Holiday Food Guilt

holiday food guilt pumpkin pie

5 Tips to Help You Through the Holiday Food Guilt

What if you could still eat those delicious treats that come along with the holiday season and still continue towards your health as fitness goals? This can be such a stressful time of year, but navigating food should not be one of them! As a woman recovering from an eating disorder, I dreaded the holidays because of their temptation and subsequent roller coaster of emotions. I put together a list of some helpful tips I learned along my journey in hopes to help anyone else who might be feeling the same way. 

Take Morality Out of Food

Our diet culture, which is a billion dollar industry, creates a narrative that only certain types of food are healthy or unhealthy, good or bad, which is how many diets or weight loss programs are formed. Food is not inherently good or bad. When we label our food we give it moral value leading us to experience guilt, shame, and disappointment. The only “bad” foods that exist are ones that may cause an allergic reaction or ones that you simply just don’t enjoy. Another phrase to steer away from is “cheat meal”. This association can harbor those same feelings of guilt, shame and disappointment. With this mentality the perception becomes “This food is bad, I cannot eat it.” which inherently becomes “If I eat this, I am bad.”

Take away: Remember, food is not bad and you are not bad for eating it. Treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion as a friend. 

Do Not Overly Restrict

In the world of psychology there is what’s called the scarcity principle. The basis of this principle is that the less of an item is available the more attractive it becomes. In relation to food and dieting, when you cut a specific food group out of your diet with the expectation that you “can’t have it”, that food becomes scarce and suddenly you can’t stop thinking about it. If you’ve ever dieted, you know exactly what I’m talking about! Let’s face it, you will eventually end up eating this “forbidden food” and instead of eating a serving or two, you end up binging on it with the mindset of “tomorrow I will get back on track and won’t eat it again”. Once you stop telling yourself you can’t have something, your desire to eat it will begin to decrease. When you do actually have a craving you will more likely be satisfied with a serving instead of over indulging. 


Take away: Enjoy your cravings as they come instead of an all-or-nothing approach. Sometimes we eat for nourishment and sometimes we eat because it tastes good or we’re in good company. Either way, it is okay!

holiday food guilt pumpkin pie

You Do Not Need to Earn Your Food.

Say it again, you do not have to earn your food. Along with diet restriction, we tend to determine what we can eat by bargaining that we will either eat less the next day or that we will have an extra workout to make up for it. There were times I would spend 4+ hours at the gym trying to out work what I ate and it was miserable. When you do this you end up creating a negative relationship with food, exercise, and yourself. You are allowed to enjoy your food, whether it’s pizza or a salad, it is not a prize to be won or a privilege that is earned. 

Take away: You deserve to enjoy food with no strings attached. 

Ask For Help.

If you feel out of control and you don’t know where to start, ask for help. Registered dietitians are a great resource, they are the experts when it comes to diet, nutrition and lifestyle. Whatever your goal may be, a dietitian can help you get there in a healthy and sustainable way. We have a registered dietitian on staff who would love to answer any of your questions!

Therapy is another great resource to help you challenge diet culture and disordered eating patterns. Sometimes our bingeing and restricting behaviors can stem from our past trauma. A licensed therapist can help you work through these obstacles and help find better ways to cope with emotions without using food. 

Take away: Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. 

Health and Fitness is a Journey, Not a Destination. 

Your diet will not be perfect all of the time. Your workout routine will not be perfect all of the time. You are human and that’s okay. Creating a healthy and sustainable lifestyle means that there is room for dessert, a rest day, or whatever life throws at you. It means that you have the flexibility to still be healthy and happy, while also enjoying your favorite foods. 

Take away: Everyday may not look the same but trending in the direction of our goal over time is what ultimately matters. 

Enjoy your holidays and remember, what you eat does not define your worth. Life is too short, so just eat the damn cake!

Author: Mary Pershall, BS, Full Scale Fitness Personal Trainer

personal trainer posing in saint george utah for Full Scale Fitness


Mary Pershall, personal trainer in St. George, UT.

