We're not sure who needs to hear this: But even Carrie Underwood thinks we all should cool it with the impossible healthy eating standards.
Arguably the most successful American Idol winner ever with 64 million records sold worldwide and 27 No. 1 singles, she's perhaps just as famous for the toned legs she earned the tirelessly difficult way—by going hard AF on some deadlift and sumo squat supersets at the gym day in and day out.
And even she is not about to turn herself into some sort of amateur vegan chef—or ever again subject herself to a needlessly restrictive plan—in the name of staying sculpted. "I've seen crazy diet suggestions, and I've tried some that are entirely unsustainable," she shared last week with Parade. "No, I'm not going to puree my own peas or make my own hummus. They have it at the store."
In fact, one of our go-tos, she shared with the outlet was to "eat microwave burritos multiple times a week because they're easy. It's about finding those solutions and doing your best."
That's a stay-fit strategy we can get behind.
Because the mom of two—marking her 37th birthday today exactly one week after she released her health tome, Find Your Path: Honor Your Body, Fuel Your Soul, and Get Strong with the Fit52 Life—has done all those diets that ultimately leave you fantasizing about French fries and diving face first into a plate 'o carbs. She's beaten herself up over not snapping back as fast as she'd like from growing a human life and she's walked away realizing that she ought to be just a little bit kinder to herself.
There was no Twitter when she nabbed the American Idol prize in 2005 and Instagram was a decade away from popularity, but there were still message boards filled with people spewing hatred. "I shouldn't care what other people think of me," the mom of 5-year-old Isaiah and 13-month-old Jacob with retired hockey pro Mike Fisher recently told Women's Health.
Yet the messages about her weight still cut deep. So she said goodbye to the quesadillas she'd been eating on the regular, hello to reading nutrition labels and sessions on the elliptical. And when that worked out well, she turned her calorie counting ways up to 11, at times consuming just 800 calories a day. By the time she turned up to the CMA Awards that November, she was thinner, sure, but desperate for some comfort food.
"I would 'fall off the wagon,'" she told the mag of her binge sessions, "then feel terrible and repeat the cycle." All the while she was struggling to maintain the energy necessary for the show's grueling tour schedule. "Your body is screaming out, I need more calories! I need more carbs!" she recalled.
So she had them.
Nearly a decade-and-a-half later, the plan she's worked out with nutritionist Cara Clark is imminently more sensible with the vegetarian (a "wannabe vegan") aiming for a solid mix of protein, carbs and fat on each plate.
"I love rules," she offers by way of explaining her strategy of consuming 45 percent carbs, 30 percent fat and 25 percent protein plus at least a gallon of water each day. "This is how I feel good about myself, and this is how I operate."
That might mean having a tofu or egg-white scramble with berries, Ezekiel toast and coffee ahead of her morning workout, a sandwich with Tofurky, tomato, avocado, red onion, spinach and mustard for lunch and a tofu stir-fry or vegan chicken with roasted vegetables for dinner. And it definitely means keeping her phone handy, so she can track it all on her MyFitnessPal app.
Though not equipped with much of a sweet tooth, if she does indulge it's either a square or two of dark chocolate, her "nicecream" recipe made with frozen banana and cacao powder or a glass of vino enjoyed with an episode of The Bachelor. "I do have my vice, and it's red wine," she allowed to Women's Health. "It's good for my heart, right?!"
Her workouts, however, are admittedly less sweet. (Though, perhaps, every bit as enjoyable for the woman who labels exercise as her preferred form of self-care: "That's a stress-reliever for me.")
Cardio days see her pounding the pavement or a treadmill ("I have to set goals for myself: 'Every 15 minutes I'm going to hit 1.25 miles, then by the end of an hour, I'll have run 5 miles,'" she told the mag) and, whilst on tour, she has Atlanta-based trainer Eve Overland leading her through punishing routines with heavy weights. (Leg day includes tuck jumps, Romanian deadlifts, walking lunges and elevated sumo squats.)
At home in Tennessee, she plots out her own routines in a journal because, as she explained to Women's Health, "When I walk in and don't have a plan, I usually walk out."
But even with exercise, she allows that life can get in the way—particularly when you have a career that requires juggling performances, recording, writing and meetings for her Dick's Sporting Goods athletic apparel line, CALIA by Carrie Underwood, and two young boys. "If I can work out seven days a week—which doesn't happen, but if I can—I'm going to," she told the outlet. "Because the next week, I might get two days."
It's that balance she feels is so crucial to impart on her fans and the main impetus behind her new book and forthcoming app. As she put it to Parade, "One bad food choice, one lazy day on the couch isn't going to wreck everything."
Can she belt it out louder for those in the back?