Tag Archives: diet

14 Months Later…

4 Jun

Emma will be 14 months this Saturday and I am just now getting the motivation to really resume the healthy lifestyle I had pre-pregnancy. Even though I trained for and ran a 15k, I have done really nothing at all in the toning department. My core grew stronger through running but it is still pretty weak and squishy.

Likewise, my eating habits used to be fairly buttoned up, but ever since pregnancy, they’ve been looser. For example, I used to hardly ever order value meals at fast food restaurants, but now I barely think twice. Bleh.

So.

I do best with some kind of plan to follow, and want to do more toning than cardio, so I decided to follow the Bikini Body Plan from Tone It Up. I will only be doing 1 workout a day (sometimes they list more than that) and they will be short enough to fit in during one of Emma’s naps. I’ll most likely take 2 rest days a week. But I’m excited about it! I am not into hardcore strength stuff, so I like that their strength routines aren’t anything too crazy, but still get results.

As far as eating goes, I know that if I go too crazy with calorie counting or cutting out carbs or anything, I get obsessed. So I’m just going to focus on:

  1. Eating whole, nutritional foods – which includes switching out Coffeemate creamer for half & half
  2. Limiting alcohol to 1-2 drinks a week, and coffee to 2 cups a day
  3. Drinking at least 32 oz of water a day from my Nalgene, plus water at meals

I want to just start small with the things I know need tweaking, and once those become a habit again, go from there. Too much change at once = FAIL. My family has a reunion on the 4th of July so even though I know this is really a lifestyle change, I’m using that as inspiration to stick with it for the next month.

On the bright side, I have been eating quite a bit healthier here in Minnesota than I was in Colorado. My love for spinach has returned (after disappearing during pregnancy) so I’ve been having big salads for lunch. Dinners are usually a lean meat, vegetable and grain, or a vegetarian dish with lots of veggies!

Dealing with a Colicky Baby

10 May

So we’re pretty sure that Emma has colic, whatever that is. A colicky baby cries or fusses for 3 hours a day, for 3 days a week, for 3 weeks. It hasn’t been 3 weeks yet but Emma fusses every day, so I think we qualify. I’ve been reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and the author says that fussiness is more characteristic of colic and defines fussiness as “an unsettled, agitated, wakeful state that would lead to crying if ignored by parents” and that colicky babies have “long and frequents bouts of fussing” which would lead to crying if it weren’t for “intensive parental intervention.”

Story of my life.

This week has been a blur of feeding and getting Emma to go to sleep and stay asleep. Who needs to work out when you spend hours a day bouncing a fussy baby on an exercise ball? Seriously, my legs and back are TIRED.

After a little research, it appears that Emma is getting enough sleep, but most of it is in 1-2 hour chunks, with a few 2-4 hour chunks thrown in from about 6 pm to 1 am. The time of day she sleeps the worst is from about 1 am to 8 am. Last night, I just threw in the towel and stayed up watching Modern Family on my iPad instead of trying to sleep through her grunting. It was definitely our worst night by far. She was grunting within 15 minutes of when I put her in her swing.

I finally called our pediatrician’s office the other day and talked to the triage nurse. I told her about all of Emma’s symptoms:

  • Cries after feedings, sometimes during, like she’s frustrated
  • Swallows a lot of air from gulping milk
  • Gets hiccups often, spits up quite a bit, has a lot of gas
  • Wants to eat every 1-3 hours
  • Often wants pacifier after eating but has plenty of dirty and wet diapers
  • Grunts almost all night long, seems to be uncomfortable from gas
  • Yawns all the time, even when she has just woken up, but it still takes a lot of effort to make her go to sleep
  • Generally only sleeps for an hour at a time except for evening – then she’ll go 2-3 hours and every once in a while, 4-5
  • When she seems happy and alert, it lasts for maybe 10-15 minutes before she melts down
  • Goes from happy to screaming in a matter of seconds
  • Often cries for 10-20 minutes no matter what you do, calms down after that but only as long as you’re doing something very specific

The triage nurse was very helpful and gave me these tips to try:

  • Express milk before feeding Emma to minimize gulping and swallowed air.
  • Interrupt her feedings often to burp her. Burp her for several minutes before resuming.
  • Keep her upright for 30-45 minutes after eating.
  • If it’s been less than 2 hours since a good feeding (lasting 20-30 minutes), comfort her in a way other than nursing (since it takes about 2 hours for a full belly to be metabolized). If her last feeding was short, I can feed her when she seems hungry.
  • Eliminate dairy, chocolate and caffeine from my diet for a week.

Pumping milk before feeding Emma will take a little getting used to, especially since it’s pretty tough to predict right now when Emma will want to eat. And when I know she wants to eat, she wants to eat NOW. I can hold her off with the pacifier, but she can’t keep it in her mouth herself, so pumping is kind of a circus act while I juggle the breast pump bottles and her pacifier.

