First of all, the word diet is used in an “everyday diet” sense – I loathe diets with a passion as I don’t believe they work in the long term. Just the name of it suggests something that is started and consequently stopped. For this reason, I chose not to call my weight loss journey a diet but rather a new, healthier way of eating for life.
Around 2 years ago, I began to limit foods that have been excessively processed or contain lots of un-necessary ingredients. This served me well and combined with my heavy weight training, I managed to shed 50lb in 4 months. I’ve pretty much stuck to this way of eating over the years with the occasional treat of chocolate, ice cream, a take away or a couple of glasses of wine.
In March 2011 I decided to switch to a Paleo/Primal way of eating. At the time I was pretty obsessed with oats and there would be days where I would eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner – I loved them! However, they did not love me back and I was often left feeling bloated, sluggish and lethargic within an hour of eating. I started reading about Paleo/Primal eating and a lot of the symptoms listed that were caused by eating grains and dairy, symptoms that I just assumed I was destined to suffer with (bloating, IBS, lethargy, mid afternoon slump, excessive mucus production, headaches) were said to be cured by eliminating offending food items.
Though I expected it to be a challenge I decided to partake in a 30 day challenge where I would document the experience here on the blog. Never did I dream that I would come to love this new found way of eating so much that I would stick with it indefinitely.
In the first couple of weeks I had dropped a stone in weight, my IBS had cleared up, my headaches had stopped, I was no longer lethargic and was buzzing with a constant supply of energy.
After 2 weeks, I decided that as I was adapting to burning fat as a fuel rather than carbs, it would be a perfect time to introduce intermittent fasting, which is something I’d been wanting to try for a long time. It basically entails fasting for 14-16 hours of the day (with a good chunk of the time being overnight whilst you are sleeping) and then having an 8-10 hour eating window.
I know fasting goes against a lot of healthy eating/body building dogma where it is recommended to eat every couple of hours to “keep the metabolism firing”. I myself have fallen for this mis-information in the past, believing that I needed to eat 5-6 meals a day to stop my muscles from wasting away. All this did was make me so obsessed with food that my life became miserable. I could never do anything spontaneously because my food planning required military precision, I was often eating even when I wasn’t hungry, eating because the clock told me it was time to and not my body. With a past history of binge eating, this quickly developed into a fear of getting hungry and I constantly fretted about being caught without food being available.
During the latter part of 2010 I decided I had enough of being controlled by food. I had to learn to listen to my body and feed it accordingly and I took a big decision to stop eating as frequently. I purposely waited between meals until I felt actual, physical hunger and then I calmly told myself there was ample food in the kitchen, I wasn’t going to starve and I would have something to eat shortly. And it worked. My fear of hunger disappeared and I learned to listen to my body, eat when I was hungry and recognise the difference between true hunger and a stimulated appetite.
Progressing to Intermittent Fasting was naturally the next step for me and it has been the single best thing I have ever done for my health, both physical and mental. It’s totally liberating to not be controlled by the clock as to when I should be eating.
Some of the benefits of Intermittent Fasting include:
The important thing to realise with IF is that it is NOT a starvation diet. When I first started, I spoke of a lack of hunger, a calm like feeling with mental clarity and a few concerned people thought I would get hooked on this feeling and that it would turn into a full blown ED. This is NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. I know that to get the physique that I want I have to eat and eat the right kinds of foods. Plus I’m a greedy bitch and there is no way I would give up food to be thin – who the fuck wants to be thin anyway right? I wanna be lean and strong and curvy and I wouldn’t get that from starving myself.
So I guess the question is – what do I eat and how much?
Well, I tend to eat anything from 1600-2000 calories a day though this figure is subject to change depending on my hunger levels. Some days I might eat slightly less, often times I eat MUCH more. There have been a few occasions where I have consumed in excess of 3000 calories on a training day without any adverse effect. However, this is not a regular occurrence and normally happens when I’m pre-menstrual!
As I’m not consuming grains or sugar, my only carb sources are a sweet potato on training days, vegetables, berries and the occasional bit of 85% dark chocolate. As you can imagine, it’s hard to get carbs up over 100g with those foods so typically, my carbs are around 50g a day but anything up to 100g on a training day.
Fats are my primary fuel source, coming from red meat, dark chicken with skin, butter, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts and nut butters (not peanuts – they are a legume) and eggs.
Protein is kept at 1g per lb of body weight to support my heavy weight training.
So what do I eat? Well, I won’t lie – food has become very functional since I started to follow a primal diet and IF. I am normally getting quite hungry by the time meal time arrives so I don’t want to be spending hours in the kitchen preparing a recipe to cook. However, I’ve never loved my food more!
Typically I would break my fast between 1-2pm but on training days, it may be later than this as I prefer to train fasted. Don’t ask me why, as a previous obsessive I would freak out if I hadn’t eaten something containing sufficient carbs to “fuel my workout” but I actually feel and perform stronger when I am fasted.
Foods that make up my diet are:
Steak (preferably ribeye but also sirloin and rump)
Beef or lamb mince
Gluten free 97% pork sausages
Berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries & blackberries
Dried fruit (in very small quantities) – dates, apricots, raisins, pineapple, mango
Coconut & coconut butter
Nuts – almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pecans & nut butters
Miscellaneous (only consumed occasionally):
85% dark chocolate