I have already told you how important what I drink is in my overall daily diet. Now, I will explain how I eat.
Like practically every other female, I have dieted, lost weight, and regained weight my whole life. Like most other women, I have had my self worth and self love entangled with my weight and appearance as long as I have been dieting.
I honestly believe that at the ripe old age of 34, I may have figured out how to make the long term, sustainable lifestyle changes to my diet that will enable me to maintain the weight at which I feel my best. Please keep in mind that this is what worked for me. I do not claim that this is what will work for everyone, nor am I saying that this is what you should do.
I do, however, think this is a really great way for breastfeeding moms to eat as well.
Before even talking about food, it is critical we talk about thoughts.
Here are my fundamental truths:
1. Weight does not equal worth.
Weighing less does not make me a better mother, a more lovable wife, or a better Lactation Consultant. I am amazing with or without the extra forty pounds. So are you.
2. Indulge (allow the pleasure); don’t binge (engage in excess).
Until now, I have never truly acknowledged that I binge, but I have been bingeing my whole life. I think I always thought bingeing was hiding in a closet and secretly eating my entire pillowcase of Halloween candy. But, in reality, bingeing is just doing anything to excess. So, every time I ignored my “full” signal and kept eating because the food was sooo good, I was bingeing. Every time I purposefully ate until I had a stomachache, often because I was feeling bad feelings, I was bingeing.
I have realized bingeing is its own self -punishment. It causes gassiness, reflux, bloating, and so on. It is not comfortable. It is not the binge in isolation that is a problem for long term maintenance of a healthy weight. Rather, it is the danger of the binge sending me on a slippery slope.
3. I must stay off the slippery slope.
Just because I do something once or twice does not mean this is “something I do.” Meaning, if I make a mistake by bingeing or “quitting,” this choice does not now define me. Here is a peek inside where my screwed up head used to go and regularly tries to go:
“Well, Katie, you have already ruined your diet by eating this ice cream to the point of pain. This is what you always do. You don’t have the self-control to maintain a healthy diet. What is the point of trying when you are just going to blow it every time with bingeing?”
Now, I simply say to myself:
“Feel that nasty bloated, gassy feeling? That is what happens when you binge. You hate that feeling. Don’t do that again, K? K.”
4. If I follow my gut—literally—I can properly portion my foods.
Which leads me to gas and poop—something we talk about ad nauseum with babies but not enough about with adults. Now, I am not going to get all Dr. Oz on you and describe the shape and consistency of my stool, but I am going to speak a truth:
Everyone loves a good, clean shit.
Being gassy, heartburny, constipated, or pooping frequently… that sucks. It feels terrible and it is a pretty clear measuring stick of how your food and your body are jiving.
So, a large part of my motivation to eat the way I eat is to keep my gut happy. When my gut is happy, I am happy.
5. I eat like a baby- small frequent feeds.
I eat every three to four hours. It is a requirement for me to not get cranky and dizzy. I try to stop eating about two to three hours before I go to bed.
You, breastfeeding mama, never really go to bed. So, you should quite possibly eat as often as your baby eats if that is what your body seems to need.
6. I require cheese and carbs in my life. In fact, no food can be totally off limits to me. My defiant nature prevents me from adhering to any plan that tells me NO, so instead of always saying “no,” I allow myself to eat the things I like in moderation.
So, after all that, here it is: the way I eat.
This packet, given to my husband in 2009, has lived in our kitchen drawer for almost a decade. Joe and I have used this eating style multiple times to lose weight over the years. It is realistic, it is easy, it requires nothing fancy, and it works. (And no, we don’t do Crossfit).
This is The Zone Diet developed by Dr. Barry Sears, of no relation to Dr. Bill Sears, who interestingly enough was the father of my development into motherhood (until Lucy was about three and Attachment Parenting abandoned me… but that is a blog for another day).
I haven’t read a Zone book, nor do I cook Zone recipes from Pinterest, nor do I do Crossfit. I literally just use this.
The basic premise of this diet is balancing carbs, protein, and healthy fat at every meal. It is technically considered a “low carb, high protein” diet, but it doesn’t really feel that way to me. I get to eat carbs at every meal and that makes me happy.
Also, in this plan cheese is protein. This is key. For instance, in 21 Day Fix or most other popular Beach Body diet plans right now, you can only have a little blue cup of cheese or avocado per day. That just doesn’t work for me. I need to be able to eat cheese and bread at every meal.
The diet is based upon blocks. Each block is seven grams of protein, or about one ounce; nine grams of carbs, or about half a slice of bread; and one and a half grams of fat, or three nuts. Dependent on your current size and what you want to lose, you determine how many blocks you eat at each meal. I like to eat four three-block meals every day. I find eating the same sized meal at each meal keeps things simple and even throughout the day. But some people like larger meals and smaller snacks.
So my day looks like this:
3 block smoothie (i.e. 21 grams protein, 27 grams carbs, 4.5 grams fat)
3 block snack
3 block lunch
3 block snack (or I could move this to the evening after dinner)
3 block dinner
If I am hungrier and need another snack or meal, I eat it. I just keep it in balance!
