My relationship with food hasn’t always been so positive, I used to really struggle with the guilt of not being able to resist junk food and would always blame myself for a lack of self control. I know some people might read into me saying ‘relationship’ and think it’s unhealthy to even use the word relationship when it comes to food. A lot of my friends have the healthy mentality of ‘just eat when you’re hungry and eat what you want’ If you have that mindset then you’ve probably never struggled with food related issues and that’s an awesome thing to have.
I want to clarify to those who don’t quite understand the whole ‘food-relationship’ thing that I’m not writing this post because ‘fitness is in’ and watching what you eat is the latest thing to do. I’m writing because it’s something I used to really struggle with, but after years of learning I’ve experienced a lot when it comes to food. And I can honestly say I now have an entirely healthy relationship with food and can safely say I’ve never been more of a foodie than I am today.
So, I want to share with you how I got to this stage and what are some general tips that I recommend to anyone who feels anxious when it comes to food. When I was younger my past fitness goals were to ‘be skinny’. SIREN ALARM – you can already start to see the problem. Everyone knows that if you’re looking to get thin then you’ve essentially got to eat a lot less than usual, especially if you’re naturally slim then trying to lose weight will be harder than a person who has more fat to lose. (You can see why I’m so excited that weightlifting has become more widespread for girls now, more muscle = more food)
When I was 13 to 17 I honestly just wasn’t aware that girls would want to be any body shape other than skinny, Kate moss skinny. I didn’t even know girls could get proper muscles for god sake!! So as you can imagine, I battled with food for a long time. I was always jealous of those people who could stick to their decisions of avoiding cake, biscuits, cookies whatever. It wasn’t the fact that they weren’t stuffing their face with oreos that I was jealous of, I was envious of their self control, their mental strength of having the ability to not be ruled by food. I just couldn’t do it. I would get so disappointed in my lack of self control that I would automatically start guilt tripping myself after munching on a slice of cake. I remember just looking in the mirror and pulling at my thighs and stomach and imagining how much better I would look if I stopped eating shit and lost weight. I honestly want to grab 14 year old Mol and say ‘it’s not about eating less!! It’s about eating the RIGHT stuff!’ Because that’s completely true. I used to try and limit my meals, I would usually have about 3 meals before 8pm and then eat a bag of Brazil nuts, 3 slices of bread with humus and then maybe some crackers and jam (classic English snack). But, it was all healthy right? The bread was homemade, nuts are good fats and humus is middle eastern!! So I definitely considered myself as a genuinely healthy and fit person.
That is the biggest thing I’ve learnt through my journey with food. Healthy means healthy. Yes that food is packed with rich vitamins, whole grains, minerals and probably a hundred other nourishing goodies. But it also weighs in at around 1,000 calories. Made worse by the fact that it’s just before bed and I’ve eaten it in a time frame of a Gossip Girl episode. Whoops.
It took me a lot of research to figure out what was the best way to eat for the body I wanted. I didn’t want to just be healthy, I wanted to be healthy and look good! No shame in that. I think there is a real bizarre negativity around saying you go to the gym to look good or that you’re not eating specific foods because you want to avoid gaining excess weight. I want to reassure you that that isn’t a bad thing, don’t let yourself be put down by other people if you’re motivated to prioritise your health. As long as you keep your lifestyle balanced, you’re not neglecting the ones who love you and that at the end of the day, you are truly happy – then keep on prioritising your health and fitness routine.
So these are my basic ‘must-know’ food tips which form the building blocks of how and what I eat today.
1. Get enough of the good stuff. You need a balanced diet, wtf does that mean? It means you need a GOOD amount of carbs, fats, and protein. It does not mean you should eat the same amount of each. Fats have higher calories to a gram than carbs and protein. So if you eat more fat, the more calories you’ll be consuming. One kind of diet which I’ll always recommend to avoid are ‘no carb/no fat’ diets. Your body needs these macros! So don’t neglect them from your meals, 1. it’s not good for your body 2. it won’t actually help as much as you think and 3. that’s miserable!! So balance your macros. But how do you know how much of what you should be eating? That leads me onto my next point:
2. Count your macros. Even if you don’t like counting macros and eat much better as an intuitive eater I still recommend counting for at least 2 weeks. I was amazed at how much I was eating in comparison to how much my body actually needed to fuel itself for the day. Before macros I used to measure how much I should eat judging how full I felt, (don’t rely on your brain to tell you that kind of info!) The process of you being actually full and you’re brain telling you you’re full are completely different. I would eat a full-to-the-top bowl of oats (I now have about 2 handfuls with a scoop of protein which is all I need before a workout) The typical bowl of oats which I would eat was about 60g of carbs, roughly a third of how much I eat in a day. I try now to stay under 30g per meal and snack, mainly because anything more than that leaves me feeling a bit tired and heavy. I would then top that bowl with a whole banana, that’s another 30g, some apricot jam, another 15g and then some cashews, about 15g of fat. So for a while, I was having a breakfast of over about 500 calories. Oats, fruit, natural sugar, healthy fats – I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting leaner. Counting my macros allowed me to understand food portions, the importance of protein and get to grips with ‘secret’ calories. So even if you’re the kind of person who prefers not to count then think about tracking for just 2 weeks, so you can check that your intuitive eating is in line.
