If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen this one coming! I have been obsessed with a new fitness friendly restaurant for the past few weeks…so it was only a matter of time before I spread the gospel of Clean Eatz here as well!
I have spent the last couple of years learning all about food and nutrition, and getting myself into the habit of meal prepping. When I first began meal prepping and losing weight, my meals were very basic. The least amount of ingredients that I could enter into My Fitness Pal, the better. Typically I would meal prep enough food for a week at a time, leaving space for my two “cheat meals” per week.
My Husband, loved the idea of meal prep, but unlike me, he couldn’t stand the idea of eating the same thing for the entire week. He needs a little more variety in his life! However, I wasn’t able (or willing, let’s be honest!) to cook him different macro-friendly meals every other night.
They Were Speaking My Language
I had heard of Clean Eatz from a coworker months ago, and Wes decided he wanted to give it a try. He wanted to eat according to his macros, without having to cook, and without having to eat the same things all week.
Clean Eatz, is a meal prep service, and they’ve been blowing my mind for a couple of months now. I feel like they are reasonably priced, and delicious! Each Thursday, Clean Eatz posts a new menu online for their meal prep service.
They tell you the macros of each meal, and even how many Weight Watchers points, if that’s your plan. You can pick how many meals you would like of each, and then they’re ready for pick up on Monday!
Meals are also customizable based on your specific dietary needs. They offer extra protein, half carb, no carb, or gluten-free options.
The also have a no salt rule in their kitchen, if sodium is something you’re concerned about.
In Store Options
They also have great options in store, if you didn’t find anything on their weekly menu you liked, or if you just forgot to order. Inside the store, they have a ton of meals in their freezer, labeled with macros that you can mix and match.
They also sell overnight oat mixes, snack mix, energy bites, and have an awesome cafe menu if you wanted to eat while you’re there!
I feel like their prices are very reasonable for the service they are providing. Each of their lunches and dinners are $6.50, and breakfasts are $5.00. So more expensive than say a Lean Cuisine, but cheaper than eating fast food everyday!
How I Work the Meals Into My Plan
Over the past few weeks, after being jealous of Wes and his tasty looking food, I’ve been treating myself to some meals too, to save me some time and energy. I’ve been eating them usually just for lunches. So I have been plugging all of my foods into My Fitness Pal for the day, but skipping lunch.
I put in all of the other foods I want to eat for the day, scroll to the bottom, to the Nutrition button, and seeing how many carbs, fats, and proteins I have left when I’m done. Then when I go to order my food from Clean Eatz, or get some things out of their grab-n-go freezer, I already know a ball park on what macros I’m looking for with their meals.
If you’ve been wanting to give flexible dieting a try, or just need some healthy meals to grab on the go, (that you didn’t have to cook yourself), I highly recommend giving them a shot!
If you’re in the Knoxville area, they are located in Farragut, close to Farragut High School. And they also have a second location opening up in Bearden soon! I should also note that this is not a “sponsored post”, they have no idea who I am! Haha.
I truly can’t say thank you enough, for the amount of support and encouragement I’ve received from so many of you in regards to my weight loss journey and now my blog. I hope that I’ve been able to inspire even just one person, to see that you’re important enough, and that you’re worth making whatever changes are necessary to feel great. I know it can seem like an uphill climb and a lot of trouble, but I hope I’ve been able to show you that it’s possible to do this in a way that’s sustainable, and effective. It’s possible to see this all the way through, and to feel the confidence and sense of accomplishment that comes from crushing this huge goal. Deciding you want to change is a great first step. The next step, is to start experimenting, and finding a style of eating that is sustainable for you and your lifestyle, long-term.
So let’s say you’ve been following me for a bit, and you’ve decided you want to give flexible dieting a whirl. Awesome! I truly don’t feel like flexible dieting is actually a “diet”, it’s more a style of eating that teaches you about portion control and how to eat a more balanced diet. Planning my meals ahead, has been a huge part of my success with this style of eating. However, I know from experience and from numerous other women that have come to me with questions, that meal planning can be overwhelming in the beginning.
When you’re first starting out, think of meal planning as a labor of love that will set you up for success for the week. The point of flexible dieting, isn’t to meticulously obsess over every gram of food that goes into your mouth. For me, this is a way of teaching myself what appropriate portions should look like, with the goal being to eventually move into eating more intuitively. I have had a life time of bad eating habits. Flexible dieting to me, is taking the time that’s necessary to learn balance and better habits.
This week I thought it might be helpful to someone starting out, if I kind of go through my process each week, when I’m planning out my meals. I’ll try to reverse engineer my thought process so it makes as much sense as possible! Just know that as time goes on and you find meals you like, as you start to learn portions, and what makes up each food..it starts to become second nature and the hardest part about it will be figuring out what you’re craving each week.
