“You workout… you can eat what you want”
Have any of you heard this line before? My boss brought in a bunch of Girl Scout cookies into the office last week and I politely declined saying I wasn’t hungry and I had hit a sweets quota over the weekend when I worked at a chocolate fundraising event. His response? “Monique, you work out all the time. You can eat a cookie… or 5… and be fine.” Well, he’s probably right, but does that make it ok? Does the fact that I workout mean that I can eat what I want and not have to worry? Well, no. It doesn’t.
I’ve heard that 90% of how you look is what you eat. It’s what you put into your body. What you’re fueling yourself with. If your diet is made up of constant pizza, ice cream, cheese burgers and French fries, you’re going to have to work out a lot longer than a few hours a day to try and counteract that, right? And, if that is your diet on a consistent basis, do you think you’ll have the energy and motivation to get to the gym to “work it off”? Probably not. I know when I have off days with eating where I find myself eating greasy food, chips and sweets, it brings my mood down, makes me cranky and also makes me lethargic. On the other hand, when I have a day where I fuel myself properly with fruits, veggies, yogurt, nuts, etc., my energy is usually cranking and I want to get to the gym to keep the healthy feeling going. When I look and feel good because of what I’ve eaten and what I’ve been doing at the gym, it serves as motivation to keep doing those things.
But this doesn’t always happen and sometimes we all fall off the wagon, right? It may just be a day or a few days, and while those aren’t going to throw away all of the hard work you’ve done to look and feel good (just like eating a cookie), it’s important to get yourself back on track to where you’re eating foods that make you feel good.
The point is, I workout hard and often because I love it and because I like to look and feel my best. I realize that having a cookie isn’t going to throw all of my hard work away, but the mind frame of “I workout so I can eat what I want”, could throw it away over time, or not give you the results you’re looking for after spending day after day at the gym (side note: my friend, Mary, wrote an awesome guest post on Athena’s blog talking about her “Journey to Fit” and when she had her “ah ha” moment about not being able to out-exercise her diet, she started to see the changes she wanted. It’s definitely worth a read if you haven’t read it yet). If you’re making the time to get to the gym with the goal to get stronger, leaner and more toned, you really need to commit to that and fuel your body to help foster that change.
Here are some ways I fuel my body to help make me look and feel good, as well as prepare me for my workouts:
- Eat lots of veggies- I bring a salad for lunch at work every day, making sure to load it up with veggies, spinach, protein (chicken or turkey or eggs), healthy fats (avocado or nuts) and dairy (cheese). I also make sure my dinners have loads of veggies in them.
- Eat lots of fruit- I have a banana, apple and berries on a daily basis. To go with my salad for lunch at work, I have a Greek yogurt with berries and chia seeds. This lunch helps keep me satisfied for at least a few hours.
- Eat healthy fats- I always have almonds with me for a snack, as well as almond butter and/or peanut butter. I also try to eat avocados whenever I can.
- Dairy- I know there’s a lot of debate on whether or not we need dairy in our diets, but since I don’t have any issues with it, I enjoy that piece of my diet. I love cereal and have it almost daily. I recently made the switch to 1% milk instead of Skim and it’s such a difference… for the better!
- Protein! Since I’m at the gym so much, I really need to make sure I’m eating enough protein to support my growing muscles. I’ve contemplated adding a protein powder into my diet, but haven’t made that jump yet. For now, I’m making sure I eat plenty of nut butters, lean chicken or other meats, eggs, etc.
With that said, I’m not strict with my diet and I have cheat days, too. I don’t restrict anything from my diet, but I am trying to cut back on sweets. I was good over the summer, but over the past 3-4 months, my sweet tooth has been out of control, which is part of the reason why I turned down the cookie. It was 10am and the last thing I needed to do was crank up my sweet tooth at that time of the day. I’ll never cut out sweets entirely because I love them too much, but cutting back and getting rid of the cravings is my goal over the next few months.
So, I want to hear from you! Do people give you a hard time when you turn down an indulgence (sweets, chips, fried food, etc.)? How do you handle that? How do you fuel your body for your workouts and day to day activities? What’s one piece of your diet that you swear by the most? What’s your biggest weakness- sweets or savory foods? Any tips you want to share that help you stay on track with your eating and workouts?
**Side note… when I say “diet”, I mean what you eat on a daily basis and things you try to incorporate or leave out. I don’t mean a “diet” where you’re counting calories or points or restricting yourself or anything like that. I don’t believe in those types of diets because I think if you eat REAL foods (staying away from over-processed snacks, meals, etc.), 80-90% of the time, you deserve to have 10-20% of your diet to be a little less structured (I stay on track all week, but on the weekends, if I want a beer with lunch or French fries with my sandwich instead of a salad… I do it. We all deserve to indulge a little, otherwise we’ll end up binging in the long run.).