What I Eat, Why I Eat It, and When I Eat It

Why do you eat what you do?

Taste? Pleasure? Health? Survival? For a sustainable lifestyle and a maintainable diet, it has to be because of all four. It’s got to taste nice enough for you to eat it every day, it has to give you the pleasure and satisfaction after the majority of your meals, it has to keep you fit and healthy, and, ultimately, it must be the right amount of help you survive. That, after all, is the main reason we actually eat at all.

A diet doesn’t mean a diet

Everyone has a diet. It’ doesn’t mean they’re on a restrictive diet. No diet is perfect, either, but we should all strive to make it work for us. I’ve found that, for the majority of the time, IIFYM works for me. Intuitive eating also works for me. Eating fruit and vegetables works for me, especially because I suffer from acne and need plenty of the good stuff in my diet.

I also know what doesn’t work for me. Eating ‘treats’ every day doesn’t interest me. Sugar doesn’t interest me, nor work for me. Alcohol every week certainly isn’t something I choose to partake in anymore. But, all of this in moderation does. Sometimes, I’ll pop some chocolate into a meal, or have some cake at work when it’s someone’s birthday. A sustainable diet is one that is rich in balance, and it’s what a lot of people, including myself, thrive on.

So, what does my ‘what I eat in a day’ look like?

Meal 1: Porridge
When I’m on a bulk this is a pre-breakfast snack, but at the moment where I’m just coming out of a cut, this means breakfast. It’s usually 70-80g of porridge oats, mixed with water and sweetener and cooked on the hob (you can microwave it, but you cannot tell me it tastes as good). I take it to work in a food flask (because I love porridge and needed a way to eat it on the go) and it’s the perfect, high-carb, filling start to the day.

Meal 2: Scrambled eggs
I’ve got into a routine over the past 6 months or so, and now my second meal is usually eaten between 10.30-11.30. I’ve loved having scrambled eggs for a while now, sometimes with ham if I need more protein. Fats and protein fill you up and keepings you going, it’s pretty simple and very effective.

Meal 3: Lunch
Eaten any time after 1pm, and it usually consists of a protein source and carbs, sometimes with a little bit of fat if I fancy it. Because I meal prep all my lunches, it’s usually something simple, but tasty. Chicken, sausages, turkey, mince, and a carb source with veggies. Recently, I’ve been loving pesto pasta with feta cheese on top. I eat it all cold because that’s how I roll.

Meal 4: Snack/pre-workout
On training days, this is my pre-gym snack, and that means it’s usually a high-carb one. I love having a cinnamon and raisin bagel, with some kind of nut butter on it. I’ll eat this around 3pm, to keep me going until the end of my working day (which is either at 4pm or 5pm, depending on what hours I decide to work).

Meal 5: Dinner/post-workout
Protein and carbs, with a little bit of veggies. Anything simple and easy to eat, from chicken wraps, to sausages and pasta, and even tuna and rice (apologies to anyone who gets to same bus home as me). Yes, I eat it on the bus – I’m usually super hungry once I finish the gym, and it takes me an hour to get home (the bus I get takes forever).

Meal 6: Final meal
This always consists of oats, and can make a great macro capper if needed. I usually have oats, greek yoghurt, fruit, peanut butter and a bit of cinnamon. If I have macros left, I can cap them with things like granola as a topping, more oats, or a little bit of dark chocolate. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I love getting into bed after a long day and tucking into a big bowl of food whilst watching a film or catching up on soaps.

The best thing about creating a sustainable diet for yourself is that you can make it as tasty and enjoyable as you like, whilst also keeping it simple and healthy. Add in things like chocolate, have oats twice per day, eat all the nut butter… and still reach your goals.

Remember

Keep it tasty, ensure it gives you pleasure, make it beneficial for your health, and you’ll easily survive.

Carbs

Why IIFYM changed my life

Healthy eating. How do we actually define it?

Sure, eating your greens and limiting sugar and saturated fats sounds pretty healthy to you or I. But what happens when this becomes mentally unhealthy? What if eating healthy isn’t about what you have on your plate, but about what you have in your head?

