Over the last 11 years, I’ve done every type of diet you can imagine.  I’ve done low carb, I’ve done high carb, I’ve eaten low fat, I’ve eaten low carb AND low-fat, I’ve tried carb cycling, I’ve tried “if it fits your macros” (IIFYM), I’ve used cheat days, I’ve done elimination diets (for my health, not for fat loss), I’ve tried Paleo, I’ve done intermittent fasting (IF), I’ve back-loaded my carbs, I’ve front-loaded my carbs, I’ve eaten 900 calories a day, I’ve eaten 3200 calories a day – you literally CANNOT present me with a diet that I haven’t tried a variation of.

Calorie Counter

I’ve tried these types of diets with different purposes or goals in mind, whether it was for my physique (low carb, low fat, low calorie, carb cycling, 900 calories), my health (elimination diet, paleo), my performance (high carb, carb cycling, 3200 calories a day), or my lifestyle (carb cycling, intermittent fasting, carb backloading, IIFYM).  In my experience, some of them have worked well, and some of them haven’t.

But the one thing I NEVER tried until the last 2 years, was moderation.  I had never tried just eating, and letting it be.

Moderation: protein, fruit and veggies, fat, and diet sunkist!

Moderation: protein, fruit and veggies, fat, and diet sunkist!

Over the last two years, I’ve taken the information that I’ve gathered about how certain diets make me feel and how they affect my physique, my health, my performance, and my lifestyle, and I’ve melded them into my own personal way of eating that is a glorious intersection of those 4 very important things, and it’s been life-changing.  I’m currently at the best balance of the 4 things than I’ve ever been.

No, I’m not quite as lean as I was when I was super strict.
No, I’m not quite as strong as I was when I was eating more and killing it in the gym day in and day out.
No, I’m not quite enjoying my lifestyle as much as I was when I was in Italy eating gelato 3 times a day.
And yes – I could probably eat less of the few foods that don’t necessarily improve my health like ice cream and queso (although just a few months ago I did just have the best checkup with my Integrative Doc that I’ve had in 5 ½ years – whoo-hoo!)
But I’m at the best BALANCE of all of these places I’ve ever  been.

My intersection of health, aesthetics,

My personal intersection of health, aesthetics, lifestyle, and performance.

So what “diet” am I doing?

I’m doing a carb-cycling-intermittent-fasting-moderation-primal-elimination-carb-back-loading-if-it-fits-my-macros-protocol.

Heard of it? :)

You see, based on my experience with all these nutrition protocols, I know what it takes for my body to feel good, and what keeps me sane (and what makes me feel insane!)

So How Do I Eat?

I eat more carbs on days I train, and less on days I don’t which falls under carb cycling, and moderate overall carbs approach.

I generally don’t eat my first solid food meal until 4-6 hours after I wake up because I don’t enjoy eating when I first wake up, and I find that if I do eat early, it stokes my appetite for the entire day and I’m insatiable.  I must prefer to just have coffee and water.  Waiting this long to eat could be considered intermittent fasting.

I eat almost anything I want in moderation until I feel satisfied, and not stuffed, which is, well, moderation.

I don’t eat a lot of grains, legumes, or soy because I don’t love them or feel good on them.  These are some of the most commonly eliminated foods on the primal protocol.

I NEVER eat gluten ever because I have Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroidism), and occasionally I pull out other foods to see if they make me feel good/bad/awesome/tired.  I’ve also done 2 full-blown elimination diets recommended by my Doctor to help heal my gut and reduce inflammation in my body.

I generally eat most of my carbs at night, which is recommended by the carb backloading protocol.  I choose to do this because: I train at night and I like to eat most of my carbs after my training, carbs can make me sleepy, and they often make me crave more carbs.  I have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and some insulin resistance issues which is likely why I react this way to carbs at times.

Oh, and sometimes my carbs come from ice cream, candy, corn chips, chocolate, gluten free pizza, or gluten free cupcakes, which would fall under the “if it fits your macros” approach to eating, where no food is “off-limits” as long as it fits your macros.

My groceries.  Approximately 5-7 days worth of food, and 2-3 weeks worth of indulgences for 2 peoples.

My groceries. Approximately 5-7 days worth of food, and 2-3 weeks worth of indulgences for 2 people.

