I LOVE getting emails and/or comments from all of you! It makes me happy to know that you all are interested in what I have to say and even more so, that you are taking interest in your health! I have gotten several emails asking me about ‘my’ portion sizes, how many calories I eat, what the proper portion size is and wondering if calories even have to be counted when eating a paleo lifestyle.
Well — here I am, addressing the above! First of all, I am not a dietician, nutritionist or even a weight loss consultant. I am just a girl who took charge of my own life with fueling my body by way of real food! I almost hate using the word “paleo” anymore as there are many (paleo police) who attack the fact that a sweet treat wouldn’t have been made by a caveman etc. and so on. I will be the first to say, I realize that a caveman wouldn’t have done so because that caveman didn’t have the means to bake a treat! That being said (treats or not) a caveman didn’t use an oven, refrigerator, microwave or even a sink! That very caveman wasn’t able to post a picture on instagram with a cell phone either. So my point is this — I don’t pretend to be a cavewoman…..I am a modern day gal, trying to eat from a paleo template but real food is my focus. I will make sweet treats because I LOVE to bake and recreate sweets and my goal in doing this, is to help my followers steer clear of the middle aisles at the grocery store and get in your own kitchen to create a treat that doesn’t have all the crap those packaged goods have. And who am I kidding? I have a sweet tooth…..so baking a treat from time to time helps me too.
Now taking your questions into consideration with the sweet treat topic, I don’t sit and eat all the baked goods I make! I am very content with eating one of the cookies that I’ve made and the rest are shared. I do not have the idea that these are “healthy treats” because they aren’t made with crud that our popular packaged cookies are made with. These are exactly what they are — TREATS. And as with any other treat, they should only be eaten once in a while. I don’t have weight to lose but if you do, these treats should definitely be kept at a minimum. If you have trouble with sugar, perhaps giving these treats up completely for a while would be the best bet. Once you rid the sugar from your body and/or habit of reaching for a treat, you may not have the urge to eat the whole batch of cookies you just made once you start adding treats back into your diet. The 21 Day Sugar Detox is a great program to help rid the body of sugar cravings as well as the Whole 30!
In terms of portions — that is a very tricky question and heres why: We all have different goals and lifestyles. What works for me, may not work for you. I live a very active life…..I run, do CrossFit and do many outdoor activities throughout my weekend. If I told you to “eat this much”, I could clearly be steering you wrong if you live a sedentary life. I tend to get full quicker when it comes to my experiencing the beginning stages of menopause so my portions are definitely different on a handful of days throughout the month. On average though, I pretty much eat at the same times each day and usually the same portions BUT here’s why it’s “tricky”, if you will – if I have a crazy workout and have put my body to the test, I know that I need to fuel it more afterward vs. a night that I didn’t work out at all. And that goes the same for pre-workout fuel. It would be hard for me to give you a definitive answer on my portions because it varies day to day. My rule of thumb is this: eat greens/veggies, protein and fat at every meal. I will add fruit (usually berries) to a breakfast or lunch and I will add a carb such as a sweet potato a few times per week but I don’t find that I need that quite as much as my greens, proteins and fats. I’ve done the “starchy” carb daily and I don’t feel nearly as energetic or good as when it’s just tossed in a few times a week. I have friends who workout a lot heavier in terms of weight training and need those carbs a lot more than I might. I like to add them to my diet for variety and different nutrients but as I mentioned, I don’t feel great eating them on a daily basis. And don’t forget – veggies are carbs. While one might think that I’m a carb snob, I like to think that this is what works for me and it’s always about the individual! I fear that people follow a plan because it’s what written in black and white and my point for this post is that we all have our own shade of paleo — it’s certainly not an “all for one and one for all” diet. It’s a template and we find our own balance.
