Once upon a time, I was a very skinny runner trying to maintain a high mileage training schedule while eating very little.
Eventually I came around and realized that this behavior was not healthy and was actually detrimentally affecting my running. I just didn’t have the energy to pound the pavement for 50 miles a week while avoiding all carbs and protein in sight.
I slowly started making changes to my diet. Upping my protein, carbs, and fruit intake and I’m happy to say that by the end of this past summer I felt great. I felt strong and fit and I was happy in my own skin for the first time in awhile.
But then all hell broke loose. I burnt out training for the Chicago marathon and resigned myself to a break from running, I became extremely busy and started to snack mindlessly at work, while doing homework, in class etc, and then the holidays arrived.
Now I don’t blame myself too much for any one of these things by itself (well maybe the snacking), my body needed a break from running and I honored that. I continued to cross train with swimming, cycling, and light running but I can’t help the fact that running is the only way to keep my body lean. I also don’t regret spending time with my family and enjoying the holidays (although eating apple pie every day for a week probably didn’t help).
Anyway, when I got back to Chicago after spending Christmas with my family and washed my jeans for the first time in awhile (c’mon who washes their jeans everytime they wear them!), they didn’t fit. I could get them on with a certain amount of wriggling and jiggling but they were uncomfortable and unflattering. I went into panic mode.
At first I was unsure what to do. I didn’t want to bring back any unhealthy behavior from my past but I also didn’t want to keep gaining weight. I was flustered and emotional. How could I let this happen to me?
Instead of giving up, I made two decisions. First, I was going to clean up my diet while increasing the amount of protein I eat daily (I was not going to deprive myself!) and second I was going to buy a pair of bigger jeans.
It’s been about a month since that incident and I can happily say that today I am wearing the pair of jeans that I struggled to fit into that dreaded day in December. Now I’m not completely there, I still have a pair of jeans that are a little uncomfortable (no stretch to the fabric), but that fact that my one pair fit means I’m heading in the right direction. I’m also the first to admit that I’m training for a marathon and the extra mileage may be helping as well (although many women gain weight while training).
Here is what I’ve been doing to clean up my diet.
(1) Ian and I cut out traditional desserts for the month of January and while we’ve broken it once, my energy levels have been higher and my sugar cravings lower. Plus, I’m still having a small snack after dinner like a rice cake with jam or yogurt, so I’m not feeling too deprived.
(2) I’ve started eating bigger breakfasts like yoatgurt or oatmeal. They hold me over longer and I’m not as tempted to munch on nutrient-less crackers at my desk during the morning.
(3) I’ve increased my fruit intake. Not only is fruit nutritious but its also kind of sweet which helps with my incredible sweet tooth. In addition, fruit can be hydrating which is a great perk while logging lots of miles.
(4) Speaking of hydration, I’ve also increased the amount of plain water or tea that I drink. I used to drink diet soda all day but I nixed it around Thanksgiving. I’ve also recently cut back on artificially sweetened drinks like crystal light or Vitamin water. I won’t say I’ve completely cut them out but my focus is definitely to drink more water (or Kombucha ).
(5) I’ve upped my veggie intake. I try to eat at least one veggie-centric meal a day and had some fun preparing some creative salads. I’ve also been enjoying roasting brussels sprouts and other vegetables. This has kept me feeling full and has increased my fiber intake. Eating a variety of vegetables is necessary for my body to feel healthy.
(7) I’ve also upped my protein intake by eating more tofu and tempeh at home and ordering fish dishes at restaurants (I don’t always love to prepare seafood at home). I’ve also been eating nuts as snacks. Protein keeps me fuller longer so I don’t feel hungry two hours after eating a meal.
(8) I’ve cut down on the snacking. No more little cups/mugs of cereal for me! Cereal is definitely a trigger food for me and if I wanted I could probably eat an entire box in one sitting. I’ve had it for breakfast a few times but not as a snack or as dessert.
(9) I haven’t deprived myself. Last weekend Ian and I went out for pizza and I happily enjoyed two slices and a beer. Being healthy is about balance and enjoying your life, not about deprivation.
Have you ever cleaned up your diet? How did you do it without feeling too deprived?
Lunch today was some arugula pizza (Trader Joe’s) that Ian had late last night and a salad with more arugula, mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, and edamame mixed with cilantro vinaigrette.
I also had two clementines as a snack mid-afternoon.
See it’s all about balance. Have a good one!