I do think pumping, combined with me reclining during breastfeeding, is making a difference – at the very least, Emma is drinking slower than before. She’s not usually a huge fan of being burped mid-feeding (or at all), unless she’s really uncomfortable. But she settles back down pretty quickly once I put her back to the breast.

Sometimes she likes being upright on my or Travis’ chest and she sleeps pretty well in the Baby Bjorn. But other times, she thinks being upright is horrible. That was the case this morning. Surprisingly, though, she was content laying on her back on the changing table. So I let her lay there for about 10 minutes while I talked to her. (This has inspired yet another idea we’re going to try – putting her on her changing pad mattress in the cradle. She seems to be able to pass gas a lot better laying flat on her back than sitting reclined like she does in her swing.)

As far as the dietary changes go, I’m going to eliminate dairy, chocolate and caffeine like the nurse suggested (which is so sad because those are almost all of my favorite food groups!). I have been avoiding cheese, milk, yogurt and ice cream for the past week, but I was still eating chocolate and processed foods like granola bars that contain milk. So I’m finally going to cut those out too. 😦 Then last night, I ate a Boca burger for dinner and on the off chance that the night went so poorly because I ate soy, I’m also going to cut out soy products. And since peanuts are a well-known allergen as well, I’m thinking that I might switch to eating almond butter instead of peanut butter. I’m also going to avoid eating tomatoes and any tomato-based sauces and condiments, since those have triggered acid reflux for me in the past, and while I’m at it, I might as well cut down on the gluten I eat (since a lot of products that are dairy and soy free are also gluten free). Can you tell I’m desperate to find a solution to Emma’s crying?!?!

In a way, this change will be good for me and Travis because we’ll be forced to eat a lot more whole foods and less processed crap. The only drawback is that whole foods generally require more work than processed foods, and well, time in the kitchen is not something I have a lot of right now. But we’re going to try. 😉 So what will I be eating?

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Rice and rice pasta
  • Meat, poultry and fish
  • Olive oil
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Udi’s gluten-free products
  • Larabars
  • So Delicious ice cream and yogurt
  • Amy’s Organic Foods
  • Earth Balance spreads and nut butters
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Almond milk (which is SO not the same as cow’s milk!! I miss it dearly)

The nurse said that if these changes haven’t made a difference in Emma’s fussy behavior by Monday, then they’ll have us come in to have Emma checked out and make sure there isn’t something else going on besides colic.

On a positive note, I haven’t felt as frustrated with Emma the past couple of days. My emotions have switched to just being frustrated with the situation, with an understanding that Emma isn’t being fussy on purpose – she’s just uncomfortable. Poor baby. I keep assuring her that Mommy wants to make her happy and is trying everything she can think of to do so.

But I did just about lose it on our walk this morning with the dogs. Emma had fallen asleep so I thought I’d take advantage of it and go on a longer walk. Well, just 20 minutes into it, she woke up. I turned right around, even though it was earlier than I had planned, because I just had an inkling that she wouldn’t be content very long if she was awake. Sure enough, about a minute later, she started pouting and then crying. She was content if the pacifier was in her mouth, but again, I have to hold it in there. So I ended up tying the dogs’ leash around my waist, taking Emma out of the carseat and holding her while I pushed the stroller all the way back to the house, and keeping the pacifier in her mouth. That juggling act made me feel like a real mom. And it made me vow to not take both the dogs and Emma on a walk again until she outgrows this stage, or Travis comes with.

Do you have any tasty, easy snack ideas that are dairy and soy free?

Cleaning It Up…

6 Aug

Since I’ve cut back quite a bit on my activity levels (hello 4 rest days last week!) and I have a Labor Day weekend on the lake in Minnesota looming, I’ve decided that I need to clean up my eating habits a bit. Any runner knows that it’s a little too easy to justify eating a cookie here, some chocolate there, because “Hey, I just ran xx miles.” Well, I no longer have that excuse. (Though I did run a full 6.75 miles last week.)

There’s a reason why I said I’m cleaning up my eating “a bit.” I don’t know about you but when I read about a “clean diet” that includes protein brownies, or look at eating plans that specify every piece of food that can pass your lips, I get overwhelmed. I don’t want to have to figure out how to make my brownies healthy with brown rice flour, agave nectar and greek yogurt. I don’t want to weigh and measure every thing I eat. (Some people do, and more power to them.) For me, food freedom is where I’m happiest. I’m a big fan of Intuitive Eating, if you can’t tell.

So the main thing I’ve done to clean my eating habits up is to be mindful of what I eat. No eating food just because it’s there and it’s free. I can get into a habit at work of eating whatever someone brings in – donuts, cookies, cake, etc. – just because it’s available. But I want everything I eat to be intentional chosen – it should be either nutritious and filling, or amazingly delicious.

