My Q&A this week is with Nicole Antoinette. I was searching online for recipes and came across Nicole’s work and fell in love with it. Nicole is an author, coach, and trainer that specializes in bullshit-free strategies for building a life you can love. Her blog is called A Life Less Bullshit. With some fun blog titles like, How To Grab The Next Six Months By The Balls and What Spinach Taught Me About Sex, I had to talk to Nicole.
1. You made some big changes in your life with your fitness and well being, can you tell us a little bit about your story and some of the things that led you to making your blog and the work you do today?
Absolutely, Adam – and thanks so much! Honestly, when I think about how much my life has changed in the past few years, I sometimes can’t believe it. In the extreme nutshell version, I’d tell you that I went from being very drunk, very lazy, and plagued with a six-year bout of insomnia to having just celebrated my two year sober-versary while kicking off a running schedule that has me training to run from Los Angeles to NYC in March 2015.
Cracking that nutshell open a little bit, though, it all goes back to early 2011 when I was sitting in an acupuncturist’s office – my last ditch effort to find a cure for my insomnia – which lead me to learn that I’m allergic to alcohol. Once I quit drinking, I started sleeping almost immediately, and that was the domino change that lead me to getting started with distance running, quitting sugar, cutting out animal products, and basically rebuilding my personal life and habits from scratch.
All throughout that time, I was chronically my experience on a personal blog I’d had since 2007 – particularly the emotional challenges that come with changing your life – and I started to get more and more emails from readers who were interested in making similar changes and wanted me to help guide them, answer their questions, share my tips and resources, etc. At that point, I was also informally coaching a few of my friends in how to get started with running, how to make the changes they wanted to make in their eating habits, and how to better manage their time to achieve their goals, which I absolutely loved doing.
Then, during the summer of 2012, I really started paying attention to the types of questions I was being asked, and I saw that they all centered around running, clean eating, and goal setting – the three areas of my life I was personally most passionate about – and I started to brainstorm what it would look like to do something more “official” with the real life experience I had gained in these topics. It was right around that time that I was asked to speak at World Domination Summit – to just give a 5-minute talk on how running has changed my life – and the positive response I got from that talk alone made me realize that it was time to take things to the next level. From there, I started to draw lines around my ideas of how to go from having a personal blog to having a full-fledged business that could really help people, and I decided to take a step to gauge the interest of my audience. So, I wrote my first ebook – Stop Making Excuses & Start Running – and give it away for free to everyone who joined the Life Less Bullshit email list. At this point I was still running everything from my old domain, my personal blog, and it was really just a way to test the water. Then, based on the feedback from that free ebook, I decided to create a full-scale beginner’s half marathon training program, and from there I’ve built one thing after another under the Life Less Bullshit umbrella and I’m now about to celebrate one month of being completely full-time with this as my business – and I love it more every single day!
2. When it comes to our health many of us think in terms of supplements. What can I consume, to make ‘this’ happen? From what I have seen of your work you are a strong component of whole food nutrition. In a culture where many of us are looking for a magic bullet in a sense, we try a lot of stuff. What do you think we need to know about eating whole foods?
The single best food advice I’ve ever heard is this: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Truthfully, I could quote Michael Pollan all day long. His books are glorious, and if you only live by one nutrition principle for the rest of your life, let this quote be it. These seven words tell you everything you need to know about nutrition, and I want to break them down into the three separate pieces of advice Pollan is really giving us here.
The first, which seems simple, is to “eat food.” Well of course, right? Obviously we have to eat food. But wait, don’t dismiss that. What he’s really saying here is that we need to eat real food, as in: food that isn’t processed and packaged. Said a different way: if it has a list of ingredients, it’s probably not real food. A cucumber doesn’t come in a box, and it doesn’t need a list of ingredients to tell you what’s in it. You know what’s in it? Fucking cucumber. This is what’s meant by “eat food.” As Pollan says, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
Pollan’s second piece of advice, “Not too much,” obviously refers to quantity. The idea is to eat enough so that you’re full, but that’s it. Easier said than done, right? (Hiiiii, entire bag of salt & vinegar chips!) But, honestly, if you’re eating the real foods discussed above, it’s actually not that hard. I mean, when’s the last time you got stressed out and binge-ate broccoli? I’m guessing never. For me, I apply this part of Pollan’s advice to the way I structure and time my daily meals. To keep my blood sugar consistent and avoid those dreaded mid-morning and mid-afternoon energy crashes, I eat six times a day. Because of how often I eat, I stick to smaller portions for each of those meals, and this one change has revolutionized the way I feel. My energy levels are maintained, and I avoid that gross food-coma feeling that used to be such a regular part of my every day life. On a typical day, I eat at 7am, 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm, and 9pm, and I’ve found that eating smaller but more frequent meals is a great way to implement Pollan’s “not too much” advice. If you’re struggling with an easy way to start eating 5-6 mini meals, just make 3 “regular” meals and split them in half. It’s a great place to start!
