I was talking to some friends about nutrition yesterday and it got me thinking about my nutrition journey – where I started, what my thinking used to be, and where I am now.
It used to be – in my “before fitness” life – that I ate one large meal a day – dinner. My go-go was typically piccadillo that I made at home – my nana’s recipe – with white rice, bread, platanos and something sweet for dessert. I never ate breakfast and “lunch” was plain potato chips and a candy bar. Sometimes a Mountain Dew. LOL No joke. Knowing what I know now, I’m not sure how I wasn’t overweight. In fact, I was underweight. That first day I walked into the gym downtown for a group fitness class, I was a whopping 94 pounds. I thought I looked great back then! I about died in that first class and I couldn’t walk or sit for days because I was so sore.
When the trainer asked me about my nutrition a few classes later, he schooled me. If I wanted to change how my body looked (I had photos of women I aspired to look like at the time), I needed to change my nutrition. He gave me a guidance plan which included peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, lots of chicken and rice, veggies and nuts. I thought he was insane telling me I had to eat so much food. I didn’t know him, but I trusted what he told me and started trying to eat more. It took me a little bit to be able to get everything in and to shift my mindset on what I thought would work, but I eventually did it. Slowly I started gaining weight and could lift heavier weights.
Although I initially flipped out when the number on the scale started to go up, I realized it was going the direction I needed it to go. In the process, my strength AND confidence was also increasing and I was enjoying how I looked and felt.
I eventually started doing my own research on different nutrition plans – because I wanted to keep changing the way I looked – and would try one after another. I’d go from low carb, high protein to high carb, low protein to high fat, high protein. And although I followed each program the way it was written for at least the length of time recommended, I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted. And I felt SO restricted that is was hard to get through them. I was too confined for the life I wanted to live.
Fast forward to today and this is what I’ve learned. Nutrition isn’t temporary. It isn’t a quick fix. It’s not limiting. It’s not about excluding. And it’s not about recreating the wheel. It IS about balance. It’s about everything in moderation. It’s about listening to my body and eating what works for me. I will say, with the type of workouts I do, low carbs diets do NOT work for me. I’m currently following a program that 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat. My body LOVES it. And I didn’t have to recreate anything – I found the program, the directions and just follow what it says. It’s balanced and it works. Back to the low carb thing really quick though… Those “diets” really don’t work for anyone long term because they’re too limiting and your body NEEDS the carbs for energy. With no energy it’s hard to get through the day, much less through a workout. I need veggies, fruits, complex carbs, protein, fats, and oils. And on the weekends I enjoy some drinks and extra food – typically more carbs. LOL Eat your carbs, people! But I digress…
Even though I had the problem of being underweight when I started my health and fitness journey, the concept for weight loss is still the same. Not everyone processes macros (the amount of each category of food I get calories from) the same as me. Some people need higher carbs than me, some people need higher fat. But what it comes down to for EVERYONE is BALANCE. We have to start thinking of nutrition as a lifestyle, not a diet. Diets are short term – not long lasting – VERY limiting – and sometimes very frustrating. And then when we stop the “diet” you know what happens, right?! We gain everything back that we lost. What’s the point of that??
Find balance. Find something that will give you slow and steady weight loss. The weight didn’t come on quickly so it shouldn’t come off quickly. If you’re trying to gain, the same goes for you. Find something with balance, not something that’s so high in fat and protein that you don’t feel well. Wouldn’t it be better to enjoy life AND reach your goals without feeling like you’re missing out on things or feeling miserable in the process? If you could “enjoy” the weekends with a couple of cheat meals and some drinks, but STILL lose weight, would you follow that program?! Of course! So why don’t you?? No more eliminating entire categories of food to try to quickly drop 10 pounds. It’s not gonna work.
And LISTEN to your body as you’re changing your lifestyle. If you eat something that doesn’t agree with you, don’t eat it! Even if it’s a “healthy food”, don’t eat it. Your body isn’t processing it and it’s not worth the ill effect. There are plenty of other options out there to get the same nutrients from something that doesn’t cause negative effects. I can’t eat chicken, eggs, ginger, banana, duck or garlic. There’s nothing bad about any of those things. In fact, they’re all considered good, healthy foods! But not for me. And guess what? I feel AMAZING now that they’re out of my diet. So LISTEN to your body and maybe forget most of what you’ve ever learned about nutrition – go back to the basics. LOL
I didn’t get to where I am over night. I learned the hard way that eliminating categories of foods (like carbs) long term is not healthy no matter how I look at it. It took time, patience and figuring out what worked for me through trial and error. I’m happy with how I look and am even happier with how I FEEL. And for that, all of the time for me has been well worth the wait.