What do you eat? How often do you eat? How much do you eat? How many grams of carbs do you eat? How much more do you eat on training days? What about protein? How much fat is too much fat?
These are all questions I get from folks on a DAILY basis. And my answers is always the same: blank stare. Actually I usually ask the person why they need to have this information, or what benefit it will serve them. Maybe it's pure curiosity. Either way, I figured I could help myself out by creating this blog to refer folks to. What you do with the information and details contained within it are up to you. I no longer have a need to be obscure about my dietary lifestyle because the coach in me likes to lead by example. If anything, what I'd like for you to get out of this is that I have a system in place which I allow to evolve over time. My diet is not stagnant. It is not based on a book, a magazine article, a fad, a program, or a recommendation. I eat whatever I want, whenever I want it. Of course, it hasn't always been this way. But maybe you'll also discover through reading this how I managed to get where I am today...overcoming food addiction, self-hate, and a completely negative body image. Food is no longer my drug, it is my medicine and I never miss a dose.
Before I just spill the beans, I thought I'd start with language. Yup, because the way you talk about food is just as important as the food itself. I never use words like "allow, restrict, cleanse, detox, 30 days, or good/bad" to describe my food or my food choices. Never. Why not you ask? Well why would I? Those kinds of words and beliefs about food set the stage for failure. Emotional failure above all else: guilt, shame, unhappiness, depression, self-hate, and embarrassment just to name a few. And who enjoys emotional failure? No one. If I told myself a certain food is not allowed in my diet, what happens when I have it? FAILURE. If I restrict a certain food in my diet, what happens when I have it more often than I intended? FAILURE. Cleansing and detoxing = FAILURE. You're basically saying that you are full of poison and need to purge yourself. Yikes. No thanks. 30 days...what happens after 30 days? FAILURE. Good food vs. bad food = ultimate FAILURE because as soon as you have one bad thing you've opened the door to a flood of bad choices and heavy guilt.
Instead, I like to use words such as nourish, whole, real, delish, beautiful, colorful, vibrant, energy, satisfaction, excitement, happy, yummy, and fun to describe my food. Now doesn't that sound much more appealing? Thought so.
How does having a system differ from goal setting or limiting food choices? A lot, actually. My system is not rigid nor is it permanently defined. I used to feel like shit all the time. Tired, irritable, lethargic, angry...miserable. I figured my inactivity and diet had a lot to do with it but I was too overwhelmed to change either. When I stopped making it my "goal" to live healthier and made it my priority, everything changed. I do not want to feel like shit all the time. It's no fun. Therefore I do things that make me feel amazing instead. Simple, really. Exercise plays a huge role in this and so do my food choices. I let this thinking lead the way. Because I want my food to give me energy AND make me happy (aka feel good), my food choices reflect that. Sometimes that means that my food choices feed into my social wellbeing or happiness; I enjoy dining out with my friends and loved ones and discovering new restaurants. Sometimes it means that my food choices feed into my financial wellbeing or happiness; I love bargain shopping and I find it fulfilling to support local farmers and eat seasonally. Sometimes it means that my food choices feed into my community wellbeing or happiness; I'm a leader by nature. I realize that people look up to me and rely on me for support, guidance, and information. I love to set a strong example for others. Basically, I eat for happiness.
What does my diet look like?
Ok, we've finally arrived at the meat and potatoes of the blog. Get it? Meat and potatoes? I'm funny, huh? Hopefully you've picked up some valuable insight along the way. You have? That's great! So here's some key things you should know about me and my lifestyle before we proceed:
- I do not count calories
- I do not measure or weigh my food
- I do not follow any percentage breakdown for macro nutrients (i.e. 40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat)
- I do not tell myself that I can't have a certain food
- I am a very active person and I prefer my weights HEAVY
- I am 5'9", just under 170lb, and around 20% body fat
- None of the above things were true several years ago
Alrighty, ready? Of course you are. And by the way, this list does not include everything I eat or don't eat, just the things that came to mind and foods that most people ask about. And as I said before, my food choices are not based on any program or opinion. My food system is very simple: I eat foods that contribute to my happiness in some way and not foods that don't.
Things I eat everyday
- A boatload of vegetables. Like seriously a huge amount of veggies (especially leafy greens). Kale, spinach, arugula, romaine lettuce, green and red cabbage, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, carrots, squash (basically whatever is in season)
- Fresh herbs: cilantro, basil, thyme, rosemary, etc.
- Seeds...chia, flax, hemp, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, etc. They're in my water, my salads, my roasted veggies, my shakes, etc. Or, they're just in my hand.
