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Food, Fitness and Feeling Good: Paving Your Own Way and Learning What Works for You

Springing forward is crushing me a little bit right now. Coming off of a teacher training weekend and going straight into 5:30 a.m. clients this morning was brutal. I also somehow managed to never get around to having coffee this morning because I was rushing around. By the time I realized it was nearly noon and I decided to just skip coffee. Bad idea. I ended up laying down around 3 and taking a quick catnap.


I made myself get up and take the dogs to the park to get some fresh air and sunshine. Zoey was happy about that.


I’m also trying to drink a ton of water. I made myself a snack when I got home from the park. Lately I’ve been stuck on apples with a duo of cashew and sunflower seed butter. I eat this pretty much every afternoon around 4 since our dinners are usually after 8. I have totally fallen for cashew butter but it’s pretty pricy (double the price of almond and sunflower butter) so I try to ration it. 🙂

So I want to switch gears and have a check-in on the food and fitness front. Yesterday in teacher training we ended up having a long group discussion about nutrition, exercise and fueling your body. We covered so many important topics but the overwhelming sentiment that came up was confusion.

I think the confusion comes from two places:

  1. Conflicting information. You can drive yourself absolutely bonkers keeping up with the new latest diet trends, workouts, super foods and “scientific” studies. (Someone asked us yesterday if it’s true that you don’t burn fat for two days if you drink red wine. God, let’s hope not.)
  2. Comparison. Whether it’s trying to mimic what someone else does when it comes to diet and exercise or just letting the comparison trap get you down.

I wrote a post last year about the importance of figuring out your own personal path when it comes to fitness and nutrition. If you haven’t read it, please take a moment to do so because it’s still something that I feel very strongly about.


This statement should be your guiding light. YOU DO YOU. I deal with this every single day in the industry I work in, both fitness and blogging. Would you believe that I have never told a single client or student exactly how I think they should be eating? I am happy to dialogue with them about food choices, cooking, recipe/meal ideas and their overall diet if they want to chat and to share my experiences but I have never prescribed a diet or meal plan to anyone.

I share my recent eats here on my blog and if you’ve been reading for a long time, you’ve probably noticed it’s been an evolution. If not, let me give you a synopsis. I ate a 90% vegetarian diet for several years in my mid- to late-20’s. Then I started working for a CrossFit gym where it was all Paleo, all the time. While I never truly got hooked on Paleo, I experimented with it and started eating a lot more lean protein. The last couple of years have been a free-for-all up until my recent Whole30 and I’m still trying to swing the pendulum back to whatever the next evolution is after that. I’ve gone through overnight oats and oatmeal stages, lunch bowl stages, started eating a lot more red meat and went probably 2 years of having a green smoothie nearly every day. Now I don’t drink smoothies often and eat sweet potatoes for breakfast most mornings. (One thing has stayed constant through the years…there’s always been nut butter. Ha.)

On the workout front, when I started this blog I was training for the Marine Corps Marathon. In the six years that I’ve written this blog I’ve segued between running, CrossFit, teaching BodyPump, yoga, running partners, working out on my own and now working out with a trainer. Also an evolution. Was one of those workouts better than the other? No. They’re just different.

Our bodies were designed to feel good and I think that diet and exercise can have a lot of impact on how good they feel (in both good and bad ways). The important thing to keep in mind is that you have to honor YOUR body. What feels good for someone else might not feel good for you. What felt good for you last year might not be your jam this year. And sometimes, something you’ve been doing for your entire life might quit working. You have to be open to changing your ways and sometimes that can be tough when we have super hard-wired thinking patterns.

Stay focused on you and these two things.

  1. Food is fuel. It should bring joy and not create fear. Nourishing your body is a really special thing to do. This is part of why I so enjoy cooking at home and preparing meals.
  2. Workouts are to make you feel strong and healthy and to promote longevity, not to punish yourself.

Your job is to get to know yourself really, really well. What makes you feel good and strong? Do more of those things. Do less of the things that make you feel frustrated or like a hamster on a wheel. This is YOUR LIFE and you only get one of them to live. Love yourself and treat yourself well.

