I hate the word diet.
I am sure a “healthy diet plan” brings up the same association words to me that it does to you; fad, not-gonna-last, weight loss, stupid.
I don’t like the idea of making drastic changes to my marathoner diet, and I have made it very clear that I am not a big fan of restriction, especially when it involves the foods you love.
You are just heading for disaster, and never going to keep it up.
I mentioned a few months ago that I have been working with consultant Tawnee Prazak.
Tawnee is helping me get a focus on my health, and this time, the primary purpose is not for my running as a female elite.
I accomplished some major life goals as a marathoner last month, and to be totally honest, I would be okay if I had to retire with those as my stats.
Yes, I definitely want more, yes, I am going to strive for more, and I am not giving up running, don’t worry, I just want to put my health first for a while.
Running is good for you, we know that, but taking it to the level that pro runners do is not exactly what health experts would recommend, no matter what your marathon training diet looks like. Therefore, sometimes you have to make little changes to keep looking after your body, especially when you regularly push it to the limit like I do.
When I first started working with Tawnee, she did a full analysis of my diet. At the time, I kind of laughed at the idea of this.
I knew I ate too much sugar, I knew she would be horrified with just how much of it I consumed, but I also knew….or thought, the rest of it was pretty healthy, and almost balanced it out…….obviously deep down I knew it did not work like that, but I had this false sense of security saying to myself that the running was what kept me healthy, I can get away with anything.
She had me do a food log for a few weeks, and I was honest with her. I went about my usual eating routine with lots of foods high in carbs, and I was running about 80 miles a week, which was a pretty typical week for me.
Other than the one night Steve and I went to a local fried chicken restaurant (a yearly occurrence, and not one we had a plan to eat), I was not too concerned.
However, Tawnee found a lot wrong with my diet, and a lot of changes she recommended I made.
Let’s start with the good; Calories
My caloric intake was enough (actually maybe even a little much), which is good as it shows that not only am I not restricting, but I am not doing myself any harm by being under on my calories. I was eating around 3000-3500 calories a day, sometimes slightly more or less depending on what running I did that day.
Now you have to remember, my body is so efficient at running now, that I probably only burn 60-80 calories a mile, so I do not burn as many as most people think.
But either way, she was satisfied with the overall caloric intake.
She also noted that I am good at getting healthy food in, and my inside tracker results were in optimal ranges for most of the areas, which was a good sign. Remember you can use my code TINAMUIR for 10% off if you want to see what you are deficient in.
Now for the bad.
Starting with sugar:
Tawnee found that some days my diet consisted of up to 60% sugar. Now, I love my sweets, but I did not even realize it was that bad.
That is not just the processed stuff like my beloved peanut butter m&ms or ice cream ect, but I was also consuming a LOT of simple sugars; cereal, bread, and especially, fruit.
I LOVE fruit, and unsurprisingly the high sugar kinds are my favorites.
Tawnee made some recommendations as to how I should change my diet, and gave me a list of things to start adding into my daily food intake to remove a lot of the stodge and add in nutritious foods instead.
She recommended I have lots and lots of fat and vegetables, and animal protein at least once per day.
I had a long list of foods to limit, many of which were foods I thought I was superior for consuming; ancient grains like quinoa, amaranth, bulgur, lentils, chickpeas, whole wheat.
I was very skeptical.
It sounded a lot like a paleo diet to me, and I was not a believer in that. I
n fact, I would roll my eyes whenever anyone even mentioned the word paleo or lchf (low carb high fat).
And that does not even begin to cover the meat aspect.
So much for Meatless Mondays!
I had probably got down to having meat 2-3 times per week, once a week enjoying my sizzlefish, but the other days were mostly vegetarian.
It is better for me (and the environment) I thought, and I was happy with the other protein sources I was getting.
Not any more.
More meat, more eggs, more fish, and a heck of a lot more fat. Not a low carb high protein diet as such, but definitely different to what I was used to.
I can see many of you shaking your head at me.
Oh no, what is she doing. Please don’t fall into that trap.
Trust me, I was in that boat too.
I promised Tawnee I would try, and I was willing to commit to it. I would do what she said; consume mostly fats, proteins, and vegetables during the daytime, cutting those stodgy, empty, processed carbs, and have my regular dinners at night .
As I run so many miles per week, it would have been far too drastic to turn me into a low carb runner, especially when there is a transition period where most people feel absolutely terrible as their body changes over.
I was not prepared to take that risk, and thankfully, Tawnee did not want that either.
As I had my dinnertime meal as usual, it made it much easier to transition into. I was able to add those foods recommended during the day, and then go for the traditional foods in the evening.
Who says healthy food doesn’t taste or look good?
This is the cauliflower crust pizza I made last week. Everyone who has tried it has LOVED it, I mean it! Here is my recipe.
