6 lessons learned from my first nutrition program - Adaptable Fuel System

By Shelby Spears

I'll never forget the moment I started to understand how to eat and what eating healthy really meant. 

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I was living in Illinois and working for a small newspaper and I interviewed a dietitian for a story. She told me that peanut butter wasn't bad for you as long as you eat the kind without added ingredients like sugar or oil. Peanut butter should have one ingredient: peanuts. 

Meeting Jonathan took it to a whole new level. I stopped eating meat other than fish and our diet, together, has progressed and continues to progress over the years. 

Though I've had my own cycles of good and bad eating, I've never been on a "diet." I've never done a structured program until now. As we take that step toward bringing the missing piece of health to Spears Strong - nutrition- Jonathan and I embarked on the Adaptable Fuel System, the AFS. I didn't know what to expect but I didn't think it would be too hard as our diet was already pretty good. 

I can't tell you it was easy or how much weight I lost (as I didn't weigh myself and that wasn't the goal). But I can tell you it will have an impact on how you look at food and the decisions you make when considering what to eat. 

This 6-week program will not change everything. It may only change one thing. Healthy eating is a lifestyle and you will forever be progressing and adapting to what your body needs. 

But here's what I learned and what I took away- many of these lessons are from the first two weeks of the program where you avoid any dense or empty fuels. 

1. Sugar is in EVERYTHING - Yes, I know. Everyone knows this. It's in headlines every day. I thought I was good but this program opened my eyes. 

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Lesson: As I went to make rice one day while on the AFS, I reached for the box of vegetable stock. I was excited to make rice early in the day as it would fill us up and make for good, lasting energy. As I scanned the ingredients of my organic vegetable broth I was SHOCKED at one of the first ingredients: cane sugar. I had to put the stock aside and make the rice with water- a less flavorful option and I wouldn't be getting the stock nutrients. I was mad. I had trusted that organic box and failed to look at the ingredients in the store. 

Take away: Be a sugar detective and ALWAYS read ingredients. I had become complacent, thinking I could trust the "better" organic brand. Going back to the store I realized the more expensive version came without sugar. Always read your ingredient labels. 

2. Shopping can be uncomfortable 

Lesson: I love smoked salmon and it can often be a go to for us in a pinch for dinner. On the first week of AFS I thought this would be an option and I went to the fish market but before I could buy the tasty fish I realized it had sugar. I had to apologize to the cashier and promise to come back another time. It was awkward but I knew I had to stick to the plan to make it work and that these uncomfortable situations are real. 

Take away: It's not going to be an easy process and the more we know about what we eat, the better off we'll be and the easier it will be to avoid awkward situations. 

3. Journaling is hard

Lesson: After about a day or two I found it really hard to keep up with the journaling. 

Take away: If I wrote down what I ate as I ate and even took a picture I was more likely to stay on top of it. Any time that lapses between eating it and journaling it opens the door to forgetting to keep that journal. 

4. Tasty food is not that tasty

You don’t have to completely change the way you eat. What matters is that you aim to create at least one new habit, one healthy eating change that you can capitalize on going forward. A habit that keeps you progressing and celebrating your victories. 

Lesson: I used to put coconut sugar in my shakes and we used to eat an embarrassing amount of chips and salsa. I learned this when we had to cut them out. 

Take away: I really didn't miss them! It's amazing how your tastes and cravings change when you take some time away from that "pleasure food." 

5. Sometimes food is just fuel

Lesson: "Fail to plan, plan to fail." Meal planning and prepping is a big hurdle for me and one night it came to a head. With a busy day behind us and nothing planned for dinner at night I resorted to shakes for dinner. They sucked. It was a 'holding your nose and choking it down' kind of shake. 

Take away: Plan, plan, plan. The better you plan ahead, the easier the process and the better things will taste. But also, sometimes you just have to get the food in. Getting in enough calories is crucial to properly fueling your body and sometimes that means eating something that isn't the tastiest. 

6. It's not about perfection

Lesson: Eating lettuce at 8 a.m. feels incredible. I felt so successful eating my sweet potato and vegetable bowls early in the morning. But life is about flexibility and some of the changes we made on the AFS didn't stick. 

Take away: You don't have to completely change the way you eat. What matters is that you aim to create at least one new habit, one healthy eating change that you can capitalize on going forward. A habit that keeps you progressing and celebrating your victories.