In May 2011 I graduated college thirty pounds heavier than I am now and I started my job in July. During that down time I was enjoying life to the fullest! But June 26theverything changed. I met Hanna Curlee and Olivia Ward, runner up and winner of Biggest Loser 11, anyone who knows me knows I love Biggest Loser. I started getting “healthy” shortly after. I use quotes because the approach I used for about the next eight months got me results but it wasn’t the best. I did a lot of the old school Hungry Girl style processed food cheats. I wasn’t eating real food. Every morning I would have a chobani, eventually I weaned myself off to plain fage 0% with orange extract in it. Then I would have a deli meat salad for lunch, after dinner I would have frozen cool whip with mini chocolate chips and every 100 calorie snack known to man.
I recently looked through my MyFitnessPal account and I was extremely underfeeding myself and not getting enough macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats). I was choosing foods I believed were healthy, but were really high in sugar! I only focused on calories going into my body as well as out. The quality of food never really crossed my mind let alone if I was getting enough macronutrients. I was listening to the Jillian Michaels podcasts and gaining a lot of knowledge about nutrition, but I wasn’t quite there.
Between walking 3 miles at a minimum a day and running I lost weight, but I was definitely what I would call “skinny fat”. When I joined Mountain Strength CrossFit in March of 2012 I took a picture of myself just before the intro class. It is amazing how I though I looked healthy at 132 lbs, compared to now (I weigh 134 today). I will say my food choices had gotten better at this point.
For the first three months of CrossFit I was using a device called BodyMedia Fit Armband to track everything I was doing. I became hungrier, but again not eating foods the right way. I stopped using MyFitnessPal since I was using the BodyMedia Service. I was so focused on creating a calorie deficit I ended up gaining weight, I thought it was just because I was training for a half and full marathon. I was using products like “gu” like crazy (seriously I would just go on long runs just to eat it) I loved that stuff and constantly replenished with yellow Gatorade, my favorite flavor!!! So I gave up on calorie counting as my sole method (it just wasn’t giving me my desired results) However I did reach the ultimate goal of fitting into my bridesmaid dress the summer of July 2012.
I decided at the end of June 2012, just as I was leaving to go on a cruise, to throw everything I thought I new about nutrition out the window and try the zone. As I mentioned the goal was to fit into my bridesmaid dress because my cousin was getting married a few days after I got back from my vacation, so I couldn’t afford to go crazy. See we bought our dresses a year earlier (July 2011) and if you remember from earlier I was heavier like 163.5 lbs and a size 12/14 heavier. Well in July 2011 I purchased a size 4 dress (I fit into the dress yes) I worked my ass off and in February of 2012 it had fit and I weight 132lbs, I wanted it to stay that way. The zone diet helped me examine what I put on my plate the whole time. I liked the style of it because I could eat what I wanted but changed the portions and ratios. However I was still hungry because I wasn’t choosing low glycemic foods as my base for carbohydrates. Low glycemic foods allow you to have more and fill you up because its full of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
After spending a few months understand zone I felt ready to try a paleo challenge. However I was training for a marathon so long runs still consisted of “gu” and Gatorade, plus sometimes a post run beer. I tried every angle to get around the rules instead of trying paleo for real. In February 2013 I spent the entire month strictly paleo, no alcohol, no post workout shakes, no nothing. I had great results and was enjoying life. I chose club soda and lime instead of beer. It worked however I couldn’t live like that. So for the next year and a half I would try to adhere to a paleo/zone lifestyle as best as I could. This pissed off everyone around me because I consumed myself at points with eating a certain way. I am an extremist; I never go to the point of balance. In 2014 I made a resolution to really try and focus on balance, which didn’t really happen until I started to break the mindset of strict Paleo is the way to go for athletes. Rather I tried the 21-day Sugar detox, again great results.
One thing that was happening with every challenge, every podcast, every article I would read was it was getting easier and easier to choose whole foods and say no to processed ones. The way I looked at food and my relationship with it completely changed, along with portion sizes, probably the biggest and best part of everything I had done. However the scale was almost 140, which isn’t bad at all, but when you aren’t working out you become soft. I wasn’t lean like I really wanted to be plus some clothes started to become tight (I was not about to get a whole new wardrobe again!)
My college friend had mentioned this challenge she did, the 21 Day Superhero Challenge. I found out it was starting at the end of August 2014 and ending just before my other cousins wedding, which I am in. Funny how I always get serious when I have to fit into a dress. This time the size 4 basically fit, just needed to lean out a bit more since I hadn’t been working out due to injury.
It was by far my favorite challenge I ever did. Why? Because it incorporates what’s important from paleo, zone and primal. The idea of eating 30% of your daily calories at a minimum of protein, using fat as your fuel source by making that 40% or more, then taking your carbs from anywhere to 10%-30% depending on your goals. Emily explains it all in her daily videos. For the first time I feel healthy and am seeing the results I have always wanted. Like I said I weigh 134, I lost 5lbs in fat mass along and gained about a pound in muscle, meaning I lost basically all fat during the challenge.
All I had to do was avoid sugar foods (refined grains, alcohol, candy, etc) However she allowed for FULL FAT dairy provided your body doesn’t react badly to it and keep it in moderation. After being tested for every allergy known to man and all results being negative, I now know my acne and breathing isn’t affected by my food. What does this mean then is balance. This challenge helped me break my extremist mentality. I don’t have to be cautious of calories, I just have to make sure my macros are in check and I workout regularly. I eat almost 2000 calories a day when I work out with a 30% protein, 20% carb 50% fat and MyFitnessPal will always tell me I will weight around 132 (provided I stick to whole foods and not beer and pizza on cheat nights). I was shocked because I was so use to keeping my calories around 1500.
My point is there is no right way to eat; we all have different prescriptions. That means we must create our own templates and figure out what works best for us. I will say that Emily’s macro template is the best approach you just determine the foods. Weight Loss as a goal: 10-15% carbs. Maintain as a goal: 15-25% carbs. Gain 25-30% carbs. Keep protein at 30% always and the rest comes from healthy fats. I truly experienced “carb flu” because I never cut the carbs that much before.
For me what works and this took 3 years to figure out, but I finally found my balance, its choosing unprocessed whole foods, going for full fat dairy and grains, like quinoa, farro, steal cut oatmeal in moderation, enjoying alcohol and pizza (other items like this) as TREATS in moderation. But always aiming for a 20% carb, 30% protein 50% fat.
So I challenge you to look at your diet, download MyFitnessPal, track and look at the pie chart. Use this challenge coming up as a good start, if you aren’t doing the challenge try on your own for a week. Try adjusting your macros and see what happens. Don’t bee afraid to add steal cut oatmeal, full fat dairy or even WHITE potatoes (sweet are the best post workout) especially if you are working out. At the end of the day make sure you’re macros are in check, give it time you will see results. Trust the process and good luck in the challenge!!!