong, physically fit people still need help when it comes to having the body composition they want? 
Isn't exercise enough? Not in my experience. 
In today's article, I want to explore the following question: 
Why is it easier to stick to exercising than to eating healthy? 





1. Exercise is less time-consuming. 
You may be surprised by this one, but hear me out. 
Once you commit to exercising you work out 3-5 hours a week on average. Maybe 10 hrs if you include moderate activities such as walking the dog, yoga, gardening and cleaning the house. 
When it comes to consistently making healthy food choices your commitment grows to about 28 hours a week (my math comes from estimating that roughly 4 hours a day is spent on eating, thinking about eating, snacking, prepping, cooking and/or shopping for food).
If you are a mom this number is probably going to be even higher since you are constantly surrounded by food, making breakfasts, lunches and dinners for your whole family, and running to the grocery store every other day. 
 
2. Exercising is fun, while eating healthy not as much.  





Most regular gym goes love to exercise. They love how it makes them feel. On the food/drink side, usually it's the unhealthy foods and drinks that make us feel good, at least temporarily. They make our brains feel really good. Correct me if I'm wrong, but nobody serves grilled chicken, green salads with fruit platters at birthday parties. It's pizza, hot dogs, wings, cupcakes and Doritos. If you had a choice, would you rather go to a pizza place or a vegan salad bar? Yeah, I thought so. 
3. Exercise is easy, while eating well requires planning.  
One of the easiest things to do is put on a pair of sneakers and go for a run or walk. Or exercise at the comforts of your home with a DVD. Changing your eating habits, especially at first, requires a lot of thinking, planning and prepping. It's a lot easier to stop by Dunkin Donuts on your way to work than to make your own lunch. Or to get take out rather than to spend 1 hr prepping ingredients and cooking a healthy dinner. 
4. Exercise can become addicting and rewarding a lot quicker than healthy eating. 
Do you know the sensation that you get after a tough workout of feeling totally exhausted but also strong, happy and accomplished? It's very easy to get addicted to this "high" of positive emotions that you get pretty much every time you work out. You may not feel quite the same after having a salad.  On the contrary, it's the junk food that really lights up the reward centers in our brain. Brain images shows the same areas of the brain lit up when exposed to junk food as to cocaine. Nobody is drooling over kale salads. 
 
5. Exercise can become a gateway to indulgent foods without the feeling of guilt. 





There is still a lot of people out there who go to the gym so that they can have Caramel Frappucinos at Starbucks or BigMacs later.
I look at dozens food logs daily and honestly, and a lot of people eat the most junk on workout days. 
Somehow, on those workout days we don't feel quite as bad about having those French Fries. 
Exercise =  food reward. It's a tough habit to break. 
 
5. Exercise can be done in public while most eating is done behind closed doors. 





Like I said before, most of my clients go to the gym therefore they work out with or next to other people. It's stimulating, supportive, motivating and social. But since all eyes are on you everybody in the gym is on their best behavior. 
Eating (especially over-eating) often happens at home or work, when nobody is watching. 
 
6. Exercise is a lifestyle, while eating healthy can feel like a chore. 
Somehow people understand that committing to exercising is a lifestyle change. They know it will improve their health and it's worth sticking to for the long run. They want to be fit, and lean and strong, and see their grandkids grow up. 
However, when it comes to eating well, we seem to want to do it only for a few weeks. Only till we drop a size or two. Then we are right back to the cookie drawer. 
Ok, that's it for the day. 
I've explored some of the reasons why people may be more willing to work out regularly than to stick to eating well for life.
 
