Stacie Tovar drinks coffee

I am recognizing that food is my friend and that eliminating foods completely from my diet only causes me to feel shame, guilt, denial and more stress, writes Stacie Tovar.

Did you start your year off on a diet? Have you eliminated Snickers candy bars from your lunch bag, ice cream from your nightly dessert and limited your wine intake to one or two glasses a week? Yeah, I feel you, and trust me, I get it. Food can be confusing and frustrating.

I'm a few weeks into a 54-day nutrition challenge at the gym my husband and I own, CrossFit Omaha, and already I learned there's only one way to win this battle. By telling myself that I am not on a diet. Rather, I am participating in a nutrition challenge to learn a thing or two or five about what I am putting in my body. I am recognizing that food is my friend and that eliminating foods completely from my diet only causes me to feel shame, guilt, denial and more stress. 

Food should not be your enemy. If you like to eat a bowl of popcorn at night, awesome! Have a bowl of popcorn. When I'm cooking dinner, I like to munch on salty corn tortilla chips — that mouth-watering delicious salty brown bag found in the deli at Whole Foods. With the help of the nutrition challenge, I discovered I wasn't just having a bowl of corn tortilla chips — I was having an entire bag of corn tortilla chips a week. Yep, true story. Am I going to stop eating corn tortilla chips? No. Am I going to limit my intake and be more aware of the quantity of chips I'm crunching down? You bet! 

The point is, don't be afraid to eat the things you enjoy. Yes, some things just need to go, but most of it just needs to be consumed in moderation.

To help, I recommend keeping a food journal by logging your food intake for 30 days. Journaling will help you identify those over-consumed items in your diet that might be loaded with sugar, sprinkled with heaven, breaded, fried or even freaky fast.

Write it. Type it. Just put it all down somewhere. If there's a glaring weakness, you'll see the trend plain as day, just like I did. Then you will have the ability to decide where you want to cut back and when you want to indulge. It still takes discipline, but knowing is half the battle.

We’ve seen our gym members identify food sensitivities that caused them uncomfortable digestive issues through the journaling process. It started with being able to identify foods they were overeating. They then eliminated them from their diet one by one to see how it made them feel. Through that process of elimination, they identified the types of foods — and sometimes ingredients — that didn't necessarily agree with their gut. Now they have the power to avoid certain foods and curb those uncomfortable responses.

Journaling may not work for you, but we have literally had hundreds of clients find success and education through the journaling process. I am one of them, and I encourage you to give this a try. Consider turning to a registered dietitian or doctor for guidance, particularly if you suspect food sensitivities or allergies.

Find a friend or accountability partner and journal together. Your body might just love you for it.

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