The Key to Reaching Your Optimal Body Composition (plus 3 tips on how to get there)

sarah cuff Food for Runners, Training 1 Comment

ACE body fat chart

Optimal Body Composition as defined by ACE

We know reaching our optimal body composition helps us perform better as runners. We know it’s good for our health. But sometimes it really feels impossible to get there.

That being said, I can actually sum up in one word what the “secret” is to losing excess bodyfat, flattening your stomach and reaching your optimal body composition. Ready for it?


I could go on about how sugar, alcohol, processed foods and pre-packaged junk must be avoided in order to find those abs, but you already know that. The majority of this blog and many others like it are dedicated to giving you the scientific information you need to achieve your health goals. There’s really no shortage of information out there, only, for many, a shortage of motivation and inspiration. So today, instead of the science, I’m going to tell you the story of how I flattened my stomach in only 2 weeks.

I may be a nutritionist, but I have the same struggles and challenges anyone does. While I usually follow the majority of my own advice, I was a bit self-conscious about throwing on just about anything because I would often treat myself to dessert after dinner, and sometimes ate due to boredom or emotions.

After I took up some practices to ensure consistency around clean eating, I was able to put on the tiny Nike shorts and matching tank I’d bought for the Whistler Half marathon, and they fit perfectly. Later that day I put on a bikini and walked into the Scandinave Spa with confidence.

Let me be clear: the changes weren’t dramatic, but they were substantial enough that my mini ‘muffin-top’ disappeared and my stomach flattened. That was all I needed to feel confident. I’ll admit I keep a pretty clean diet on a regular basis and so I didn’t have far to go.

whistler half weightloss

But back to how I did it. The logistics were nothing new: I cut out sugar, alcohol, processed foods and pre-packaged junk entirely. Everything I ate was fresh, mostly made by me (with a bit of help here and there from the folks at Whole Foods) and included a TON of veggies (lots of leafy greens) and fruits. Shocking and revolutionary? Definitely not.

The real question is, how did I stay consistent? I love ice cream as much as the next person (well, Coconut Bliss non-dairy frozen dessert to be specific – it’s crazy amazing yummy!!), so I needed a way to stay on top of my cleaner eating habits and make them stick.

Which leads me to the second big secret of better body composition: accountability. I held myself accountable. There are a million ways to do this, but my preferred method (due largely to my Instagram addiction) was to log each item of food I ate over a two week period as a picture on Instagram. There was no editing of my diet to make myself look better: you can even go there and see the glass of pinot gris I had post-race, and the two or three “treats” I indulged in over the next two days post-race. After that, as Instagram will reflect (and hold me accountable to), it was back to business – all clean eating again. Eating when I’m hungry but ensuring I chose only whole foods with lots and lots of veggies.

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 10.18.36 AM

So how will you stay consistent? Logging photos for the world to see on Instagram may not be your cup of tea – if that’s the case, here are a few ideas to keep yourself accountable and maintain that all-important consistency:

1. Accountabili-buddy
Find an accountability partner. Maybe a friend has the same goals you do, or maybe someone you’re close to has a lot of self-discipline and inspires you. Set goals together and chat briefly daily on your progress. Ensure you’re both free to reach out to one another if faced with temptation, boredom, stress or tough times.

2. Write it down – but don’t count it up!
Jot everything you eat and drink down in a food journal. Don’t count calories or macronutrients (for the love of God, please don’t count) – just write down what you consumed. This will help you get real with yourself and give you a better, more honest picture of what you’re actually consuming. Even better, have a nutritionist or health coach look it over for you. They may be able to make suggestions if you feel you’re doing everything right and just don’t know what to try next.

3. Find a replacement
Write out a list of things you can do when you feel cravings for “bad” foods coming on, when you’re bored or stressed, upset or angry. This list might include things like calling a friend, taking a nap, having a bath, walking the dog around the block (or just going for a walk yourself), picking up a book or magazine, doing your nails (well, ladies anyhow!), going for a run, practicing yoga, meditating, or doing something creative that you enjoy (scrapbooking, photography, drawing/painting, or whatever your hobby might be).

If consistency is something you struggle with it might be worth your while to put all three of the above ideas into action. I know life gets busy (very busy… sometimes ridiculously busy) but we all have the same hours in one day. Some people manage to use them successfully to accomplish everything they set out to, while others flounder and binge on chocolate. As much as we all love chocolate, wouldn’t you rather be the success story? I certainly want you to be.

Eat clean, run strong, be well… Cheers,

Sarah J Cuff, RHN

Image 3 - Version 2PS. This week I’d like to introduce you to Catherine Frank and her exciting journey. I couldn’t be happier to announce that not only did she actually run her Mountains 2 Beach marathon a few weeks ago (when she first came to me just over 3 months ago she was very injured with a hip labral tear and couldn’t run), she PR’d by over 5 minutes!!! Plus she is well on her way to reaching her optimal body composition, having lost over 5 pounds and fitting back into her XS running shorts – wootwoot!! Read more of Catherine’s amazing store here.

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  1. Pingback: Fighting Fatigue & Fogginess (Week 24 of 30) | For the Love of Running

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