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How to have a Healthy Relationship with Food

How to Have a Healthy Relationship with Food

I think it’s a fair assumption that most of us here at CrossFit Relentless are fairly health conscious. We are, after all, members of a CrossFit gym. As health conscious people, we’re also aware that nutrition and eating habits play a very big role in our overall health and fitness (if you weren’t, you are now).  However, many of us can take things too far when it comes to nutrition. While anorexia and bulimia are extreme examples, it is possible to develop an unhealthy relationship with food without reaching those levels. These unhealthy relationships can lead to poor nutrition and exercise habits. The goal of this article is to discuss indicators of an unhealthy relationship with food, and strategies for developing a healthier one.

When it comes to nutrition and lifestyle, the most important aspect for getting results and staying healthy is consistency. Eating healthy consistently will yield better results than the occasional 30-day challenge, followed by months of poor habits. Whatever dietary lifestyle you choose needs to be sustainable. Eating 100% clean all year long isn’t sustainable for most of us. It leads to mental burn out, and psychological cravings for a binge. If you’re seriously prepping for a competition, dialing in your nutrition leading up to the competition is imperative. The rest of the year, try to eat healthy 80% of the time.

Eating 80% healthy does not mean that you get a weekly binge day. It means you get to treat yourself occasionally (a couple times a week, not at every meal). This brings us to an important strategy for healthy eating and having a healthy relationship with food – the idea of a treat. With terms like “King Sized” and “Big Gulp” and “Super-Sized”, the idea of a treat has largely been lost in this country. A treat should be a small indulgence that helps to satisfy a craving. It is also important to remove the word “cheat” from your lexicon. A treat has a positive connotation, while a cheat has a negative one. For example, a couple of Oreos is a treat. An entire sleeve is not. Try to save treats for days on which you exercise, and make sure to eat them after getting in your protein and greens.

If you don’t have the willpower to stop after treating yourself, and are worried that you will binge, fear not! You can try to find a buffer food. A buffer food is something with a similar flavor that will give you a taste of what you’re craving, without pushing you over the edge. For example, I love milk chocolate. With Halloween around the corner and candy EVERYWHERE, I know that I’m going to have a hard time stopping with a single fun sized Kit Kat bar. Rather than risk crushing an entire bag of Kit Kats (I’ve done this on numerous occasions), I eat chocolate rice cakes. They have just enough of a chocolate taste to satisfy my craving without the sugar triggering a desire for more. This is huge for me right now because I’m in a weight cut and can’t afford a binge.

Jumbo Bags are Single Serving, am I right? Jumbo Bags are Single Serving, am I right?

After my meet in November, when I no longer need to cut weight, you can be sure that I’m going to binge. For those of you not in competition season, the occasional binge is a good thing (by occasional, I mean monthly at most, not weekly). The emotional and mental benefit from a binge will make sticking to your 80% healthy eating much easier. If you know you’re going to binge, enjoy it and get it out of your system, but don’t make it a weekly habit. Again, your diet should be sustainable. Weekly binges usually lead to weight gain, and this is not sustainable for health. Oscar Wilde said it best, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Epic binge day! Courtesy of Health and Fitness Magazine Epic binge day! Courtesy of Health and Fitness Magazine

Finally, to have a healthy relationship with food, it is important that you do not beat yourself up over bad decisions. If you don’t make the best choice for a meal, it’s not the end of the world. Nor is it an excuse to throw discipline to the wind and have an unscheduled binge you had a stack of pancakes for breakfast. Similarly, don’t try to punish yourself at the gym to “burn off the _________ “you had with lunch. This mindset leads to the association of exercise with punishment. Exercise is a good thing, not a punishment. If you made a poor nutritional choice, shake it off and make a better decision with the next meal rather than dwelling on it and feeling guilty. Remember that you are always one meal away from getting back on track.

