Like a Pro: Erin Simon – Nutrition

Welcome to the Health Talks NOW podcast, a Baptist Health production committed to bringing you the facts you need to help keep you and your family well. We are wrapping up our mini-series Like A Pro. Today, we hear from Erin Simon. Erin is serious about nutrition and has seen how it impacts not only athletic performance, but also overall health and wellbeing. Today’s conversation touches on body image,
eating disorders, nutrition, healthy eating and overall wellness.

To kick off the conversation, Erin shares about her own nutrition journey. Much like many athletes in women’s soccer, she admits to struggling with an eating disorder during her college years. Her mindset shift came when she began to learn about nutrition as a means to fuel her body for peak performance on the field. Since she was a health and exercise science major in college, Erin had a broad knowledge on
the subject. Wanting to learn more, she hired a nutritionist who helped her understand the concept of macros. After applying this newfound knowledge to her own life, she noticed huge changes in her performance, energy levels, speed, acceleration and more.

As women, we have been conditioned for a long time to consume less calories in order to fit into society’s mold of a beautiful woman. This is the exact opposite of the messages being preached to our male counterparts. Erin points out how easy it is to see someone on social media and assume they have a perfect life. She has witnessed a shift recently as more people are beginning to be more open about mental health. For any young girl athletes working through the standards put upon us as women,
Erin shares her best advice. Listen to what your body is telling you it needs and prioritize your gut health. Athletes’ main focus should be on their performance rather than their appearance.

Then, Erin offers a look into her eating schedule. She normally eats 5 small meals per day every 2.5-3 hours. On game days and the night before, she intakes more carbs than usual for future energy. She adheres to the 80/20 rule, in which 80% of her lifestyle habits are healthy and balanced, while the other 20% gives her time to enjoy herself and relax with loved ones without obsessing over health and nutrition. She believes that shocking your body with cheat meals is actually a good thing as it forces it out of its normal routine and allows it to learn to adapt to other things.

Finally, Erin participates in a lightning question round so that listeners can get to know her a little better. Hear about her staple dinner recipe, favorite guilty pleasure food, workout and training music and her favorite restaurant in Louisville.

Key Takeaways:

  • [0:45] Introduction to the episode and today’s guest.
  • [1:30] – Erin’s nutrition journey.
  • [5:00] – How society’s standard for women have affected Erin’s role as an athlete.
  • [7:16] – Advice for young female athletes making sense of the standards put upon
  • them.
  • [9:03] – Erin’s game day vs. rest day eating habits.
  • [10:15] – The 80/20 rule.
  • [12:26] – Lightning question round.

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View Transcript

Speaker 1: Welcome back to Health Talks Now, this is a podcast brought to you by Baptist Health and I ask the experts the health and wellness questions that matter the most. Today, we’re wrapping up our special mini series on the show called Like a Pro. If you’ve been listening along you know that we’ve been talking to professional athletes from the Louisville City Football Club and Racing Louisville Football Club here in Louisville, Kentucky. Baptist Health is the team physicians for both these teams. And so we’ve been partnering to talk to you about things like mental health, rest, and nutrition.

Today. We’re talking with Erin Simon. Erin much like Tyler from the first episode in our mini series is serious about nutrition. She’s seen how it not only impacts athletic performance, but also overall health and wellbeing.

We’re also going to be diving into some heavier issues like body image and eating disorders. So trigger warning if either one of those things are difficult for you. Listen in, as we talk with Erin to get some of her best tips for nutrition, healthy eating and overall wellness like a pro. Well Erin, thanks so much for taking time to talk with us today. I’m really excited to have you on this special episode of the Baptist Health podcast.

Erin Simon: Thank you for inviting me. I’m excited to be here.

Speaker 1: Yeah. So we’re going to talk nutrition and we know, I mean, nutrition affects so much of our life from just our general health and wellness to our weight, our mood, our muscle recovery and performance. How have you noticed nutrition playing a role in your training and in your personal life? If you could just maybe share a little bit with us about your own journey with nutrition over the years and how you’ve noticed a positive or even maybe a negative impact in your performance on the field and how that correlates to what you’re using to fuel your body.

Erin Simon: Yeah, of course. I’d love to talk to you about my nutrition journey playing professionally. So in college, I didn’t really have good nutrition nor did I understand it. And I think a lot of issues surrounding women’s soccer is a lot of eating disorders, which I’ll be open about, I did struggle with that for a long time. And I think that’s what a lot of women struggle with. It’s very common in our sports. So to have that knowledge of nutrition and how to properly fuel your body for performance is kind of where my shift came because obviously eating disorders come along with a lot of body image issues and things like that.

Speaker 1: Absolutely.

Erin Simon: But when I changed my focus into more performance, that’s where I felt a lot better about the foods I was eating. And I generally eat pretty clean. I had a nutrition shift in 2018 when I went over to England and I just wasn’t happy with how I was feeling. I was sluggish, slow, lack of energy. I was a little bit overweight, not… I mean, super overweight as an athlete, I’m pretty active. So it’s not like anything drastic, but for my own self, I was like I’m feeling slow and sluggish. So I actually got a nutritionist and I learned about nutrition at a deeper level. I was a health and exercise science major in college. So I knew a broad amount of knowledge about it. But when I got this nutritionist, the company’s called Revolutionize in New Jersey and she helped me

understand what macros were, which are proteins, fats, carbs, which are basically the three main basics of nutrition. So when I learned how to properly fuel my body for performance, I gave her all my metrics. Because when we play, we have GPS and heart rate monitors that track everything that we do.

