“So, you didn’t always eat like this?”

“So, you didn’t always eat like this?”

I’ve reflected on this question many times since it was asked last week.

A year ago, this question would have set me on edge, left me feeling fat and unhappy. Now, this question made my day.

I spent last week eating, drinking, and having an amazing vacation with a friend in Mexico. I spent most of my time in a bikini, and I never once had an urge to use an ED behavior. I ate when I was hungry, drank when I wanted to, and was able to walk around without hating myself.

That’s not to say there weren’t some negative ED thoughts creeping in. I had to work hard to not compare myself, I didn’t necessarily feel confident in the bikini, and I left knowing there are still parts of my body that I want to “fix.” But, it was a success in the sense that I was able to let those thoughts stay just thoughts and not control everything I did.

I had fun. I got to spend quality time with a new friend, getting to know each other and making memories. I chose happiness.

I know that I worked damn hard to get to this point. I put in the effort and tears and uncomfortableness. And honestly, I am still working hard – it is still a battle I have to guard myself for, even though the fighting is easier and way less frequent.

After some recovery wins, followed by a few days of trying to decide what diet I want to start in order to “fix” the parts that made me uncomfortable in said bikini, I let my guard down and watched both “To the Bone” and “Feed.”

I had seen the trigger warnings, the reviews, the negative backlash that “To the Bone” had received, and alternately, the praise that “Feed” received.

“To the Bone” was just as expected – a rather underwhelming account of a “typical” ED experience. Yes, it was triggering. No, it wasn’t very realistic – at least not in the sense of the struggles I’ve witnessed and watched others go through at the hands of the disease.

Definitely wouldn’t recommend this one to anyone not significantly far along in recovery.

“Feed” was different. Written by Troian Bellisario (PLL is a guilty pleasure of mine), “Feed” is a dark movie depicting an ED from a slightly different angle. Sure, once again, you have the “typical” ED movie background, but if you look past the white, valedictorian who experiences a trauma that sends her spiraling out of control, you get a true sense of what it means to “hear” ED.

That got me.

I’m hesitant to admit that it took me at least half of the movie before I realized **spoiler** Matt’s ghost (Tom Felton) was indeed ED. It’s all woven together very carefully. Olivia (Troian Bellisario) believes that Matt shows back up to help her through life, when in actuality Matt is her ED voice, controlling her every move.

The power Matt/ED has over her was all too familiar – the constant nagging, pitting the world against her, telling her she doesn’t need the food, telling her that without him, she would be nothing, telling her she’s not sick – these are all very real ideas that ED can drill into a brain. It was intense to be on the outside looking in.

Overall, I thought “Feed” was an incredibly powerful movie that more accurately displayed the mental side of ED.

After watching these two movies, I feel a little emotionally raw. Like seeing pictures of someone who was once a good friend enjoying spending time with someone else. I find myself missing the comfort of ED, especially in this uncertain transition period for D and I.

So, I am continuing to reflect on the question – “You didn’t always eat like this?” That question means the world to me – way more than my friend will probably ever know. It shows me how far I’ve come. It shows me my strength and courage. It prevents me from wanting to go back. It holds me steady. It proves that there is hope for growth and change.

“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” – Abraham Maslow

Regret

Regret – a 6 letter word that plagues me every day.

After 14 months of hating my life abroad, I have finally reached a place of happiness 3 months before we leave.

Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond grateful for having reached this point. But looking back, I have so much regret over how I wasted our time here.

I’ve started venturing into the city once or twice a week, and each time I’m there, I think about how differently our life could have been if only we had made some different decisions a year ago.

I wish we would have lived in Amsterdam. This one wasn’t solely our fault, but had I been in a different mindset, maybe we would have pushed harder to find housing within the city. Living in Amsterdam would have provided more opportunities to work and meet people – both of which could have fostered happiness a bit sooner. But, I didn’t want to meet people. I didn’t want to put myself out there and try to find work. I wanted to isolate myself and count down the days until I moved “home.” That’s not okay.

I wish we would have traveled more. We traveled a good bit, but we could have traveled so much more if I wouldn’t have set so many limitations on our traveling. Traveling made me anxious because it wasn’t routine. Food was different, I couldn’t workout like normal, and I was scared of gaining weight. That coupled with worries over boarding S (the pups) meant travel was limited to MAYBE once a month. Looking back, none of those are good enough reasons to avoid traveling.

