For my entire life, I feel like I’ve been given nothing but dietary limits.
Limit meals to 3 per day. Limit snacks to 1 per day. Limit dessert to 1 per day. Limit fruits to 3 per day. Limit fat to 30 grams per day. Limit carbs to 50 grams per day. Limit calories to 1200 per day. Just kidding. Limit calories to 800 per day.
Don’t do this, don’t do that.
Diet in America–the healthy diet everyone always talks about–is always about a limit. It’s about a number. It’s about a prescription, a border, a container. The most trending diet searched on Google in 2015 was the “20/20” diet.
Diet in America gives you a restrictive number, and it’s supposed to be some silver bullet. It combines two of America’s favorite things–numbers and willpower! (I wish I were joking, but I’m not.)
It says: hit this target, strive for this target, work for this target. The more hardcore you are, the better you are. The more hardcore you are, the more willpower you’ll have, and the more the rewards are within your reach. If only you can manage to restrict yourself this much, to this precise amount, you will finally be the healthy, thin woman you always deserved to be.
(Says Oprah, anyway.)
So this is what diets are all about.
This is what, by and large, paleo is about, too.
Paleo talks so much about macronutrients. And nearly every single bit of advice you will ever hear about macronutrients in the paleosphere is that you should “keep them to” some level. It’s carbs, by the way, that paleo is mostly worried about… other worlds, like vegetarianism, do the same thing with fat.
“Keep carbs low,” they say.
“Limit fruits to a small handful of berries a day.”
“Be sure not to have too much.”
“Go ahead and eat carbs, but not too much.”
“Have some carbs, but only post-workout.”
“Don’t eat more than 200 grams of carbs a day, or else you’re in the “danger zone” with “insidious weight gain.””
You might think things were different.
These days, paleo talks the big talk. It says that it’s progressive about macronutrients.
But all it does is limit them in a different way.
Instead of saying, “keep carbs under 30 grams a day” it says, instead, “only eat carbs in the evening meal,” or something. Between 6 and 8 pm. 4 hours before bedtime, they say.
To which I say,
Don’t set macronutrient maximums, set macronutrient minimums
From my point of view, the right thing to do is to throw dietary maximums out the window.
Let’s stop talking about food like it’s something to be corralled.
Let’s stop talking about food like it’s a problem.
Let’s stop talking about food like an indulgence.
Instead, let’s talk about food like it’s healthy. Let’s talk about food like it’s energy, and fuel. Let’s talk about food like it’s nourishment.
You need food in order to reproduce. You need food in order to be active. You need food into order to feel happy, to feel good, to be kind, to go on adventures, and to live your life.
Protein is a part of this. Fat is a part of this. Carbs are a part of this. Calories are a part of this.
And none of those things (unless you have some specific health condition) should be restricted. None of those things merit fear.
They are all just different components of food, and food is that which gives us life.
In fact, it is much more unhealthy to undereat than it is to overeat. I would rather see a woman eat 400 grams of good, natural carbohydrates a day than 4…. 4000 calories instead of 40.
So let’s stop setting macronutrient maximums, and instead set minimums.
Fat grams, per day, should be at an absolute minimum 30 grams. That is an absolute basement minimum, and should ideally be at least 45 or 50 grams a day as a minimum.
Protein should be 50 grams daily, minimum, for women (and more for athletes).
Carbohydrates should be 100 grams daily, minimum, for women (and more for athletes). If you have a particular health condition such as diabetes or really want to be “low carb,” then 50 grams daily should probably be reasonably sustainble for you. But let’s be real. Most of us don’t need to do that. At all.
Calories should be 2000 minimum, daily. For women.
There, I said it. 2000 calories a day. I’m done pretending like it’s good or okay to eat less. I’m done rationalizing our restrictive eating behaviors. I’m done thinking that it’s okay to undereat, just because society says you don’t deserve to eat, or to have meat on your bones. You can eat less than 2000 calories a day and survive, certainly. And I want you to eat when you are hungry and stop when you feel good and full. But if you ever dip below 2000 calories a day because you don’t feel good about yourself, I hope that you read this post, and read my other posts on self-love, and read my book Sexy by Nature, and look at yourself in the mirror every day and say “I am hot. I am worthy. I am smart. I am capable. I am amazing, and lovable.” Because you are, and I’ll be damned if I let a nutrition label or a jean size or a nasty comment shouted at you from a passing vehicle ever let you feel otherwise.
Eat as many carbs as you want! Eat as much fat! Eat as much volulme! At whatever time of day you want!
I don’t care! The universe doesn’t care! Your body doesn’t particularly care! I mean certainly, your body cares. But it can be healthy with carbs, healthy with fats, healthy with protein, and healthy with varying calories, eaten at any time of the day! Really!
So in my opinion, the healthy thing to do is to set minimums. The smart thing to do is to set minimums. The loving thing to do is to set minimums.
When you do this–when you set minimums instead of maximums–you start to think of food as something you should be welcoming into your life with open arms. You think of food as nourishment. You think of food as a gift, and something to be cherished.
And then yourself, as a being worthy of that gift.
For my post on whether you can love yourself and lose weight, check it out, here.
For my post on why I love healthy at every size, check it out, here.
So there it is. My feelings about macronutrients today. I’m feeling fiery. How about you? What do you think of this idea? How does it work for you?