When I stopped doing fitness competitions, I didn’t know how the F I WAS. I didn’t know how to be a normal person without this goal and I sure as hell didn’t know how to be a freaking civilian! I was thrown into this world after everything wondering now what… I had to figure out life outside of competitions again and guys, it wasn’t easy!
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My most recent guest on the podcast, Katie Spada, has actually built her business and brand around this! She helps former athletes get back to feeling good after sports and showing them that there is a healthy life outside of competing.
Katie is a registered dietitian and former athlete. She is the owner and founder of Spada Strong Nutrition LLC, a nutrition coaching business focused on helping former athletes transition their nutrition in life after sport. Katie competed as an elite-level synchronized swimmer on the national team and collegiate levels for 11 years. Because of her experiences in sport, and her own battles with food and body image as an athlete and in life after, Katie founded her business with the goal of helping athletes understand how to fuel their body’s in life after sport, work through body image struggles, and develop a healthy relationship with food as a retired athlete. Katie believes every former athlete deserves to feel good in their retired athlete skin and enjoy the foods they eat, guilt-free!
I know we are not all ex-athletes I know some of us are still wrestling with that former person that had the time to go to the gym 2 hours a day. So ex-athlete or not, how do we transition out of that, so we don’t go from those wild extremes of restricting to eating whatever the 12, you please?
Within this country, we are so big on identities and labels. And this career as an athlete, that is your label, that is who you are. BUT when you lose that label, you start to question who you are without it. Our identities tend to provide stability in our lives and allow us to continue moving forward and giving us purpose, and when it’s taken away, you almost lose your purpose and it can be a very hard road to navigate. So often athletes go from structured sport to body-building work to craving structure, but it’s all the same thing. There will be a time when your body or mental space says they can’t do it anymore.
When you take it to that extreme, and you’re searching for control or a solution in food, that’s when you start to have an unhealthy relationship and food starts to control you. It’s not going to solve the problem. Once we’re done with the binge or the overeating or whatever it may be… The problem is still going to be there.
What do goals look like then for clients? What is your goal, big or small? You are living a different life now, so what do you want that goal for this new life to be? It is imperative to recognizing coming back to the identity, you are doing enough, you are worthy enough, and you are deserving enough. Too often we lose track of how impressive small goals are. We think that in order to celebrate it has to be a climbing Mt. Everest kind of goal.
Think of your life as dominos… What is it I want to accomplish? What is one thing that I can do right now, today at this moment that is going to be the domino that is going to take me to the next domino and the next? Think of Mount Everest… You don’t climb Everest overnight. It takes small steps, many days, and time. You can take on this huge goal, but the small steps to it ARE STILL STEPS! They still matter. So, celebrate the small steps!!
Athletes & bodybuilders.. you just remember getting to the top, you don’t remember the years of training and practice that got you there. Then you retire or step away and now it’s like everything needs to just happen… But it doesn’t just happen! Think about the other areas of our lives where we are going to step out and be a rock star! You have to stop thinking things will shift overnight. It’s not a light switch that can turn on and off. You practiced all of these things and rules you made up so now you have to practice and deprogram to not do those things. YOU HAVE TO RETRAIN YOUR BRAIN!
Don’t let things build up inside your head. If you eat that cookie, you aren’t going to gain 15 pounds. You wonder if the cookie is going to make you gain weight. You wonder how that cookie is going to impact you. Well, it is not going to do anything! Just eat the dang cookie. Food is supposed to be satisfying and satiating. Not a constant battle.
So many times, we pick the “good” path, still keeping the cookie in your head and that thought takes over. Then you begin to over-romanticize this cookie. What would have been just 1 cookie if we had let ourselves have that 1 cookie and turns into an entire sleeve of cookies! Then it turns into binge eating if you don’t have just that 1 cookie or extra fat for dinner or even a desert… You have to give yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods. If it is too much, just re-introduce 1 food at a time. Allow yourself to have that food. Then the food becomes less exciting because you can have it all the time!
