I put quotations around that word because I’m taking it back. My “diet” is not the typical restrictive—I “can’t” eat that, or I’m only “allowed” to eat this—food regimen. My diet is simply what I eat. It’s the nourishing food I put in my body. Obviously, I have a LOT to say about food as it’s been a passion, a punishment, a prison, and an awakening for me. So, to truncate those who don’t need or want as much Callie context, you will find (and can link quickly to) the following on this page:
The diet I want to share here is my post-ED (eating disorder) diet. The diet that saved me, both from the physical harm I was continually inflicting on my amazing, badass body, and from the far more horrific mental torture I was inflicting on myself every time the thought of having to eat entered my mind. Lord, if I shared with you my ED diet (a packet of Splenda and can of veggies one day, then eight burritos and a tub of ice cream the next day) you’d run for the hills! I used to struggle daily with what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, or not eat, on and on. It was all so infuriating, exhausting, isolating and … turns out, utterly useless.
Fast-forward to today **zzwwwoop** and I’ll share the diet that helped me finally recover and put all that ED nonsense to rest. In all earnest, it literally is a wine and cheese diet, of sorts. I will not lie; those are the staples. But, there are a lot of other really great foods incorporated and awesome dishes that I am inspired to share. As a full disclaimer, I, of course, have to say that this diet may not be right for you. Finding the right balance of carbs, sugars, proteins, portions, fiber, nutrients and all that other science-ey stuff that gives you the best body your body is capable of can be a difficult and lifelong journey. It definitely took me many decades (and many colossal screw-ups) to get it dialed in, but I am thrilled to say the diet I am on now allows me to get and feel as full as a I want when I want, and also to feel as trim and skinny as I want, when I want.
Yes, I said it. I’m not going to bullshit anyone here. There are times when I want to feel trim. When all spiffed up working hard or out on the town, I want to feel like I have a flat tummy. That makes me feel pretty and confident and good about myself. It’s not the all-defining factor, but I cannot lie and say it has no impact. However, what I have learned over the years during my recovery is that there is a difference between “feeling” like you have a flat tummy (which is often just a product of bloat), actually having a flat tummy, and craving a tummy that is sick, concave, and not right for your body. I now pursue only the “feeling”—whether it is accurate or not, I no longer care—but my diet does now afford me that feel-good-about-myself feeling and still allows me to eat what I want, the portions I want, and to not eat when I don’t want to eat.
I have never been a fan of “eat every six hours” diets. Eating more often only makes me feel more hungry. What’s worse, for people suffering from an ED or who simply struggle with food (millions of us!), that is often a terrible idea. It’s like telling a kid he can only have a bite of a cookie every six hours, but you set the whole cookie in front of him and let him take the bite. Pssshhhh … we all know what’s going to happen. Speaking of cookies, however, let’s have:
A Word on Carbs
“How can you not like cake?” I had a new friend ask me recently. Granted, she knows nothing about my past—including my rampant 20-year battle with an eating disorder which, thankfully, in the past year I have utterly defeated—or my dislike of cake and its origins. Let’s start with her question, because I think the problem all hinges on the word “like.”
We like stuff on social media all the time, but do we really, really like it, or are we just being courteous? I can say with 100% honesty, any time I ever eat cake in a social setting, it is just to be courteous. I eat for those around me so they won’t feel weird or it won’t provoke odd looks and questions like the one from my new friend, which are often delivered with an overly dramatic throwback of the head and upward launch of the eyebrows. “No, I don’t like cake,” your inner self wants to tell these people. “I’m just eating this for you.”
And, trust me, I did not just mount some high horse to tell you, “No, I really don’t like cake,” like I’m some holy body guru who eats only mountain-grown roots and spring water and thinks lowly of your desire for cake. Not at all; if you like cake, that’s awesome. For me, however, even if it tastes good and is not super unhealthy for me, useless sugar-filled carbs are not something I enjoy putting in my mouth because it messes with my mind. I see cake as a junk food, like donuts, hot dogs, pizza, or Oreos. I spent so many years torturing my body, that I have pledged to spend my remainder worshiping and respecting her. So, any food item that does not offer me any nutritional value, only empty, bad calories, I can safely and easily say I do not “like.”
