This was initially worded, How Do I Diet? But then I realize that’s not what it’s about at all and I actually hate the word diet. To be honest, I think “diet” as a concept is a super-loaded, polarizing crock of shit. Diets don’t work, in case you haven’t noticed by how quickly they trend in and out. They’re black holes for money and self-esteem. No thanks. I learned “how to diet” (aka live a balanced, healthy lifestyle) the hard way, after having done it wrong for so long. Disclaimer: This post could get a little complicated, so just know I’m trying to make it flow as well as possible, but most people don’t know this little factoid about me so I am trying to share a lot of information inside of a lot of information. I’ve just already made a lot of mistakes in this category that we can all learn from, so let’s see who can keep up… Game on.
Life Before StoneCold was a Healthy Betch.
One day in fall of 2010, my senior year of college, I stepped on the scale and saw 190.0 lbs flash red and oh so condescendingly up to me. It was horrifying, and shocked me. 190 pounds is fat, said my head. NOTE: I’m fairly tall – almost 5’9. I never really saw myself as fat… I was just athletic, thick and powerful. But not anymore. That moment woke me up and made me realize I was not living the way I needed to be living to be satisfied with my body and happy with myself. I was floored – it’s stupid to award numbers on a scale so much worth, but I felt like someone just slapped me across the forehead with a “CONGRATS! You’re officially fat.” sticker. I was determined to change, but I clearly didn’t know where to start. Google “how to properly lose weight?” K.
Luckily, to kick off the New Year (2011), my Crossfit gym had what we called the “LAB Leanout,” a friendly but competitive, defined healthy “contest” to start off the new year fitter, better versions of the athlete we were the year previous. Yes, I was somehow in pretty good shape… Albeit being so heavy. I was active, I don’t even know. That time seems like a dream in my life at this point. I digress: winner was selected by total *inches* lost. We had to take before and after pictures. I’m so embarassed that I’m awkwardly in some sort of half power pose with a thumbs up and it’s just truly horrific. One day, I’ll be brave enough to post it… Long story short, within that time frame (I think it was 8 weeks long) I took a headfirst dive into the crash course that was truly “how to live a healthy lifestyle.”
How do I healthy?
I went from working out and being active but preparing very little of my diet and eating out and drinking alcohol often, like I expect most regular 20-ish year old girls feel. At that point in my life, I wasn’t out of control (it was my senior year in college), but the effects of not being in control, or really caring enough to have any self-control when it came down to it, I started the Leanout coming in hot at about 185 pounds. In the months between my weight epiphany and the beginning of this, I had figured out how to shed five pounds. That’s probably a bottle of wine or two a week, or like two meals, if you do the math. It’s seriously stupid how easy it really is. Anyway, after eating ground beef and steamed broccoli for like a week straight because I was in the middle of, “I don’t know how to cook and so I’m just going to eat and log the same thing until I figure out this shit” phase of this learn-to-healthy quest, I found some newbie cookbooks and found what I actually liked to eat, and could easily cook, and most of all the food I didn’t even realize I was eating that I ate all the time and could very easily live without (pretty much all takeout and processed food ever, because you realize how gross and terrible for you it is). Just being aware of what you’re eating will improve your diet. Read labels. You’ll change your ways. Here are a few learnings that I can pass on and are constantly on my mind as I consider my health, so hopefully it’s useful and applicable for you.
Not all sugar is equal, and not all salt is good.
A tall Starbucks vanilla latte apparently has 27g of sugar, as per their beverage facts handout that I stole from a shop once. Pretty sure bananas (high sugar content for a fruit), averages about 20g? A Snickers bar also contains 27g of sugar. Just saying. Don’t even get me started with frappucinos, I’m just trying to prove to all of you wimpy coffee drinkers that you’re just drinking candy. I prefer to eat it, but it’s your muffin top. (I say that because I used to drink venti vanilla lattes in high school and can vouch this is true per actual life.)
Salt is hidden (in massive portions) in pretty much any kind of processed food. We had to end this with cooking only either fresh produce/protein or “prepared” things with <5 ingredients. Keeping our sodium intake down as well, you get creative with how to satisfy what I think is a very conditioned taste: salty. I cold turkey stopped salting everything and found now that I really enjoy spicy and savory/smoky flavors that salt would drown out – you can get some great pre-made, salt free or low sodium rubs for veggies or protein at pretty much any store. Salt is good for you, yes, but probably not as much as you’re having. Or drink a lot of water (I drink over a gallon a day). That’s usually how I justify eating large bags of salty chips, etc. One or the other, you know, in moderation or whatever they say.
pro tip: pre-portion your fats and snacks.
Fats and snacks go hand in hand for me. Fats also happen to be deceivingly high in calories because it’s your most calorically dense macronutrient. The size lies. A 2tbspn squeeze pack of Justin’s almond butter is 180 calories. I can eat that bad boy in a single bite. Do you see what I’m saying? Fats are great for on the go snacking because they’re often portable like that – I also portion out nuts and throw them in the mini-snack bags as soon as I buy bags of snack type food to make it easy to grab and go, as well as keep me from inhaling half a bag of whatever before I knew what was happening.
pro tip: automate the selection process.