I have always prided myself on being a “fly by the seat of your pants” type of gal. I’m not much on planning ahead, and I tend to be a procrastinator. So one of the hardest new habits I had to form, was looking ahead at my week. When I start planning out my meals, I look at which days I work first. Because I work 12 hour shifts, I know I’m not cooking, or going to the gym on those days. Next I see what nights we have baseball practice or games. Do we have doctor’s appointments, hair cuts, or anything else out of the norm? My next priority after all of those other things, is when can I go to the grocery store, and when can I cook my food? Even if my week is so jam-packed that there’s no way I’m making it to the gym (which normally doesn’t happen, as I’m not that exciting), I know that at the bare minimum, if I can get my food prepared for the week, I’ll still make progress.
Start With The Staples
Next, I start plugging foods into My Fitness Pal. There are several food tracking apps out there, but I have always used My Fitness Pal, so I’ll use it to explain. This is going to sound ridiculous coming from me, but I actually don’t like tracking my food.
I’m not good at entering in my foods everyday. So instead of just saying screw it, I enter in one full day of eating, once a week. I meal prep the food I need for that plan, and eat those meals until it’s time for my next “cheat meal”, or until it’s time to make a new meal plan. Doing it this way just helps me to not have to really think about it the rest of the week, or track my food everyday. If you like more variety, or have more time to cook food fresh each day, then you can do that as well. It’s truly about finding a schedule that works best for you. The first things I always enter in, are my “staple foods”. These are foods that I know I’m going to eat every day. No matter what my other meals are, I know I’m always going to drink a protein shake, and I always eat some sort of bar for one of my snacks. Once I have those in, I just start working around them to complete my day of eating. I typically work in breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks in between meals. I love me some snacks!
Down to The Nitty-Gritty
On to breakfast. I’ve been eating this way for quite a while now, and I’ve been able to find a few different breakfasts that I rotate through, that are easy to make, taste good reheated, and that I know I’ll actually want to eat when I’m tired and hungry. For me, my breakfasts are usually some sort of egg scramble, or Kodiak Cakes pancakes. If you haven’t tried Kodiak Cakes yet, I definitely recommend you jump on it!
Now I just have to figure out lunch, dinner, and one more snack. Lunch and dinner are usually interchangeable, and I have the same criteria as breakfast. I want something that tastes good reheated or is easy to make fresh, and it has to be something that I’ll actually want to eat for a few days in a row until my scheduled MSM. I try to also think of things that I can easily pack for lunch on the days I work.
Over time, I have made a list in my phone of “go to” meals, that are meals that have worked well for me, so that I can refer back to them if ever I’m drawing a blank when trying to figure out what to make. Whenever I figure out what type of meal I want to make, I usually start by entering in the protein. Chicken, lean ground turkey, pork tenderloin, fish, or any lean meats are great options. So for example, this week for dinner, I had buffalo chicken flatbread. So when entering in my meal, I start with the chicken. For women, a good starting amount is 4 ounces. Next, I can either scan the bar code on the greek yogurt ranch I used for the base, or search for the brand manually. I do the same thing for the Flat Out flatbread. I typically don’t enter in things like spinach, green onions, or the Frank’s Red Hot buffalo sauce I used. I don’t fret too much about foods with very low caloric values. I’m not trying to be in a bikini show, and they aren’t going to make that much of a difference for me. Keep in mind, starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, or carrots, do have more calories and carbs and would need to be accounted for. Also fruits like bananas, or oranges that can be higher in carbs would need to be added in.
Now I just need one more snack. Snacks can be whatever you like that fit your numbers. However, one thing that helps me, is to pick one sweet snack, and one more salty snack like crackers and a baby bell cheese wedge. That way, no matter what I’m craving throughout the day, I have something to satisfy me.
Crunching The Numbers
So we’ve got all of our food for the day plugged in, now it’s time to see where we’re at with the numbers. If you don’t know what your macros should be starting out, it can be kind of confusing because different websites can give you different numbers. When I started, I used a calculator online that I’ll link here. Then you can go into the goals section under settings in My Fitness Pal, and change your macronutrient goals to those numbers.
When you get all of your food entered in for the day, you can scroll down to the very bottom of your daily food diary, and click on the black nutrition button. Under nutrition, you’ll find sections for calories, nutrients, and macros. For me, the most helpful section is the nutrients section. Here I can see not only my daily goals, but how many grams per macronutrient I still have to work with. I’m using my numbers as an example, just keep in mind that my macros are calculated based on my height, current weight, age, and activity level…and your numbers will be different and specific to you.
I’m not a major stickler for the numbers, I just try to get them in the ball park. Protein, carbs, and fats, are my main concern. However, I do try to not go crazy with sodium or sugar, and I try to get the daily recommended amount of fiber. Word to the wise, fiber may be something that seems insignificant, but when you’re eating a higher amount of protein and not as many carbs as you normally would, fiber becomes very important. I won’t get graphic…just make sure you’re paying attention to your fiber. Your intestines will thank you!