Here is the trick: it is hard to eat this often, especially at work. It would also be hard to eat this much while breastfeeding because you have so little brainpower, free hands, time to prep meals, etc.
So, this is how I get around it:
7:00 am: Smoothie while driving to work (you would also pump during this, you multi-tasking wizard!)
10:00/10:30 am: This is my biggest challenge because I have no breaks between patients here. So, in order to get a snack in, it has to be very, very fast. No time to go to the fridge, heat anything up, or assemble anything.
My go-to for this meal is a snack bar. I acknowledge that it would be better to eat real food, and I am working on this currently, but it is more important to me that I eat here, so I choose one of the bars listed below. I have found that these are almost perfectly balanced and don’t taste like playdough or a packet of Sweet and Low. It is also pretty much like eating a candy bar, so take that for what it’s worth.
Think Thin: 20 gram protein bar in chunky peanut butter, creamy peanut butter, or brownie (3 blocks)
Builder Bar by Clif: 20 gram protein bar in chocolate peanut butter (3 blocks)
Balance Bar: 15 gram protein bar (2 blocks)
FYI: these are all loaded with soy.
If I have time to eat real food, I eat:
Goat Cheese or sharp cheddar with crackers, grapes, or apples and nuts
12:00-1:00 pm: Lunch
Since I have not really eaten actual food up to this point, it is important that I eat real, yummy food for lunch. On good weeks, I pre-prep all of these on Sunday. It is really important that I look forward to the lunch I have brought with me. It needs to have a yummy dressing or cheese or crunchy component in it.
This is often where I indulge and “cheat.” I should be using a vinaigrette on my salad, but I really love Marie’s Honey Mustard Dressing; Brianna’s Poppy Seed Dressing; and Trader Joe’s Cranberry, Walnut, and Gorgonzola Dressing. So, I eat them on my salad. I am also sure to balance the carbs in my salad out by adding pasta. Adding pasta to salad is revolutionary to me. Suddenly it is no longer just a stupid salad.
Here are some of my other lunch options:
• Throw variety of protein into a tortilla wrap or pita pocket or slice of bread
• Left over dinner
• Pita pocket or English muffin pizza
The key here is that I stop working, step out of my office, and focus on eating for about 10 minutes, ideally 15 or more, before jumping right back into the never-ending schedule of patients and piles of paperwork and emails that will never be “done.”
3:00 pm: Snack
This snack floats and is dependent on how I feel. Sometimes I need this snack to hold me over until dinner. Oftentimes, dinner at my house is at 5:00 pm before Joe heads into work, so I occasionally reserve this snack for after dinner if I am feeling good. I also am trying to attack my third, freshly filled Nalgene bottle of water at this time. So, that helps me hold over until dinner.
You, the breastfeeding mama, should probably always eat a snack here, especially if you aren’t sure when or what your next meal will be.
5:00-6:00 pm: Dinner
My husband spoils us rotten with his delicious cooking. When we got back together in 2011, we discovered that I have a lot of talents, but meal planning and cooking is not one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I can follow a recipe and make a meal if necessary, but I don’t like to cook. It stresses me out. I don’t have the focus or attention span to just cook. I often try to answer emails, fold laundry, and cook at the same time, which tends to lead to burning things.
So, Joe cooks. When he is doing this diet with me, meals are blocked out for me. When he isn’t doing this diet, he still makes a protein, carb, and veggie at every meal and it is simply my job to portion it properly. Yes, on this diet you are supposed to only eat lean meat, but you better believe I never pass up on my husband’s pork shoulder. No, you aren’t supposed to eat white potatoes or white flour, but if he makes his delicious roasted fingerling potatoes, I am eating that, too. I just make sure to eat the right amounts in the right ratios. Simple as that.
Then comes the evening. The floating snack. Or the extra snack if I feel hungry.
Here is the biggest problem for me: the evening dose of ice cream. After 8:00 pm is usually where there is the greatest likelihood of me falling flat on my face, bingeing and trying my damnedest to not hate myself.
I am not sure I have discovered the secret to success here, but I have survived with not depriving myself and not bingeing. Also, I have grown fond of frozen Greek yogurt. I like the honey flavor with warm peanut butter and walnuts lately. Maybe a few warm bakes apples. It isn’t quite “in balance,” but it is tasty and hits the late night yummy spot.
Other things that have worked for me: Weight Watchers ice cream bars, Skinny Cow sandwiches, or mini TJ’s ice cream sandwiches.
You should know that if we went out for ice cream, I would almost always get some. If we went out to dinner, I ordered what I wanted. These cheats were usually once a week and I was just sure to cheat, not binge. I ate until just before I was full and no more. It is critical to my success that I don’t feel deprived and it is really important that I not use the word “diet” or tell Lucy that I can’t eat certain things because I am “on a diet.” You know, because of that whole not wanting to screw her up thing.
Like all my recent lifestyle changes, modeling healthy habits for Lucy has been one the biggest motivating factors that have made me pay attention to my diet. Making these changes has also helped me feel my personal best, which in turn helps me be my best for the most important people in my life: my family and you, the breastfeeding mamas who come to me for help with their own journeys into motherhood.