I wish we would have been more social. Since D’s coworker (N) has been visiting more, we have went out more, and it has been so much fun. It makes me wonder how different our life here might have been if we would have said yes to more invites in the beginning.

I say “we” in all of these, but ultimately it was I who held us back. D was up for living in Amsterdam, he wanted to travel more, and he would have been more social (both here and in Fairfax) had I been in a better mindset. I think one of my biggest regrets is that I not only ruined this assignment for myself, but also for him.

As our time here slowly dwindles down, I am trying to make the most of every day. We have multiple trips planned. I am saying yes to anything we are invited to, while also trying to invite people to things myself. I am going into the city more and trying to soak it all in before we move. I even tried to convince D that we should move into the city for the next 2.5 months, but he wasn’t in favor of that idea. I also tried to see if we could get our assignment extended, but right now nobody (D, his boss, etc) really trusts that I won’t fall apart again in 3 months.

So, as much as I try to make the most of every day, I do live with so much regret for our time here. Realistically, I know that I couldn’t help most of what I was experiencing. I didn’t choose to struggle with ED or depression or OCD or anxiety. But, I did allow myself to continuously slip further and further away from recovery, without really trying to push forward. Once again, I allowed ED to tarnish an amazing opportunity, while I turned a blind eye and let it happen. There are parts of our life here that I don’t even clearly remember because I was so wrapped up in my downward spiral – none of this is okay with me.

Although I have many regrets over our time here, I also am extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow. I am grateful for the place I am in now – a place where I can choose to go to dinner and drinks with friends without anxiety; a place where I can choose to not work out because I am sore or I just don’t want to; a place where I can plan a trip with a new friend and know I will enjoy that trip without worrying about food; a place where I can eat lunch in Vondelpark by myself; a place where I can trust that my best friends will always “be there” and love me, no matter where we live; a place where I am happy. Each day, I still have to choose recovery, but that choice is a little easier now because I WANT recovery.

I have found happiness and I never want to let it go.

“We spend our whole lives worrying about the future, planning for the future, trying to predict the future, as if figuring it out will cushion the blow. But the future is always changing. The future is the home of our deepest fears and wildest hopes. But one thing is certain when it finally reveals itself. The future is never the way we imagined it.” – Grey’s Anatomy

Learning and Growing

I’ve slacked on my blogging goal for 2016.

My other goals are going well, so I’m being lenient with myself about this one!

The past few weeks have been more of the same – going through the motions, biding time until we move home. I am to the point where I know it’s so close, but like a kid anxiously pushing through the last two months before summer break, I am finding it hard to be patient. I am taking life one day at a time, trying to enjoy the last little bits of the life we carved out for ourselves here.

That being said, when D came home two weeks ago with news that one of his co-workers I knew in the states would be visiting soon, I was super excited! I have only hung out with said co-worker a handful of times, I don’t know her very well, but it’s funny that the thought of a familiar face can be comforting when you are missing home.

I think I bugged D every day to make sure he finalized plans – I’m sure that wasn’t annoying at all! 🙂

On Saturday, we met his co-worker to show her around a city we live close to. It was such a fun day! We met up with her around 1, and I assumed we would spend a couple of hours, be home by 4-5, workout, and eat dinner. After a day’s worth of touring the city, we ended up at our favorite bar and stayed until well past 7 talking and enjoying each other’s company. Like I said, it was nice to see a familiar face!

Although I had a great time, it was in my reflection of the time that I realized just how special this day was in terms of recovery.

Before we moved, I had plenty of opportunities to hang out with D’s co-workers – not just this one, but many others – but I chose not to. Not because I didn’t like them, but because the thought of spending time with people I didn’t really know well scared me. These people weren’t by best friends who knew my nuances, habits, and routines. They didn’t know that eating dinner after 7 made me anxious. They didn’t know that simply eating dinner in front of them would make me anxious. They didn’t know that half of the time during a conversation, I had no idea what to say or do or think, that I was anxious and sweaty and wanted to cry.

