23 days ago
How I Stay Fit Despite Eating Fast Food and Drinking Alcohol
Here's me. Perfectionism is unnecessary.
This post isn't for people who gag at the prospect of eating french fries. I've been ridiculed for stating you can lose weight eating carbs and six-pack abs aren't good.
My family eats frozen processed meals and quick food most weeks (sometimes more). Clean eaters may think I'm unqualified to give fitness advice. I get it.
Hear me out, though. I’m a 44-year-old raising two busy kids with a weekly-traveling husband. Tutoring, dance, and guitar classes fill weeknights. I'm also juggling my job and freelancing.
I'm as worried and tired as my clients. I wish I ate only kale smoothies and salads. I can’t. Despite my mistakes, I'm fit. I won't promise you something just because it worked for me. But here’s a look at how I manage.
What I largely get right about eating
I have a flexible diet and track my daily intake. I count protein, fat, and carbs. Only on vacation or exceptional occasions do I not track.
My protein goal is 1 g per lb. I consume a lot of chicken breasts, eggs, turkey, and lean ground beef. I also occasionally drink protein shakes.
I eat 220–240 grams of carbs daily. My carb count depends on training volume and goals. I'm trying to lose weight slowly. If I want to lose weight faster, I cut carbs to 150-180.
My carbs include white rice, Daves Killer Bread, fruit, pasta, and veggies. I don't eat enough vegetables, so I take Athletic Greens. Also, V8.
Fat grams over 50 help me control my hormones. Recently, I've reached 70-80 grams. Cooking with olive oil. I eat daily dark chocolate. Eggs, butter, milk, and cheese contribute to the rest.
Those frozen meals? What can I say? Stouffer’s lasagna is sometimes needed. I order the healthiest fast food I can find (although I can never bring myself to order the salad). That's a chicken sandwich or a kid's hamburger. I rarely order fries. I eat slowly and savor each bite to feel full.
Potato chips and sugary cereals are in the pantry, but I'm not tempted. My kids eat them because I'd rather teach them moderation than total avoidance. If I eat them, I only eat one portion.
If you're not hungry and eating enough protein and fat, you won't want to eat everything in sight.
I drink once or twice a week. As a result, I rarely overdo it.
Food tracking is tedious and frustrating for many. Taking breaks and using estimates when eating out help. Not perfect, but realistic.
I practice a prolonged fast to enhance metabolic adaptability
Metabolic flexibility is the ability to switch between fuel sources (fat and carbs) based on activity intensity and time since eating. At rest or during low to moderate exertion, your body burns fat. Your body burns carbs after eating and during intense exercise.
Our metabolic flexibility can be hampered by lack of exercise, overeating, and stress. Our bodies become lousy fat burners, making weight loss difficult.
Once a week, I skip dinner (usually around 24 hours). Long-term fasting teaches my body to burn fat. It provides me one low-calorie day a week (I break the fast with a normal-sized dinner).
Fasting day helps me maintain my weight on weekends, when I typically overeat and drink.
Try an extended fast slowly. Delay breakfast by two hours. Next week, add two hours, etc. It takes practice to go that long without biting off your arm. I also suggest consulting your doctor.
I stay active.
I've always been active. As a child, I danced many nights a week, was on the high school dance team, and ran marathons in my 20s.
Often, I feel driven by an internal engine. Working from home makes it easy to exercise. If that’s not you, I get it. Everyone can benefit from raising their baseline.
After taking the kids to school, I walk two miles around the neighborhood. When I need to think, I switch off podcasts. First thing in the morning, I go for a walk.
I lift weights Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. 45 minutes is typical. I run 45-90 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday. I'm slow but reliable. On Saturdays and Sundays, I walk and add a short spin class if I'm not too tired.
I almost never forgo sleep.
I rarely stay up past 10 p.m., much to my night-owl husband's dismay. My 7-8-hour nights help me recover from workouts and handle stress. Without it, I'm grumpy.
I suppose sleep duration matters more than bedtime. Some people just can't fall asleep early. Internal clock and genetics determine sleep and wake hours.
Fitness and diet advice is often useless. Some of the advice is inaccurate, dangerous, or difficult to follow if you have a life. I want to throw a shoe at my screen when I see headlines promising to speed up my metabolism or help me lose fat.
I studied exercise physiology for years. No shortcuts exist. No medications or cleanses reset metabolism. I play the hand I'm dealt. I realize that just because something works for me, it won't for you.
If I wanted 15% body fat and ripped abs, I'd have to be stricter. I occasionally think I’d like to get there. But then I remember I’m happy with my life. I like fast food and beer. Pizza and margaritas are favorites (not every day).
You can get it mostly right and live a healthy life.