How I “Get It Together” With My Diet

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

Hey there!

I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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Good morning!

I receive a lot of questions from readers related to weight loss, so I decided it was time to write a post about what I do when I want to “get it together” with my diet and lose a few pounds. I generally eat healthy, but there are plenty of times when I have a little too much fun and my jeans end up feeling tighter than usual. (Hey, it happens to the best of us, right?) And, honestly, I just don’t feel good about myself and know I’m not giving much effort to my diet. I always joke to Mal that I need to “get it together” because I know what works for me; I just need to do it and stop making excuses. That said, here are my go-to strategies that help me get back on track and back to my happy weight! (FYI: I don’t have a specific number in mind or anything like that. I actually don’t like scales. It’s more of a happy feeling for me!)

I MEAL PLAN AND FOOD PREP LIKE A CHAMP

I know, I know. You’ve probably heard meal prep is important””and it is””but maybe you’re not a fan of eating the same thing day after day. I get it. There’s only a few things I can eat again and again, so I often switch up what I make from week-to-week. The one thing I always make sure I do is get my breakfast in order. That way, at a minimum, I’m starting my day off on the right foot and that often sets a healthy tone for the rest of my day. FYI: I only make one or two breakfasts each week (a big batch on Sunday) to keep things simple in the morning, but then I switch it up the following week.

Some of my current favorites:

Another thing I do is make a big ol’ crockpot recipe or casserole-type dish that gives me lots of leftovers for lunch and dinner. That way, a healthy meals comes together in no time. My go-to websites for these types of recipes are Skinnytaste and PaleOMG. Gina and Juli both have a ton of awesome recipes on their sites. Some of my current favorites: Crockpot Chicken and Black Bean Taco Salad, Cheeseburger Casserole, 5-Ingredient Pizza Spaghetti Pie,

One more go-to strategy for sticking with my healthy eating even on the busiest days are what I call “Refrigerator Bowls.” They’re basically a massive salad or rice bowl filled with whatever I have prepped in the fridge. Most weeks, I buy a bag of salad greens and microwaveable brown rice from Trader Joe’s. Then, on Sunday and throughout the week, I prep various veggies and protein sources. Current favorites: Roasted sweet potatoes, steamed broccoli, peas, sautéed shredded Brussels sprouts, white beans, shelled edamame, canned chicken, tuna, or salmon, hardboiled eggs, avocado (lots of it), and random dressings (hummus, Mmm Sauce, Trader Joe’s Goddess Dressing, balsamic vinaigrette, honey mustard). I just mix and match whatever I’m in the mood for, so I never get bored and it’s always a nutritious and delicious meal!

I EAT A LOT OF HEALTHY FOOD 

Ok, this might seem like a duh tip or totally counterintuitive, but so many women are afraid of calories, so I think it’s worth highlighting. Those 1,200 calories per day menus? HELL NO. That’s what I eat before dinner and snacks. Haha! I know everyone is different, but you need to FUEL your body, especially if you’re exercising on a regular basis. And I’ve learned the more real food I eat, the better I feel and less I crave junk food and sugar. Sure, I eat donuts, Peanut M&Ms, and drink wine, but those things are a small part of my diet. The majority of what I eat is good, quality food, and if I’m craving a lot junk-y food, I do my best to flip the switch by eating lots of healthy food instead. Example: If I’m craving a bowl of Golden Grahams just an hour after eating breakfast, I’ll make a smoothie with banana, spinach, chocolate protein powder and almond milk instead. I don’t deprive myself; I just chose something more nutritious. I find when I eat real food and limit sugar/junk, I have a much easier time continuing to choose healthy foods. And I know this about myself– like once I’m eating healthy, it’s easy to stay there– so this is definitely a go-to strategy for me.

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I COUNT MACROS FOR A FEW DAYS

When I need to get it together, I loosely count macros via MyFitnessPal. Truthfully, I’m not much of a calorie-counter, so I only do it for a few days to remind me what foods make me feel more balanced with my diet. I also notice a difference in my energy and hunger levels””even my mood sometimes””when I eat this way, so counting macros (at least for a little while) definitely gets me back on track. Otherwise, I eat ALLTHECEREAL all the time.

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I BREAK OUT THE MEASURING CUPS AND SPOONS

Once again, I’m not a big calorie-counter or food-measurer, but I know it works for me, so when I need to get it together, I break out my measuring cups and spoons and use them for a few days. They’re a great visual reminder of what a serving of peanut butter, rice, or cereal looks like.