At that point in my life, I wasn’t at a place where I could be comfortable spending time with people outside of my little circle. I had just recently invited my people into my comfort zone – I was just over that stage with the people I trusted – I wasn’t ready to step outside of my comfort zone and brave the world of time spent and conversations had with acquaintances.

But, as proven by Saturday (and a few other times before), I am ready for that now. I was able to have conversations with this person – not just responding to questions, but also starting conversations of my own. I talked to her when D was at the table, and when he was away. I felt comfortable being myself and I could feel that comfort zone behind me – I wasn’t inside of it anymore. It wasn’t holding me back.

I also enjoyed a meal, a snack, and a beer with D and his co-worker. I ordered what I wanted to order, and I ate as much as I wanted to eat. At one point, I did look over to her plate to see how much I had eaten in comparison. But, after I realized what I was doing, I consciously made myself stop. I know how much fuel my body needs, and I know how to eat accordingly. I don’t have to compare my food intake to anyone else’s. That was huge. As we were walking around the city, I spotted a stand for a delicious sweet treat that I wanted her to try – I split one with D, too. At our favorite bar, I had one beer, with no desire to have another, so I didn’t. Usually, when in an uncomfortable, out of my comfort zone situation, I would drink to feel comfortable, but I didn’t need to. I was able to relax and enjoy conversation and company without help.

Finally, as the night came to a close and we headed home, I began to panic a little about the fact that I wouldn’t be able to eat dinner until after 8:30. A year ago, that, coupled with the fact that I missed a workout, would have sent me over the edge. Not this time. I had a conversation with C about how it was just one day, and in the grand scheme of things, had zero impact. I ate dinner and went to bed.

The past 14 months have been hard. Yes, I have had an amazing opportunity to travel Europe, live in another country, meet so many people, learn so many things. But, there were times when I hated my life. I was depressed, I let food control me, OCD has been tough, and I’m leaving here with more scars (mentally and physically) than I came with. Ultimately though, I have learned so much about myself and I have grown more than I ever imagined possible. Being here forced me to take sole responsibility for my recovery and for my life. It made me hold myself accountable. It showed me just how supportive an amazing group of “home team players” could be.

14 months ago, I would never have experienced Saturday the way it played out. I would have been anxious, quiet, and reserved. I would have eaten too little and probably drank a little too much. I would have told D we needed to leave at a specific time to be sure I worked out and ate dinner before 7. I wouldn’t have had fun, nor would I have been very much fun.

I needed Saturday. Yes, I needed a familiar face and familiar conversation. But, I also needed the opportunity to see just how far I’ve come.

I am proud. I am thankful. I am happy.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly…”– English Proverb

September: Month of Crossfit and Paleo

It has been a whirlwind of a summer (hence why I have been completely MIA). 7 visitors, 4 countries (including multiple trips to some countries), and 4 months later, we said goodbye to our last visitor yesterday (until my dad visits in November).

To say the past four months were “fun” would be an understatement. I had the opportunity to hang out with my cousin G and explore Amsterdam a bit more, travel to Paris with C and make memories that will last a lifetime, visit London, Dublin, and Paris with my sisters, explore London a bit more with A and J (as well as spend a day in Brussels), and finally show my grandma around both Paris and London. See a theme here? Everyone wanted to visit Paris and/or London! Both fine by me!

Although we had an amazing summer, D and I were both feeling a little “off” with our food choices and our workouts. With traveling so much, it’s difficult to always choose the healthiest option when eating (who wants to pass up Parisian food?) and even more difficult to stay on a specific workout routine. It was definitely easier some weeks than others – C and I enjoyed many fun workouts together and I can’t wait to continue that when I move back! But, overall, we felt like we could use a little refresher in both the exercise and nutrition realm.

And thus was born D’s idea of a month of Crossfit WODs and Paleo meals.

If you’ve read any of my past blog posts, you will know that lifting is a HUGE part of my life. I love creating our workouts, lifting heavy, and pushing myself to new PR’s. Lifting also happens to play a huge role in my recovery. So, the idea of switching up our normal routine from heavy, strictly lifting workouts to more functional based Crossfit workouts scared me a bit. Honestly, I didn’t really understand Crossfit. D and I had been to a box before, but the workouts always felt a little thrown together, off the cuff, go do 40 deadlifts and call it a day type workouts. But, I committed to this and I was determined to learn as much as I could so that I could give it my best. I have learned so much!

