Do you mind your macros [too much]?

Macros, hm? A topic that is constantly present in my life yet not. Not in that I don’t care about my macro split in the least yet present still because macro talk is an everyday given in the media and on all social media platforms, particularly blogs and Instagram.

The other day, I saw a girl, no, woman state her insecurity about eating at work. Knowing her colleagues might comment on her choices [plenty of grain-based meals aka ‘carbs’] like they had in the past. So for fear of comments this grown-up woman and mum of a little one went through her work day not eating a single bite until she got home in the afternoon. Luckily, in her post she was opening up about these struggles and making the resolution to start bringing food to work again – a small success . What is making me very sad, though, is knowing she’s no exception.

Just a short time browsing blogs, not only WIAW posts, is enough to spy a lot of macronutrient-embracing language or ‘excuses’ for cosuming ‘too much’ of a particular macros..

“I love carbs!”

“Give me alllll the carbs!” vs. “Give me allll the fats!”

and on the guilty side

“Wow, I ate a lot of carbs today. Not enough protein in there.”

“Carbs on carbs on carbs – at least I had some vegetables on the side!”

*Protein never seems to require any further explanations because it’s the one ‘good guy’ everyone seems to agree on. Which is funny as it’s the one macronutrient that – when consumed in excess – may potentially lead to kidney diseases of some individuals so it’s not  a one-fits-all recommendation.

Onto the first category: Macro-embracing so: what’s wrong with that you ask? Nothing in general and I want to stress that I am not judging you or anybody who’s using this language. What I’m curious about is the reasoning behind these statements. Why do we feel the need to enthusiastically show our fondness of certain macronutrients? What I assume is that we – collectively as a generation; our grandparents sure didn’t count macros  – want to shout from the rooftops how unafraid of the ‘big bad’ carbs/fat we are. In some cases there’s what seems to be an added justification  [“eating all the carbs because: leg day!”].  Actually a sad fact. We should not be afraid because for heaven’s sake it’s all just food. Carbohydrates. Fats. Protein. Food. We do not need to earn food or explain our choices to anybody. Period.

Yes, by now the example is way overused but: look at the way children eat. Have you ever seen a toddler call for ‘more protein, hold the bread, please!”? Carefully shove aside the rice on his plate, eating only vegetables and protein? We’re not much different from toddlers when it comes to food. Grown-up, yes. Yet our minds have been manipulated by food companies, magazines and the likes to return to an almost infant-like state. Absorbing information that more confuses than empowers us or strengthens our intuitive knowledge of what’s good for us. The more often we’re told protein was key for saturation and carbs made us sluggish, the more likely we are to accept these statements as truths; no matter if they actually are for us personally.

A car isn’t proud to tout the fact it’s slurping up allll the gas. We know the fact of the latter being its prime [or in the machine’s case: only] source of fuel much like ours/our brain’s are carbohydrates [side note: yes, I’ve heard of the keto diet but don’t agree with its idea of ‘forcing’ our organism to use fat as its main fuel]. No need to explain, much less defend a natural inclination to eat these wonderful nutrients and plenty of them.

Nut butter drizzle

The average healthy person should give a flying fudge* about macronutrient amounts. Especially since no day is different – and no, this is not related to whatever kind of workout we do or don’t do – needs for certain macros vary. Trying to preplan and manage macros is a waste of time and revelry against our bodies’ intuitive wisdom.  Whether you are keen on carbs, fancying fat or partial to protein: it doesn’t change my view or opinion of you in the very least. In fact, an inclination to eat more of one macronutrient might very well be genetically predisposed. Trying to modify our genetic preferences a) doesn’t work, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves and b) ultimately leaves us constantly feeling unsatisifed. Athletes altering their macro intake for perfomance are an entirely different topic that would justify a post on its own so I didn’t include it here.

Quark_protein

I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk about food. Please, I’m a blogger after all, too. But I wish we would change the way we talk about food. Not seeing it as its macronutrients but: Colours. Visual appeal. Taste! We as a society are [mostly] in the lucky situation – different from our grandparents’ generation or the populations of other countries – to see food as far more than fuel [aka: macros or energy]. We eat for taste, pleasure, fun and all these require no explanation, no defenses. Just appreciation for good food.

