a girl eating a cake

What CAN I eat? Making sense of dieting nonsense.

Eat this!!!
Don’t eat THAT!
Avoid these foods at all costs!
Eat this and you will *insert choice verb here: boost your metabolism, loose weight, tone up, have more energy, trim fat, end world hunger, grow super powers….*
You must eat 5-8 times a day!
You only need to eat within an 8 hour window!
Actually, twice a week, don’t eat at all!
Eat Clean!
Eat Paleo!
Carbs are bad!
Fat will make you fat!
Meat is evil!
Too much protein will kill your kidneys!
Stay away from gluten!
Go anti-inflammatory!
Eat for your blood type!
This video says just how ridiculous life has gotten (censor watch – I apologize for the swear word in the beginning):

The list goes on and on and on.  Are you as tired as I am of seeing these things?  I am sick and tired of being told what I can and cannot, should and should not eat.  Life is too short to have other people dictate your meals.

On the one hand, the majority of the American population has a general idea of what healthy foods are, and what are “unhealthy” foods in the sense that we know that broccoli has more health benefits for us than an Oreo cookie, and it’s much harder to “overdo it” on broccoli than it is on Oreos.  On the other hand, will eating and Oreo in and of itself make you fat, kill your kidneys, make you healthy, wealthy and wise? 

No.  Nor will broccoli.  It’s just food.

I am not a nutritionist, but I have been up and down the nutritional scale starting with wanting to just “eat healthy” and then learning how certain foods can “affect my body”, eating 5-6 times via Tosca’s “Eat Clean” mantra, turning to figure competing and eating nothing but fish and asparagus with the stray bowl of oats of boiled chicken breast thrown in for “variety”, to binging on peanut butter in rebellion, to studying nutrition through my various certifications, to Intermittant Fasting to where I am now.  Where is that?

I am re-learning to trust my body.  I have ignored it for so long in the hopes of changing it for the better, that I have ignored it.  Your body, if you really listen will not hurt you, not lie to you, not lead you down the path of shame, deprivation or overindulgence on a daily basis.  Infants and children, even into adolescence have no problem listening to their bodies, well, most of them. Look at an infant: it cries when it’s hungry, it pushes away the bottle when it’s had enough.  It doesn’t care that you want it to “clean its plate” or that the milk will “go to waste”.  And do we punish the infant for trusting its body?

Good heavens, no.  So why do we do it to ourselves?  Why do we feel we need to overindulge at the buffet because otherwise it will go to waste?  Really?  Look, if the restaurant wastes food, that’s their problem NOT YOURS.  If you didn’t clean your plate, what bad things will happen?  Absolutely nothing.  You can save it for later, give it away, throw it away.

What about what to eat?  If I trust my body, won’t I just eat ice cream, chocolate and sweets all day everyday? If you have been on one of the bandwagons named above, you might go through a rebellious stage and do that for awhile, yes. But eventually, you lose some of the cravings for it as you become more in tune with what your body really wants.  You find out that you didn’t really want sweets, you just wanted them because they were “forbidden” and when you listen you find out that really, you just want a nice juicy steak, with a potato and some steamed broccoli.  No, really, you want it this time!   I speak from experience, here.

If you do not fit into that category above, you have not been “actively dieting” for the better part of half of your life, then you already know that more than likely, you won’t eat junk because you crave it, but you will probably eat it if it’s around your house because it’s THERE and it’s convenient.  That’s the point of pre-packaged food, it makes it easier to eat, so we do, which makes it easier to eat too much, which means we do.  See how this works?

Do this with me

qtq80 E0PRyl
What feelings does this picture invoke?

Close your eyes.  Tune in to how your body feels. 

Are you hot, cold, just right? 
Do you have pain anywhere? 
What do you hear around you?  Right now I hear birds chirping and some street noise.  It’s lovely. 
Listen to your body, notice your stomach.  Are you hungry?  This is where it gets tricky.  A lot of people say “I don’t know” because you have ignored your hunger signals for so long, you truly don’t know.  That’s ok.  The more you do this, the easier it will be to know. 

