My Nighttime Routine

After 6 months+ of restless nights, I decided to give my nights more structure. I’m used to long nights of tossing and turning in bed, only to fall asleep for 4ish hours.

Throughout the day, I’m usually out of my apartment, either in class, at work, or hitting the gym. I’m naturally a restless person, so it’s hard for me to unwind at nights. Having a routine helps me give myself time to calm and relax, and here are a few highlights.

Get some music going: I have a specific playlist with my all my favorite chill vibes played while I shower, cook, or catch up on work. It really helps me ease up a bit.

Set the mood: Light a seasonal candle, clean up a bit, have a diffuser going, it makes your place smell and look good, and feel all cozy.
Unwind: I take a hot shower or bath, really take time doing skincare, then get in a giant sweater, fluffy socks, and sweats. I also get the majority of my work done as soon as I get home, so I don’t have to worry about towards the end of the night.

One final meal: My last meal/snack is always something light, filling, and warm. Something I can easily digest and will make me satisfied, not stuffed, usually a simple bowl of oats, or some toast with fruit. I have a sweet tooth, so I’ll usually have a few homemade baked sweets too.
Hydrate: I drink water throughout the night, then I switch to tea right before. Either an Earl Grey w/ lemon or a Hazelnut Chicory blend. I’ll take a magnesium supplement if I need it too. It makes my body feel all more relax.
Pull the plug: I’m working on this, but once I’m in bed, I try to get off my phone! Read a book, journal, or simply listen to music and reflect on the day. This mentally helps me organize my thoughts and prepare for tomorrow.

This is what my typical night looks like, hopefully this gave you some ~inspo~ to add to yours!

My Experience with Tracking Macros

First of all, this is NOT a diss to macros or tracking. At one point, it was the best thing for me. I currently have a love/hate relationship with tracking macros. Weirdly enough, it helped me SO much at the beginning, but not so much towards the end. Here’s my personal experience, and what I have learned along the way.

I started tracking at the beginning of my health journey. Like everyone else, I initially just wanted to lose weight. I did the short-term crash diets. I did the cardio. This time, I wanted to do it in a way that would bring long-term results. I followed a lot of fitness vloggers and instagrammers at the time, which is how I found out about tracking. I used different calculators and adjusted as needed. This and consistently hitting the gym worked really well for me. I got a sense of what exactly I was putting into my body, I reached my physique goals, and learn what portion sizes looked like. It also helped me binge a lot less.

I tracked for about two years, but consistently tracked for a year and a half. Currently, I haven’t tracked for the past three weeks. Honestly, I never thought I would say that. However, the longer I tracked, the more obsessive I got. It wasn’t until I started to intermittent fast, around last April, that I noticed how much of an issue it was for me.

I would cancel plans to eat out with friends if I knew it wouldn’t fit my macros. I would lean towards lower calorie foods, even if it didn’t taste as good as what I wanted. I would rotate between the same 4-5 meals to make sure I hit my macros each day. Most nights, I would even track everything I would eat for the next day.

This was my normal. Looking back, that’s insane to me. With this, and introducing my body to intermittent fasting, I was losing weight like crazy. I was reaching my physique goal faster than ever. But, I mentally felt SO off. At this point, restricting myself in the way that I had didn’t make aiming for a smaller waist worth it anymore.

I stopped because I switched from a physique goal to a mental health goal. I wanted to be more in tune with my body, heal my relationship with food, and be more comfortable in my own skin. Intuitive eating just made more sense for where I wanted to progress next.

So, I made the switch (slow, slow, slow switch) from tracking to intuitive eating back in July. It took me about four months to get away from tracking.

It was hard. It still is sometimes. SO hard. The hardest part for me? Tracking or not, I’ll still see those numbers in the food I eat. Sometimes that’s a good thing, like now which helps me know if I’m eating a balanced meal, but sometimes it’s a bad thing, because those numbers will haunt me as I reach for a second cookie.

I started at first by stopping intermittent fasting. I naturally don’t wake up hungry, but some days I do, so I honored that. Then, I started to loosely track. Here are few technical things that I transitioned into that helped me (I didn’t do these all at the same time):

-I didn’t track either one snack or main meal.

