entrepreneur performance with clean foods

The Importance of Eating Clean As An Entrepreneur

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Also note: While I am a certified nutrition coach, I am not a medical doctor. Information here is not intended to be a replacement for the advice you should seek from your doctor.

A few weeks ago, I had a really great opportunity to be a guest at Vince Warnock’s podcast called “Chasing the Insights”, in which we talked about the importance of eating whole clean food as an entrepreneur for the best function and performance. Here, I will bring you the highlights of our conversation. However, I encourage you to listen to the whole podcast episode – EP72 – Caitlin Havener on The Importance of Eating Clean as an Entrepreneur – Chasing the Insights.

Why I’m Passionate About Healthy Eating

In the beginning of the episode, I communicated a little bit of my story. You can skip all this if you’ve heard it already! Or there is a video where I tell my story here.

caitlin havener before and after

Life Stress, Depression, and Anxiety

Early in 2016, I was in a really dark place. I was going through a really rough breakup with someone I thought I was going to get married to. As a single parent, this worsened the depression and anxiety I was already massively struggling with. When I went through that breakup, I realized a couple of things: I didn’t feel great about myself, my self-worth was pretty low, and I also realized that I wasn’t the best parent that I could be.

Because of my depression, I was sleeping close to 13 hours a day. It was really hard for me to get up in the morning, and it prompted me to want to do something to better my health. I knew I was overweight, though most of the time I tried to ignore the issue. I had fallen so many times trying to lose the weight, so I felt rather hopeless in accomplishing that goal.

A Decision for Lasting Lifestyle Change

However, a family member referred me to a medical weight loss center, and since I had never sought assistance in losing the weight, I figured I would give it a try. Though I did decide to embark on a weight loss journey with this medical weight loss center, one of the first things I noticed was that a lot of the employees there were overweight themselves. I quickly learned that they had all done the same program in the past. Assuming that the program alone wasn’t going to be a long term solution for my obesity, I realized I was going to have to figure out how to change my whole lifestyle if I didn’t want to return to the state that I was currently in.

An Incredibly Restrictive Program

I followed the program very closely, regardless of the fact that it was incredibly challenging. I lost 50 pounds in four months, which is really rare. Frankly, with the program having me at less than 1000 calories a day, it was no wonder the weight melted off of me. It certainly wasn’t a program that most people could follow. Most people don’t reach their goals going this route, and if they do, they typically gain the weight back. For this reason, I do not recommend this route to most people.

Developing an Interest in Running & Nutrition

Since I was determined to change my lifestyle permanently, I started getting really interested in learning more about nutrition. It was really fascinating to see how the pounds were just melting away, and how different kinds of foods made me feel. I felt like I had a lot more energy, so I started taking up running to help me transition into that healthy lifestyle as well. I couldn’t even run for a minute without feeling like I was dying when I started, but then I ran like 6 or 7 half-marathons – so you can reach that goal, trust me!

From Corporate Job to Entrepreneur

My interest in fitness and nutrition continued to grow past my involvement with the medical weight loss center. At that time, and all the way up to last year, I was working in web development and UX design for a cybersecurity company. But just a couple of years ago, in search of an entrepreneurial way to share my passion for living a healthy lifestyle, I was inspired to publish the recipes I was coming up with. I started with YouTube, because I thought that would be fun, and then quickly created this blog. So, my recipe creation venture all started as a hobby.

Cooking – From Despise to Passion

Prior to my weight loss, in the early days of my journey, I hated cooking, I wanted everything served to me. Cooking for me was popping some chicken nuggets in the oven. At the onset of my journey, I realized that I need to learn at least some cooking skills. As you may have guessed, cooking transformed into a passion of mine. I quickly started losing interest in the career I was excelling at. The truth is, I went to school for web development & design so that I could be a digital entrepreneur, so getting caught up working for a company was never my intention anyway. This past year, my fiancé was really tired of me bitching about my job. I was and am so desperately passionate about getting this content out there and figuring out people’s lifestyle behaviors and how to really inspire change.

Now I’m a Certified Nutrition Coach!

Last year I also got a certification with Precision Nutrition, because I wanted to have some credibility behind all of the nutrition talk that I was putting out there with my recipes. This is a continuous journey for me! I can really nerd out to the science of nutrition, and figuring out what kinds of foods help alleviate my anxiety disorder and increase my performance.

