Fitness is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. I have read this mantra many times in different forums and articles. While I don’t know if the ratio is 100% accurate, what I do know is that nutrition is an extremely vital part of a good fitness plan. The only problem is, I never truly internalized this fact until I started seeing Alicia Huggler, registered dietitian at FFC Park Ridge, who helped me change my perspective on nutrition.
Time for a Change
I began my journey a bit over 2 years ago at the age of 26. I finally decided it was time for a change after years of laziness and poor diet had done its damage to my body. I felt awful most of the time and I hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror. In December of 2015, I signed up for a membership at one of the budget gyms in the area, looked up a workout program, and started hitting the weights hard. After about 4 months of going consistently, I definitely felt much better. However, I wasn’t seeing much progress on the scale or in the way I looked. This is when I started doing more research and discovered the 80/20 guideline.
I started a meal-prep regimen based on (as I look back on it now) a lot of “bro-science”. Breakfast was always eggs and oatmeal. Every lunch and dinner consisted of either chicken or frozen fish, a vegetable (peppers, broccoli, asparagus), and either brown rice or quinoa. I avoided snacks like the plague and ate 3 massive meals per day. The meals were bland, boring, and repetitive, but the new diet was effective. My weight plummeted from 215 to 195 in a little over 2 months.
From Progress to Plateau
However, my body fat percentage wasn’t changing as drastically (I went from around 25% BF to 20% during this time). This sudden change wasn’t without issues. I had very little energy throughout the day, leading me to skip many gym sessions (until I stopped going altogether). I lost a lot of progress on my lifts. Cheat meals became a regular occurrence. The meal plan wasn’t sustainable, and I slipped back into my old habits. My weight rebounded past where it was originally, and just like that I was back to square one.
Despite all of this, I wasn’t ready to give up. In December of 2016, I recommitted to my fitness plan. Thinking I would be more inclined to go if I paid more for the membership, I canceled at the budget gym and looked for pricier alternatives. I decided FFC had all the equipment and amenities I was seeking, in addition to being in a convenient spot. I looked up a new workout program and restarted my meal-prep regimen. Progress was going great for a while, but over time I began slipping into the same patterns. Cheat meals, skipped meal prep, and missed workouts due to the lack of energy became the constant. I was frustrated and almost quit again.
Changing My Perspective on Nutrition
On a whim in May of 2017, I decided to see Alicia. It was a game-changer and she completely changed my perspective on nutrition. During our first session, she asked me what my current diet consisted of and what foods I enjoyed/didn’t like. She gave me some basic nutrition advice to get me started while she developed my full meal plan. The second session was where I learned that I was on a good path before, but I wasn’t doing the little things that would have made my diet consistent. My proportions were off: I was eating too much protein and not enough carbs or fats. I love the taste of red meat, but I had cut it out before in favor of lean white meats. To compensate, I wound up overeating red meat (pound or two of steak per meal) when I cheated.
This time around, Alicia built lean red meats into my meal plan. She informed me that snacks weren’t the enemy and in fact necessary to avoid overindulging during meal time. Variety keeps the meal plan interesting and staves off the propensity to cheat. Cheating was even OK as long as it was responsible and limited. “Have a burger every once in a while,” she said, “just don’t get the triple stack with bacon.” I’m paraphrasing, of course, but you get the idea. She even opened my eyes to delicious healthy whole foods and substitutes that I had never heard of before: chicken sausage, chickpea pasta, farro, nutritional yeast, and Halo Top ice cream to name a few. Additionally, she was a great resource for tasty recipes that fit my meal plan.
Alicia is a very warm and open person; always upbeat and energetic. She won’t just take measurements and talk about nutrition in the sessions but will also take a genuine interest in you. She never chastises you for falling off the rails one week and instead encourages you to do better the following week. She’ll even let you know what sweets she indulged in that week, so you won’t feel as bad. Her attitude was a key factor in helping me stay the course.
Seeing Sustainable Results
I could continue about my experience and how awesome Alicia is, but what’s really important is results. My initial measurements when I first started seeing Alicia were 218 lbs and 25% body fat. I can happily report that I’m now down to 196 lbs and 14% BF. Pants I purchased a year ago no longer fit and I’m down 2 belt loops. I feel a great sense of pride in my new physique when I look in the mirror. My lifts are steadily improving. More crucially, I feel much better. I have consistent energy throughout the day and will have maybe 1 caffeinated beverage a week if I really need it. I’ve only been sick once in the past year and I fought off the illness swiftly. Looking and feeling great has been an incredible confidence booster. Proper perspective on nutrition really has changed me for the better.
Even though I’m in the best shape of my life at 28, I’m still not satisfied and hopefully never will be. Fitness is a lifelong journey and I have a long way to go. I can now embark upon this journey armed with proper knowledge about nutrition. If you have been going the gym consistently like I was and aren’t seeing the results you want, proper diet may be the missing piece – you may need to change your perspective on nutrition. If you have any questions about nutrition or are curious about what a registered dietitian can do for you, I encourage you to seek one out and talk to (or email if you’re shy). And if you decide to start a nutrition program with her and stick with it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Good luck on your own fitness journey and I will see you in the weight room!
Post written by FFC Park Ridge local’84 Cafe attendant Andrew Wrobel.