So we know exactly what our body puts into trainings and games, because we have to wear them for trainings and games. So I knew what I was expending in a training session or a game and what I needed to fuel my body properly for performance, but also recovery because recovery’s huge. So when I started learning about that, I saw a huge change in my performance. I had more energy, all of my metrics when it came to speed, jumping height and distance, acceleration, deceleration, it all improved. And honestly my weight went down. My body fat went down. My body composition became something that I liked in myself for once and I felt really good about soccer and my performance. And it’s just been more of a routine and a habit that I’ve carried on since then. And I’ve felt really good ever since that I made that shift in 2018.

Speaker 1: Well, I really appreciate your candid response to us because I think women across the board, athletes and those of us who are not athletes can relate to body image struggles and eating disorders. And I think that’s a lot more common than we probably even know about because a lot of people don’t want to talk about it or don’t want to admit it, because it is very personal. So I appreciate you sharing that with us.

Erin Simon: Of course.

Speaker 1: Which leads perfectly into my next question for you is as women we’ve been conditioned for a really long time to eat low calorie, low fat, low carb, just stay under 1200 calories and do this massive amount of cardio to stay fit. And it’s quite the opposite of what’s being preached to our male counterparts. Thankfully I think society is kind of catching up to science to accept that these ultra low everything diets, they’re not sustainable and they’re not effective. So how has society and our culture’s view of what a woman should look like and how they should eat or mostly shouldn’t eat to achieve that affected you as a woman and as an athlete?

Erin Simon: Obviously culture does play a huge role in that. I think social media, it has its positives, but it has a lot of negatives too. And a lot of people don’t show the hardships and the ugly sides of social media. You see someone living this perfect life with this great body, but then underneath you don’t don’t know that they have these eating disorders and these insecurities. So I think people miss that, but we’re only seeing that one aspect of it where we see their perfect body and their perfect nutrition, but there’s definitely a healthy balance to it all. And I think social media and a lot of users are actually starting to trend that way and show more of an authenticity to themselves. So they’re showing that they’re not perfect.

They have these flaws and that you can have this, there’s this rule called the 80/20 rule where you can be 80% of the time clean, but 20% enjoy life, enjoy going out with friends, having drinks, eating crap food. And those are the moments where you shouldn’t worry about it and just enjoy those moments with people that you love. So I

think what I’ve seen the shift now recently is people opening up more about mental health because it’s huge in societies these days and people are being more of their authentic selves and showing like, hey, these are my flaws, but also you can live this way and not have to be perfect. So I think that’s really helpful.

Speaker 1: Yeah, I completely agree with you. I think a lot of the facade is kind of starting to crumble a little bit, which is refreshing to see that these people are people. They’re humans with real struggles and good days and bad days just like us. Well, what would you say to any young girls who are maybe just starting in their athletic career, who are coming up in the ranks behind you, who may be combating some body image insecurities or trying to make sense of all of these kind of unspoken rules that they’re seeing for women and as far as what they should look like and what they should eat, what would you say to those young girls?

Erin Simon: Honestly, I would say you need to listen to yourself and your body, your body is your mind. It’s going to tell you what it needs. What makes it feel good, what makes it not feel good. Your gut health is super important and it’s like a second brain. So honestly, if you just focus on your own needs, what your body needs, what it tells you it wants, then you should follow that and follow your intuition and what works for one person isn’t going to work for another person. So that’s why you need to focus on yourself and your own needs.

And on the other side of that, if you’re an athlete, focus on your performance, don’t focus on your image or your looks because everybody’s different. And if you look at Olympians, these are athletes at the highest level and they’re all not ripped and shredded. There’s some incredible Olympians that don’t look like that and they’re still playing at the highest level. So they need to realize you need to eat for your performance and not for image. I’d stress those two things to fuel your body properly, listen to it, what it needs and to fuel your body for performance and not image.

Speaker 1: Such good tips and I think ones that can really span even outside of nutrition is just kind of focusing on yourself and not letting comparison take you down, because that really is the root of all of this is looking at other people and comparing what you’ve got to what they have and what you think you should have, but let’s jump to game day. So you’ve talked a little bit about balancing your macros, which once I learned about macros, it was almost just like a mind explosion because it’s so counter cultural to what we’ve been preached for so long. So what does your eating schedule look like on a game day? Do you carb load? Do you eat normally? Do you kind of do several small meals? What does game day look like versus a rest day or an off day?

