I get a lot of questions about how I eat what I do without gaining weight. While each person’s metabolism and daily caloric expenditure is different, this post explains my personal circumstances further.
Paleo this, gluten-free that. Eat clean, eat organic, eat all-natural. Don’t eat anything with more than 5 ingredients. Don’t buy anything with ingredients a toddler can’t pronounce.
Aren’t you tired of all the dietary rules and restrictions? I’m all set with being told what I can and can’t eat. Whether or not you’ve struggled with an eating disorder, I’m certain you’ve come face to face with a struggle like mine. Whether literally or figuratively, we’ve all put down our fork and pushed away a plate out of pure frustration…and a side of guilt. We have been brainwashed (by the media, the food industry, your wacky neighbor, or my favorite quack, Food Babe), to believe that certain foods are “good” and other foods are “bad,” and that you should only EVER eat the foods that are “super” and “clean!” Does that latte have chemicals in it? OH JESUS, MARY, AND JOSEPH, HELP US! (Oh, wait, chemicals are in everything). These kind of wildly inaccurate accusations are tossed around by the same people who believe that our bodies need to be “cleansed” and need help “detoxifying” from all the “over-processed” food we eat. Me? I eat only good foods—as in, I eat foods that taste good to me. And as far as detoxing goes, I think my liver and kidneys are doing okay.
I mean it, though. I eat what I want, when I want, because I enjoy food. I enjoy making it, smelling it, licking it, and getting uncomfortably full of it.
“But Abby, how can you eat whatever you want and not look like a beached whale? Or have diabetes? Or just be one big, walking toxin?”
The simple answer? Because I have found something that works for me.
I know that, for those in ED recovery, any sort of calorie counting, restriction, or obsessing over food sounds like a relapse nightmare just waiting to happen. However, tracking and monitoring my food intake became the one thing that helped me lose 20 lbs, discover my love of working out, and create a much happier version of myself. Instead of feeling like my every move I make needs to revolve around food, namely, how to a) avoid eating it or b) get rid of it after I do eat it, I feel like I finally have control. Control over my body, my mind, and my life. I follow something called IIFYM – If It Fits Your Macros. I aim for a specific amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fat each day (which always add up to the same amount of calories, so long as the numbers are correct. I will certainly elaborate on this in future posts). I know that nutrient-dense, whole, natural foods are the best thing for my body, but I allow myself to feed my SOUL first and foremost. Donuts feed my soul. Pop-tarts feed my soul. Bacon feeds my soul. The soul wants what it wants, friends. I eat “processed” foods if I want to, (by the way, anti-processed food people? Almost everything is processed one way or another, or you’d be eating dirty carrots plucked right out of the ground all day long), I use full-fat cheese if I want to, I use white sugar & refined flour in my recipes if I want to. You can’t always get what you want, but you really can have your cake and eat it, too. I’m living proof of that.
Please realize that I am very well-informed on nutrition (and I am continuing to learn each day through my NCSF course as well as independent research), and I am aware that eating packaged foods, saturated/trans fats, and refined sugars in excess can be harmful to our health. However, I am a person who is fortunate enough to be in good health, with no history of obesity, diabetes, or heart disease in my family. Having that in my toolbox, alongside the balance I have found in my life, (“Peanut butter cups for breakfast? Salad for lunch!”) allows me to eat these things in some form of moderation—and still stay happy & healthy. It frustrates me when people who eat “clean” or are still stuck in a “good food vs. bad food” mindset criticize my food choices as being “unhealthy.” A very good friend of mine once asked me, puzzled, how the cake I had posted on my Instagram could possibly be healthy. I explained to her that it was a healthified version of cake, and that though I never claimed it to be micronutrient-dense (like leafy greens), it is certainly healthier than the average slice of cake served up at bakeries and restaurants. “But there are chocolate chips and peanut butter on it,” she said, quizzically. Again, I explained to her that the peanut butter was partially defatted, high-protein peanut butter, the chocolate chips were dark chocolate (and only a serving’s worth!), and that the cake was made with absolutely no added sugar! Surely, this would get her to understand.