Are you struggling to find ways how you can make eating healthy a lifestyle rather than a chore?
Sent me an email and lets' talk about how we can change that. 
Do you have any feedback or suggestions? Please share them with me! 
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The way I measure success with my clients is not by how many pounds they lost in the shortest amount of time, but by how long they can keep the weight off.
As hard as weight loss is, keeping the weight off is the golden nugget. 
It is estimated that 45 million Americans a year go on a diet.... see more How many of them, do you think, will be successful at maintaining their new weight? 
Think about the "Biggest Loser" contestants. A 2016 study published in the Journal Obesity found that 13 out of 14 studied contestants have regained weight. When you go back and look at where they are now, they not only regained their weight, they put some more on. Are you surprised?
Extreme fat loss has its consequences. Human body can only handle so much stress. They lost tremendous amount of weight fast and their bodies eventually showed them the middle finger.
Cutting corners always backfires. 
Anyway, back to my point.
How exactly setting food rules can help us get healthier, feel better about ourselves and allow us to lose or maintain out weight in a sustainable way? 
ENTER: FOOD & DRINK RULES
Let me be blunt here. When I'm talking about food and drink rules I'm not talking about setting rules in terms of consumption of broccoli or carrots. 
I'm talking about setting rules that will help you control your (possibly) excessive intake of non-nutritious, empty calorie foods and beverages. 
After all all most people don't say:
"Oh, I've had such a long and stressful day at work today. Let me make a kale salad. I always feel better after having a salad."
Why do we need rules? 
Simply knowing the right behavior is not enough.
If it was, I wouldn't have a job right now.  
Reversing long-standing habits is not easy. The older the habit, the stronger the connection in the brain, and the more automatic the behavior. 
Think about how mindless brushing your teeth is. Or reaching for that nightly glass of wine to finish your day. Or not stopping when you've had enough food. 
Rules provide guidance, telling us exactly what to do when a tempting stimuli arrives. 
Rules gives us an alternative to an otherwise conditioned response. 
Rules close the door to no longer acceptable behaviors. 
When the brain knows that a reward will not be forthcoming, it shifts its attention elsewhere, i.e. that craving feeling in your body will disappear the more you enforce your rule.   
When you develop a sense of your own capacity for control and recognize that you need not engage in habitual (and assumingely negative) behavior, that sense of arousal will begin to diminish.  
When should you start thinking about setting rules? 
When you feel like you have no choice but to engage in a particular food/drink related behavior.  
When you feel like a particular food/drink has more control over your life that you would like it to. 
When you feel like a particular food/drink is compromising your health and/or the quality of your life. 
When thinking about not having a particular food/drink for one day puts you in a full panic mode (like me not having chocolate for a week)
When you cannot control yourself around a particular food/drink, i.e. you repeatedly overdo it and never learn the lesson. 
 
What are the rules for setting rules? 
Make your rules as specific and categorical as possible such as: "I only drink on the weekends and it's only 1 glass per day".
Don't leave any wiggle room: "No junk food in the house".
No blind spots, no discussions: "Leftover birthday cake gets thrown out in the end of the night".
 
I didn't realize how many rules of my own I've had, until I started to write about this subject. One reason behind it is that I've enforced them for so long, they are such no-brainers to me that I no longer perceive them as rules.  
So what are some of my own food rules? 
No fried food. Like never. Not even on vacation. 
Sweet potato fries, chicken wings and fried calamari used to be my favorite things when eating out.
I don't consume anything with artificial flavors, sweeteners, preservatives or dyes.
That cuts out a nice chunk of processed foods. 
I drive by Dunkin Donuts every day. I used to want to stop in to get a donut on daily basis. It drove me bonkers. So I went on their website to look up the ingredients of their donuts. Once I read what they put inside, I was done. Never craved it since. 
I don't drink soda, fruit juices or any other sweetened beverages or liquors. 
Few weeks ago I tried the "no added sugar for a week" rule - you can read about it here. Although it was hard the first day, after that my brain never craved it again. Even weeks afterwards I feel like I have much better control over my chocolate consumption than before the experiment. 
From time to time I will also enforce some rules on my wine consumption or added sugar (I'm the kind of person who would trade dinner for dessert any day). When I feel like I'm losing grip of what's considered moderation and I'm starting to overdo it, I will throw a rule on myself and work at it until I feel in control again. 
Do you have any rules of your own? Please share them with me and my readers. 
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One of the most common questions I get from my clients is, whether protein bars are good for you and which ones are the best. 
 
The quickest answer I can provide is as follows:
1) Protein bars are dietary supplements just like vitamins, fish oils, minerals, etc.
2) They are not... see more suppose to replace meals comprised of unprocessed, nutritious foods - they should serve an addition to a balanced diet when protein insufficiency has been identified. 
 