Finally, I eat when I’m hungry, and stop when I’m mostly full, which is from the common-freaking-sense school of thought.  So there’s that.

And for the record, these are just guidelines.  These aren’t hard-and-fast rules.

What’s the difference, you ask?  The difference is that with guidelines, it’s just what you generally follow, and if you don’t follow them sometimes, it’s no big deal, whereas with “rules” you tend to feel like you’re following them or breaking them, or being “bad” and it creates a lot of “have-to’s” and guilt and shame.

No thanks.  I’ll stick with guidelines.

So What Does This Diet Look Like?

What I eat changes a bit from day to day, but here’s a typical non-training day (I don’t track macros, but I happen to know what’s in most of what I eat, so I am including it for your information).

Typical Non-Training Day Menu

9:00 – 11 am: 2 very large cups of mostly decaf coffee with some cream and a Splenda/Truvia mix (about 200 calories total from cream) and lots of water

2 pm: 3 turkey jerky sticks (24 grams protein, 13 grams fat, 6 carbs), 12 oz. Diet Sunkist, lots of water

5 pm: 1 Quest bar, 1 packet almond butter (28 grams protein, 24 grams fat, 29 carbs, 17 fiber), lots of water

7 pm: 12 oz. Diet Sunkist, lots of water

9 pm: Large Classic Cobb salad from Smashburger with grilled chicken (sometimes double chicken), dressing and blue cheese crumbles on side, no bacon, add avocado (4-6 cups spring mix, ¼ cup red onion, ¼ cup diced tomato, ¼ avocado, 2 TBSP shredded cheddar, 1 fried egg, 5 oz. grilled chicken) and I use a small amount of ranch dressing for dipping, and a teeny bit of blue cheese crumbles occasionally, 1 order sweet potato fries with 1 oz. mayonnaise (no clue on macros here)

11 pm: 1 cup plain Greek yogurt with Truvia and 1.5 cups fresh mixed berries (25 protein, 6 grams fat, 15-20 carbs), lots of water, green tea

11:30 pm (optional): ½ cup Haagen Dazs dulce de leche ice cream

 

Here’s a typical training day (I don’t track macros, but I happen to know what’s in most of what I eat, so I am including it for your information)

Typical Training Day Menu 

9:00 – 11 am: 2 very large cups of mostly decaf coffee with some cream and a Splenda/Truvia mix (about 200 calories total from cream) and lots of water

2 pm: 3 whole eggs, ½ TBSP butter, 1 medium apple (20 grams protein, 20 grams fat, 20 carbs), 12 oz. Diet Sunkist, lots of water

5 pm: 1 Quest bar, 1 packet almond butter (28 grams protein, 24 grams fat, 29 carbs, 17 fiber), 12 oz. diet Sunkist, lots of water

7 pm: TRAINING

9 pm: 10-12 oz. grass-fed beef with taco seasoning, 1 cup white rice, ½ cup homemade guacamole, handful of corn chips, 1.5 cups roasted Brussel sprouts with butter, ¾ cup baked sweet potato with butter and sea salt, lots of water

11:30 pm (optional): 1 small gluten free carrot cake cupcake, lots of water, green tea

As you can see, it’s nowhere near “perfect.”

No tilapia.
No dry asparagus.
No 99% lean ground turkey.
And no insanity.

Just filling, delicious, and mostly-nutrient dense food that leaves me satisfied and happy, and never feeling deprived.

My bod, from all the angles, raw, un-cut, and mostly un-posed.

My bod, from all the angles, raw, un-cut, and mostly un-posed.

The funniest part about looking through this “diet” that I’ve created, is that it literally just pulled the “common sense” parts of every single diet I’ve ever tried and meshed them together, which is how I ended up eating:

- mostly whole nutrient-dense foods

- paying attention to my hunger and fullness cues

- not eating foods that make me feel like crap

- but otherwise not depriving myself of anything

- eating enough protein to build/maintain lean mass without overdoing it

- eating enough carbs to help me feel satisfied and fueled without overdoing it

- eating enough fat to make my food delicious and satisfying and to keep my body healthy without overdoing it

- eating enough variety to keep me healthy and feeling good

^^^Which is exactly where I would recommend anyone start when trying to look better, feel better, and get healthier.

