Misa Downey | Certified Nutrition Coach | @misa_victoria
I have a long history in athletics, and I’ve always been fascinated by nutrition and the human body. I had hoped to study nutrition in college, however, I chose a school that didn’t offer a nutrition program. But my love for it never died. Instead, I educated myself on the side and found a passion for working out and eating well. I was the girl that ate carrots and rosemary-toasted almonds after a night out with friends – clearly not the norm.
After college, I pursued bikini bodybuilding competitions and took my interests up a notch – or ten! While I no longer track my macros by weighing and measuring my food, I learned so much about my own body at that time in my life, which I find so valuable. However, bikini competitions and the toll they took on my body were not for me long-term, and I switched my focus from aesthetics to performance by taking on the sport of Weightlifting. If you’re not familiar, it’s the one in the Olympics, composed of the snatch and clean and jerk – highly recommend looking it up because it is a beautiful, dynamic sport. My nutrition regimen obviously drastically shifted as I eventually needed to consume way more calories than I ever had before. I watched and documented as my body changed with my new goal and I loved the process. Now, you’ll find me somewhere in the middle, working out for fun and for health! What I’ve learned along the way is what I want to share with you all.
Throughout my bikini and weightlifting life, I tracked my food. Both times had specific targets for protein, fat, carbs and fiber, but how I chose to fill them was up to me – something known as 'if it fits your macros'. Sometimes I found myself reaching for nutrient-dense, one-ingredient foods, and oftentimes I found myself grabbing calorie-dense, processed foods, especially when I was weightlifting. It’s hard not to when you need to consume 4,500 calories a day to maintain your body weight! Don’t get me wrong, the food was delicious, but was it actually the best I could do for my body?
Listening to Your Body
After leaving weightlifting, I focused on working out for fun and for health, which bled into my nutrition philosophy as well. I no longer cared to track all of my food, nor did I think that was sustainable for me long-term. I LOVE flexibility and being able to choose how to fuel my body – there is so much power in that. So, I chose to eat intuitively, listening to my body’s hunger and fullness cues, with mostly one-ingredient foods and a little “fun” sprinkled in if I wanted to. Do you know what I found? I was feeling better and looking better than I ever have! Health is not all about looks by any means, but I think it is important to highlight that I believe you look your best when you are taking care of your body and feeling your best!
Eat Good, Feel Good
While my story is anecdotal, there is real science behind it. When we fuel our body well, we feel better. Why is that? Well, partially because most of our serotonin, our happy hormone, is actually found in our gut!(1). Think about when you’ve had an upset stomach or ate something you know bothers you and how it really affects your mood. Well now you know why! There have actually been links to a microbiota-gut-brain axis where the central nervous system has perceived symptoms connected to changes in gut microbiota.2 Not only that, but the gut microbiome is also largely important in helping our body function optimally. Gut microbiota have the ability to digest and make available nutrients from food that would have otherwise been indigestible(2). I don’t know about you, but all of this data makes me want to ensure my microbiome is in tip-top shape! This means supporting gut function with whole, non-processed foods.
In an article in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Bruce et al. “compared the effects of a phytochemical-rich diet versus a refined-food diet on lipoproteins, antioxidant defenses and colon function.” Holding energy and fat intake constant, they discovered that the phytochemical-rich diet positively affected lipoproteins, improved colon function and decreased the need for oxidative defense mechanisms(3). I know that is a lot of science, but what they are saying is that a nutrient-dense, unrefined food diet proved to have positive benefits to the body, including the potential to protect against chronic disease.
Whole Food for The Win
With the large amount of processed food in our world, coupled with busy schedules and the lure of convenience, a refined food diet is very much a reality for many. As a nutrition coach, I love to share the science and knowledge behind choosing a whole food diet to empower my clients in their food choices. I know it can be a tough choice, whether that’s due to a busy schedule, food availability or lack of awareness, but it is truly an important choice to make. As cliché as it is, we do each have one body and it is up to us to take care of it! I hope you feel more empowered and educated to make your own choices when it comes to your nutrition!
About Misa Downey | Certified Nutrition Coach | @misa_victoria
Hi y’all! I’m Misa Downey – certified nutrition coach, business owner and lover of all things holistic wellness! I am passionate about fitness and nutrition and how we each can do our best to take care of our bodies. I believe in a holistic approach that involves intuitive eating and a well-rounded workout program. Plus, a good dose of self-care! We are all individual, with different likes and preferences, and I love helping my clients find what works for them for the long term!
1 Kim, D.-Y., & Camilleri, M. (2000). Serotonin: a mediator of the brain-gut connection. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 95(10), 2698–2709. doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.2000.03177.x
2 Shreiner, A. B., Kao, J. Y., & Young, V. B. (2015). The gut microbiome in health and in disease. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, 31(1), 69–75. doi:10.1097/mog.0000000000000139
3 Bruce, B., Spiller, G. A., Klevay, L. M., & Gallagher, S. K. (2000). A Diet High in Whole and Unrefined Foods Favorably Alters Lipids, Antioxidant Defenses, and Colon Function. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 19(1), 61–67. doi:10.1080/07315724.2000.10718915