I get a lot of questions about weight loss and how is it I can eat so much fat and not get fat. Well my friends, I came to terms with the fact that ‘fat doesn’t make you fat’! Let me tell you — this is honestly the leanest/healthiest I’ve been and I’ve never eaten so much <healthy> fats in my life! If you remember from previous posts, I used to be a NO FAT or LOW FAT girl! So giving into the fact that I can eat an avocado and not get fat was a huge deal for me. But let’s talk about this …..if you’re trying to lose weight, how much fat is a good thing? Or a bad thing? Again, this would definitely be different for the individual but if you’re snacking on a bag of almonds, that’s packing on quite a bit of calories – good fat or not – and when it comes down to losing weight, taking in excess calories and not burning those ‘extra’s’ at all, will result in weight gain. I believe the serving size for almonds is about 1 oz. That’s about 162 calories. So let’s just say you end up eating a 6 oz. bag on the way home from work, you’ve just consumed 972 calories! What?!? Almost 1000 calories just in a snack. And that doesn’t count for that sweet treat or pancakes/waffles you made with almond flour….or the huge spoon full of almond butter that called your name before you hit the sack. Is this the worst snack choice you could make? Absolutely not. But again, if you’re trying to shed a few pounds, these little snacks have to be kept to serving size and probably narrowed down to just one snack per day because these calories add up….quickly!
Do we need to even bother with counting calories if we’re eating paleo/real food? Yes and No! I’m not a calorie counter BUT I also know that if I put a 10 oz steak in front of my face, I’ll probably eat it! I learn to cut that 10 oz portion in 1/2 and then I’m good to go with lunch for the next day. So just because the store only offered a 10 oz of your favorite cut, doesn’t mean that you need to eat it in one sitting. Perhaps slice up the other 1/2 and have it with eggs in the morning, along with sautéed spinach. Yes, I believe that a grass fed filet mignon is ‘real food’ but I don’t think that for my needs, body type and appetite, that I need to eat that big of a portion. I also don’t think that we need to be as rigid as making sure that it’s the size of a deck of cards but it certainly doesn’t need to cover my whole plate. When weight loss is a goal, I always suggest bulking up your plate with lots of veggies and greens ….and keep it colorful! It ensures that you are getting lots of vitamins and nutrients AND it makes your plate look appetizing. Counting calories isn’t a must when eating real food but I have to say, piling loads of portions [of real food] onto your plate adds up. If you’re looking the way you want to look and feel great, it would seem that you’re doing it right. But if those love handles are pissing you off, perhaps it’s time to take note of how much is on that plate. Real food or not, calories are calories.
Making your plate look like it’s your last meal isn’t the only thing you should be aware of — what about not eating enough? I had an email from a young lady who said that she couldn’t understand why she hadn’t lost weight in 6 months, after having lost 15 pounds when she started the paleo diet. I asked what she was eating and how often. Her response was this: I eat a hard boiled egg for breakfast, a salad with a squeeze of lemon for lunch and dinner is 3 oz. of protein and a green vegetable. She had started to become active when she lost the 15 pounds by swimming and walking. I’m no expert but this is clearly not enough fuel to get through a day, let alone support activity! Understandably, she lost 15 pounds at first because her body had a sudden change in diet/calories but after that, her body pretty much went into starvation mode. We need to realize that our body stores our food to use for energy but when you don’t put enough into it, our bodies will not use it up for energy – it will hold on to it because it’s not quite sure when that next meal is going to come! You will either hit a plateau or even worse, gain weight as it’s now just hanging out and not being used for anything. I wouldn’t recommend anyone eating under 1200 calories per day! And men should eat more. Of course you need to add more depending on your expenditure by way of exercise or even the physicality of your job but as a rule, 1200 calories should be the minimum for a woman.
I think when we look through instagram for inspiration on food/meal ideas, we see these beautiful plates of food and we try and recreate them. Some of my favorite bloggers have gorgeous looking photo’s of food and I tend to get hungry and make a grocery list accordingly. Here’s where we need to find our balance though. Looking at your favorite bloggers picture of food can be misleading. Perhaps that blogger eats the way he/she eats because of an autoimmune disease, trains heavy in weight lifting or perhaps is training for a marathon. Whatever “their shade” of paleo is, doesn’t have to be yours. Find what works for you. If you see a post of someones dinner that has 3 chicken thighs, a loaded plate of sweet potato fries and roasted carrots and that’s your inspiration for dinner – by all means, make it because that sounds amazing!!! BUT I urge you to be aware of your goals and needs. Is that inspiring picture on a male’s blog post? A trainer? Or perhaps the blogger didn’t like how the plate looked with 2 thighs and a handful of fries so they piled high to make the photo look good. Just be mindful and smart.
