My journey with food, like many others, especially females, is not a simple one.
A little background
I grew up eating a pretty junky standard American diet – lots of processed food and soda. Children of the 90s: Dunkaroos and Little Debbie snacks were some favorites.
I ate this way until my mid-20s when I became curious about nutrition. After research, I decided to try veganism at age 26 for both health and ethical reasons.
Being vegan fueled my body well for life in general and running. I didn’t give much thought to what, when, or how much I ate. My weight was consistent, with only the normal fluctuations of life. Weight wasn’t a struggle for me.
That is, until my 27th year. That was a rough year all the way around. I was going through a divorce and the life changes that follow – moving, breaking the news to friends and coworkers, and trying to adapt to an entirely new life. During this time, running eased my emotional pain, but I was not taking proper care of my body and literally ran myself into a stress fracture.
Once I was unable to run, I didn’t have a healthy outlet. I began to drink a lot more wine and turned to unhealthy foods. Here’s to you, Hot Tamales, peanut butter, and Gnarley Head cabernet.
Going from running 60+ miles a week to being sedentary and eating that way quickly packed an extra 20 pounds onto my petite 5’3” frame.
My new body was very uncomfortable, both aesthetically and performance-wise. An easy 5-miler was a challenge with an extra 20 pounds.
I began to try to lose the weight, starting with a low-fat, high-carb vegan diet. This consisted of mainly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. I quickly became consumed with eating “clean.” I would not touch anything with a drop of oil in it – any oil, no matter the source. I didn’t eat nuts because they contained too much fat. I wouldn’t even touch an avocado. The low-fat, high-carb eating turned into a form of orthorexia. Despite this extreme way of eating, I couldn’t lose the weight.
Then I started restricting calories. Come hell or high water, I was determined not to go over 1,200 calories a day. It didn’t matter that I was training for a marathon. I kept running and basically starved myself. The weight wouldn’t budge.
On Instagram, I found lots of people talking about “macros.” I’d see very fit girls posing with donuts, saying they ate that way and stayed at their desired weight. I stumbled upon Katie’s Fit Script and followed her Insta account for a while. She offered an intro to macros package for $50, so I thought why not? I gave it a try.
If you don’t know what macros are, go to Katie’s site. She does a great job explaining.
I began tracking macros in April 2015 and within a month, the 20 pounds were gone. I was amazed. Nothing else worked, but when I started counting, the weight melted and I was still able to fuel my running properly. I was keeping my running performance up and started to feel at home again in my body.
Logging food is meticulous to some, but for me it was a long-awaited answer. My top reasons for loving counting macros:
I stopped viewing foods as “good” or “bad.” An Oreo was no longer a “bad” food that contained oil. It was simply 3.5 grams of fat and 10.5 grams of carbohydrates. Unrelated fun fact: Oreos are vegan!
Food is fuel.
Since I was able to eat “treat” foods on the regular, I began to view food for what it is: fuel. I began to eat what I craved, but also included the healthy things, like plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Getting the right ratios of macronutrients fuels performance.
2016 was a breakthrough year for me in running, and properly fueling my body contributed to that. I trained hard for most of the year and recovered quickly, not becoming injured or fatigued like I would have in the past.
You can eat food and have the body you want.
Starving your body doesn’t work. Extreme deprivation is so, so bad for your body and spirit. Sure, you may lose weight, but you’ll also sacrifice valuable muscle. You’ll also pile all the weight back on once you stop starving yourself. With macros, I was able to cut on a decent amount of calories, maintain muscle, and even build muscle.
Concept of moderation.
I touched on this a bit already, but I truly started to learn how to eat in moderation. I can open a pack of Oreos, remove two, and put the package back without having a second thought about it.
If you are searching for an eating solution for yourself, read about macros. You might find freedom in it, too.