Ditch this attitude Ditch this attitude

At the end of the day, our goal at CrossFit Relentless is to encourage healthy living. A diet is temporary, a lifestyle is sustainable. To make sure that you have a healthy relationship with food, remember these key strategies:

  • Eat healthy 80% of the time all year long rather than doing the occasional challenge or cleanse
  • Embrace the term “treat”, and ditch the term “cheat”
  • Treat yourself a couple times weekly, binge infrequently
  • Use buffer foods if you’re worried about lack of willpower between binges
  • Exercise for fun, not for punishment
  • Food is a pleasure, so enjoy your binges and stop it with the guilt
  • Take it meal by meal, and remember that it only takes 1 meal to get back on track

Nutrition 101

The point of last week’s article was that what you do outside the gym is even more important than what you do inside. This includes nutrition and recovery. Nutrition is a HUGE topic, and a small series of blog posts could never cover everything. There are general rules, and exceptions to every rule. The bottom line when it comes to nutrition is that everyone is different, and it must be taken on a case by case basis. In order to find what works best for you, you need to have an understanding of basic nutrition. This article is the first step in getting there. It covers basic terms, descriptions of the macronutrients, and so on. I hope you find it helpful, especially as a reference for future articles talking about nutritional strategies.

calorie (lower case c):

What is it?

  • A calorie is a unit of energy. More precisely, it represents the energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius at a pressure of one atmosphere.

Why do I need it?

  • See “Calorie”

Where do I get it?

  • See “Calorie”

How much do I need?

  • See “Calorie”

Calorie (capital C):


What is it?

  • Also called a Kilocalorie (kcal), these are the Calories referred to on Nutrition Fact labels
  • 1 Calorie is equal to 1000 calories
  • Like a calorie, a kcal is a unit of energy – specifically, the energy found in your food.

Why do I need it?

  • You need Calories to survive. Our bodies burn Calories to fuel all cellular functions that keep us alive.

Where do I get it?

  • Calories are found in all food

How much do I need?

  • This depends on your goals. For weight loss, you need to be in a caloric deficit. For weight gain, you need to be in a caloric surplus. To maintain, you need enough Calories to sustain your current bodyweight.
    • Caloric deficit – consuming fewer calories than you burn. This is necessary for weight loss.
    • Caloric surplus – consuming more calories than you burn. This is necessary for weight gain.


  • A measurement of mass, including lean body mass and fat mass
    • Geek speak: theforce that gravitation exerts upon a body, equal to themass of the body times the local acceleration of gravity:

Lean Body Mass

  • Mass including bone, body water, muscle mass, and organ mass

Fat Mass

  • Mass including adipose tissue (body fat) and intra-tissue fat deposits

Body Composition

  • Ratio of fat mass or lean body mass to total weight (e.g. 15% body fat)


What is it?

  • A type of nutrient (e.g., fat, protein, carbohydrate) required in large amounts in the human diet for survival

Why do I need it?

  • Each macronutrient has a specific purpose in the human body. See each section below for more information

Where do I get it?

  • All food is comprised of macronutrients
    • 1g protein = 4 Calories
    • 1g carbohydrates = 4 Calories
    • 1g fat = 9 Calories

How much do I need?

  • A basic diet should be comprised of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat. These percentages change based on activity level, type of activity, and specific goals, but they represent a good starting point.



What is it?

  • Protein is a macronutrient comprised of long chains of amino acids
    • Geek speak: an amino acid is a simple organic compound containing both a carboxyl (—COOH) and an amino (—NH2) group

Why do I need it?

  • Build muscle
  • Burn fat
  • Boost recovery and immune health
  • Make peptide hormones (e.g. HGH, insulin, etc.)
  • Improve digestion

Where do I get it?

  • Lean red meat such as beef, pork, wild game
  • Poultry such as chicken or turkey
  • Fish & seafood such as shrimp, scallops, salmon
  • Eggs & egg whites
  • Cottage cheese or Greek yogurt
  • Plant proteins such as lentils, beans, tempeh, and tofu
  • Protein powder such as whey, casein, egg, vegetarian blends, etc.


How much do I need?

  • Somewhere between 1 gram per pound of lean body mass, and 1 gram per pound of total weight (~.75g per lb of total bodyweight is a good starting point) depending on goals.


What is it?

  • Any of a large group of organic compounds occurring in foods and living tissues and including sugars, starch, and cellulose.
    • Geek speak: a biological molecule consisting of carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) atoms, usually with a hydrogen–oxygen atom ratio of 2:1

Why do I need it?

  • Maintain low stress hormones (cortisol)
  • Ensure healthy thyroid function
  • Keep sex hormones healthy (testosterone and estrogen)
  • Build/maintain muscle
  • Preserve high intensity performance
  • Sleep well and recover more efficiently

Where do I get it?

