Why I eat the way I do & What that looks like
A glimpse inside my fridge and pantry is far from typical, but I will tell you that it makes my body feel exceptional.
I wasn’t always a health freak. In high school, my lunches were made up of chocolate chip cookies, hot cheetos and monster energy drinks. In college, I lived off oatmeal, lattes, mini wheats, frozen yogurt, apples, carrots and protein powder (basically all processed food with the exception of apples and carrots). I was not educated on what these foods were made up of and what kind of negative effects they were having on my body.
Now, I live off whole foods: all the (in season) vegetables, wild caught fish (favorites: salmon, tuna, seabass, mahi-mahi), grass fed and finished meat (lamb and bison), turkey, nuts & seeds (favorites: almonds, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts), oils/fats (avocado, olive, coconut, grass fed butter) and occasional fruits (usually only a banana on workout days & race days). Below, I will explain how I came to find what works for my body and why I eat the way I do.
I developed IBS near the end of college. Then after living in Thailand for almost a year, I returned with severe digestive issues. I had constant bloating, discomfort and massive abdominal distention. Everything I ate left me with excruciating abdominal pain. It became normal to me and I started to accept that this was how I was always going to feel. I saw every darn specialist you can think of - gastroenterologist, hematologist (for anemia) and gynocologist. My primary care doctor basically kept giving me the run around,
I don’t know. I am going to refer you to go see…. blah blah blah.
Every time - nothing. No answers. Just wasted money and a bunch of specialists staring back at me, throwing their hands up in the air telling me “everything came back normal.” I was so frustrated.
No! Everything is not normal! It cannot be normal to look 8 months pregnant every day of my life! It cannot be normal to have a stomach with its own constant soundtrack of Jurassic park dinosaurs roaring. It cannot be normal to have diarrhea ALL THE TIME! It simply cannot be normal.
If you don’t know much about gastrointestinal problems, let me tell you that there is a link between your GI and your mind. Is that scientific? I don’t know because I am not a doctor, nor a scientist, just a lady living in the world with personal experiences that give me the hypothesis that there is a connection!! When your mind is stressed, you get GI problems (cue the IBS). When your GI is pissed off, it is very likely that you can develop symptoms of depression and anxiety. That is what happened to me: depression and anxiety as a result of developing significant GI issues that doctors (sorry, specialists) could not figure out. Are you surprised? I was! And now, not so much.
After meeting Anthony (who has SOLELY been treated by a chiropractor since the time he was 2 years old), I started seeing his (now our) chiropractor, Dr. Douglas DiSiena. In a matter of a couple months, he helped me discover that I had SIBO (small intenstinal bacteria overgrowth) and a really bad case of IBS. Incredible what a difference a good, hands on, Doctor of Chiropractor can do to help patients find answers, vs. a team of specialists running you around in circles. Take note: Chiropractors do not just crack backs!!
So, What is SIBO?
Just a quick disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or a doctor. Everything you are reading on this particular post is what I have come to learn from researching myself (over the years) into the depths of academic journals, from talking with my husband who is a Doctor of Chiropractic and from my personal experience.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is known as the presence of excessive bacteria in the small intestine. Basically, your gastrointestinal tract has good bacteria and bad bacteria. SIBO happens when there becomes an overgrowth of the good bacteria in the small intestine causing many symptoms: malabsorption, weight loss, abdominal distention, nutritional deficiencies, etc. For me, the SIBO was making me appear to be malnourished with significant nutritional deficiencies. In order to fight off the build up of bacteria in the small intestine, I had the choice to either go about this in a more lengthy, YET long term solution approach. OR, the quick route - antibiotics, which only TEMPORARILY gets rid of the problem. It always comes back when you take antibiotics because you didn’t solve the root issue of the problem. For me, that root issue was food intolerances, an imbalance of macronutrients (I basically ate 90% carbs all the time) and eating (excuse my language) complete shit food. What have I learned in the last 4 years of experimenting with my diet…
Bottom line… the more crap you feed your body, the more crap is going to build up in your body and present itself in the form of illness, whether that be a cold, SIBO, IBS, chronic fatigue, etc.
