She shares what it means to be joyful about your body and why salty food wins over sweets.
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a photo of TikToker Alicia McCarvell with a gradient background
Credit: McCarvell: Courtesy of Subject. Collage: Cassie Basford.

Amid the dancing trends and viral videos, you might have noticed TikTok star and content creator Alicia McCarvell in your daily scroll. She's taken the platform by storm with her 5.8 million followers and captivating message. What sets her apart from others on the app is her refreshing and hilariously authentic message on self-love. 

McCarvell's content ranges from sharing advice to followers who want to begin their own self-love journey to the everyday antics she and her husband, Scott, get up to. The Nova Scotia-based creator has TikTok, YouTube and Instagram rolling in laughter and inspiration. All the while, McCarvell keeps her content down-to-earth and gives her fans a glimpse into her real life. 

She chatted with EatingWell about what she's learned on her road to self-love and how she makes exercise fun (virtual reality fitness classes? Sign us up!).

EatingWell: What foods do you eat because they make you feel good?

Alicia McCarvell: My favorite question people always ask is, "What is your favorite food that you would take with you to like a deserted island, like the food that you would just live off of?" Nachos, any type of nachos with good toppings.

But there are a few "good" ones. I love oatmeal, like all the prepackaged oatmeal, not the kind that you do all by yourself and add your own toppings. I love the good, like Quaker, already-made, add hot water type of oatmeal. I need that quick and fast type of food.

I would consider myself a nacho connoisseur, so maybe the best toppings are some of my faves. Oh gosh, I love food, so there's so many good options. I love trying new things too. I think that's something that I didn't allow myself to do for a very long time. I stuck to consistent foods and never really tried new things and new restaurants and places. So, I'm pretty unbiased when it comes to the things that I eat now, which is very different from the way I used to be. 

But I guess my favorite breakfast food would definitely be those prepackaged oatmeals—I love those. Then dinner would definitely be nachos, and I love a good peanut butter and jam sandwich, like the original old-school [one] we used to take for recess. 

EatingWell: What activities do you like to do because they feel so good?

Alicia McCarvell: Oh, I try to move my body every single day. What that looks like every day can be completely different.

Walking is my most favorite form of movement, going somewhere and walking, whether it's downtown on the waterfront here in Halifax or if it's a walking trail, etc. I used to believe that walking really wasn't a form of movement, like hard enough or intense enough.

And through the pandemic it's all we really had, you know. We weren't in gyms; we didn't have access to all of that equipment or sports anymore. So now, I realize how often I take walking for granted. [Also] I love a good easy hike like something in nature, which I think is super important. And I'm really big into my virtual reality fitness right now. 

EatingWell: What food can you not live without because it's so good?

Alicia McCarvell: I'll say nachos for sure. I love to try that anywhere new we go. We actually have a "nacho weekend" here in Halifax. The restaurants make different types of nachos! So definitely nachos. 

EatingWell: What do you wish you could tell your younger self about body image?

Alicia McCarvell: I wish that I could tell my younger self that body image doesn't have to be correlated to the way that you move your body. For me specifically, how I learned to exercise was based on how my body looked. So I put on my 'freshman 50' and gained weight, and instead of learning how to move my body in ways that brought me joy, I was taught immediately how to move my body in ways that would change the way my body looked.

And if I go back to being a kid, I never moved my body in ways that would manipulate how my body looked. I would move my body through sports and through things that brought me joy. And then, I think, once we become adults that quickly changes. So, I wish I could go back not even to my younger self because I think my younger self had it figured out. I feel like that early 20s is when it got distorted for me; when I had to change the way I had been moving my body. I wish I could tell her that what I choose to do in order to move my body doesn't have to be associated with changing it.

EatingWell: What are your feelings about New Year's resolutions? Are you a fan or not?

Alicia McCarvell: I used to work in the gym industry. So, coming from that industry, I'm not a fan because I think that it is a pressured way to put a lot of expectations on ourselves that we genuinely do not need. The world is tough enough!

Making yourself feel like what you did the year before wasn't enough and that you're going to do better this year—that just honestly sets people up to fail. Because if the diet industry and fitness industry in general worked, it wouldn't be the size that it is right now. I think people forget that these fad diets and fitness things that are guaranteeing all of this weight loss or body changes— if they worked, we would all be thin. But that's not how this works. So I think that the avenues, specifically coming from the fitness industry and the diet culture industry, are super negative.

But I love the reset, and I do think that there's a lot of potential in setting goals. I just wish it didn't have to all happen in January. I love a good goal set and the idea of helping me or people reframe how they want to move their bodies. I wish that New Year's resolutions weren't based again on body changes, and were more based on the abstract things that happened to us when we choose to move our bodies more regularly. 

So rather than focusing on losing 25 pounds, just focusing on feeling better, sleeping better, being a better person, showing up better in our everyday lives, being more flexible and increasing our heart health. There are just so many benefits that come along with moving our bodies, and focusing on the ones that actually change them is probably the least likely to actually do anything. And I think movement plays such a huge part in our mental health.

EatingWell: What's something unexpected that's come from sharing your perspectives on health and wellness on social media?