  • Good carbs are minimally processed, have lots of vitamins and minerals, and digest slowly
  • Fruit
  • Starchy tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, yucca, etc.)
  • Less processed whole grains (barley, buckwheat, brown/wild rice, oats, quinoa, whole wheat, etc.)
  • Beans, lentils, and legumes


How much do I need?

  • Enough to fuel performance and goals
    • Anywhere from 1-1.5 times as much protein, depending on fat loss/muscle gain goals


What is it?

  • Anyof several white or yellowish greasy substances, forming the chiefpart of adipose tissue of animals and also occurring in plants
    • Geek speak: also called a triglyceride, a fat molecule is comprised of 3 fatty acids and a glycerol. Fats can be saturated or unsaturated depending on the number of double bonds in the molecule between carbon atoms

Why do I need it?

  • Burn body fat and build muscle (FAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT)
  • Ensure proper cellular function (in skin, brain, and organs)
  • Build a strong immune system
  • Absorb fat soluble nutrients (including vitamins A, D, E &K)
  • Provide satiety between meals

Where do I get it?

  • Healthy fats are naturally occurring and minimally processed
  • Nuts, seeds, avocados, pressed or ground nuts (butters)
  • Also in egg yolks and fish/red meat


How much do I need?

  • After determining protein and carb intake, enough fat is needed to hit your caloric goal

Our Golden Ratio

Our Golden Ratio

Hi everyone, I’ve been incredibly delinquent in my writing lately, and for that I apologize. I’m getting back on track with this article.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a little bit of math nerd. Using math to solve problems is fun for me, as is pattern recognition. Theoretical math is also really interesting. Take, for instance, the Golden Ratio (also called the Divine Proportion). This ratio is achieved when (a+b)/a is equal to a/b, and is denoted by the symbol φ. It is a ratio found a lot in nature – it gives snail shells their spiral pattern, and it can be found in the ratio of smaller to larger branches in a number of trees.


Leonardo Da Vinci used this ratio when drawing his Vitruvian Man, and our own ideas of what makes someone physically attractive have a lot to do with how their bone structure and facial proportions fit this ratio. There’s a lot more that I could talk about with the Golden Ratio, but hopefully you get the idea.


When it comes to CrossFit, and training in general, we have our own Golden Ratio. This ratio is 23/1. CrossFit classes last 1 hour, which leaves another 23 hours in the day. What we do in those other 23 hours greatly impacts our 1 hour in the gym, and our fitness and health in general. This includes our sleeping habits, eating and drinking habits, mobility work, and activity level outside the gym.

If you’re not regularly sleeping 7-8 hours a night, it’s going to be harder for you to recover from a tough hour in the gym. This will make subsequent workouts less productive. Furthermore, this can add to your overall stress. Training is a stress on the body, and too much stress can drain you. The body doesn’t distinguish whether the stress is good or bad; all it sees is the cumulative amount.  Some is good, it causes you to adapt. Too much is bad.


I’m sure everyone has heard the saying “you can’t out-train a bad diet.” This is true for the most part. If you’re eating highly processed foods, you’re not going to recover as well from a hard workout. To make things worse, you won’t have the right fuel to help your body perform at its optimal level during your next workout. This means that your training is going to be less effective. Finally, if you’re trying to lose weight, you’re going to have a much harder time if you’re not watching your diet (more on this in future articles).

As far as mobility is concerned, foam rolling and dynamic stretching before a workout are great steps, but they’re only going to get you so far. If you have serious mobility problems, such as an inability to lock your arms straight out overhead or hit full depth in a squat, a simple pre workout routine isn’t going to be enough. If you don’t take some time outside the gym to work on these issues, you won’t be able to correct your problems.

Finally, if you’re very active outside the gym, it could have an impact on what you do inside the gym. If you play in a recreational sports league and constantly get hurt playing games, it’s going to keep you from working out while you heal. If you have a job that requires a lot of manual labor, or if you’re busy with kids all day, it’s going to be harder for you to muster the energy to work out. While most of these things can’t be avoided, it’s important to be aware of the impact that they have. Always keep our golden ratio in mind. I’ll be expanding on nutrition and mobility in future posts, but that’s all for now.

CrossFit Relentless

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