I grew up, like many 90's kids, on a mix of home cooked and packaged meals. Lots of Pop-Tarts, Chef Boyardee ravioli, and Lunchables intertwined with pork chops and broccoli, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and fresh picked blackberries. I ate fast food, drank Capri Sun, and lived for dessert. This doesn't make me any less healthy now than kids who grew up on organic-only produce with moms who spent hours each day preparing their meals. I'm just providing context that I did not grow up in a world of deprivation or food shame.
After my initial bout with anorexia at 13, I attended boarding school and college, where I was a most-of-the-time vegetarian. At the time I gave the response that I didn't find any of the dining hall meat options appetizing but looking back I think it was a small piece of restriction I placed upon my diet. I didn't yet understand nutrition the way I do now and thought meat was less "healthy" than vegetarian options.
As a Kinesiology major in college, I took classes that pushed a vegan eating style and the incredibly low fat Ornish diet as the gold standard of nutrition. I trusted my teachers and adopted that diet while running 50-60 miles a week. Looking back again, I was starving all of the time and would threaten skewering my boyfriend's hand with a fork if he dared take a bite of my food.
After college, I joined and started working at a gym that pushed a paleo, Whole-30 style diet. I was resistant at first but agreed to try it. My body responded hungrily and rapidly to all of the protein I had been denying it for years. I felt incredible despite the sadness of cutting out some of my favorite foods like oatmeal and black beans. More 20/20 vision, I see the familiar comfort of restricting certain food groups maintain its omnipresent allure.
In 2017, I started working for a start-up selling gluten-free, dairy-free chef prepared meals. I loved the job and I fit in seamlessly with the fit and healthy culture. While working an event at a CrossFit gym, I saw a presentation from Hanna and Macros & Muscles Nutrition. Hanna had the best body I'd ever seen (she still does!) and I approached the group after the presentation, saying I would pay any amount of money to look like her. And I started counting macronutrients.
Counting macros is similar to counting calories or points like they do in Weight Watchers, but you focus on the grams of each macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) consumed each day. Alcohol is separate and there are a few different ways to track the calories consumed from alcohol as they cannot be used as energy by the body. I used My Fitness Pal initially and have since switched to Cronometer. My story with macros is a long and winding one so I'll tackle different phases of it in subsequent posts but I think my nutrition story before finding macros provides context.
I've tried almost everything! Except keto. I love carbs. My body runs really well on carbohydrates and as soon as I incorporated grains back into my diet post-paleo, I knew I'd never go back to a life without oatmeal. The biggest thing I've learned is that different diets work incredibly differently for each person. Experiment with what makes you FEEL best and always clue into your "why" behind trying something new. Restricting grains because they make you feel sluggish is very different from not eating grains because you're afraid they'll make you fat.