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Figuring Out Fitness & Nutrition: Embracing “You Do You”

Hi everyone. Today I am going to talk about a topic that I feel passionate about.


I recently received the following email from a reader that both saddened me and motivated me to make this a public discussion.

I am almost 18 and have been interested in health and fitness for a few years now. About seven months ago I started doing some serious research about raw vegan diets, paleo, plants based, etc. I started to become overwhelmed about all of the information out there. Different things that I may have thought were healthy such as dairy products and then reading articles where people say they are not. I have even been reading articles that are saying the sugar in fruit is bad for you and I am just so confused at this point.

I am becoming so overwhelmed about eating organic, high-quality food, concerned about all of the pesticides, whether or not gluten could be ruining my body and brain, etc. I have a need to read all of the ingredients if I eat some bean out a can or a nut butter. I am fearful that if I eat something bad I am going to have horrible skin. I know I am getting obsessed but have really been going hardcore on just eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. I keep on telling myself that I can only eat this way because I am supposed to be healthy. The problem is, I have never felt so unhealthy in my life. I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin, I feel bloated and sick all of the time, and as ironic as this sounds I have gained weight. 

I want so badly to have a healthy balanced lifestyle but I know that I am not. I feel like I can never and should never have anything unhealthy like a cookie, cake, ice cream, etc. I become anxious about functions and going out with people because I might be faced with an unhealthy food situation. I have tried so many times to get “fit” by trying many different exercises (weights, HIIT, running, yoga, pilates) but I never seem to reach my goal. I have tried every way of eating that different people claim changed their life and I never feel any better. Sometimes I am left feeling worse. I thought I wanted to have a career in health and fitness like becoming a certified nutritionist but now I am just so unsure about everything. I am at my wits end. I want to enjoy life and I know I am not. I just want to feel confident.

I asked permission to share her email because I think this is something that many women of all ages struggle with. There is an overwhelming amount of information out there about what’s healthy, much of it conflicting. It can become a vicious cycle to consume the information and feel like all of it applies to you…BUT IT DOESN’T!

What works for one does not apply to all.

The #1 mantra I adhere to when it comes to myself, my clients, my readers…anyone…is that “what works for one does not work for all.” I never prescribe a certain diet or exercise regimen to anyone I work with and I ask my students and clients (and myself) constantly, “how are you feeling?” I never expect anyone to copycat what works for me. It might not work for you.

  • Some people don’t tolerate gluten, some people have no problem.
  • Some people love to run, some people hate it.
  • Some people choose not to eat meat, some don’t feel good on a vegetarian diet.
  • Some people break out when they eat dairy, some people have no side effects.
  • Some people thrive with high intensity workouts, some do better in more of a steady state.

Fitness and nutrition is an individual journey.

You are the ONLY ONE who knows what is right for you and your body. You’re the ONLY ONE who lives in your body and know what it feels like. You must learn to listen to it. This applies to both your nutrition and fitness (and your life as a whole but we’ll talk about that in another post).

If something makes you miserable, don’t do it. It sounds simple…and it is…but it’s so hard to put into practice. There is not one right way but we get sucked into believing that can be true. I can’t tell you how many friends and clients I know who ate a certain way and then decided to try something else and felt like a different person. Or who exclusively ran for years because it seemed like the right thing to do but experienced massive changes/gains when they finally tried different forms of exercise like yoga or strength training (raising my own hand here).

Learn to listen. 

Your body gives you signs all the time. You just have to learn to listen. You will drive yourself insane and get stuck in a cycle of feeling physically and emotionally terrible if you focus on taking personally every single piece of fitness and nutrition information out there.

Signs what you’re doing is NOT working…

– You feel bloated and gassy.
– Your digestion is not regular.
– Your energy levels are all over the place.
– You’re lacking motivation.
– You’re not seeing results or you fight all the time with the same 10 pounds.
– You’re constantly injured.
– Your thoughts are consumed by fitness and nutrition.

Signs what you’re doing IS working…

– Your digestions is regular.
– You feel energetic.
– You’re excited about your fitness routine.
– You eat intuitively and don’t have to overthink your nutrition.
– You can maintain a steady weight without a struggle.
– You’re able to enjoy special occasions and dinners out.


YOU DO YOU: Make it your mission! 

Learning to be intuitive and mindful requires commitment and a willingness to try a new way. The first step is to accept that what you’re currently doing is not working and be open to change. This can be really freaking hard! When you get really patterned in a certain way of eating or working out, it can be terrifying to completely change that. I get it. But remember that change creates change. 

The second step is to try a new way. If you need the help of a professional, work with a doctor, nutrition specialist or personal trainer. Whatever you do, embrace your uniqueness and honor what is right for you. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Food is meant to be enjoyed. Our bodies are meant to feel good. Stop fighting with your body and turn your focus on nurturing it and getting to know it better instead. Do not let blogs, the Internet, your mom or the latest article in a women’s magazine tell you what is right for you. Get so in touch with yourself that YOU DO YOU and that’s that!

