It’s Just Food

A New Year is here, and as always, that brings New Year’s resolutions. One of the most common resolutions I hear is one I’m just as guilty of making and then not keeping myself. Something along the lines of: “New year, New me!” or “Start exercising and dieting!” or “By summer, you wont recognize me!”

Unfortunately, this approach usually lasts about 2 to 3 weeks, or maybe even a month or 2; but eventually, you snap! Binge eat all weekend and feel guilty on Monday, starve yourself all week and binge all weekend. The diet flies out the window followed closely by the exercise part, and before you know it, you’re back in the same cycle you did the year before, and the year before that, etc. Putting the weight you starved off yourself back on and probably a few more pounds than you were in the first place.

Like I say, I’m guilty of doing this pretty much every year for most of my life and not even just around New Years. It’s a pattern I’ve repeated anytime I felt guilty and wanted to shed some pounds or saw a new diet in health magazines. I would cut all of my favorite foods and snacks and restrict my food intake to almost nothing in the magical hopes that in a month or two, I would be ripped! Yes, this involved all the fad diets: Atkins, paleo, keto, IIFYM, Zone. I’ve even taken lots of so-called “Fat Burning” pills and powders that help increase metabolism. You name it, I’ve tried it.

Even more recently, with my “fitness-y” background and learning and reading about food and nutrition all the time, I was still making lots of mistakes. Convinced that the only way to get the sweet 6 pack I wanted, was to diet hard. Which isn’t wrong, you do need to diet to lean out, but for the amount of exercise I do daily, I wasn’t taking in enough calories to promote enough muscle gain or body recovery. So, my body got scared, and instead of shedding fat, I was storing fat and burning muscle to keep my energy levels up. Full disclosure: This is something the dietitian at STRIDE tried to tell me; however, I didn’t start implementing it until fairly recently – sorry, Paige!

I’ve been tracking my food intake off and on for about 3 years with My Fitness Pal; always trying to hit certain macro nutrient (protein, fat, carbs) goals. When I was diligent in tracking my intake, it was always to lose weight and never to figure out how much food my body needed to maintain my energy levels and still make gains in the gym. I took some advice from my new workout coach (which was the same advice I didn’t take from our dietitian) and increased my calorie intake by about 800 calories. I went from about 2400 cals or 185g protein, 240g carbs, 85g fat up to 3200 calories or 185g protein, 390g carbs, 95g fat. With the giant jump in daily calories, I have noticed that my workouts are easier, the amount of gains with my lifts have gone up, energy levels have sky rocketed, my recovery is better, my  sleep is better, and I’m not ripping the kitchen apart at night looking for more food before bed time. Now, as my body gets used to the right amount of food, I will have to start fine tuning my intake to find what’s just right for me and then begin a slight calorie restriction to drop a few percentages in body fat to make those abs pop!

Are all the diets out there wrong? They all have their good and bad points and I’m not saying don’t try them, but you need to ask yourself – can I maintain this forever or even long enough to see changes? The answer is probably not, be honest. My hope with this post is to have you question yourself – do you know how to eat enough proper macro nutrients? Take a few months to figure out how much food your body needs, then look at a slight calorie deficit that is maintainable over the long haul. Keep in mind, you didn’t become overweight in a month or 2; it was over years of bad food choices. So, in order to lose that weight, it’s going to take years of proper eating and smart food choices. No tea or cleanse or diet that promises results in less than a month is going to work. So, break the New Year’s diet tradition! Get some help from someone that actually knows what your intake should be, not from some guy at the gym or a friend that read a couple blog posts.

Take your time, be patient. It’s a long journey. Don’t beat yourself up if you enjoy a night out or a delicious meal or a night of drinks and fun. Get up the next day, move on, and eat what you are supposed to. That’s it! Easy and simple! Why make it complicated? It’s just food.