So try things on. See what fits you but don’t get attached to there being any one right or wrong way. This applies to everything you see on this blog too. This is my journey and I’m just sharing it with you. I in no way expect any of you to jump on board with exactly what I’m doing. I think we can learn from each other but it’s also so important to learn to think and feel for yourself.

Tell me about your food and fitness evolution? How have you learned about what works for you versus getting stuck in conflicting info and comparison? And if you’re still stuck, what kind of support do you need to get un-stuck? I’d love to hear your questions and thoughts. 

{ 49 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Hilary March 14, 2016, 7:03 pm

    I think I have kind of realized that not one thing fits me. I like you have bounced around to different eating styles and different workouts, but I think that just works for me. I enjoy the variety of it, and I enjoy trying new foods and seeing how certain ways of eating can impact me. What makes me feel my best and what makes me enjoy how I’m fueling my body. One thing I have learned is getting a little sweat on most days and eating whole foods fits me well!

    • 2
      Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:21 am

      I so agree on enjoying the variety and bouncing around. And moving regularaly and eating mostly healthy makes me feel good too! 🙂

  • 3
    Sara March 14, 2016, 7:12 pm

    I love this! And I love you don’t tell your clients what to eat. I have IBS and there are so many foods, both healthy and unhealthy, I just can’t do. People are always questioning why I can’t eat certain things and often think I’m dieting which isn’t the case at all.

    • 4
      Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:23 am

      Thanks Sara! I’m sorry to hear about your IBS but I’m glad you’ve found your own way to deal with it. It can be challenging to feel like you have to justify your food choices but taking care of your body is so important.

  • 5
    Mary March 14, 2016, 7:47 pm

    One of the many beautiful gifts of getting older is learning to let go. Less comparison, less putting sense-less demands on our bodies and more acceptance and realization of our true beauty. Trying new diets and exercises is important to learn more about what does work and what simply doesn’t. I’m enjoying the sweet potato (with a hard boiled egg on top!), thank you for that tip. But I just can’t get away from the breakfast smoothie. My ‘salad-in-a-glass’ is my go-to to start the day right!

    • 6
      Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:24 am

      Mary – I love this. Thank you for sharing. I’m happy to hear you’re enjoying the sweet potato breakfast and love the spin of an egg on top! I think I’ll do more smoothies and green juices now that the weather is getting warmer!

  • 7
    Katherine March 14, 2016, 7:49 pm

    love this! thanks jen 🙂

  • 8
    Ashley March 14, 2016, 7:51 pm


    I’ve been a long time reader and this really spoke to me. I’ve always liked what a balanced approach you’ve had to your diet and have been enjoying following along. I’ve been strict vegetarian, strict paleo, and everything in between. Right now, I’m basically “primal” with occasional gluten free grains and mixing in intermittent fasting. This is what works for me now, and I’m sure it will change again and again. It’s so easy to become a perfectionist and stop enjoying life – it’s sometimes paralyzing to know & think too much.

    • 9
      Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:26 am

      Hi Ashley,

      I’m happy to hear that this post resonated with you. Just keep paying attention to what makes you feel best and don’t get stuck on any one label of what’s healthy and right. Knowledge is power but intuition is everything.

  • 10
    Emily @ My Healthyish Life March 14, 2016, 8:54 pm

    I couldn’t agree more! I think our preferences and habits change over time, often for no concrete reason. No right or wrong, just different from last year or the year before that. I go through phases with both foods and workouts but all I focus on is feeling my best, not compared to what I was doing before. I think it will be a never-ending quest for balance, because things change!

    • 11
      Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:30 am

      From following you on social and your blog, I think we have similar philosophies on all of this! We are constantly learning and growing in all areas of life and getting to know ourselves better and better.

  • 12
    Kacie March 14, 2016, 9:43 pm

    Absolutely love this post. This attitude is exactly why I love reading your blog. There is so much pressure out there to find the “best” diet or “best” fitness routine…it’s like people totally forget that what works is an individual thing. We can do much better to respect each other in that way. Thank you for writing this!!

    • 13
      Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:33 am

      Thanks Kacie. I enjoy sharing what works for me but I would NEVER expect anyone else to do the same. I love your point on respect. I think too often there is a lack of respect when there are differing opinions around food and exercise philosophies.

