So I didn't think I really cared about what other people ate until I saw this trending on TikTok and now I must admit that I always watch these videos to the end. I find them Fascinating! What does a (seemingly) healthy person eat in one day!? Maybe they know of some secret health food that I'm not aware of! (Read: I love hacks.) I'm also a nerdy engineer who tries to solve every problem with science and logic to hopefully determine the most effective and efficient solution to anything, including health. Pare this with an endless desire to be healthy and fit, and you have yourself someone who is slightly obsessed with fine-tuning her diet until it perfectly meets her calorie and nutrition needs. Yay me!
Now, I'm not going to say I have the perfect diet. Goodness knows, I am a very recent graduate of the "I can eat whatever I want because I workout" class. But I will say that I successfully lost 20 lbs between October 2020 and March 2021 and have kept it off since. In fact, I weigh less now (at the ripe age of 30-something) than I did in high school, which I honestly didn't think was possible... not because I was skinny in high school, but because I haven't seen this number on the scale ever. The first time I remember weighing myself was in ninth grade when I was trying to see if I qualified for the lightweight rowing team. Spoiler: I did not.
I cannot understate the importance of the Noom app which has taught me nearly everything I know about nutrition. By working through Noom and also having the luxury of working from home (which gave me the ability to make all my meals), I was able to come up with a consistent weekday diet that fills me up and makes me feel healthy while also providing me the calories I need to achieve my goal of either losing or maintaining weight. (Don't ask me about weekends, those are still a bit of a free-for-all.)
For those who haven't read my morning ritual, my breakfast is an Athletic Greens shake (40 cal) followed by a nutritious and yummy breakfast smoothie (347 cal). I also drink at least one cup of coffee with creamer (20 cal).
If you want to consume less calories, skip the peanut butter (1 tbsp = 100 calories) and/or coffee creamer (1 tbsp = 20 calories). . . But honestly why would you deprive yourself of delicious creamer or peanut butter!?
Salads - Soups - Bowls Oh my!
So I first fell in love with salads when I tried out this delicious meal in a box plan called Plated (RIP!) Who knew salads could be so delicious and varied!? This was also at a time when I worked around the corner from a Salata. I started eating salads for lunch EVERY DAY. Mind you, I was the person that made fun of people that ate salads for lunch every day... until I became that person. I realized I felt so much better after having a salad versus having really anything else. And Salata salads are effing delicious. They have pretty much every ingredient you'd ever think to put in a salad, and their Chipotle ranch dressing is the bomb. Okay I'm getting hungry now I might just go there tomorrow.
Anywho, I was obsessed. I would go there every day... until I stopped working at an office and started working from home. . Oh no! So I decided to recreate that experience. The concept is simple. Start with a leafy base: Spinach, romaine, spring mix, kale... any kind of greenery. And then just go crazy with the toppings. I always try to keep on hand bell pepper, jalapeño, tomatoes, black beans, avocado and some type of cheese. I've also added "taco meat," roasted cauliflower, roasted chickpeas, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts (I like roasted things), sun dried tomatoes, shaved carrots, tuna, salmon, apples, blueberries, nuts . . . go crazy! Anything and everything goes with salads. I honestly don't even know what qualifies as a salad anymore and frankly I don't care. Grab a bunch of veggies and fruits you love (or at least don't hate), put it in a nice big bowl and voila! you have a salad.
Do note that beans, meats, nuts, cheeses and dried fruit/veggies have a higher calorie density than raw fruits and veggies, so if you're trying to stay within a certain calorie count, maybe don't go crazy with these. On that note, if you haven't tried it before, I seriously encourage you to log your food into an app that calculates calories. You will probably be surprised, especially if you've never done it before. . . I haven't looked at cheese the same way since (to my dismay)! Side note: You can do this in Noom. Have I mentioned I like that app?
If I feel like I need more sustenance (or if it's winter time), I'll make a "bowl" which for me means that the base is going to be a warm grain like quinoa or lentils. Then I'll add warm toppings, typically roasted veggies, as I don't really want to eat cold raw bell pepper on top of warm quinoa.
Sometimes I don't have a base, just a random assortment of veggies, which I believe could possibly pass for a bento box at trendy restaurants. Do what makes you happy. Obviously I like to keep things simple.
One thing I didn't mention was dressing. I very rarely buy store bought dressing anymore, mainly because there's so many other more flavorful ingredients I'd rather put on my salad for less calories like: hummus, hot sauce, balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil, etc. Again, be creative. No one likes a dry salad but there's so many other ways to wet your salad other than smothering it with a pre-mixed concoction of who know's what. (Wet your salad. . . I'm not sure I feel about this phase.)
And lastly, soups! Black bean soups, lentils soups, veggie chili, they're all my friends. Soups are basically a version of a "bowl" albeit everything is sautéed and stewed together into a wonderful warm blend of yumminess.
Overall, my lunches tend to clock in around 400 - 600 calories.
