My Healthy Eating Journey

Something you may not know: I didn't always eat healthy! Just like most of the general American population, I loved junk food and lived on a steady diet of candy, sweets, chips, ramen noodles, and fast food until I was about 18.

I didn't wake up one day and decide, "I'm going to eat  healthy from here on out!" No, getting to where I am now with my nutrition has been a LONG process. It wasn't easy giving up some of the things I loved, but what made it easier was that I did it little by little over a period of YEARS until I got to the point where eating healthy just became a part of my life. It wasn't about losing weight or having 6 pack abs- it began with a decision to simply start caring about my health.

Even though is hasn't always been easy, I enjoy the way that I eat now knowing that I'm healthy and that I'm giving my body the nutrients it needs. And the physical results that came from changing my nutrition habits over the years aren't too bad either. ;)

I wanted to share with you all my journey to healthier eating to show that it didn't happen overnight. As I was reflecting back over the years, I realized that there were many "phases" that I went through with my nutrition, which I will break down here for you:

Phase 1  (Birth-18 years old)
This is when I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted! There was no portion control, no cares about calories. I didn't worry about eating healthy whatsoever and didn't know what a macronutrient was. My senior year of high school I was probably at my highest body fat. That's what a steady diet of Reese cups, Skittles, and Happy Meals will do! And I had a HUGE appetite.
Summer 2003

Phase 2  (18-23-ish?)
This is when I started becoming more conscious of my health and decided to start eating better. I was taking some basic health/ nutrition classes in college and for the first time realized how horrible I was eating. However, I did NOT make a sudden switch from a diet of junk food to eating chicken and broccoli. I started making a few small changes here and there, such as cutting out soft drinks and candy, eating fast food less and bringing my lunch to school and work more often, and choosing healthier snacks instead of candy bars. Just by doing this, I lost weight, although I was NOT trying to do so. This came simply as a result of not eating so much crap!
Summer 2006


Phase 3 (23-26)
This was the phase where I was eating what I thought was healthy....but actually wasn't. What I mean by that is that I was eating a ton of processed foods, things that were low fat, low sugar, whole grain, and whatnot. I mean, that means it's healthy, right? Or so I thought. I wasn't eating much quality, nutrient dense food, and hardly any vegetables whatsoever.  My diet consisted of things like sugar free puddings, canned soups, Lean Cuisine meals, cereal bars, bread, cereal, lunch meat, turkey hot dogs, etc. Not that you can never eat things like that, but when they take up the majority of your diet, I don't think it's healthy.

I did eventually begin to learn about "clean" eating at this point, and I was becoming more aware of getting a balance of each food group(although I remember that one of my main protein sources was skim milk, which I had at almost every meal, ha!).  I still pretty much just ate intuitively without thinking about how much fat, carbs, or protein were in each meal or how many calories I was consuming. As long as I thought it was healthy, I just ate whatever I wanted.
Summer 2009

Phase 4 (26-28)
I would consider this my "clean eating"/restrictive phase. This was when I decided to try to lean out for the first time in my life and see if I could get a 6 pack. Stoooopid idea looking back, but I had to find out for myself. It was part of the journey! I began researching things on the internet about how to lean out, and this was how I learned about macronutrients, food prepping, portion sizes, etc. This is also when I began to cut carbs at night because that's what everything on the Internet was telling me I had to do to lose fat. So I began to prep my food for the week ahead of time, increased protein, cut back on carbs, and focused more on portion sizes rather than just eating whatever I wanted. I also started eating more vegetables than I ever had and focused on eating mostly "clean" foods with a cheat meal once a week.
Summer 2010
The good thing about this phase was that I was eating more "real" food, more protein and healthy fats, and less processed carbs. And I did slowly get leaner in the process. No, I never achieved my 6 pack goal, but that was because I began to realize that for me to have a 6 pack, I had to get super lean.... and I was not willing to sacrifice my muscle for the sake of a 6 pack.

This was also when a few people at my work were on their Paleo kick, which was the start of my whole thinking that carbs were "bad" thing. And while I never went to the Paleo style of eating, I began to live in a state of fear about what I was eating because of what I was reading and being told. I felt like everything that I loved to eat was bad for me. I thought that eating "too many" carbs or eating carbs at night would make me fat. Food was definitely becoming a source of stress and anxiety for me, as I was constantly thinking about what I was going to eat and when and worrying about if I had too many carbs or fats that day. I avoided many foods that I loved and choked down food that I hated. It wasn't good.

Phase 5 (27-29)
This was when I began to track my calories and macros for the first time. I was never obsessive about weighing and measuring to the exact ounce, but it gave me an idea of how much I was consuming of each macro and a calorie goal to hit each day. The main point of tracking for me was to focus on gaining weight. It really helped me to see how much I needed to eat, and I did gain some weight by doing so.

Fall 2011
I would say I tracked on and off for a couple of  years and then I stopped completely because I felt that I could maintain my weight without tracking at that point. Plus, I wanted to get away from obsessing over food so much, and I knew that tracking constantly was not going to help me do that.

