I receive SO many DMs, comments, and emails asking how I’m able to eat a lot yet stay in shape. You can read my blog post on Balancing Eating here and a blog post on My Workout Routine here. I understand that you want even more details so I decided to dedicate this blog post to alllll the deets.
Everyone is Different:
First of all, I am not a registered dietitian nor have I studied nutrition. I’ve had people ask me to create meal plans for them, and that’s not something I do. I can tell you about my lifestyle and get into more details on my diet and exercise. However, keep in mind that everyone is different. We all have different body shapes and needs. Be careful in comparing yourself to other people.
Someone asked me how I’m able to eat pretty much anything as long as it’s gluten-free. Again, everyone is different! Our bodies handle food differently. Intolerances can change overtime. Before going gluten-free, I avoided dairy because I was sensitive to dairy. Once I went gluten-free, I added dairy back in and learned that I could handle dairy as long as I don’t overdo it.
If you have celiac disease and aren’t following a strict gluten-free diet, then you may be at a lower body weight than you should be. Being too thin can be a sign that you have undiagnosed celiac disease. Your body isn’t able to process the gluten, and food is just going through you. This didn’t happen to me but I’ve definitely seen this happen to other people.
Genetics plays a large role in what your body looks like. I think that you’re able to transform your body on your own in a healthy way to a certain extent. However, being naturally thin is different from starving yourself to try to be as thin as possible.
My family is naturally thin. I’ve maintained the same weight for 10+ years. It’s a healthy weight for me. One of the easiest ways for females to tell if they’re healthy is if they get their period which I do. Sorry if that’s TMI to any guys reading this, but it’s the truth! I do believe that I’ve gotten more toned recently, and my weight has stayed the same. This goes to show you that your weight is just a number. It doesn’t account for muscle and strength. I may be petite but I am strong!
I’m incredibly comfortable with my body right now – I wasn’t always 100% at ease. Sometimes it just takes time. I always thought I was thin and petite but ideally, I wanted to be taller and have everything elongated. I’m in my twenties and I’m 5’1 so clearly the height isn’t changing, and I’ve accepted that. And I love that I’m toned rather than having chicken legs. It shows that I work-out and take care of myself. Every single person has wanted something to change at some point. You can make changes, internally and externally. Self-love is so important. Look at yourself in the mirror, and love yourself. Rock a sports bra during your run and feel good about YOU! Self-love also means taking care of yourself. If you’re inactive and make poor food choices, then you won’t feel good. It’s a balance between loving yourself as is and treating yourself well.
If you follow exactly what I do for diet and exercise, that doesn’t mean that you will look exactly like I do. Do I just have a fast metabolism? Perhaps. I believe that you can eat a lot and teach your body to handle it. I eat a lot and don’t gain weight. If you restrict calories, then your body goes into starvation mode and starts to hold onto weight. Your body gets nervous that you won’t feed it again or that it will be awhile until it gets food.
I’ve never tried to lose weight so I can’t speak to how to do that. Generally speaking, yes you need to adjust your diet and exercise in order to lose weight. However, I don’t recommend heavily restricting your calories and over-exercising. Once you go down that path, it can be a downward spiral where you need to continually reduce your calorie intake and increase your exercise in order to see further results.
For the first couple years in college, I rarely ate before 12noon. I snacked a bit in the evening after dinner, and I simply wasn’t hungry first thing in the morning. My junior year at Georgetown, my now-husband Brendan got me into eating breakfast. It was hard at first since I wasn’t hungry then. Back then, it was understood that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. It was a way to jumpstart your body and keep it running well for the rest of the day – that convinced me! For the next 8 or so years, I religiously ate breakfast (usually fruit) first thing in the morning, even if I wasn’t hungry.
For the last six months or so, I’ve been eating breakfast after my morning workout – around 10 or 11am. More details on this below and why I made switch. My breakfast is usually a big bowl of berries or other types of fruit – my favorite fruits are blueberries and blackberries. If I want more food, I’ll add in eggs, yogurt, or granola. If you’re eating breakfast on-the-go or at work, you can easily bring fruit, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt cups, and small bags of granola with you. When I’m eating out for brunch, I may split French toast or pancakes with Brendan. This is always in addition to greens and/or fruit.