And, of course, when I try to explain all of this, people tell me: “You need indulgences. You can’t be on a diet all the time.” And, I want to scream at them: “Yes I can!” Because my “diet” is a healthy eating plan for my body. My diet includes indulgences, they just don’t look like most other people’s, and most other people cannot handle that. After years of struggling, I finally found—through research, speaking with nutritionists, and trying different diets—that my body absolutely loves protein. Like a hungry lion, she craves it. That, with vegetables (piles of vegetables) and fruit, and this body remains healthy, happy, active, and in tremendous shape. Those are the foods I crave. So, my indulgence would be an extra slab of goat cheese on my Chicken Bryan, or another dollop of Greek yogurt for dessert, or five more shrimps on that salad.
I do indulge, just not on cake, or cookies, or ice cream, or those other empty, unnecessary carbs other people love. Do my meals sometimes look totally weird to other people? Absolutely. I eat tuna with yogurt and an apple for lunch often. Do I care what those people think? Not at all. At least not anymore. And, I write this to hopefully help encourage you to do the same. Your “diet”—the food plan that works for you, that keeps your mind in a healthy place when it comes to food and exercise, and keeps your body in a size and state that is right for you—does not have to please anyone else. It does not have to include cookies if you do not crave cookies. It does not require you to eat a whole slice of cake at the office birthday gathering, if you do not like cake. Now, if someone finally wised up and decided to serve a savory, cheesy taco salad for an office party, look out! I’ll be coming back for seconds. Because that’s what I like. And, that’s entirely okay.
You eat for you, and don’t let anyone else make you feel guilty for following your healthy eating plan.
I’m not sorry, Cake. It’s not you. It’s me. (Happy, healthy, me.)
(Added) sugar is the devil
Sugar is really so bad for you. When I started to really “get into” all of this food and science stuff, I was surprised to learn just how bad sugar really is, also how unnecessary, how addictive, and how easy it is to avoid. Healthier choices like plant-based, low-calorie sweeteners (Truvia is my go-to) are everywhere now and super easy to substitute when you’re making foods for yourself. And, if your shopping involves primarily picking up wine and cheese (obviously!) but also your meal ingredients, these should be mostly produce, meat, and dairy. Most of those items have very little added sugar.
And, I say “added” because the naturally-occurring sugar in so many healthy foods (fruit is a primary example) are not as bad for you as added sugars (primarily in processed, packaged crap that you shouldn’t eat anyway). Sprinkle some Truvia and cinnamon on fresh apple slices and I guarantee it will satisfy you just as much (if not infinitely more) than that sugar-ridden “diet” bar. As a good friend of mine explained it: shop around the perimeter of the store (where the produce, meats, and dairy lie); don’t buy from the center (where the packaged crap reels you in).
And, please don’t think I’m getting all preachy here. This is your body. The amazing machine that carries you every day, affords you such insatiable pleasures of taste, touch, sound, and sight. It is an immensely incredible gift. I can make two promises to you (and feel free to hold me to them):
- 1) Once you start taking that fantastic body of yours out to the perimeter of the store and feeding it organic, healthy, non-sugar-laden and -processed food, it will reward you mentally far more than that bag of cookies will.
- 2) Once your body adjusts to this new, healthy diet and the wholesome, farm-to-table foods you keep putting in, it will begin to reward you physically with a leaner, fitter, better-feeling physique.
The sad thing is: it’s really not that hard to eat good. Buy good foods. Cook them. Eat sensibly. The hard part is the mental game. Having suffered for years (decades!) with a ravishing eating disorder, I know more than most how hard that hold is to break. I encourage anyone reading this blog because you struggle with food to please Read My Story. I hope it can help you shatter that mental monster that has made food the enemy.
A Word on Fasting
In addition to my own personal preference to eat protein rather than carbs, I will also readily and eagerly admit that I like incorporating short, intermittent fasts into my diet. I don’t know all of the science behind it—I’ll be the first to tell you I am not a licensed, certified nutritionist—but I believe our bodies tend to “reset” themselves during a short fast. My bloat goes away. The squishy, watery feeling in my ankles and wrists goes away. My stomach shrinks a bit. And, by the time I am ready to eat again, my hunger is smaller and I make better decisions about the quality and quantity of food I put in my body.