Bottom line:
If your diet is comprised of mostly unprocessed, nutritious foods, but for whatever reason, does not provide you with enough protein, then protein bars are a good option to add to your diet. 
However, like with any other dietary supplement, there are number of things worth considering before purchasing and consuming protein bars. Let's look at the pro's first. 
 
Protein bars - pros: 
1) Convenience - great on the go snack, emergency food, fits in your pocket, doesn't have to be reheated. 
2) Good substitution for unhealthy, nutritionless choices, such as, donuts, cakes, cupcakes, etc. 
3) For the most people they satisfy their sweet tooth cravings, without the insulin spike, other sweet foods can cause. 
4) They are quite filling and come in variety of flavors and textures. 
5) 20g protein bars are an equivalent of consuming roughly 3 eggs therefore they offer a decent amount of protein in a small serving. 
 
Protein bars - cons: 
1) Very calorie dense - you can have a plate full of vegetables with a side of protein for the equivalent amount of calories of a 3 inch bar; 
2) Most of them are highly processed, with most ingredients created in labs not kitchens;
3) Claims they make on the packages are nor evaluated or regulated by the FDA;
4) Most of them will have at least one controversial ingredient (artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, natural flavors, GMO ingredients, etc.);
5) If consumed often they can cause upset stomach, bloating, diarrhea and even cause development of food insensitivities;
 
Having all of the above in mind, there are no amazing products out there that will be super healthy for you. If you can get protein from whole foods sources, do it. If you can't, you need to take the protein bars for what they are, and consume them in moderation. I would also recommend to try different ones, and rotate them, to ensure that your stomach responds well. 
 
Below I share some of my favorite power bars (with nutrition info), pros and cons and my personal experiences with them. 
 
1. Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Protein Bar - MY TOP PICK
 



 



 



 



Pros: This is by fat the cleanest bar I've found. Tastes great too. Not too chewy or too hard. It's soft with little crunchy bits. It's organic, vegan, gluten free, and plant based. Haven't heard about any digestive issues while consuming this bar from any of my clients. Large bar so can easily be divided in two. My favorite flavor is the Salted Caramel Sea Salt but I hear the Peanut Butter Chocolate is nice as well. 
Cons: Calorie dense. Although sugar alcohol content is not listed, erythritol is an ingredient in the coating of the chocolate bars so I would avoid chocolate flavors if you ever have any bloating issues. 
You can buy it here on Amazon - best price I've found.  
 
2. RX BAR 

 

Pros: Whole-foods based, minimal ingredients, naturally sweetened. I would recommend using this bar post-workout only (especially after endurance ordiented activities) due to higher sugar content. If you had a strength training session I would eat this bar with a protein shake (plain powder with water). Blueberry flavor is really yummy. 
Cons: Very chewy. Calorie dense yet seems very small. Only 12 g protein. 
Buy here on Amazon.



 
3. Think Thin - High Protein Bar (Gluten free)



Pros: I like the fudgy texture and all of the flavors I've tried were good. 20 g protein, gluten free, low glycemic index. They don't give me upset stomach however I most often consume 1/2 a bar at a time. 
Cons: Highly processed (see ingredients list below).
 You can buy it on Amazon here. 
 



 






 



 



 



 
4. Quest bars 

Pros: Variety of flavors
Cons: highly processed, sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, palm oil. I used to love them, but after having one pretty much every day, I developed an insensitivity and can no longer have them.
Buy here on Amazon.
 
5. Kind bar (4-5g sugar variety ONLY) -
Not really a protein bar however, it is currently the least processed, lowest in sugar, snack bar that I've found so it's worth mentioning. High in fat so keep that in mind.  
Buy here on Amazon. 