10 Stretches Not to Skip In Your Workout Routine

Stretching can be the most overlooked and/or skipped part of any exercise routine because it may not seem important. However, you can add many health benefits to your workout program just by implementing these 10 simple stretches at the end of your workouts. A few of these benefits include an increase in flexibility and range of motion (ROM) in joints, a decrease in pain and tightness in specific areas and an improvement in overall posture. The 10 stretches are as followed:

1. Lateral Neck Stretch:

    1. How to Perform:
      1. This stretch can be done seated or standing. Keeping your chest up and back straight, in good posture, tilt the head to the LEFT, lower your LEFT ear to your LEFT shoulder. While doing this, focus on keeping your RIGHT shoulder depressed. Complete stretch on both sides.
    2. Muscles Targeted:
      1. Levator Scapulae
      2. Sternocleidomastoideus
      3. Trapezius
      4. Scalenus Medius
    3. Benefits of the Lateral Neck Stretch:
      1. Can help relieve headaches
      2. Reduce pressure and stress on cervical (upper) spine and its vertebrae
      3. Increase range of motion and flexibility of the cervical spine

2. Lateral Side Stretch:

    1. How to Perform:
      1. This stretch can be done seated or standing. Keeping your chest up and back straight, in good posture, tilt your body at the waist to the LEFT, lowering your LEFT hand to the ground. At the same time, lift your RIGHT hand vertically over your head and reach to the sky. Complete Stretch on both sides.
    2. Muscles Targeted:
      1. External Oblique
      2. Quadratus Lumborum
      3. Internal Oblique
      4. Latissimus Dorsi
    3. Benefits of the Lateral Side Stretch:
      1. Reduces tightness and can relieve pain in lower back
      2. Relieves pressure on vertebrae of the lumbar (lower) and thoracic (middle) spine
      3. Increase range of motion and flexibility of thoracic and lumbar spine

3. Seated Double Hamstring Stretch:

    1. How to Perform:
      1. Sitting with both feet stretched out in front of you, hinge at the hips while keeping your back in a neutral position. Extend your arms out toward your toes.
    2. Muscles Targeted:
      1. Hamstring (Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus, and Biceps Femoris)
      2. Calf (Soleus and Gastrocnemius)
    3. Benefits of the Seated Double Hamstring Stretch:
      1. Reduces tightness in calf muscles, hamstrings, and lower back
      2. Increases range of motion and flexibility in the pelvis
      3. Improves overall posture

4. Side Lying Quad Stretch:

    1. How to Perform:
      1. Lying on one side of your body, keep everything in a straight line. Bend the knee of the top leg bringing your foot to the back of the body. Reach back with the same side arm and grab your foot.
    2. Muscles Targeted:
      1. Quad Muscles (Rectus Fermoris, Vastus Medialis, Vastus Intermedius, and Vastus Lateralis)
    3. Benefits of the Side Lying Quad Stretch:
      1. Increased range of motion in hip and knee
      2. Release tension on Patellar Tendon and Knee Cap

5. Cobra Stretch:

    1. How to Perform
      1. Begin by lying flat on your stomach with your palms flat on the floor in a push-up position. Extend at the hips by pushing up with your arms, raising your upper body off the ground until your arms are fully extended. Tilt your head back and look up towards the ceiling.
    2. Muscles Targeted:
      1. Chest muscles (Pectoralis Major and Minor)
      2. Abdominal Muscles and Obliques
      3. The Diaphragm
    3. Benefits of the Cobra Stretch:
      1. Great way to open up the Diaphragm, making breathing easier
      2. Releases tension or soreness in the chest
      3. Loosens up the abdominal muscles and can decrease soreness
      4. Strengthens the wrists, arms, and back

6. Downward Dog:

    1. How to Perform:
      1. Lying flat on your stomach in the push-up position, using your arm and legs, lift your butt up in the air as high as possible, keeping your legs and arms straight. Focusing on keeping your feet flat on the floor.
    2. Muscles Targeted:
      1. Calf Muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus)
      2. Hamstrings (Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus, and Biceps Femoris)
      3. Lower Back (Quadratus Lumborum)
      4. Upper Back Muscles (Latissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids, and Trapezius)
    3. Benefits of Downward Dog:
      1. Releases tightness and tension in the posterior chain of the legs (hamstrings and calves)
      2. Decreases pain and tightness in low back and buttock
      3. Increases range of motion in knees, ankles, hips, and lower back
      4. Stretches muscles of the upper back
      5. Strengthens wrists, arms and shoulders

