Eating Enough

There is a funny thing that’s happened a bit in the corner of the CrossFit blogger world that I live in, and it’s that women have not only rejected the idea of a calorie deficit, but have moved to the other side of the spectrum. Instead of fitness bloggers who humblebrag about how little they ate today, CrossFit bloggers post about how MUCH they ate today, how they are still hungry, and how they are going to go make themselves a 1500-calorie bedtime snack because #gainz, y’all.

Don’t get me wrong, I am more than supportive of ditching the calorie deficit mindset. I will be the first person to tell you that eating less does not mean being more fit, and in fact not eating enough can be detrimental to your progress. I know this, because I can barely get myself to eat enough on a regular basis. I am not a big eater, and never really have been, and up until the past few months, I’ve been pretty ok with that.

But, to be honest, I am also not really ready to just start adding indiscriminate mass to my body. I’ve said this before, but I know that even though CrossFitters are only supposed to care about our increasing fitness, it is also pretty nice to look in the mirror and like what you see. When I gain weight, I can tell immediately–and not because my lifts go up. Also, I’ve been noticing that the high carb meals that are encouraged by ETP and Lift Big Eat Big-style athletes and coaches just make me feel sluggish and unenthusiastic. My body is apparently not as on board with the idea of eating 3 cups of rice for dinner as I want it to be.

But I also know that if I want to get stronger, I have to, at the very least, shift my weight around on my body a bit. And I think that the solution to this dilemma might less to do with “eating big,” and have a lot more to do with lifting heavy weight on a regular basis. Tomorrow I am starting this 12-week Strength Cycle Training Plan from Catalyst Athletics–I have tried doing a few Catalyst programs in the past, but both times have been stalled by illness (last spring) and injury (stitches from a dermatology thing this past November) and then never found myself back on track (And yes, I’m starting on a Thursday… it just fits better in my schedule that way). And I’m hoping that this will give me some focus and, if nothing else, maybe make me a little hungrier.

So in the meantime, I am still working on making ETP work for me. Two nights ago, I had two burger patties with 2 cups of brown rice for dinner, and I had to coach myself through the second half of the meal. Who knew eating so much could be so hard?

  • Simone

    I’m also such a light eater. I view breakfast and lunch as huge inconveniences. Shut up, stomach, I got shit to do! (…Obviously this is a large part of why I’m not lifting heavy yet or getting leaner, just staying “skinny.”) I’m working on it.

    It’s kind of #firstworldproblems either way, isn’t it? “Oh, I’m voluntarily not going to eat enough to pursue a more slender physique” and “I’m going to force myself to eat more food” both strike me as kind of silly — I wonder what that must look like to someone who’s lived on a food deficit their whole lives, you know?

    That said, when you’re working hard for it, your body DOES need more fuel. I’m a huge fan of “lift big eat big,” don’t get me wrong. I just have to figure out how to do that myself :)

    • clairechapman

      Ha I have definitely thought of the first world problem-ness of all of this… sometimes I read people’s statuses who are like I NEED ALL THE FOOD and sort of think well, I mean, “need” might not be the right word here…

  • Jennifer Hudy

    I think it is all about finding what works best for you, what makes you most comfortable, and what helps you to reach your goals. For me, now that I have increased the amount that I eat plus played around with the timing of my meals, I have PRed just about everything we have tested lately when it comes to strength things, front squat, push jerk, deadlift, bench press, plus got my first C2B. But at the same time, my weight is increasing and I don’t think I am seeing huge gains endurance wise.. though right now, it’s more important to me to have that feeling of strong.

    I will admit I cannot relate to the not eating a lot part.. it’s EASY for me to eat 2500+ calories in a day and not even feel stuffed lately.. maybe with the increased strength programming it’ll be easier for you to eat more since your body will crave more?

    Looking forward to reading about it either way!

    • clairechapman

      Yeah I think I just need to be more definitive about what it is that I’m actually going for. Do I want to lean out and maybe get better at handstands and pull-ups, but not worry about my lifts? Or do I want to focus on lifting and accept a few “blah” days while I try to figure out my carb intake? I sort of bounce back and forth between those and I think I need to just put my flag in the sand and stick with one or the other!

      • Jennifer Hudy

        Exactly! You’re naturally probably better at all the bodyweight things because of your size over a lot of the athletes; though gaining weight will probably quickly improve your lifts.. I’d rather have a heavier deadlift than a faster Fran.. though I think strength gains also help in the heavy WODs like that, too.
        It’s working for me for now.. ask me in 3 months how I feel.. ;)

  • Shannon

    I see the #eatbigliftbig
    hashtag all over my social media as well and have often though that it’s quite
    a culture shift, especially for women who have typically been “told” by media
    to eat less and get smaller. I think it’s
    wonderful that the stigma of actually nourishing yourself for the activity/job
    you do is catching on, as opposed to starving ourselves to fit into a certain
    size. However…I also see it as becoming a
    sweeping statement used to justify mass food consumption. It’s really a specific statement for a
    specific set of people but I wonder how many of them are doing it because it’s
    a complete departure from the deprivation we’ve all experienced over the last
    decades (FREEDOM!!!!!) and how many of
    them are actually listening to their body’s cues. Your comment: I had to coach myself
    through the second half of the meal” is a great example of that. You
    lift heavy and you’re fit and self-aware and you want to gain strength….but
    your body was sending a message that what works for some may not work for
    you. (totally not trying to give you a
    hard time…just thought it was a very interesting statement and brought to mind
    things I’ve wondered myself about eatbigliftbig).