If you ARE hungry, think, what do you want?  If you could eat anything right now, what would FEEL good to you?  Smoked salmon? Steak? Eggs?  A Cadbury egg? Ice cream? Carrots?  Anything and everything is ok.  When you give yourself the freedom to want and the freedom to choose, initially you might have things come up that are really “rebellion foods”  You don’t want to eat them because you’re hungry for them, you want to eat them because you weren’t allowed to before.  After awhile of tuning in, that signal fades and you start to realize what your body wants, and what AMOUNT it wants.

I have been doing Intermittant Fasting since October.  I thought I liked it because I like to eat big.  Really, I had been on too many plans of 5 meals a day, tiny amounts of food and the thought of eating big till I was satisfied and getting to eat big before bedtime (when that is a no-no in stupid bodybuilding circles….sigh…another topic for another day) was appealing to me.  That’s not to say that IF isn’t a good plan.  I think it really is.  However, in my current state, it wasn’t helpful.  Let me explain.

Last month I quit dieting.  I have gained a ridiculous amount of weight….and now I have stopped gaining.  What happened?
As you can see from my cycle of eating behavior, I have been letting others tell me what to eat for too long.  Couple that with a lot of nutritional knowledge and my own rules and you have a strict eat clean/count calories/binge in rebellion cycle that leads to nowhere but mental and physical anguish. I got tired of it.  Tired of the rules.  Tired of only being allowed to eat at certain times, certain foods…..enough.  I KNOW what I need to eat to get lean, I know what better choices are for me than others, I know how to eat, etc.  It’s not the knowledge that is the reason I am sitting here at 35+ pounds over weight, it’s that mentally, I had ambushed myself into a corner. 

Like the video above, I felt like there was nothing safe to eat, and any amount was too much, and no matter what, eating food I began to feel guilty.  We need food to live, who wants to feel guilty about food?
I have been reading this book

and it has been helping me immensely.  If you don’t know who Geneen Roth is, I HIGHLY recommend getting some of her books.  I’m also reading “Appetites”, “Feeding the Hungry Heart” (if you are a binger or want to know what it really feels like inside of a binge, you can relate to this) and will be reading “When Food is Love” and “Women, Food and God“.

Don’t the titles feel good to say and do they ring true with some of you on things you were afraid to admit?  See, what I found out through all of this stuff about wanting to change my body is that while it started innocently enough, I did lose 20+ lbs, reach my goal weight on my wedding day and keep it off for over a year…the behaviors I learned set me up for some terrible cyclical behavior that far too many of us are in together.  I had started out changing my eating to eating healthier things, but along the way felt like I had to have continual guidance and that if I ate anything processed or “off plan” that I was a failure, I was holding myself back, etc.  And then I felt like certain foods would always be “off limits” which made me want them.

Friends, let me give you hope and guidance in as succinct a way as I can (which will be hard, look at the length of this post!).  Knowing what, when and how to eat is very simple.  Doing it to lose weight is also simple, and it CAN be easier than we make it.  Guidelines that your common sense probably already knows:

  • No food is off limits (unless you have a medical reason, allergies, etc.)
  • Food with less ingredients is healthier for you and should make up a majority of your diet for health and weight loss reasons
  • Pre-packaged food is ok to eat (did you hear that?) but remember how easy it is to eat lots of it, and it’s more calorically dense.  So when you eat it, do so on purpose, enjoy it, if you don’t enjoy it, don’t eat it.
  • If you don’t enjoy it, don’t eat it. No,really.  I think I should repeat this 100 times. 
  • As much as you can, center your meals around protein first.  This will be easier for some, harder for others, but doable for everyone.  You feel better, look better, and work better with more protein in your diet.  It builds muscle, tissue, cells, practically everything in your body and and your body has to work harder to digest it.  There’s really no downside to protein and almost everyone should eat more of it.  No idea how much? A serving size is generally 4 oz. the size of your palm.  Start there.
  • Neither carbs nor fat are bad for you– you need both.  Eat the ones you like.  Eat it with protein more often.
  • Take fish oil, preferably cod liver oil – it has the highest concentration of Omega-3’s which we are pitifully shot on here in America.
  • Eat veggies, if you like them.  There are a ton, surely there are a couple out there you like? Brightly colored, especially green, are great for you.  You knew that though, didn’t you?