Utilizing good, whole food nutrition and supplements, my body was able to naturally fight off the SIBO, for good (at least so far)!! My IBS symptoms now only come back when I eat too many processed foods, eat out too often, eat too many carbohydrates (SIBO feeds on carbs) or am extremely stressed.
What I did…
First, I followed a low FODMAPS diet (click here for a link to the low FODMAPS food chart I followed). FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols, which are short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that are poorly absorbed by the body, resulting in abdominal pain and bloating. In simpler terms… foods high in FODMAPS ferment in the large intestine (bowel) during digestion. This draws in water and produces carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane gas that causes the intestine to expand, which creates the bloating and pain for people dealing with disorders like SIBO and IBS. This is why I was prescribed to follow a diet low in FODMAPS for about 3 months, if I remember correctly. I also did the following each day:
Took two servings of Metagenics UltraInflamX 360 (usually one in the morning and one in the evening).
Took Metagenics Candibactin AR and Candibactin BR with every meal.
Took Metagenics Glutagenics once per day (because my gut lining was destroyed).
I ate very small meals, but ate frequently so my GI tract could relearn how to digest properly.
Note: The SIBO was preventing my body from absorbing any nutrients that I was getting from foods, vitamins, etc. So, at the time, I had NO energy. I had to stop training and let my body learn how to function properly again.
This was extremely difficult to follow at first, but after a few weeks, it became routine and I found ways to enjoy it. Remember that I was going from eating primarily all carbohydrates and processed foods to eating all whole foods - that is a tough transition to make! But, once the transition has been made… you WILL feel like a brand spanking new human being! During this time, I also took a test to figure out if I had any food intolerances. Turns out I am intolerant to the following foods: Soy, Gluten, Dairy, Corn, Sesame, Chicken and Egg whites. First off, soy is in EVERYTHING!! So, we no longer purchase anything packaged unless I have thoroughly examined the labels. I ate all of the aforementioned foods probably every single day before finding out my body rejects them.
Before taking this test, I didn’t understand what was so bad about eating foods you were intolerant too. It’s kind of like a threshold. You may be able to enjoy these foods every once in a while, but once you pass a certain threshold, embrace for impact because your body will likely have some kind of inflammatory response. For me, the inflammatory response simply isn’t worth it. I don’t know about you guys, but I would rather FEEL GOOD than enjoy gluten, dairy or chicken every once in a while.
So, I am that annoying person at restaurants that has to ask,
What is it marinated or cooked in? Can you just grill the meat and steam my veggies please?
At first, I was embarrassed. Now, it’s my lifestyle. I either ask the questions or I suffer the consequences for a few days after.
After following the low FODMAPS diet and cutting out food intolerances for about 3 months, I slowly started reintroducing foods in small amounts to see how my body would respond. I never reintroduced the foods I am intolerant too. I avoid those entirely because they throw my body completely out of wack. The gluten, corn and dairy causes inflammation and edema throughout my whole body. The soy and chicken screws with my hormones, gives me excruciating stomach pain and diarrhea (sorry, TMI, but this is real life stuff people!). You get the point. Again, its not worth it to me. But, all the other foods, I slowly started reintroducing and it’s like my body had reset itself.
It is truly amazing what your body can do when changing your nutrition to meet your individualized needs! Our bodies are so smart, you guys! If you’re getting inflammation, GI issues, bloating, feeling chronically fatigued - CHECK YOUR NUTRITION!!
The biggest differences that I notice between then and now are: I no longer have sugar cravings, I have more energy, I sleep one thousand times better and deeper, I am not as moody (Anthony loves this the most), and I no longer look pregnant!!! Although, I cant wait until I am - with an actual human baby, not a food one.
How I eat now…
It’s simple really. I continue to take one serving of the UltraInflamX, for maintenance, because I never want to feel how I felt before. Other than that, I eat whole foods and use real ingredients. We cook about 90% of our meals at home. We go to the grocery store a few times a week to load back up on fresh vegetables and meat.
