“The thing I struggle with the most is, what should I eat? It seems fairly simple but the more I research the more confused I get!”
by Uri Carlson
If you’re nodding your head in agreement, keep reading.
I pulled this quote from an email just last week. As a dietitian/nutritionist, this is by far one of the most common challenges I hear about.
Thanks to the internet, influencers and entire books and websites dedicated to diets, nutrition is NOT simple.
I’m here because I want to help you start to transition away from what everyone else seems to be doing and instead work from the other end. Instead of letting a diet define your life and your style, the only way to truly find what will work for you, in the long run, is to take your lifestyle and design a “diet”.
To do this, first we need to determine your current intake. I start here because, 9 times out of 10, women aren’t eating enough.
If you feel like taking a nap every day at 2pm, you get home from work and want to eat everything in sight, or if you’re exercising consistently, but not seeing the body composition changes you want, these are all signs that your body is not getting enough fuel to sustain the daily functions that you expect of it.
Ideally, a woman that moves her body on a regular basis should not go more than 4 hours during the day without eating. Based on this, you will likely eat at least three meals and 2-3 snacks per day. Adding snacks between meals doesn’t necessarily mean you’re eating a lot more total calories. Sometimes it just means you’re not sitting down to 800 calorie meals, because you’re eating snacks between meals and thus less ravenous when you do eat a meal.
No matter who you are, meals should always include at least a source of protein, complex carbohydrate and healthy fat. For example, egg, whole grain sprouted toast and avocado check all the boxes.
Snacks should include a protein and complex carbohydrate, such as whole grains, fruits or vegetables. This combo is essential because protein keeps you full and carbohydrate gives you energy. In other words, they work hand in hand to keep your energy levels consistent and your hunger under control until your next meal.
It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s VERY DIFFICULT to lose weight and KEEP it off if you’re not eating enough. Why? Well, your body has an innate ability to adapt to how and what you’re fueling it with. If you’re not fueling it enough, it does not use food as fuel and instead stores it as reserve energy (read: fat). Once we start giving our body enough fuel on a regular basis, it will realize it can use that food as fuel and store less!
The second step in designing a diet around your lifestyle involves taking a minute to get intuitive. Consider this: how often do you eat sitting at the table without a distraction in front of your face? It’s so easy to get caught up eating while driving, scrolling Instagram or reading emails, so try to eat without any of these distractions and see if it changes anything. You might feel full sooner, experience less digestive issues later on or even realize that what you’re eating isn’t even what you actually want. Here are three questions you can ask yourself to help you tap into the intuitive side of eating:
Am I actually hungry? (or just bored, anxious, tired, surrounded by food, being offered food, etc.)
Is this what I really want? (for example, “I’m eating this vanilla ice cream because it’s the only option, but I know I would like chocolate a lot more!”)
How will I feel after eating this? (happy, satisfied, bummed, bloated, unhappy…)
I don’t expect you to do this every time you eat, but use it as a tool to guide your eating decisions. By eating enough food and being intentional about the foods that you choose to fuel YOUR life, you’re one step closer to the optimal… (insert your name here) Diet.
Uri’s Famous Chia Seed Pudding
This recipe is full of protein, fiber and healthy fat. Add protein powder or collagen peptides to increase the protein and have it for a filling breakfast or top with berries + granola to increase carbohydrate for a post-workout snack.
1 can full fat coconut milk (you can sub a can of coconut milk for any other milk or water, depending on how creamy you want your pudding)
3/4 Cup milk of any type
1/2 Cup + 1 TBS chia seeds
2 TBS maple syrup or honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pour both milks into a large flat-bottomed dish and whisk until smooth. Add chia seeds and immediately whisk until well combined. Add remaining ingredients and whisk to incorporate. The chia will start to expand and absorb the liquid, so make sure you have some extra space in the dish! Let the mixture sit out on the counter for at least 20 minutes, mixing every 5-10 minutes to ensure the chia absorbs without clumping. Cover and leave in fridge overnight to settle. Serves 6-8.
Uriell (aka Uri) is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and the founder of Inner Wild Nutrition. She is based in Breckenridge, CO, but works with clients all over the world. Uri’s self-proclaimed mission is to ensure that every client of hers never goes on a “diet” again. Instead, she focuses on individual lifestyle factors and incorporates nutrition strategies that optimize performance, body composition, energy, and overall health for a lifetime. Uri is also a Juliana Bicycles athlete and MTB coach for VIDA MTB Series. Uriell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @uri_carlson.