Before I delve into how I eat and why I want to first say that I’m not prescribing a one size fits all diet for anyone. I realize that different bodies have different needs, and I am just here to talk about what works for me and why. I also don’t have a background in nutrition or medicine, so the diet I’ve adopted is based on research I’ve done on my own, and also trial and error to find what works best for my body and the amount of exercise I do.
Okay, so how do I get my protein? This is the question I have been asked too many times to count. It actually started when I went vegetarian when I was 16 years old, and it continues to pop up every time I share that I’m a vegan or when I talk about what I eat on a regular basis. The truth is that it’s very hard to become protein deficient if you’re consuming enough calories. All plant cells contain protein at varying levels of concentration. Additionally, all of the strongest land animals (think elephants, hippos, giraffes, oxen, mules, horses, etc) are strictly herbivores. What this tells me is that plant foods contain enough protein to make me strong and powerful!
To many, even in the vegan community, my training diet might seem pretty extreme. I eat a super high carb diet made up mostly of fruits, vegetables, and potatoes. I don’t eat a ton of grains (and I don’t eat wheat at all), beans, or fats either. Why? Because I’ve found that this is the combination that works best to fuel me for my endurance activities and makes me feel my best.
In March 2017 I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid. After getting some treatment options from my doctor that didn’t really get to the bottom of why my body was attacking itself, I started to look for alternative treatments. A friend recommended the book The Medical Medium-Secrets Behind Chronic and Mystery Illness and How to Finally Heal. After reading this, I made the changes to my diet that I still follow today and not only did it help me to begin healing my thyroid, but it also helped me make some amazing gains in my fitness endeavors.
So what does an ideal day of eating look like for me?
- Upon waking up, I finish the water in my nightstand glass. This ranges from 8-16 ounces.
- Then I squeeze a half of a lemon into another 16 ounces of water and drink that before I workout.
- After working out, I juice an entire bunch of celery. This makes about 16 ounces of juice. I drink that before I shower and get ready for the day.
- Once I’m ready, I make an all fruit and greens smoothie. I don’t use any protein powders but I do throw in some spirulina, barley grass juice extract powder, and Atlantic dulse (a form of seaweed)
- I drink part of the smoothie on the way to work and then I drink the rest mid-morning.
- At lunch, I have a HUGE salad. I like to throw as many fruits and veggies into it as possible. I top it with a homemade honey mustard dressing or homemade guacamole with a squeeze of lime juice.
- For an afternoon snack, I’ll eat an apple or some other fruit.
- I might have some more fruit before dinner.
- Dinner consists of roasted (without oil) or steamed potatoes and steamed broccoli or another steamed veggie.
- For a bedtime snack, a bowl of fruit with some raw honey on top, or some herbal tea.
**I try to eat every two hours throughout the day
Now, this is an ideal day. I stick to this pretty strictly when I’m training for a big race. When I’m not training, I will indulge in some tasty vegan (and gluten free) baked goods, or vegan pizza, or almond butter and banana “milk” shakes, as well as a variety of savory vegan dishes that might be higher in fat or contain grains.
At a glance, this might seem super restrictive. I’ve had people tell me they’d rather die than eat the way I do. However, I feel like my diet is full of abundance. I get to eat as much as I want (and if you ask anyone that’s around me, I eat A LOT), whenever I want. As someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder, I am always cautious about diets that cut out certain foods or become too restrictive, but I feel like I’ve never felt “well” in my life until I started eating this way.
What changes have I noticed? I have more energy, my performance increased, my heart rate stays lower, and I sleep way better. On top of that, I get to eat all day, avoid counting calories, and fuel my body with vitamin and antioxidant-rich foods. I’ve learned that when my body craves sugar, it is really craving sugar from fruit, which is what our bodies were designed to consume. I’ve also been able to increase my glycogen stores which help to fuel me on my long runs during marathon training. I used to get extremely hungry and fatigued during runs that were 18+ miles, and I always had to eat several energy gels. Now I find myself not getting hungry at all (although on runs over 20 miles, I still consume a gel-just to be safe). I’ve also found that my muscles recover more quickly and they feel stronger and more powerful.
Mentally, I’ve noticed an extreme upward shift in my mood on a regular basis. I have a more positive outlook and I’m able to handle obstacles more easily. I also notice that my motivation is higher and the extra energy helps me to conquer more tasks each day.
When I don’t eat this way for an extended period, I notice that some of my past ailments come back. I feel more fatigued and I have horrendous night sweats. My motivation declines and I notice a pretty significant downward shift in my mood. I also notice that my heart rate stays higher during exercise and my body stays sore after hard workouts for longer than I’d like.
Eating this way takes a lot of effort. It also isn’t cheap. I like to consider my diet as an investment in my health and longevity. To me, the benefits far outweigh what some consider limitations. I’ve found that treating food like medicine helps shift my focus. Instead of eating something to satisfy an emotional need, I eat to satisfy my body’s needs for healing and optimal performance.
This lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but I would definitely encourage everyone to increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables you consume. Fruits and veggies are nature’s medicine, and they can only benefit your health! If you have any questions about what I eat or why, please leave a comment or reach out! I look forward to hearing from you!
Thanks for reading!