On a typical trip to the grocery store, the following items would be found in my cart:
Vegetables: Sweet potatoes (purple and orange), broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, power greens, brussel sprouts, beets, celery, carrots.
Meat: Organic ground turkey, Grass fed + finished Bison, Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon, Wild caught Shrimp, sometimes we’ll get seabass or mahi mahi if it’s on sale.
Hemp bread - this is gluten free and loaded with iron! I only eat bread right before a workout with a banana and peanut butter.
Items for Anthony: eggs and ice cream.
You will notice that there are no grains and that’s because we RARELY eat them! We do have oatmeal and rolled oats in our pantry, but I rarely eat them. I only use them if I am in the mood to bake and want to make some granola. Or, if Anthony wants pancakes, I will use the oats to make oat flour pancakes.
Regarding bars… Anthony and I will occasionally share a bar at the grocery store. If we do, it’s typically a Bulletproof bar.
I get asked this question all the time: Where do you get your carbs from?
You guys… vegetables are loaded with carbohydrates!! I eat sweet potatoes every day and get plenty of carbohydrates from the other vegetables I consume throughout the day. The most carbohydrate heavy vegetables I go to for days I have a work out are sweet potatoes and beets. My body prefers vegetable sourced carbohydrates over grain sourced carbohydrates. Throughout my lengthy journey of figuring out what works best for my body nutritionally, I learned that if I eat too many grains, it slows me down and makes me feel tired. When I fuel up on vegetables, I feel much more energized and ready to perform.
How and what we cook with:
We roast or steam our vegetables. My body still has a hard time digesting raw vegetables, so the more steamed and cooked they are, the happier my stomach is! I recommend doing this if you get super gassy or bloated after eating foods like brussels and broccoli.
For roasting, we’ll toss the vegetables with avocado oil and spices then pop them in the oven until soft.
For cooking meat - we either grill or pan fry with Ghee, coconut oil or avocado oil.
My daily intake of macronutrients is pretty consistently 45% fats, 25% carbs, 30% protein. This works for me, but it does not work for everyone. It took me a very long time to figure out what works for my body and it is constantly changing!!
Staple Supplements in my regimen:
Vital Protein’s collagen peptides
Ampd Nutrition Products: Plant protein, beauty greens, Re-vitalize (If interested in these products you can shop and use my code SAIGE77 for a discount.)
Why I sustain eating the way I do…
Some people have accused me of eating a very “restricted” diet. The only thing I am “restricting” myself from, is the possibility of dealing with GI issues again. I do not follow a specific “diet.” I just eat clean - it is that simple. How I eat, is a lifestyle that I have come to LOVE because it makes me FEEL GOOD!! I am in no way restricting myself! In fact, by eating the way I do, I have done the complete opposite! I perform better, I sleep better, I am less fatigued, I’m more pleasant to be around and most importantly… I am happy!
That is why I eat the way I do!!
Eating to get menstruation back…
I also eat a diet higher in fats because as a female athlete, FATS ARE CRUCIAL FOR HEALTHY HORMONE PRODUCTION!!!!! Especially with distance running. It puts a lot of wear and tear on our bodies. I lost my menstrual cycle for almost 3 years because I was running 90 miles a week + I had the common fear of the F word - FAT. I ate all fat free foods. I didn’t touch almond or peanut butter. Now I go through about 3 jars a week (do not judge). Fat will not make you fat. The only way fat will make you fat is if you are acting as a human garbage disposal for all processed foods and fast food, which are loading with trans fats.
Good quality fats actually does just the opposite of make you fat. Omega-3’s that are found in many nuts and wild caught fish are anti-inflammatory. They are also necessary for healthy hormone production. Hormones can be thrown out of wack by a variety of things (i.e. under eating, over exercising, chronic stress, lack of sleep, living off coffee, etc.). Well, guess what… your hormones are made from fat. If you deprive your body of the health fats needed to continue producing hormones many things could happen: loss of menstrual cycle, weight gain or weight loss, mood swings, fatigue, this list goes on and on.