    • clairechapman

      Yeah I totally see what you’re saying. I definitely found it odd that I was forcing myself to eat, when usually in these scenarios you are forcing yourself NOT to eat!

  • Rebecca

    “but I know that even though CrossFitters are only supposed to care about our increasing fitness, it is also pretty nice to look in the mirror and like what you see. When I gain weight, I can tell immediately–and not because my lifts go up” <—this! Yes, that's exactly what I go through. I did take some pointers away from ETP but I don't feel like I really 'earn' the right to eat as much food as they prescribe for me. (Or at least that many carbs). I LOVE jasmine rice and rice chex now, but my body hangs onto it way too long. It's so difficult to find what works for you, isn't it? But that's what's nice about being open minded, being able to experiment with different things to see what works best for you.

    • clairechapman

      Yep definitely all about trial and error. And it’s hard to live in the Paleo/CrossFit world and really have a clear message of what to do… on the one hand you have the Whole30 people who are like TORTILLA CHIPS AREN’T WORH IT and then you have the ETP people who are like CEREAL FOR EVERYONE and I mean c’mon how the heck are we supposed to figure out what we’re doing! lol

  • Kelsi

    Dude, I’m so guilty of the calorie deficit mindset. Only recently (about two weeks ago) have my years of growing knowledge about health and wellness led me to a point where it all finally “clicked.” I’ve been trying so hard to discern what is best for my approach to wellness, as Jennifer Hudy mentioned below, and it differs from person to person. I’ve struggled for years to find my “niche,” and it’s been so frustrating because I couldn’t find one that stuck. I have read about and tried everything from Whole 30 to going 80% vegan to juicing to logging every g–damn calorie I put in my mouth. I’ve tried workout plans like Insanity and T25 and TIU. I’ve gone from gym memberships to martial arts classes to yoga.

    I’ve had accountability plans with my mother and sister (since we’re all trying to be healthier) and we all have such different ideas of what “wellness” is. My mom wants to eat better but insists on having a four-foot tall multi-shelved “happy cupboard” in her kitchen so her guests (including children and grandchildren) can feel at home and help themselves to a variety of snacks like chips, candy bars, cookies, caramels, and licorice. Instead, it sabotages all of us (especially me with my sweet tooth, and my 7 year old nephew who is now overweight). My sister has had body image issues all her life (especially after having triplets just a year ago). She has an all-or-nothing mentality… and when she can’t stick to it for more than a few weeks she falls apart and hates herself. She has a fascination with the number on the scale.

    Anyway, here’s the conclusions I FINALLY came to about myself (and it was a wonderful feeling!):

    - I care more about what my body can DO and hope that I can do those things well into my old age. I want to learn to do some motherf—in handstands and still do them when I’m 85. I care more about that than the size of my pants or how much I weigh.
    - I can’t worry about what my mom and sister are doing. I can encourage them, but I have to find what’s right for ME. Maybe if I love my body well, it can serve as a good example to them and we can all live long, happy, healthy, able-bodied lives.
    - I found that I don’t have a “niche” when it comes to food. I’ll likely never be completely vegan or totally Paleo, and that’s okay. I love food, and I’m going to eat all kinds of it, but I’m striving to eat fresh, nourishing foods from kind resources (and not pre-packaged stuff if I can help it). And I still love learning and reading about what other people are doing, because there isn’t just one way!
    - I also found that I don’t have a “niche” when it comes to fitness. I’ll never be a marathon runner or a competitive athlete or a professional yogi. I’ll probably never even run a 5K. BUT… I love dancing, doing yoga stretches, going for walks, and strength training at home by myself. I contently accept that I will stick with what I enjoy and not try to see faster “results” by cutting corners (calorie deficits) or trying to force fitness plans that aren’t “me”… though I’m always willing to try new things to see if I like them!.

    Lastly (if you’re still reading this novel), I can’t WAIT to meet you tomorrow! =)

    • clairechapman

      Haha I loved your novel :) And I am SO excited to meet you tomorrow too! I think that you’re right–it’s all just about finding a balance and figuring out what works for you. I can’t stand yoga but I used to love dance; I hate running but never in a million years would I have anticipated how much I like lifting. It really just is about finding *your* thing and sticking with it.

  • Gabby

    I think you have to find a balance of what works for you. For example, I keep my carb intake WAY lower than ETP recommends because it simply works better for me that way. It takes a lot of experimentation and constant tweaking.

    I think it’s all about finding something that works in a more long term way. Also, eating for performance and eating for health don’t necessarily look the same. Striking a balance can be tough!

    • clairechapman

      Totally true. I think I need to just be better at defining for myself what my goal is… Do I want to get stronger and worry about food in terms of fueling that, or do I want to optimize my gut health and be lean at the risk of having a calorie deficit some days and maybe not being able to support a high (or even moderate) volume weightlifting cycle.

      • Gabby

        Agree! And while it’s difficult to eat enough and be squeaky clean paleo, I think there are definitely ways to eat food that makes you feel good while still making dem gainz.

  • Jen@HealthyFoodandFamily

    It’s so hard to find a balance with food. When I work out harder, I need more food and I feel better when I do, but I think some people go WAY overboard with restricting and eating too much. Double edged sword, I guess.


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