3. Eat frequently. This one took me a long time to realise. If you eat the right amounts frequently you’ll be powering your metabolism to digest and process your food more quickly. Combine this with some Curve Guide HIIT and your onto a metabolism that’s Usain Bolt fast. Female body builders won’t go longer than 3 hours before each meal or snack and so that’s something which I try and follow too. Every 3 hours I make sure to get 25g of protein, a bit of fat and up to 30g of carb. This is also one of my top tips as it stops you obsessing about food, once I’ve eaten I don’t need to think about my next meal for another 3 hours. You can probably tell by now that I’m an organised freak, so being able to organise when and what I’m eating works great for me. It means I’m always on track with my goals, that I always appreciate and love my food and most importantly – I never feel guilty. That is definitely the best thing I’ve managed to overcome, when I wasn’t counting macros I was never quite sure how much food was ‘too much’ to prevent me from losing weight. So I would tend to not eat much throughout the day, leaving me so hungry and down by the evening that I would binge on sweet and salty foods. Changing my goals to gaining muscle and combining this with eating frequently sorted this out entirely for me.
4. Fill up on vegetables. This is something which I’m trying to prioritise at the moment (lack-of-veg issues). Besides veg being absolutely packed with vitamins, (hello shiny hair, clear skin and good teeth) it’s also incredibly low in calories so feel free to pile as much as you want with your meal. The more time you put into shopping, cooking and researching different veg the more you’ll start to value it as an essential part of your meal. This in turn actually made me appreciate my health and food a great deal more, I noticed I had more energy, felt way better about myself, my diet and it actually gave me more motivation to maintain not just a fit lifestyle but a healthy one too.
5. Be prepared to slip up. This is one of the most valuable things to bear in mind along the way, don’t expect to slip up but be prepared for it. It’s a difficult thing changing your mindset to a healthy-orientated one and I found it pretty challenging at the beginning when I had to measure out all my meals. So don’t beat yourself up for having a kit kat every now and then and don’t feel the need to cut out the foods you love! That’s the beauty with macros, you learn that chocolate doesn’t = the devil. What you do learn is that chocolate has more calories and sugar in it than other foods, but then again dates (natural and healthy) might have a similar number of calories and sugar. If you’re finding it difficult to cut out the sugary junk which you might be used to, then take it slow, factor in your favourite chocolate bar every 2 days and slowly fade it out when you find other more nutritious things that you love. Sooner or later you’ll start appreciating your body more and more and aim to keep it healthy with cleaner foods. If you find that you’re slipping up much too often, then reexamine your goals, maybe you’ve set the bar too high at the first instance and should ease up on yourself. When I first counted macros I aimed to lose a bit so had my calories at 1,500, I found that after every 10 days or so I would feel the pressure and just binge on anything and everything. Literally a whole pack of oreos, a treat bag of maltesers, m&ms and probably some kettle chips. I had no clue why I was doing this and blamed it on the fact that I was too weak and simply didn’t have the self control to just stick to my aims.
Henceforth, that guilty feeling all over again. After a couple months of this I realised that my fitness and food goals were all totally wrong for me, I increased my cals to 1,900 and honestly haven’t binged or wanted to binge since then (about 3-4 months ago). I still treat myself with a burger or dark chocolate or ice cream every now and then but it’s pretty rare that I ever get cravings and always look forward to creating healthy meals which hit my macros. Don’t be afraid to fail at your goals, with enough persistence, positivity and determination you will succeed.
So those are my absolute top tips for anyone looking to ditch the snacks cupboard and get on track with achieving a toned, healthy and fit body. I eat more food and more frequently than I ever have before, look forward to each of my meals and have definitely become more creative in the kitchen. To anyone looking to work out their macros for their desired fitness goal, check out http://www.progresspure.co.uk and head to my nutrition guide!
Love, Molly xx