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Who: Dana Monsees, 29
Lives: Silver Spring
Does: Dietitian, nutritionist, and body image coach
Six years ago, Dana Monsees was a chronic yo-yo dieter and exercise addict who was suffering from an eating disorder. She counted and measured every gram of food that she ate and every calorie that she burned, stuck in a restrict-guilt-binge cycle.
Years later, after several career changes, she entered the nutrition and body image coach world. It was then that her philosophy on working out and food changed. Instead of feeling trapped by rigid diets and excessive exercising, she found peace with her body by removing the guilt and restriction around food.
Now, she’s all about choosing nutrient-dense foods that support energy, digestion, and sleep, and says people should fill their plates with food that makes them feel best. She doesn’t believe in “cheat meals” because all foods should be available to you. (However, Monsees has celiac disease, so she avoids eating wheat, barley, and rye.)
Instead of listening to the so-called Instagram influencers who advocate for intermittent fasting or cutting out entire food groups, Monsees says people should listen to their own bodies.
“It’s time to take back that decision-making power, because no one knows what your body needs better than you,” she says. “If you learn to listen, your body will tell you exactly what you need. And it’s definitely not only 1,200 or even 1,500 calories a day.”
Breakfast: 8 – 9 AM
“I like to start my day with a solid, nutrient-packed breakfast. I’m more of a savory breakfast person than sweet, and I’m a big fan of adding greens to my breakfast. So it’s typically something with eggs, leftover roasted veggies, and either some avocado or sweet potato. Today, I had two eggs over arugula with everything bagel seasoning (the best), some hot sauce, a blueberry Swapple (yucca-based vegetable waffle), and half the bottle of my favorite kombucha on the side for some good gut bugs.”
Lunch: 1 PM
“Lunch is usually leftovers. I prepare a couple things on the weekend whenever possible so I can throw together fast casual-style power bowls for lunch during the week. Today, I did a Mediterranean-inspired bowl with every leftover roasted veggie I had in the fridge, plus some greens, hummus, and olives.”
Snack: 4 PM
“Depending on when I’m training that day, I’ll usually have a snack in the afternoon or after dinner. I alternate between Olympic weightlifting, CrossFit, yoga, and long walks with my dog during the week. I love snacking on fruit and some kind of dark chocolate together (here, mango with chili powder and lime juice). And I’ll typically have some kind of sparkling water on the side.”
“My dinner timing is all over the place. I may be training, coaching swimming, or working with clients until late. So it’s an up-in-the-air, you’ve-gotta-be-flexible type of thing. Part of my job is developing recipes for natural products companies (and for my food blog!), so dinner is usually a recipe that I shot photos for earlier that day. Today I was re-shooting my Breakfast Egg Roll in a Bowl recipe, which is a takeout-style recipe that I absolutely love. You can use any kind of protein in there, and today I used ground turkey with an egg on top. Since I just got back from a lifting session, I threw some rice in there, too.”
“I drink water throughout the day, but try not to drink too much with my meals so my digestive system can do its thing. It also helps me make sure I’m chewing my food enough instead of washing everything down with water, which dilutes your digestive juices.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.