*purty expression borrowed from a British friend of mine

Happiness-inducing today: A client bringing in a little food gift for me specifically in addition to cake for the whole team [which has become a regular whenever she visits]. It wasn’t so much about the food but the thoughtfulness and unexpected appreciation.

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It might not surprise you when I say I could have gone on and on about the topic. Yet this post is long enough as is already and I only spontaneously decided to join Amanda’s Thursday thinking party so I’ll hand the mic over to you. Let me know your thoughts in the comments! If you have talked about macros in similar ways as mentoned here: was there a reason? I might be wrong with my assumptions on the ‘why’ and would happily find out people’s reasons.

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Stop working out to earn [or burn] your food.

February happens to be National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) month and as somebody in recovery myself I have taken part in it several times before. This time touching on a topic not only those diagnosed with an eating disorder deal with.

 

Eating a bagel for breakfast  = run for 45minutes.*

An ice cream sundae =  a 75-minute spinning class.*

A few handfuls of chips = lifting weights for more than an hour. *

No, I didn’t make up the numbers above. Chances are you’ve seen these kind of equations on a magazine or somewhere online*. And if you’ve spent just a few weeks or months around the blog world or on Instagram – and most of us have been around for much longer, right? – you’ll have seen it there, too. “I know this day seems carb-heavy but: leg day!” or “deserved this treat after a hard session at the gym”. I’m not shaming any of the people making these statements because I’ve been there and occasionally still find my mind drifting off. In the past months, though, I’ve made progress here and being forced to lay off any exercise aside from walking helped change my thoughts.

You don’t need to work out like a mad [wo]man to “deserve food – or rest.

You don’t need to justify your food choices through the exercise you’ve done.

Would you deny a toddler, a doctor [somebody working mostly sedentary] or your frail grandma food? Restrict their intakes because they hardly move throughout the day? Actually,  you wouldn’t deny your rabbit/cat/dog food or hush it around the block for another lap making sure it truly deserved its food, either, no? Deny your child a snack on a long car ride because it didn’t [get a chance to] move?  Granted, there might be mums who do but I’d like to think they’re the exceptions.

Are you nodding now and saying yes, sure, point made but these examples are different from you? They’re not.

You, a toddler, your grandma: all human beings. All deserving of nourishment – in large enough quantities – to exist. Breathe. Get sh*t done [if that’s the way you want to express it]. Actually, yes, you do need to work for your food: by earning the money to pay grocery bills but that’s about the only connection between earning and food. Speaking off earning and assuming most of us either work in desk jobs or study: never forget mental work counts, too. Our brains run on glucose = your carb cravings explained. Or just don’t seek for any explanations.

I’m not suggesting for everybody to stop exercising completely and sit around all day long stuffing their face with all. the. food. Extremes again, huh? Rather, tuning into our intuition will lead us to make the right choices food-wise. And by right I mean right to keep us fuelled and happy throughout daily life – carbs and protein, pasta  and cookies just like nut butter and Greek yogurt.

Almond butter jar_Mandelmus

If we were to take this concept further the same is true for resting. There’s no need to explain why you “deserve” binge-watching your favourite show on Netflix at night. Unless that’s all you do all day every day while bossing others around to work for you. In that case please move your butt off the sofa and get work done.

The problem with shifting the mindset of earning food is its ever-presence in our society that makes it impossible to ignore*. Blogs, magazines, TV shows constantly praise the mentality of “burning off your food” and in also glorify the idea of under-eating [hello, 1200-calorie meal plans].

Exercising just for the sake of it: A gift we – myself included – often take for granted. A luxury exclusive to us living in a society where we don’t need to worry about the availability of food to refuel. An activity that some of us even turn around to be punishment for eating “too much”.

* unless you lived under rock which you shouldn’t feel bad to admit as it’d honestly be an admirable state of blissful ignorance here!

