Too many avocados? My macronutrient drama.

Requisite avocado...

First, a recap. Here is a brief summary of my smarter fitter journey so far, starting from roughly 12 years ago:

First I was kind of chubby.
Then I was a little chubbier.
Then I was pretty chubby.
Then I lost some weight.
Then I lost too much weight.
Then I gained some back again.
Then I gained some more…

Weight gain is not a bad thing, especially when it comes in the form of muscle. And in fact I have been making some big efforts to get stronger over the recent years (especially after the big muscle wasting debacle of 2009 that followed a really annoying kidney infection). My efforts include eating more protein, swimming, weight lifting and most recently, CrossFit.

But for anyone who’s ever gone through the hassle of losing weight, it’s a real drag and a little scary putting weight on again. I’m pretty sure that some of that weight is good muscly weight (as evidenced by my body fat and circumference measurements, thank you CrossFit Cirencester 30 Day Challenge). But I know that it’s not all muscle, and as much as I like to think I’m immune to aging, the fact is that since entering my 30’s, I tend to carry more blubber in those problematic hip and tummy areas. There’s stuff around my waist that wasn’t there a couple years ago when I felt at my prime. And it’s damn frustrating!

I feel like I’ve been trying all sorts of things but I can’t seem to get back to where I was. The measurements taken at CrossFit have been encouraging, but still, I feel like I’ve been trying at this for years and I don’t seem to get anywhere.

So recently I’ve gone back to basic principals. Back in the day when I first became really interested in my physical fitness, I counted calories. I know it’s mundane and it’s not for everyone, but it worked for me and was a major factor in my achieving my initial weight loss goals. Every so often I like to track my calories for a week or two just to see where I’m at. So, that’s what I’ve done for the past week, and the results kind of surprised me.

First off, what am I going for here? Well, there are so many school’s of thought on macronutrient ratios, protein intake and so on, it’s a bit tough to know which to follow.

The “Zone Diet”, which lots of CrossFitters seem to like, promotes a 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, 30% fat ratio. On most days I tend towards a ratio of 35% carbohydrates, 20% protein and [a whopping] 45% fat.

Another way to look at it is protein: there are different school’s of thought on this but I tend to trust Mark Sisson’s advice which says that a moderately active person should consume about .7 or .8 grams of protein per pound of lean mass per day, or as much as 1 gram per pound of lean mass for active athletes. Now, I’m not training for the Olympics, but I am pushing myself to get “harder”, training most days per week so I can work towards doing things like hike around Scotland with a pack, walk the Pacific Crest Trail and do cool party tricks like walk on my hands. For me that’s about 60-90 grams of protein. My daily intake tends to be in the 50-60 gram range.

Whether either of these metrics are the end all be all to fitness and feeling awesome, I’m willing to admit that getting nearly half of your calories from fat is probably not ideal for anyone, regardless of how “good” that fat is. So, I should probably try to lower my fat intake and up my protein. This is kind of a bummer.

Despite adding more fish to my diet, I’ve actually found it a struggle to eat as much protein as I’ve been eating (thought I certainly feel better for it). And as for fat, well I love my avocado, not to mention my nuts, seeds and salads. I bemoan the idea of a life of steamed vegetables and egg white omelets. In fact, the whole point of this blog and what I’m about is figuring out ways to get fit and healthy without that boo feeling of sacrifice.

There is also an argument to be made that this line of thinking is totally mental and that I should just relax because I DO have my health already so why worry? Well, Scotland… trails… party tricks!

I had a thought the other day which helped dissolve the slow-progress blues. One of the problems with all this “get fit” shit is that you have this vision of success, and it sits out there way in the distance, and in fact may not even be achievable. So you spend all this time pushing for it, never really getting there, and perpetually feeling like a failure. But the real success is actually in the process. I am thinking about my situation, analyzing it, and doing something about it: boom, I am successful. Achieving the goal is just bonus.

So what is the goal? Well that’s another tricky matter. It’s not about weight loss for me. It’s about being strong, capable and – critically! – feeling comfortable in my own skin. So how to measure that? I’m still figuring that one out, but hope to explore this in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, any suggestions for yummy high protein, low-ish fat meals? Or ways to dress up steamed vegetables that don’t involve a beautiful oily dressing?

A few good ideas from the blogosphere include Jacqueline’s Veg & Lentil Stew (also 5:2 friendly), Dannii’s Bean Chilli (can’t go wrong with a good chilli), Michelle’s “picnic bakes” (akin to mini frittatas – I love frittatas), Kavey’s not-so-mini courgette and mint frittata, and, as Camilla points out, the ever versatile poached egg (not to mention hummus).