Erin Simon: Honestly, I don’t change much over the weeks. I eat five small meals a day and I eat every two and a half to three hours. That’s my normal eating just on game days and probably the night before I do start to intake a lot more carbs because you’re going to need those carbs for energy and performance for the next day. So that’s the only changes I’ll make. I still on game days I eat five meals. I feel myself every two and a half to three hours before the game. I just add those extra carbs into my meals. So that’s pretty much the only changes I make on a game day, really

Speaker 1: An important note to any of you ladies listening that carbs are not bad. Carbs are fuel. Don’t shy away from carb intake. Well, speaking of carbs because it’s my weakness, let’s talk cravings. So this is something, I mean everybody struggles with across the board, whether they’re just a seasoned athlete or they’re just starting on their fitness journey. And I think it’s oftentimes what throws people totally off course. They’ll have these great intentions, they’re going to make this change and then they get a craving and they’re like, okay, forget it. So how do you control your cravings or satisfy your sweet tooth without just totally going backward on your progress? You mentioned the 80/20 rule. Talk to us a little bit about what you do.

Erin Simon: So with the 80/20 rule, it’s like 80% of the time you’re doing really well with your diet and then 20% of the time you’re treating yourself. So I love sweet things. I do have a bit of a sweet tooth, but in order to control that, basically, I kind of time it in certain times of the day where I won’t feel that guilt of overindulging. So after a game I’m like, oh, treat myself, I’m going to go get an ice cream or a brownie a la mode or something. Or if it’s someone’s birthday, I’ll treat myself. Special occasions, that’s when I go in on treats or I’ll make healthy desserts that have protein powder, but then I’ll add dark chocolate on it and that kind of satisfies my sweet tooth.

Speaker 1: That’s a good tip.

Erin Simon: Yeah. So if you add dark chocolate to anything, fantastic idea.

Speaker 1: It just makes it better. There’s really no going wrong with dark chocolate. Okay.

Erin Simon: Yeah. And for savory things, I love pizza and tacos and I can probably eat five baskets of chips and queso by myself.

Speaker 1: Same.

Erin Simon: And so I treat myself on weekends, one or two days a week, I’ll treat myself to kind of a cheat meal. And what I’ve learned about cheat meals is if you’re clean all the time, your body gets used to that. And then adaptations aren’t made. So you almost need to kind of shock your body and throw something in there so it shocks it and goes, whoa, what’s this. And then it takes it, utilizes it and then gets used to there being a shock and something different coming into it. Because your body’s an adaptable creature. And if you look at any of The Rock’s cheat meals, they’re insane. Go on as Instagram check out The Rock, his cheat meals are unreal. But I’ve learned that shocking, your body is a really good thing because too much routine, almost your body isn’t able to adapt to other things.

Speaker 1: I mean that’s interesting. Because I think that’s something people complain about a lot is the plateau in their progress because they’re eating the same thing, they get in such a routine. So that’s a really good tip. Well, before I let you go, are you up for a five question lightning round so we can get to know you a little better?

Erin Simon: Yeah, of course.

Speaker 1: Okay. Let’s do it. All right, number one. What’s a staple meal or recipe on your dinner rotation?

Erin Simon: Dinner rotation. I’ve been really digging Mediterranean food. So I’ve been having lemon pepper chicken with pita and like a cucumber tomato salad with tzatziki sauce.

Speaker 1: That sounds so good.

Erin Simon: That’s been pretty stable.

Speaker 1: Okay. What’s your favorite guilty pleasure food? If you’re going to cheat, cheat big.

Erin Simon: Ice cream.

Speaker 1: Ice cream.

Erin Simon: Got to go with a giant ice cream.

Speaker 1: Yeah. I mean you can’t beat that. What is on your workout or training playlist? What gets you hyped up?

Erin Simon: Any Kygo song. I love Kygo, he’s always hype me up.

Speaker 1: There you go. Okay, if you could play any position other than what you play now, what would it be?

Erin Simon: Probably goalkeeper. I think they look like they have so much fun.

Speaker 1: It’s just iconic, right? Yeah. Okay. And last but not least, what is your favorite restaurant in Louisville?

Erin Simon: Oh, favorite restaurant in Louisville. Speaker 1:                              There’s so many choices.

Erin Simon: Oh man. Shoot, that’s a hard one. I have so many mind actually. Maybe Agave & Rye or Captain’s Quarters. Those are my two favorites.

Speaker 1: Both good. Both good choices. All right, Erin. Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate you coming on and giving us a few minutes of your time to chat all things nutrition so that everybody at home can learn to eat like a pro.

Erin Simon: Yeah, of course. Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 1: We look forward to catching you out on the field this season. Good luck Erin Simon:   Thank you.

Speaker 1: Thank you. Thanks so much for tuning in today. That is a wrap on our mini series, Like a Pro featuring Louisville City FC and Racing Louisville Football Club players. We hope you’ve gained some really valuable insights on nutrition, mental health, rest, recovery, and self care that you can take into your daily life. Again, we will be linking to the Racing Louisville FC website in the show notes of this podcast so that you can go on, learn a little bit more about Erin, the rest of the team, get a copy of their schedule and hopefully catch them on the field. But that’s not all, season three will be carrying on with much more content related to lots of health and wellness questions that matter the most to you. So be subscribed, make sure that you’re getting notifications every time we drop a new episode, leave a review if you liked this episode and share it with a friend, we’ll catch you next time on Health Talks Now, stay well.

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