The easiest way I can think to teach you how to make adjustments if you’re over or under on a macronutrients, is to just give examples. So let’s say you’ve entered all of your food. For breakfast you’ve decided on a protein shake,
and an egg scramble with turkey bacon and cheese. For lunch you’re having pork tenderloin, potatoes, and green beans. For dinner: a chicken burrito bowl with 1 cup of rice, sour cream, cheese, pico, and salsa. For one snack you want a protein bar, and for the other one, some fruit and a string cheese.
So you get everything in, but now see that you’re over on your amount of carbs for the day. Breakfast didn’t have that many carbs, but we can take carbs from lunch with the potatoes, or we can decrease the amount of rice in our burrito bowl. Or if we’re low on carbs, we can add more.
If we’re over or under on protein, the easiest thing to adjust is the meat, so adding or taking away pork tenderloin with lunch, or chicken with dinner. It’s the same with fat, we can take away one of the egg yolks with breakfast and add in more egg whites, or adjust the cheese or sour cream. It’s just like working a little puzzle to get the numbers in the ball park. Once you get them close, you can check the pie chart under the macros section if you wish. Just like anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Eventually you’ll start to compile a list of “go to” meals, and planning out your meals will get a lot faster.
Pulling It Together
Now all you have to do is get the groceries, make the food, and eat the food! If groceries shopping isn’t your favorite thing, Kroger and many other grocery stores now offer online ordering, and it will rock your world. Most of the time, I’ll still go into the store to shop, but if I’m ever really busy or short on time, it’s amazing.
As far as meal prep, I try to keep it as simple as possible. Lately I’ve been wearing out my InstantPot, but typically I’ll make one crock pot meal, and one meal that I have to make on the stove top or in the oven so that I can multitask. Meal prepping can seem like a chore at first, but it truly saves me so much time and money throughout the week…and also helps me stay on track with my eating. When I know I already have food prepared at home, that fits my macros and will get me closer to my goals, I’m much less likely to make poor impulse decisions about what to eat.
I hope that gives you kind of a broad overview of how I make my meal plans each week. I know it can seem overwhelming at first, but just know that taking the time to learn proper portions and what is actually making up your food can be life-changing. I just tried to remind myself of how much time I had spent learning bad habits and gaining weight, and to remember that it’s going to take some time to learn better habits and lose the weight. However, it truly is amazing how simply adjusting your macronutrient intake can drastically transform your body over time.
I truly enjoy eating this way, which is how I’ve been able to keep doing it for so long. It’s like a little game or puzzle that I figure out each week, to keep working towards my goals and see what I’m capable of achieving. They don’t call it flexible dieting for nothin’! It really can cater to your personal preferences and eating habits. If you’re a person who prefers eating a larger volume of food, eating more whole foods can allow you to eat bigger portions. If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, there is also room to fit those things in as well. Personally, I prefer a balance of both. I feel my best physically, when the majority of my foods are whole, clean foods. But I also know, that mentally I’ll eventually feel deprived if I don’t fit a few processed sweets like protein bars or chocolate pancakes into my day!
Figuring out your preferences, what works best with your body, and the strategies that are going to make this something sustainable for you long-term are key! I hope this has answered some questions about meal planning and crunching the numbers, but always feel free to reach out to me if you have any other questions that I may have forgotten to cover! Just take comfort in knowing, that even if it takes some experimenting and practice to figure this out, just the fact that you’re paying attention to what you’re putting in your body, means you’re already making huge strides in the right direction!
I guess I should start out this post by saying that I don’t really just love the term “cheat meal”. Mainly because, from the beginning of my weight loss journey, I have always fully intended on including more indulgent meals into my meal plan twice a week. I scheduled them deliberately, for many reasons that I’ll explain. So for me, and my plan, I wasn’t cheating. For me, they were “Mental Sanity Meals”, so from here on out, I’ll just call them MSM’s.
Last Saturday morning, I hit a new low weight! 137.2 pounds, a weight that I’ve not seen since probably 6th grade. And while I was excited to see that number on the scale, I knew it wasn’t going to last, because Saturdays for me, are a scheduled MSM day. And man, we did it right that day! I woke up, went to the gym, drank my protein shake, ate my normal breakfast, and then for lunch, we made a trip to Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen. When you walk into a restaurant that sells chocolate bars wrapped up like butter in the lobby, that’s when you know you’ve hit the mother load of MSM’s.
As suspected, it was delicious. I’ll spare you the details, just in case this is not your MSM day, lest I cause you to drool. Normally, on a diet, this would’ve meant for me that I had failed. I blew it. I have no will power, and I’m weak. However, the more I researched about MSM’s, the more I realized how necessary they are for most people, and that there are actually some great scientific and mental benefits to scheduling them into your week.