7. Wide-Legged Forward Bend:

    1. How to Perform:
      1. Standing up with your feet spread apart. Bending at the hips, reach down to the floor with your hands directly beneath you.
    2. Muscles Targeted:
      1. Hip Flexors (Iliospoas and Iliacis)
      2. Groin
      3. Hamstrings (Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus, and Biceps Femoris)
      4. Quads(Rectus Fermoris, Vastus Medialis, Vastus Intermedius, and Vastus Lateralis)
    3. Benefits of the Wide-Legged Forward Bend:
      1. Increases range of motion in the hips
      2. Releases tightness in groin and hip flexors
      3. Decreases pain and tightness in the lower back

8. Standing Chest Pull:

    1. How to Perform:
      1. Standing perpendicular to a wall, reach behind you with the hand closest to the wall. Turn your body away from the wall, feeling a slight pull in your chest and shoulder. Perform on both sides.
    2. Muscles Targeted:
      1. Chest muscles (Pectoralis Major and Minor)
      2. Anterior Deltoid
      3. Rotator Cuff
    3. Benefits of the Standing Chest Pull
      1. Releases anterior pull on shoulder
      2. Increases range of motion of shoulder
      3. Decrease tightness and tension in chest, shoulder, and bicep

9. Arm Across Chest:

    1. How to Perform:
      1. Standing upright, pull one arm across the chest, wrapping the other arm around it. Using the off hand, pull on the arm and shoulder being stretched.
    2. Muscles Targeted:
      1. Triceps
      2. Muscles/tendons/ligaments of the shoulder (anterior, medial, and posterior deltoids)
    3. Benefits of the Arm Across Chest Stretch:
      1. Increases range of motion in the shoulder
      2. Loosens tendons and ligaments in shoulder
      3. Relieves tightness and soreness in the triceps

10. Kneeling Forearm and Wrist Stretch:

    1. How to Perform:
      1. Kneeling with your palms flat on the ground and your fingers pointed toward your body, keep your elbows almost straight, shift your weight backwards, putting pressure on the wrists.
      2. Flip hands over to the back of the hands, performing the same as before.
    2. Muscles Targeted:
      1. Muscles of forearms and wrists
    3. Benefits of the Kneeling Forearm and Wrist Stretch:
      1. This is a good way to improve range of motion in finger joints, as well as the wrist.

Children and Healthy Behaviors

Many things come to mind when pondering the topic “healthy”. I am a kindergarten teacher for Akron Public Schools in Akron, OH and this is something that is vital for me as an educator of young children to master. Most people think of food when they think of the word healthy. And in a way, they are correct! The foods we eat help us with the way we think and provides us with the energy we need for everyday tasks like school, recess, and evening activities! The amount of physical activity and the amount of rest we get each day takes a huge role in becoming and maintaining a healthy, well-rounded human being.

In my perspective as a teacher of young minds, the students do, as I do. They are very observant to the environment around them. That is why it is so important to MODEL. Children mimic all behaviors that they see. This can be positive and negative. In my classroom, we have many “brain breaks” throughout the day. These consist of a program called Go Noodle, a healthy snack, and some kind of hands on manipulative with no direct instruction. These help the child give their brain that enrichment that they need by doing it in their own differentiated way to meet their needs. I also have had a Full Scale Fitness personal trainer from the Akron area come into my classroom to teach a lesson about being healthy and different ways to “make the heart happy”. This was a great success for my students and they continued to refer back to him during health discussions for the remainder of the school year.