REVOLUTIONARY, right?

And the biggest and best part of all of it, is that there’s NO STRESS.  There are days that I eat a lot more than this, and days I eat less.  There are days I eat less junk, and days I eat more.  There are days I eat my first meal earlier, and days I eat it later.  My diet revolves around my LIFE and not the other way around.  And it feels good.

What about you?  Have you crafted your own “diet” based on what you’ve found works well for your body? Or do you feel totally lost at how to even get started figuring it out?

17 Responses to My New “Diet” – Exactly How I Eat Each Day

  1. Pete A says:

    This might be one of the best “approach to diet” posts I’ve read in a long time. You’ve found the simplistic beauty of pragmatism! Take the best of all worlds, then stop worrying about it when the juice isn’t worth the squeeze anymore.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Molly, thank you! I find you inspirational:) You remind me of my big sis with the “common sense” part- she’s spent years trying to get that point to stick with me! Have been wondering if it’s okay to have a quest bar every day- I noticed it above so reckon so. And I really do adore them :D Huge fan of GGS :)

  3. Cleo says:

    I’m vegan, and have started to be more high carb/low fat in the last year and feel great! I want to try and join the Plant Built team one day. ;)

  4. V says:

    I do this too! No real diet, I think about it as eating to feel good and provide myself fuel for training. When I was overweight and trying to diet I could never actually follow a “diet”. I hated rules and so I inevitably broke them or screwed up and spent more time berating myself for breaking rules or thinking what kind of loser can’t follow a simple diet? So I started initially by saying “Don’t eat anything obviously bad”. I don’t judge food anymore as good or bad, I think it translates too much to how we end up thinking about ourselves if we eat “bad” but at that point it worked. That meant avoiding pizza, fries, cheetos, etc. My actual consumption of real food was pretty poor. Then eventually obviously bad changed. It meant no gluten (it makes me feel terrible), no dairy (again it makes me feel crappy), low sugar, no soy, etc. Most of what I eat or don’t is because of how it makes me feel and now that I am in tune enough with my body, I know what those things are without having to find out the hard way and if I choose to eat them, I know what will happen. If I want to eat it, I do, and I will relish every bite.

  5. jess says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! You are one of the first fitness professionals that has allowed themselves to be vulnerable enough to say it how it is, I applaud you for being real and not trying to create some vision of dietary perfection that simply makes people feel like a failure before they have started! It’s all just about eating the food right?! Some food is more conducive toward your goals, some may be less, it’s just life. A famous Paleo blogger/dietician posted a picture of a creme egg today, saying ‘I have this once a year’, these kind of expectations are just so unrealistic for so many people. She was trying to portray that she was ‘human’ like everyone else, I felt it just gave across the exact opposite message to this!. I am not not trying to be detrimental to anyone in saying this, I just feel it is in stark contrast to this post. Dietary perfectionism can create such pressure, well done for blowing that right out the water, you rock for this :)

  6. Eimear says:

    I eat kinda like you too (matching carb intake with training, it kind of happens naturally, and sort of IF, but I don’t clock watch). A couple of years of working through a number of different ways of eating, and I have found what I like. My only real problem food group is dairy, kind of like gluten for you. I worked that out through repeated removing and reintroducing. I don’t eat paleo now, although it woke me up to the nutrient density of animal foods (I had been a vegetarian/vegan through all my teens into my early twenties). But pulses agree with me so well, so I eat them regularly. I don’t really eat wheat much, but it’s not an issue for me. I avoid fast food completely and I don’t buy pre-prepared meals either. Mostly because I enjoy cooking, find most of those things pretty insipid-tasting, and the portion sizes seem kind of meager for the supposed calorie/macro content. And that’s all what I don’t eat. I now eat what I love, food that makes me happy and that makes me feel good. For me, that’s lots of eggs and fish (esp salmon and mackerel), lots of veggies, especially the cruciferous ones, pretty much daily homemade sauerkraut, eat a piece or two of fruit on training days, potatoes and rice for carbs, porridge/oats, lentils, chickpeas, beef and lamb occasionally and my treats are basically any nut butter and putting cocoa powder on whatever I can think of. I love packing in loads of chilli, garlic and ginger into my food. I try to make sure every meal I eat has something I really love in it.
    By the way, you are looking pretty amazing girl! I wish more women realised you can look amazing, and still enjoy your food. A lot of the women I know are constantly restricting and majorly under-eating. I do train harder than most of my female friends, family and colleagues, but I always wonder at how they all seem to survive on such little food. A lot of them would be shocked to see your ice-cream supply and believe the pictures were really of the person who bought the food in the pictures. It’s refreshing to read about other women eating a healthy amount of food to nourish their bodies and support all the fun activities in their lives.