One habit I’ve made myself get into as I was terrible about it through college is eating a consistent breakfast. While boring, I’ve found that I don’t really mind the monotony that early in the morning before I’m functioning anyway. I see that kind of food as a fuel source, and I need to get it in my body so that my brain CAN start working. Magazines will wax poetic about it jumpstarting your metabolism and everything they say is well-researched I’m suuuure, but I think breakfast during the week is basically a task, and so by always having the same thing it just becomes a part of my routine and it’s easy and I can think about better things, like what I’m going to have for dinner. Speaking of dinner, consistency like that lets you keep a high-level eye on your macros/calories/whatever you may track because you’ll know what you’re taking in at that meal every day, and can plan out the rest of your day accordingly. Easy peasy. I used to make two eggs with a slice of gluten free toast, or a fruit and fat (apple and squeeze pack of almond butter, for example) in the mornings before I got onto my Vega One shake grind, which I’ve found is my favorite routine that I’ve really liked and stuck with for the past 3-4 months. I wrote a post with the supplements I add and how I make it back in December which you can check out here. For students or someone working a traditional 9-5, it may be lunchtime that this would be useful – cook in bulk and rotate three lunches through the week with dinner and not only have you saved time and money, but you’ll probably feel a little less bloated and sluggish than if you head out for lunch with coworkers on the daily.
A good diet is next to godliness.
Overall, the most important lesson I’ve learned in all of this is that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet (the #1 lie that I would tell myself, justifying meal-size snacks because I had practice, or went to Crossfit). I am the actual proof of that, so we can move on. Basically, once you pay proper attention to your diet, your body will take care of itself, and if you don’t, you will (or soon will, if you’re a scb in training) start looking how you eat, just like I did. Also, it’s not an overnight process. It took me two years to go from my “high weight” to my “goal weight” (I never thought I would be able to weigh 165 lbs, 75k, when I was resting around 185 lbs. Like, lol girl no way in hell.) and I didn’t go without plateaus or bumps in the road. However, I tried to view a plateau as my body resetting and getting normalized at a lower weight, rather than something I should be concerned about and immediately change my diet for. That’s not the way it works. Consistency is key. Like, it’s not hard to do it. It’s just hard to stick with it – but so, so worth it when you do and you can show off your hard work in a body you feel great about.
So, you ate food and lost weight?
All I really did was work out and eat clean. I prepared my own food and abandoned a big portion of my social life for a while… Because I was committed to training and losing weight at the time. You just can’t be putting alcohol into your body constantly and bagging your sleep schedule and expect your body to do anything for you in return. I began to identify my problem at the source: my diet. The idea of “what is a diet?” was never really a question for me before this… I was active enough in high school with tennis and my mom made most of our dinners at night, so lunch was my only real free time to “go crazy” in terms of eating, and half the time it was Starbucks. But when the vast college cafeteria came full of food, and we came in after 6am morning sprints and weights, or hungover three or four mornings a week in spring quarter after our season was over… Those calories add up. Especially when you’re not doing anything the rest of the time to counteract them.
current “diet” philosophy.
During the week I just try to stick to a relatively clean diet (and, breakfast is typically covered with that grab and go shake) and then let myself brunch hard and enjoy myself on the weekends… Also, when I say clean I just mean I try to stay away from processed stuff – I cook really simple food (made dank with herbs, rubs and recipes) because I can’t stay away from artificial snack food. It’s my happy medium now. No one is perfect :) I just try to be aware of when the last time I indulged was, so I don’t start to fall back into the cheat/cheat/cheat off the bandwagon and into Taco Bell drive-thru daily wagon. If I’m going to drink a bottle of wine, I’m not going to plan my workout for the next morning. Also, I’ll try to pair it with some vegetables and protein, because the sugar in wine kinda counts for all my carbs. Now do you see how we justify wine as part of a balanced diet? Winos, WE WIN.
I hope I still have people at this point. Basically, what I’m trying to say is, eating healthy isn’t THAT hard, and it doesn’t have to be terrible. I got a little party hardy in college and have lost 35 pounds since then by learning what works for me and my body, and how I can make it a sustainable if not enjoyable part of my life. It’s daunting, yes, but it’s definitely not impossible, and with some determination and willingness to call yourself out on your own shit, you could too (just projecting, I can’t see through your screen!). I just have some tried and true tips and things to consider, and while they aren’t rocket science, at least we know they work. That being said, and now that we have my story covered, we can get prepped (ha ha ha see what I did there, omg Nicole stop – this is my life) for next week. I have some delish, easy to make recipes I wanna share and other little bits of tried and true wisdom, so get your kitchen and bod ready. I feel like I wrote forever, SORRY, but we are talking about two years of my life here, so if you’re curious for more detail about the “how” or anything else relevant to what I said in this post, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org, or send me a tweet!