After a lot of research, I created our workout schedule for the entire month. 3 days on, 1 day off. We start each 3 day cycle focusing on 1 modality (metabolic conditioning, gymnastics/body weight, or weightlifting/powerlifting) during our WOD, then increase to 2 on day 2, and finally 3 on day 3. Each day starts with a warm-up (in our case it’s usually a run with our pup who is full of energy and needs the exercise), then we move on to a specific skill (this is where my personal training/love of heavy lifting plays a role – these are usually pyramids of a core lift such as bench, squat, or deadlift, OR some bicep/tricep work), and finally we finish with the WOD and stretching.

The other part of this month’s changes was our diets. We generally eat very healthy/clean. Lots of fruits and veggies, high protein, low sugar, etc. But, we decided to go all in and give paleo a try. Full disclosure – I refused to give up my protein pancakes for breakfast, so we aren’t doing this 100%, but we are doing our best. I’ve really enjoyed trying many new paleo recipes and making sure we are eating nutritionally sound foods.

So, I say all of that to preface this:

9 Things I’ve Learned From A Month of Crossfit and Paleo

1 – It’s okay to not be “all or nothing.”

This has been huge in both our workouts and our diets. I enjoy doing the heavy lifts, so I still include them occasionally, alongside our WOD. But, this has mainly played out with nutrition. I’ve learned that we can still be committed to eating paleo AND I can still enjoy my protein pancake. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. We’ve had quinoa or brown rice with some of our meals, we’ve had some non-paleo foods when we are out and there is nothing else to eat, and that’s okay. After this month, we are taking a trip to Italy, and then taking a trip home to the states 2 weeks later. I’m sure we will eat whatever we want to on either trip, paleo or not. We want to do the best we can at eating whole and nutritious foods, but we also are going to keep a percentage available to just live. This is where we will fully rely on the 80/20 rule with paleo. 80% of the time we will try to eat foods that align with paleo, while the other 20% we will eat foods that wouldn’t necessarily fall into the paleo category. This helps alleviate that “all or nothing” mentality that I sometimes fall into. 🙂

2 – I’m hungry ALL of the time (and that’s okay).

I don’t know what happened, but I think something between switching up my workout routines and eating habits changed my metabolism. Going from restricting to eating while lifting was a huge change for me – I ate so much more than I thought possible, and it was what my body needed. And that amount has jumped up again. Sometimes I get a little freaked out that eating more will cause weight gain, but I try to just focus on eating when I’m hungry, stopping when I’m full, and knowing that my body knows what it is doing, while sometimes my brain (ED) might not.

3 – Rest days are important.

Before we started including Crossfit type workouts in our routine, I HATED rest days. I felt lazy, I felt like they were pointless, and I didn’t want to include them. But, now I see why they are so necessary. After 3 days on of running, lifting/accessory work, and a WOD, my body NEEDS a rest day. And rest days are just that – I don’t do anything (except my normal walks with the pup). So, appreciate your rest days – your body needs time to recover!

4 – So is stretching.

Something I hated even more than rest days – stretching. And I never did it. I am a certified personal trainer, I include stretching in ALL of the plans I write, but I refused to actually do it myself. After almost a month of struggling through overhead squats, snatches, and cleans due to lack of flexibility, I clearly see why stretching is VERY important, and I am starting to incorporate it after every workout.

5 – I can stick to a specific way of eating and NOT feel like I’m restricting.

This has been HUGE for me! Going into this month, I was concerned that removing certain foods might push on that restricting trigger and lead to more and more foods being cut out. But, I am happy to say that it hasn’t! I credit a large part of that to the 80/20 rule and staying away from the “all or nothing” thinking.

It was a little difficult in the beginning. I don’t think that I realized that my appetite might change and I may need to give my body more fuel. But, once I started relying on hunger cues, and not focusing on how much I was eating, but eating when my body said to, it became a lot easier to not feel like I was restricting. Which, leads me to my next point.

6 – Listen to your body.