Any more?

P.S. I have no intention of giving up avocado.

13 thoughts on “Too many avocados? My macronutrient drama.

  1. Kavey

    I know I have too much fat in my diet, and much of it is in form of meat protein. Lots in form of cheese and cream too. Trying to reduce volume of meat and increase veg. I’m less of a carb addict than many people seem to be.

    1. Monica Post author

      Kavey, like you, carbs aren’t a HUGE issue. I don’t eat very much bread and I don’t have a sweet tooth. It’s the oils, the avocados and nuts and seeds that get me. I might actually UP the dairy in my diet as I eat very little and it IS a source of protein, and calcium!

  2. Camilla @FabFood4All

    I have always thought there are no bad foods just bad diets (with the exceiption of artificial additives etc) and everything in moderation with moving about (I hate the word excercise because it makes it sound like a chore)!. I wish you well in your quest and please don’t give up the good fats in your diet – avocados rock:-) Thanks for linking to my recipes:-)

  3. kellie@foodtoglow

    I know what you mean, Monica. I am just past 50 and since 38 or so the waist has expanded gradually. I am still in the same clothes, but they do fit differently. I think as we age we have to accept that we will expand a bit (unless you have won the genetic jackpot – e.g. Elle McPherson) but we shouldn’t accept feeling unfit. Which you don’t. Quite the opposite. I am a great believer in listening to one’s body and adjusting along the way. For awhile I was vegan but I added fish when I became pregnant and found I had LOADS more energy than I did as a vegan. Other people feel that surge and wellness with raw, or higher protein, etc. We gravitate towards what our body needs but often we are socialised into fighting it (fads, celeb stuff, blah blah), to our detriment. Fads come and go but you only have one body. Listen to it. Take sound advice of course, study too. But at the end of the day your intuition as to what makes your mind and body tick is the most important thing. It sounds like you are doing just that. In my weight management classes (for post-cancer treatment) we don’t promote a one size fits all approach, and by personalising and really paying attention to energy, digestion and tastes/textures we’ve had some amazing ‘successes’ (however that is defined) in the short and long-term. You are right about the psychology of it all. Often that is the biggest barrier to being where you want to be. PS I think you look fab. But you have to be comfortable with yourself, no matter what others think.

    1. Monica Post author

      Thank you for the warning, Kellie. 😉 But seriously, what a thoughtful response. Interesting, I had a similar experience with eating fish – I feel so much better for it. But intuition is telling me that something is still off kilter and I’m trying to figure out what the something is. So, trial and error. And also, as you say, acceptance – I’m still working on that one too.

  4. Jes

    “But the real success is actually in the process. I am thinking about my situation, analyzing it, and doing something about it: boom, I am successful. Achieving the goal is just bonus.”


    Also, thank god you aren’t giving up avocados 🙂 That’d be heartbreak there.

    I’m a huge fan of looking at everything as a journey (though I fail at visualizing it completely and actually focusing on each little step) and I wish that were more of the mantra in healthy eating, exercising, etc. Great post on the struggles & the journey, and, heck, you’re waaaay ahead of me of actually following through with plans!

  5. Jacqueline Meldrum

    I really need to do something too. I put weight on in the winter and never really got back in the way of doing my 5:2 diet again properly. I think what I am ging to do is start writing down what I eat everyday and try to get out walking more. Thanks for including my recipe.

  6. Dhiren

    Avoid giving up stuff. It doesn’t work. Just eat a 1/4 of an avocado instead of 1/2 and sub it with a low fat hummus.

    Reading your post, I cannot help but think that you might need to stop focusing on weight and the numbers, and focus on performance or the mastery of a sport you enjoy.

    As you know, I was overweight once. Now I seldom weigh myself, eat what I want in moderation, and stay as active as possible.

    None of us are athletes, but it gets to a point where if you’re eating a fairly healthy diet, the only thing that makes a real difference is how hard you’re pushing yourself and not so much the ten percent of fat here or there.

    I caveat everything above with the point that I don’t actually care about having a ‘gym body’. Bigger stuff to sweat.

    1. Monica Post author

      I think you really nailed it, Dhiren, and I 100% agree that weight isn’t the issue (I got rid of my scale a few weeks ago for that reason). I’m not sporty, per say, so it’s hard to set a “goal” around sport, but I do love walking and have set myself the challenge of doing the Coast to Coast this July, cuz basically if I can do that comfortably and enjoy the journey, then basically I’m where I want to be. Everything else is just vanity. (Which I don’t want to write off completely – I don’t care about having a gym body either, but I DO want to look good naked!)


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