While I occasionally fast for 24 hours (this is often a decision my body readily welcomes after I have indulged on a big dinner and dessert and she feels relatively full most of the following day until dinner time), that is rare. More often I will fast for 8-10 hours, perhaps having a brunch snack around 9:00 a.m. and then fasting for 8-or-so hours until dinner. Nothing crazier than that. Again, while I’m no science foodie, I have read many articles (like this one) that boast health and weight loss benefits from periodic short fasting.
I also do not like to feel full during the day. It makes me sluggish and inclined to avoid working as efficiently or productively. When I’m full, I just want to lounge and read or watch TV. Going back to my desk after a filling lunch, feeling like a stuffed cow, makes me feel (I will readily admit these feelings still linger in me) like I should be working that meal off rather than sitting. These are my hang-ups but I have found, rather than reverting back to my unhealthy ED ways, if I simply eat light during the day and allow my healthy feast to digest at night, I feel better about my body—both during the day and when I wake up the next morning. I also sleep much better when I’m full and I would rather sleep through that digestion period. Studies show both benefits and consequences of eating one large meal a day, so the decision is really up to you. Where the cons seem to be unique to each person, i.e., whether short fasting makes you feel sharper, focused, and more productive (me) or irritable and fatigued, if you feel good eating less during the day, this may be the perfect plan for you.
A word on the french
Primarily, my diet mirrors that of the French. They eat much more fatty cheeses than Americans do. While we scour the shelves for processed packages promising only 100 calories of fat-free or low-fat something-or-other, most of it not being actual food at all, the French are ambling happily through outdoor, open markets choosing cheeses with crumbly blue crusts, or oozing milky centers. Yet, they typically live longer, more healthier lives than Americans, with far less obesity and coronary heart disease. I envy them that, and in doing so, try to immolate that.
I am admittedly a hard-core Francophile. While it is an over-generalization, sure, but the lot of them are more elegant, worldly, and healthy than many, many Americans. They eat smaller portions and spend much of their day walking or biking. They generally buy fresh produce and protein to cook fresh every day. And, they start drinking early. I mean cheers to that! In all, there is an abundance of evidence to show a French food lifestyle trumps an American one any day. So, grab a glass of wine, sit down with a delicious spread of cheese, and cheers a culture that honors food, from its dirty roots to its decadent rewards.
What I Eat in a Typical Day
Enough of this yapping, let’s just dig in to what my diet now looks like and what I eat on a typical day. This started out as a low-carb, protein-heavy diet that my brother was on and he raved to me about it while I was first starting to recover and keep the food I ate down. Once I cut most carbs (at least the sugar-heavy, useless ones) the rest seemed to click into place, and I am now on a “diet” (although please read my post about what that words means to MEEE) that satisfies me, keeps my body lean and muscular (as it is meant to be) and is not a “weird” diet that looks odd to others or makes it hard for me to eat out. Surprisingly, I found many more restaurants than I would have imagined serve many foods that fit seamlessly into my diet. I will just lay out what I eat in a typical day and explain my selections and portions below:
- BREAKFAST: Coffee
- BRUNCH: Small protein serving (often cheese, eggs, yogurt, prosciutto, or nuts)
- LUNCH: Veggie serving (often a salad or cut-up veggies)
- DINNER: Cheese starter with wine followed by a big protein dinner with veggies and wine
- DESSERT: Cheese! (my favorite, but yogurt, nuts, protein powder, etc. work too)
Honestly, if you are someone who struggles with food, who has been yo-yo dieting with awful results for years, and especially if you are someone who is slipping toward an eating disorder (do not be me!), I am 100% convinced this diet could change your life. It changed mine. Am I perfect? No. Is my body a rockstar super model body? No, but I can hold up my hand and say I have not stuck my fingers down my throat and thrown up, nor have I looked in the mirror and, like so many other times, wanted to cry since I settled on this diet. THAT is what I wholeheartedly believe this diet can do. Then, after that initial body-love awakening, if you find this diet also gives you the best, most fit and toned body you’ve always desired, well that will just be icing on your cake (or taco salad, if that’s what you prefer ; ).