For me, I lost my menstrual cycle. It wasn’t until I was sitting in the gynecologist office hearing, “you may never be able to have children” that I changed my way of thinking and welcomed fats into my life.
FACT: Females who follow diets that are low in fat are at an INCREASED risk for infertility!!! - go google it right now if you don’t believe me. It is the one thing that lit a fire under my ass, because I want babies - lots of them!!
I started cooking everything with healthy fatty oils (coconut, olive, avocado). I put almond butter on everything I ate and consumed salmon on a regular basis.
Many females have this thought that you have to be above a certain body fat % to get your menstrual cycle every month and that number scares them. I know this because it used to scare me too! I wanted to least amount of body fat % possible (don’t we all?). But, that is a MYTH!!!
Here’s my personal data to put it into perspective for you…
My body fat % was at 22% when I lost menstruation. I have now had my menstrual cycle every single month, like clock work, for the last 4 years and my body fat % is currently at 12%. Guess what?! I STILL GET MY PERIOD EVERY MONTH!! Because I fuel my body with tons of Omega-3’s to function properly and for longevity!
Also, here’s another fact, did you know that your brain is made up of 60% fat. I don’t know about you, but I want to keep my brain as the sharpest tool in my tool box! Experiencing brain fog? Eat more fat. Feeling a little stupid? Eat more fat (totally kidding, but seriously it might help).
Instagram: Question and Answer
Q: Have you ever had stomach issues right after running?
Have I ever!!! I’ve had stomach issues before, during and after. I haven’t had it happen in a long time though. When I first started running longer distances, it happened to me after almost every single run or during. I had some epic embarrassing stories of not making it to a bathroom in time… but that’s a story for another time.
I have learned that pre-race or pre-long run oatmeal does not work for me anymore. It’s too much fiber and caused lots of issues for my stomach. I now stick with simple carbohydrates and something easy to digest such as a gluten free bagel with a banana and peanut butter. I don’t eat bagels on the regular. They are a special purchase for race days.
I would start paying attention (or note) to what you’re eating before your run and log how you felt after the run. This helped me figure out what was working and what was causing an uproar in my stomach.
Q: Can you explain Keto vs. regular healthy eating?
I am not a nutritionist, but I can give you my opinion!! I did try Keto for a few weeks and I didn’t like it. I always felt really heavy because fats take longer to digest. I do sustain a diet that is higher in fats though and my body loves that! It recovers quicker and I think that Keto is something that you can cycle, but I don’t see how it’s good for the body to eat 100% Keto all the time for your average person. By cycling, I mean doing it once or twice a year as a reset. I do know that kids and individuals with seizure or neurological disorders benefit greatly from maintaining a Keto diet. This is because, your brain feeds off healthy fats for development. I also know that individuals who are extremely overweight and have had difficulty shedding the weight, do excellent on a Keto diet. I don’t think it is sustainable for athletes or your average person. Anytime you are cutting out a major macronutrient (in Keto, that would be carbohydrates), I feel like that can’t be beneficial for the body long term. This is just my personal opinion!
Overall, I think you have to play around with what works best for you and your body. Everyone is so different. Some thrive on higher carb diets and others on higher fat diets. It takes experimenting and noting what your body does and does not like.
Q: How to accept the physical changes that come with nutrition changes?
I think that the physical changes are the best thing about nutrition changes! What your body does physically is telling you EXACTLY what is and is not working - that’s what is so cool about it! I pay attention to that more than anything because our bodies are very smart. Your body will tell you what it likes and doesn’t like.
Q: Nutrient timing and you favorite kind of “fun foods”/treats?
I love talking about nutrient timing!! Everyone is different for nutrient timing as well.
For me, on hard workout days, I will eat a banana w/ peanut butter about 30-45 minutes before my workout. It’s not too heavy on my stomach and gives you enough fuel to power through an hour to an hour and a half of running.
On race day and long runs, I eat a plain GF bagel with peanut butter 3 hours before the race. I eat again 30 minutes before the race and have a banana with peanut butter. I also down about 8 ounces of nuun 30 minutes before a race/long run.
