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What Intuitive Eating Means to Me (Q+A with Alysha Newman)

There’s a huge anti-diet movement afoot and we couldn’t be happier about it. Finding balance and making sustainable lifestyle choices is the only way to make lasting, positive change, after all. That’s why we’re all about the intuitive eating approach to mindfulness and honouring your body.

So, we were super excited to learn that our ambassador, Alysha Newman, practices this way of nourishing her body with healthy foods, while still satisfying her cravings when it feels right. 

Just one more reason to love her. 

We asked her about how she came to this balanced approach to good nutrition and indulgence and how intuitive eating has affected her fitness and sense of well-being. 

Q: As an Olympic athlete, you’re used to strict discipline and embracing a mind-over-matter approach. How did that impact your food choices in the past? 

A: Everyone always told me that I needed to stay as disciplined in the kitchen as I do on the track. So, I was very disciplined with my eating, choosing ONLY the healthiest foods. I would stay away from refined sugars and alcohol and ensure that I was eating proper portions sizes every 3-4 hours.

Though I was eating healthy, I ended up eating the same foods over and over and my diet lacked variety. After getting 8 stress fracture across my feet in my meta-tarsals, I quickly learned that eating a variety of foods is so important to ensure I’m getting all the important minerals my body needs.

This is when my parents and I decided to change things up with my eating.

Q: What prompted the “lightbulb” moment when you knew those restrictions were causing more stress than good?

A: The “lightbulb” moment for me was not only my injuries but the fact that I wasn’t getting any better in my sport. During this time of strict eating, I was actually gaining weight rather than losing or maintaining.

The stress of me eating “too” perfectly was affecting my mood and athletic ability.

I was never happy and hated eating because it became like a job or sacrifice every day. It took me 2 years to figure out what worked best for my body. I came to the conclusion that a dairy-free and gluten-free diet made me and my body the happiest, but that the occasional indulgence didn’t set me back. I started to perform better and I never had weight gain or an upset stomach again.

Q: What’s are your strongest cravings and how often do you indulge? 

A: My strongest cravings are definitely at night. When I was little, I was always promised ice cream after dinner if I finished my entire dinner plate. So, as an adult, I craved ice cream every night after dinner. My body just couldn’t handle that amount of dairy and refined sugar, so I weaned myself off this nightly habit. I trained myself to have ice cream only 2-3  times a week, then less and less until, eventually, I didn’t need it.

However, as soon as I get a craving for ice cream now, I allow my body to have it. Now that I know I’m not addicted, I don’t deny myself the occasional pleasure.

Because if I force myself to forgo my sweet treats I’ll sit there and think about it, which causes more stress that doesn’t serve my body well.

Q: Do you follow the 80/20 rule (80% healthy/20% junky) or do you really just let your body decide when you indulge? 

A: I do not follow any rules. I enjoy eating healthy now. I feed my body with foods that make me feel good and that is my number one rule. 

Q: How has intuitive eating impacted your athleticism and overall health? 

A: I am definitely happier, healthier and a much better athlete. Your mind and body are so connected – you can’t outsmart one or the other. I, now, listen to what my body is telling me it needs (and wants) instead of letting my mind always be in control.

Alysha Newman

Alysha Newman

Olympic Athlete, Pole Vault
Alysha Newman is an Olympian, a World Championships finalist and a Commonwealth Games Gold medalist in the women’s pole vault. She’s the Canadian record holder for the event and is targeting a podium performance at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Alysha was born and raised in London, Ontario where she was a competitive gymnast before a back injury forced her out of that sport and into track & field. This pivot has helped her learn to overcome adversity in the most positive way. Good nutrition and attention to overall health and wellness are key to helping Alysha perform at her best while remaining a well balanced young woman. Outside of sport, Alysha enjoys music and fashion and sharing her passion for life on social media. She makes time to visit with school children to talk about the importance of living a balanced lifestyle and learning through failure and adversity. Alysha is a graduate from the University of Miami and now lives and trains in Toronto.