My most frequently ask questions are “how many calories do you eat”, “do you track macros?” and “are you vegetarian”. Time to give you some answers!
So, what is my relationship with food? It's very relaxed. Perhaps too relaxed sometimes! I just bloody love food. I don't track. I don't count. I eat intuitively and I listen to my body.
I haven't always been this way though. I am lucky enough to have never experienced an eating disorder or an unhealthy relationship with food. However, if you've followed me for a few years you might remember that I've been through a few different phases. I tracked macros, I counted calories, I went gluten free for a while and once I even tried paleo. At these times I was experimenting and learning. Since then I have some a long way,I have educated myself and I have found my own personal balance. One without a label and without any restrictions. It is important to note that I don’t pretend that I am a nutrition expert. I will leave that to the dieticians who have worked for years to get their qualifications. This is just what works for me…
So how do I eat now?
I eat intuitively. I know what an appropriate portion is. I know roughly what macronutrients foods contain. I know my body. I know what I need. I use the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time I focus on eating nourishing whole foods and 20% of the time I indulge in less wholesome treats. Sometimes this ratio is more like 60/40 and at other times its 90/10. It ebbs and flows as my motivation wavers. Ultimately though, I believe in moderation not deprivation. I eat nut butter and chocolate most days, because they keep me sane.
Many people have lost the connection to their body and find it hard to listen to their hunger signals. They feel confined to eat at specified meal times. They eat when they're bored, overeat when they're full or under-eat when they are hungry. I have spent a long time getting in tune with my body. When I eat, I consider a day as a whole. I don’t worry too much about things like meal timing, meal frequency or carb cycling. I just look at a full 24 hours and consider that. I try and make sure that within a day I get in enough food to fuel my activity levels. The more exercise I do, the more I eat. I don’t restrict any food groups, and I certainly don’t restrict my carbohydrate intake.
I think a common problem nowadays is everyone wants a quick fix or a specific solution. They get caught up on the tiny details like how many meals they have a day or how often they eat protein. Sure these little things have their place with body builders and athletes, but for the average person like you and I they are unnecessarily complex. Ultimately it is about the bigger picture, your overall intake of food in relation to your energy expenditure and your ratio of macronutrients. Instead of worrying about the small stuff, I put my energy into looking at the quality of my food, and ensuring I get a balanced intake with enough fruit and veggies. I make a conscious effort to eat seasonal food and to switch up my meals; to ensure I get a range of different vitamins and minerals. For me this is about health above everything else.
More recently I have made some ethical and environmental changes to my diet. These aren't necessarily for health reasons, but more because I love this planet and I want to support positive change. Ultimately, I am eating consciously. I am reducing my meat intake and eating more plants. I am sourcing any animal products I eat responsibly. I also strive to eat vegetables and fruit which are locally grown or at the very least from the EU rather than far fetched places. My general approach is that when I cook for myself, I cook plant based and when I go out to eat I choose (mostly) vegetarian options.
However, I refuse to be labeled and my diet is extremely flexible. If my boyfriend wants to take me out for sushi for our anniversary, I will have a few pieces of fish. If my mum cooks a locally sourced turkey at Christmas, I am going to have a slice. If I really fancy a galaxy chocolate bar, I am going to have one. But most of the time, I eat plants. I am not trying to be perfect, I am just trying to support change. Ultimately, any reduction in animal consumption is a positive step against animal cruelty and towards saving the planet. Coming to this point has been a gradual transition over the course of about 3 months. I would be happy to talk about this further if you guys want me to.
Interestingly, something I have learnt since eating this way is that my body doesn’t need as much protein as I thought. I remember a few years back tracking my macros and eating 180g of protein a day. (WHAT!?!?). At the time it felt normal, but now it seems like absolute madness. I honestly haven’t got a clue how many grams of protein I eat at the moment but it definitely isn't anywhere near that much. And guess what? I am surviving just fine. I am still in good shape. I am still healthy. I am still building muscle. I am still recovering well from my workouts. I am still getting physically stronger in the gym. I used to think that “a meal is incomplete without meat” but I have come to realise that there are so many other plant based protein sources and that in fact, I don’t need as much of it as I originally thought.
Thats it. That's how I eat, in a nutshell. Things my change. They may stay the same. I am constantly evolving and so is my current approach to food. By sharing how I eat, I am not saying that how you eat is wrong. I am not sat on a high horse looking down on you. I don’t want to force my opinions on anyone. This is just what works for me, and what I personally choose to do based on my beliefs. I am interested to see how myself and my diet develop and change over the coming years.
If you want help with finding your personal balance with food and fitness, check out my book which is currently on offer for Â£5.99 on amazon!