Gym and Diet Journey Pt.2 (Diet)

Part 1 was on the gym. Now let's talk about diet. I've never been fat my entire life or had a particularly unhealthy diet except when I gained like 15 ponds freshman year of college from stress eating and truly felt like it was a bit too much weight for me to comfortably carry around. Either way maybe it is the destiny of being a girl in today's society or commentary from my parents and dance teachers during adolescence on my thunderous thighs but I've definitely flip flopped and struggled with my diet.

The basics of weight management whether it is gain, loss, or maintenance, is in how many calories you are consuming. Everyone's base maintenance calories are different. If you eat above it consistently, you'll gain weight. If you're constantly in a deficit, you'll lose weight. Mathematically that is how it works.

However, counting calories can be incredibly difficult.. mentally. I feel like I practically gave myself an eating disorder trying to eat less and lose weight (not self diagnosing over here! Because I'm a tiny asian girl, my maintenance calories are a lot lower than an average sized American. Being in a deficit is pretty killer - I tried and felt like I was about to lose it because I was barely eating anything. Below are some tips:

Drink a lot of water.

Pretty self explanatory but I am totally guilty of not drinking enough water throughout the day. You can search up the benefits yourself but a lot of times I think I'm hungry when I'm actually just thirsty.

Make healthier choices. Try looking at ingredient lists.

I like to keep an eye on ingredient lists - so instead of Lays potato chips or oat milk with tons of sugar, I might pink from brands like Simple Mills for chips and crackers and cookies, and Malk for oat milk. Granted, “healthier” foods are more expensive. But my point is that you can still eat whatever and swap for healthier alternatives. Even if the “calories” are higher, it's better nutrient-wise for your body.

Zero calorie stuff honestly sucks.

Maybe you use them like zero calorie syrup on your pancakes to hit a caloric goal but in my opinion not only does it taste like trash, it's not good for your body. Better to just have the real stuff and not put a bunch of artificial gunk in your system.

Carbs are not your enemy. Dessert is not your enemy. Alcohol is not your enemy. Nothing really is.

Eat that rice, bread, pasta. Managing your diet is more, in my opinion, about still eating foods you love but in a more balanced way and in moderation. So maybe try to not get blacked out 3 days a week and eat pizza at 3 am all the time but it doesn't mean that if you do that, life is over.

Increase protein intake.

I've even heard to eat 1g of protein per pound of weight you are. That's quite a lot. If you're trying to hit a certain body composition then maybe, yeah, you need to really (!) up your protein intake. But in general I've found that protein keeps you fuller for longer because it is a bit harder for your body to digest. It also feeds your muscles for growth. Some people like to supplement with protein powder. There are many more natural ways to get protein in, but protein powder works too if you want! There are vegan and vegetarian options too nowadays.

Try volume eating.

I personally tried this and it didn't work for me because it made me uncomfortably bloated, but some examples of higher volume foods that are lower calorie are vegetables, fruits, certain soups.

There is no “rule” on number of meals or snacks per day.

Some people like to eat 3 meals a day. Some people like to constantly snack. You can't really control how your body likes to absorb and digest so just listen to your body and don't feel pressured by social media to eat a certain way.

Keep a food journal.

I've found that keeping track of what I eat either in notes or taking pictures helped me realize how much random stuff I ate during the day. More important than constantly eating throughout the day, I was eating unhealthy things when I wasn't even hungry! This can get quite controlling though or at least it did with me so do at your own risk and don't try to set boundaries around again, how many meals or snacks you should eat per day. It is more for reference if you are mindlessly eating random stuff and those things are easy for you to cut out.

Prioritize metabolic health with caloric deficits.

A lot of times people will try to go into a pretty big caloric deficit because mathematically that should help you lose weight quickly. While the pounds might indeed come off quickly, you will inevitably plateau because your metabolism drops. I myself have been a victim of this - I ate very little and then felt like drinking water made me gain weight because my body just shut down. So, if you're trying to lose weight please do it in a sustainable way - a smaller caloric deficit for long term weight loss so it doesn't just all bounce back when you go back to “normal” eating.

Also prioritize gut and hormonal health.

This one is aimed mostly at the ladies but our hormones are actually insane. They change every month as we know, and it's okay and you should honor your cravings when you are on your period or PMS-ing. Sometimes I have weeks where I have bad digestion and constant bloating no matter how many veggies I eat and water I drink. It happens. Just continue on your health journey - sometimes things get out of whack and it is not really anything you're doing wrong. Take your vitamins and eat healthy foods and drink lots of water as stated above.

Bulking, cutting, and recomp.

Bulking is when you are in a caloric surplus and cutting is the opposite. A lot of people like to bulk and cut in cycles in order to basically be able to put on more muscle during a bulk and the reduce the calories for a period of time in order to shed the fat and reveal muscles. I personally did not find this suitable for me because I have a demanding job and don't want to go from a larger size to a smaller one and think about bulking and cutting. However, that is probably the fastest way to gain muscle and have it show. I do more of a recomp which stands for recomposition. Basically you are slowly increasing muscle and shedding fat. It takes way longer and progress seems slower but for my lifestyle it is much more sustainable.

Some ideas for food

Protein ideas

  • chicken (thigh AND breast! sometimes breast tastes so bad jesus)

  • salmon (smoked too)

  • any fish

  • eggs

  • egg whites

  • Greek yogurt

  • turkey / deli meats

  • bone broth

Carb ideas

  • Whole wheats / more grain like breads

  • Sourdough

  • Honestly I do not skimp on pasta. Wtf is this chickpea pasta shit. maybe swap for vermicelli noodles

  • White rice is life! Can try brown, but brown kinda tastes bad...

Brand ideas

  • Lesser Evil - snacks

  • Simply Mills - snacks

  • Dave's Killer - breads and bagels

  • Ezekiel - breads (imo tastes bad though)

  • Malk - gum free plant based milks

  • Macro bars - protein bar

  • Misfits bars - protein bar

  • Greens powder

  • Protein powders (whey and plant based but I do plant based bc whey makes me have bad digestion)

As with all learning anything I feel like it is important to remember that progress is a J curve. So if you are starting off with a lot of weight to lose or with an unhealthy lifestyle, making some even small changes will result in pretty big progress that will plateau eventually. If you are already fairly healthy, then making those changes won't result in something as drastic. What is most important is finding something sustainable for the long term for your physical and mental health. Also, you should not compare yourself no matter how hard it is to other people on social media. If you have a demanding job or you are going through some shit, you're probably going to have worse sleep and more stress which all will derail your overall health. No amount of vegetables will fix it.

And just keep trying - it's really easy to give up when you try something new and you don't like it. Try different foods and exercises and lifestyles. Also, things change. Maybe you switch a job or just get tired of going to pilates. Try at home workouts. Or take a break. And also, don't restrict yourself - the point of optimizing for mental and physical health is for happiness. So don't deprive yourself any day of the week. Eat that ice cream and lie in bed for days. Sometimes you need that. So just do your best during the ebbs and flows of life!