I would love to hear your take on this and keep this discussion going. Please share your experiences as well as your questions, if you have them. I think we can all learn and grow from each other, and hold each other up in support. I would love for this to be an ongoing posting topic…and even to share your stories of how you’ve learned to “do you.” 

{ 98 comments… add one }
  • Miley March 18, 2015, 10:49 am

    This post is amazing and true on so many levels. Before becoming a balanced nutrition and fitness enthusiast, I struggled with anorexia nervosa. Eating a “perfect diet” and exercising like crazy consumed my life. Like the girl in the email, I wanted so bad to be healthy and happy, but I had no idea how to get there. Luckily, I was able to do a complete turn around and found a healthy, happy, BALANCED lifestyle that fits me. After I finish my undergraduate degree, I hope to attend graduate school to obtain a masters in nutrition as well as clinical psychology so that I can work with girls and women struggling with disordered eating and help them achieve a healthy lifestyle that suits THEM. Thank you for this post and the inspiration, Jen! Lots of love! <3

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:09 pm

      hi miley, thanks for the comment. i commend you on your recovery from anorexia and i’m happy to hear that you have achieved balance that makes you feel good and happy. i love that you want to give back to others struggling with this terrible disease. i wish you so much luck on your path.

  • Christin March 18, 2015, 10:57 am

    This is terrific advice, and a very timely reminder for me. Just yesterday I was reading about IGF-1 (or something) in dairy products and freaking out at the thought of no cream in my coffee and no greek yogurt with fruit. And someone recently told me they aren’t allowed to have beans because apparently beans are not good for you. GoodNESS – It’s always something! It really does feel like fruit, vegetables, and seeds are the only “approved” things I can eat.

    I don’t know if dairy or beans are bad for you but this I do know: Fear and stress are REALLY BAD for you. I won’t fear food or stress about food. Jen, I really appreciate your intuitive approach to eating and fitness. It’s a great example!

    • Miranda March 19, 2015, 2:14 pm

      I’m not sure about the beans comment but I read the book it starts with food (The Whole 30) which asks you to eat approved foods (of which beans isn’t one) for 30 days and then slowly reintroduce these things into your diet to see what bothers you and what doesn’t or how much is okay for your body. Not saying one way or the other is right but I think people read stuff like that and all they see is “Beans are bad” and not for some people.

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:10 pm

      it really is always something. and you are SO RIGHT about the impact of stress on our bodies. thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Liv @ Healthy Liv March 18, 2015, 10:58 am

    I agree that it’s SO important to figure out what works for you! As far as eating goes, I’ve found that it works best for me to eat healthy foods all day long, with as many veggies & fruits as possible, but not restricting any certain foods. Then, I have a small treat after dinner every night (usually ice cream). It works for me & I love getting to eat all of the foods that I enjoy!

    We’re all so different, though. My sister and I are the same height and look so similar that people mix us up and we eat healthy, but totally differently. She never eats any refined sugar and totally avoids ice cream, baked goods, etc. b/c she’s found that she doesn’t really have any self-control around sweets, so she can’t eat them in moderation. She doesn’t have as much of a sweet tooth, anyway, so she just cuts them out and focuses on eating more savory, whole foods instead.

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:12 pm

      hey liv. thanks for the comment. your approach sounds really reasonable and healthy…you’ve gotta love a little treat at the end of the day! definitely something i look forward to.

      and very interesting point about your sister. thank you for sharing it.

  • Grace March 18, 2015, 11:12 am

    Thanks so much for this post! It is so important to hear from a fitness professional, as so often it seems that fitness magazines instead only promote specific ways of eating & pursuing fitness, such as Paleo and HIIT or Crossfit. I also struggled with an eating disorder in high school, and it was really difficult to realize that I was hurting my body because I thought I was doing what was “healthy” by eliminating desserts, exercising excessively, and eating low calorie foods. I am at a much healthier place now. I enjoy running and weight training. But I also love ice cream and cookies alongside green smoothies. I’ve never felt so overall healthy– both physically and emotionally. Thank you for sharing this and for facilitating this discussion. We should be excited to enjoy meals and to exercise; it should never be a burden. Thanks for always being real and challenging some unhealthy conventions in the fitness world.

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:15 pm

      you’re welcome, grace. i’m happy to hear that you have overcome your eating disorder and are feeling healthier and more balanced now. i always firmly stand by that all the work isn’t worth it if you can’t enjoy the sweet side of life (including food!) on the regular.