All of us are guilty of this, but so often we attach our identity to our physical appearances… You attach who you are to that physical body and who you are in that moment. You FORGET that you are dynamic beings and you are fluid and you will continue to evolve and change. Yet you are placing your identity on something that will not stay the same. You are setting yourself up for disappointment when it does eventually change. But guess what??? The physical body doesn’t determine who you are!!
So how do you break up from the diet restrictions? How do you break up from the negative talk about our bodies? How do you break up from the unrealistic expectations you put on yourself? How do you retrain your brain and body after stepping off the field or court or gym after years of doing things a specific way? THISSS is where Katie’s P O W E R program comes in to play! These are the 5 pillars she uses with all clients to work past everything they have learned in their lives and change to have a life after sport.
POWER stands for:
● Work On
I believe everyone has something unique or personal that works best for them. Take a look at your life and what is going to work for your life. Or the life you want to have. Personalize what you want your life to be, not what it was supposed to be like while you were an athlete.
This is where we take a look at what are you eating right now? What are your day-to-day eats? And how can we start to improve upon that immediately, so you’re feeling better? So that’s kind of where Katie’s nutrition science background comes in. How do carbs serve your body? How do fats, proteins, serve you. Let’s talk about micronutrients. If you’re only having a black cup of coffee for breakfast, how can we improve upon that so that you’re having energy throughout the day?
This is where we are working on body attunement, hunger fullness. Coming from sports and body-building work, you often have to ignore your hunger and your fullness. And this can be confusing to trust those signals again once out into the “real world”. So being able to trust your hunger cues and self-trust is a huge step.
You rely so heavily on these external tools to tell you how much to eat when in reality, your body knows best how much it needs. The diet industry tells you that you can’t trust your body and you need to manipulate how much you are eating.
Evaluate nutrition beliefs. Often, you have beliefs about food. No white foods or white sugar, no carbs before a workout, only half a banana. Just things you’ve been told, and most of which isn’t scientifically proven. It’s bro science. One person told another person and now it’s become the rule! Over time this mis information can be very detrimental.
Here is where Katie works with her clients to ask the question, “what does science actually say about bananas?” How do these foods nourish your body? Let’s look at this scientifically to debunk what was told to you and teach you the right things about how that food is sustaining and nourishing your body.
Let’s re-discover the JOY of movement. For so long working out had a specific purpose of winning or succeeding in some way. And most athletes never knew that moving the body or working out could just be done to feel good. What kind of movement and working out feels good? Retrain your brain to recognize that all movement counts. Walking counts as exercise, yoga counts as exercise, any time you are moving your body, IT COUNTS AS EXERCISE!
You have this unrealistic expectation of the extreme, again, coming back to the extreme level that your workouts have to meet these expectations. And when you retire, they don’t have to, because walking is more than sufficient. As an athlete, days are structured. You are told how much equals a workout and told how much is enough. But what is your goal and how do you want it to serve you? What is the purpose of movement in your life now? What are you trying to get out of the health?
Now that you are no longer an athlete or a bodybuilder or a fitness competitor or a gym rat, what does success look like to you!? Can you make moving your body fun? Can you allow yourself to nourish your body with good food and good nutrition? Can you break up with that robotic life of doing the same thing every day because you HAD TO vs. doing the same thing every day because you want to and because it’s fun? What does this look like to you?
And magic makers. You don’t have to be one of these above to use these pillars. Anyone can use these pillars as a way to realign your mind and body in a way that works better for your life and what you want out of your life!
What is one thing that makes you feel magical?
“To be honest this is going to sound so simple if you will. But a slow Saturday morning with a fancy coffee sitting on my couch, I just feel like the most amazing person in the world. The simple pleasures just make me feel so magical. And a nice fuzzy robe. I am all about relaxation. Then when it’s warm it’s sitting outside at a pool with a drink in my hand is perfection!” – Katie Spada
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