I would never claim to have suffered from an eating disorder

I have seen people go through them, and suffer with them, and they are terrible things. What I had was a disordered style of eating. I took healthy out of its box and, as such, my relationship with food was an unhealthy one – even though I was eating all the vegetables and none of the stereotypical ‘bad stuff.’

I would only eat low GI carbs. I would feel my heart thudding in my chest whenever I had to eat at a restaurant – a situation I always tried to avoid – as my eyes scanned the menu and my brain told me ‘not that… not that either… oh god, imagine all the oil that was cooked in.’

Healthy eating became unhealthy

You can have all the salad and all the sweet potato in the world, but when you’re lying on your bed crying that you hate your body, something has to give.

I escaped the cycle, but I still didn’t eat enough. I didn’t track my calories or macros, I ate intuitively, enough to stay fit and healthy, and build some nice muscle, but not enough to really get the figure I wanted.

Enter IIFYM

In December, I started with a personal trainer because I wanted to change. I was ready. I wanted to go on a proper bulk t build some muscle, and for the first time, I started tracking my macros.

I still did it the stereotypically healthy way. I didn’t eat cake to cap my macros, I ate meat, rice, potatoes, pasta. And then, one day, I wanted some biscuits. So I did a bit of food maths and got them into my macros. And then, one day I wanted some chocolate, so I managed to fit that in, too.

You see, IIFYM has changed my outlook on food. It has made me realise that if it fits, it won’t actually make you fat – even if it doesn’t fit, it won’t do much harm.

But to me, the knowledge that a calorie is a calorie has really opened my eyes to the restriction I had placed myself under in the past, and the real stupidity of it.

I’m not a numbers girl

If you struggle with numbers, i.e, you easily get consumed with them, I wouldn’t suggest tracking macros. It can be a mental challenge for some if they go over by a few grams, and I don’t think IIFYM is the solution to everyone’s eating problems.

But, for me, although I have been in a much better place with food for the past year or so. Sure, there was a year or two in between my unhealthy eating stage and when I began an IIFYM approach, but I still wasn’t 100% happy with my mentality towards food. Intuitive eating is all well and good, but I really needed something which made me see food as something to help feed my goals, not the enemy which would keep me further away from them.

IIFYM has made me realise that there are no foods to fear, no foods that you have to exclude, and that a healthy mind is much more idealistic than a healthy looking plate.

Your life doesn’t have to revolve around sweet potato and chicken to be healthy. Mine includes sweet potato and chicken, but it also includes meals out, untracked alcohol, unplanned biscuits and chocolate. It includes life.

7 Days In

2017: 7 Days In

I quite like writing blogs.

By that I mean the real chatty pieces. The ‘this is my life’ stuff. I do love researching and putting together a more article-type post, but recently I think I just love to talk.

With that in mind, hello, and welcome to my first blog of 2017: it’s nice to see that people actually read my musings since beginning this blog almost a year ago now, and I hope you’ll enjoy following my journey in 2017 too.

In my last post, I noted down my fitness goals for this year, and I’m really happy when the progress I’ve made with my training in just a week.

So, where am I currently at?
I am around 4 weeks into my first ever ‘bulk,’ I have quite honestly never eaten this much in my life before, and trying to bulk as ‘clean’ as possible means that the volume is HARD. Vegetables have taken a backseat. Like eating broccoli is now a chore. 

I am aiming to hit 2,660 calories per day, including 325g carbs, 160g protein, and 80g fat. I always hit my fat and protein, but find it hard to get past 300g carbs. We had to up my macros as I was actually getting leaner on my previous ones.

My training, as a result of all the foods, is unreal. I am going heavier, harder, and feeling so much more energetic and stronger.

What does a day in the life currently look like?
Like a fair amount of food, really. I am eating every 2-3 hours and probably pissing everyone off at work with my constant munching…

Meal 1: eaten on the bus on the way to work. It’s either a bagel or three boiled eggs (I know, they must LOVE me, but I get on when it’s empty and chow them down as fast as possible…)

Meal 2: breakfast, always porridge, taken in my porridge flask (best buy ever, check out Amazon if you want porridge on the go).