If you’re not happy with how you feel or look, then it’s definitely time to make a change. It’s not always about how you look in the mirror, you need to feel good too! Eating too much OR too little will lead you to feeling badly, even if it is real food. The mirror does speak volumes but so does your inner voice. How are you sleeping? Do you feel sluggish late afternoon? Your diet can help those questions without a doubt! Make sure you’re fueling enough to keep you from needing a cup o’joe at 3:00. I don’t have a slump and I truly believe it’s because I get in proper nutrients and fat with my breakfast and lunch. If you keep this up on a daily basis, your body thrives! Getting enough sleep is so important and I truly believe diet has everything to do with our sleep patterns. Even experiencing night sweats with menopause, I will say that I fall asleep the moment my head hits the pillow and wake up refreshed (though sweaty sometimes) and well rested, in the morning!
Working out – no matter what kind of exercise you enjoy doing – isn’t a free pass to eat whatever you’d like. If you’re not seeing results in how you feel or look, it just might be what or how much is on your plate and moving more in the gym or hitting the pavement longer, may not be the answer. I have had several people say to me, “Well, you can eat whatever you want because you’re so active.” Hmmmm …….. my answer to that is, “Nope. I am so active BECAUSE of what I eat.” My food is my fuel. If I didn’t eat the way I did, all the work I put into running, CrossFit or any other activity I love, wouldn’t have the same results in terms of how I look and feel! I don’t look the way I do because I workout. I look the way I do because of my food choices. We should all be getting in some form of exercise — it’s so vital for our health to get the heart rate up, it helps with endorphins and it’s a great energy/mood booster but it’s certainly not a free pass to eat badly because “you earned it”. I’m not shaming the one who might want to splurge from time to time but if you’re not seeing progress or results, or if you have goals and are frustrated that those goals aren’t being met, it’s time to be honest about what might be holding you up.
One other thing that I’d like to point out is, it’s so crucial to be the best YOU that you can be! If we compare ourselves to others, we set ourselves up for disappointment and perhaps failure. Our genes have very much to do with our end result and though we can make positive changes, it’s very discouraging if you’re trying to become something that isn’t attainable because your body simply can’t do that! My husband works out so hard, eats incredibly well and is very active — he just doesn’t get the body that is cut up and defined like many others do. He remembers back in high school having the “stumpy body”, even after 3 football practices a week during the summer….. while others had toned and defined bodies. My son on the other hand, does 3 push-ups, eats like crap and he looks like he lives in a gym! (exaggeration but you know what I mean). I encourage you all to make realistic goals …set them high and challenge yourself but making sure they fit within your body type and means.
This blog post isn’t intended to point the finger or put shame on anyone. It comes from the numerous messages asking me “how” and/or “what”. And the general reason for these questions are because you’d like to lose weight and get fit. I have fortunately found what works for me and we all have to find our own shade and I highly suggest reading Seven Shades of Paleo by Robb Wolf. And even with this read, you may fall in between a few of the shades or a little of all of the shades but the point is that we all choose our shade based on our lifestyle and needs. I don’t need to eat gluten free because of celiac or any other illness for that matter but I choose to and that goes for the many other reasons I choose to eat the way I do. We all have choices and we make them daily without our food – whether it be what we put on our plate or how much and both are equally important when it comes to health AND if you have goals for yourself in terms of weight loss/gain, performance and simply living a good quality life! Listen to your body and take note on how you feel. Be honest! Make the choice to make the change! Love yourself through the process & find your shade. It takes some time and some tweaking but it’s worth the effort!