By Virginia Clough, RD
First, to properly set the scene, I’ll give you a little background about myself…
I was born and raised on Vancouver Island, right in the heart of Victoria. After Secondary School I attended the University of Victoria for several years and enjoyed the luxury of living close to school, surrounded by beautiful scenery and outdoor activities. With my prerequisite science courses at Uvic behind me, I moved to the mainland to attend the University of British Columbia to pursue my dream of one day becoming a Registered Dietitian.
Living in Vancouver has been an amazing experience, I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful and vibrant city to call home! And I continue to be surrounded by beautiful beaches, wildlife, and opportunities to play outdoors in every season… what more could a girl ask for?! While I am thoroughly enjoying life in the big city, meeting new people and frequenting new restaurants, I will always be a small town loving island girl at heart. Because our roots are what built us, and continue to give us life.
My Personal Interests
Besides all things food and cooking, I love the outdoors, be it a beautiful forest trail, a peaceful park, or a sandy beach. I am even starting to enjoy the sound and smell of rain from my time here in Vancouver. I also have a deep love of animals of all kinds – it is because of this love that I choose to live a largely plant based lifestyle. My latest obsession on the animal front is my adorable little guinea pigs (pictured below enjoying their favourite snack) – Missy (left) and Marble (right).
My Journey Unfolded
I developed a passion for food, fitness, and living a health promoting lifestyle early in life – pretty well as soon as I began to buy groceries for myself. I quickly became aware of the overwhelming variety of products available at supermarkets today. But having little knowledge in the way of food or nutrition at that time, I, like so many out there today, was a confused consumer.
For years I struggled to maintain my weight, spending countless hours in the gym and eating like a dainty little bird – fat and sugar free this, reduced calorie that, oh and throw some trendy diet fads in there. As one would expect, this approach only got me so far. And more importantly, calories and my weight were constantly on my mind – especially January – September each year. And then the holidays would come around, as they do every year, and I’d gain those 10 or so fluctuating pounds back. Repeat. Year after year. Is this happiness?
The busy year of my Dietetic Internship was the most demanding one yet. I would wake up each day (Monday – Friday) with the aim of getting ready and out the door as soon as possible, so I could start my hour and a half commute to the hospital or other unit I was working out of that day. After my 8 (and often closer to 10) hour day, I would head back home. Quick dinner, a few hours of reviewing the day’s notes and studying for what lay ahead, then off to bed for a restless nights sleep. On the weekends I held down a part time job to keep my finances in the green.
Needless to say there was no time to hit the gym, so eat less I did. But my weight crept up – after this busy year, I had gained nearly 20 pounds! But returning to the gym for hours each day and tightening-up my sparrow-like eating habits seemed like a daunting feet, to say the least. I needed to break free of this diet-mentality. I needed a more sustainable solution to a healthy lifestyle, where I could achieve my body composition goals while living a full and rewarding life. Enter macro tracking.
As I started a new job shortly after graduation, I didn’t have mass amounts of time to focus on getting my calorie burn in the gym or strategically monitoring my intake anyway – but honestly, I didn’t have the energy to continue doing so. It was at this time, now armed with a food theory and nutrition science background, I began my macro journey.
My first step was to record what I typically ate each day to get an idea of what I put into my body. After a few days of logging it became clear to me why I was feeling so crummy for so many years – my carb (and overall calorie) intake was extremely low! I wasn’t feeding my body enough energy or quality carbohydrates to fuel my workouts, let alone my daily activity (including proper cognitive function). After a few (ok, a lot) of other intake tweaks, some experimentation, and a significant amount of nourishing and soul satisfying food, I had reached my initially established goal. And finally I was living a lifestyle I could enjoy. Sleeping through the nights, eating until I was truly satisfied each day, and having the energy and motivation to engage in the activities I enjoy.
The biggest thing for me was the “eating until I was truly satisfied” part. You see, I LOVE food; and I had lived a life of consuming as little of it as mentally and physically possible for a long time; simply because I believed that I had to eat this way to stay lean. And while I learned a great deal about the importance of living a balanced and health promoting lifestyle for weight maintenance (and to promote overall wellbeing) through my scholastic years, I didn’t believe that this applied to me. I have eaten this way for too long, I told myself, I have damaged my metabolism upon return. But macro tracking literally showed me that this was absolutely not the case.
Throughout my journey I have learned the power of metabolism, that no matter where you started you can improve your metabolic potential immensely by bringing awareness to what you feed your body. Moreover, by bringing a non-diet mindset into your life, you can revive your health, improve your relationship with food, and ultimately take a more flexible (and sustainable) approach to promote long-term wellbeing.
And today, I am so happy to say that I can enjoy the foods I love without fear of sabotaging my progress; enjoying loaded nachos and a few glasses of red wine with good friends top the list of my favourite activities – what a happy life this is.
But being the happy & healthy lifestyle enthusiast I am, you know I can’t stop here. I live for setting goals, and am always looking for new ways to better my life and learning. When I’m not enjoying delicious food or soaking in the fresh west coast air, you’ll find me furthering my learning through peer-reviewed articles, books, webinars, and conferences. Because nutrition science, and the mechanics of the human body, are fascinating areas to study, and there is always something new to learn or a new perspective to consider.