Five Things Friday

Just a random little post for Friday!

1. Sometimes you smack yourself in the face with the log on set number 5billion of split jerks. It didn’t hurt, it didn’t really bruise, but it was pretty funny.

 

2. THIS SHIRT. (P.S. you can read about how to purchase one here!)

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3. The other day, as I was eating bowl number two of rice, I thought to myself “I’m so sick of carbs.”…..and then I came back to reality. #waronwaroncarbs

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4. I made some gelatin gummies and they’re delicious! I didn’t really follow a recipe but I know that Paleo Parents has some great recipes for them. They’re my attempt to get some extra joint support since I can’t take fish oil (it drastically increases my bruising to an almost unbearable level).

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5. We have had so many snow days which has been great. Snow days make me want to cook all the things…like beef bourguignon.

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Flexible Dieting Implementation: Macros, Planning, & Nerd Things

*Disclaimer: I am NOT a nutritionist, dietician, etc. I’m just sharing my knowledge and experience.*

Counting macros – some people love it, some people hate it, and some people are just confused by it. I’m not here to argue why or why not certain groups should or should not track their macronutrient intake; I’m here to help those who are a little confused about the entire macro/flexible dieting process. Quantifiable flexible dieting isn’t for everyone and I certainly don’t think it is the only way to meet goals nor do I think the way that people should eat all the time/for life. Since flexible dieting has sort of “taken off” recently, I’ve been getting an influx of questions about how the heck to do this “macros” things, so that’s what I’m here to discuss.

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First – what the eff are macros?! Check out this post to get down and nerdy with all of that stuff. To sum it up, there are three macronutrients that people discuss when talking about “macros”:

 

Protein: Made up of amino acids (essential and nonessential).

Purpose: Provides amino acids your body needs for muscle, enzymatic processes, and basically everything. Critical for overall health, wellness, and of course, gainz.

Caloric value: 4 kcal (calories) per gram.

Recommended Intake: Varies; common recommendations are 0.8g per kg bodyweight – 2.0g per kg bodyweight or lean mass for normal individuals to strength athletes.

Example: meats, dairy, eggs

 

Carbohydrates: Body’s preferred energy source.

Purpose: Provide energy in the form of glucose for your body to operate. Especially relevant for athletes who need ample amounts of muscle glycogen (aka energy) for training and competition.

Caloric value: 4 kcal (calories) per gram

Recommended Intake: Varies; 50-100g needed to keep body out of ketosis.

Examples:  grains, potatoes, sugars

 

Fats: Lipids that include triglycerides, fatty acids, and other fatty compounds.

Purpose: Provides assistance with repair and recovery from everyday (and athletic) endeavours. Important for hormone functioning and certain fat-soluble vitamins (like Vitamin D).

Caloric value: 9 kcal (calories) per gram

Recommended Intake: Varies.

Examples: oils, nuts, seeds

If you’re tracking your macros, you’re probably doing so within some sort of caloric range. For example, you would like to eat 2000kcal and have macronutrient amounts in mind to meet those caloric needs. I am not going to talk about how to determine your caloric and/or macro needs. Instead, I’m going to talk about what the heck you do after you already have those numbers.

“SO I have my macros. Now what?”

Now you eat them…which is easier said than done. Having to quantify and navigate a macros-based diet can be very intimidating and confusing for several reasons. One, it requires to have some vague notion of  what foods contain what macronutrients. Two, it requires that you know how to portion those foods accordingly. Three, it requires some effort when learning how to navigate food choices to meet said macros. Things can get a little more complicated if you carb cycle in addition to counting macros (I’ve written a little bit about carb cycling here); however, the basics are still the basics.

 

“Is Butter A Carb?”: What Foods Contain What Macros

Having some knowledge about what foods contain which macronutrients is critical to being successful with a macros-based approach to dieting. While most of us have a general idea of what foods contain what, there are often times that people are surprised by how little/how much macronutrient “value” some foods have. A prime example: nut butters. Unless you’re vegan, nut butters are not going to be a significant protein source (and even then, I’d argue that they still aren’t a significant protein source) BUT  it is not uncommon for people to assume that if they throw some peanut butter on something, they’re getting a ton of protein. Realistically, what you’re getting is a hefty dose of fats above all else.

