One of my favorite parts of writing STRENGTH+Sole is the opportunity to work/work out with the people defining what’s new and next when it comes to fitness.

In addition to instructors and studio founders, the “Fit Icon” series is now expanding to include industry insiders like my friend Daina Falk, founder of The Hungry Fan®. At 5’10”, she’s a great example of a woman whom you might assume has always been thin and has never worried about her weight, despite the fact that her job is, literally, all about food. Read her story below. It’s inspirational, informative and really simple–all things that can help us grow stronger in the day-to-day experience of building–and maintaining–our healthiest, happiest bodies.

Enjoying Food Sensibly
by Daina Falk, The Hungry Fan®

We all eat to live. I also live to eat. I launched a company called The Hungry Fan®, which is centered around food—and not the healthiest of foods. I make what I call “sportsfood,” what you would eat or serve at a Super Bowl party or at a stadium or arena during a game. And I think we can all agree that this kind of food is comforting and downright yummy.

When I started this sportsfood concept, I tried to make recipes that were healthy spins on sportsfood classics because I stick to a healthy-eating lifestyle. (I’ve been obsessed with kale for over 8 years.) “Healthy” can be a vague term that covers a lot of adjectives, so, let me define healthy food for you as food that comes from a combination of clean, organic ingredients and is as low in calories as possible without getting into chemical/crap/non-food substitutes.

My healthy spins on the classics are totally tasty and I’m proud of them. But, let’s be honest. On gameday, you want to let yourself go. You don’t want to worry about calories. So I say, go for it! Watch your diet 6 days a week, but on the 7th day (gameday), you get a pass. And you know what? According to my favorite Nutrition Science professor in college, more people die from stress each year than they do from being slightly overweight. So why fuss over calories at the ballpark? It’s stressful, ruins the experience and is likely more dangerous to your health than that hot dog you’re eyeing (assuming that you eat sensibly the rest of the week).

Who am I to tell you this? Let’s start here—this is me today:

daina falk

Would you believe that I was 196 pounds about 8 years ago? Well you should, because I was. I was always pudgy even though I played sports and I worked out. My main problem was that I ate garbage from the time I was a young kid. I grew up on Doritos, multiple sodas a day, tuna fish salad, and Oreo cookies. Those were my dietary staples. Damning from the start.

But then I moved to Los Angeles after college, cut soda and high fructose corn syrup out of my life, along with the majority of the gluten I was eating (just because, not due to health issues), and I started incorporating into my diet tons of farmers-market-fresh veggies and produce along with lots of clean, grass-fed, wild-caught, and organic protein. In about 3 years, I gradually (and sustainably) lost 60 pounds. That’s basically a fourth grader! I had to re-learn how to play tennis (my collegiate sport) because I could move so much faster around the court! But then again, so could you, if you weren’t carrying the weight of a small child on your back (and knees).

After about seven years in Los Angeles, weighing in at 136 pounds, I moved to New York. Since then, I have put back on about 10-15. Uh oh! Yo-yo, you ask? Nope. When I moved here, I was a size 10. I am now a size 4-6. The new 10-15 pounds is lean body mass, aka: MUSCLE, my friends (said as I flex my sweet guns).

This easily segues to a great lesson for anyone concerned with body, body mass, and appearance:

Do not judge yourself by what you weigh (as muscle weighs more than fat). Judge yourself by how you feel and how you fit into your clothes.

Now, to be fair, as most women can attest to, clothing sizes often vary quite a bit by brand. But, how do your clothes of one particular brand’s size fit you? Jeans feeling a little more snug than usual? Maybe you should cut your caloric intake a bit.

And how do you feel? Are you sluggish and cranky? Or do you feel energized, able to get through a long day, and rest well at night? I may wake up cranky because I’m not a morning person. But after a trip to the gym, I feel reinvigorated and ready to begin my day. Exercising and getting on a good sweat truly brightens my mood. And I have found that finding fun, engaging classes at the gym have improved my ability to keep that “buzz” going throughout the week. For instance, I take hip hop dance class on Sunday evenings and I come home so happy, pumped up, and ready for a great healthy dinner and a good night’s rest. And I awake Monday morning feeling fantastic; ready to start my week!

My total body transformation has made me the person I am today. I’m happier, more confident in myself, and I have way more energy than when I was younger. I attribute this change in part (80%) to my food choices and in part (20%) to my exercise. Here’s what I have learned through experience and can tell you:

At the end of the day, when all is said and done, gaining and losing weight boils down to the calories in vs. calories out equation. If you want to maintain your weight, eat no more and no less than what you burn (at the gym and simply by being alive). If you want to lose weight, burn more than you eat. And if you need to put on some pounds, eat more than you burn (but keep the calories nutritionally-dense).

I am not a registered dietitian. But, I am essentially a professional eater and I work on-camera. These tips and tricks have worked for me for years and allow me not only to feel good and appear well, but to also indulge on gameday without guilt or stress. I am the original Hungry Fan, constantly in search of delicious gameday grub, but, I’m also a woman who wants to look good and live a long, healthy life. If you find we may have something in common, then maybe these tips will work for you as well.

Check out Daina’s recipes at and follow her @TheHungryFan.

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