  • 14
    Nicki March 15, 2016, 12:01 am

    This is SO TRUE and I love that you blogged about this! I’ve always been a group fitness fan: from dance classes in middle/high school, kickboxing in college, kickboxing and yoga post-college (quickly discovering that yoga wasn’t my thing, just like running isn’t…and that’s ok!) to BodyPump and bootcamp, and now, for the last 3.5 years: CrossFit!

    As for food, I was briefly a vegetarian after college (because meat is expensive!) for maybe a year. It’s pretty much always been healthy with a side of whatever I want. I tried Paleo for about 2-3 months about a year into CrossFit and it didn’t work for me, but I’d say my food choices have always been about 70% healthy and carbs fuel me SO WELL. (Umm, hi oatmeal a few hours before a WOD!) I’ve also never had any sensitivities or allergies except to peanuts. Sunflower seed butter FTW 🙂 Oh and there was a month where I tried to count macros and realized I’m not a Games/Regionals/GRID athlete so I went back to just listening to my body and eating what makes me feel best! (See also: I’m single and find that having a partner keeps me eating better in general, but I have never ever felt like I’m doing anything “wrong” no matter what I eat because it’s all FUEL as you said!)

    • 15
      Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:35 am

      Hi Nicki – thanks for sharing your experiences. I love how widely varied they are and how much you seem to have learned from it. Especially love your story about macros and realizing it just wasn’t a priority for you!

      Interesting what you share around having a partner and making better choices. I feel like for some it’s the opposite!

  • 16
    Brittany Holtz March 15, 2016, 4:46 am

    Great post, Jen. It really is true that our health and fitness evolves over time. I find that especially true with nutrition. I used to eat higher fat/lower carb, but now I find higher carb is giving me more energy. Sometimes I eat totally based on intuitive eating and other times I’m counting macros and meal planning. My schedule, goals at the time and what my body feels all come in to play.

    • 17
      Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:37 am

      Thanks Brittany. I just think there’s an epidemic of misunderstanding that there is no one perfect way to eat or workout. Learning how to be true to you (in all areas of life) is such an important thing to find. Developing our inner guides and trusting them takes practice but is so worth it.

  • 18
    Lauren March 15, 2016, 7:27 am

    Really enjoyed this post, thank you! It’s so difficult – especially with nutrition – to find what works for you when there are many mixed messages in the media on a daily basis. When I was stuck, I saw a registered dietitian at the YMCA, and she was super helpful! One of my biggest issues is that I thought I needed to eat less to maintain my lifestyle, when in fact that was doing my body a disservice. She helped me work through that and taught me how to eat more to fuel my body appropriately.

    • 19
      Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:39 am

      Thanks Lauren. It’s great to hear that you had a good experience with a professional when you felt stuck. I think so many people could benefit from talking to someone trained in fitness and nutrition when they feel overwhelmed, confused or stuck.

      Lauren, I can’t tell you what an epidemic it is that women think they need to eat less and less and less and workout more and more. SO happy that you were able to turn this around.

  • 20
    Alyssa March 15, 2016, 7:41 am

    This was a very thoughtful post. Thank you for sharing. I think sometimes we all get stuck in a mindset that we need to be doing something specific and that is what we identify with. For me, I always considered myself a runner and if I wasn’t training for a race or needed to take a break, I felt like I wasn’t truly a “runner.” It kind of defined me for awhile. But I enjoy doing other things and I love lifting and incorporating yoga. Plus that’s what my body needs right now. I agree that we go through phases. Fitness will always be a priority for me and that means I will enjoy many different forms of exercise.

    • 21
      Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:40 am

      You’re welcome, Alyssa. Gosh, I totally hear you on the running front and it was a difficult identity for me to give up as well. Now that my workouts are more well-rounded I don’t experience the frustrating injuries I had as a runner. I love your last statement about fitness being a priority and enjoying various forms of exercise! 🙂

  • 22
    Fran March 15, 2016, 9:08 am

    This is SUCH a great post and reiterates what I tell a lot of my friends! Love your blog its been such an inspiration!

    • 23
      Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:41 am

      Thanks for the kind words and for spreading this message!