As mentioned in my “fasting” section, I like to eat less during the day. Sometimes that is nothing at all (a rare day and usually only after I have gorged the night before), but it is a very typical day that I eat light during the day and heavy at night. This is simply a choice that works well for me. As I have readily admitted, I like to “feel like” I have (which is different than actually having) a flat tummy when I’m all spiffed up working, interacting, and being social, but when I get home at night and put on my comfeties (as my brother calls them – love that fabulously gay man!) my desire for a flat tummy goes out the window and I’m ready to feast! While I am not trying to condone or start a binge-eating disorder (trust me, I’ve been there, feel free to read my hilarious attempt to eat as much peanut butter in one sitting as humanly possible in my story), I do know that, for me, I like to eat my largest meal at night and digest while I’m sleeping. That is a personal preference, but I still eat very healthy foods at night and stay within a healthy range of calorie consumption every day. For this reason, this diet—small protein nibbles (that are mostly organic and full of healthy fats) along with veggies during the day, followed by a large protein-rich and veggie-heavy dinner with wine and cheese at night—works very well for me. And, I believe it can work very well for you. I think you’ll find cheese and wine make a fabulous guilt-free dessert!
There are so many amazing foods in this world that I love, it’s hard to even pare this down. But, I will start with my favorites for now—as this blog is still very young—and continue to add more recipes as I build this amazing platform. To get this protein party started (yeah, baby! … and please tell me you read that in an Austin Powers voice) I will include my favorite make-at-home dish here, so you can get a flavuh-flav, and share the rest on my “Good Eats” page. I explained above why a low-carb, protein-heavy diet works for me; hence, many of these dishes are incredibly low-carb, but you can add in rice, potatoes, pasta, and other whole-grain options anywhere you’d like to make them a more carb-balanced choice for you. You’ll see I love my meats (including the super healthy fishies!) and my veggies. That is, of course, after my love for wine and cheese, which should accompany every single one of these. Dig in!
This is one of my favorite dishes I have ever made. And, it was one of the first complete dishes that I learned to cook for myself when I was recovering, so it also gives me a warm, fuzzy “here’s looking at you kid” kudos feeling because it played a big role in my healing process. Plus, it’s stupid easy. Basically you throw freshly-rinsed torn-up kale into a big roasting pot or pan, add chopped carrots and red onion, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, then lay some chicken thighs (with the skin on) on top, dash a little paprika on them for color, and roast the whole thing at 375-degrees for an hour (30 minutes covered with foil, 20 minutes without). That’s it. You see? Super easy.
When I eat it, I work the skin off of the chicken to eat only the lean meat, and I devour all of the kale. Every single leaf. The fat from the chicken is soaked throughout (and it’s good for you!). Do not be afraid of healthy fat. The skin on the chicken roasts each thigh up like it was swaddled in its own roasting blanket. It’s the easiest dish ever and looks fabulous. You can really impress people with this one. More detailed recipe here. Feel free to add taters if you’d like. Let me know what you think of this one and go check out all the others here!
I call these “food hacks” because they are delicious, easy ways (I have found) to get the same taste and fill of not-so-healthy foods, but in a healthy way. Many of these “hacks” helped me through many, many days when I was just starting out in my recovery and struggling with food. I hope they can help you, too. I will include one here (my favorite! you’re welcome ; ) so you can see what types of tips I like to share, and view the rest on my Good Eats page here.
That’s right, unleash your inner Cookie Monster! You didn’t think you could have cookie dough on the Wine and Cheese Diet, did you? Silly you! There is a reason I built a whole blog around this diet and have flouted it as the best in the world! You get your wine, your cheese, and your freaking cookie dough, too. Seriously, there is not an inner child in any of us who did not love the days when we got to clean the cookie dough bowl. Raw eggs were somehow not a concern when I was growing up. Beating my brother back from the chocolate chip cookie batter bowl so I could eat all that left-behind dough myself, however, was a HUGE concern. “Get back Bro-Lo! This dough is mine!” Here’s how I make my very own protein-rich, no-bad-fat “cookie dough.” Give it a try and let me know what you think!
- Dish out about a half-cup of the protein powder flavor of your choice. And, as I mentioned previously, you don’t have to put unknown chemicals in your body to enjoy protein powder. They make plenty of organic versions that are plant-based. They even make chocolate chip cookie dough-flavored protein powder, so you could use that one for this treat. But there is seemingly an endless array of protein powder flavors (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, cherry, cappuccino, I could go on). Go nuts! (Literally! I love the peanut butter flavored-protein powder just about the best.)