Nope. It didn’t.
But that’s quite alright. There is nothing wrong with only eating things you view as healthy, or having a warped—at least, in my eyes—view of what is healthy and what is not. There will always be people who give you unsolicited advice, claiming that refined sugar is poisoning you, deep-fried foods should never be eaten, and your whole diet should revolve around the latest health trend (low-glycemic, paleo, gluten-free, and the like). I honestly don’t know how people live life that way. What I do know is that this lifestyle works quite well for me, as it helps me to enjoy the foods I love, go out to eat with friends, and enjoy the cuisine the world has to offer when I travel—without fear or restriction. Best of all? I don’t binge, because I don’t feel deprived! So yes, again, I definitely get to have my cake and eat it, too. One of my many goals in life is to open the eyes of those who do not understand the concept, but I do accept that some people will refuse to acknowledge it. For you non-believers out there, there is one study that I will reference time and time again that I urge you to take a look at: Professor Mark Haub’s “Twinkie Diet.” The long and the short of it? A professor of nutrition ate nothing but Hostess and Little Debbie snacks for 2 months, but since he was in a caloric defecit, he lost fat. To boot, his bad cholesterol went down. So, yeah. You can have some junk food, friends. It won’t just send your health plummeting. I PROMISE. I could go on and on, but I’ll save it for another post on another day.
Keep in mind that this methodology/diet/lifestyle is geared mostly toward active individuals. If you’re not hitting the gym and picking up heavy stuff on a regular basis, you probably don’t need as much protein as that obnoxious dickhead you know who does Crossfit, eats clean, and wants to make sure you know about it (and you’re THIS close to defriending him on all social media channels). I would advise you to work with a doctor and/or a fitness, or nutrition professional* to look into what your body needs—at your age, height, weight, activity level, and lifestyle—because although we all need food, everyone needs different amounts of different things. Not to mention, everyone likes different things! For example, I don’t care for asparagus much. I will occasionally dabble with a few spears, but I rarely enjoy it. However, it’s good for your bod! Lots of micronutrients are packed in those weird looking spears. So, some people may eat it. Some people may like it. They’re just not for me…I would rather have some broccoli, peas, or spinach.
Or an Oreo.
Frankly, I believe that food is for eating. Not for fearing, restricting, or avoiding. With that in mind, I introduce to you the EWWFY diet:
Eat Whatever Works For You.
Crazy concept, right? Why hasn’t anyone ever told us that we don’t have to follow any dietary rules if we don’t want to? While I understand the necessity and reasoning behind some individuals’ diet choices, (e.g. allergies, disease, moral code), those of us who do not have any mandatory restrictions should never have to restrict ourselves.
Which brings me back to EEWFY. You do not have to track your macros every day if you don’t want to. I certainly don’t! I’m aiming to get my body and mind stronger. I’m not planning on competing in powerlifting or stepping on stage for a bikini competition anytime soon, but I do have fitness goals that are unique to me and, quite frankly, extremely personal. If you don’t have a specific fitness or weight loss goal in mind, you probably know by now when you’re hungry, and what it feels like when you’re full. So eat food that you enjoy, include some fresh fruits and veggies that you like, and listen to your body. French fries? Sure! An entire tray of cheese fries? Your tummy might be upset with you after devouring that, but go ahead and do it if you really want to. Listen to your body. The human body is an amazing, sometimes frustrating, and unfathomably intelligent machine. And food? Food is our delicious fuel! Life is for living. Food makes life so very worth living. Food, friends, fun, life. Ya know?
So go ahead, have the cookie, would you?
*Someday soon I will be a certified sport nutrition specialist! However, there are a variety of professionals in the industry that can help. Look into meeting with a dietitian or certified personal trainer.