Children watch and imitate adults and look to them to learn everything from saying please and thank-you to fitness and nutrition behavior. Children can also pick up on their parent’s attitudes about food. As role models, parents need to make sure they’re demonstrating a healthy attitude toward food so their children do, too. This same thing can be applied to being active. In Akron, OH, there are vast amounts of opportunities for fitness for the whole family. Going to Cuyahoga Valley National Park for hiking, biking, or even just a simple nature walk is a great example. Parents can also look into personal training and dietitians to assist them with the confidence in being a good role model for their children. If you have any questions about healthy decisions or getting your child active, contact us and we would love to help! Email us at [email protected] or give us a call at (419) 906-0204.

Mindfulness in Strength Training

Break your training plateau and bring your fitness to the next level with mindfulness.

Many of you are probably familiar with the term “mindfulness,” which is appearing more and more frequently amidst popular health-culture circles across the globe. While “mindfulness” is most commonly associated with meditation practices or psychological health, let’s examine how mindfulness, and more specifically the incorporation of mindful strength training, can be applied to your routine in the gym to achieve exceptional results!

Don't go through the motions, go through your emotions.

Mindfulness is defined as “the state of being consciously aware.” It refers to active examination of the present moment, including the internal and external sensations observed and/or experienced by a person. In regards to training, consider for a moment your own fitness routine. While we love dedication and consistency in training, the word “routine” itself can be indicative of a health plateau, stagnation, or a sense of “going through the motions” – in other words, a lack of progress.

Someone once said, “The brain is the most important muscle you can exercise,” a sentence that contains numerous levels of truth. Without getting into the nitty-gritty science of it, by being mindful of an exercise’s target muscle (or muscle group) throughout the entire motion, neural pathways between the brain and the connected muscle fibers are strengthened and eventually the muscle will contract harder and more readily. This increases the efficiency of movement and range of motion, thereby yielding greater force production, more power, better coordination, and improved endurance, just to mention a few!

So how do we strengthen the mind to muscle connection? The process is actually quite simple and does not require extreme changes to your usual routine; however, mastering this technique requires discipline, patience, and active focus. To begin, identify the target muscle (or muscle group) of the exercise to be performed. Before initiating the exercise, focus your attention on the target muscle, contract it and relax it. Now, with proper form, begin the exercise, focusing all your attention on the contraction of the target muscle. Maintain an active mind throughout the set and reset between repetitions if necessary. Don’t forget to breathe!

Discipline, Patience and Active Focus

To illustrate this idea, let’s take a look at a specific example: the bicep curl. This simple movement is commonly seen in a gym setting, but we often perform the motion throughout our daily lives as well. Consider this: you pull a gallon of milk from the refrigerator. Although you have essentially just performed a bicep curl, it is likely that zero thought was given to the movement or to the muscle it subsequently engaged. The next time you reach into the fridge for a cool glass of protein-packed 2%, focus on squeezing and flexing the actual bicep muscle to pull the milk jug from its place. This is the mind to muscle connection: being consciously aware of how you are performing an action and what muscles are being used to complete it. This mentality should be implemented for every single exercise you perform. The same idea can be applied to posture. When taking a seat in your office chair, your gluteal muscles should engage (think squat form) and take the main “weight” of the action. Similarly, when walking up stairs, be aware of your muscle engagement and weight transfer. Pushing off with your heel instead of your toes will engage your posterior kinetic chain (glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles) and will reduce strain to the knees. These are the ways in which we build strong neural pathways to strengthen the mind to muscle connection. It can be as simple as a change of mindset!

So whether you are the beginner, looking to gain a solid foundation in fitness through strength training, the veteran bodybuilder, hoping to reverse old habits or correct bad form (and possibly find your inner Zen, eh?), or the mellow yogi, wishing to apply the power of your mind to other physical feats, developing a strong mind to muscle connection will benefit you in all aspects of fitness and allow you to better achieve your individual goals!

Practice Mindfulness Today

Get behind our fitness philosophy today by allowing us to design an individualized program for you! We are mindful of various lifestyles, so we offer in-home personal training for residents of Akron, Cleveland, Canton and the surrounding northeast Ohio area, and are able to design personal online programs as well to fit all your training needs! Please call or text at (419)-906-0204 for more information. If you have a question about this article or suggestions for future articles, please contact us at [email protected]