-I only tracked my main meals.

-I ate intuitively, then tracked everything at the end of the night.

-I didn’t track on days where I was eating out for holidays, birthdays, celebration, etc

Now, here are the ways I tried (and am still trying) to rewire my brain when transitioning:

-Consider your end goal: what lifestyle will get you there? What will make you happier?

-Focus on ingredients, not the numbers. Aim to fill your body with nutritious, wholesome foods.

-Listen to your body, its so smart. It will crave different things, it will want more food one day, it will want less food another day. And that’s okay.

-Associate your feelings with the food you eat. How do you feel after eating that additional portion? How do you feel swapping out that low cal version for the real deal? If the answer is satisfied, happy, content, etc, you’re doing something right.

-Breathe. Take it easy, especially when you eat out, find yourself hungry at night, have to grab food in a rush unexpectedly, etc. Sometimes lunch will be a pint of ice cream. Sometimes it will be a kale salad. Sometimes its a protein bar you shoved in your coat pocket. It’s okay, it be like that sometimes!!

There are days when I still “track” in my mind, only because I just KNOW the numbers associated with those foods, however, I try to keep my end goal in mind: to enjoy life and be happy. I knew tracking wouldn’t get me there. It’s served it’s purpose, it was time to move on.

I knew getting my body off of tracking and into intuitive eating would have lots of ups and downs. I expected to struggle. I expected to overeat/binge a lot more. I expected to gain some weight.

And I was right. All that, and more, happened. But, because I was changing the way I viewed food, the way I viewed these expectations were different. I consider those temporary things to be worth it if it meant that my mental health was improving.

A huge struggle right now for me is overeating when it comes to “bad” foods. It’s hard for me to stop at one serving of things like cookies, ice cream, brownies, etc, and I tend to just finish the whole in one sitting. Sometimes, my body needs it, but a lot of times, I just can’t control myself. This is something I’m working on.

However, I don’t fear overeating, strangely enough. I think my body would automatically want that because of my past relationship with food, I actually almost even welcomed it.

I knew I would tend to overeat more because I was so used to restriction, this new lifestyle I was adopting would make it feel like a free-for-all. I actually spent most of September overeating every night. Like a pint or two of Ben & Jerry’s 5 times a week. It was crazy, my skin broke out, and my digestive system was just NOT having it. But, I took this as an opportunity to learn (so cheesy I know.) Now I know, lots of dairy, sweets, and waffles does the body, skin, and wallet, BAD.

I assume I did gain some weight, but I’m not too sure because I also don’t weigh myself anymore. I can say, if I did, the weight I’m gaining is being distributed in a different way than before. I used to carry most of my weight in my oblique area (love handles UGH), and back. Now, I only notice the extra weight show up in my stomach area, and every other area generally stays the same. When the bloat goes down, I notice just being “fluffier” in that area (like now lol). I assume having consistency in the gym has helped me with this different weight distribution.

The weight gain doesn’t bother me because I know this is just a result of my body finding out what it needs to fuel it, and what its limits are. I don’t mind my weight fluctuating if it means that I’m growing mentally stronger.

I don’t really have a current physique goal, but I still have fitness goals, which switching to intuitive eating has actually helped me get there A LOT faster. I’m lifting heavier than I have ever been. I see a lot more definition in my quads and back. I overall just feel a lot more stronger and confident in the gym.

There are days when I feel tempted to go back, just because it was honestly easier for me. Freshmen year in college, I didn’t have many options as to what I “could” eat, so tracking just took out the anxiety of finding different foods. I stuck to the same meals, usually a carb and protein source, with fruit and veggies. My college uses Net Nutrition, a website that has nutrition information for food on campus, so I used that too as a resource. I didn’t find it difficult to eat healthy, or stay within my macros since I stuck to the same foods, and got creative when I had to (I was always asking for whole-grain, substitutions, add-ins like veggies, etc lol I was THAT girl.)

Another reason I want to go back? I knew this would help me lose those last few inches on my waist. Grow my quads a little more. Tone my arms just enough. But, it just isn’t worth it to me anymore.

I’m so tired of letting numbers control me.

