“You Don’t Have to Eat Salads Every Day.”
Finding the Right Balance Between Diet & Exercise a Chat With an Infamous Fitness Mom
Navigating the diet and exercise landscape can be a daunting journey. There are no shortages of dieting methods or advice from the Mediterranean Diet and the Dash Diet to the Mind Diet or KETO. The same goes for workouts. There's HIIT, Isometrics, Bodyweight, Cardio, and more. How can you blame people for throwing up their hands in frustration after doing an Internet search or flipping through their social media feeds looking for answers?
Well, we were able to grab a few minutes with an infamous fitness mom, Laura Tarbell, to cut through the noise.
If you don't know Laura, she's first and foremost a dedicated mother of two sets of twins, which makes her list of accomplishments even more impressive. She's a cover model, national bodybuilding title holder, certified personal trainer, nutritionist, and pilates instructor. She's the author of several books and training programs, including her most recent training program, "Tread & Tone," available on TriadXP.
In this exclusive interview with TriadXP's Eisha Bukhari, Laura dispels the myths, clears up the confusion, and shares her go-to tips on how to balance your diet and exercise plans.
Let's get started.
Eisha: Good morning, Laura. Thanks for joining us. Like many of us, the pandemic hasn't made things any easier for you. In fact, I understand you added another title to your growing list: Teacher. Wow. Homeschooling four children must be quite the challenge. How are you managing that?
Laura: Well, the school year is behind us now, it was great but a lot different than I anticipated. I’m a former elementary school music teacher, so I had some idea of what to expect, but teaching your own children and covering all subjects was quite a challenge. Some days we had school with our pajamas still on, but we managed just like many other families did I’m sure. This year was certainly different and my kids are looking forward to going back to school in person in the fall and I am excited for them as well.
Eisha: Well, we appreciate you making time for us. Not unlike many fitness communities, we have folks in the Triad community who want to lose weight. In our last blog post, we talked about the importance of diet. I'm curious what role do you feel food or diet plays in the weight loss journey?
Laura: Diet plays a huge role. However, activity is a major player as well because it determines the output of calories on a daily basis. In order to lose weight, you have to be in a calorie deficit. So if you're not logging your nutrition or tracking it in some way, you'll quickly push yourself out of the calorie deficit you need to catalyze weight loss.
Eisha: With all the dieting options out there, what tips do you have to help folks in our community move towards a healthy diet?
Laura: I'm all about creating a diet that is easy for the person to follow with the least amount of barriers. I'm a big proponent of buying all of the proportion oatmeal packets, the pre-portioned rice that you can microwave real quickly, even rice cakes. The key is to make it really simple for someone to start setting up their diet without needing to get a scale-out all the time to measure everything.
Many people think they have to die in a specific way, but if you're trying to follow a diet that you don't enjoy, you're never going to sustain it. So finding something long-term is significant.
Another tip that I would say for beginners is to make sure you're getting enough protein. That's one thing that people fall short of all the time, and it's a lot easier to get protein. You can make protein shakes, use collagen powders, and things like that to help boost your protein intake. Protein has the highest thermic effect of the three macronutrient groups, so getting enough protein helps support muscle retention and gives you that extra little calorie burn.
Eisha: These tips remind me of what psychologists call "activation energy." It's the energy required to create a habit. The more energy needed to develop a habit, the harder it is to adopt it. All of your tips reduce the amount of activation energy, making it easier for people to create the proper habits that will help them manage their diet better. Brilliant tips.
You coach a lot of people on nutrition. What do you find are some of the biggest misconceptions that people believe or learn about nutrition?
Laura: The biggest misconception I hear from people is that to eat healthy, "you have to eat salads all the time!" Many of the people I see believe that there is no room for the foods that you love, like donuts or a cheeseburger. If you are eating healthy 90% of the time, you have some wiggle room in there to eat something you enjoy without having to feel guilty about it. Carrying around guilt for eating those fun foods that aren't super nutrient-dense occasionally is one of the things that actually holds us back from healthy eating.
Eisha: Yep. As they say, don't let perfect get in the way of good, especially when you're just starting your journey. So, we've talked about setting yourself up for success and setting realistic goals or expectations like not going off the deep end if you're 90% adherent. Tell us a bit about how people should navigate dieting?