I TRY SOMETHING NEW AND MAKE IT FUN

New recipes, new ingredients, new meal and snack ideas all motivate me to stick with my healthy eating habits. Some recent examples: I re-discovered my love for Mama Peas’s Mmm Sauce (and put it on everything), I made Spaghetti Squash Lasagna for the first time and loved it, I started adding a lot (1 tbsp+) of chia seeds to my oatmeal to give it more gelatinous texture, and I started eating Medjool dates stuffed with peanut butter and chocolate chips as a sweet treat. Trying new things is FUN and keeps me EXCITED about eating healthy!

I REMEMBER WHAT MOTIVATES ME

This is key. If you want to be healthy/lose/maintain your weight for the long-term, you need to find something or someone who motivates you every single day, especially when you don’t want to make healthy choices. Finding that THING/PERSON/REASON is so important to keep you going. For me, it’s two things: My health and my son.

Having a chronic, autoimmune disease totally sucks, but it’s just the motivation I need sometimes. Over the years, there have been so many times I wasn’t well enough to exercise or, hell, keep food in my system, so any day that I am healthy enough to enjoy food and actually absorb their nutrients, I don’t take it for granted and do my best to make healthy choices.

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Quinn also motivates me to live a healthy life. Of course, I want to be a healthy mom for him, but I also want to set a good example. There’s so much he can learn from watching Mal and me in our everyday life, and we want him to be excited about healthy living, food, exercise, and many of the things that make us so happy and healthy.

I JUST DO IT

I’ve said this before on CNC, but if I don’t like something about myself, I CHANGE IT. I know have the power to do so, so I don’t wait to make a change, and I definitely don’t dwell on the past. The past is the past. If anything, I learn from my mistakes and move on. And as soon as I decide to get it together, I just do it. I don’t make excuses (been there, done that) or wait until Monday morning. I make a healthy change right away… and then I make another and another to keep up the momentum.

And finally…

I’M PATIENT 

I know my body and know results don’t happen overnight for me. I’ve basically been on a wine and sugar bender since the holidays, so I know it’ll likely take about the same amount of time to see changes in my body. And that’s okay because I see “getting it together” as a healthy, permanent lifestyle, so I have all the time in the world to perfect it!

Question of the Day

Your turn! What’s one of your go-to strategies for when you want to “get it together” with your diet? 

P.S. My friend Gina’s Post Baby Bod Plan is now available! It includes a safe and an effective, 12-week training plan with detailed workouts to help you gain strength and endurance after having a baby. Definitely check it out if you’re in the market for a post-baby shape-up!

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66 Comments

  1. I read an article by a local health food cafe owner last night that said we shouldn’t really try and overhaul our diets radically in January and February because we’re programmed to crave comforting, stodgy foods in the winter. She suggested using the Spring Equinox on 20 March as a good ‘reset’ date for Spring. It makes sense to me!

    I signed up to a local CSA-style veggie and fruit box scheme to get me out of a food rut and have been loving the fresh, vibrant greens.

  2. I use similar strategies as you. I start counting macros for a few days just to be reminded how a portion should look like and see if I’m eating way more fat than I should. Plus, I sign up for fitness challenges and talk about them on social media so I stay on track. Somehow, I always complete them. For example, right now I’m doing 30 Days Abs Challenge.

  3. This is such an awesome post and very motivating! I also don’t count calories or use a scale. I know myself well enough to recognize when I need to steer myself back. When I start making poor food choices I notice my energy crashes right away and it really messes with my sleep. That being said, I believe you should enjoy food and indulge mindfully. I love that you mention “motivation.” Mine is definitely my kids. Leading by example is so powerful. Thanks for sharing!

  4. These are great tips! I eat more veggies. I basically make my breakfasts into a big sautéed salad with leafy greens, plantains or potatoes and top with eggs. Starting my day big always seems to set the tone for the day!

  5. Tina, I loved reading this, it’s so real and down to earth. After reading so much about your struggles with UC, I can’t imagine how much you go through to stay healthy. I can only hope that lately you feel as great as you look!

    I don’t know why I thought of this – but I recently had on the movie “Madeleine” for my twins and nieces. At the end of each day, the nun tells all the girls to “Thank God they are well.” What an awesome thing to be thankful for! I’m thinking of starting to say that more often, especially to the little ones.