Balanced with that, I’m also focusing on getting the majority (like 95%) of my daily calories from actual good-for-me food. I’m not specifically focused on cutting out sugar, refined flour, saturated fat, sodium or what have you. I just want to get more bang for my buck.

The main result of these two ideas taken together has been a severe decrease in my consumption of ice cream, cookies, chocolate, wine, etc. And I’m down a couple of pounds. Maybe it’s because my appetite has decreased from not working out as much, or maybe this whole ‘clean eating’ thing actually works (note the sarcasm), but I’m not complaining.

Do you “eat clean”? What does it look like for you?

January Goal: Achieved.

2 Feb

Well, friends, I made it. Survived one entire month without sweets of any sorts. It was rough. Especially last week. The culmination of busyness at work, that time of the month, tiredness, and sickness made me want to punch someone and steal their ice cream. But I didn’t.

The past couple days, I’ve been thinking over whether this goal achieved its intended purpose or not, which was to destroy my intense craving for sweets at all hours of the day for part of every meal. And I have to be honest, last week I was convinced that this whole goal was one big waste of willpower.

But then this week came. And the idea of getting to eat chocolate today was like Meh. I woke up this morning and stumbled to the bathroom with one eye half open, and then I remembered, it’s over. I can eat sweets again.

I stumbled to the kitchen where the thawed Triple Decker Brownies that I had kept in the freezer since New Years were sitting. And to be honest, I didn’t really want one. But I have been waiting for this moment the entire month of January – it’s the Day of Chocolate!

So I got out a plate and made the breakfast of champions:

I ate the dark chocolate square first. It was chocolate but it didn’t explode in my mouth like I had fantasized for 30 days.

Then I started eating the brownie. And I realized that what I was doing was ridiculous. Not only was I eating chocolate for breakfast, I wasn’t even enjoying it. So I bagged up the other half of the brownie and the chocolate cherry for later. As I drank my coffee and ate a piece of peanut butter toast, my stomach was doing flip-flops – not in the elated, I can’t believe we get to eat chocolate again! way but in the What the f? What is this crap? way.

{Don’t worry, I still ate the other half of the brownie and chocolate cherry for my morning snack, and instead of the salad and butternut squash lasagna I so carefully packed, I ate a Cinnamon Crunch bagel with Honey Walnut cream cheese from Panera for lunch. Now my stomach is really confused angry.}

All that to say…

It was cutting it close but I think that my goal finally had its intended effect. That time of the month aside (because we all know that we can’t be held accountable for our actions then), I think that my craving for sweets has decreased to a normal, sane amount.

In fact, I’m not even planning to get Yogurtland tonight.

I know, I know. Who am I?

The reason being that I’m going to run 5 miles and do my physical therapy exercises. And Travis is meeting with guys from church. And I don’t want to drive all the way to Yogurtland by myself. And it’s supposed to be a blizzard tonight after work. And I don’t want my stomach to go on strike for being mistreated.

What I Learned:

This experience has taught me that I do have the willpower to resist sweets. I can never use lack of willpower as an excuse again. I will have to admit that I ate the bowl of ice cream because I wanted it more than I wanted a flat stomach or a stable blood sugar. (That’s been the truth all along anyway.)

I also learned that I turned to sweets of all kinds (including soda…who knew?) for comfort and indulgence. When I come home from a stressful or tiring day, and just want to relax, food is where I turn – because it’s fast, easy, and gratifying. I tried to think of other ways to achieve the same effect but I don’t like baths because relaxing against a cement wall isn’t my idea of a good time. Walks are just more work. Reading and TV are better with food so that’s not it either. I guess I’m left with trying to tame the beast.

Where I Go from Here:

This goal reminded me of why I believe in Intuitive Eating (IE). The main idea of IE is that you give yourself permission to eat whatever you want. There are only two rules in IE: Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. The authors believe that when we classify foods as “bad” and “good,” food ends up exerting power over us. But when you ditch the classifications and allow yourself to have whatever you want as long as you’re hungry and stop when you’re full, food loses it power – because you know you can have it anytime you want.

With this goal, I took away that freedom. I couldn’t eat sweets when I craved them and found myself trying to fill the void with other food. This comic from Cathy sums it up beautifully:

This is exactly what the authors of IE  say – you end up eating more food and calories trying to satisfy your true craving in a “healthy” way than you would if you just ate what you truly wanted. And I really found that to be true. When I wanted something sweet after dinner, instead of being able to satisfy myself with a 35-calorie Dove chocolate, I would eat 250 calories of Pirate’s Booty or a bowl of cereal. So if you’re wondering if I lost any weight doing this challenge, sadly, no I did not. 😦

Now that the month of no sweets is over, I’m going back to giving myself the freedom to eat sweets when I’m truly craving them. But I am not going back to the licentiousness I had before I did this challenge. Then, I ate whatever was sitting out or free, whether I really wanted it or not. I exercised hardly any discretion (which is what led me to my sugar addiction in the first place). Now, I would like to be more intentional and make every choice count. If I eat a piece of chocolate cake, it better be just about the best piece of cake I’ve ever had. If I eat ice cream, it better be my favorite flavor or served on top of a gooey, still-warm brownie. That’s one rule I try to follow regarding what I eat in general: If you don’t love it, don’t eat it (even if that means throwing out “perfectly good food”).