  7. Debbie says:

    Thank you for keeping it real Molly. I love this post!

  8. Jessica says:

    Just curious… what are the reasons for the “No’s”?

  9. Renee says:

    THANKS Molly for breaking it all down! It’s so easy getting caught up in all the labeled diets as opposed to simple

  10. Renee says:

    THANKS Molly for breaking it all down! It’s so easy getting caught up in all the labeled diets as opposed to simple moderation.

  11. Cheryl Clift says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS POST MOLLY!!!!! What’s crazy, is that this is the exact same mind set and lifestyle I have recently chosen to practice. I too have tried them all. I’m almost 53 years old, so I truly mean ALL! Like you, I know what makes me feel good, bad, full of energy for my workouts, nauseous during my workouts, and on and on. Eating ULC and working with Alex Navarro brought me to my lowest weight and actually made me feel fantastic. Because of that I too start the day with coffee, heavy cream and coconut oil only. It’s all I need to complete a great workout. I follow that with a recovery shake, and then whole food starts around noon or 1:00pm. I’ve just decided that I’m tired of not eating basically any carbs except for the one night a week, so I’ve added a few into my day. I’m pretty good about sticking to protein and veggies for dinner most of the time, but if that doesn’t work out on occasion, I’m trying to train myself to be okay with the decision. It’s a work in progress, but I’d like to thank you Molly! I love following you and have tremendous faith in your knowledge and expertise in health and fitness. It is so inspiring and refreshing to read that even YOU are choosing to listen to your body.

  12. Leah N. says:

    This is one of my favorite posts of yours — thank you! It’s been a healthy reminder for a recovering perfectionist. I also deal with similar health challenges (Hashimoto’s + ensuing hodgepodge of hormonal and dietary complications)–it’s encouraging to read about your journey. Question: Did you/How did you keep your elimination diets interesting? I’m currently on a very strict one for gut/immune health and am getting discouraged. I keep having off-limits food-dreams. :)

    Thanks again for writing. You’re a rock star.

  13. Love your pics. Your are a beautiful couple. I loved this post; it is similar to what I have been doing, except that my day is shifted a few hours earlier than yours! I wake up early and go to bed early due to work. I also am a breakfast eater. I have learned over the years that it just works for me to eat something in the morning vs. not. This is all about experimenting and finding what works best for you and your lifestyle/schedule.

  14. Jama says:

    Molly, I love this advice. I would love it if you would post something along these lines for those of us who need to take off some fat/pounds. I would love to hear your thoughts . . . get your guidance.

    Maybe you’ve already posted something like that. I’ll look through your blog posts :)

  15. John Fawkes says:

    Great article- I’m interested in your process for testing the elimination of other foods. How long do you think you have to avoid a food for to see if it causes issues for you?

  16. Carla says:

    Thank you for sharing this! Over the years, since the the mid ’90s, I have been on Weight Watchers, Adkins, SAD, low fat, Blood Type Diet, regular low carb, Zone, raw vegan, Nourishing Traditions, Ketogenic, Primal, Paleo and low carb Paleo diets. I always tend to fall back on low and super low carb diets because I feel my body cannot handle, even a moderate amount of fruit a day due to PCOS. I lift very heavy and recently had to cut out my HIIT due to body fatigue, but still fear the carbs. I wonder if I balance my diet more if things would shift more in my favior…

  17. John Fawkes says:

    Great to see you’ve struck a good balance here Molly. But I’m wondering, who else would you recommend this for? This seems like great advice for someone who’s already in shape and needs to lighten up a bit, but I know that getting into shape is a lot harder than staying in shape. So my thinking is, strict diet until you’re really fit, then relax into something more like what you’re doing. Do you concur, or do you think this can be effective right off the bat?

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