 

Let’s look the nutrition stats for a typical nut butter:

Nutritional Stats for Justin’s Honey Almond Butter

Total Calories: 190kcal per serving (2tbsps or 1 travel pack)

Fats: 17g

Total Carbohydrate: 8g

Protein: 6g

 

6g of protein, that’s it.

Also, let’s actually do the math here: 17×9 (kcal value of fats) = 153, 8×4 (kcal value of carbohydrate) =32, 6×4 (kcal value of protein) = 24. 153+32+24 = 209kcal. BUT WAIT, it says 190?! Yeah, it does. Caloric values and macronutrients values are often guesstimates, so I wouldn’t stress out about the mathematical inaccuracies that occur on nutrient labels if they’re fairly small. ANYWAYS, according to our math, this food item derives about 80% of it’s caloric value from fats. Great source of fats, not so great source of everything else.  Let’s take another example -  sweet potatoes and rice.  Most people think that sweet potatoes are an extremely dense carb source. According to most databases, 300g of raw sweet potato (or a decent sized sweet potato) has about 60g of carbs, which is about the same amount of carbs as 1 ¼ cups of cooked white rice. While 300g of sweet potato provides a generous carbohydrate hit, I’m guessing the carb count is considerably different than what many people believe. Likewise, the white rice carbohydrate count is lower than what most believe. Both are solid carbohydrate sources since the majority of their caloric value comes from carbs.  All of this serves to illustrate a point when it comes to determining what foods fit into which macro  “categories”.

My general rule of thumb: it goes in whichever category it has the largest value.

 

Why even discuss this topic? Because when you’re trying to plan out your day/week/etc. it is helpful to know what foods fit where. Having this extra knowledge also helps you navigate food choices “in the real world” when your plans go awry or you simply just want Chipotle for lunch.

“Just Tell Me What to Eat”: Learning the System

Another issue that frequently arises when people begin implement a macros-based approach to dieting is that they just want someone to tell them exactly what to eat – what foods, which quantities, and when. Sorry, but if you want to be successful, for the long term, you’re going to have to put in a little leg work (#squatpun) and not rely on someone telling you what to eat every moment of everyday. That works well for some but it can leave you in a situation where you’re unsure of what to do when life throws you a curveball (or parmesan fries). Knowledge is power, right?

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“Plan The Work”: Planning Ahead

Now that we’ve all agreed on that, let’s discuss how you can make your life a little easier by planning ahead. So if you have “numbers” to meet, how do you plan out your food intake? There are a few different strategies:

 

  1. Pre-plan and prepare every meal of every day for the week: This pretty much ensures compliance and that you’re not thinking about food all the time…but it can get pretty boring and be a little more work than some people want to put in. This also gives you flexibility with your foods because you know where you can substitute and make adjustments.

  2. Pre-plan a day at a time: You can make, pack up, and track your food for the next day the night before. This definitely helps with compliance and helps you not think about food 24/7. This has the same flexibility as strategy #1.

  3. Wing it: Just go through your day, eat food, and make it “fit your macros” as you go.

 

The best strategy is the one that works for you. I personally use a combination of all three. I often make some large batches of food for the week that I know I’m going to eat, I pack and track my food the night before, and then if I want to eat something different, I just simply look at where I can substitute and make adjustments and adjust accordingly. Again, having the knowledge of what foods fit into your plan makes flexibility easy.

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“Work The Plan”: Strategies for Implementation (and nerdy things!)

So you know your macros, you know all about fats/proteins/carbs, you have a strategy for how you plan your work…now it’s time to work the plan. It has been well-established that I am a spreadsheet geek of the highest magnitude and for that reason, I use spreadsheets to make my nutrition life easier. I know what macros I’m supposed to eat on what day (I carb cycle) and while I no longer rely heavily on them, I have created “meal templates” to help me organize my grocery shopping, food prepping, and general nutrition for the week.