  6. Making a healthy swap for a craving is the fastest way to start to “get it together.” One decision leads to another and the momentum builds. I also try and eat for energy, so I remind myself that when I’m not eating this not feeling energized.

  7. This is such an inspirational post! And it came at a PERFECT time. I feel like I really need to get it together myself so your words completely resonate with me. Not liking something about yourself and changing it is brilliant. It’s so simple, but brilliant because it completely alters your mindset! There’s no time like the present so just make the change NOW!
    Thanks for a GREAT post!!

  8. Loved this post. I’ve really enjoyed becoming a regular reader of your site; your positivity tempered by “real-ness” makes for a great daily pick-me-up!

  9. Last year was a big year for me. I was able to lose around 30 pounds and to be nice to myself I would say I was fluctuating between the loss of 25-30 pounds which I was extremely happy with. At the beginning of my lifestyle change I was training for my first 10k and then my first half marathon. My half was in october and I slowly got off track (not too bad) throughout the holidays. I decided I needed to “get it together” and what this meant for me was signing up for another half (in may) and to keep myself motivated I signed up for my first marathon (in October). Having something out there, besides knowing I am my happiest when I am healthy and not eating junk, but goals helps me stick to my diet.

    I also avidly blog/post on my health/fitness instagram account when I want to stay on task because the community is so great and that also is another motivator. If I ever have kids, I’d love to be an inspiration – the other biggest factor is my mom recently told me she wants to lose 20 pounds and has started walking every day again – my family has a history of heart problems/cancer/etc and knowing that I have inspired her to get healthy so she can be around forever (I like to think she will be) is now the biggest motivator to continue on the right path. Oh – and my aunt and I are having a step competition until easter and whoever loses has to buy the other a pedicure 🙂

  10. It’s so hard to “get it together”. But I feel so much better when I eat healthier (so why don’t I do it ALL THE TIME?!). Definitely meal prep is a big one for me, I love to just grab a container of something healthy in the fridge when I get a craving. Also, I always, always, always pack my lunch (and snacks) for work. And it always includes vegetables.

  11. I am bookmarking this one for sure! I desperately need to improve my health but, I always have a million excuses not to start today. So, I really like what you said about implementing right away and not waiting until Monday to do so. I also like what you said about finding your motivation. I need to do some soul searching and nail this one down as well. Great post Tina!

  12. When I need to “get it together”, I make sure I have fruit or yogurt as my snacks and dessert, and just watch my portion sizes for a few days. I also make sure I haven’t gotten too loose with choosing the better foods for my body- whole wheat bread over white bread, adding lots of veggies to meals, etc. oh and I have to stop buying cereal and boxes of triscuits loll!
    I’m also so excited for Gina’s new baby bod program- I hope I can go on it next Fall after our baby comes!

  13. Good post. I’ve also been on a wine and sugar bender and feel the need to “get it together” !! I also have an auto immune disease- how much do you feel your diet affects your symptoms?

    1. It’s really hard to tell, but maybe a little? I know some people can control their autoimmune disease with healthy diet changes, but I haven’t been so lucky. I saw a little improvement while eating an anti-inflammatory/vegetarian diet, so I’m mostly sticking to that for now, but it’s so hard to know for sure what foods affect me. One day I can eat one thing without an issue, but a week later if I eat the exact same thing, I’m having symptoms. It makes no sense. What are your thoughts?

      1. @Tina: I do not have IBD but I have long history of digestive issues that I tried to pinpoint on certain trigger foods until eventually everything became a trigger, even with the healthiest diet. To me, its more systemic than a certain food or certain diet. It’s the functioning of gut in general that probably takes years to heal. I do believe that eating a plant strong diet can be part of that equation but it’s no magic bullet, and that can be so frustrating when you feel like you’re doing all the right things. I love how your diet is plant strong but you still leave room for the things you love. I hope that IBD will soon become a curable disease and wish you ongoing good health!

      2. I completely agree. I know it has worked for some but for me, it doesn’t seem to be the case. I was considering doing an elimination diet soon but the more I read, there is not a lot of scientific evidence to support that it even works. Might try it anyone just to see what happens

  14. I hate to say it because I know some people can trigger their restricrtive behaviors but what works for me is counting macros or even just journaling my meals, taking pictures of what I’m eating. This method puts things into perspective for you, what are you seeming to go out control with, are you really practicing balance and letting yourself have a treat or are you getting mixed up with just plain eating unhealthy.

