How To Get In Shape When You’re Living with IBS

Most people believe that food is the biggest challenge to getting in shape when you’ve got a digestive issue like IBS. While there’s no question food plays a major role, it won’t be the deciding factor in your overall success. So what is? It all comes down to habit. Until you establish a daily routine that’s easy to stick to, your progress will be slow or non-existent. I know because that’s how it was for me for years.

In the last two years, I’ve seen huge improvements in my energy levels and body composition due to a combination of factors including weight training, keto, cannabis, and fasting. While weight training and cannabis reduce inflammation, keto helped me lose weight and eliminate the bloating that had caused me discomfort for years. Fasting was the final piece of the puzzle, as it enabled me to switch up my relationship with food, understand my hunger signals, and stop the overeating behaviour that was ultimately the biggest trigger for my IBS.

There’s a lot of info in that paragraph because in reality it took time to research and understand the value of each strategy, and then it took time to make it a part of my day-to-day life. It took about three years to learn how to train the right way, and about the same time to learn the value of whole food. It took me a year to work up to keto, and when I finally did it, I stayed on it too long, which hijacked my hormones, meaning my period stopped, and my anxiety went through the roof leading to a panic attack.

In short, with any fitness plan, expect setbacks along the way, and see each one as a learning curve, an opportunity to switch up what you’re doing to get better results. This is part of the process and helps you find the “right balance” for YOUR body. What’s right for me is not going to be right for you, but if, like me, you can’t eat certain foods, please know this makes getting in shape ten times more difficult. So, go easy on yourself, and rather than thinking about the results, think about what you need to do to feel good. Focus on the feeling, and the rest will follow. Here are some tips to get you on track.


Change is a trade-off because nine times out of ten, if you want to gain something, you’re going to have to give something up to get it. On top, the thing you have to give up is typically something you know is bad for you but goddamn it, you love it. How do you give up something you love, even when you know it’s bad for you? There’s only one way: you have to value something else more.

I quit smoking four years ago because I was so worried about gum disease. Any time I thought of smoking, the first next thought was my gums, and that mattered more. If you don’t have something that matters more, you’re never going to stick to your new behaviour so don’t even bother trying. Honestly, don’t even try. Not worth the torture.

But here’s something you can do: you can be very clear about what you’re willing or not willing to do. Change happens on a continuum, so start small. If your ultimate goal is to lose weight, ask yourself why? Try the Five Whys Exercise: for every answer, ask why five times. This exercise leads you to the real reason behind your desire. If this is the first time you’re doing this exercise, I guarantee you the answers will surprise you.


You may think your behaviour is automatic, or a response to whatever situation you’re in today but when it comes to overeating, eating times, going to the gym, going for a walk, food shopping, mediation, watching TV, or basically anything you do, the groundwork is laid weeks, months and years in advance. Example: I used to save all my sweets over the forty days of Lent, hiding it under my bed, and eat the whole lot in one go on Easter Sunday. Is it any wonder I became an over-eater in later life?

Whether you’re willing to admit it or not, every one of your behaviours is a choice, meaning it’s not fixed, and within your control. In fact, it’s the only thing within your control. If you know that you’d like to work out every day, and don’t do it, and constantly feel guilty, ask yourself why? It could be that you’re addicted to feeling guilty, which gives you an excuse to comfort yourself with sugar donuts or ice cream or beer or whatever your guilty pleasure is.

Here’s the thing: guilt plays an essential role in the human psyche, keeping you in check, protecting you, and preventing you from making all manner of stupid decisions. But if it gets out of balance, you can get in trouble quickly. It can overtake your life to the point that you feel guilty doing anything nice for yourself, or are stuck in a cycle of doing bad things and feeling bad afterwards. Either one is shit. You don’t want to be there. How do you break it? Read on.


We all have stories we tell ourselves, and most of them are lies. In this video, the Bodybuilding Yogi reviews the stories people tell themselves about what they can and can’t do, creating false limitations that serve as excuses, and prevent them from pushing harder to achieve their goals. Which means it all comes down to how far you’re willing to push yourself or how much pain you’re willing to endure. He says we have two options: the pain of discipline, or the pain of regret. You get to choose which pain you want.

Some of us have tangible limitations like physical injuries or digestive issues, but again, there are ways to get around these – if you really want. I kid you not when I tell you that I spent most of my thirties in bed, sick. I got up late, ate in the afternoon, and went back to bed. It was my normal for so long, I forgot that it wasn’t normal. Luckily for me, I had a bunch of tangible limiting factors, and once I started recognising and eliminating them, things got easier. The first thing I had to quit was alcohol, as it was poisoning my body. After six months, I had enough energy to join a gym. Today, I go to the gym six days a week. It took three years to build this habit.