Lunch and Dinner:
Then I eat lunch right after breakfast – around 11am or 12noon. I like to have my biggest meal at lunch. My go-to lunch when I’m home is usually a big salad with 4-5 egg omelet and roasted vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. When I eat out at restaurants, my lunch varies. I always make sure to start every lunch with greens. Then I can have the pizza or tacos or pancakes or whatever else was available.
After lunch, I snack for the rest of the day, anything from frozen yogurt to berries to popcorn to chocolate, whatever I’m baking/cooking that day, and whatever food packages I receive. If you’re looking for snack ideas, I detail and rate 750+ gluten-free friendly products here. You can filter by food type categories such as baked goods, nut butter, chocolate, candy, granola, bars, fruit, vegetables, hummus, dips, rice cakes, crackers, pretzels, and ice cream. And you can filter by dietary restrictions which is helpful if you’re avoiding more than just gluten.
I prefer to have a light dinner and not eat too late. When I’m traveling, this doesn’t always happen. When I eat at home, it’s typically a light meal. If you have a huge dinner before going to bed, then you’re sleeping with a lot of food in your system. This makes it hard for your body to digest it well. If you do have a big dinner, I recommend walking around afterwards so you can more easily digest the food.
Brendan’s Paleo Diet:
Since November 2016, Brendan has primarily followed a paleo diet. I don’t follow a paleo diet but I do think that it is the healthiest way to eat. A paleo diet avoids processed foods and refined sugars, and it mostly consists of vegetables, proteins, and fruit – basically anything that a caveman could eat.
Brendan has a “cheat day” once a week, where he eats whatever he wants. His cheat day is usually on a Sunday – it can vary depending on holidays and vacations. Brendan does a lot of his own research on what works well. I consider Brendan to be really healthy, and I like hearing what he discovers and follows.
About six months ago, Brendan discovered intermittent fasting. Ironically, it is the pretty much the opposite of eating first thing in the morning. This just goes to show that new studies come out all the time, and it’s hard to tell what the “right” thing to do is. Do what feels right for you, and what your body responds well to.
One day, I tried eating breakfast after my workout instead of beforehand, and I felt so good! I had one of the best runs in a while. I ran faster, I was light, and I felt strong.
What is intermittent fasting?! Intermittent fasting is a period of fasting and non-fasting during a defined period. Intermittent fasting protocols can be grouped into two categories: whole-day fasting and time-restricted feeding. A whole-day fast is where you don’t eat anything for 24 hours. Time-restricted feeding involves eating only during a certain number of hours each day. For example, if you finish dinner at 8pm and then eat breakfast at 8am, you just “fasted” for 12 hours. A popular form of time-restricted feeding is when you fast for 16 hours and then eating during the remaining 8 hours.
Keep in mind that intermittent fasting does NOT mean that you skip breakfast. Intermittent fasting doesn’t call for skipping meals – it calls for pushing your first meal to a later time. If you have an eating disorder, are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have infertility issues, I do not recommend doing this. Some people fast for 23 hours and only eat for one hour. I personally don’t agree with that fasting cycle because that sounds more like a binge to me. There is a fine line between intermittent eating and disordered eating – be careful not to cross it.
Brendan’s Intermittent Fasting vs. My Intermittent Fasting:
Brendan gets home at 8pm, and by 9pm he’s done eating dinner. And then he will fast for 15 to 16 hours, eating his next meal at 12noon or 1pm. Brendan gets up at 5am for rowing practice before going to his office for the day. In the morning, he has 7 to 8 hours of purposively not eating.
If I was waking up at 5am like Brendan and sitting at a desk all morning, I don’t think I would be able to do this. If I did do that, I would be trying to do so rather than just naturally doing it. When I worked in the corporate world for six years, I ate breakfast around 9am at my desk. I worked out at 10pm after eating dinner because it was the only free time I had after work and dinner events.
