Some of you may be wondering what someone who works out as much as I do eats. The answer answer is food, and a lot of it. However, my eating habits have not always been as healthy as they are today. Much to the surprise of people who know me now, there was a time in my life where I lived off Spicy Cheetos, Fast Food, and Sour Gummy Bears. It wasn’t until 2 or 3 years ago when I started getting super serious about fitness that I began to change my eating habits as well.
I’ve always been a big eater and had a love for food. In fact, some of my favorite memories as a child were going out for lobster with my grandparents on my birthdays, having “pizza night” every Friday growing up at home, and going to get “snacks” with my dad at Checkers and Taco Bell. Much like many children who grew up in the 90’s, I was not a stranger to hormone-filled cheap fast food, but at the same time I had a strong appreciation for some of the finer foods such as lobster and juicy steaks. As a child, I never really gave much thought to what I was putting in my mouth or how many calories that item contained. To add to this, I was raised in a household with three other kids, so I was used to racing with my siblings to see who could eat all the good snacks first. Some of my favorite snacks were gushers, spicy cheetos, and double-stuff oreos.
I was able to get away with this unhealthy eating for years, and remained at a normal weight or thin as a child and teenager. However, I often felt sluggish and tired, and would fall asleep in my classes at school for no apparent reason. In addition, my anxiety was higher than it is today, and I often had trouble focusing. I never thought about this at the time, but thinking back I truly believe that the one of the main reasons for some of these ailments was my eating habits, and the fact that the most exercise I ever got was picking up a bag of spicy cheetos.
My 10th grade year of high school, things changed for me. I went through a period where I would come home from school and eat all night until it was time for dinner, eat some more, and then eat dessert. I’ve never been one to gain weight easily, but that year I put on almost 30 pounds, which is a lot of weight for my 5ft 1 frame. This was the only time in my life that I have ever been genuinely overweight, and I never even noticed this until I had a doctor tell me that I needed to lose weight. This was another turning point for me…
Once the doctor told me that I was overweight, being the obsessive person that I am, I could not let it go no matter how much I wanted to ignore this tidbit of information. The summer had just begun, and I decided that I was going to be thin by the next school year. I drastically reduced my diet to between 1000 and 1200 calories per day, and began watching every morsel that I put into my mouth. I even made some half-hearted attempts on my grandfather’s old stationary bike in my parents room. One thing that surprised me was how quickly I began to lose weight from reducing my calories. Within a month I was down 20 pounds, and by the end of the summer I was down 50 pounds, and weighing in at under 100 pounds. You should have seen the faces of all my classmates as I entered the new school year. I think they were at a loss for words!
At this point my mother became shocked and concerned, and insisted on taking me to see a nutritionist. The nutritionist taught me some healthy eating habits that stick with me even today, I did not follow all of the habits until many years later. One of the most important things that she did teach me though was that it is okay to eat cookies, and bread, and everything else, but to just do it in moderation. However, the nutritionist was very worried that I was not eating enough calories, and did some metabolic tests on me, and determined that I should be eating about 2700 calories today to maintain my proper weight. I trusted her enough to follow her advice, and slowly began to gain some of the weight back until I leveled out at a much healthier weight of about 115 or 120 pounds.
For years to come, I would remember the nutritionist’s advice, but did not really adhere to much of it. I stopped counting calories after that brief period of counting every morsel, and chose never to count calories again. I began to trust myself that I could eat normally, and not gain weight, and I forced myself to realize that the only reason I gained weight like that in 10th grade was because I was eating like it was my last meal for every meal! As I returned to a normal weight, I resumed my junk food habits, but just did not eat as much of it. I also made an effort to eat salads every once in a while, and to not pour chocolate syrup on my Reece’s cereal in the morning. I felt at peace with food again, yet looking back, I would not call myself healthy.
As I went to college and moved out on my own, my eating habits did not get too much better. When I turned 22 I began exercising, yet I would still go to McDonalds for a hamburger and fries after a workout. At the time when I met David, when I was 28, I was still eating like this. We would go out for dinner, and he was shocked that I would order more food than him, and then still want to eat a candy bar or a bag of cheetos after. He was also shocked at the amount of candy that I had stashed throughout my house. Throughout our first year or so of dating I maintained these atrocious eating habits.
Then, something changed in me once I turned 29. I realized that I was getting close to 30, and that I could not eat like this forever, and I also began to consider the amount of time I was putting into the gym, and how much of that was probably being erased by what I ate. I began to research organic foods and also the horrors of GMO’s. Suddenly, a typical snack for me became organic popcorn, or an avocado instead of my infamous spicy cheetos or Funions. The funny thing was the more time I spent eating healthy, the less I craved junk food. Whereas a couple of years ago I would have made fish with a sweet sauce, Texas Toast, and french fries for dinner; now I might make Wild Salmon, baked roasted potatoes, and a green leafy salad. I have not lost much weight eating like this, but that was never the goal. I changed my eating habits to feel good about myself and what I’m putting in my body, and to have more energy, and I have accomplished that goal.
Today, I work out a lot, so I do not count calories, and I haven’t since that summer after 10th grade. I don’t diet either, as I believe that diets do not work. Instead, I try to eat mostly natural organic foods, and I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I am full. I eat to properly nourish my body so that I will have the energy to get through grueling workouts and a long work day. I feel that I have a very healthy relationship with food, and I still credit some of that to my nutritionist when I was in high school. 🙂