Everyone knows I workout almost every day, sometimes even twice a day. I run 4 days a week along with weightlifting and strength training 3-4 days a week. A lot of people ask me about my diet and how I maintain the way that I eat. Do I eat clean? For the most part. Am I strictly Paleo? No. Do I eat pizza and ice cream every night? Also no. I have found that food is a constant struggle with me. I LOVE food. When I was younger and overweight, food was my comfort. I could always count on food. But I have managed to find a balance that works for me and that balance will be different for everyone.
Over the years I have changed my eating lifestyle drastically. One of my favorite childhood meals was Mac N Cheese. I could put down an entire box by myself! Nowadays, if I have a craving for pasta I make it with spaghetti squash or I go to Trader Joes or Whole Foods and buy brown rice pasta. I don’t taste the difference and I know I am putting a healthier carbohydrate into my body so I don’t feel gluttonous or awful afterwards. Plus, carbs help fuel me for my weightlifting sessions and my long runs, so I know I will benefit from these foods. It’s all about consistently making the healthier choice.
A lot of people meal prep all of their meals and can stick to a boring chicken and veggie lunch every day while depriving themselves of any flavor. If that works for you, great! I can do that for about 2 weeks and then I fall completely off the wagon.
I do, however, prep a lot of snacks. I am a big snacker, I like to eat every 2-3 hours but let’s be honest, it’s usually every 1.5 hours. My husband, on the other hand, can go all day without eating and come home and eat a huge dinner and be fine. So I prep easy snacks we can grab from the pantry or the fridge on our way out the door to prevent us from overeating at our meals and to keep our metabolism steady throughout the day. These snacks can be anything from healthy trail mix or whole nuts, small bags of grapes or carrots to small bars like NuGo or Larabar. My trick is to have LOTS of options so I do not get bored of the same things.
My breakfast is usually the same every day- 3 eggs and a piece of toast. I don’t ever get sick of eggs, but I do sometimes like to make an omelet with light cheese or have a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal to mix things up. I am ALWAYS hungry in the morning, so I usually have my first snack on my way to work.
I also crave a lot of sweets. I bake a healthy version of either banana nut or blueberry muffins weekly and add a scoop or two of protein powder to the mix so I get an added boost. I put them in individual sandwich bags too so we can grab them quickly. Keep in mind, adding protein powder does make muffins a little bit drier in texture, so I will leave out a little bit of the flour to balance it out. My two favorite recipes are http://ifoodreal.com/clean-eating-blueberry-muffins/ for the blueberry and http://ifoodreal.com/clean-eating-banana-muffins-recipe/ for the banana nut.
When it comes to cheat meals, I definitely allow myself to have them. I don’t strictly do it weekly like many trainers suggest, I do it when I have a really strong craving that doesn’t go away after a day or two. And when I do cheat, I don’t over indulge. My husband and I get frozen yogurt a few times a month and I don’t slather on the toppings, but I get enough of what I like to enjoy the flavor. My weakness is pizza. I have done several cauliflower crust pizzas and healthier pizza versions, and they are OK, but it’s not the same as eating the real thing. So when I do eat pizza, I don’t eat 6 slices, I eat 2 with a big salad to go with it. Remember, it’s about BALANCE. Indulge. Enjoy. But don’t do it to the point when you can’t button the pants you worked so hard to get into.
The only way I have been able to maintain this lifestyle change is by balance. I cannot stress it enough. Allow yourself to eat foods you enjoy in moderation, and educate yourself on other foods. Experiment with new foods and be creative! No one likes a bland stick of celery, but slap some real peanut butter (not sugary Jiff) on there and you got yourself a healthy, delicious snack!
The most important thing I have learned about food is that it fuels you. You want to eat in a way that helps you, not hurts you. The food I eat energizes me and when I have energy, I can hit the gym harder and I can run faster. No one likes to feel sluggish, and there are ways to change your food lifestyle to help you feel so much better. Don’t believe me? Try it! Remember, it takes 3 weeks to build a habit, so don’t quit after 5 days. Really stick to it and I think you’ll be surprised with the results.