Nowadays on a typical day, I wake up at 7 or 7:30am. Every morning, I drink a big glass of water with collagen, and I take a probiotic. I take my dog Odie out for his morning jog/walk and answer some emails, and then head to go workout. I don’t eat anything before I work-out anymore. If I was hungry, then I would eat something. I’m honestly not hungry at that time, and I listen to my body instead of forcing myself to eat breakfast then like I used to. I eat dinner before Brendan comes home since he gets home so late. When Brendan is home at 8pm, I tend to graze a bit and snack, simply because he’s eating too and that makes me want some food. Am I hungry then? No, but I still do it. More on that below.
Let’s say I stop eating at 8 or 9pm, and then eat my next bite at 10 or 11am. That’s 13 to 15 hours of fasting, and I didn’t try AT ALL. I now work from home which makes this schedule much easier. I have the luxury of choosing to workout first thing in the morning since I prefer that. When I’m back from my workout, I eat breakfast.
Benefits to Intermittent Fasting:
There are lots of benefits to intermittent fasting. First of all, our bodies get a break. Every time we eat, our body is working so they don’t have to work as hard when we fast. When you fast, you’re giving your cells the ability to detox and recycle. This helps your body slow down aging and prevent age-related diseases. Almost everyone wants to look young, and this is an easy (and free!) way to do so.
Intermittent fasting boosts energy, increases mental focus, and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. It alleviates brain fog and fatigue. Fasting triggers adaptive cellular stress responses which helps your body counteract disease and cope with stress.
If you have digestive problems, then intermittent fasting may work well for you. Eating earlier and fasting overnight can help your digestion. I don’t recommend eating late at night. Someone I know eats healthy throughout the day and then eats a big bowl of ice cream at 10pm. That ice cream is sitting with her all night while she’s sleeping. When I eat ice cream at 2pm, I walk around afterwards and my body is able to properly digest that treat. If you’re going to eat a treat, it’s better to eat it earlier in the day. Eating anything that late at night isn’t ideal – something with that much sugar is even worse. If you stop eating late at night, that may make all the difference in your health.
I don’t do intermittent fasting to lose weight but it can make it easier for you to lose weight. Rather than eating less and following a calorie-restricted diet, it may be easier for you to simply stop eating at a certain time each day. It also makes it easier to maintain your weight long-term.
Intuitive eating sounds great – eat when you’re hungry. Lots of people in the wellness industry say that you should eat intuitively in order to stay healthy. I can tell if I’m hungry for breakfast in the morning. Besides that, I can’t say that I really eat intuitively. I eat throughout the afternoon. I eat when I think I should or when I feel like it or if I’m bored or if I need a break. Is that the best answer? No. But it’s my honest answer. I eat when I want to! I probably eat more frequently than the typical person but hey, it works for me. Do what works for YOU.
I go into more depth on my workout routine here. I typically do about an hour of cardio a day. Running has always been my favorite workout. The runner’s high is amazing, and I love how you can run anywhere. On the days I don’t run, I go to the gym and do other forms of cardio like the StairMaster, elliptical, and arc trainer.
I also take barre classes at Pure Barre. It’s a great way to tone your body with low impact. The classes focus on your hips, thighs, seat, abdominals, and arms, forming long and lean muscles without bulk. I used to only do cardio, and I’m so glad that I incorporated barre into my workout nearly two years ago. It’s easy for me to know what to do for cardio but it’s harder for me to know what core work and strength training I should do. When I go to a barre class, I don’t have to think about anything and just follow along.
The last six months or so, I’ve become more comfortable with using heavier weights. I’ll try to do a few lifting reps each week. Even if it’s just five minutes a few times a week, it makes a difference for me. I’ve maintained the same weight for 10+ years but my body has definitely gotten more toned recently. I think this is directly tied to lifting weights and barre classes. I’m all about being strong and toned, not skinny.
Walking is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. It’s a great way to clear your mind and sharpen your focus. I end up walking a few miles a day. I walk Odie, and I walk while I’m doing my daily social media post. Why sit on the couch posting on Instagram when I can walk along Santa Monica Beach and enjoy the sunshine and nature?! It’s a no-brainer for me 🙂
I hope that this was helpful! Please let me know if you have any further questions, and if there’s anything I didn’t cover that you wanted to know.