You deserve food. You deserve rest. As much of both as you need to feel energized and ready to tackle your days. Eat. Exercise. Don’t make the former depend on the latter but only the other way around in eating enough to fuel your workouts.

 

No questions. Just your thoughts on the topic.

Happiness inducing today: Many many small things all throughout my day. The sun shining. A short chat with my colleagues in between wokring.

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Are you sure you didn’t accomplish anything at all?

Wise words spoken [or rather: written] by two wonderful ladies inspired this post reminding me to acknowledge all the little things in life. After taking part in Meg’s Week in Review these past weeks I’ve developed a new sense of seeing personal success. Not [only] in the big things – receiving the Novel price and the likes, you know  😉 – but the small, seemingly mundane happings that escape our memory all too easily. Let’s think [and talk] about that today.

Let's talk

 

But I didn’t really achieve that much compared to [insert name].

But everybody else is working out much harder. My easy three miles are nothing compared to [insert another name again].

If only I was an early riser like everybody else – I could get so much more done!

If only I’d prepped my meals like every other good blogger I wouldn’t have eaten out that often/spent so much on groceries.

 

That’s a lot of if, a lot of but and mostly a lot of not helpful. Sure, getting down on and being unhappy with ourselves is always an option. Usually the go-to option, right? Also the worst option as it feeds a vicious cycle of being stuck in the mindset of ‘never good enough’ = just give up trying in the first place because what you can’t change anything after all, no?

The truth is: yes, you – and I – probably didn’t achieve as much as the next person who’s juggling family life, marathon running, meal prepping like a pro and blogs six times a week along with working a full-time gig. But you might very well have achieved a lot for your own measures. It’s about first listing up and looking at what you did during the past week/month. What made you feel good and happy. And then scaling this list of accomplishments up with what you know is [currently or in general] possible for you. This one being my main point here but if you’re confused let me elaborate:

Maybe you’re struggling with depression. An eating disorder. Or simply are an introvert working in an extroverted business that makes you feel drained by Friday night.Or none of these but you’re just feeling overwhelmed by expectations. These obstacles are your heavy luggage in this game called life. I’d venture to guess most of us carry one or more of these around with us. That one big underlying issue or thing we need to face day by day along with any daily chores or jobs. Or even if you don’t have one specific  heavy luggage you could feel overwhelmed more easily than somebody else. And that is okay. Some of us are extroverted social butterflies who thrive going out with friends after work while others are glad to put on their PJs and Netflix [much needed me time] after work. Some of us can knock out 50+ hours at their jobs [yes, I know those people] while others are exhausted just thinking about that.

PJ pants_striped_bed

It’s about knowing the limits of what you can handle. While it might not be able to say no to every additional task you’re assigned or skip every social event that makes you feel anxious you being aware of your limits helps you see your achievements. Because if you did Don’t let anybody tell you taking care of yourself wasn’t an achievement in itself. I’m trying to not center this post around EDs but if you’re in recovery from one you’ll know that something as seemingly simple as eating every meal is a win. If you suffer from depression getting up is one. A friend of mine is dealing with extreme social anxiety. For her, going to a crowded mall is an achievement while it would be fun for me. We all carry our own little “packages” around and what’s an easy breezy walk for some might mean conquering Mount Everest for you. Breathe. It’s okay. Go at your own speed and if you decide walking the whole way is too much today you can still give yourself a pat on the back for trying. Making steps and staying on the move at all is enough.

Don’t measure your own days up to somebody who has a completely different character, living a different life and having a different background. Celebrate your personal wins.

If you’re struggling – with whatever it might be – at the moment the simple act of taking care of yourself is worth being acknowledged. Many times others will – intentionally or not – make you feel bad for not doing this/only doing that. The [unfortunate] truth is that if you’re burdened by any special condition [especially mental illnesses] outsiders won’t be able to see that what you do is a lot indeed when it’s not up to par with what the average Joe does. But: you are the only one knowing your personal limits. Knowing the amount of work you’re able to fit into a week. Knowing when you need to slow down and take time to recharge. Don’t get me wrong: This isn’t an encouragement for laziness. If you’re [mentally and physically] healthy yet still only lying around doing nothing and eating fries then this isn’t your excuse to keep doing this. For 99.5 % of us this isn’t the reality, though. We all achieve different things every week. And whatever it is that you’re putting your creative and physical energy into day by day: it’s worth celebrating.