This has always been one I struggled with, and I’m sure it will almost always be something I struggle with. But, it has gotten easier, with time. My body knows what it needs. It knows when it needs rest. It knows when it needs fuel. It knows when it needs sleep. On the other hand, sometimes my brain (ED) doesn’t care what my body needs – it only cares about what it wants. So, in those moments, it’s become very important to step back, separate the two, and choose to listen to my body over my brain. I’m still learning and every day is a chance to practice and choose my body and in turn, recovery.

7 – Functional lifts are just as important as main lift PR’s.

Another difficult one for me to grasp. I have always been focused on numbers. And lifting was no different – I wanted higher numbers, I wanted to be the best. So, to step back and not give those numbers power for a little while has been a little scary. I am worried that I will lose some of my strength gains. But, I also have seen improvements in so many areas. It’s awesome to PR bench press, but I also want to be able to do a snatch, and at this point, I don’t care what that PR weight is! After this month, I am looking forward to returning to the world of heavy lifting and maxing, but I am also excited to combine the best of both worlds and continue to include functional lifts alongside the big PR lifts!

8 – I am scared of handstands.

I don’t know when this happened. As a child, I loved to do cartwheels, handstands, etc. But, after trying to do handstand pushups, I realized that handstands actually terrify me and I need to find a substitute exercise (or get over my fear…).

9 – I am strong, but I will always have room to grow.

This one encompasses all aspects of my life, from physical to mental. I have shown myself my strength, and I am so much stronger than I ever thought I was. But, I always have room to grow and push myself to new and better things!

Crossfit has kicked my ass. Going from a plateau in my normal lifting routine to a Crossfit workout everyday has been a tremendous change. I am always sore after a workout. I look forward to pushing myself in new ways. Changing my diet (even though it wasn’t a huge change) has also been a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to incorporate and combine everything that I’ve learned through this past month in with my “normal” routines starting in October.

To end, I want to share Greg Glassman’s Crossfit in 100 words – this isn’t a diet, this isn’t about being skinny or looking a certain way…this is about training for life.

“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.” ~Coach Greg Glassman, CrossFit Founder and CEO

Macros and Lifting

When will life be more than macros and workouts?

Don’t get me wrong, I still stand by IIFYM! Macros gave me a freedom with food that I had never experienced before!

And working out – I enjoy my workouts now! Lifting makes me feel powerful and gives me bigger, healthier goals. I’ve even thrown some running into the mix; though I still stand by the fact that I HATE cardio! 🙂

But, I still feel a sense of definition or control from these things.

By lunchtime, my entire days worth of food is written down and calculated. Any deviation from that plan leads to instant panic. Yes, my meal plan is higher than it used to be. It includes foods like Oreos, chocolate, and snack foods. But, if something that I want doesn’t fit, I am not okay with eating it anyway. If I change my mind about a food, I must first consult the plan before actually eating the food.

I became very aware of this yesterday. Every week D and I make a menu. This week we were supposed to have fish tacos. Long story short, our normal grocery store was closed and the one we went to didn’t have our usual tilapia, so D bought a different (breaded and marinated) kind.

When I was calculating my macros yesterday, I noticed that one piece of tilapia was over double the macros it usually is. I panicked. Quickly, our favorite fish taco meal turned into a piece of tilapia and some quinoa – that’s the only way I could get it to fit my macros.

Throughout the day I was angry – I wanted fish tacos for dinner. That was what I had planned on and what I was looking forward to. Lunch was lacking due to the high dinner macros and after lunch I wasn’t satisfied. I found myself going back to the pantry again and again trying to find something to make me feel better. But, I only felt worse.

Instead of being proactive and realizing this spiral I was in, I let it get the best of me. When I wasn’t in the pantry, I sat on the couch sulking or sleeping – sleeping is usually one of my semi-negative coping skills because I use it to shut everyone out.

When D got home and asked what the plan was for dinner, I told him about the macro issue. I didn’t explain how my day had taken a downward spiral because of the macros, simply that we would not be having fish tacos for dinner.

During our workout, I started talking to C and K. With a more clear head, I decided to ignore the macros for the night and eat a more filling dinner than quinoa and tilapia. It wasn’t fish tacos, but it wasn’t so blah either.