During a race, I fuel with gel about every 40 minutes and I grab 1 water + 1 electrolyte drink (whatever the course is offering) at EVERY water station. Fuel early and often is my strategy. You never want to get to that point where you feel dehydrated or like you’re running out of gas.
My “carb” heavy meal before a race is lunch the day before. For dinner, I eat as I normally would because the last thing I want to do is wake up feeling like a whale.
Dark chocolate - ALWAYS dark chocolate. Ask my husband, if we ever don’t have dark chocolate in the house, he knows he’s making a trip to the store.
Ice cream: About once a week, my husband and I will each get a pint of ice cream and devour while watching a movie or netflix.
Pizza: I love Blaze pizza!!
GF donuts: we have this AMAZING donut place back home (sidecar donut) in Costa Mesa that we go to every time we are home to get their GF donut. It’s to die for.
Pressed juice freezes!
Honey nut cheerios
Q: Do you think about weight?
I used to obsess over weight. Now, I couldn’t tell you the last time I weighed myself. If I feel good that’s all that matters to me these days. I am running the best I ever have so I don’t care what the number on the scale reads! I actually think I am heavier than I ever have been right now because all the speed training has put on a decent amount of muscle in my legs and booty, but heck, it certainly isn’t slowing me down!
I actually get the most unsatisfied and eager to check my weight during marathon training. The high mileage turns my body to mush and I lose pretty much all muscle in my legs and butt. So, I don’t think about weight much now, but I bet I probably will once I start marathon training again over the summer.
Times that you do not want to think about weight:
Right before a big race. Ditch the scale. Have your partner hide it. Whatever you do - do not step on the scale. You will gain weight the week leading up to racing a marathon. It’s mostly water weight. Your muscles are busy storing energy to take on 26.2 miles. The extra weight will not slow you down - it will power you through!
The 2 weeks after a race. You will be swollen and inflamed - welcome to recovery! Let your body do its thing. Eat lots of good food. Don’t eat less than normal because you’re not running. Your body needs ALL the food and nutrients to properly recover… now is NOT the time to start a diet or those damn juice cleanses.
Q: Do you experience weight fluctuations after a marathon?
Read above… but yes! I always gain about 5-10 pounds in water weight after a marathon. It comes right off after the recovery period. Don’t stress about it. Literally no body else can tell that you’ve gained the weight besides yourself!!
Q: Anything on Iron?
Have your iron frequently checked if you have had issues with it in the past! It’s better to catch it early on than to let the levels get so low that you have to aboard the length comeback train.
I was diagnosed with chronic anemia when I was 22 or 23 years old. I used to get iron infusions, which worked really well, but it wasn’t solving the root of the problem. I no longer have chronic anemia but have struggled to keep my ferritin levels up. Ferritin is iron absorption. So, for that, I had to figure out why my body wasn’t absorbing iron. For me, I learned it was due to chronic stress. When your body is chronically stressed, your stomach stops producing adequate stomach acid, which is required to break down food and help your body absorb nutrients. Now that I got that figured out, my ferritin levels seem to be doing okay. My body is now absorbing the iron from the foods I am eating. Also consuming iron rich foods in combination with foods high in vitamin C help iron absorption!
The following foods/minerals inhibit (block) iron absorption, so be cautious of when you are eating iron rich foods or taking your iron supplement. You could be blocking the absorption by consuming these foods/minerals with iron rich meals:
Dairy, eggs, coffee (caffeine), calcium
I did take two iron supplements to help bring my levels back up:
Floradix Iron & Herbs - I no longer take this because my ferritin levels are back up. T
Trader Joes Prenatal Vitamin - I still take this for maintenance.
Q: Is there such thing as too much veggies/ do you cut veggies pre race?
I think this is based on you as an individual. I have never cut veggies pre race. I almost always eat sweet potatoes and broccoli the day before a race. I eat the same amount of vegetables I typically would the week leading up to a race as well.
That’s all for now!! Feel free to email me or comment with any questions!