 

Happiness-inducing today: An day that was probably exhausting but felt good. I’d have to write a novel to explain this so will leave it at this condensed version.

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No specific questions but just tell me whichever thoughts you have on this topic. I’m sure many can relate.

Why adopting a new diet attracts us so much in recovery.

Before continuing please know that I’m not hating on any diet and say this with a certain group of people in mind. Not every follower of the vegan/paleo/raw or a similar diet is necessarily eating disordered.

Recovering from an eating disorder is hard. Very hard. Especially because it means letting go, allowing the life and appearance you had to change.

I’m not making myself an exception here. Letting go of control is the biggest struggle for me. Intuitive eating is scary for the very reason it offers no set rules. Am I eating too much? Just out of boredom or could I actually still be hungry? Does that little occasional itch mean I should cut out [insert food]? Is eating x amount of fat okay?

It’s been said a million times already but bears repeating here:

Extremes are easy, balance is not. But what exactly does that mean in terms of eating and exercise? I’m no epert but here are my thoughts on a phenomenon I’ve noticed on social media for years.

Thinking-Out-Loud

Many people all over Instagram – yes, that one neverending source of post inspiration again – are following lifestyles like vegan, high carb low fat (HCLF), paleo, ‘clean’ eating, raw or keto suddenly feel amazing and shun their previous lifestyles. They could never ever eat [insert food] again. They have so much more energy and . And oh, yes, grains/fat/dairy/insert food not compliant with new diet never worked well for their system or appealed to them. They were the child that hated candy and sugar is the devil in anyway so they’re glad they never crave it.

All nice and well. It’s your freedom to post what you want. Only: I [usually] don’t buy it. While yes, for people with a healthy mindset any lifestyle can work well – recovery is different. Or not only that but anybody who went about exploring and following one of these lifestyles primarily for health reasons.

Bremen_Vengo_stuffed eggplant_March 2015

Any kind of diet comes with a set of rules, occasionally some sort of ‘guru’ or other role models with thousands of followers on social media to look up to and ask for advice. What you’re allowed to eat and what not. The macro balance to strive for. If you’re choosing one like veganism for ethical reasons it’s not should or shouldn’t but a conscious decision to abstain from certain foods for the benefit of animals and yes, potentially your own well-being, too. The problem is that there’s a fine line for anybody recovering from an eating disorder when choosing any kind of diet.

I absolutely believe it’s possible to choose a diet different from the one you grew up on after recovery. And yes, there are always exceptions. People who can change their diet in the midst of recovery and in fact suddenly find it easier to gain, tackle fear foods or eat out again. But I’d venture to guess this is the minority. Yes, I’m lacto-vegetarian and yes, that is what some people would consider restrictive. And also yes, I do second-guess my choices every now and then to make sure they’re not coming from a place of restriction. Though I’d been vegetarian for a few years before my ED set I still consider myself in a learning process as with many things in recovery.

It’s hard to give any final advice on how to determine whether or not somebody’s choice for a certain diet comes from a healthy mindset or not. My best suggestion would be to both ask question yourself and your choices regularly as well as having an outside person – at best an expert like a dietitian – evaluate your recovery journey. Which in itself is hard to judge as a person might be long recovered physically but the mind could take years longer to heal [so the “weight-restored” claim doesn’t say much]. A time when our environment deems us healthy but we might still be easily susceptible to any kind of detox/new diet.

Baked II

We want [food and life] freedom but the idea of letting go simultaneously scares us. Hence why we’re all ears the very second we hear of a new trend: intermittent fasting? Sugar detox? HCLF? LCHF? Tell. Me. more. <- the typical – occasionally unconscious – response [= clicking on the title of a post promising information before you gave a second thought on how beneficial reading it would be for you] of anybody who has dealt with any kind of disordered eating, is recovering from an ED, body image struggles or constantly trying to improve their diet.