Lastly, Pollan advises us to eat mostly plants. Personally, I’ve taken this one step further because I only eat plants, but it’s important to note that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you choose to consume meat and other animal products, go for it, just remember that the majority of your diet should be made up of plants – specifically vegetables. And that’s the interesting thing with all the different “diets” out there – even though they often preach contradictory things, I challenge you to find one reputable source that says we shouldn’t be eating a shit ton of vegetables. That’s the key here, I think, to eat more vegetables, because if you’re filling your day with lots of fresh vegetables, then by default you’re eating real food and not eating too much. If there’s a nutritional moral to this story, vegetables are it.
3. I love Michael Pollan’s work and I use his advice in my life as well. It’s simple, but yet powerful. Nicole, at Draw Me Sexy, sexy to us is fun, confidence, passion, and living well. I think it all starts with what we put into our bodies because without the proper fuel we can’t do much of anything. You can be passionate all you want but without the fuel we will burn out at some point. For someone looking for the confidence and passion to pursue their goals, could you give two or three things we could do today to make that happen?
I couldn’t agree with you more about how crucial it is to fuel your body well. And honestly, it’s such a frequently overlooked aspect of success. But here’s the thing: Your body is fueled by what you eat. The better you eat, the better you feel, and the better you perform at just about everything.
You can’t fill your car’s gas tank with Diet Coke and expect it to work – cars don’t run on Diet Coke – just like you can’t dump crap into your body and expect to stay healthy and perform well.
There’s no way around it: Nutrition plays an enormous role in every single aspect of our lives – everything from how well we sleep to how stable our moods are to how creative and alert we are. And on one hand this is a blessing, because changing what you’re eating and drinking is one of the simplest ways to radically improve your health, mood, happiness, and efficiency. But, on the other hand, just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that truly overhauling your food habits is one of the toughest things you will ever do, because although we can all intellectually agree that what we eat significantly impacts how healthy and fit we are, emotionally it’s a whole other story.
So, for someone looking to boost both confidence and passion in order to be their best possible self, nutrition is an awesome place to start. But that doesn’t just mean eating more “good” foods and fewer “bad” foods, because that’s not the root of it, right? And sustainable change comes from going straight to the source. So, with that in mind, here are a few ways to kick things off as you transition into treating food as fuel for your body:
In order to figure out which foods make you feel your best, you need to be willing to experiment. You don’t know how something will make you feel unless you try it, and the raw, honest truth is that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all eating plan. Believe me, I wish it were that simple. But, no two ideal diets are the same because no two people are the same, so even though there are a handful of definitive guidelines that you can follow on the path toward good health, the only way you’re going to know what truly works for you is to try different things and see what happens. Just like with anything else, there’s no room for perfectionism when you’re making changes to your eating habits, so you need to ditch your strict inner schoolteacher and put on an experimental, science-y lab coat instead. Try things. Do they make you feel good? Awesome, keep doing them. Do they make you feel bad? Try something else, and then something else, until you start to see food patterns that make sense for YOU.
Be honest about your triggers
I truly believe that we all want to be as healthy as possible. The trouble isn’t that we don’t want it, the trouble is that we’re often not willing to sacrifice the things we need to sacrifice to get it. Because that’s what it feels like in the beginning, a sacrifice. If you’ve spent 20+ years using certain foods as coping mechanisms, you can’t make sudden changes and not expect to feel some pretty intense growing pains. Real change takes time, and it has to be earned, but you’ll go a long way toward helping yourself if you’re able to understand which behaviors trigger the food habits you’re trying to change. For example, I’ve learned that I make my worst food choices when I’m overwhelmed. When it’s an incredibly busy work day and I’m stressed and starving and I just need to eat whatever I can get my hands on so that I can go back to whatever I’m doing as fast as possible. In those situations, chips seem like a perfectly appropriate lunch. But, now that I’ve identified this type of situation as a trigger, I work hard to avoid it by always keeping fresh vegetables chopped and ready to go in the fridge, which means that throwing together a salad takes almost the same amount of time as reaching for the chips. Once you understand your triggers and the patterns that lead you from point A (your emotion) to point B (your food choice), you can work to reroute yourself.
Write it all down
Keep a food journal. Keep a food journal, keep a food journal, keep a food journal. I can’t say this enough. Tracking everything you eat, especially at the beginning, will help you reach success in a few powerful ways. First, knowing that you have to write everything down helps you make your food choices with more intention. You’re tracking what you’re eating, and that often makes you want to eat better. Second, writing down not just what you ate, but which emotions were attached to it and how you felt before and after can really help get to the heart of some of your triggers. And, lastly, having a record of what you’ve eaten is the only way to see big picture patterns. If you’re having mid-morning stomach cramps on certain days, you can look back and see what you ate in the 24 hours leading up to those days and start to identify which foods to experiment with. More than anything, a food journal gives you data, and analyzing data is what allows you to make serious progress.
And progress is what we’re after, right? Progress that helps us feel like our most ass-kicking selves
That is exactly why I wanted to do a Q&A with you, Nicole. If anyone could help bring our most ass-kicking selves to the surface you could! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us.
For more of Nicole’s work, please visit: http://www.lifelessbullshit.com