First, let’s talk mental benefits. Most of the time, when we’re on a diet, we look at food as either “good” or “bad”. We’ve been told that to be successful, we need to be 100% consistent, and to really commit. So what normally happens, is that we do okay for a few weeks, depriving ourselves, normally at a large calorie deficit, and then something happens. Somebody brings food to work, or there’s a birthday party, or we just simply don’t have time to go home and get our meal prepped food. We’ve been in such a large calorie deficit for several weeks now, that inevitably, our body starts to rebel. Mentally, we can’t take it anymore. We finally cave, we stuff ourselves until we’re ready to explode, and then feel horrible. Guilt sets in and we feel like we have to fix it. So what do we do? A lot of times, we restrict ourselves even more to make up for overindulging. And then, we start the whole cycle over again. Restrict, binge, back and forth. But what if you didn’t start out a diet starving yourself? What if you started eating enough calories to still be in a deficit, but not feel like you could eat the paint off the walls? What if you could still work some of your favorite foods that you craved into your meal plan, and know that you only had to follow it for 4-5 days until you could have a scheduled MSM? Ahhh, so much better for my mental state, and so much easier to sustain long-term.
Mentally, the benefits are wonderful, but there’s also scientific reasons for why we mentally struggle. As I said in my previous post all about macros, I am not a doctor or nutritionist, this is just what I’ve learned by doing my own research on this topic and I want to share with you what I’ve learned.
Leptin, Gherlin, and Glycogen
Leptin is the appetite suppressing hormone. After being in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, leptin levels start to decrease. Which is why after being in a calorie deficit for a few weeks, your cravings are out of control. It’s not because you’re weak, or because your will power is horrible. It’s because your body is doing what God designed it to do, it’s trying to not let you starve. It’s telling you that your body is in a deficit, and it’s dropping your appetite suppressing hormones to scream, “EAT SOMETHING!”
At the same time our body is dropping leptin levels, it is rising our levels of ghrelin, the hunger stimulating hormone. While I can imagine both of these natural body processes are amazing if you’re a nomad, searching for food as your job everyday, when you’re actually trying to lose weight, they can be a real kick in the teeth.
Glycogen, also discussed in a previous blog post, is how our body stores carbohydrates for energy in our liver. After eating a low carb diet, or being in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, our stored glycogen gets depleted. When this happens, we generally have low energy and feel sluggish, especially during workouts.
Looking at these 3 things, it’s easy to see how a MSM can be beneficial not only mentally, but biologically. When you eat a meal higher in carbs and calories, you’re signaling to your body that you’re not starving. The hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin stabilize, and glycogen stores are replenished. Which basically means, your cravings are in check, you’ve given your metabolism a little jolt, and you have more energy to keep moving forward with your meal plan for another 4-5 days until it’s time to replenish again.
As you can probably tell, I’m a firm believer in the MSM. I have allowed myself two a week, for the entire length of my weight loss journey, and have been able to keep losing weight steadily for the last 18 months, but I do have some general guidelines for them:
They are scheduled meals, not spur of the moment, emotional decisions. I know my schedule for the week, and don’t justify moving my MSM unless it is absolutely necessary because of something out of my control.
I have whatever I’m craving, which is usually carb-rich, fatty foods, like fajitas, pizza, or pasta.
I don’t use it as an excuse to “Binge”. This one is still a challenge for me sometimes, especially if I’m eating at a restaurant with huge portions. Not only because I’m eating one of my favorite foods and I want to inhale it, but also because I don’t take home leftovers. Restaurant leftovers can quickly turn my one cheat meal into 2 or 3.
This is a big one. VERY IMPORTANT! A MSM is ALWAYS a meal I didn’t have to cook. This is very key!
I eat whatever I want on the menu, and then I forget about it, and go straight back to my meal plan until the next MSM.
What to Do After a MSM
After a MSM, the most important thing to do is to move on. Don’t worry that you’re not making progress or that you’ve set yourself back. All you’ve done, is tell you’re body that you’re not starving it, that you’re fine, and that when you start feeding it in a deficit again tomorrow, it’s okay to continue dropping body fat. It is true that you’ll most likely gain a couple of pounds of water weight, but you won’t gain actual body fat. In my experience, the water weight from the increase in sodium usually goes away after a couple of days. After a MSM, one of the big things I do to help things along, is to just continue drinking lots of water to help flush things out. Other than that, I don’t restrict my diet, I just go back to eating my regularly planned out meals.
I hope this helps you somewhat understand the reasoning and actual biological benefits to scheduling yourself some indulgent meals into your meal plan. It truly does help your body keep going, while in a deficit, for so much longer than if you just try to white knuckle it, dropping those leptin levels until you crack. Learning this information helped me be so much kinder to myself also, because I realized that if I was craving a MSM, it wasn’t because I was weak or because I didn’t have enough will power. My body was just doing what it is naturally designed to do in times of famine. My job is to reset my hormone and glycogen levels, and then get immediately back to work. As of this morning, a week after my big cheat meal with Paula Deen, I’m at 136.6 pounds! Long term weight loss, is about learning to work with your body’s natural processes, not against them.