P.S. I can help you figure out what is best for you and your goals, if you are interested in nutrition coaching!

What Are Whole and Clean Foods?

Whole foods are foods close to what they looked like when they came out of the ground (plant foods) or look similar to before they were slaughtered (animal foods). They include very minimal processing, if any, and do not include any engineered ingredients. The ingredients are simple and pronounceable, often recognizable, and none of them sound like they may be involved in a science experiment. Whole foods are typically the most nutrient-rich and they’ve endured little modification. When an artificial or ultra-processed food is made available on the market, it was likely approved based on some research that it is safe. However, no one has the ability to manipulate time, a very important variable in food research studies. For example, they may say that artificial sweeteners are safe, and in the short-term they very well may be, but these studies don’t really have a lifetime of evidence to prove the food is safe over the course of a lifetime and in the amounts a lifetime can accrue!

Vince and I then laughed at an obvious example of a sugar-free treat that clearly has negative effects on individuals. He says, “try to eat a whole bag of no-sugar lollies!” They can have a laxative effect, like a colonic, and that can’t be healthy. Unless perhaps you need the colonic? 🤷‍‍♀️

So eating more “clean” and whole foods makes you perform better. What would clean eating look like on a daily basis?

Balanced Meals for Optimal Performance

Our brain is very greedy for nutrition. So you want to consume an adequate amount of nutrients to perform better. For breakfast, I love to have some eggs in the morning, getting a good dose of protein will help start forming norepinephrine and dopamine which aids in clear thinking. I love mixing it with some sautéed spinach and tomato, and I also absolutely love avocado on whole-grain toast. A good balanced meal of protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and vegetables will give your brain a good balanced dose of nutrition to perform optimally.

Behavior Change Takes Time

However, I’m not telling you to change all of your eating behaviors tomorrow. When it comes to making a lifestyle change, I do want to emphasize that it’s more effective to take small steps. For example, if you usually eat hot pockets for dinner, maybe start with adding carrots on the side.

Try Cutting Out Caloric Beverages

A great first goal may be to try cutting out energy drinks and soda, or other caloric beverages with low nutritional value. The sugar in these drinks can certainly be affecting your health and performance. This is also what I would advise someone for weight loss.

Sugar Roller Coaster

Sugar can really get you on an energy roller coaster. I used to eat a more refined carb-heavy breakfast, like white bagels with cream cheese, or sugary cereals, and you can really feel the energy crash. Do you want to be able to keep crushing your work through the afternoon or be really low performing and sluggish because you just want to take a nap? Sugar can kill your energy and your mood.

Confidence for Entrepreneurs

Even when you are showing up for your business, as entrepreneurs, a large portion of the job is to interact with your clients and to interact with potential clients. If you are not feeling great about yourself or well in general, it shows in your interactions with others.

Whole clean food can help you feel better and face the world more confidently. This is incredibly important for entrepreneurs.

When I went through my weight loss journey, I gained enough confidence to ask for a raise at work. I spoke up more and got promoted into a new role. I still do have some social anxiety, but I manage it much better now. Maintaining a healthy diet helps, and adaptogens like Ashwagandha calm my nerves.

Eating Clean is NOT Dieting

Part of the reason entrepreneurs don’t eat healthy is that there is a weird perception that eating healthy is somehow associated with a diet. This may mean an association with having to eat less and then not having the energy to show up for your business. However, that assumption is completely wrong. Eating clean is not about eating less, it’s about eating right. And then, if you are anything like me, you will have so much energy that you will have to run it off!

Stress Eating & A Mindful Alternative

The second reason I think a lot of us don’t eat healthy, is if we feel overwhelmed with work, we often turn to food as comfort.

I am a huge fan of meditation. Even if you just sit there and do a mind-body scan, you can often figure out what it is that you really need. Is it really food?

Meditation is a practice that helps you learn how to be mindful. I’ve never thought I will use it when it comes to eating, but it has really affected every area of my life. Starting to practice mindfulness around what you put in your body, and how much you move your body is extremely important.

Three practical tips that I advise you can do right now:

  1. Improve your meals, a small step at a time, from processed to whole food.
  2. Take small steps toward improving your sleep
  3. Everyone should try to incorporate, even the smallest amount of outdoor exercise. Exercise helps with everything: stress, performance, metabolism, and more. Being out in nature is also very good for your mental performance and stress level.

So… what do you think!? Let us know in the comments. 😀

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