NOW
After about 10 years, I can say that I have finally found what works for me. I eat in a way that helps me to maintain the physique I want but without being stressed, obsessive or super restrictive.

Summer 2014
Do I eat perfect? Absolutely not. Am I completely free from thinking about food a little too much? No, and I don't think I ever will be. I think I will always be pretty meticulous about my eating, but I never want to obsessively track calories or macros or ever fear any food or food groups again!

I do have some guidelines that I try to follow, such as having a protein source with every meal, and eating every 3-4 hours, watching portion sizes, etc., but there are no set "rules" that I feel I have to adhere to. I've accepted that it's just not realistic for me to eat "perfect"(whatever that means!). I'll never be one of those Paleo, gluten free, all natural, all organic food people-more power to them, but it's not for me. I want to enjoy and LOVE what I eat, not force myself to eat things I don't like or feel like there are foods I "can't" eat.

I am happy to say that I got over my fear of carbs and have realized that there is no reason to live in fear of food(no matter what Food Babe or anyone else says!). I now eat plenty of carbs(even at night!!). I eat lots of healthy, nutritious foods, but I also incorporate what some would consider "bad" or unhealthy foods into my diet, as well as a weekly treat meal, simply for my sanity. I've found a good balance between being too restrictive and too lenient, which I think is the hardest part for most people.

I hope that this post will give hope to those who are struggling with getting it "right" when it comes to nutrition. I want you to see that it's a learning process. It's about trying new things, experimenting, and finding what works for you, which may take some time. Like I always say, it's not about what gives you the fastest results-it's about finding a nutrition plan that fits with your lifestyle and that is sustainable for the long run. I also hope it shows that while it may seem like people like me have it all together, it's not that we just have super human willpower or more dedication than anyone else. No, it's a learning process for everyone.


I will admit that eating healthy isn't always easy, especially not at first. But it DOES get easier, especially when it becomes a lifestyle instead of a diet. Diets are only temporary and often just leave you right back at square one when you go back to your "normal" eating. Making small changes over time is what I have found to be the best approach to creating permanent, lasting changes. By never going on a "diet" or following any particular nutrition protocol, I've been able to make eating healthy a part of my life, not something I do occasionally to lose weight or to shape up for a beach trip. It's the reason why I never go "off" my diet-because I've never been ON one!

So if you're still on your journey towards finding what works for you, don't give up! Keep trying new things, making adjustments along the way. Get rid of the "diet" mentality, and stop trying to be perfect. Just focus on your health, and then incorporate some small changes that you can realistically stick to for the long run!


Comments

  1. I totally feel like I just read my healthy eating journey! Besides the fact that I am still stuck in phase 5, and for the same goal too - to gain weight. I hope to someday get to the point where I don't track, but for now it seems every single time I stop tracking I drop weight, which as you know can be a bit frustrating - I know it's probably my body's way of saying it would rather be lighter - hopefully someday I can just learn to live with that fact and get over it LOL.
    You really inspire me, and I just love your posts! Keep it up girl! :-)

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    1. Haha. Yes, I can understand that. But for me, I'm satisfied enough with where I am physically that I just don't want eating and training to consume my life anymore. If that means, I'm smaller, so be it! But you'll get there. ;) Thank you so much!

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  2. Really enjoyed reading this Lindsay! Thank you for sharing! :)

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  3. "It's a learning process for everyone." That's the key! I'm not sure a person realizes that while you are still IN that process, but when you finally figure it out and it all comes together.....bingo!

    Loved reading this, thank you for taking the time to put this out here!

    ~Jen :-)

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    1. Very true. Years ago I would've never imagined I'd be eating the way I do now! But it definitely took a long time to get here.
      You're wecome. :)

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  4. I respect you so much for sharing this! I always (naively) thought you were someone who is naturally lean and, within reason, can eat what they please anyway! Thank you so much for inspiring me!
    S x

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    1. I wish that were the case! ;) I do have a good metabolism but part of that is from years and years of lifting weights. Thanks!

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  5. wow! such a nice post Lindsay !! Love it.

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  6. This is just what I needed to hear tonight! I am constantly debating in my mind about what I should eat. Paleo or Eat to Perform? I hate tracking calories but I don't think I eat enough...maybe I should? It's never-ending. A long time ago, I had an eating disorder for about 6 years and have been set free from it {Praise God!} but I now struggle with how to eat to be able to be lean but still perform well in CrossFit, even though I'm a newbie. Part of my problem is just not sticking with anything for long enough to tell if works. And, I am also scared of carbs like you were :) Thanks for putting this out there and I hope to find what works for me like you did!

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    1. I'm glad to hear you have recovered from your eating disorder!
      I'm sure you will find what works for you! And yes, consistency and giving things time to work is KEY. I do think that tracking for a little while helps to ensure you're getting in enough, but you should eventually be able to come to a point where you know how much to eat without obsessively tracking. Like every now and then I'll track a couple of days just to make sure I am still eating enough.

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