 

First, I select a bunch of foods that I like to eat. There is no reason to eat stuff that you don’t enjoy.  I simply make a list of various sources of foods and their corresponding macronutrients according to my tastes, preferences, and what I buy often. In the grand scheme of things, food selection is NOT going to make a hugely measurable impact on physique changes. It can and will make an impact on other health factors. Choose things you like to eat and things you eat often :

Protein

Carbohydrate

Fats

Chicken breast

Gluten-free oatmeal

Coconut oil

Ground beef

White rice

Bacon

Eggs

Sweet potato

Peanut butter cups (duh)

Then, if you really want to get nerdy, you can create a table for the amount of macronutrients in each of said items by looking up nutritional info via a variety of databases and your bff Google.  Example:

PROTEIN

kcals

(g) grams PRO

(g) grams CHO

(g) grams FFA

6 oz. (cooked) chicken breast

180

38

0

6

This step definitely isn’t necessary (because apps can do that for you) but it IS a helpful exercise to learn about the different macronutrient values in a variety of foods.

 

Next, you can plan out how many macros you want to include in each meal and how many meals you want to eat. This is helpful if you want to plan and prep your meals ahead of time and it is also helpful for building some flexibility into your plan.  Here is an example:

MEAL

Protein

Carbs

Fats

meal 1

23

44

12

meal 2

23

44

12

meal 3

23

44

12

meal 4

23

44

12

meal 5

23

44

12

It’s important to remember to not let perfection be the enemy of good – I don’t expect to hit my macros dead on every single day because life happens. At the same time, while I may plan out my day to look like 5 evenly distributed meals, I may decided to grab lunch from somewhere and maybe have more calories or protein or carbs or whatever at that meal then I’ve “scheduled”. No big deal, I’ve already got a road map of where I am going to end up, so I just make adjustments on how I get there. See? Flexibility.

 

Is all of this planning and spreadsheeting necessary? Absolutely not. BUT it can be helpful if you’re feeling a little lost on how to implement flexible dieting principles into your life.

The War on Bodies: Loving Your Body vs. Changing Your Body

It seems like a day cannot go by without there being a blog post, article, etc. being posted about body acceptance, being kind, and how to sort of “break free” from the cycle of being unkind to yourself. I’ve got no qualms with this – in fact, I think that’s pretty important stuff. And I would MUCH rather see my Facebook feed filled with articles about that than the “get a six pack in six days” articles. What I do take issue with, however, is the weird phenomenon of portraying the process of physique change or even something as simple as “hey I’m going to tighten up my nutrition for a few weeks” as something that without question, is disordered and terrible and a body-hating, bash-yourself-in-the-face-with-salad process. Also, there is NO DOUBT that a good portion of the health and fitness industry sells diets that are just that (please eat 4 carrots, 1 piece of chicken, and 1 sweet potato because hashtagcleaneating) and that’s a significant problem. Living at the extremes is not a way to live, at all. I am certainly not bashing body positivity/acceptance – I think it’s pretty fantastic. I think body acceptance is probably THE  biggest contributor to success for most women who are looking to change their bodies, for the right reasons. I am NOT talking about getting smaller to take up  less space or fit into some socially defined notion of what an attractive person looks like – no, I’m talking about people trying to get healthy via losing fat, gaining muscle, or whatever their goal is. However, doesn’t it feel a little like all of the articles/posts/etc bashing on “dieting” utilizing this narrow focus are actually kind of sort of contributing to the problem?

 

Positioning the process of physique change as an abusive relationship that is directly in conflict with the process of self acceptance and self kindness is, in my opinion, completely unproductive and often, contradictory to the goals of what body positive messengers are trying to achieve. Sometimes these message smack of fear mongering (of which I have absolutely no patience for), and other times, it’s more subtle. But, the consistent theme is that if you love your body and think your body is a totally cool and awesome thing (and it is) then you better not want to change it. Sorry, but I don’t buy it.  And furthermore, if the process of self acceptance is touted as process in which you never want to change your body ever, then isn’t this process (in this conceptualization) setting people up for feelings of failure and dismay and guilt when they DO want to make changes or have a day when they’re feeling less-than-body-positive? And isn’t that exactly what the whole process of self acceptance is supposed to rally AGAINST? Isn’t it using the same logic that if you make changes to your body, then you don’t like yourself? Isn’t that what the fitness industry tries prey on all the time? And how is trading one end of the spectrum for the other productive? It’s not.

