Day 9: how I decide what to eat

Side note: my legs and bum are tender (but not sore) after yesterday’s workout. Good workout. High five, self! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Ever since that disastrous year in college when pretty much all I consumed was cereal, canned soup, satsumas, and alcohol, I have been a fairly “healthy eater” — incorporating diverse fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and interesting flavors into my meals, substituting beans and lentils for meat most of the time, and decreasing total calories. Despite this, I continued to gain weight.  What was I doing wrong?

To help me figure it out, back in February I visited a registered dietitian (Ashley at Crave Health — go see her if you’re in the Seattle area! She is fantastic) who helped me come up with a meal plan based on my basal metabolic rate. There are as many theories about how to distribute macronutrients and track calories as there are dietitians, but I liked her approach: worry about getting protein, fat, and carbs in a reasonable ratio and instead of counting calories, track the 3 major macronutrients as exchanges (It’s easier for me to conceptualize). I also learned that to lose weight you need to increase your protein consumption — the protein to carbs ratio should be at least 2:1. Oh, and beans and lentils? They’re carbs. My entire cooking and shopping routine got thrown out the window in a single moment.

Fast forward to the day I started this blog. Had I stuck with the meal plan? No – too many carbs. Had I lost weight? No – I’d gained the annual 5-10. So when I started my exercise program, I re-implemented my meal plan.

Daily distribution of macronutrients: 13-15 protein exchanges, 7 fat exchanges, 5-7 carb exchanges, at least 2 cups but in principle unlimited vegetables per day.
I try to break that up something like this: breakfast 3 proteins + 2 fats + 1 carb. Lunch 4 proteins + 2 fats + 1-2 carbs. Dinner 4-5 proteins + 2 fats + 1-2 carbs. I eat the remaining 3-ish proteins, 3-ish carbs, and 1-ish fats in 2-3 snacks throughout the day. Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of every meal.

But what does that mean, foodwise? In principle, I could eat a massive slice of cake with ice cream, or a huge bowl of fettucine alfredo, every day to max out my fats and carbs and eat nothing but chicken breast for the rest of the day to get enough protein. But it has been said many times and many places, and I believe it: not all calories are created equal. To maximize the micronutrients I need for an optimally-performing body, I eat clean most of the time (eat whole natural foods and limit or eliminate processed foods). Basically, I have a mental list of foods that I choose to eat regularly and foods that I choose to minimize, which makes it easy to go grocery shopping and know whether a recipe should be adapted, avoided, or saved for special splurge occasions.

The foods I eat regularly are:

Fats Proteins Carbs
Avocados, olives, nuts, coconut, and oils from these sources; and butter (yes, butter – its a great source of vitamins, minerals, and
fatty acids that promote brain function, skin health, and hormone
balance) and lard (yes, lard, for the same reasons).
Primarily animal sources: chicken (thighs, not breasts), fish/ shellfish, beef, pork. Once in awhile lamb. I would buy all grass-fed free-range meat if I could but with the amount of meat I eat it’s cost-prohibitive for now.
EggsGreek yogurt (low-fat, not fat-free)

Cheese (in moderation as it’s fatty, which throws off my macros if I eat a lot of it)

PB2 (I’d rather eat natural peanut butter but it’s a trigger food for me so for now I’m not keeping it around)

Fruits/ winter squash/ orange yams > whole grains (brown rice, wheat berries, barley, corn, etc) and pulses/legumes (beans, lentils) > white potatoes > processed grain products (pasta, tortillas, flour-based products.
Mostly I eat fruits and vegetables, though I do eat 1 slice of Dave’s Killer Bread nearly every day — it’s packed with seeds and whole grains, but it’s a luxury, and most days it’s the only grain I eat.I avoid high fructose corn syrup and I prefer maple syrup and honey to sugar, though mostly I don’t eat sugar except what occurs naturally in fruit.

Right now, I’m drinking very little alcohol to facilitate weight loss. 1-2 drinks a week is a boozy week for me.

I eat when I’m hungry. I eat protein before and after a weight-lifting session. I eat clean, but I don’t eat paleo. I eat grains (in limited quantity) and dairy. I use soy sauce and sriracha. For now at least, I have no plans to stop. Also, for me, these are guidelines, not hard limits. That means when the day comes that I really want cake, I’ll eat cake and I’ll try not to worry about it.

Fitness today
Miles to Mordor: 1.02 walked
Strength training: upper body. 1 arm dumbbell rows, 4×5 35. Dumbbell bench press, 4×5 30. T bar row, 4×5 55. Modified push-ups, 1x 10 1×5 1×6.

Food today
Breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled in 1 tsp butter, 1/2 tomato, 1 slice wh wh toast, salsa, dollop Gr yogurt
Lunch: sweet potato tortilla chips, salad (lettuce, tomato, red pepper, carrot, chicken, honey mustard dressing)
Snack: grapes and strawberries, Greek yogurt
Snack: 1 low fat string cheese
Snack: 2 low fat string cheese
Dinner: chicken with harissa, spaghetti squash/spinach/feta casserole, salad (lettuce, carrot, tomato, clean ranch)

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