By this point, I've only consumed about 800 - 1,000 calories which means I'm usually hungry again by 3 pm. And I still have about 2 hours of work and a second workout standing between now and dinner. To keep the impending hanger monster at bay, I have a pick-me-up snack that typically involves an iced coffee (made at home: 50 cal, made at a coffee shop: 100 - 200 cal) a piece of fruit (50 cal) and carrots (50 cal) + hummus/dressing (100 cal). This week I'm having a peach (yay peach season!) with carrots and TJ's Blue Cheese dip (I sadly already consumed all of my hummus.) For the record, this is the only store-bought dressing in my fridge and it's f'ing delicious. Hummus is typically 70 calories while dressings can be 100 (or more) calories per serving.
So this snack is typically between 200 and 300 calories.
Dinner is largely dependent on how many calories I've consumed during the day versus what I've decided my overall intake should be and what I'm craving. Sometimes it's a small bowl of cereal with fruit (250 calories), sometimes it's a veggie scramble (400 calories of yum), and other times it's tuna with crackers, black beans with cheese and avocado, salmon with lentil pasta ... My only rules are to eat whatever I want as long as it doesn't blow my calorie budget :) This is another opportunity to practice the art of intuitive eating.
Another good idea here, although I don't always follow it, is to plate whatever you're going to eat. Sometimes I go into the kitchen fully intending to have a light snack for dinner and then end up nibbling on everything in the fridge and cupboards .. it happens.
The overall calories for dinner are whatever you need them to be to meet your goal. Sometimes it's 250 calories, sometimes it's 500+.
My Goals Now
Now that I've reached my goal weight, which was seemingly unattainable for a measly 15 years... I finally feel at peace with my body. I have no desire to lose weight, which is honestly a novel feeling. I feel like I've achieved something I wasn't supposed to... like somehow feeling bad about your body is how you're supposed to feel your entire life. What a strange feeling amiright? If you're a woman, you get me on this.
Now I feel like I have all this extra mental energy that I can now dedicate to more useful tasks like determining when I can retire, listening to more TF podcasts, learning what it takes build out a van for #vanlife (Ford Transit or Ram Promaster? Buy pre-made or DIY? What is the right answer??) and so on and so on.
I now consume about 1500 - 1900 calories to maintain my weight. I am a 34 yo female clocking in currently at 133 lbs (apparently that's my magic number.) I workout 6 days a week for an average of 60 minutes. My goal is to feel healthy. But beyond that, my aim is to always be capable of tackling any trail that I decide to complete. I call this staying #trailready. I never want to say: "I wish I could do that, but my body won't allow it." Nah. We are summiting mountains. And then we're going for a run afterwards. Why? Because we want to damnit! And that obviously requires maintaining a certain level of health and fitness.
Diet vs. Fitness
So I was on team "workout hard, so you can eat whatever you want" for a very long time. I think alot of kids who competed in sports grew up with this mentality. And that generally served me fine until college.. when I wasn't competing in sports but still eating like an athlete. I judged my sorority sisters who skipped the entree and filled their plates with salads. What is their deal!? Unfortunately it took me 10ish years to realize what their deal was. They were onto something and that is: eating a diet high in fruits and veggies is going to improve your health waaay more than any fitness routine. And honestly, I run much faster and have better stamina now than I ever did when I was training for a marathon in college.
Trust me on this. I've tried alot of workouts. And regardless of the intensity or frequency, you cannot out-workout a bad diet. Period(t) And for someone who loves efficiency and sustainability, eating well is a way easier system to maintain throughout your life than that super intense workout regimen you've meticulously crafted. I'm not saying stop working out. But if losing weight is your goal, I would put way more focus on your diet than fitness. (Alot of this has to do with the fact that most people will eat more when they workout, which removes the calorie deficit needed to lose weight. Easy to understand but so hard to counteract.)
You most likely have different goals, and you certainly have a different body, different genes, different tastes, etc. than I do. Meaning, I'm not telling you to mimic my diet. Instead, I encourage you to take some time to be really mindful of what your eating, understand your relationship with food, what makes you feel good, what tastes great but makes you feel like crap afterwards, etc., so you can really hone in on what your body needs. I'm super grateful for having a span of about 6 months where I could really focus on my health, what foods I like to eat and what workouts I like to do.
Like I said before and I'll say it again, I owe 99% of my weight loss success to Noom and no they did not/have not paid me to say that. It educates you on nutrition, diets, your relationship with food, the psychology of weight loss, etc. They do not tell you what to eat. But they do give you the tools to fully understand what works best for you. I know it's pricey and honestly I balked at the price when I first saw it as well but then I thought: How much money would I pay if I could never think about weight loss again because I was finally happy with the weight I was at? Exactly. Think about all of the mental energy and effort you've applied to losing weight to have it not work in the end. For me, countless hours (and thousands of dollars). I'm sure of it.
So go forth and live your best healthy life! I sincerely hope that you achieve your health goals, whatever they may be, so you can get back to focusing on what we're here for. LIVING!! Which for me means summiting mountains and hiking all the trails :)