  • 24
    Christin March 15, 2016, 9:13 am

    Jen this is one of the most helpful, insightful posts I’ve seen!! Thank you for sharing this.

    I’m 30 weeks pregnant and really fighting the cravkngs and the critical thoughts to about how much my workouts have slowed down. AND already starting ton worry about the postpartum journey. So this is a very timely reminder for me. Thank you!!! 🙂

    • 25
      Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:44 am

      Hi Christin – thanks for the comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I can’t personally relate to what you’re feeling with your pregnancy but I can imagine how it must feel and have trained many of my clients and yoga students through pregnancy and getting back into their routines postpartum.

      I have never had a client who stayed active through pregnancy that didn’t bounce back to their pre-pregnancy level of fitness (most get even stronger!). The timeline is different for everyone but you will be okay! Enjoy this time carrying your baby. Such an amazing thing that our bodies do. xo <3

  • 26
    tara March 15, 2016, 12:20 pm

    i struggle with the comparison issue to others and even sometimes to my old self (ie you used to be able to run this far why not now). i agree that its hard to figure out what works for you and can be very frustrating when all of a sudden things seem to change and you cant figure out why, especially with food. i think right now for me stress is really a huge struggle. sometimes i deal with it in a bad way through eating junk or stressing out about how to fit in workouts. i dont see the stress itself ending but i need to find a better way to deal with it long term. i have learned i a definitely an emotional eater

    • 27
      Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:46 am

      Tara – you bring up such a great point about comparing ourselves to our old selves. I was just having this conversation with a friend on Monday regarding running and how hard she is on herself that she used to run a lot of races and now feels unaccomplished because she’s not doing so many races and she’s slowed down.

      Stress can impact our bodies in so many crazy ways. I think finding a healthy way to deal with it should be your top priority. Being aware of your emotional eating is a great first step in learning to manage it. Sending you lots of positive vibes and let me know if and how I can support you. <3

      (Have you ever tried meditation? Even just 10-15 minutes a day of quiet time and breathing?)

      • 28
        tara March 16, 2016, 10:33 pm

        off and on yes. and i think i need to get back to it. its hard to find the right time and place for it. ive never found a groove. ive tried doing it at work actually in a conference room for a few mins. ive also meditated quickly in the car literally in the garage before i come into the door. i really dont have a lot of quiet time at home alone so that has definitely been a struggle. i just need to do it and fit it in where i can. ive tried to set reminders on my phone but just need to make it a priority. good point though !

        • 29
          Jen DeCurtins March 17, 2016, 9:04 pm

          I love your car and work hacks. Remember 5 minutes of eyes closed and deep breathing is better than none.

  • 30
    Annie B March 15, 2016, 2:40 pm

    This post resonated with my so much. My journey has evolved from being an underfueling distance runner to slowly incorporating more strength and fuel into my routine. I did the Whole30 in January and still eat very Whole30-ish, with a bit of legumes and GF grains thrown in.
    My biggest issues now are definitely the comparison trap and feeling as though I’m in a major fitness plateau. I really want to start seeing more tone and definition in my body, and didn’t see the changes I was hoping for during the Whole30. I’m thinking about seeking a trainer, but it’s sooo pricey!
    Any advice for breaking out of a plateau when you feel like you’re doing everything right?

    • 31
      Jen DeCurtins March 15, 2016, 2:41 pm

      Can you tell me a little about what you’re doing on the workout front? And how much protein you’re getting every day? (estimate of grams?)

      • 32
        Annie B March 15, 2016, 5:04 pm

        I work out 6 days a week for an hour – usually a few days of circuit training (Kayla Itsines guides), ~2 HIIT sessions, a spin class, maybe one long (7-10 mile) run. Most days it’s a combo of circuit training and 30 min cardio.
        I eat about 110-120g of protein a day (lean meat, eggs, seafood, Vega protein powder). Calorie intake around 1400-1500 a day.

        • 33
          Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:51 am

          Hey Annie – given your activity level and the intensity of your workouts, you need to be consuming more calories on a daily basis. Have you ever calculated your resting metabolic rate? Read more about it and calculate it here: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/calrmr.htm. When you add in the workouts you’re doing, you’re likely underfeeding your body and with that you have no way to build and grow. Your body is stressed and not likely to respond the way you want it to. I know it can be a bit of a mind game to increase calories but I highly suggest you try. I think you’ll find the results you’re looking for, and feel better overall.