I still have a bunch of limiting factors: I can’t take supplements. I smoke. I have IBS, meaning there’s a long list of food I can’t eat. My budget won’t allow me to buy the full range of organic foods I’d like. I can’t afford a personal trainer. I can’t remember the last time I had a massage. Sleep is a big issue for me, as is meditation, or anything that requires me to sit still. Lifting weights is my meditation. Just like change is a trade-off, every choice has its opposite. Find your limitation. Then find its opposite. I’m promise you that’s your happy place.


Most of us don’t realise how much food we eat during the day, and this is how those extra calories creep in. A food journal is a great way to keep track of what you’re eating and identify any problem areas such as processed foods, excess sugars, or fizzy drinks. You can be as creative as you want with this, and include information such as calories, fat, protein, carbs and/or sugar. How long you do it is up to you but if you commit to a month, you will learn a lot about your eating habits, both good and bad.

Step it up and create a How Food Feels Journal, an idea I got from the people over at Precision Nutrition, which is particularly beneficial to people with digestive issues. In this journal, you’ll need 3 columns for Time of Eating; Description of Meal; and How it Feels. Do you feel energised lethargic, bloated, gassy, or have brain fog? Are you exhausted? Do you have to lie down? Do you have pain? A journal like this makes it easy to see what foods do and don’t work for you, and enables you to create a working meal plan.


Now, I want to scare the shit out of you a little bit because I want you to understand that this is not easy. Please know that the built bodies of those women you admire so much are the result of SERIOUS WORK. Typically, a female body builder will have a personal trainer, a nutritionist, and spend up to four hours a day in training. This level of effort is not necessary for the average woman, but just to give you a clear idea of the work involved, the following is an example of the regime followed by a female athlete with around 10% body fat, again, courtesy of Precision Nutrition.

A female athlete with less than 10% body fat will:

  • Eat slowly and until satisfied at 99% of meals
  • Follow a carb cycling meal plan
  • Have a carefully prepared meal plan to meet body goals
  • Measure food specifically
  • Include exact amount of protein, veg, and fat needed at each meal
  • Eat no processed foods
  • Exercise twice daily for up to 75 minutes
  • For up to 7 of those workouts, she’ll be working flat out, sweating
  • Sleep at least 9 hours a night
  • Have a daily de-stress routine
  • No alcohol
  • No eating in restaurants
  • Dessert once every 3 months

How many of us can commit to that kind of regime? Believe me, if you can, you’re an outlier, not the norm. Athletes do this because it’s their job, but the average woman will have a job already, on top of other commitments, meaning it’s simply not possible to spend so many hours in the gym, and another few hours meal prepping. As a start point, it’s much easier to think about how much time you do have available in the day, and think about how you want to spend it. Remember, choosing activities that make you happy, as well as nutrient-dense whole food is the most beneficial thing you can do for your body.


OK, so what do you do if you want to get in shape and have IBS?

  1. Start with food journal, and get fully acquainted with your eating habits and food choices.
  2. Determine your goals, and make them realistic. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  3. Determine your preferred mode of exercise, and commit to a weekly schedule.
  4. Review your protein intake, and if possible, consider increasing it. If you’re not sure how to do this, eat more eggs. If you don’t eat eggs, add chia seed protein or hemp protein to your meals.
  5. Review your fat intake, and consider healthy fat sources such as walnuts, avocado, salmon, butter, and almond butter.
  6. Cut down on processed foods, and cut out all take-out food. Yes, all of it.
  7. Make sure you’re drinking at least 1.5 litres of water per day infused with electrolytes to balance hydration.
  8. Make sure you’re sleeping for at least 7 hours per night, ideally more.
  9. Eat within a 12-hour window for a period of two weeks.
  10. Find a way to de-stress and commit to daily practice.

This is a general guide, but I promise you that if you start here, you’ll be on the right track within three to six months. If you’d like a more detailed plan tailored to your body goals, or would like to discover ways to develop a better relationship with food, get in touch today for a FREE CONSULTATION. Email:

#guthealth #bodygoals #getinshapewithIBS




Published by The Healthy Hashhead

The Healthy Hashhead is a writer, poet, cannabis educator and sports nutritionist, dedicated to spreading the message of the conscious consumption through unique content that speaks to regular users of cannabis.

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