So I really apologize to all of you. When I started this blog last year (TGT is a year and two months old!) it involved a lot more food than it does these days. I always mean to show you all of my food, but it never happens. Truth is, I always run out of time in my day. 7 hours at Smoothie King, 3 hours at the gym…and the rest of my time is spent somewhat trying to keep my life in order, being with Sean, and job searching.
It looks like I don’t eat, but in fact I feel kinda like Michael Phelps. Dude is an eating machine.
Okay, maybe not that much. Let me explain.
I haven’t mentioned it on the blog, but last month I participated in a metabolic consultation, during which I found out exactly how my body burns fuel. I did tests both while resting and running, and it was mind blowing.
Let’s just be honest here: I suffered from a lot of disordered eating for a few years, and only began to recover about a year and 3 months ago. There is a horrible delusion in the ballet world that it’s fine to eat less that 1000 calories per day, and I sure did master the art of restriction. I lot a lot of weight – too much.
But luckily, I ended up learning how to use exercise to gain strength, not to just lose weight. Last summer and fall I put on a lot of muscle and reached a much healthier weight.
This year, though, I’ve just felt off balance. My workouts have changed (from ballet to lifting/running) and so my needs have changed. Different books and magazines preach 1200 calorie diets, or 1500 calorie diets, or 2000 calorie diets. It left me confused: how was I to know what my body needs? I was eating about 1300 per day, but found that I was always hungry and had a hard time controlling my appetite.
The metabolic consultation told me a lot about how destructive constricting calories can be. Even though I had upped my intake for over a year. they discovered that my body is still in starvation mode. In other words, when you don’t get enough fuel, your body thinks it’s going to die. It holds onto every ounce of fat, and ends up making you gain weight. That’s right, if you don’t eat enough to support basic bodily functions (goodbye, period!) you will end up heavier.
Most people, if they laid still all day, would burn over 1200 calories. This is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Thanks to years of restriction, mine only burns 881. Ouch. I was shocked. I have successfully killed my metabolism.
But I was told it could be fixed: my metabolic coach and dietician have me eating a base of 1100 calories per day – which is still very low – until my metabolism recovers. In addition to those calories, I also have to factor in my exercise calories. Thankfully, I lead an active lifestyle and burn anywhere between 600-1000 calories in exercise per day. But here’s the deal, I have to eat back those calories. I never did that before. If I don’t eat back my exercise calories, my metabolism will continue to flounder.
Blah blah blah, science. So what does all that ultimately mean? I’m eating sometimes more than 2000 calories per day. This is crazy to me. It’s double what I used to eat, and about 800 more than I was eating just a few months ago. It seems so counterintuitive sometimes – eat more? Without gaining weight? But when I think about it, all that food is giving me more energy to run.
And what does this mean to you? Every body is completely different. It’s affected by every diet you try, every meal you skip or binge. Treat it well. Give it what it needs, and don’t go overboard. And always consider the quality of your food.
Here’s what a high-exercise day looks like for me. This is a day when I burned 1130 calories in exercise alone. I ate 2048 calories. I’m also set to eat 55% carbs, 35% protein, and 10% fat. I was pretty close on this day, but got a bit more protein and a bit less carbs on accident. No biggie. Also, my fat intake is pretty low right now, but that will also gradually change.
- 6:00 a.m. – unpictured banana. Too sleepy to photograph.
- 7:50 a.m. – mid-half marathon fuel. Cherry lime Roctane!
- 9:30 a.m. – breakfast oats in a jar. 1/3 c. oats, 1 scoop vegan protein powder, almond milk, chia seeds, and the Better’n Butter at the bottom of the jar.
- 11:00 a.m. – Work snack. Chocolate Zico (best ever), a Power Pak Pudding, and 1/2 cup Ezekiel raisin cereal.
- 12:30 p.m. – Salad from the restaurant next door. Romaine, onions, pico de gallo, and pinto beans, plus two rice cakes and salsa.
- 2:00 p.m. – Another work snack. Tangelo and a black licorice bar. Gosh, yum. (Sorry for the internet pic; we were so busy at work that I didn’t have time to get my phone out.)
- 5:00 p.m. – Dinner at work. Gladiator smoothie with chocolate protein powder and banana.
- Off work at 7! Grab an iced black coffee at Starbucks with 3 extra shots of espresso. It’s been a long day and I still had an hour and a half drive to Sean’s for the weekend.
- 7:30 – Food in the car. A wrap with humus and egg whites, also unpictured.
Is that not a crazy amount of food? I eat all the live long day.
When I first started this metabolic whatnot, eating all that food was like torture. I love food, but it quickly lost its luster when I realized just how much I have to eat. Sean said I should just get a bunch of fried nasty foods, but I’m making sure that all of my calories are geared toward quality.
Now, I’m almost used to it. Food has become more about fuel than emotion, which is awesome. The other day, I ate dinner and then settled down to watch an episode of Dr. Who. Normally I would have needed to watch it while eating dessert. TV+dessert has long been my downfall. It wasn’t until halfway through the episode that I realized food hadn’t even crossed my mind. I no longer have cravings, binges, or diet slip ups (you know, like eating half the peanut butter in the jar). Instead, everything I eat has a purpose. It gives me energy, powers my runs, helps me get through the day.
This is amazing.
disclaimer: I am not a Registered Dietician (yet!) or metabolic specialist. The results of metabolic tests are extremely individual and everyone’s needs are different. If you feel you suffer from disordered eating (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder), please consult you doctor or a dietician.