  • Noreen Gallo RD March 18, 2015, 11:45 am

    Well said! A a Registered Dietitian, I am faced with these kinds of questions on a regular basis. There is so much info out right now on diets, foods, exercise etc… and it can be overwhelming. People will ask me to give them a diet – “hand me a piece of paper of what I should eat and that is what I will do” I have to stress to them, that there is not one diet that works for everyone (as you put so well). I have had people react both positively and negatively to a gluten free diet for example, it depends on their body and what works for them. Figuring out what is best for you is key and you will reap the benefits!!
    Hug the pups… 🙂

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:16 pm

      hi noreen…i can’t tell you how much it means to have you back this up as a R.D. thank you so much for taking a minute to comment.

  • JennyS March 18, 2015, 11:51 am

    This really resonated with me. I’ve struggled for years to find some kind of magic bullet that was going to change my body. I’ve watched people around me see rapid, amazing body transformations from doing certain diets and exercise regimes, but when I try them, I see little to no change. I get frustrated and angry because it didn’t work for me like it did for them. I’m starting to realize that I’m just a different person, with a different body type and different genes, as well as different circumstances in my life. I just have to figure out what “you do you” means for me. 🙂

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:17 pm

      jenny – i think that’s the downfall…many look for a quick fix or one easy solution but it’s just not easy or simple. it’s a process of getting to know yourself and your needs and accepting that they change over time. i really hope you continue on your path to discovering what really feels good and resonates with you. xo.

  • Hillary March 18, 2015, 11:54 am

    Great post! This needs to be talked about more. I understand when people find a way of eating and exercising that work well for them that they want to share their experiences because they feel so great. The problem comes in when they believe that their way of doing things is perfect for everyone. Honestly, I’ve stopped reading blogs and Internet sites that preach about one way of eating/exercising and demonizing another. It’s not helpful and can actually be dangerous as shown by the email you received.

    As someone who is far along in her recovery from anorexia, I would really encourage the woman who emailed you to seek help from a dietitian and a therapist. From what she said, her focus on diet and exercise has taken over and her quality of life is being affected. There is nothing wrong with getting some outside help and it could make such a positive impact on her future.

    • Mo March 19, 2015, 9:13 am

      I have been a quiet avid reader for over two years. Like Hilary, my teenage son is a recovering anorexic. This post set off red flags. I agree with Hilary’s recommendation – please encourage this reader to talk to an eating disorder specialist.

      • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:25 pm

        thanks mo – i agree as well.

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:20 pm

      hillary – thank you so much for taking a moment to comment and for your encouraging words. i also agree that it is inspirational to see people thriving and finding things that work for them but it can’t become the gospel and end all be all for everyone. i also don’t consume media that is so one-sided about diet and exercise.

      and yes, i completely agree with professional help. despite where exactly she is with her struggle, it’s always beneficial to have a third party who can offer outside advice and counsel.

  • Hayley March 18, 2015, 11:55 am

    Love this. Took me years to come to these conclusions and life has been amazing since I finally embodied this way of thinking.

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:25 pm

      so good to hear hayley!<3

  • Brooke March 18, 2015, 12:00 pm

    I think this is my favorite post you have ever written. So many people need to hear this! (This is my first time commenting – that’s how much I loved this post!)

    • R March 18, 2015, 8:00 pm

      I just told my daughter the same thing. I think it is one of the best posts I have ever read from you as well. ( Not that I think your others aren’t good) This one was just a home run on so many levels! I am so glad she let you share her story with us.

      • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:27 pm

        thank you so much for the positive feedback. it’s something that i am a serious believe in and a message that really needs to be shared with women of all ages.

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:26 pm

      hi brooke – first, thank you so much for the kind words. and second, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. it means a lot to me. <3

  • Terah March 18, 2015, 12:01 pm

    THANK YOU so much for posting this. Like Noreen, I am a Registered Dietitian and have this conversation with men, women, children, elderly, teenagers– even other RDs– ALL THE TIME! I cannot agree more– that people must figure out what works for them. Also, it is important that when people finally figure out what works for them, to stop the cycle of comparing themselves to others and continue “doing you.” Thanks for being a positive image for so many!

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:28 pm

      you’re welcome, terah. and like i told noreen, thank YOU for taking a moment to back this up as a licensed professional.

  • kristin | W [H] A T C H March 18, 2015, 12:04 pm

    this is so, so important. i think as we are getting started with living a healthy lifestyle there can be the temptation to create an identity around a specific diet or workout, but the reality is that what works for us may change over time and we have to do the hard work of being committed to continually identifying what works for our bodies.

    • Christin March 18, 2015, 12:23 pm

      I like your point about building an identity around a certain way of eating. I’ve noticed that a lot! I do think creating a healthy identify for yourself can help make good decisions e.g. “I choose xxx option because it’s good for me and I’m a person who is committed to her health.” But a very narrow identity built around a stringent diet could be dangerous. Our bodies change!

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:29 pm

      hey kristin – i totally hear you on creating the identity and it’s something i see a LOT in the crossfit/paleo world. it’s one of the things i have the hardest time with when it comes to crossfit.

      and i think what you wrote about changes over time is important too. i find it’s a constant evolution for me and that’s okay!