Initially, I was I was in the habit of eating sugar every few hours, so the first few days were a bit of a struggle, but from the start, I declared that I was not going to give up my sugar entirely.
It brings me joy, and even though I know it is not great for me, I enjoy it. Not only have I struggled in the past when I have given it up cold turkey, but I do not want to.
Eating sweets make me happy, so I feel like it is okay keeping it there, but I agreed I would limit it to once a day, trying to gradually decrease the volume from an entire bowl of ice cream/multiple cookies/chocolate brownie every day to just a handful most days, with the occasional full on dessert.
But I did commit to the rest.
No more cereal, no more granola, no more simple fruit (berries, grapefruit, are okay), no more crackers.
During the day at least.
Instead, here are some foods I started to eat a lot of during the day.
• Roasted vegetables cooked in coconut oil or butter (parsnips, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, rutabaga, beets, carrots)
• Fresh vegetables
• Fish (especially smoked salmon)
• Coconut in every form- flakes, oil, butter (LOVE Nutiva Coconut butter/manna by the spoonful!)
• Nuts (although actually decreasing this as I usually eat too many)
If you are wondering:
What should I eat for lunch?
A lot of those foods above are a great option.
Obviously, I had to eat large volumes of these, and I was going through them very quickly.
I would spend multiple hours on a Sunday evening preparing it all for the week so it was within reach anytime I needed something. I explained in this post how to meal prep for success without breaking the bank.
Rather than grazing all day long like I usually would, I was having big meals every 3-4 hours, such as a 4 egg omelette with smoked salmon or one of my favorite lchf recipes, this Recovery Bowl, which I shared with you last week.
To my surprise, I was actually kind of enjoying it, and it wasn’t as difficult as I thought.
Sure, there were moments when other people would be having something that sounded good, and I just had to stick with my other foods, as I knew I would get a “normal meal” for dinner.
Overall, it really was a smooth transition, and then something strange happened…
Within a week, I started to notice my body shape changing. I noticed muscles coming through that I had never seen before. I noticed I was leaning down (without reducing my caloric intake), and I wasn’t trying. I noticed that I did not look as puffy under my eyes, my skin looked better.
But it wasn’t just that, I felt better.
I had more energy, I was less hungry, I would not wake up absolutely ravenous, and I found I could go 3-4 hours without eating.
And then I noticed that I felt better in training too.
I noticed on my long runs that I did not come across that usual haze or fogginess where your brain kinda goes to mush towards the end. I felt clear and confident the whole way around.
I know, I know, this doesn’t sound real.
I promise, I have not been paid to say this, and it surprised me more than anyone, but you know I am honest, and this is what I honestly noticed.
Before you start to panic;
Remember, I was still having the typical foods in the evenings, our usual dinners, but I noticed I wasn’t craving those foods as much anymore.
I did not like the sound of a bowl of pasta, and I craved more of the wholesome foods.
I go through a jar of this a week. I probably have 5-10 tablespoons a day!
How much fat per day was I consuming?
Honestly, I am not sure, but it was significantly more than I ever had before, and I was consuming fats with every meal, as well as for snacks.
My sweet tooth was still there, and it still needed satisfying in the evening, but like I said before, a lot of that is because it brings me joy and I look forward to it.
I switched my pre-race breakfast to a sweet potato with almond butter and a banana.
I switched my pre-race evening meal to jacket potatoes and rice. I had pasta one evening before a workout, and my stomach felt horrible the next day. It kind of put me off.
When I was in England, I missed my Brookview Beef and Sizzlefish (remember to use my TINA10 code for 10% off!) in the US to give me those protein sources, but my parents were great in helping me to get what I needed….even if it meant tripling the price of the grocery bill to get grass-fed beef, sustainable fish, free range chicken, and organic fruits and vegetables.
So yes, I did make some drastic changes, and I am sure I am going to get some backlash for this, but you know I am honest with this, and I have been fighting this high fat, lower carb thing for a while, so I was not expecting it to work, but it did.
Yes, I did fall off the rails after the race, but I told you I would, and I told Tawnee I would too.
I love to indulge and after how much I commit, I deserve it, and I enjoy it so much, BUT within a few days I was looking forward to getting back to this lifestyle change, this is now becoming the new normal and I love it.
If you want to know how to eat more without the excess weight piling on, this is it.
I am 100% a believer, and my inside tracker results showed improvements in a lot of the markers that I had hoped would increase (more about this another day).
I know this is drastic, and I know it may seem scary, but you do not have to go low carb as such, just low compared to the traditional runner diet.
Your evening meals are the same, that means when you go out with family and friends in the evening, you do not have to be that awkward one who can’t eat anything on the menu, and you will find you enjoy those dinners more as you are not eating the stodge during the day.
I am going to dive into this deeper in the future, and I have some high protein low carb recipes for you, but for now, I am a believer, and I look forward to seeing just how good of a fat burning machine my body can become.
Have you ever tried a high fat diet?