Workout Jam of the Day
What Did I Eat Today
Breakfast – Good Food Made Simple Cheese & Veggies Breakfast Burrito, V8 + Energy Diet Strawberry Lemonade
Lunch – Little Salad Bar Sunflower Chopped Salad (Green Cabbage, Kale, Red Cabbage, Green Leaf Lettuce, Carrots, Italian Cheese, Edamame, Sunflower Seeds, Quinoa Mix, Sweet Onion Vinaigrette)
Snack – Fit & Active Strawberry Protein Meal Bar
Dinner – Progresso Creamy Mushroom Soup
Normally I blog about my workout and share spiritual insights, but today I want to dive into why I eat the way I do for those who have enjoyed seeing my food log. First things first, yes I went to the gym. I bumped it up a tenth of a mile per hour to 4.8 and ran the whole 10 minutes plus most of the cooldown. I’m working on more controlled breathing from the diaphragm, something I can easily do while singing but feels impossible while running. The rest of the visit was pushing myself through leg day.
So perhaps you’ve noticed that each time I blog, I share what I ate for the day. This is mostly an accountability tool for me. Knowing I will tell you is a deterrent from cheating. lol That being said, I have been a vegetarian for going on 3 years now, and I am often asked,”Well then, what exactly do you even eat?” This is an opportunity for people who are curious to see behind the curtain. It also serves as a way to share recommendations for anyone looking for something new to try.
Here is what you will notice about my eating habits – I don’t follow a traditional “diet”. They used to preach if you don’t want to be fat, don’t eat fat. Then we realized that wasn’t a healthy approach. Some fats are super healthy for you (like avocados) and some are not. It’s even been suggested healthy fats may be able to help curb diabetes. Now they preach keto and other low carb approaches which all revolve around cutting your carbohydrates as low as possible to put you in a state of ketosis where your body no longer has carbs to burn for energy and turns to burning fat, it’s secondary fuel source. Again, what we are beginning to learn is that while this does provide some impressive health benefits in the short term, it can cause serious heart and other health issues if followed in the long term.
The truth is God made food as fuel and medicine, and if we get enough diversity in our diets, food can meet all of our nutritional needs. Your food is the color it is due to its nutritional content, so eating the rainbow is good for you! People who are cutting carbs these days often cut fruit out of their diet – some of the most nutritionally dense foods there are – simply because they have carbohydrates in them. What they don’t understand is that there are different kinds of sugar. The kind that is in fruit is a simple carbohydrate that is incredibly easy for your body to break down. Complex carbohydrates like artificial sugars and sweeteners are the real problem, not the naturally occurring ones. In addition, whole grains are good for you, although standard white bread is not. While it’s not an only source for cravings, often nutritional deficiency can cause certain cravings. For example when I’m low in iron I crave potatoes or potassium I crave bananas. Balanced nutrition helps control cravings. (Also quality rest to keep cortisol in check)
I do my level best to eat as many organic non-gmo whole foods as possible. I buy what I can organic (thank you Aldi!) because the pesticides we use are lethal and I don’t want to ingest them in my food if a Hazmat suit is needed to spray them. I buy non-gmo when I’m able (though this is harder to find), because this is not a fully vetted out advancement yet and concerns are starting to be raised regarding them. I buy whole foods as often as possible, because it saves money so I’m not paying a convenience fee for someone to pull the lettuce off the head or chop my onion and because it’s the easiest way to avoid preservatives, additives, sweeteners, and other processed garbage I don’t want. Do you realize they actually dye your olives black? That’s why you see me buying Lindsay’s Naturals black olives, because they don’t dye them. Overall, the way God designed things is the best way, and I try my best to get as close to what I would call the Garden of Eden diet as I can. As a friend of mine says, if it’s of the earth, it’s of the greatest worth.
Obviously this can’t always happen. If I go out to eat or a friend feeds me or my budget is too thin for the week’s groceries, I have to make exceptions. I don’t always have time for that level of meal prep, and the kids don’t always want to eat like I do (they act like a brussel sprout would kill them), so sometimes convenience wins. In addition, I have no desire to punish myself toward better health, and I will enjoy a brownie or a bowl of ice cream once in awhile if I so choose. We have to live a little! However, when I do want a tortilla for example, you’ll notice I buy the kind that only have 4g of net carbs, and my loaves of bread are multigrain and only 45 calories per slice. The ice cream I buy is reduced calorie and protein enriched. I still try to find a carb reducing, healthier option when I do this.
