As you know, I’ve been talking about diet an awful lot lately. I’m posting my thoughts here, responding to emails and doing some nutritional coaching for a few folks. I’m in danger of becoming the “Eat More Girl”, I’m afraid, as it seems like that’s what I start 90% of my conversations with. But I honestly wouldn’t be giving out that advice if the Adidas Sambas didn’t fit.
People are responding positively, especially when they take my advice and it works. But I’m also getting a little bit of the, “Easy for you to say…” too. As in, “Easy for you to say, you’re already lean.” Or, “Easy for you to say, you’re not trying to lose weight.” So I’d like to set one thing straight here, and hopefully provide a little tough love inspiration.
This diet stuff was NOT easy for me to say. I did not start off with the perfect diet, I did not start off lean, and I did NOT start off strong. I started off, as Dallas puts it, “Really weak and skinny fat”. My muscles were non-existent, I thought 10# dumbbells were heavy and believed bagels with light cream cheese to be a good breakfast food. Getting started on a diet that would support CrossFit was NOT easy for me, nor is it going to be easy for YOU. In general, your diet is HARD WORK. It requires constant attention, evaluation, refinement. It requires research, education, dedication. And it requires the patience of a hungry, cranky, information-overloaded saint.
I started improving my diet in small steps. At Dallas’ urging, I began eating vegetables, tried to get in more regular meals and upped my overall calories. I hung out there for a while, until that felt comfortable and I started to feel and see some positive effects. That motivated me to do some more research, and ask Dallas for more help. I started eating more “real” food, started cutting back on the grains and sugars and began to eat some good fat. Making those quality improvements led to fast results… but I had so much success (dropping fat and building muscle) that I became a little overzealous. I got mixed up in all that Zone Gone Bad nonsense and backslid for a few months. I was eating too little and training too hard, and I got scary skinny and lost a bunch of strength. NOT the progress we were looking for.
I regrouped, and started over. Grains, sugars and dairy – gone. More vegetables. LOTS more fat. My quality was dialed in, but I was a little off in my proportions. I was eating too much fat, and after a month, I started getting soft. But my lifts were better, and I felt better, so I stayed there until I rid my brain of its “six pack” obsession. Then, I started experimenting again. I cut my fat back a little, upped my protein and started slowly cutting back on carbs. I hung out there for a while, tweaking my proportions gradually. I leaned out a little, and continued to gain strength.
Then, I started bonking on some workouts, and noticed some energy flags throughout the day. So I started adding more fat (again), and implementing IF a few days a week. I played with my meal times and fast times, made sure I got all my calories in every day and hung out there for a while. (Noticing a trend here?) IF seemed to pull it all together. My lifts kept getting better, I was happier with my new, more filled-out frame and my energy was super consistent all day. I stayed there for a LONG time.
But, of course, there is no stasis. My body continued to change – more muscle, more weight – and eventually, my gym performance showed me that my food intake and macronutrient proportion were no longer “ideal”. Time to rework it… again. My latest plan includes more fat, higher quality protein, a reduction of IF days, and the introduction of a higher carb post-workout meal. I’m a week into it, and will stay here for another week or two and see how things go.
See where I’m going with this? None of this has been “easy”. It’s hard work, and an awful lot of effort. I black box on myself CONSTANTLY, to figure out what’s going to work and what isn’t. There are so many factors – dairy or no dairy? More fat or more carbs? More calories, or less calories? It can, and frequently does, get overwhelming, and it would be so much easier to throw up my hands and just EAT. But my diet allows me to perform, and be healthy, and be fit, so I put in the constant effort.
If you CrossFit, you are no stranger to hard work and effort. A few months ago, I wrote about putting that same hard work and effort into your recovery… and today, I’m writing about putting it into your DIET. I’m not saying you have to weigh and measure, track and analyze. But I am saying you need to educate yourself, be patient and be prepared for an awful lot of trial and error before you find the exact combination that works for you. And even then, be prepared to repeat the cycle ad nauseam, because things are always changing.
I’m happy to answer your questions, and REALLY happy to be able to help you skip some of the mistakes I made with my own diet by pointing you in a better direction. But as for any of this being “easy for me to say”, I assure you, there’s a lot of grief, frustration and more than a few mistakes behind every last piece of advice I’m dropping on you. But I’ll also say this… When you get it right, and things just click, it’s like you won the lottery. So stick with it. Be patient. Keep experimenting, slowly, tweaking one thing at a time. You’ll get there. And when you do, for a while at least, it WILL feel easy.