Still to this day, when I’m asked, “How did you lose the weight?” There’s always this awkward pause, before I attempt to explain. I have a really hard time either simplifying it too much, or making it sound too complicated, because I think either extreme, too easy or too hard, can make it seem impossible. So there’s the anticipation building pause, and then I either say, “diet and exercise,” or, “tracking my macros.” The former to me sounds like condescending bull crap, and the latter, I feel, sounds like I’m speaking a foreign language. Maybe if I say it louder they’ll understand? I TRACKED MY MACROS!
In a lot of my previous posts, I’ve talked about how important mindset can be while you’re trying to lose weight. I can’t stress enough how much this can make or break your attempts at weight loss, but I also want to delve a little deeper and attempt to explain the theory behind tracking macros and flexible dieting without the awkward inhale, pause, “Um”. I guess I should make a disclaimer here, I am not a nutritionist, just a regular gal who consumes a lot of nutrition information because it really interests me. So I’ll try the best I can to explain and simplify what I’ve learned and share it with you. However, I am not a doctor, dietician, or nutritionist. Okay, I said it!
What are “Macros”?
Let’s go back to the beginning. Calories, pesky calories. Calories in versus calories out, the basis for any weight loss attempt and every diet under the sun. But what the heck is a calorie actually? A calorie is basically how much energy is in a given food. It’s how much energy is required to raise 1g of water through 1 degree celsius. But I like to just think of it as, how much energy that food is providing to your body. How that actual number is determined, is by adding up the “macros” of that particular food. Macro is just a trendy gym rat way of saying macronutrients. As I’m typing this post, macronutrients is seriously underlined in that squiggly red spellcheck line, which lets me know that even my computer thinks I have no idea what I’m talking about. Anyhoo, there are three main macronutrients that are used to calculate how many calories are in a food: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Each one of these “macros” has a certain number of calories per gram, and when you add them all together, you know how many calories are in the food, thus letting you know how much energy your body is getting from that food, and how much you should hate yourself after eating it.
When you’re losing weight, especially if you have a large amount of weight to lose, you can lose weight simply by being in a calorie deficit, or eating fewer calories than you burn. So why all the hoopla about macros? The hoopla, is because while it is true you can lose weight by just being in a deficit, learning how to track your macros is a great way of training yourself to eat a more balanced diet, and to really change your body composition. So while in theory, you could eat only a few donuts for any entire week and lose weight, tracking your macros helps you create a more balanced diet, so that all of your calories are not consisting of only a couple of the macronutrients and you can maximize the volume or amount of food you’re eating. Yay! More Food! When I don’t actively use macros to balance my diet, the majority of my calories tend to come from carbohydrates and fat, with very little protein. I think this is pretty typical these days for the Standard American Diet, but it’s not the best for reshaping your body.
Protein now makes up the largest portion of my diet. I know protein can be somewhat of a controversial thing as far as the amount we actually need or can digest, but I think everybody agrees we do need it. Protein is very important when you’re losing weight, because it helps your body retain the muscle that you have. It’s very hard to actually build muscle while you’re eating in a calorie deficit, which is why when body builders are trying to gain muscle they actually go into a “bulking” phase where they’re eating at a calorie range above their maintenance calories. But when losing weight, you at least want to try to retain the muscle you have, by eating an adequate amount of protein, because muscle is what turns you into a fat burning machine! When you’re in a calorie deficit, eating too little protein can cause your body to eventually start burning muscle for fuel along with carbs and fat. Which is why someone can be within a normal body weight range, but still have a high percentage of body fat. Focusing on body composition and lowering your body fat percentage, is what gives you the “toned” look that so many people are going for. All of the crunches and lunges in the world aren’t going to make you look “toned” if there’s that pesky layer of body fat still covering the muscle. So if protein is what supports and repairs my muscles, and my muscles are what actually give me the shape that I want…give me all the protein! Great sources of protein are things like chicken, fish, lean beef, turkey, pork tenderloin, eggs, protein shakes, protein bars, etc.
If the amount of protein we consume is controversial in the world of macros, carbs take it to a whole other level. Carbs are our bodies primary source of energy. When our body stores carbs in our liver, they’re referred to as glycogen. So if you’re eating carbs, when you start exercising, your body is going to burn through the stored up glycogen first, before it moves on to body fat and muscle. The theory behind low carb diets, is that since your body doesn’t have as much stored glycogen to burn through first (example: ketosis, or the “keto” diet), you can start burning body fat quicker. Sometimes this can also mean you feel like crap and have no energy, especially during your workouts. I’m not against low carb diets, I just haven’t found that I’ve needed to lower my carbs especially low up to this point, so I plan to keep eating them until I hit a plateau and then maybe consider gradually lowering them to see if I can get things moving again. I talked about my theory behind keeping tools like this for later in a previous blog post. So when I’m looking to add carbs to my meals, I go for things like rice, potatoes, some starchy vegetables like corn, granola or protein bars, crackers, tortillas, etc.