 
 




 


Any comments? Feedback? 
Please share your favorite protein bars. I'm always on the lookout of new products. 
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Let me tell you about my incredible friend and her remarkable weight loss journey. 
First, a little background. 
My friend's name is Agata, and we've known each other since 2007. We meet in Scotland through our university and have kept in touch ever since. 
Agata's main sport since she was... see more a kid was volleyball. She played for Junior National Volleyball Team in Poland and when she moved to Scotland she played both for the university team and various local teams during her school years, and Scottish National Team after she graduated.  
Although she would spent hours on the court or at the gym, somehow her weight went up year after year, reaching 176 lbs in September 2015. 
That whole year was huge for Agata. She moved to a different city, got a new place, a new job, ended her career in volleyball and adopted a dog named Roger (that has been returned to the shelter 5 times before she got him). 
Roger has been an extremely energetic dog and in order to keep him tired, and herself active, Agata embarked on a new journey exploring the sport of canicross, i.e. running with a dog. 
Long story short she's lost 39 pounds in under 2 years without any diet fads or gimmicks, and best part, she's keeping the weight off. 
She's also stronger, faster and have more energy than ever before. 
 
How did she do it? Was it just the exercise change? Well let's explore a bit further.
 
1. What's your age, height and weight? 
31, 5'9, 137 lbs. 
 
2. How did your weekly training schedule look like back in September 2015? 
2 x 2 hrs intensive volleyball training
2 x 1 hr weight lifting at the gym
1 x 2-3 hrs volleyball game at the weekend
plus I would walk around with my dog too 
 
3. What’s your weekly workout routine right now? 
3 x running with my dog (canicross max 6km/3.7mile)
1x bikejor (riding with a dog max 6km/3.7mile) 
3-4 km bike riding on my own
1 x running on my own at an easy pace
a lot of walking at the beach or hills with dogs too 
 
4. How did your diet look like in 2015? 
I was eating and drinking everything and anything and didn't care when it was (night or morning, before training or after training).
I was eating out with friends a lot, consuming a lot of fast foods after training or games. Every lunch time at work I snacked on chips, chocolate or candy and drank soda. 
 
5. How does your diet look like now? 
My diet right now is a lot more planned. I think ahead about what kind of day I am going to have (work and training wise) and I will eat according to my energy needs. 
I totally gave up on eating in restaurants or fast foods. I no longer want it or enjoy it. I also decided that alcohol doesn't help with weight loss and sports performance so I stopped drinking regularly and instead I have a pint once a month as a treat. 
I started to eat more vegetables, fruits and meat. No pasta. No soda. Candy, chips and chocolate in moderation. I drink a ton of water. 
On days when I don't feel like eating meat, my diet consists of mostly vegetables and rice. 
Finally I start my days with a good breakfast that makes me full at least until lunch time: porridge or scrambled eggs work really well for me. 
 
6. What do you think contributed to your weight gain despite all the exercise you did when you played volleyball? 
I think I was totally eating incorrectly after and before my training sessions. My body didn't have the right combo of nutrients to perform at its best and the fat just decided to stick around. 
 
7. What do you think contributed to your weight loss? 
I think dropping the bad habits such as fast food after games, and replacing them with homemade meals such as salads, vegetables and cut fruit. 
I think the whole planning and thinking about what I'm actually putting in my body made it easier to lose weight.
When I saw results, I started to enjoy the kitchen more and got creative with my meals. 
 
8. What were the biggest changes in your diet that happened overtime? 
I think the biggest changes were that I was drinking more water and started to enjoy snacking on vegetables. Also, slowly replacing bad habits with good habits. Now I make better choices automatically. 
 
9. Any last tips? 
Start slowly, be patient and be consistent. I changed my diet in small steps but I worked at it week after week. 
I didn't throw my body into deep water with multiple changes or crazy restrictions. I did it gradually and my body didn't fight me as much along the way. 
Also, it definitely helps to have support through the tough times (and there is going to be tough times) from your family and friends. 
Don't give up. It's easier to give up than keep at it, but believe in the process and things will start to move down. 
 
10. Any last thoughts? 
I have managed to achieve this weight loss and I am looking at myself and thinking: Yes I am a champ! It was hard work but it was so worth it. 
 
Agata currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, works in Marketing and besides Roger, she now has another dog named Laferra (adopted from Greece). She's training Laferra (left) to run with her, just like Roger (right) does. They are a great team, getting faster each month and placing higher in the rankings.
 
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Monika Nowak, Nutrition Coach (Pn1)
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