Meal 3: a mid morning snack, rice cakes jam and peanut butter or something of that ilk. Basically, carbs.

Meal 4: lunch. A protein source, carb source and some fat too. Tuna mayo pasta has been a winner this week.

Meal 5: afternoon snack and usually a pre workout too. Depending upon what I have in the morning, this can be a bagel, protein bar and a yoghurt, something like that.

Meal 6: dinner and post workout. Carbs and protein, and a bit of veg for them micro gains. Usually chicken and rice or something #bro and boring. Eaten on the bus, because that’s how we roll.

Meal 7: sometimes I’ll have something when I get back from the gym (yesterday I had weetabix because I needed pure carbs), but other than that it’s my trusty bowl of oats, greek yoghurt, cinnamon, fruit and peanut butter to cap the macros for the day.

What does my training look like?
Hard. I’m really happy, though, as I’m getting stronger already. I have gone from not deadlifting in months because of my back, to nailing my form to protect my injury and hitting 60kg for reps. I got a PB on leg press yesterday too, at 110kg for reps (then a dropset, also superset with a hip thrust drop set, trust me when I say I almost cried).

Starting next week, my split will be: three leg days, one pull day, one push day. I’m also going to train abs twice per week at the end of sessions, as I also want to spend this bulk making my core even stronger, and building up a strong muscle base all over my body. This should mean that, when I cut down in the future, my abs look even better because I have more overall muscle. In the past, I have found it hard to get my lower two abs and my obliques to come in, but hopefully I’ll be able to see them a bit more after putting on more muscle.

Oh, and I’m also on a cardio ban, winner. I do go for walks sometimes though, because I like them. And #health.

What am I aiming for?
As much muscle gain (with minimal fat gain) as possible. Training with my PT twice per week and three times on my own. We’ve set March/April as our goal, and then possibly start cutting down then, as I’m looking at going on holiday in June so I’d like to be nice and ripped for that – and show off the muscle gains under the fluff I am currently collecting!

I also want to get stronger, hit some PBs, and get my metabolism firing so that, when I do cut, my calories are significantly higher than those I previously had to be on to lose fat.

I want to eventually get into a bulk/cut cycle. I love the aesthetic look when you’re cutting, and actually don’t find it too hard because I quite like a challenge (weird gal). But I also love feeling strong and energetic, and getting comfortable with my body being a little less lean, but a little more chunky and muscley.

In a month I’ve already got myself up to 7 and a half stone, and can visibly see changes to my biceps, quads and glutes in particular. I can’t wait to see what progress I can make this year.

Cravings

Cravings? What cravings?

It always makes me pleasantly surprised nowadays when I see #foodporn on Instagram and the like and it simply doesn’t affect me.

Sure, I love a good bit of chocolate, a massive slice of cake every now and then, but what I’ve come to realise, and be proud of in some way, is that I don’t get cravings anymore.

Obviously when it comes to sugar, the more we eat, the more our body craves it. Having never really been a sugar fiend, I managed to cut it out my diet more quickly than others, but also to feel no real hankering for it, or even miss it at all.

This is a bit of a rambling, granted, so I do apologise, but it’s recently become more apparent to me people’s reliability on sugar, and my lack of it. I think there are several factors, other than simply cutting it straight out your diet and ignoring it, which have led me to this:

I am energetic.
I think people rely on sugar for instant energy a lot of the time. I don’t. I feed my body with good food and great nutrition, which enables it to function properly and utilise this good food for energy. I also get enough sleep: most days I am waking up at 5.30am, but I’m also hitting the pillow at 10pm, and falling fast asleep. I don’t rely on sugar for energy because my nutrition and sleep provide me with that.

My diet is tasty.
If your food is bland and boring you will want to treat yourself to sugary goods just to feel something. While my food may be your typical ‘body builder’ diet, it is tasty; I use spices, I allow myself a bit of mustard here, some Nando’s sauce there, and I ensure I enjoy what I’m eating. If I eat a salad with no dressing I’m going to want a biscuit afterwards. Period.