  15. Thanks for sharing! I love the “just do it” So many people think about it and complain about it rather than just trying it! Also, patience is key. It took time to develop those habits so breaking them and developing better ones will take time!

  16. Do you make your peanut butter and chocolate chip stuffed dates or do you buy them somewhere?

  17. LOVE this post Tina! As an RD, I use similar tips with my clients – meal prep, not stressing about it, and being mindful of what you eat. I find that tracking for a few days can really help people become more aware of what they are eating, their portions and when/why they are eating. Is it because they are truly hungry, or just bored/stressed out? Tracking for a few days often makes you think twice about ‘just having a snack’ when you’re bored. And meal prepping, or at least having healthy foods/snacks on hand is key to preventing excess hunger and making unhealthy choices. Great post and great tips!!

  18. Cereal always gets me off track, definitely my number one guilty pleasure… I try to avoid buy the desserty ones and stick with some less exciting like shredded wheat and then I don’t end up eating 3 bowls in one sitting for dinner 😉 Love the idea of your refrigerator bowls, I do something similar.

  19. What works for me is laying off the alcohol during the week and limiting it to Friday and Saturday nights. Its hard because after a difficult day at work there is nothing I like better than coming home and unwinding with a glass of wine or beer but it really sets me up for a good morning the following day. The rest just flows from there.

  20. Make this the billionth time I’ve commented the same thing but it’s worth saying again, 1200 calories damages your metabolism in a way that takes years to come back from. Thank you for showing women all over that it isn’t the answer!

  21. We share very similar views with respect to what motivates us to be healthy and fit.

    Another thing that motivates me is the feeling of complete accomplishment I feel when my head hits the pillow each night after a successful day of exercise or healthy eating. The little short term goal of doing well during my very busy day- whatever that may entail- is really motivating to me. I want to feel satisfied by the time I get to bed. That’s not to say you should beat yourself up if things don’t go as planned.

    One other thing is knowing you are setting an example for your family and friends. You want to continue and maintain your healthy lifestyle so people will follow suit. Sometimes you never know who is watching you and gleaning some serious motivation from you. Sometimes they tell you (haha). That happened to me yesterday. A colleague/friend said that I am really motivating her to get healthy and lose some weight. It’s a good feeling to know you are influencing someone to be healthy.

  22. Great post! This is totally me this week. Getting it together! I love your laid-back attitude about it- not stressing, just DOING it.

  23. Great tips Tina! I do the same and also try to get more steps in, drink lots of water, and eat more fruits and vegetables!

  24. Great tips!! I agree that patience is key. It is important to stay on track, but allow your body the time it needs to get back into the groove. I like to add more greens in my diet and I try to up my water intake too.

  25. Plan and prep…and then making it fun with new ideas for sure! Sleep is also so crucial for me and my digestion…I always find having something non foodie to look forward to helps; getting my nails or my hair done!

  26. hey tina- thanks for the post! i’m in a similar position.. i wanted to let you know that whenever i look at your blog on my phone there are quite a few pop-up ads that force me to x-out of them, in the process redirecting me to a spam-y site. could you look into this issue? i love reading your blog on my commute!

  27. Your point about your autoimmune disease reeeeally just made me think. I don’t have an autoimmune disease, but I do have a genetic condition that results in chronic pain. When I feel particularly “icky” because of that, I often turn to sweet stuff for – I guess – comfort. Thinking about it, that makes exactly no sense because a huge part of the reason I love healthy food and fitness is because they keep me feeling the best I can. I certainly don’t need to lose weight, but I do still want to be healthy and feel good, and I haven’t been lately. I know how, though, so I need to just start and get it together!

  28. It’s really motivating to remember WHY you start in the first place, and I also find it helpful that when you meal prep and put everything away in a container, there’s no question or excuse to add more to the meal when you are eating it which is what I tend to do if I don’t pre-portion it out.

  29. I try to focus on whole, unprocessed foods whenever I get off track! I love all of your tips. I also break out the measuring cups, when necessary, to remind myself of what a serving size looks like 🙂 Cereal is a serious addiction of mine… I can never stick to a single serving!