Potential questions to ask or let somebody else ask you: Are you still consequently following the path of recovery you did before [i.e. trying higher fat foods, “unhealthy”/less nutritious foods], socializing more instead of using food as an excuse to opt out of invitations? Are you being flexible with trace amounts of, say, dairy if you’re usually eating vegan?

Like I said: I’m not perfect here, either. Hence why I also won’t change anything about my diet in terms of cutting any more foods out. Enough about me and my ramblings, though. I’m dropping the micro and am curious for your take on the issue.

 

 

Happiness-inducing today: An overall good day filled with lots of smaller and bigger happiness-inducers.

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Once more no specific question. Just tell me any thoughts you have on the issue.

 

WIAW: Real food versus protein bars

Hello, hello, hello. Welcome, welcome, welcome. Is it that late already? I always forget about the time.

Are you confused? I know I would be and very much was after the theatre play I saw on Monday. That’s where the above lines come from though they probably were the easiest understandable part of the whole story. No theatre review here, though, but some much easier comprehensive food talk featuring some of Monday’s meals.  Thanks to Jenn and Laura for hosting today’s What I ate Wednesday shenanigans!

WIAW_new2015

By now you should know I’m not the person for average breakfasts. Most mornings, I don’t like breakfast at all because I hardly ever know what I want to eat. Yet skipping is no option. Luckily, Monday was rushed so I ran a few errands and then quickly packed breakfast/first lunch (?) to-go as I just got note there was a teaching assignment for me that early afternoon. Polenta had been absent from my diet for months – shockingly and not okay – so its quick preparation turned it into my breakfast savior along with Brussels sprouts, tomatoes and chickpeas, all seasoned with my favourite organic curry blend. If you haven’t tried microwaving polenta yet you’re missing out. It’s the most fuss-free/no-second-pot needed/less clean-up prep method ever.

Polenta_breakfast_tupper

 

Lunch was a two-part story as we were heading out in the afternoon shortly after I came home from teaching German. The first part was a repeat of breakfast – did I mention a slight obsession with polenta? – but as I didn’t take a picture again here’s yesterday’s candlelight lunch instead. Yes, lunch and yes, already dark. The weather hasn’t been treating us kindly this week so far. Anyway, polenta with thyme-y mushroom chickpea tomato stew was on the menu. When I like something, I really like it so polenta might very well stick around for a while.

Polenta_mushrooms

So … part two: my first ever whole Quest bar. Not my first ever Quest bar but the first I actually ate as a whole in one day. Here’s what I didn’t mention in my post a while ago. For me, Quest bars or any kind of protein bar actually aren’t safe foods hindering recovery. Eating them as opposed to real treats like chocolate that I have every day is the challenge.

I was glad to get lucky in receiving these Quest bars as it gave me two boxes of challenges. Because you might be wondering: I liked the S’mores flavor. I’ve never had an actual S’more before meaning no expectations could be met or disappointed. The con for me is that the bar overall is very sticky-sweet. Pros are the chocolate pieces [are you surprised in any way?] and what I guess are supposed to mimic graham crackers plus the cinnamony taste. More interesting for me, though, was the saturation factor. Protein is believed to be that super macro filling you up like no other after all. I was doubtful if I bar could deliver this.

Quest bar_protein_s'mores

Verdict? I was positively surprised but not overly impressed in this point. Not overly impressed because I didn’t feel full the same way I do with protein from real food sources. Positively surprised hours later when we returned home and I didn’t crave the Greek yogurt that usually acts as part of my night snack. That’s my interest in macros: I don’t prefer a certain one but will keep experimenting to see how I react to them. Neither carbs, nor fat or protein are inherently good or bad to me. In relearning to trust my intuition. I see them all as equal and try to find my happy balance. At the moment, I tend to need a little extra protein with my meals but I opt for real foods like legues, cottage cheese and above-mentioned Greek yogurt to fill the void.