  • Kacy March 18, 2015, 12:06 pm

    yes to this!!! Every”body” is different and we respond physically and emotionally to different diets and exercises! I do not eat fruit because of the way it affects me. People get on me all the time. NOT THEIR BODY. 😉

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:30 pm

      love it kacy. no one else knows what it feels like to live inside of your body!

  • Nikki Fahey March 18, 2015, 12:10 pm

    I have lots of physical and mental consequences for not listening to my body. I wish that I would learn “everything in moderation”. I too feel extremely guilty for choosing cereal over fruit or bread over veggies:( Its not worth the energy but I obsess anyway. Life should be fun and enjoyed, not stressed about food and if you ate 100 or 120 calories.
    thanks for this honest blog

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:33 pm

      hey nikki – i am sorry to hear that. i wish more people would think about the long-term effects of what some of this can do to you. our bodies should be our most cherished asset. i am really praying that you are able to find peace with food and that you seek the help of a counselor, R.D. or both. it can be so helpful to talk about it with someone.

  • meredith @ The Cookie ChRUNicles March 18, 2015, 12:13 pm

    Such an important topic! It can get so overwhelming with so much information out there but as you say, you must do you. It’s such a slipper slope though, of following a nutrient dense clean diet and balancing that the “right” way whereas you allow your indulgences and cravings. I think it’s impossible to eat “clean” and “perfect” all of the time – and trying to do so will end up causing more harm than good. I have learned to steer clear of most “diet” discussions because I can’t deal with latest trends and people who mimic someone else’s lifestyle when what they should be doing is figuring out what works for them, not their friend. Ugh, but it’s hard, until you find the right balance and even that balance is always a work in progress.

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:34 pm

      hey meredith –

      i agree. it is impossible to eat perfectly all the time and if you try to do so you’re probably heading towards crazy town. it is crazy making! i steer clear of that kind of talk as well and will always promote all things in moderation unless you know a thing doesn’t work for you.

  • Hope March 18, 2015, 12:51 pm

    This letter makes me so sad. The big issue in health/fitness is the dogma, moralizing and proselytizing of diets and exercise. There is no one true answer, food is not good or bad or clean or dirty (unless it’s a potato you just pulled out of the ground 😉 No one exercise is better than any other – what is important is finding an exercise you love, one that you want to do on a regular basis. Food should nourish you body and soul. Eating something “healthy” that you hate is not nourishing. I recently read “Fat Loss Happens on Monday” by Josh Hillis & Dan John and I love his approach to eating for weight loss – make one change at a time and eat whatever diet strikes your fancy that you think you can stick to.

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:36 pm

      hey hope. i couldn’t agree with you more. there is NO one answer or right thing but people sure are cashing in big on making it seem so. and yes, food should definitely nourish us, as should exercise. our bodies truly are temples and it’s our duty to take the best care of them. thanks for the book recommendation. i will check it out.

  • Libby March 18, 2015, 12:53 pm


  • Emily March 18, 2015, 1:09 pm

    Jen, THANK YOU for this post! I’ve been a reader for 5 years and while I love all of your posts, this one takes the cake (pun intended). <3

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:37 pm

      wow, thanks emily. first for reading for so long and second for the amazingly kind feedback. xoxo

  • Mary-Catherine March 18, 2015, 1:15 pm

    Such a wonderful and well-needed post – as someone who works with individuals who need additional support, whether via counseling or nutritionally, these topics need to be addressed and discussed. My head nodded at almost every word you typed – all so true, valid, and important! I hope the one who sent you the original letter might consider going to talk to someone…. it sounds like some of those voices are/have become unhealthy and that she could use a safe space to talk, process, and challenge them 🙂 Thanks again for a great post!!

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:38 pm

      hey mc – thanks for taking a minute to share your input. i really commend the important work you are doing. it is so needed. i totally agree that it would be so beneficial for her to talk to an outside professional. it’s so important to process this stuff before it progresses to a point that’s hard to return from.

