People ask me all the time about what I eat. If I responded "Cupcakes and beer!!" you probably would either be:
a). Excited to know that your dream diet had just been approved by a fitness coach.
b). Disappointed that someone you thought you could come to for sound advice was actually off her rocker.
Truthfully, "cupcakes and beer" is part of the answer to that question. There was a point in time where I would have left that part out altogether. After all, I am a coach and an athlete and I feel an obligation to live by example. Not to mention the fact that I started a company based on my alleged passion for health and fitness. How could I possibly admit to eating cupcakes and drinking beer and then expect my clients and friends to take me seriously when I tell them to cut it out with the sugar and processed foods?
Below is a list of rules that I follow... most of the time. If you want me to define "most of the time", sorry, can't do it. I don't have one specific "cheat day" and I don't "reward" myself for good behavior or with carefully rationed squares of dark chocolate. I follow rules #1-7 for most meals and snacks on most days, that's as specific as I can be.
While I know that following these rules 100% of the time is bound to make a person insanely healthy... it will make you insane as well. It's not that I do not enjoy eating this way, I actually do. The food is amazing, I have learned how to cook and I really enjoy it. Best of all, it makes me feel good and perform better. The main reason I break out of this routine is exactly that... I need to break out of a routine. Leave room for spontaneous evenings out with a group of friends (french fries may be involved!), a cold beer on a hot day, or one of my friend Clancey's cupcakes whenever and wherever they may turn up. If that sounds like a boring way to get your kicks, well then, you've never had one of those cupcakes.
The "cupcakes and beer" clause did not come into effect until after I put myself through some pretty strict tests. I've tried a lot of different things with 100% effort (meaning at first without cheating, i.e. 30 day paleo challenge, 30 day zone challenge, dairy-free diet, etc). These challenges are how I have learned what does what to my body.
I have been amazed at how a deeper understanding of the effects of food is the greatest motivator of all. Ignorance is not bliss.
We all have relationships with food based on experience. Maybe pumpkin pie makes you happy or Godiva chocolate makes you feel loved. Taking on different challenges with food has allowed me to form new relationships that are actually healthy for my body. Lots of broccoli and greens makes me alert and focused. I love this! Who knew?? Don't get me wrong, I'm not asking for a box of broccoli on Valentine's Day, but I have learned to look at food as fuel instead of comfort.
Anyway, if you're interested in what I'm eating when I'm not binging on cupcakes and beer take a look at the list below.
2. Eat Nutrient Dense Foods. Paleo foods make me feel the best and they are the most nutritious. Everything else is pretty much garbage. Also, the whole Popeye and spinach thing makes perfect sense. It is a freaking super-food.
3. Count Your Macros. "To macro" means tracking the number of grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats you consume on a particular day. I use Zone proportions because for one, it keeps me in check. If I didn't administer some sort of rule on myself even within the paleo food world I would end up eating buckets of fruit as meals because that's what I like. If I think "40-40-30" every time I eat, I am reminded to make a balanced meal for myself. I also believe in keeping insulin levels balanced and avoiding/reducing inflammation.
4. I Eat When I'm Hungry. However... I absolutely DO NOT limit the amount of "blocks" or the amount of meals I eat in a day. I eat when I am hungry... which is often.
5. Keep a Food Journal. I kept a food journal when I started my diet overhaul a couple years ago. Just for a couple of days at a time to assess what I was eating, teach myself how to proportion my meals, keep myself honest, etc. I shared one of my journals with my girlfriends at the gym (they asked for it!) and they immediately started making fun of me. It remains a source of entertainment today. I get it, it's a completely neurotic thing to do and my girls found the level of detail in my journal very amusing. They also like to tease me about how I packed roasted brussel sprouts as a snack during a 25 hour relay run. Still, I recommend the food journal (and roasted brussel sprouts). Take it very seriously... but don't take yourself too seriously and have a good laugh with girlfriends about what a nut-job you are for weighing chicken and counting stalks of asparagus.
5. Listen to Your Body: Fine Tune Your Diet To Meet Your Needs. For example, I eat extra "good fat". My neurotic journaling and rumbling stomach has taught me that I need this extra fat as a source of fuel and to keep on weight. By "extra" I mean more than the Zone diet would recommend for me and probably more than any doctor or nutritionist would recommend. I don't know how much but I have been know to eat an entire avocado as a snack or stand over the counter with a spoon and a jar of almond butter in order to stop my post-meal grazing. Sometimes I look at a can of coconut milk and wonder if I could put it in the "beverage" category.
6. Recovery. I drink a protein shake immediately after I work out and try to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
7. Drink LOTS of water. I don't drink as much water as I should. I don't know why. It's as tedious as taking fish oils everyday. I know I know, both of these things are VERY important (and not the lest bit difficult). I'll try harder. I promise.
That's all folks! Live, love, lift.. and... oh WAIT! There's one more very important thing to put on this list! How could I forget?
Rule # 8. Break the rules. If you want results you have to be strict, no doubt. But once I felt like I truly understood what was best for my body, I was able to relax and allow myself to break the rules once in a while... because I know my body and how to get back on track. Raise a glass and have a cupcake every now and then!
Getting in touch with my cavewoman-self in the Smokey Mountains while realizing the importance of a good squat.
BTW: Hunting and gathering is easier at WholeFoods!