Prep and prep and prep again.
I work in an office. Treats occur on the regular. I say no to them. I prep my food, I pack my snacks, I drink my water and peppermint tea, my coffee. I don’t need these treats because I simply don’t want them. But when I do? This week someone bought some home made cupcakes in, and I had one. Was I craving it? No. But did it look damn tasty and did I think it was a lovely gesture so I should try one? Hell yes. I don’t get cravings, but if I want something, I’ll have it.

I think that’s what all my points add up to, the B word: balance.
I don’t get sugar cravings and I don’t need it in my diet or have to actively avoid it most days. I love my lifestyle and what I do, what I eat (I simply wouldn’t be doing it otherwise) that I don’t need to eat sugary snacks to feel full or to get my energy. But if I want cake, I’m having cake. If I fancy dipping not a biscuit in my tea, one or two won’t hurt.

What I could never do now, though, is indulge in a mass of sugar. Lethargy and sluggishness are two of my most hated feelings. The idea of lacking energy (sugar crash, anyone?) and feeling shit – for want of a better word – is something I can’t entertain. It’s why I honestly won’t ever drink full fat coke again, sit there with a bag of chocolates and eat them. But I’ll have a couple of sugary treats here and there, a few Reese’s, a cake at work. But cravings? What cravings?

Sundays

How I Spend My Sundays

Sundays have never been the day of rest for me. For 8 months I worked over eight hours every Sunday, which was completely my idea of hell. Since I got a Monday-Friday job (the best kind of job) I’ve spent Sundays doing what I wanted to do and getting organised for the week ahead.

First, we gym.
I always go to the gym on a Sunday morning, and I always train glutes and hamstrings/legs because the gym is at its emptiest on a Sunday morning. The only people in there are about 30 of us who don’t have a life and don’t go out on Saturday nights (lol jokes). But it’s great; I love training legs in an empty gym because trying to get a squat rack at peak time on a Monday is not the life I am about.

Then, we meal prep.
I love Sundays because they allow me to get organised, and the biggest part of my organisation for the rest of the week is meal prepping. I am out for breakfast, lunch, and often dinner, so I need to be on it with my food prep.

On Sundays I’ll make my food for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and then on Wednesday I’ll generally have a rest day and then meal prep for Thursday and Friday. You get the picture.

Meal Prepping

I keep my meal prep simple, but tasty. I always have a source of protein with every meal (chicken, turkey, beef mince, eggs, etc) and depending on whether it’s high carb or low carb I’ll either have a big portion of veg or some sweet potato or rice.

For me personally, prepping like this not only helps me to stay on track throughout the week but it also a) saves money – how much would you spend buying three meals a day out?! And also b) it keeps my portions controlled. I have always had a problem with overeating and making massive portions (you can blame my mom for that one, I think I inherit it from her…) so meal prepping allows me to keep my portions to the right size that will fill me up without overeating.

Sometimes I’ll make some snacks too. I love protein bars, but they’re a little expensive to be eating all the time. So I’ll make some brownies or flapjacks, and sometimes cookies, that I’ll then freeze to take out when I need them. It’s great knowing that I’ve always got something in both the fridge and the freezer for the whole week – I am an organisational queen so being prepared like this is vital to keep my like stress-free!

So, that’s my Sunday.
Gym, meal prep, and I’m ready to go for the rest of the week. It means in the mornings I can grab all my food and get out the house. Utilising your time and making your own life easy will ensure you stay on track. It’s as simple as that: put the work in at the weekend, and spend the rest of the week getting the results.

Food Diary

Food Diaries

136 weeks. That’s how long I kept a food diary for. Over two years. Just a few months off three.  I started it to keep track of what I ate, and I just never stopped.

The pros? It helped me see what I was eating and stopped me from going off plan: if you have to write down you’ve had a donut and three chocolate bars, it kind of puts you off doing it in the first place.

It also helped me to track cheat days: I’d keep a note and set myself certain goals depending on what I was doing that week, allowing myself a whole cheat day, or a couple of cheat meals.

The cons? It’s repetitive. It’s slightly ovsessive. And in the end, it just became pointless. I got to the stage where at least, for four days a week, I was prepping my meals and snacks. So I knew what I was eating and that I wouldn’t go off track. I was doing it for the sake of doing it, and that’s where I knew I needed to stop.

