At the beginning of February, I handed over my nutrition to my CrossFit coach. She provided me with a meal plan that I followed religiously. I was that desperate to stop feeling like a slug and start seeing improvements in the gym. (Spoiler alert: I saw definite improvements.) The meal plan cut out animal fats (including my beloved cheese), most processed foods (including tortilla chips), and artificial sugar. I’ve been eating lean protein, carbs like sweet potatoes and rice, and plant-based fats. I honestly thought I’d miss the gooey queso or Frappuccinos. But the truth? I’ve learned a few things.
- Not every meal is going to be a party in your mouth. I used to crave flavor explosions brought on by cheese or sugar. That’s what got me into trouble in the first place – the sluggish, tired feelings. When I stripped those out, the cravings were almost as bad as nicotine cravings. Almost. But I got used to some meals being purely fuel. It makes sense: food is fuel. Sometimes, it’s going to be plain egg whites and oatmeal. But…
- Clean eating can also taste really, really good. I’ve taken to meal prepping boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the Crock Pot with salsa verde or enchilada sauce. Served with lettuce, corn tortillas, and avocado, the chicken makes great tacos.
- Cheating once in a while is okay. The key is “once in a while.” As in, once a week, I’ll have a small serving of something that’s not on the meal plan. A few weeks ago, it was Nutella gelato. Once, it was two slices of Italian bread with Brie cheese. I don’t eat like that every day or even have a full cheat day. It’s a cheat “treat,” something small.
- I don’t miss cheese or artificial sugar. When I go out to eat, I look for grilled meat, steamed veggies, and healthy carbs. I’ve been known to order fajitas and leave the sour cream and cheese alone. I’ll have a couple bites of dessert or a small dessert. But I don’t crave these things. It’s the same with my lattes: I’m perfectly happy making them with unsweetened almond milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
- I feel terrible when I eat cheese. Remember the aforementioned Brie? It was delicious. But the next morning, I felt like a brick had settled in my stomach. I don’t know if I’m just getting old or if the removal of animal fats from my diet has lowered my tolerance, but most of the time, I don’t want anything to do with cheese anymore.
- This meal plan is worth it. It’s a pain when I go out to eat, and it takes discipline to prepare food ahead of time. But I’m seeing PRs in the gym, I feel healthier, I don’t need afternoon naps unless I don’t sleep, and I can actually see abs. Faint, but they’re there.