There are days where I don’t want the other half of my banana because of the extra carbs. There are days when I track in my head and get anxious when having my snack at the end of the night. There are days where I wait until I am absolutely starving to eat breakfast. But these are the days that make me stronger.

I don’t want to live a life where fruit makes me nervous. A life where I never eat more than a serving of something again. A life that makes me stick to low calorie foods filled with additives just to keep me within a range of numbers.

Tracking isn’t for me anymore. At one point it was. For others, it still is. But for me, I can’t heal my mind and body in that way anymore.

Hopefully, my experience helps some of you. I think everyone needs to find the lifestyle that works best for them, and I think having a clear goal helps with that. Mine is to be fully happy with how I look and who I am, and food is something I don’t want to worry about anymore.

 

Intermittent Fasting

A girl, who use to have six small meals a day AND snack in between, is telling you intermittent fasting changed her LIFE.

That girl is me. On my instagram, I posted on my story about started up IF again. I got a lot of questions, so I thought I’d share my experiences and how I feel towards IF.

I actually started doing it by accident. In college, I would usually start off with a BIG breakfast before my 8am, eat lunch after, then struggle to keep myself from snacking all day until dinner. However, one day I woke up late, so I didn’t eat my breakfast. No biggie, I’ll eat it later, since I wasn’t feeling hungry. Then, I lost my ID card (basically my life, also how I get into my dorm!) I was LIVID, so during my lunch break, I had to go get a new one then head to my next class. I kept telling myself “I’m starving oh my god” but then I stopped and thought “wait…no I’m not?”

I’ve heard of intermittent fasting, but honestly when I heard the word “fasting” I was immediately turned off by it. Like I said, I liked to eat! But that day, I didn’t have my first meal until around 2, and I felt GREAT! After doing more research, I decided to try it for a few days. There were some issues, mainly with time management:

-I worked at a restaurant so my shifts were usually towards the end of my eating window, or were my entire eating window, so I had to adjust, or just not do it that day

-Since I track macros, I REALLY had to make sure I was hitting them/not going over, because my meal sizes changes. Also, since I lived in a dorm, I had to make sure dining halls would be open to get these meals.

After experimenting, I did a 12/12 pattern, easing into a 16/8 (which is what I do now.) But what does this all mean?

If you didn’t know, intermittent fasting is an eating pattern, not a diet. There is a fasting window and an eating window, and what I love, is that there are different patterns to work with any schedule! The most popular is 16/8, which means you fast 16 hours and eat 8 hours. It has so many health benefits, and research shows it boosts metabolism, drop insulin levels to aid in fat burning, help fight inflammation, and so many more. The reason I decided to do it was because I do have fitness goals, so I wanted to see if I saw any physical difference. After a month, what I saw was:

-I was physically leaner! My trouble spots were almost melting away

-My snacking/bingeing almost completely stopped. So weird, because I used to have 2-3 snacks a day (I also saved money bc less snacks!)

-I was a lot more energized. Again, weird because I thought waking up in the mornings would be harder

-My food anxiety got better. Since I wasn’t so worried about making sure I wasn’t overeating throughout the day, I found my life to be so much less stressful

-I was way more hydrated. Mornings, I was downing water like it was my job

I will note that after starting IF, I decided to make other changes that might have had an effect. At this point, I would eat clean during the week, have a pizza and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s on the weekend. I switched to “healthier” cheat meals or none at all, and traded a pint of Ben and Jerry’s for Halotop, only if I was craving it. I also started drinking BCAA’s pre/intra workout, and my workouts were more structured. Was it a combination of these things that caused my physical changes? Could be. But in terms of mental and internal changes, I definitely believe it was IF.

Like I mentioned earlier, I currently do a 16/8 pattern. I know you’re thinking “fasting 16 hours??? good bye” but the thing is….you’re sleeping for most of that anyways! My eating window is 2-10, however I’m not too strict with it yet since I have again work scheduling issue so give or take an hour. I wake up, and either go to the gym, go to work, or just catch up on sleep honestly. I drink black coffee, water, and BCAA’s (for my fasted workouts.) to curb my hunger. After finishing up emails, recipe ideas, meal prep, and an episode (or 7) of Bob’s Burger’s, before I know it, it’s time to break my fast! I eat my bigger meals, and then I am done.