  • tara March 18, 2015, 1:31 pm

    I relate to this writer and i am a bit older. I see a nutritionist as I am celiac and the diagnosis has led me to have lots of obsessions surrounding food – rightfully so in many ways as gluten was killing me from the inside. Since i have so many off limits foods and eating out is very difficult for me it led to odd thinking and what my nutritionist calls a disordered way of eating. not an eating disorder per se but now after months of mulling this over i agree with her. food is always on my mind, i exercise a lot, its hard not to obsess about it since i have to prepare so much and eating “well” makes me feel a lot better. What i struggle with is listening to my body. i guess i dont necessarily know what that means. sometimes i am craving lots of junk food, but thats not good for me so i shouldn’t give into that – at least not the amount of times i would like to !
    Another issue i have recently identified is that i dont have a goal on the scale which i always thought was a good thing. I have been focused on “feeling good and healthy”. Well i think somehow i have managed to take that to a negative spot where that “goal” is almost unattainable and maybe has nothing to do with food or exercise. At least a scale goal is measurable and you know when you are there….more of a “feeling” type goal i think is more mental and clouded with outside things (like if my jobs sucks i will “feel” bad and so is that clouding my idea of “health”). What this shows me is its such a hard thing to figure out. I journal my food trying to find what makes me full vs what doesnt, does sleep or lack of it play into my “hunger”, how do i know if i’m truly hungry, etc. and somehow i am struggling to find patterns. I also think its a bit about control. For example, i can control what i eat and if i exercise and theoretically i can control my weight. so its easy to obsess about this vs lets say your job. there are many things you cannot control about your job such as co-workers, availability, etc. I for one believe trying to be perfect and control my food and health and “punish” myself if i do “bad” is a reaction against all the things in life we cannot as easily control like work, relationships, etc. I also have an unhealthy type of idea that what i am eating and doing now will impact me later in life. again a great idea in theory but it can easily lead to “omg the cookie i just ate has some chemical that will give me cancer and i will die”. sounds crazy and its not like i went from A to B in a day, it was slow and over time. I’m told this is very common with celiacs especially in the beginning. The readers comment that she is at her wits end and just wants to find balance and enjoy life and stop obsessing is something i truly relate to and am just trying to find the HOW to do it. Thanks for this post and letting me ramble here in the comments : )

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:44 pm

      hey tara – i’m really grateful you took the time to share so openly and candidly. i am so sorry that you are having to live with celiac disease. i can only imagine how that must impact your relationship with food. it’s good to hear that you are working with a professional.

      have you tried taking the spotlight off of food and exercise? like not journaling or tracking food, weight, exercise, etc and just letting it be what it is? also, have you read danielle laporte’s “the desire map?” or gabby bernstein’s “spirit junkie.” while neither are diet books i think they could REALLY benefit you in regards to how you feel.

      • tara March 23, 2015, 12:48 pm

        thanks for your reply. Celiac is not that bad (there are far worse diseases) but it really does change the way you think of food. at least it has with me. journaling is a double edged sword for me. its great to keep my portions in line and to help me track which foods are filling me up or causing digestive discomfort BUT it can make you a little bit psycho. i do not count calories any longer because of that. though it was helpful to see the calories in some of my fave foods in my experience calorie counting over a long period of time leads to unhealthy behavior. thanks for the recommendation on the books. i’ve started Intuitive Eating which is supposed to help you figure out how to listen to your body. i think that’s the hardest thing for me. its almost like the celiac diagnosis changed how i view my physical inside since i really had no real digestive symptoms of celiac. it was like….i listened to my body for years and years and it “forgot” to tell me that it had celiac. so i think it created a bit of mistrust or idea that i wasn’t listening correctly or something. its very much a work in progress which i suppose it is for us all. I think its hard to with celiac as not only are you involved heavily in your food because you are different other people are also asking what you are eating, watching you in restaurants, etc. which can be very strange. its nice to read all these posts and know that i am not alone ! Someone commented to me once that no one has it all figured out some of us have just mastered having it look like we have so that makes me feel a bit better.

  • Paula March 18, 2015, 1:45 pm

    GIRL. HUGS. Jen, thank you so much for sharing and responding to this. I became anorexic in college with the same sort of confusion, and the amount of conflicting nutrition advice in the world is so much greater now than ever (thanks, internet!). People scoff at orthorexia being classified as an eating disorder, but obsessing over healthful diet can be equally – and sometimes more – dangerous as eating junk food all the time. Even now, 11 years later, I have to consciously remind myself in the face of all the exclusionary diet advice that I KNOW what works for my body. All I can say to the author of the letter is, fight that fight. Being cogniscent of the fact that your relationship with food is disordered is such an important step towards learning to live in harmony with your body. Many, many positive thoughts sent her way!!

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:46 pm

      hi paula – thank you for taking the time to comment. first, congratulations on your recovery. anorexia is such a terrible and tough disease. and i couldn’t agree with you more that the food obsession can be extremely dangerous as well.

  • A.P March 18, 2015, 2:07 pm

    I can resonate with the writer. i want to be healthy. I want to a have a healthful diet and I cannot seem to control myself around sweets, i.e. eating just one cookie. I also get how she can be concerned with going to a function and wondering what will be healthy there to eat. I don’t know how to not let it affect my quality of life. I just remind myself I feel better when I eat nutritionally dense foods.

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:47 pm

      hey a.p. – those are all tough things to deal with and you are not alone in your struggles with it. have you spoken to a professional about the way you feel?

  • Cassie March 18, 2015, 2:33 pm

    Another tip when it’s working is when you’re excited about eating!

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:47 pm

      cassie – what a true statement!

