Okay, I’m sitting here snacking on celery and spicy bitchin sauce debating how much I want to tell you guys about my crazy roller-coaster with nutrition.
Ah, why not; I have no secrets. I was a chubby kid. Yeah, I said it. It’s true. My mom will tell you that “I was perfect” but I wasn’t like the other kids. I was taller and bigger than all the other kids in elementary school. By the time I got to middle school, I was bigger than all the girls, all but two boys, and most of the teachers. I never weighed myself and was always super active. In high school, I played two varsity sports and club soccer year round. It was not for lack of exercise that I was a big kid.
I played soccer at Cornell, and I’ll never forget the strength and conditioning coaches got all of our stats on day one. It was the first time I saw a number on the scale and I was really shocked. I weighed in my freshman year of college at 192lbs and 18% body fat. The assistant strength and conditioning coach snidely said she was surprised my body fat wasn’t higher. She still tops my list of least favorite people. Tina, wherever you are, you stink. (Not bitter).
The problem was that I just didn’t understand food and how nutrition worked. I would go to jamba juice after school and get a smoothie and have a bagel and cream cheese as a snack! That was a 1,500 calorie snack! I never knew about calories. I didn’t understand that specific foods – while healthy and nutrient dense – carried different caloric values with them and that affected me being overweight my whole life. It’s rough being the chubby girl.
Growing up, I almost always ate healthy. I thought that if you ate healthy food, you wouldn’t be overweight. My mom is a fabulous cook and never made anything from a box. Her joy was being able to provide really good food for her kids when she did not have that luxury as a child. My mom grew up in a post world war II era when food in Greece was scarce. To add some perspective, when my grandma got older, she used to hide food around the house and in cabinets because she was afraid someone would come in and take it. This is how my mom grew up. So, we were always told to eat and eat more. We were praised for cleaning our plates and food was always the reward. Thank goodness we were eating healthy and staying active, or I would have really been seriously gigantic.
One of my favorite sayings when it comes to food is: “You can’t outrun your fork.” There are very few extreme triathletes I know that are the exception to this, but if you’re one us mere mortals who aren’t running 100 miles a week, the bottom line on the scale is going to be most heavily reliant on your nutrition.
After college, I started working out with my aunt’s trainer who also happened to have an advanced degree in nutrition. In two months, I dropped down to 158lbs and was 11% body fat. For the first time in my life, I felt like one of the pretty girls. I was 22 years old and would have guys tripping over stuff in home depot when I asked a question. It was kind of a fun place to be. I had never experienced that before. People asked me if I was a model. Ha! Hilarious. I’m like, nope, I’m still the same chubby dorky girl I’ve always been. I was eating really clean, no alcohol, no sugar, and working out 5-7 days a week (sometimes for two hours a day). I was 22. What else did I have to do?
But she taught me about the nutritional value of foods and I am so grateful for it. I loved olive oil on my salads, but at 120 calories a table spoon, I learned to swap it out for balsamic vinegar at 5 calories a tablespoon and still love my salads. By understanding the nutritional value of food, I could make educated decisions about what I valued and what I didn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when I valued donuts over those last few vanity pounds. There will always be seasons in life, and my motivation changes. When I was pregnant with George, I was so tired. My joy toward the end of pregnancy came from baking with Yianna while Kiki napped. We would make cookies and cakes together. Then she would have one, and I would sit and eat the rest throughout the day. Bread with butter, or avocado and olive oil on hot crusty bread was my favorite daily snack. I topped the scales at 220lbs that pregnancy. And it was a beautiful and amazing time in my life and I wouldn’t change a thing.
When it comes to food, I try to cook at home as often as I can, and eat like our great-grandparents did – farm to table, food that is in season, and not a ton of red meat.
I really don’t believe in dieting. I think it’s miserable and I don’t like fad diets either. I think you need to listen to your body when it comes to food. Everyone is so different. I used to get seriously hangry at 11am every day – it was nuts, I always knew when it was 11am because I was starving and mean.
But, since Thanksgiving, both Nick and I have ditched sugar and most foods that break down into sugar (eg. carbs). I know! It sounds terrible, but it has been the best.
We both have less inflammation, our headaches are almost all gone, we haven’t been hangry, and a fun side effect has been that we’ve both lost weight. He has lost thirty pounds!!! Why is it that guys can do that. (Insert eye roll here).
Not gonna lie, I miss pizza and popcorn, but the benefits have so outweighed my love for bread and butter that it’s worth it to me right now to keep this up. We feel amazing. It wasn’t until breaking up with sugar, that we realized how much havoc it had been wreaking on our bodies. Yes, I still eat dessert on special occasions, or like last night when my girls made a cake for our dinner guests all by themselves from scratch. You eat the cake. It was delicious, but man, I have one bite, and I just want to stuff the whole cake in my mouth. I have a really hard time living in moderation with sugar; it’s easier for me to not have a a bite then try to limit myself to one piece.
Something else trending right now that has worked for both of us has been intermittent fasting. Talking with physicians and friends, there have been several studies that show how cellular regeneration occurs when we give our pancreas and body a chance to rest … to fast. Cultures have been fasting for centuries and it seems there is some science behind it. Personally, I just like the way I feel when I only eat between 11am-7pm or Noon-8pm and making sure that our first meal is protein based. My favorite so far has been a big omelette with tons of veggies, avocado, bacon, and some cheese. Or a big cobb salad that I make from scratch. (I made the best ranch dressing!).
As an added bonus, it’s pretty rad to not have to worry about what to cook for breakfast early in the morning when things are so hectic. The kids fend for themselves with cereal, eggs, or toast and peanut butter, but I get to have a few extra minutes in the morning to just sip my coffee or hot tea or lemon water. I straight ironed my hair the other day! I love more free time!
We’re going strong over three months now and I don’t see a big shift anywhere in sight. This has been amazing.
I don’t feel hungry. I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I finally feel like I’ve gotten a handle on nutrition and what works best for my body. I’m in the 140s which is crazy (148 this morning, but that counts). If you had told 18 year old me that I would be in the 140s someday and not feel like I’m starving myself, I’d definitely tell you that your scale must have been sitting by the unicorn next to the leprechaun at the end of the rainbow. But I’ve lost those five pounds that I didn’t think we’re possible while being healthy. I work out three hours a week and I eat whatever I want when it comes to protein, veggies, dairy, nuts, then more moderate amounts of fruit, and on special occasions, desserts. I’m good with that. I feel great.
Nutrition for me has been a journey and one very closely tied to weight. This is where I’m at right now and what is working for me. It might not work for everyone. Whatever you decide, I hope it makes you feel great, brings you joy, and no matter what the number on the scale says, know that you are beautiful.