My issue with my eating windows? I have two set shifts at work: 6 am- 2 pm or 2 pm to 7/8 pm. The morning shifts are fine (break my fast at 2:30/3) but my evening shift would be basically my entire eating window….those days I start at 1, snack at work, and then eat 2 meals again after. I’m experimenting with this and it’s okay so far, but definitely needs some adjustment because I feel super bloated at night.

The best way to reap all the benefits of IF is to do it consistently, however there is a lot of flexibility with IF. For example with 16/8, some have seen results doing it every day, some have seen results just doing it during the week, leaving the weekends with less structure. Some even just do it every other day. It all depends on your lifestyle and what you feel. So if you like to have breakfast with your friends every Saturday, don’t worry about ditching because you can’t break your fast, go enjoy those hash browns! Personally, I try to do it as often as I can, though I leave the weekends with a bit more flexibility.

Now here are some tips that have helped me in my transition:

-Especially when starting out, make sure to keep yourself busy, which I definitely do. Hit the gym, do some shopping, sleep, work, etc are things I do in the mornings.

-Drinking no calorie drinks will help you curb the hunger, I LOVE black iced coffee, so that is my go-to, along with water.

-Ease into it! Don’t just jump into a 16/8  or 20/4 cold turkey. Start with skipping breakfast, and see how you feel. Then go ahead and start to give yourself a more structured eating window. Or, practice it once or twice a week, then during the week, then the whole week, etc.

-Plan out your meals to be bigger in size, so you don’t feel the need to snack. I make my first meal modest in size, but still packed with alllll the good nutrients my body will need for the day, usually protein oatmeal or waffles. My second meal is typically my biggest, and depending on the day, I have 3-4 meals. I rarely snack, unless I’m out or I’m, you know, hungry! It’s still totally okay to snack, but I prefer bigger meals now (lol past Jen is like ???)

Speaking of hunger…its iffy with me. I ALWAYS wake up hungry no matter what. However, after about 20 minutes, it goes away. Since I stay busy, I’m usually not even thinking about the fact that I haven’t eaten, so I don’t really have to “curb” any hunger. Though, sometimes I am literally STARVING, and at that point I choose to either:

-Drink lots of fluids to hold my screaming stomach off until later

-Just eat. There’s times I do break my fast earlier, and that’s okay! My body is still working on this new way of eating.

It’s important to listen to your body, another point I want to make to see if IF is for you. If you’re someone who always wakes up hungry, or simply doesn’t have the time later to have a proper eating window, then don’t do it. It works for me because I don’t get hungry in the mornings, I wanted a little more structure with my eating, and I have fitness goals to reach. Do your research, experiment with different eating windows, and really tune in to how your body is reacting and feeling. For example, right now I am in my fasting window, after my morning lifting session. I don’t feel hungry, I don’t feel fatigued. I don’t feel cranky. I feel perfectly fine!

Something else I want to touch on, fasted workouts are definitely a personal preference. Before IF, I would usually just eat a banana or apple before my morning workouts, because I felt like I needed the energy. Since switching to a preworkout, I felt like I didn’t need it, so I’ve been training fasted since before IF, and I enjoy it, since I’m used to it. I don’t feel dizzy, tired, or overall, less energized. I usually plan my workouts right before I break my fast, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. Not eating after a workout was weird at first, but I also don’t get toooo hungry if I squeeze in a super early workout, hours before breaking my fast. There’s still a lot of controversy over exactly when/if you need to eat right after a workout, etc but for me, I just make sure my first meal is protein-packed, whenever that may be. Plan your workouts when it works for you!

Remember: this isn’t a diet, just a way of eating. Overall, I say try it out! Ease into it at first, then work on having a set eating/fasting window. Make your meals are packed with nutrients. Research the different eating patterns to see what will work for you. The health benefits are amazing, and it personally has really helped me have a better relationship with food. I haven’t experienced anything negative (so far), and I will definitely plan on continuing with IF, while really working on having a more structured eating/fasting window.

This is my experience with IF. I’m still learning and still experimenting, and excited to see where this new journey will take me.