  • diana March 18, 2015, 3:02 pm

    I love this post. That is all. 🙂

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:48 pm

      thank you diana! xo <3

  • Noel March 18, 2015, 3:16 pm

    This post is amazing-thank you! I have read your blog and this is the first I have commented on. As women, we are always looking to our peers to find out what works in terms of fitness, eating, etc. “If I eat what she eats and work out like she does”-this attitude can be consuming and so the opposite of what we are striving for-good health!! Just last week, I pushed myself to get to just one more AM class at the gym when I knew I was coming down with a bug (and probably could have benefitted from another hour of sleep). When I didn’t listen to my individual body, guess who wound up sick for the past week? I needed to hear this today-eat well, sleep well, and customize your fitness to you! Thanks again.

  • Hillary | Nutrition Nut on the Run March 18, 2015, 3:25 pm

    Great post, Jen. This definitely “hit home” as an IIN Health Coach. I work with clients on just this – tuning IN, listening to their own body (not a magazine or friend or celebrity diet). What you’ve described is what we call Bioindividuality (in IIN terms). One’s person’s food is another person’s poison. I love working with my clients on intuitive eating and discovering a trusting relationship with their own body.

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:49 pm

      thank you hillary. i really appreciate the work you are doing as a health coach. thank you for putting a term to my philosophy. i love it.

  • Joy March 18, 2015, 3:55 pm

    What a wonderful post, Jen.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. I try and eat very healthy, but certainly allow myself treats and my favorite food (pizza!) in moderation.

    I do try and avoid refined sugar because I found that eating it makes me feel terrible. And in order to not perpetuate the theory that what’s right for me is right for others, whenever I turn down an offered sugary treat from a friend or someone at work I just say, “no thanks” instead of saying something like, “no, I don’t eat refined sugar.” I’ve heard others say things like that and I feel like it implies that others should follow the same rules that they do.

    • tara March 19, 2015, 1:39 pm

      excellent point ! why respond so judgey !

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:51 pm

      hi joy. thank you.

      thank you for sharing how you handle turning down a food that doesn’t work for you without putting guilt on others about it. that is really, really helpful.

  • Leanne March 18, 2015, 4:01 pm

    Thank you so much for posting about this topic. Like the gal who emailed you, I struggle with the same problem. I’ve been trying to educate myself but feel so lost on where to even begin. I want to “Do Me” but it is difficult to find where to begin with all of the contradicting information and all of the suggestions that “nutrition guru’s” provide. I can’t afford nutrition counseling so I am having to investigate on my own which can be a very daunting task. I’m lucky that I feel that I have found my niche for fitness but nutrition is the area that I struggle with. Posts like this definitely help provide some reassurance that there is no clear cut way of how I can obtain a well balanced health and that I need to continue researching how to “Do Me”. Thank you Jen!

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:53 pm

      hi leanne – so on where to begin…strip it down to basics. don’t follow any one diet, don’t do research. just do all things in moderation and see how you feel. be a total observer of your body. you should see signs when things are or are not working for you if you listen. you can figure this out. remember, your body is your most prized possession. treat it so well and love it.

  • Cassie March 18, 2015, 4:12 pm

    This was so helpful to me, thank you!

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:53 pm

      you’re welcome. thanks cassie.

  • Sarah @ KS Runner March 18, 2015, 4:17 pm

    Her letter breaks my heart! It is so hard to understand what is best for you when there is so much information out there that is saying that X is bad…well, sure for some people maybe, but likely not everyone. So many people think gluten is bad but many don’t even know what it is! You are so right that it really is about finding out what works for you and what doesn’t. Great post!

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:54 pm

      i know sarah, it’s such an epidemic in both our society and in blogging culture.

  • Erin March 18, 2015, 5:05 pm

    Fantastic post. As someone in recovery from anorexia I cannot agree more. I hope you write more posts like this.

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 7:55 pm

      thanks erin. i am wishing you you strength and happiness in your recovery. thanks for the encouragement to write more on these kinds of topics.

  • Petria March 18, 2015, 6:18 pm

    Excellent post Jen.

  • Amanda March 18, 2015, 7:20 pm

    Hi Jen,
    Do you have any input on what kind of specialist can help me figure out what kind of eating plan would help me “do me”. I’m definitely falling in the category of what I’m doing is “not working.

  • Cat March 18, 2015, 8:26 pm

    Wow. I can definitely relate to having these feelings at some point. I too, tried so hard at one point in time that I would feel guilty after eating “poorly” or straying from healthy foods. I think it’s important to note that these feelings are unhealthy as well. I used to try so hard to eliminate foods that were bad, even to the point I would get anxiety going to eat somewhere I couldn’t find a really healthly option, especially since I knew I would want the pizza! I finally got to the point I realized this wasn’t healthy and I wasn’t living a fun life! I tried so hard to limit grains for instance, and always felt tired and exhausted. I finally saw that my body needed these things! Scrutinizing everything that goes into your body is just exhausting. I now find it much easier to eat healthy 80%(ish) of the time and just let myself eat whatever I want the rest. This definitely helped. I don’t have any issues with most foods, so I think eating a balanced diet such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains and protein, ease my fears of being “unhealthy” the rest of the time. I think the most important thing is to be happy! If you find yourself feeling like this towards eating, especially if you feel bad, something has got to change.