I still fought the thoughts the remainder of the night. Between knowing I went over my macros and knowing I spent a large part of my day asleep on the couch, I ended up skipping my normal protein shake. All in all, calories probably evened out at a severe cut to my protein intake. But, I was weak. I couldn’t shake those thoughts and feelings.

So, what I realized was this – even though I eat things I enjoy now, even though I eat more than I used to, I am still controlled by macros. I still wake up thinking about food. I still go to bed feeling the fat on my stomach. I still feel panicky when my macros don’t add up right. And, do I really want to spend the rest of my life like this? Hell no!

K pointed out that with time, we will stop being so reliant on macros, or whatever else we are using. That we will not be counting macros when we are 40. I hope she is right!

I had this same realization today with lifting. I enjoy lifting. I look forward to lifting. But I also see lifting as the piece of the puzzle that is keeping me healthy. So when D decided we should probably push deadlift day to tomorrow, I immediately felt the panic kick in. I took S on a run this morning, but a part of me feels like that wasn’t enough. If I start my day knowing it is a rest day then I feel safer not working out. But I started today thinking I would go on two runs and deadlift. Once that plan changed, the feeling of safety fell away.

I want to live a life at peace with myself. A life where fish tacos are okay if that is what I want, even if it doesn’t fit my macros. A life where pushing a workout to the next day isn’t a big deal. I want to realize that as long as I am eating healthy and exercising moderately most of the time, one day of being “off” won’t matter.

D and I are heading to Italy next weekend. I am beyond anxious over this trip. I’ve talked a big talk about all of the gelato, pizza, and pasta I will eat – but inside, I can’t stop thinking macros and lack of lifting. But, this is exactly what I’m talking about with this post. A vacation should be fun – not a time spent worrying about what I will eat or when I will workout. It’s going to be tough, but I know I am stronger!

“Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live

Maybe one of these days you can let the light in

Show me how big your brave is.” – Sara Bareilles

Breakfast Ideas

We’ve all heard it said, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

Even so, breakfast is also one of the hardest meals of the day for me.

The feeling of emptiness right when I wake up gives me a rush I can’t describe. I feel lean, toned, happy.

But I’ve learned that I can’t focus on those feelings for too long. Focusing on those feelings for too long leads to me laying in bed for another hour (or until S won’t stop barking and I have to get up to take her out) grasping for those feelings to not go away.

So, I give myself a few minutes and then I get out of bed, go downstairs, and immediately prepare breakfast, knowing that after that first bite, those feelings will disappear until tomorrow. But that’s okay. I want to be healthy – and not eating is not healthy.

In order to be more excited and willing to get on with breakfast each morning, I have found meals that I look forward to!

Because I don’t like feeling super full after a meal, I have learned to spread breakfast over two meals – first and second breakfast. I look forward to both of these meals each day! They make getting out of bed and giving up those feelings just a little easier. And I want to share those two meals (and their recipes) with you!

First Breakfast:

Breakfast Burrito

  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices of turkey
  • 1 slice of cheese
  • 1 burrito wrap
  • 1 tbsp salsa

This one is pretty self explanatory – scramble the egg and put everything inside of the wrap. Delicious!

Macros: carbs – 25g; protein – 18g; fat – 14g

Second Breakfast:

Protein Pancake topped with PB2 and fruit

  • ¼ cup oats
  • ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 scoop protein powder (vanilla is best)
  • dash of cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup of milk

Combine everything in a bowl. You may need to add a little more milk (or some water) to get the consistency of pancake batter. I usually make these in bulk on Sunday’s during meal prep, so my recipe is a lot larger than this. But, this should make two average sized pancakes!

Macros (for one pancake, no toppings): carbs – 28g; protein – 17g; fat – 6g

And that is my morning! Get up, give myself a few minutes to feel empty and lean, and then eat a nutritious breakfast that I genuinely enjoy and look forward to while reminding myself that there is so much more to life than feeling empty and lean!

I’ve found that once I eat that first meal, it makes the remainder of the day just a little easier. I can focus on meeting my macros and fueling my body properly so that I can be happy and healthy!

“Without struggle, there is no progress.” -Frederick Douglass

IIFYM

IIFYM – 5 letters that changed my outlook on food forever.

These 5 letters stand for 5 beautiful words that when strung together equal a freedom with food that I hadn’t experienced since being a carefree child (we’re talking like 6 years old).

