I was recently heating up some food at work, my 3pm meal to be exact, and a coworker comes up and says, “You’re eating again? Didn’t you just eat?” To which I replied, “Yep! I had lunch a few hours ago.” The coworker then asked, “How do you stay so tiny when you eat so much?” A question others probably wonder but keep to themselves (if you look at my social media feeds they are bombarded with food pictures!)…I answered, “I eat what my body needs, when it needs it and I burn it.”It may seem completely counter-intuitive to eat all the time. In fact, I eat more as a healthy individual than I did when I was unhealthy. (I guess I should clarify, I eat more often, more in terms of how it fills my plate, but less in terms of calorie dense foods.) The reality is that I am eating foods that are low in calories, high in nutrients and fiber, and I am eating them when my body needs them.
I eat every 3 hours while I am awake. This keeps my blood sugar stable and my metabolism going. I don’t eat huge portions with each meal (I eat 6 meals a day,) but they are all measured out to be enough of what I need to fuel my body properly. I am eating foods like 3 oz lean ground beef meatballs, or chicken, 5 oz steamed sweet potatoes, 1 cup of veggies, etc. I avoid foods like bagels, doughnuts, breakfast sandwiches, bacon, prepackaged items, etc.
Sure, right now as I am focusing on leaning out my calories are still relatively high compared to what they would be for a sedentary individual, but I also burn a lot of calories a day with my workouts. I don’t consume these calories and sit around. My body needs them to do what I am pushing it accomplish with each workout.
When I am on a “bulking” phase where my primary focus is to build muscle, I eat even MORE. For a good portion of 2014 I was eating around 2,200-2,400 calories a day. That’s a lot! (And mind you, I was STILL slowly leaning out on those calories!) Currently, I am working on leaning out as my main focus, and so my calories have dropped to 1,750. That is still relatively high compared to the average sedentary person, but I need the calories in order to perform in the gym. I can tell if my calories or carbs were off because I can’t lift the amount of weight or perform as many exercises as I normally would.
Learning to listen to your body, and fueling it with nutritional foods has been key. My plate may always be full, and I may always be walking to the fridge to get my next meal, but they are healthy, clean, and unprocessed foods. There’s a saying that abs are “built in the gym and revealed in the kitchen” and another that it’s “80% diet and only 20% gym” and I have found both to be entirely true. Before I started meeting with my nutritionist and got a grasp on food, I was eating what I thought was healthy, and working out a lot. Yet I built muscle underneath my existing fat which made me look larger. It wasn’t until I got my diet under control, eating clean and healthy items and proper portions that I really started to see the muscles I was building!
So, to answer the question in a nutshell – I can eat this much food and this frequently because I have learned to listen to my body, view food as fuel, and push my body to reach new challenges.