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 8:00 pm

      hey cat – i totally agree that it’s important to realize when food starts to become associated with a lot of guilt. i’m really happy to read that you have found more balance with food. i also love the 80/20 ratio and it really works for me. and i also don’t have issues with most foods so i feel grateful for that.

  • Emily @ My Healthyish Life March 18, 2015, 8:54 pm

    “You do you” is one of my favorite sayings. It’s so simple, yet comprehensive in all aspects of life. There is so much comparison in this (blog) world and it’s easy to get trapped into thinking “I should be doing what she’s doing” regarding diet and fitness. For instance, Paleo. I’m gluten-free because of celiac disease but I feel like Paleo has taken over and it makes me question why I’m not apart of it (like it’s the cool club to join…). But I feel great eating how I do, so I take that as a sign that it’s working.

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 8:02 pm

      emily – i also love “you do you” as an overall life philosophy. it doesn’t matter whether it’s jobs, family choices, relationships, food, etc…no one but the person living it knows what it’s like!

  • Jaime March 19, 2015, 8:04 am

    Hi Jen – I’m a long-time reader, first time commenter! I loved this post! One of the things I’ve really struggled with over the years is the idea that sometimes what made us feel great at one point in our lives is no longer what we need and we have to be willing to let go of it and embrace change. For example, I used to LOVE intense workouts and group fitness classes, but over the past few years I’ve realized I much prefer exercising outside – riding my bike, hiking, kayaking, walking, etc. Exercise has become more about being a relaxing and energizing time to myself and less of a social experience, which I struggled accepting at first because I lost a lot of weight with group fitness. Recently I’ve also had to accept that I need to change how I eat. I had my gallbladder removed in November, and my digestion has been way off ever since. After some experimentation, I think I’ve finally figured out that I need to focus on eating small portions of food several times throughout the day. This has been a struggle because I’ve always been firmly in the camp of “three substantial meals a day.” Switching to smaller and more frequent meals has been a tough adjustment, but I can’t deny that my stomach tolerates them better than three big meals. I’m learning that sometimes what makes us feel good changes over time, and that’s okay.

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 8:05 pm

      jamie – thank you so much for reading and especially for taking a moment to comment. i’m really happy to hear that you enjoyed the post.

      i couldn’t hear you more on how difficult it is to accept sometimes that our needs change. it seems like they would just stay the same, right? but this applies to ALL areas of your life. sometimes things just don’t work anymore…jobs, relationships, exercise, etc.

      i’m happy to hear that even though it is scary you are embracing change. it’s inspirational. thank you for sharing.

  • Julie @ Running in a Skirt March 19, 2015, 8:49 am

    What a powerful message. I think we often decide it is all or nothing and right or wrong and forget that life is actually lived in a grey area. Also that no two people are the same.

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 8:06 pm

      thank you julie. it’s something that i feel very passionate about.

  • shannon March 19, 2015, 10:40 am

    i love the idea of this post. the reality is intuitive eating is super vague and if you hate food really far from being helpful. and loving my workouts drove me straight into over a month of being sick. my mind is going crazy wanting to start working out again and my body keeps telling me nope you still have different kinds of sick to experience. bit of a break after typing that part and i’ve realized over a month of no exercise has let LOTS of depression in. goody goody gumdrops! here’s hoping there are no GI distress occurrences today!!! 🙂

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 8:09 pm

      hey shannon, i think when you cross the line into hating food that it’s a red flag to get professional help. food is something that your body needs to survive. your body is the greatest gift you’ve been given. if you don’t take care of it and nourish it, there is no life. also, i totally get the depression that goes into not being able to move your body but there is so much more to love about life than exercise. i really hope that you’ll consider talking to someone.

  • Deanna March 19, 2015, 10:50 am

    I just want to hug her and tell her it will be ok. I tell all my friends who want to know what I did to get in shape, exactly what you said. Try things and see what works for YOU. I ran forever, but when I started to Crossfit and think about the food I put in my body (removed dairy, booze, grains) my body transformed and I became happier then ever.

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 8:10 pm

      thanks for the comment deanna and i’m really happy to hear you are sharing this important message.

  • Cassie March 19, 2015, 4:36 pm

    Wow, this was so helpful, thank you!