As we were out and about the remainder of my meals escaped the camera or were eaten before I remembered to get it out. Life > taking pictures. Not like I wasn’t curious about everybody else’s meals, though …

Enjoy your Wednesday and eat some good food!

 

Happiness-inducing today:Editing yet another text. What can I say? It’s my element.

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I’m really curious: Do you find protein or Quest bars in specific  filling?

Have you noticed yourself gping through phases of needing more of a certain macros [even iff – like me – you don’t track them]?


Food with a side of guilt

It’s Wednesday. Or What I ate Wednesday for a large part of the blog world but I won’t play along today. Rather, we’ll talking about something that’s been making me a little sad in some of these posts. Again, I might be interpreting something others don’t see into these observations – in that case I will blame 12th grade German classes in school.

Let's talk

Why do we try to explain eating that piece of chocolate by stating we worked out extra hard that day and ‘deserved it’. Or when did we start feeling like we had to state a certain day shown was “rather carb-heavy” or “more indulgent day than usual”? Or making a point that we balanced out that piece of cake with plenty of vegetables at dinner? Or state that yes, we ate a lot but we also exercised for this and that long? Don’t hashtag your meals #cheat, #YOLO or #sorrynotsorry or state that you “don’t eat that way every day”. Yes, it’s called the healthy living blog world. But healthy isn’t about eating ‘clean’ all day every day. It’s not about eating vegetables at every meal. Not even about eating vegetables every day if you don’t feel them.

When I stumble upon your WIAW I don’t analyze your choices and categorize you: “glutton!”, “how can she eat grains for every meal?”, “geee, that’s a boatload of almond butter”. No. Rather, I – and I’ll make the advanced guess this is true for the majority of readers – am curious about seeing different people’s days of food. Actually, I might find you a little more sympathetic if you have a huge sweet tooth and heavy hand on the nut butter, too. Choose the foods you genuinely enjoy eating and that make you feel good. Again, I might be more sensitive here but I wonder if these defending statements hide an insecurity or shame for the choices these people made.

Vapiano

What would be the worst outcome? Strangers assuming you had a deep love for pizza, pasta or pie if that’s what you happen to have enjoyed on a given day? That doesn’t sound too awful to me and again: I don’t think people judge like this. Or if they do: never mind because: Those who mind don’t matter. Those who matter don’t mind. Just ask yourself how you read food posts. Do you make quick assumptions about people solely based on the food shown? I’d guess not. The same should go for everyday ‘real’ life. Aside from the fact nobody chooses their friends based on their food choices: Would we be more attracted to the girl ordering the salad with the dressing on the side or nothing [yes, that was me for too long] while you want to get pizza? Or the one who’s up for a spontaneous meal, doesn’t stress about macros and how much she worked out on a given day?**

** Please note that once again, I’m not shaming anybody for choosing a certain diet or lifestyle. My point are choices or statements coming – consciously or unconsciously –  from a place of guilt or shame.

eating out_Dean and David_curry_vegan

Let’s make more room to talk just about the food, not the macros. Tell me all about the deliciousness on your plate [by the way: the above plate was a vegan curry at Dean & David’s]. What I ate Wednesday: not about comparison [with yourself or others], judgement, restriction or guilt. All about enjoyment in food. It’s hard not to compare or push aside food guilt when one and a half million articles offering ‘healthy’ advice tell you to feel bad about carbs/fat/sugar. But we can make a start in stopping to explain our choices. It tastes fantastic and makes you feel good? It’s good for you. Because a free and happy mind can enjoy life more.

 

Happiness-inducing today:Seeing one etting one of the cutest puppies on my walk home and then spontaneously petting it. I’m not usually one to do that because you never know if the owners like it but I couldn’t resist. It definitely made me smile.

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Your thoughts on defnding food choices: Is it something you’ve noticed before? Do you find yourself justifying meals or treats through exercise or else? Let me know whatever comes to your mind on the topic.