Ok – before I get into this, you have to understand that I am not fishing for a compliment. I repeat: I am not fishing for a compliment. This isn’t about how I look, this is about the repercussions of becoming so obsessive over it that you try a “diet” that is more harmful than you realize, especially if you’re a runner.
So, after my recent half marathon (Akron) on September 24, 2016…I went insane over a bunch of crap food. I started eating three bowls of chocolate Frosted Flakes in one sitting. I don’t even like that kind of super sweet stuff, but I could not – for the life of me – fill myself up. Chocolate cereal, a ton of Nutella, processed cookies…you name it, I was shoving large amounts of it in my mouth and could barely keep up.
Naturally, I gained three pounds. I get it – you’re probably laughing behind the screen right now because I made a big deal over three pounds. But when you weight under 100 lbs your entire life (other than the 53 I gained carrying a tiny human), it gets to you. Everyone has different standards for themselves, and at that moment, I felt like I wasn’t meeting mine.
So I started tracking all of my food and being a nutcase over calories. The result was constant hanger, interrupted sleep, and an increase in binging on snacks and then belittling myself about it. I was eating no more than 1300 calories a day while maintaining an active lifestyle that involved running at least 10 miles a week (3 days worth of running) and doing other cross and strength training.
Want to know what my great “results” were? I gained a pound. Obviously, my body went into some kind of state that triggered one thing or another, and I ended up gaining because of that.
I learned some lessons from it, though. I want to share these with you, and a sample of my meal plan that I’m currently on, because if I can stop just one of you from thinking that cutting calories will make you feel and look better, this blog entry is a success.
Lesson #1: You’re going to have to eat if you live an active lifestyle. Seems like common sense – but a lot of today’s “diets” don’t really cut it for those who are active, especially women. By “eat,” I mean eat. I don’t mean a plate of plain baby carrots and a glass of water for lunch. I mean protein filled, carb happy, energizing and sustaining and enjoyable meals.
So many times, I just didn’t eat because even though I was hungry, it was too many calories/didn’t fit in with my plan/wasn’t the right color-coded container. I learned the hard way that you actually have to eat when you’re hungry. Maybe not Chips Ahoy or Lays potato chips, but denying yourself food when you’re legitimately hungry – especially with an active lifestyle – isn’t smart. It will make you miserable, and it will likely make you reach for whatever you can because you’re so hungry.
Lesson #2: You can’t cut carbs. I don’t care what anyone says. I don’t care about the ads I see titled “Carb cycling for runners.” Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy. You need those. Some people say choose complex carbs (like sweet potatoes) over simple carbs (white bread and pasta), but in my fitness nutrition certification course, they argue that you should choose carbs that are low on the glycemic index (like strawberries). They last longer, and they don’t seem to create the “energy crash” you may feel otherwise.
Look, there’s nothing wrong watching carbs to make sure you don’t entirely over-do it. But…you can’t cut them. Not every day, not every other day…you can’t cut them.
Lesson #3: Think of food as a preventive measure. Don’t wait to eat until you’re starving. I like eating six times a day or so, but that may not work for everyone – so find what works for you. When you wait to eat until you can’t stand it anymore, you will most likely:
- Make snap decisions and eat whatever is closest to you, not whatever is best for you
- Over-eat whatever you’re putting in your mouth
- Make yourself feel guilty because of the two points above ^^
Eat to proactively fuel yourself. Try not to wait until you’re starving.
Some of my favorite go-to snacks to keep in my purse or running bag are plain whole almonds, raisins, and bananas. I always have these handy if I get stuck without being able to eat a small meal as planned.
Lesson #4: There are actually two different kinds of sugar; one is bad and one is not.
I do what I can to avoid added sugar which comes in the form of “pure cane sugar,” “sucrose,” and “high-fructose corn syrup” (plus others) on nutrition labels. You’ll find a lot of added sugar in pop (soda, for those who aren’t from my region!), fruit juice, flavored yogurt, and processed granola bars. Avoid this.
Alternatively, many foods contain naturally-occurring sugar. Fruit contains sugar; some veggies contain sugar…this I don’t put a cap on. I’m not going to stop myself from eating fruit because of the sugar that occurs naturally. You shouldn’t either (unless of course you have a condition that prevents you from ingesting sugar)
Lesson #5: Man-made sugar alternatives should not be alternatives at all.
Throw them out. Nutrisweet, Sweet -N- Low, Splenda…get rid of them! Artificial sweeteners, they’re discovering, are terrible for you.
When I need to sweeten something but do not want to add sugar, I use Stevia, which isn’t artificial.
Lesson #6: If you can’t see yourself doing the ______ diet/plan/whatever for the rest of your life, it probably isn’t the right one for you…
I can’t see myself limiting my calorie intake to 1200-1300 forever. I can definitely see myself cooking meals with, and sticking to, whole and organic foods. I’ve been gaining muscle, feeling energized, sleeping great, and being nice to people (LOL no hangry here!) since following the plan below.
Courtney’s Bad Ass Mother Runner Meal Plan
- Steel cut oats with crushed pecans, apples, cinnamon and stevia
- Whole grain waffle with peanut butter + apple or banana
- Irish breakfast tea with a crap ton of soy creamer
SNACK #1 OPTIONS
- Ezekiel Bread with peanut butter
- Seeds/nuts and dried fruit (I prefer pumpkin seeds) **Make sure the seeds/nuts/fruit do not have added sugar, oils, etc. – the label should include 1 ingredient
- Vega One Protein & Greens shake blended with unsweetened almond milk + whole frozen banana
- 1/2 cup egg whites with fresh veggies (I like peppers and mushrooms); top with organic salsa (or homemade!) +1 slice Ezekiel bread
- Dippy egg (ok, whatever – “over easy” for my non Pittsburgh readers) + two slices Ezekiel Bread + veggie plate
- Healthy fat: EVOO
SNACK #2 OPTIONS
- Homemade hummus with fresh veggies
- Apple + peanut butter
- Lean protein: boneless/skinless chicken breast, grilled fish without breading (I love Mahi Mahi), lean ground beef, ground turkey
- Carbs: brown rice, sweet potatoes, whole wheat pasta
- Veggies: steamed asparagus, shoe string green beans, basically anything that can be steamed and is fresh or frozen (I avoid canned veggies because of the sodium)
Favorite recipes for dinner are the main dishes in Run Fast. Eat Slow.
SNACK #3 OPTIONS
- Whole grain waffle + peanut butter
- Plain Greek Yogurt + cinnamon & stevia (and sometimes an apple to dip!)
So there’s a sample! This varies, too – I sometimes will eat more, if I’m hungry. I also treat myself every single week and eat a donut or something else that isn’t good for me :).
As you can see, I don’t spend my time eating processed food. Whenever I load up on processed breakfast cereals and “energy bars,” I crash hard and I am starving twenty minutes later. A good rule of thumb is to eat whole and fresh food – and a lot of it! You’ll feel tons better.
I find most of my items at Aldi’s, and it never breaks the bank. I spend about 85-100 on fresh meals for a family of three each week.
It’s hard, guys. Our social networks are flooded with the latest weight loss fads, trends, and photos of transformations that seem nearly unrealistic and unattainable (because they probably are). It comes down to this: You can choose to be skinny, or you can choose to be strong. I’m referring to those as stigmas and mindsets more-so than physical appearance. Choose wisely.