If It Fits Your Macros.

Throughout my recovery, I tried many different ideas in relation to food. I meticulously counted calories, used MyFitnessPal to track calories, counted exchanges, tried not to count anything at all, and finally stumbled upon macros. Macros was the best of both worlds. The control I sought through counting something and the freedom I sought through eating whatever I wanted. I set my macros (with guidance from my personal training textbook), I tracked my macros (not using an app), and I updated my macros based on my workouts, my body, my strength, and my goals.

Let me back up and explain macros. Macros are the building blocks of a diet (diet in this sense being your nutritional intake each day). Basically, the essential nutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Sometimes fiber is thrown into the mix.

For me, counting macros started when I started lifting. I wanted to gain strength, I was lifting heavier than I was used to, and I knew my body needed protein. Once I started counting protein, I realized that you can’t just grow muscle off of protein alone – you also need carbs and fats. Contrary to popular belief, carbs and fats are NOT the enemy. They can and should be included in a diet in appropriate amounts.

Thus began my experience with macros. I used many different sources to calculate my macros, found an average of each of the calculations, and used it as a starting point.

Each week, I monitored how I felt in the gym and throughout the rest of the day. Was I tired? Did I feel strong? Was I sore for an extended period of time after a workout? Was I losing, gaining, or maintaining weight (only weighing once a week)? I used this assessment of myself, along with the guidance of my personal trainer, to update my macros.

I ended up finding a set number of calories that I could eat each day. This amount of calories left me satisfied at the end of the day. I didn’t feel tired anymore. I felt strong. And most importantly, I wasn’t losing weight. Once I found that caloric level, I was able to adjust the macros to fit within that number.

For me, that meant adjusting my macros to 47% carbs, 23% protein, and 30% fat. Many calculations later, I set my macros for 270 grams of carbs, 130 grams of protein, and 77 grams of fat per day. This seemed intimidating at first, but once I got started, it became a puzzle to solve each day.

Each morning, I would pack breakfast, lunch, and snacks to take to work. When I had a break at work, I would calculate the macros of everything I packed and plan dinner. After the main meals were set, the rest of the day was focused on eating when I was hungry and meeting the rest of my macros! I ate whatever I wanted – I just made it fit my macros!

At the end of the day, I was never perfect. I don’t think there was one day that I hit all of my macros. My first goal each day was to hit the amount of calories I set for myself – I finally realized that I had deprived my body for long enough and that wasn’t going to happen anymore. If I went over calories, that was okay! But, I didn’t want to be under. My second goal was to hit protein. I was in the gym between 4-6 days a week. I knew that in order to build muscle, I needed to provide my muscles with adequate fuel to repair themselves. After that, carbs and fat fell into place. Sometimes my carbs were lower and fat was higher. Sometimes it was the opposite. But, as long as I hit my calories, got close to hitting protein, and went to bed feeling satisfied, not deprived, I counted it as a success!

For me, macros were about taking back control. Food became fuel and my body was the tank. I knew how much fuel my body needed and macros helped me provide that fuel.

After a while, I stopped counting macros. I had counted for long enough to know about how much my body needed each day. I began relying on my body to tell me if it needed the macros adjusted and I complied. I proved to myself that I can eat intuitively without counting something, and that was yet another success.

But, life isn’t always picture perfect. There are times stress sets in, doubts form, you may get sick, you may not have access to a gym or your normal foods. All of these changes can bring about a change to your eating habits. In my case, D and I moved to another country. In the transition period (still currently in it), we didn’t have a gym, we didn’t have access to the foods we were used to, and it was difficult. So after realizing I started restricting in order to cope, I began counting macros again. Doing so allowed me a little bit of control in a new environment where I don’t have much control. It allowed me to reign in my thoughts and refocus on being healthy.

I think that’s how life will go for me. There will be times where I feel confident enough to eat without counting anything. There will be times where I need to count to make sure I am providing my body with adequate fuel. Both are okay. Both are me choosing recovery.

If you are struggling with food, I encourage you to look into macros. Do some research, see if it’s for you! And as always, I would be happy to answer any questions you might have about macros, lifting, or anything in between!

“It’s not about perfect. It’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs.” – Jillian Michaels