  • Joanna March 19, 2015, 6:13 pm

    This post and its comments are absolutely wonderful to read. I have struggled with anorexia for 5 years. While I have been at a healthy weight for a while now, I have found myself struggling now more than ever. I have found that many people who know me believe I am doing great simply because I no longer look sickly skinny. However, the amount of anxiety I have over food and body image is crazy. I am super healthy and overanalyze every single ingredient I put into my body. I am so rigid and cannot let myself loose around food. It is constantly something I think and worry about. Many people think that my “healthy eating” is great, but they do not realize the struggle I, and many other women who are like this, face daily. Thank you to all for sharing your stories and advice! I hope one day our minds can be at ease 🙂

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 8:12 pm

      hi joanna – i’m happy to hear that you found this post helpful. i’m so sorry that you are struggling with such a tough and terrible disease. i really hope that you continue your journey of healing and that you are able to continue to work on your relationship with food. remember that your body is the greatest gift you have been given and it is your duty to nourish it and treat it well. xo <3

  • Kate March 19, 2015, 10:09 pm

    This post came at the perfect time! In the past week I had the revelation that what I was doing fitness wise was NOT working for me. I’ve spent so much of my fitness life trying to follow certain “rules”, pre-scheduling all of my workouts, and feeling guilty when I wasn’t able to do my self prescribed workout. Lately this pressure is stopping me in my tracks, I’m doing no exercise as a way to avoid “failing” myself… and it’s not working. I’m now making a conscious effort not to plan exercise but to instead be more mindful of how my body is feeling and what my schedule allows for that given day and going with it. Jen, I so admire how you are able to be more mindful in terms of exercise and are open to letting fitness change week to week, season to season. I’m wondering if this was ever difficult for you to manage? Do you have tips or suggestions for following this style of exercise? I appreciate any advice you are able to share! Thank you for writing this blog, it is an inspiration and bright spot on the internet!

    • Jen March 20, 2015, 8:15 pm

      hi kate – i am happy to hear that you found this post helpful.

      i think my saving grace with exercise is that i love so many different forms of it. if i don’t feel like going to the gym, i go to yoga. if i don’t feel like running, maybe i feel like lifting instead. i don’t plan any of my workouts, i just ask my body what it needs that day. it usually gives me a pretty clear answer.

      it’s definitely an evolution. when i look back to the early days of this blog, it wasn’t abnormal for me to run 10 miles and then go teach a group strength class. there is NO WAY that would happen these days! 🙂

  • Jamie March 20, 2015, 11:33 pm

    There’s that Sister Hazel song I love:
    “If you want to be somebody else,
    If you’re tired of fighting battles with yourself…
    If you want to be somebody else,
    Change Your Mind!”
    And that’s that. 😉

  • Alicia March 21, 2015, 8:58 am

    Thank you for this post. It’s so real and is something I’ve been working on so its great to have all of this positively reinforced. I’m currently reading “Intuitive Eating” and highly recommend it. My goal is to live a balanced life. I’m getting there but still struggle with binging and bulimia from time to time. It’s not easy, but as you said it’s a process overtime. Thank you again!

  • tara March 23, 2015, 12:37 pm

    i would love to try the maple pecan one ! I LOVE kind bars as they are reliably GF and many are low in sugar. I’m thankful for finally completing a small home project that has taken forever and cost more than i thought it would and made the house a complete mess for the last month !

    • tara March 23, 2015, 12:48 pm

      sorry wrong post !

  • Keri November 8, 2016, 12:04 pm

    Jen- thank you so much for this well-written and affirming post! I’ve found a lot of what you write in your blog to be so positive and thought-provoking. As someone who is just beginning her journey to better health and conquering disordered eating, this recent post has given me a new perspective on finding balance and discovering what living my best life looks and feels like for me. Thanks for putting these thoughts into words most eloquently.

  • Julie Monahan June 13, 2017, 7:07 pm

    I love this post on so many levels. Extremely timely as I myself sent you a message based on much this same recently as well … I struggle. I struggle, I struggle, I struggle … and then I (a) realize how ridiculous I am (worried so much about the ‘effects’ of certain foods / lack of ‘health benefits’ etc and eat everything in sight (b) get overwhelmed with all the information and say “screw it” and eat everything in sight (c) go with the flow of everyone else I am with and eat everything in sight. Bottom line: I BINGE. Even before I became extremely concerned with certain foods I would do the same – but I feel like the more I focus on it the more I have this type of pattern / vicious cycle…. I am very all or nothing and LOVE sugar … I definitely do MUCH better abstaining. I don’t crave it and actually have MUCH more energy and feel amazing. The problem which makes NO SENSE is that as soon as I do feel so good I end up wanting to “celebrate with FOOD!” My husband and I are “foodies” and I do get a lot of joy and pleasure out of foodies – but also guilt and shame. I felt like I was just in phase, but I’ve been here a while now ….

    • Julie Monahan June 13, 2017, 7:10 pm

      I have definitely formed a “GOOD FOOD” vs “BAD FOOD” on certain things now too … Right now a battle is WHOLE and NATURAL vs “THE OTHERS” … Just for the sake of an example … I use to enjoy Quest bars – now I feel like I should only eat an RX bar and worry about all the ingredients in processed foods … But on many levels I’m like, “WELL – it’s true! One is definitely better than the other!” But ??? Sigh.

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