Laura: The key is really trying to figure out what's good for your body. Dieting is trial and error, and it's essential to see how it fits with you and your preferences. I'm a big proponent of flexible dieting where you've got a specific set of protein, carbs, and fats that you need to eat each day, but it's really, you know, individualized. I follow Dr. Bill Campbell, a research scientist out of Florida State and an expert on dieting and macro tracking. As long as you stay within your calorie goals for the day, whether those calories are coming from fats or coming from carbs is totally up to the individual. It's about trying things and seeing what works best for you.
Eisha: As a professional trainer, athlete, bodybuilder, and personal trainer whose experienced and coached people across a wide range of training methods and goals. Tell us your thoughts about targeted workouts? Do you think they're gimmicks, or do you think they actually work?
Laura: For weight loss it doesn't really work like that! Your body is going to lose weight proportionally, the way it naturally and genetically will lose it. When it comes to athletes, sometimes we can build more muscle in certain areas after feedback from judges. So, fat loss, in general, is tricky in that way. It's hard to target weight loss in a specific body area.
Eisha: That makes sense. You see so many people trying to develop abs, but you have to do more than just sit-ups to get abs. But before you can even think about body sculpting, how do you suggest people start getting into working out?
Laura: The first thing is figuring out your schedule and a good place to work out consistently. Many people start out getting up at 4:30 in the morning and working out at five. But, then after like two days, they're not able to keep it up. You have to devise a long-term plan because short spurts of being on track will not get you the results you want. You want it to be something that occurs over months, and then try to really set up your day to support that time. So if you're going to work out at lunch, you should know what you're going to do for pre and post-workout nutrition. It's all about scheduling.
Eisha: There's that lowering of the activation energy again. Now, let's say you're working out regularly, but you hit a plateau. I'm sure you've run into this yourself with all the training you do. What advice do you have for people in that situation, you know, people who have "hit a wall"?
Laura: Go back and reassess the plan and blocks that are causing this plateau. Sometimes we push so hard that our body starts pushing back, and rest might be in order for our body to recover. But on the flip side, also assess if you are really challenging yourself. If not, maybe it's time to switch your program, find a workout buddy, or new inspirational books and videos or something like that to help spark up the motivation and inspiration to re-challenge yourself.
Eisha: Like dieting, it's important to create an environment that sets you up for success. Pick a total body workout, set a time and place to train. Now, in your mind, what is the top priority or piece of advice you would offer to someone who is looking to lose weight and keep it off?
Laura: My number one piece of advice is to find a way to keep yourself accountable, whether it's a friend or coach. Find an accountability partner because we're all human, and things will come up, but being able to talk to someone objective about it is very important.
Eisha: We've talked about diet and working out. When it comes to weight loss, they're the two areas written about the most. Yet, our mental health and approach towards our fitness journey can make or break success. With all you have going on in your life, I'm sure you have days where you wonder if it's all worth it, or perhaps you feel a bit under-motivated. What do you do when that happens?
Laura: Coming from years of experience, all the days that I'm feeling unmotivated, I know that once I do my workout, I will feel so much better, and that's what clients tell me too. So, that's what helps push them and me through those times.
Sometimes, I'll give myself at least 10 to 15 minutes of working out and then see if I'm still feeling tired physically or mentally. Consistency is one of the biggest proponents of reaching your goals, and if you can, you should still try to do at least 15 minutes. It's like a little shot of dopamine to make you feel good and gets you moving. It's also important to listen to your body, but sometimes our minds can steer us away. So, work out for 10 to 15 minutes and then reassess how you feel.
Eisha: I like that. There's so much research and evidence to support that approach. It's why TriadXP's call to action is "Let's Get Moving." Study after study shows that action leads to more action and even boosts motivation.
Now, we have time for just one more question. Today, many people rely on social media, whether it's staying in touch with friends or getting their news. What role should social media play in your fitness journey?
Laura: I think social media these days is a major player. We all see other people sharing their journeys, and we fall into the comparison trap. It can be hard to see other competitors or other athletes who are maybe a chapter ahead of me. But I've learned to kind of switch that from "oh my gosh, I'm never going to be as good as her, I should just stop" to now "she can do it, this is something that I could do as well." It's helpful to take it as motivation instead of letting it bring you down.
Eisha: I love that you mention comparisons. Our founder, Mike Elia, often reminds people about using unsuitable "comparison others." He says picking the wrong one can derail your program before you get started. It can encourage you to set unrealistic expectations too early in the process, which leads to early frustration and giving up too soon.
Well, that's all we have time for today. Laura, we truly appreciate you making time for us today. I'm sure the TriadXP community will be pondering your tips and suggestions and, more importantly, putting them into action. And you can count on us to be doing all we can do to help them do just that!
Laura: Thank you, Eisha.