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The process of working hard to make some changes to your body SHOULD involve a parallel process of realizing that no pant size or bicep measurement is the key to happiness. And if it doesn’t, then you’re doing it wrong and I highly encourage you to reach out and seek support elsewhere. Self-acceptance, in my opinion, should be all about being able to just let things be things – numbers are just numbers, they do not dictate self worth and they shouldn’t impact how kind you are to yourself or your level of overall happiness. The notion of “get smaller, get happier” is sold to women ALL the time – they are told that their happiness, and their ultimate existence, is founded on being attractive (mostly to men, in a very heteronormative way) and that is a huge, massive problem.  And that’s an entirely different topic for another article. But it cannot be denied that the process of making peace with yourself is a critical part of lasting change.

 

Beyond my thoughts that creating this dichotomy is unproductive, I also think that it perpetuates itself via confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is a psychological concept that basically says that we make conclusions first and then look for evidence to support those conclusions after the fact. Think of an experience you’ve had where you already made up your mind about how that experience was going to go. Let’s take a fitness example: a person walks into a gym to start a new exercise program. They’ve tried gyms before but have always quit because they felt uncomfortable, dreaded exercise, and had a bad time. Unless this person has changed their mindset, there is no reason why this time is going to be any different. They’ve probably walked in with a set of expectations (“everyone is going to judge me”, “this isn’t going to be fun”, “I’m probably just going to fail again”). So instead of looking at this opportunity as something exciting with a  real possibility for positive outcomes, they’ve made up their mind that this isn’t going to end well. So now, they’re going to be on the lookout for things to confirm their conclusion – the person watching them is “judging”, the difficulty of the workout is “failure”, etc. That’s not to say that negative things are not occurring or don’t exist; but rather, because they are primed to look for negative things, the positive things are going to get crowded out. By making statements like dieting is abusive or dieting sucks all the time, etc. we are priming ourselves (and others) to only focus on the negatives. We set ourselves up for failure. We become active participants in turning bodies into a battleground.

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The common thread here is that it seems that, no matter what, women are sold the idea that there is a war on bodies. It often feels like you’re either on the side of the dieters or you’re on the side of the body acceptance camp but you sure as hell cannot be on both sides. It’s either: you can diet and feel shitty about yourself when you “slip up” (I hate that entire concept but let’s ignore that for now) OR you can feel shitty about yourself when you work like hell on self acceptance but still want to make changes to your body. But bottom line: you’re going to feel bad, so pick your poison.

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And this is not a media vs women, men vs women phenomenon. Quite often, it is women calling out other women – “if you love your body why would want to change it?” “Omg you look so thin! You must be super dedicated and spend your time working out and watching what you eat . I wish I had your determination but I have x,y,z.” “If you’re trying to lose weight, you clearly don’t like yourself.” All of that is absolute crap. All of it. All of these examples are shaming comments wrapped up in a pretty little pseudo compliment package. That’s not acceptable. It is not okay to make bodies into a battlefield through crappy “thin-praising” comments or commentary that infers what a person does or does not feel towards themselves.

Rather than spreading the message that physique change, for the right reasons, can be a healthy experience filled with learning, self-reflection, and knowledge gains – we say that it’s “hard” and it “sucks” and it’s “miserable”. Yes, it IS hard. But hard does not equal negative. Imagine if we told everyone that because working out is “hard”, we shouldn’t do it. It doesn’t make much sense. Instead of conceptualizing this “hard” process as something that is miserable, it needs to be conceptualized as something that is approachable, that is a learning experience, and that people can be successful at.  We SHOULD encourage people to be their own version of better – to be kinder, to let numbers be numbers, to show them that yes, you CAN achieve your version of better and big spoiler, it’s not going to involve your body fat percentage. BUT it is probably going to involve how you view that number.

 

So rather than creating a battleground, can’t we just stop waging war on bodies all together?