In addition, with my body type, rather than cutting carbs for ketosis, I do what is called metabolic confusion (also known as carb cycling). This means that I alternate between high carb days and low carb days to sort of trick my metabolism into doing what I want while still being able to enjoy rich and delicious nutritional diversity. This also establishes a lifestyle I can easily maintain when the weight is gone rather than having to shift in and out of a “diet” plan where you often gain back the weight once you hit your goal and quit the diet.
Given the high level of exercise I have been doing, I know that my weight won’t show much if any change on the scale for the first month. This isn’t because I’m not making progress. It’s actually because while I have lost fat, I have also significantly increased my muscle mass/density and they sort of cancel each other out in the beginning. When my first set of stats goes up at the end of this week, you’ll notice all the incredible improvements, including the drop in my BMI and the shrinking in the before and after photos! The scale is far from the only metric and should not dictate your satisfaction with your progress. That number will drop eventually, but I will not sacrifice my overall health just to make it happen faster. Patience is a virtue!
This is a holistic health journey, not just a weight loss journey.
As far as timing, you may have noticed I eat 4-5 times a day. My ideal goal is to eat at 9am, noon, 3pm, and 6pm which falls within a 10 hour window. Occasionally if I know I’ll be up til close to midnight, I may have a snack at 9pm. Each time I aim to eat roughly 200-400 calories.
One of my biggest previous struggles was that I would not be hungry at breakfast, sometimes even feeling sick to my stomach in the morning. I would eat a small lunch, usually an apple around 3pm, then come home starving after a day of manual labor and overindulge at dinner which would sit heavily on my stomach overnight and perpetuate the cycle. I have to force myself to eat breakfast and spread out my intake.
One of the things you learn studying to be a personal trainer is that eating larger meals once or twice a day can throw your body into a sort of starvation mode where it never knows when you will feed it next, so it stores all those excess calories you can’t immediately use as fat for later emergencies. By breaking down your eating into more frequent, smaller portions, you are giving yourself just enough food to sustain your energy needs without having leftovers to store as fat. Your body knows it will be fed, so no starvation mode.
For beverages, I do my very best to drink a bare minimum of 64 ounces of reverse osmosis clean water a day, although for my body weight that is actually still putting me at being a bit dehydrated if I don’t drink more than that. I rarely drink anything else unless it provides a sincere benefit. For example, almond milk actually has more calcium than regular milk and is also high in magnesium, two things your bones need together to properly gain their benefits. So I will use that in smoothies or cereal. Periodically if I feel I’m not getting enough blue/purple foods in my diet, I will buy juices.
You may also notice that sometimes I will do the V8 energy drinks or the Protein and energy enriched flavored waters. As a vegetarian I look for every opportunity I can to increase my protein intake. Studies have also shown that 200mg or less of caffeine per day can boost weight loss without harming you, so I will sometimes have a beverage with 70-100mg (NOT COFFEE…yuck) about 30 minutes before I go to the gym to give me a little pep in my step, but I refuse to depend on it.
In general, whether it’s from a protein infused water or food, I will make sure I get at least 15g of protein after a workout at the gym. This is where my plant based meat substitutes come in handy, because they typically load them up with protein. I also have a plant based protein powder I can use and bars I like. Truthfully protein is protein, so whey protein (from dairy) and plant based protein will both get the job done, but plant based proteins offer a bonus of the nutritional benefits plants offer. So I try to lean toward what will give me a little more benefit.
So that is how I eat, and that is how it will stay. I’ve tried just about every other method and learned a multitude of lessons from it. This is the way that satisfies my nutritional needs and helps me feel energized, healthy, and satisfies my taste buds and my soul. Obviously not everyone is the same as me. I saw a study that suggested blood type can be an indicator of whether or not being vegetarian is suited for you, and based on their information I am optimal as a vegetarian. It was a nice little validation to what I was already choosing to do.
However, we do all need that nutritional diversity, and our bodies all operate in a generally same way when it comes to energy needs. Please be sure that any dietary changes you make are what is best for you and not just following a fad. Consult your doctor, dietician, personal trainer, talk with a professional. Even as someone who is getting certified as a Health and Nutrition Coach, I would still recommend that having seen people in my life with allergies to Vitamin A and people who are somehow the most fit on earth eating an entire box of corn dogs in one sitting. Make dietary changes for the right reasons – your total health.