  • 34
    Amanda March 15, 2016, 6:58 pm

    I tried your mashed sweet potato/banana breakfast w/ AB this morning! Very tasty and satisfying. I had a hard-boiled egg on the side and it kept me full until lunchtime. Thanks for a new breakfast option!

    • 35
      Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:52 am

      Yay! Glad you liked it! I have eggs on the side most of the time too.

  • 36
    Jenny C March 15, 2016, 8:47 pm

    Love this. I love “you do you”, it was actually my “new year’s resolution” to keep mindful of this phase every day. Your evolution with nutrition and exercise is reassuring that what I sometimes have thought as me not committing or failing at is really just a sign of it not being a good fit at that time and that’s okay.

    • 37
      Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:52 am

      It’s a wonderful philosophy to adhere to for life in general!

  • 38
    sarah March 15, 2016, 10:19 pm

    “You do you” is such an important concept when it comes to health a wellness! It’s something I’m definitely working on in recovery from anorexia. It’s hard not to compare. It’s also hard to take a leap of faith and trust my body. I know that it will all be worth it though in the end! Great post, and I love sunflower seed butter! I need to try cashew butter ASAP.

    • 39
      Jen DeCurtins March 16, 2016, 11:53 am

      Sarah – thank you for the comment. I’m happy to hear that you are in recovery. Keep working on strengthening that inner guide and really trusting it. Your body knows what’s best for you. Our heads sometimes get in the way.

      Try the cashew butter!!!

      • 40
        sarah March 16, 2016, 6:51 pm

        Thank you so much Jen! And will do! Do you have a favorite brand?

        • 41
          Jen DeCurtins March 17, 2016, 9:05 pm

          I don’t! I pick whichever one is cheapest! 🙂

  • 42
    DeeDee March 16, 2016, 1:54 pm

    I was a vegetarian for years, then a vegan, then a vegetarian again, then I started eating a little fish now and then. When I started cutting out grains and dairy I began adding meat back to my diet pretty much by necessity because that didn’t leave much! Then I began limiting sugar.

    Up until I cut out the grains/dairy/sugar, my general health was terrible. That was the change that fixed a lot of problems for me (eczema, acne, IBS, asthma…all gone). I also used to be sick constantly, I came down with every cold or flu bug going around, and once I cut out grains and sugar that dropped to one or two times a year, and now I haven’t been sick since December 2014. I have never in my life gone a full year without being sick before.

    AND I don’t get afternoon energy crashes, I don’t get hangry from blood sugar dips, and I sleep like a champ. (And don’t even really notice the time changes twice a year.)

    I did a lot of experimenting with my own nutrition over the years and it was the grains and the sugar that made the biggest difference. I was a skeptic, until it changed my life.

  • 43
    amelia@i_heart_kale March 27, 2016, 3:15 pm

    My fitness and food journey has quite the evolution. Let’s just say I’ve gone from couch potato/bunny weights & pastry chef to super qctive mom of a toddler + heavy weight training with a trainer & career change to an RD. Quite the 10 year ride!
    I always enjoy these kinds of posts from you. For years, my mantra to my clients has always been “you do you”.
    Btw, since I know your never busy (ha!), you can make cashew butter in your cuisinart food processor! Take a 12-16oz bag of organic cashews (no added oil or salt) and toss them into the processor and walk away. About 3 min stir down the extra nut crumbs, then 6 min scrape bowl again. About after 10 min you’ll have silky, smooth nut butter much cheaper! Add salt to taste. If you have extra time, you can lightly toast them before processing for a richer flavor. ?

  • 44
    allie April 10, 2016, 10:25 am

    Just getting caught up on your blog and came across this post — I think it’s one of your best! Great advice put so simply; I can’t tell you how much I needed this today. THANK YOU!

    • 45
      Jen DeCurtins April 10, 2016, 11:00 am

      Thank you so much and I’m happy to hear that the post resonated with you today! 🙂

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