- Add a couple tablespoons of Greek Yogurt and some almond milk, water, or butter. There’s no real measuring going on here. You just use (what I call) the “eyeball method”, adding the liquids slowly so your “dough” doesn’t get too soupy. You want it to look pretty much like cookie dough—stiff and dough-ey (that’s a word today). You can make this with just water and protein powder if you’d like, the yogurt, milk, and butter just make it more filling and flavorful.
- Add salt and Truvia to taste. This surprised me, but when I started baking cookies myself (for the BF!) I learned a common ingredient in cookies is salt. Maybe you pro-bakers out there already knew that, but learning that did remind me cookie dough was probably so satisfying because it was so sweet and salty. Shake some of each in and add to taste.
- Curl up with your bowl of heaven, a good book or movie, and INDUUUULGE. Then tell me what other diet says: “You’re darn right you can sit on the couch and eat cookie dough and look and feel fabulous.” You’re welcome.
Exercise only 4 times per week
“Abs are made in the kitchen!”
That’s what she says, in her adorably cute British accent. With her adorably cute dog, Sir Ralphie next to her, when she’s encouraging you to “keep ya cheeks up” and finish a workout with her. I love this gal. Rebecca Louise. She is a great online fitness guru who has a slew of workout videos available that are entertaining, peppy, and wicked effective. She always also says (when she’s pushing you through the fire that is burning in your aching abs during one of her ab routines): “Abs are made in the kitchen.” And Rebecca is totally right.
So, many millions of people spend exorbitant amounts of time working out with unsatisfactory results because they are not eating right. It is a stupidly undeniable premise that, if you put the right, healthy foods in your body, you have to work out far less to look and feel amazing. And, trust me—this coming from someone who would run for so long and so hard I wet myself on the treadmill at the gym (don’t be me; read my story and be a much better you)—it took me decades to learn this simple fact: Abs are indeed made in the kitchen.
As ridiculous as it may sound, my body did a complete 180 when I started exercising LESS. I am dead serious. If you are a chronic exerciser (like I used to be) or even—I hope not, but there are many of us out there—an exercise bulimic (like I used to be), you start to feel this overwhelming dread when you realize your day is not going to allow you to exercise. You start to panic inside thinking: “Holy crap, I just ate that whole breakfast burrito and now I won’t be able to run it off later?!” You start to sweat and curse yourself. Maybe you (stupidly, like me) would try to find ways to flex your muscles during the day to work off that blasted burrito. Dumb, dumb. Don’t be me; be a much better you.
The good news? You don’t have to make my many mistakes, because I have already made all of them for you (you’re welcome). And, even better, you don’t have to work out as damn much! Imagine all of the amazing things you can do with that new-found free time: read books (hell, write books! I did!), ride a horse, write a play, ride an emu, do anything your healthy, thumping heart desires! It will free you knowing you won’t have to spend those hours pounding the pavement, stressing your joints and feet, and cursing your daily “routine”, and that doing so is good for you. I found when I worked out every day, or just about that (i.e., six times a week), I felt more lethargic and my muscles more sore. My workouts generally suffered because I was tired from the rigorous regimen I had put myself through the day before. My muscles also did not recover as well because I did not give them time to heal. Overall, OVER-working my body encouraged it to underwork during my non-exercise time or “cheat” (do things the easier way) during my workouts because she was exhausted. And, I was the one who had exhausted her. Unnecessarily.
While this was hard for me, as I often felt guilty during the early days of my recovery when I would choose days to not work out at all, the impact on my body was an awakening. I am more fit, and feel better, now that I’m working out only four times per week. And, if scientific proof is what you need, the evidence is there! Many studies have shown working out less (only four times per week, for example, as opposed to six, is BETTER for your body). You need that time off. Your body needs to recover. And, you need to have days where you just “do” what the day has in store (maybe it will include a long walk because you’re traveling, maybe it will include some lifting because you’re cleaning out the garage, or maybe it won’t include much exercise at all because you’re sitting, reading, working, etc.) but you just have to embrace it, do what physically motivates you that day, and kick the exercise panic to the curb.