- COCONUT!! A staple in my diet. For no other reason than I freaking love it (technically not true; coconut is an extremely nutrient dense food). I like coconut shredded, raw, milk (pure from the can, not the carton), butter, oil, dried and roasted, etc.
- Chocolate. No, I'm not kidding. But, I'm not talking about Hershey's...I mean the real deal. No emulsifiers, no soy, no added flavors, minimal or no sugar. REAL chocolate with at least 85% cocoa content. Not because I want to restrict sugars, but because I genuinely, absolutely love real chocolate. Cocoa beans are another super nutrient-dense food!
Things I eat several times per week
- Eggs or egg whites
- Steel cut oats cooked in (you guessed it) full fat coconut milk
- Fresh fruit (only in the summer months though)
Things I eat about once per week
- Fermented foods (kraut, pickles, miso, etc.)
- Homemade bone broth or stock
- Plant-based protein shakes
- Sweet potatoes
- Sprouted beans
- White fish or salmon
- Tuna or sardines
- Crab, lobster, or shrimp
- Sausage, bacon, deli meat, salami, jerky (processed meat)
Things I eat about once or twice per month
- Restaurant food. It's almost always sushi (seaweed salad, hella pickled ginger, a big plate of sashimi, and a roll to share) or Thai (curry of some sort).
- Ice cream or cookies (or both, together)
- Lamb & beef
- Homemade popcorn (I pop it in coconut oil)
- Energy or protein bars
Things I eat a few times per year
Things I don't eat
Not because I restrict these things in my diet, but because I do not have a taste for them anymore. I simply don't want them and can't remember the last time I did. They don't even really exist in my food world.
- Fried food
- Fast food
- Candy bars (Twix, Snickers, etc.)
So there you have it. My system works for me because it gives me the energy I need for my active lifestyle and it keeps me feeling good. I don't ever feel like I'm missing out on certain foods by politely declining when they are offered to me. If I don't want it, I won't eat it. And if I do want it, I will have it and enjoy it. Period. Also, I don't intentionally keep track of my intake. I've kept an active food journal for over 3 years now and I photograph all of my food so that's how I was able to compile this list. My system is not based on daily, weekly, or monthly "allowances" at all, I just happened to be able to compile the list in this way by referring to my journal.
How much & how often?
I don't track my intake like this, at all, so my answers will be estimations at best. I could go input my food over the past week or so into some kind of online tracker and measure out my meals for the rest of the day but that would be a waste of my time. What do I need that information for? How does it serve me? It doesn't. In fact, it would probably do more harm than good. I used to track and measure EVERYTHING. It drove me crazy. It feed into my food addiction and obsession. It made me very unhappy. I will never do it again.
So, if I had to guess. I would say I probably consume about 2,500-3,000 calories per day divided out into 3-5 meals. I don't eat differently on different days. I eat based on my hunger levels and energy needs. If I'm not hungry, I don't eat. If I'm not hungry and I know I need to eat because I've been training, I'm about to train, or I've lost track of time since my last meal, then I try to eat SOMETHING. A piece of fruit with some coconut flakes. A hard boiled egg and avocado. Hummus and carrots. Something like that.
And if I had to guess how much fat compared to protein compared to carbs I ate it might look something like: 40% fat, 25% carbohydrates, 35% protein. I eat a lot of fat. My body enjoys it and uses it efficiently. I need fat. I crave it. Same with protein. I don't feel satisfied unless I have protein in my meals. And no, it doesn't have to be meat. Plant based proteins are good for me too. I don't eat meat everyday. With carbs it's a different story. I crave them more and more when I have too much of them. How do I know I've had too much? I get bloated, my energy spikes and then crashes, I feel like I haven't slept in days, I feel intoxicated. I get that hazy mental fog. And it doesn't take much for this to happen to me. I prefer stable energy levels over spikes and crashes. I don't do caffeine and I don't know what it feels like to need it. I prefer food for fuel.
I know my diet is right for me because my definition of a healthy diet is as follows:
- gaining satisfaction, happiness, overall wellness and empowerment from food choices
- gaining energy and nutrients applicable to your lifestyle from food choices
Basically, eating foods that make you feel and look the way you want to inside and out. (No, we can't see what we look like on the inside but our doctors can give us a pretty good idea). Given that definition, a healthy diet will always look different from person to person. Develop your own food system and allow it to change and grow with you. Don't restrict foods from your diet, redefine what it means to enjoy them. Change your attitude about carbs and fat. Keep an open mind and discover what works for you by trying something new. Do things differently. Those are all important elements to developing and maintaining a healthy diet. It's about so much more than just food choices.