  30. When I want to “get it together” with my diet, I like to figure out what’s tripping me up first. If I notice I haven’t been eating lunch, or that my pre-workout snack or meal is lacking, I change it. If I notice that I’ve been chowing down on M&Ms or some other snackable at night, I’ll either hide it or just get rid of it. I’m not a fan/proponent of elimination diets unless a person is legitimately allergic to something, so I never say, “I will not eat sugar ever again!” I just try to see if eating more sugar than nutritious stuff is what’s messing me up.

    I also started reading Slim by Design on the recommendation of a nutrition coach. So far, I love it. It talks all about reorganizing your kitchen, home, trips to the grocery store, and nights out at restaurants to keep you slim, instead or relying on pure willpower alone. Yes, the title is kind of alarming (is he going to tell me to go on a 1,000 Cal/day starvation diet?!), but it’s actually a really scientific, interesting read. The author and his colleagues did loads of studies at restaurants and in homes to see what sort of subconscious tricks people were using to keep them from gaining weight. A lot of the time, naturally slimmer (e.g., not overweight) people didn’t know why they did what they did…they just did it! And none of these people seemed to cut anything out of their diet, they were just a bit better about portion control and eating with a purpose. I reorganized my fridge so that all of my fruits, veggies, and protein sources are on the middle shelves, and anything I don’t need to consume right away (nut butters, bread, etc.) is now in the crisper drawers. This reminds me to get my fill of nutritious foods before I reach for cookies or candy.

  31. Hi Tina, thanks so much for the tips! I’ve been using myfitnesspal for the past few weeks to get myself together too. Can I ask you what you have your macros set at? Currently mine is 50% Carbs, 30% Fats and 20% Protein. Thanks in advance!

  32. Loved this! I also have an autoimmune condition and what I eat makes a huge difference-for better or worse- in how I feel. While taking care of myself has become a non-negotiable so I can enjoy the rest of my life, it’s not always easy to stay motivated.

    A piece of advice that really resonated with me is that your body needs everything, all the time. We need adequate protein, fat, carbs, micronutrients etc. all day everyday! Not just when we’re feeling our best/worst/most motivated. Our body just isn’t that complicated or picky 😉

  33. I follow a modified whole30 for a week or so – it seems to be just enough time to reset my body, get rid of the bloat, and make me feel better!

  34. Love this. All of it is spot on. There’s so much in my past that I could dwell on and get down on myself about, but it doesn’t serve anyone any good, especially me. There’s nothing to do to change the past and all we can do it learn from it and move on. Your future and your perception of yourself are entirely up to you!

  35. I so needed this today! Thank you!! 🙂 Meal prep is my plan this Sunday – I need to get back on track asap!!

  36. Love the Emerson quote. I eat allthecereal allthetime too. Being patient is SO hard for me but I know it’s necessary to lose weight. I think I’ve already said this about that pic of you but you look awesome, lady!

  37. This is a great post. I’ve been trying to lose about 20 lbs for a while. These are a necessary 20 lbs, not vanity lbs. I’m going to the gym 3-5 times a week – a mix of cardio, yoga, weights. Using the loseit app. to watch calories, macros, sugar, etc. I find that if I keep my calories at around 1600, I’m weak and wake up truly hungry at night. I don’t want to calorie count forever, but am using it to try to find my sweet spot – but that has not happened. I’m so frustrated that no weight loss has happened after several months. I talked to a trainer at the gym who said cardio 5x/wk and 1200 cal/day. I know that’s wrong. grrr. Anyone else been there? What worked??

      1. @Tina: Typically, oatmeal with pb (and coconut oil) for breakfast, turkey and cheese sandwich or wrap and greek yogurt for lunch, protein bar in the afternoon, and meat with veggies and fruit for dinner. I keep an eye on snacking or sweets, but sometimes they sneak in. Not a lot, I’m mindful. My macros tend to be higher on the fats and carbohydrates so maybe I need to get in more protein to keep me full longer.

  38. As always, this post is such a great roundup of all of your tips. I definitely agree with meal prep 100%! Another tip that I need to do is to eliminate all of the temptations. If there are no temptations in the house… then I won’t be able to eat them!

  39. Meal prep has been the most challenging for me! I think taking out a few hours on Sunday and truly planning ahead for the week makes it so much easier it’s amazing. Also pre logging food helps because then you’re like ‘well the decision is made for me. I just have to do it now.’

  40. Perfect post and just in time when I needed it! Love the comment about EATALLTHECEREAL all the time!

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