Fats. What an ugly word. Fats. Back in the day fats got a bad rap. Fat free, reduced fat, low-fat. Nobody likes fat, but we do still need some. Fats are important, especially for women, because they can really impact our hormones, skin, hair, etc. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on fats, but when I’m looking to add more fats to my meal plan, I usually go for things like avocado, olive oil, or cheese. Glorious Cheese.
Putting it All Together
I hope this gives you a broad overview of macronutrients and what each one of them does for your body and the theory behind tracking them. Many diet plans simply eliminate one macronutrient (usually carbs or fat), and slap a shiny new name on the book. Atkins, South Beach, Glycemic Index, Keto. They just remove a macronutrient and call it new earth-shattering science. The balance of all of the macronutrients is one of the many things I love about flexible dieting. No food group is off-limits, you just have to find a way of eating the correct portions so that you’re eating the optimal balance of all of them.
Tracking macros and flexible dieting really aren’t that complicated once you get the hang of it and start making a list of meals you like. However, I do think it’s interesting to know the theory behind flexible dieting and what macros actually are. Fingers crossed that this somewhat makes sense and I didn’t totally botch it! If you have any other questions, feel free to ask! I’ll answer them to the best of my non-nutritionist, but avid googler abilities! Now if only I can find a way to say all of this in a short three to five word response that is neither idiotically simple or pretentiously complex!
In my extensive weight loss attempt history, the thing I have always dreaded the most was exercise. I would watch shows like The Biggest Loser, and see all of these poor souls sweating, panting, looking like they were moments away from death. Jumping around while a trainer screamed at them, like in one of those westerns where the gunslinger starts shooting at the feet of the local saloon loudmouth yelling, “DANCE!” This usually continued until they were in tears, while someone coaxed them into discussing their self-loathing and daddy issues. It looked awful, and I wanted no part of it. Staying chubby seemed like an okay option in comparison.
My Brief Exercise History
Never in my life did I think that I would be a person that enjoyed going to the gym. The first time I can remember actually “exercising”, was when I was a junior in high school. I wanted to lose a little weight before prom. So my strategy was to cut out fried foods, and to do this exercise video that I’m pretty sure was purchased by my mom before I was born. It was the perfect specimen of eighties fitness, complete with high cut leotards and sweat bands. It was a full body workout, including lots of marching in place and exercises for your facial muscles. Super attractive. It was enough for my speedy sixteen year old metabolism though, and I was able to drop about twenty pounds.
The next time I lost a significant amount of weight, was a few years after my first son was born. He had finally gotten to that sweet toddler age where I couldn’t use the excuse anymore, “I just had a baby.” I think once they’re potty trained you’ve milked it for as long as possible. This time though, I wasn’t sixteen anymore, and I wasn’t messing around. I was pulling out the big guns. I got myself a bottle of Phentermine and decided I was going to start running.I wasn’t looking forward to the idea, but I thought that’s what you had to do to lose weight fast, so I’d better learn to enjoy it. So per the usual, I created a whole secret Pinterest board dedicated to my new hobby, and subscribed to Runner’s World. I started eating next to nothing, because of the appetite suppressant, and downloaded Couch to 5K. It totally worked! The only problem was, I was eventually going to have to stop taking the medication. My appetite would return, and there was this other little issue, I hated running. I got so bored. Most of the time I would run outside at the park so that I would have some scenery or other runners to look at, but I couldn’t stay focused. My mind would wander, and I would end up walking out of pure boredom. I’m sure there are truly people in this world that love running. I’m sure it makes them feel on top of the world, like they can smash through walls and flip cars with their bare hands. I am not one of those people. Which sort of made me feel like I would always eventually fail at losing any significant amount of weight, because I didn’t enjoy the one activity I had always thought was the best thing for weight loss.
Thank God, one day I reconnected with a friend from high school. He was very into fitness, and was the first person to introduce me to the concepts of flexible dieting with a heavier emphasis on resistance training. I don’t know that I ever fessed up to him that I had been taking Phentermine, but regardless, I’m fairly certain he was appalled at how little I had been eating. He also explained to me why cardio wasn’t the end all be all for weight loss. Imagine my relief. I took his advice as a permission slip and stopped running pretty much immediately.
Back to Square One
I was just starting to really learn about strength training and nutrition, when life happened and I did a complete U-turn. I packed all of that weight back on that I had lost and was so stressed (even though it wasn’t a bad stress, just a lot of changes happening in my life), that I completely pushed that part of my life to the side so that I could focus on other things. When the fog finally lifted, I was shocked and embarrassed by how quickly I had swung in the other direction. If you’ve read any of my other blog posts like Mommy Fell Into the Wormhole , you kind of know what happened next. I had to figure out how to actually eat.
After I figured out the nutrition piece and dropped my first forty pounds or so, I started to make this shift where I actually craved something more. I wanted to take things up a notch, but this time around I knew myself well enough to know that I wasn’t going to start running. Even though I had worked out a few times with my friend from high school years before, doing his workouts, I really had no idea how to begin to plan my own workouts. So I went back to the basics. I joined Planet Fitness and started doing their 30 minute workout. If you’ve never been to a Planet Fitness, they have an area, away from the main gym area, where they have several machines set up in a circle. The machines are numbered and there’s a timer that dings when it’s time to move to the next machine. I loved this when I first started because I could go to a less crowded area of the gym, fiddle with the machines without feeling like people could tell I had no clue what I was doing, and get a full body workout that I didn’t have to plan out for myself.
