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It has come to the point where I no longer talk about food or anything fitness related around one of my friends. In the beginning, she reacted in awe as she noticed how I could eat donuts, chocolate, french fries and pizza everyday or every other day and not gain a pound. While I indulge in these delicious yet supposedly diet-killing foods, she refrains from eating anything with flour, sugar or fat; or so she says. My friend assumes I am genetically blessed, and constantly tells me how she wishes she could have my metabolism. However, what was initially light-hearted jealousy soon turned into all out envy. Well, great. Now I feel bad.
I guess it sounds like I’m bragging, but here’s the thing: anyone can do what I do. You see, maintaining a lean body is so much easier when you stop restricting yourself. In my recent years, although I still jump around and climb trees like I did as a little kid, maintaining my current physique became a little trickier now that I don’t like cardio so much and can’t stay away from donuts. As a foodie and sweet lover, I learned to come to a compromise. Through my many years of working out, dieting and aspiring to attain a lean physique, I have finally learned that in order to do this, we have to let go. For me, “letting yourself go” has a completely different meaning than to that of many others. At some point, I couldn’t stand obsessing over my diet and told myself “screw this”. It wasn’t a “I give up, I’ll never get what I want” moment. It was a “I’m done letting something as simple as what I eat control me” moment. I stopped caring so much about what, when and how much I ate. I didn’t start eating masses of junk food and stop exercising, I just changed my way of thinking. I thought “if I can fit the things I love into my diet without sabotaging everything completely, I can reach my fitness goals whilst enjoying myself.” So simple, right?
This way of thinking is not some transcendent revelation that the fitness world has recently discovered. It’s the most basic piece of lifestyle advice anyone can give. Moderation. Learn to do things in moderation. Do you like chocolate? Eat it then. Just don’t eat 400g of it. It’s fun to go out for drinks with friends, right? I definitely enjoy it. I just don’t gulp down six cocktails a night, five times a week. Learn to indulge, to enjoy yourself and let yourself experience the simple pleasures in life, without going overboard. Because once you start overindulging, all the benefits of “letting go” disappear.
That’s what I’m trying to get across here. I eat mostly healthy, whole foods, but if I want to have a donut or two (or three or four), I will. If I am eating whole foods that fill me up and provide me with adequate nutrition most of the the time, then I won’t be piling on pounds just because I indulge every now and then. This approach to eating can be considered similar to intuitive eating or flexible dieting. The idea is to make dieting as easy as possible, and letting yourself indulge when your body craves it and when your mind needs a break is what will help you to stick to your diet.
So what is my friend (let’s call her Dana) doing wrong? Why is Dana gaining weight even though she is trying so hard to stay away from junk food? It’s because she is in a calorie surplus, it’s as simple as that. Dana is consuming more calories than her body is burning. Although she thinks she is doing everything right, her strict diet of restriction is backfiring. Her bland diet and tedious routine strips away her willpower, leaving her susceptible to binging on the very food she tries so hard to avoid. Not only that, but she is overeating in general. Just because she’s filling up on whole foods, doesn’t mean she isn’t going over her maintenance calories. Nuts, peanut butter, pasta, juice, granola, cereal. These are all examples of so healthy or reasonably healthy food that is easy to eat in large amounts and can wreak havoc on your diet. Dana, I know how you feel. But there is hope. There is always hope. Except in the case of the DCEU. That movie franchise is dead.
Okay, so I was joking about the DCEU (their movies are okay but personally I’m a Marvl fan), but there is truth in what I am saying. Everything I have said can be applied to not just your nutrition and fitness lifestyle, but other aspects of your life too. Be yourself. Enjoy yourself. Stop worrying about the littles things and just let go. I’m not saying you should abandon all common sense and eat only ice cream. I’m saying that you can still pursue all your fitness goals without torturing yourself.
All of this seem pretty rudimentary and obvious. The real question is, where do you start?
My advice is to find out about your maintenance calories (the amount of calories your body needs to consume everyday in order to maintain its weight) and start from there. Learn to eat at maintenance whilst remembering to eat healthy, whole foods 75% of the time. Eat your vegetables, fruits, lean meats, whole grains and healthy fats. The bulk of your diet should consist of these foods, but you can incorporate your favorite foods and drinks into this diet. Experiment, modify and try to have fun whilst learning to stay in shape in the most enjoyable way possible. Listen to your body and observe the changes in you as you realize that you have control over your body. In this day and age it is so easy to find healthy diet examples and recipes to make eating healthy a lot more enjoyable and easy. However you do it, find a “template” diet that fits your taste and is most convenient for you. Once you have your foundation, build upon it. You can add, remove or modify as you wish wish as long as you are eating whole foods 75% of the time. So, Dana, at the end of the day, you should feel satisfied with what you ate that day. If you don’t, then you still have some things you need to figure out. It may take time and some trial and error, but once you work out the kinks in your new lifestyle, I can guarantee you that you will find staying in shape much easier and more enjoyable than you could have ever imagined.
Gooey yet... delicious.
Pizza Hut, you know me so well.
Suns out, miniature guns out.
A day at the beach. I ate a Reese’s sandwich, a burger with fries and chicken wings and ice cream that day. Why live at all if you can’t let loose a little?
Just what I needed.
Just to prove that I don’t only eat junk. This post-workout snack was a kiwi, an avocado and a protein bar.
Maybe I don’t hit the treadmill or smash the elliptical, but I find enjoyable ways to get some exercise. Swimming, climbing, walking and hiking are all super fun and have the added bonus of keeping me out in nature.