For years, my life revolved around the diet I was on. The first real one I ever tried was my sophomore year in college, right after I read Skinny Bitch. Immediately, I switched to a hard core vegan diet for 6 months and survived on rice, beans, veggies and pounds of peanut butter. As an athlete playing water polo at Cal and exercising 6 hours a day, a vegan diet wasn't for me. I was exhausted! I had a girlfriend on my team that had been vegan all of her life and she thrived on the diet, while I felt like I was withering away.
After experimenting with being vegan and realizing that it didn't work for me, I moved over to a straight low calorie diet. After my sophomore year of college I was done playing water polo and joined a sorority. I felt immense pressure to lose weight and look like all of the other tiny girls in my house so, low calorie it was!
I ate pretty much whatever I wanted but never over 2,000 calories. For some reason, this was my number in my head and I did whatever I could to never, ever go over it. I lost weight, and I lost it fast, but not without some really harmful side effects.
After several months of severely restricting calories and upping cardio, I had a hard time keeping my nightly binges to a minimum. I'd come home from a night of drinking and pig out on whatever I could get my hands on. Chips, ice cream, tacos...I would just stuff my face until I felt ill. It was incredibly unhealthy and even harder on my body. I'd wake up in the morning with a deep sense of guilt and hatred at what I'd eaten the night before, only to then start the cycle of restricting and bingeing all over again. Not fun.
At the end of college, I met my now husband Brett, who exposed me to a brand new way of eating that worked great for him as an athlete. The Paleo Diet. I thought he was bat shit crazy when he first told me to cut out gluten free bagels and bread but I was so tired of counting calories and bingeing at night that I decided to give it a go. The problem this time around was that I applied my same rigorous attitude to Paleo as I did with my vegan and low calorie diet. Instead of counting calories, now I was counting carbs, and I was obsessed.
Again, I lost weight and got pretty ripped but it only lasted a little while. Living low carb along with tons of exercise and stress from work was really hard on my body. Low carb works great for some people, and I actually recommend it for a lot of my clients to start, but my body wasn't in the place to make it work anymore. I started to gain weight, my sleep was terrible and I didn't have any energy. My adrenals were totally sapped, my hormones were out of balance and overall I was just feeling really crappy. The lower carb I went, the more it seemed I gained weight. What was going on?
This was when I really had my eye opening moment. After years and years of being on different diets and putting my body through SO much, it finally dawned on me that I was doing something fundamentally wrong. My thoughts were consumed by food, which ones were good, which ones were bad, and how they were going to hurt my body, not heal it. I noticed that I was trying to change my body in a harsh, negative and harmful way instead of thinking of food and exercise as a way to love, support and nourish myself.
As you can see, I've chosen to follow many different "diets" only find that what I really needed was a way of eating that made me feel happy, positive and full of life. Now I make sure that I'm always choosing foods whole foods that are prepared as naturally as possible and without additives or preservatives. I don't worry too much about carbs or calories, rather I think about nutrients and how those will help me perform my very best that day. Some days, I feel like going with a vegetarian style of nutrition, while on other days, my body calls for more fat or animal protein. I don't follow a "diet" anymore, I just follow my body.
Each and every person is different and therefore must eat the foods that make them feel best. Just like my water polo days, I found out that eating only vegan foods wasn't right for me, while it worked marvelously for another girl on my team. My recommendation is to begin by focusing your attention on how you REALLY feel after you eat. What does your stomach feel like? How do you sleep? How do your workouts feel? Do you think clearly throughout the day? Are you hungry all the time? If you feel energized, sleep well and overall feel really good, then keep doing what you're doing! If things don't seem to be going your way, then something needs to change. This is an ongoing process as our own bodies are always changing and may require different nutrition depending on where we are in our lives. So, tune in, listen and treat your incredible body with the love that it deserves and the results will follow. I promise!