When I felt like I was ready to take it up another notch, I got on bodybuilding.com and started working my way through Jamie Eason’s Livefit Program . From there I just started tweaking things as I went along, figuring out which exercises I felt were the most effective for me on each muscle group. I just kept pushing myself little by little out of my comfort zone. I scheduled the gym into my day, and went even when I didn’t feel like it. One day, magically, I didn’t have to force myself to go anymore. I actually wanted to go, because I loved it. I loved having that time to myself, and I actually didn’t feel like I wanted to die when I finished. I felt strong and less stressed out.
Maybe most shockingly, even though I didn’t leave the gym in a puddle of sweat and tears, I was seeing great results, without doing any cardio or sobbing while doing a plank and addressing all of my innermost feelings. People weren’t watching me, and nobody made me feel stupid. Everybody was there to try to take care of themselves, just like I was. I know what you’re thinking, “Cardio is good for your heart health.” No argument there. From my experience though, weight training can also have many cardiac benefits. I can remember going to the doctor my whole life and always getting asked if I was nervous because my resting heart rate was always about 100 beats per minute. I wasn’t nervous, I was just chubby and out of shape. However, since starting resistance training, my resting heart rate is normally 50-60 beats per minute, and considered in the “fit” category. Who would’ve thought!
Learning to Get Out of My Own Way
One thing that I am still constantly having to remind myself of, is that things are never as hard or as scary as I build them up to be in my head. While I feel like I keep it together pretty well on the outside most of the time, on the inside I can sometimes feel like Bob Wiley from “What About Bob?” “What if my heart stops beating? What if I’m looking for a bathroom, I can’t find it, and…my bladder explodes?” I just needed to find my inner Dr. Leo Marvin to tell me to take baby steps and quit being so dramatic. If you have your own inner Bob, let me be the one to stop you before you have to do some “explosion therapy”. I totally get how you feel. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing at the gym and it might as well have been tattooed on my forehead. After I went a few times though, I quickly realized no one was even paying attention to me. If you can step out of your comfort zone a little, I can’t tell you how much it does for you physically and mentally. For one whole hour, I get to feel like a real adult person. Nobody is pooping their pants or screaming at me to get them milk. I don’t have to think about what bills I need to pay or everything I need to do that day. My mind isn’t being pulled in a million different directions, and I can really take some time to unwind. Whenever you feel like you’re ready for more, I highly suggest you give it a shot!
It sounds so simple, Eat less, move more. Any idiot can do it. So here’s my problem, if it’s this simple, why are there so many educated, intelligent people, still struggling with their weight?
First, a little back story. In the words of Sophia Petrillo, “picture it”, I’m nineteen years old, married, in school, and working at a small hospital. Like most people overwhelmed with the stress of school and work, I put on a little weight. Not a lot, but enough that my clothes were getting tight. So finally one day, I got up the courage to ask one of the dietitians that worked at the hospital, if she had any tips as to what I could do to lose those extra pounds. I figured if anybody knew, she would. Imagine my disgust when she, without even looking up from what she was doing, uttered those four nasty little words, “Eat less, move more.” You don’t say. Insert eye roll.
Now at this time in my life, I had no clue about flexible dieting, macros, or nutrition. However, even then, I distinctly recall having the immediate thought, “what a load of crap.”
Obviously I never asked again, and went on to go through years of the ups and downs of the diet/binge cycle. Thanks for the earth-shattering advice!
It’s Not That Simple
“Eat less, move more” is not the answer. It’s so much more complicated than that. When you hear those words, while they may be true in a very broad sense, they don’t even begin to address the real reasons why we can’t lose weight. Calories in versus calories out is only the tip of the iceberg.
The reason we don’t lose weight isn’t because we don’t know how. It’s pretty common knowledge these days, that to lose body fat, you have to burn more calories than you eat. We don’t have to get all reflective and mushy about the reasons why we gained weight necessarily. For me it was simply apathy and stress. The reason we can’t lose weight, is because we can’t keep our head in the game long enough for habit to take over. We haven’t decided to really commit to doing it.
The “Kinda” Zone
I was forever stuck in the “kinda” zone. I “kinda” need to eat better, I “kinda” need to lose weight, I “kinda” would like to look better. It took me a while of feeling horrible in my body and feeling embarrassed about how much I had let myself go. Finally, I made the choice to change my mindset and do what it took to change my body.
Our success starts and continues with our mindset. We have to decide that it doesn’t matter how long it takes, there are no deadlines. We need a true lifestyle change in order for this to be sustainable. Even if that means doing what seems like the harder thing, of not just following a diet plan, but learning how to make our own.