When it comes to weight loss, here are the basics:

  • Eat less than you need to maintain your weight.
  • Eat less, move more, the weight comes off.  Simple as that.
  • What to eat to do that?  Stuff that is one ingredient or less has less calories.
  • Go for things that are higher in one macronutrient than the other two.  Aka: chicken breast, boneless skinless is mostly protein, very low in fat or carbs.  Pair that with a potato (mostly starchy carbs) and green beans (fibrous carb) and add a little butter on your potato (fat) and you’re good to go.  Almost all of those foods are one-ingredient.
  • Fat is not bad, and eating fat will not make you fat.  Eating too much fat will make you fat, but eating too much of ANYTHING will make you fat.  Period.  Fat is easiest to cut back on and lose weight simply because it has more calories per gram.  That butter on your potato?  Make it a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon.  You’ve got less calories and you’re still satisfied because you ate butter. 
  • The simpler your meals, the less ingredients, the less calories.  I hate this but it’s true.  I like to cook and make complicated dishes, but here’s the truth of it, when you do that (think casserole) a single serving gets packed with a lot of calories on all three macro levels, and usually, protein isn’t the star.  Casseroles are good, home cooked is good, multi-ingredient is good, just remember how easy it is to overdo it on calories.
  • That whole “everything in moderation” thing?  Yeah, it really works.

But what about all those rules?

diet rules2

Hogwash, most of them. Granted, there are medical reasons for eating certain ways, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Most diet rules are simply a means to an end.  Will you lose weight on Atkins, Paleo, the Zone, etc.?  Sure.  But is it a lifestyle change you’re making or is it a plan you’re going to follow till the weight comes off and go right back to eating nothing but nachos and pizza?  All those methods basically trick you into eating less. At some point, no matter what plan you’re on, you can’t eat any less, and you’ll be maintaining from then on.  Do you want to eat Atkins the rest of your life? Heck no, not for me. 

Another book I think helps immensely when it comes to figuring out what to eat is Lyle McDonald’s book A Guide to Flexible Dieting

A Guide To Flexible Dieting book by Lyle McDonald

I will say that IF makes it VERY easy to lose weight if you are following the guidelines above (eating less calorically dense and higher protein).  It’s just tough to overeat in 8 hours if you are eating high protein, less calorically dense stuff.  You’re fuller faster and longer and you just can’t eat that much.  It’s an easy lifestyle to maintain, too.  I don’t think it’s the end-all-be-all, but it can work.  And for people who like to eat a good amount instead of tiny amounts, it works best for you.  Eating “clean” is a good one too, because it teaches people who otherwise don’t have a clue about nutrition, what are good choices.  However, the 5-6 meals a day to “boost your metabolism” is NOT TRUE ON ANY LEVEL.  Too many studies have shown it.

You get something called the Thermic Effect of Food when you eat, and yes it goes up, but not to any degree that will boost your overall metabolism.  I really wish Tosca would get the hint on that because I’m sick of hearing that nonsense.

This might spark some controversy, and I hope so because this isn’t an issue going away anytime soon, but I wanted to let you all know where I’m coming from and what I’m dealing with.  Right now, I’ve found that after a month of forbidden foods “buffets, nachos, pizza, endless sweets and ice cream” really, I just want massive amounts of protein and veggies and I’m not interested in much else anymore.  And I’m only eating when I’m hungry, and I stop when I’m satisfied.  If I eat out of emotion, I do it on purpose, knowledgefully, and move on.  Eating from emotion isn’t a bad thing, we all do it, but to live your life eating from emotion is no way to live.  I subbed food for my marriage, friendships, jobs, God, everything else, and now that I’m learning to put food back in its place, everything else is going back where it belongs; I have a better, closer relationship with my husband, I’m more focused on my job, I’m getting closer friendships, etc.

If you want to read some more on the subject without the nonsense, these are sources that I trust:
**Martin Berhkam and Leangains.  Want to see diet myths de-bunked in action?
**Lyle McDonald – if you want to know anything about food, nutrition, lifting, etc. that is the TRUTH and is backed by research, this man can dish it out to you in a way you understand, with some humor.  Two of his books are staples in my library: The Guide to Flexible Dieting and The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook.
**Nia Shanks Blog – talks a good bit about lifting and some about food
**Brad Pilon – Eat Stop Eat – the aforementioned 24 hour fasting a couple days a week, not as hard as it sounds
I’m sure there are more, but these are the people I trust off the top of my head, and I hope they help you dig through the diet nonsense out there.


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