Alicia McCarvell: I don't think I expected as many people to be as tired of going through the motions as I genuinely was. I think just in general, in our everyday lives, we feel alone. Then when you get a platform and you're able to share that, you realize that you're not alone, and that's a really cool feeling.

I have realized how uneducated people are when it comes to fitness and movement in general; what it is and what is a valid movement.

Last year I posted [a video of] me doing my virtual reality movement and my exercise, and someone said, "But does this actually count as exercise?" And I think that that was the moment that I really realized that, as a society, we put so much pressure on exercise and movement happening in a gym or happening in a traditional way that we lost sight of the fact that movement doesn't have to be traditional. And that there's so much power in finding ways to move your body that bring you joy and have nothing to do with anybody else.

I talk about doing my daily walks, and people will be like, "Does this count?" Of course it counts! I'm moving my body, and if I would have started doing these regular walks that I do now when I was 16 years old, my body would look completely different at 33 than it does. But I too was confused as to what counts as body movement. 

So those are my two biggest takeaways: there's a big gap between what people think counts as movement and there's power in finding those more abstract ways of getting going. 

But I have genuinely found so much pleasure in not walking through the doors of a gym and doing things that I don't enjoy. When I am there, it's no longer the treadmill on an incline, it's about being strong and about showing what my body's capable of, not hoping that my body would look differently. Those two mindsets with movement I think are really really important. And now my mindset is framed around, "What can my body do?" Not, "How can my body look?" 

EatingWell: What's your favorite part about being on social media?

Alicia McCarvell: The stories that I get to hear on a regular basis, specifically as a fat woman. I get it all the time, like, "You're promoting obesity." I get this so regularly, but my DM's [direct messages] are also filled with people who are empowered to move their bodies and with people who have changed their relationship with food, who are overcoming eating disorders. Also, people who like themselves better today than they did the day before—and that is, at the end of the day, the most empowering thing about doing what I do. If I can help someone to realize [earlier] the things that it took me 33 years to realize, that's awesome. If I can help somebody who is 55 realize those things, then that's really, really cool. Hearing the stories about the way that my view of my body has helped others reshape their relationship with their body and move, it is just so incredible.

EatingWell: What is your favorite meal to make with your husband?

Alicia McCarvell: We make a—well I shouldn't say "we"—I make a pineapple shrimp stir-fry that is super easy. I use my regular rice cooker to cook the rice, and then I get my frozen shrimp and frozen pineapple and fresh red, green and orange peppers. Stir-fry it all together and then toss it on rice with a little bit of … it's like a pineapple sauce. It's probably one of our favorite easy-to-make and quick meals to have.

EatingWell: What's your favorite restaurant, whether it's a chain or a local place that you want to plug?

Alicia McCarvell: We have a local restaurant called A Mano, and it is Italian, pasta and just deliciousness. We love everything there. They do this jumbo shrimp appetizer, which is cooked in a white-wine cream sauce and is so good. Their lasagna is my absolute favorite. That's our go-to for when we're craving pasta or something we call "gourmet," not the pasta we make at home.

EatingWell: What is your favorite snack to eat? 

Alicia McCarvell: Oh, I love fruit snacks—they're my favorite, honestly. My problem with eating right now is that I'll get going during my day and it'll be hours before I'll eat, so that's something that I'm working really hard on. Having snacks around the house is super helpful for that; especially snacks with fruit sugars specifically, just to keep me going and keep me energized. Although they don't last in this house because Scott can't comprehend that you're supposed to eat one pack at a time. I mean, whatever he needs! 

EatingWell: Sweet or salty?

Alicia McCarvell: Right now: salty. That's changed, but I'm a salty girl now. I feel like I'm slipping into sweets around Christmastime, which changed. In my diet culture days, sweets were what I wasn't allowed to have. So I was a sweet girl, but I was only a sweet girl because I didn't allow myself to have those things. Now that I'm not holding myself back from enjoying the foods that I want to enjoy, I don't crave them as much, which has been super helpful. I'm not sure how much you know about my history, but I have a history of disordered eating, specifically with bingeing on foods that I wasn't essentially allowed to have, so sweet. So now that I've evened out my diet and I allow myself to eat the things my body wants, I've realized that I was a salty girl, which is new for me. 

EatingWell: What does eating well mean to you?

Alicia McCarvell: This is a great question because it is a big one. For me specifically, eating well is not withholding from my body what it deserves and what it needs. I think I spent so much time thinking I was eating well because I was eating low-carb or high-veggie or other diet culture things, and I wasn't healthy. My body wasn't getting the nutrients it needed to function.

Eating well for me is going out and enjoying the food that I'm putting into my body. And it's finding things that make me run the way that I should be running, with the energy and the focus that I need to have. But also, allowing me to go to the movie theater and have popcorn with my nephew on a Saturday afternoon. 

I guess, nowadays, it's not making myself have guilt around food anymore. And that is a big, big win for me in my book.

EatingWell: What do you wish your fans and followers could take into the new year with them?

Alicia McCarvell: I wish first and foremost that they understood that they're enough as they are every single day, regardless of whatever goal they're going to set for themselves into the new year.

We've spent a lot of time making our bodies the bane of our existence. I hope that this year they're kinder to their bodies and honor themselves and be thankful for the body that they get to live in every single day.