We women are unstoppable when we decide. Ask my husband, when I get something in my head, and I decide I want to do it, I’m freaking doing it. I obsess about it until it’s done. I’m sure people would say the same thing about you. We are powerful and capable when we move from “kinda” to actually truly deciding.
We’re More Powerful Than We Think
We’re way more complicated and powerful than “eat less, move more”. All that tells me, is that I’m an idiot for not being able to do this. Now go starve yourself and run on the treadmill. Both of these things sound horrible to me now, and sounded even worse when I was 100 pounds heavier. A dumbed down answer like that just doesn’t do it for me. If it was that simple, no one would struggle with their weight.
If you can be a sponge, figure out your why, and truly decide that this is something that you want to accomplish, then you can. You can decide that you’re going to figure this out for the last time. Let it be a process. Understand that it will be trial and error. But when the errors happen, you course correct and move on. I have said this before, but I’ll continue saying it, this is all a mental game. It’s not all about “looking better”. My true motivation this time around, has been to just physically feel better. What has been an unexpected surprise to me, is that while my confidence increased some from looking better, the main reason my confidence increased, was because I set a huge goal, and I accomplished it. I decided I was smarter and more complex than “eat less, move more” made me feel. I decided that I was going to look at this like a calculated, scientific experiment, and that I was going to do what I needed to do mentally, to keep going and see what would happen. I was going to eat and train smarter. So much can change in a year if you keep going. I’m nothing special. My body functions just like everybody else’s. Truly, if I can do this, you can do this. It all starts with your mindset and your decision.
Oh man. The things we put ourselves through to lose weight. I feel like we’ve all been guilty of wanting the quick fix. That instant gratification of taking a pill, drinking a tea, or getting a shot, and magically our body fat melts off and we see that weight drop consistently day after day.
The problem is, these things we do to ourselves, even if they work in the short term, don’t last. We get to the end of the challenge, end of the program, or end of the bottle, and we don’t know what to do next. So we just slowly go back to doing what we know. We eat whatever, and do whatever, until we feel so crappy that we’re searching around like crazy looking for the next miracle. And there we are, back in the cycle. I know this, because I’ve done exactly this. Over, and over, and over.
So after the birth of my second son, Tyson, I knew I had to do something. I was 247 pounds when he was born, and on my 5’5” frame, it was quickly taking a toll on me. I was overweight, I had a newborn who didn’t sleep through the night, I was breastfeeding, pumping, and working full time. All while taking care of the other three men of the house. I was exhausted. I felt like complete crap. I had created this life that I couldn’t keep up with, I believe, because of what I had done to my body. I had lost a significant amount of weight before, so I knew what it felt like to be a “normal” body weight. And then I gained it all back, plus a few extra. I knew to feel better, I had to get back to that.
I knew it was going to take a while, but having lost and gained back a significant amount of weight before and blowing it, I was going to make sure this time that I put in the work to never have to do it again. I wanted to learn how to eat, realistically. I didn’t want my success resting on anything except my knowledge, the foods I ate, and my hard work. I absolutely refused to spend anymore money on fads, gimmicks, or pills. I wanted to do it in what I considered to be the real way, no shortcuts.
So here’s where flexible dieting comes in. First it’s important to know that while it is called flexible dieting, it’s not a diet. This is a method. A method of teaching yourself how to eat a balanced diet. Eating the correct ratio of proteins, fats, and carbs to meet your body composition goals. This method works if you’re trying to lose body fat, gain muscle, or just maintain your weight. It’s not a meal plan, it teaches you how to create your own meal plan. It teaches you how to realistically eat to change your body, and to not feel deprived in the process. It can seem overwhelming at first, especially when we’re all so used to the instant gratification of someone giving us an exact list of do’s and don’ts. I promise though, if you take a breath, invest in your knowledge, and figure this out, you’ll be so grateful you did. You don’t have to know everything about it day 1! This is a learning process! Take messy action and just get the ball rolling. My Fitness Pal is a great place to start figuring out what makes up a food.
Cheat meals are included! For my purposes though I would rather refer to them as mental sanity meals. Haha. I’m not “cheating”, because those meals are part of the plan, not a slip from it. There are scientific reasons for the MSM too, but the big reason for them, for me personally, is just to have a mental break. Having the “will power” to keep this going, is a lot easier when you break it up into chunks. 3 days on plan, 1 MSM, 2 more days on plan, 1 MSM. You get it? It’s not “falling off the wagon” if they’re part of the plan. Just go back to eating that meal prepped food the next day.
I get told a lot, “I wish I had your will power”. Will power is a lot easier when it’s a few days at a time, and you’re working in your favorite foods as part of the plan. I don’t feel like I have a ton of will power. I just learned a system that doesn’t make me feel deprived while still giving me the results I want. And it didn’t cost me a penny! Please feel free to follow me on Instagram @mommytracksmacros where I post daily motivation and tips about flexible dieting and what it takes to stay in the weight loss mindset.