I think a lot of things can become obsessive in fitness, and this is one of them. I think when something becomes so ingrained in your daily life it can become normal, and that can in turn become dangerous when you’re so obsessive about this particular lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong: tracking isn’t bad at all, if you’re doing it for the right reasons. But I realised I was doing it for the sake of it and nothing more. It wasn’t helping and it just became a pointless task. It became too structured. What’s the point in receding cheat days when I doesn’t even really matter? When your days are so structured anyway that you don’t need to plan even more?

Maybe one day I’ll go back to tracking again – I’ve never tracked macros either, only food – but for now in enjoying not slacking over a list writing down every litre of water I had in a day…

Homemade and Healthy

There’s a general misconception that ‘eating healthy/clean’ means endless chicken, veg and sweet potatoes. While these are great ingredients that you can use, there are so many more meals you can make that are actually interesting, healthy, clean, and will help you stick to a diet because they’re interesting, filling and taste ridiculously good!

I’ve been brought up around good, homemade meals and this hasn’t stopped as I’ve grown older: when I have the time, usually at weekends, I love making wholesome, homemade meals that ensure I am satisfied whilst sticking to my diet. I thought I’d give you a handful of great, easy recipes that will make your meals more interesting, whilst ensuring you stay on track with your diet.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Spag Bol
Spag bol is such a staple, easy-to-make meal that you can keep healthy – just don’t add wine! I use a standard recipe: onion, garlic, grated carrot, mince and chopped tomatoes. I’ll also add in Worcestershire sauce for a bit of a kick, and season with pepper. It’s quick to make, and you can have it high carb – with pasta/spaghetti – or low carb – on its own, or with courgetti.

Burgers

Burgers

Burgers are great because you can serve them with anything. In the above image they’re part of a low carb meal, with lots of veg for volume, but I regularly have them in burger buns, or with sweet potato fries. I’ll either make them with turkey mince or beef, and either are great: I mix the mince with a bit of egg, season with pepper, and add bread crumbs. So easy to make and much healthier than buying pre-made ones from supermarkets. Tip: fry them off in coconut oil then finish them in the oven – and thank me later!

Chilli
Chicken Chilli

Chilli is amazing because it’s so versatile: use beef mince, turkey mince, or even chicken like I have above (trust me on this one!) You can also serve it with rice, on its own, or on a bed of salad like I have here, depending on your carb intake and when you eat it. It’s also brilliant to make in batches: I’ll always make enough for 2-3 portions and freeze it, so that during the week I know there’s always a quick dinner if I’m going to be out all day and not home until late. My ingredients for this are always the same: onion, meat of choice, red and green peppers, tinned tomatoes, a good helping on hot chili powder, crushed chills and kidney beans.

Kebabs

Kebabs

A bit of a random one really, but it’s so tasty. Kebabs are a summer dish really, and even when you have them on a BBQ they’re relatively healthy, so they’re a good choice full stop. Here, I’ve got chicken, peppers, and mushrooms in a homemade marinade: fresh mint, fresh coriander, ground coriander, greek yoghurt, honey, squeeze of lemon, crushed chillies, cumin – blend, and marinade your kebabs and pop in the oven until done. I’ve served them with sweet potato fries here and a greek yoghurt dip. So so good.

Risotto

Risotto
I realise this portion is kinda huge (all about the #gains) but risotto is amazing because it’s so stodgy and filling but so healthy too! Quite high carb, so best for post workout: I use onion, garlic, chicken and mushrooms. I’ll then add chicken stock, brown rice and boiling water and let it simmer. Then you can turn it into whatever you fancy: pop in some tumeric, smoked paprika and prawns and go paella style (as above), or add in some sweetcorn and peas, or any veg you like! Simmer until the rice is cooked and all the water has been observed and enjoy – also lovely with a little bit of cheese on the top.

As you can see, healthy doesn’t have to scrimp on taste or flavour: I love making homemade dishes like this because I know they’re completely healthy, filling and tasty, and it allows me to enjoy my diet – because food is a huge part of your life, you should enjoy it.