I would like to preserve my body’s sugar shock as long as possible. It always make me feel good (and yet at the same time, feel horrible) when I’ve been eating healthy for long enough that my body freaks out when I give it unhealthy food. I must be doing something right. 

Have you ever ransacked the cupboard trying to satisfy a craving?

Five Randos

18 Jan

1. I had my third physical therapy appointment this morning. Holy crap it was painful! I told him that the top of my shoulders were still tight and he went to town on them. Seriously, nothing that I voluntarily endured has ever come close.

2. I found the running gear version of Sasquatch – the elusive winter jacket or vest with more reflective detail than just a logo on the chest. It does not exist for a price I’m willing to pay. Seriously, almost every jacket or vest that did have plenty of reflective details was a lightweight jacket. Which just boggles my mind because when does a runner need reflective gear the most? In the winter when’s it cold.

So I abandoned that and looked for other options, such as reflective snap armbands:

How cool are those?

But I did fall in love with this UnderArmour jacket:

It is so cute. It has reflective details on the front, back and sleeves and it says it’s for cold temperatures. But do I trust UnderArmour? I should make up my mind soon because right now, it’s on sale for $84.95, down from $85.00. What a deal! {insert sarcasm}

I’m also looking at this Brooks Nightlife Silver Bullet Jacket. A little more spendy at $108.95 but I would save $13 by no longer needing snap armbands.

This looks like a great jacket and no doubt, would serve me well. I could even go look at it in the store since it’s not a closeout (like the UA jacket). My hesitation is that it’s fluorescent yellow. Yes, I realize that is the point of the Nightlife version but I can’t help thinking that I wouldn’t want to wear the jacket anywhere in public. I mean, admit it. You’ve seen those serious runners walking around in their bright yellow gear and even though you’re a runner yourself and totally understand why they’re wearing it, you still find it a bit weird. It’s just soooooo yellow. (I apologize if you’re one of those runners… who knows? I might join you!)

On the other hand, I might just get the pink version of the jacket. It still has all the same reflective details and warmth factor and it’s $8 cheaper. Travis won’t let me run at night anyway so I only need reflective-ness for about 10 minutes when my run is ending a bit late. That just might be the ticket.

3. I got the green light to post pictures of my adorable nephew!

In the hospital

Sleeping at home

With my mom, now Grandma Sheri

Isn’t he the cutest little thing ever? Can’t wait to meet him in person!

4. Meb Keflezighi runs in Skechers. Several months ago, I was reading an issue of Competitor magazine that I got for free from a race. I noticed an ad for Skechers running shoes featuring Meb. My initial reaction was one of skepticism – after hearing about Skechers was being sued for false advertising with their Shape-ups shoes, the whole company seemed like a sham, targeting the same demographic of people interested in weight loss supplements and detox diets. I was actually so intrigued by the ad that I looked up pictures of Meb running in the NYC Marathon so that I could see what shoes he was wearing. I thought it looked like he was wearing Nikes but apparently I was wrong –  he actually does wear Skechers for running.

The article I linked to above talks about how Skechers wants to break into the performance running market and is using their sponsorship of Meb to help it along. Considering that he PR’ed in and won the last two marathons he ran (including the Olympic Marathon trials), I’m not as skeptical about the shoes as I once was. But… I’m not sure that I’ll be jumping on the Skechers bandwagon anytime soon.

5. I have some friends who are doing a juice cleanse.

{source}

They’re following the Reboot Standard Program, which has you eat only whole fruits and veggies for 15 days (click on the link for specifics). The benefits are supposedly (from their website, with my comments):

  • Boost the number of fruit/vegetable servings you can ingest in a day.  Well, duh! It’d be kind of hard not to, when that’s all you’re eating.
  • Break the cycle of unhealthy eating.  Watch me binge on celery.
  • Retrain your brain to crave fruits and vegetables.  If I can’t kick chocolate in 15 days, I couldn’t do this either.
  • Manage your weight.  I always manage to weigh something.
  • Promote a lifestyle that will lower risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, macular degeneration, cognitive decline and mental illness including depression. General healthy living does this too.
  • Promote longevity. Everyone dies.
  • Decrease aches and pains in joints and muscles.  I wear Skechers for this.
  • Improve your immunity.  Ok, you got me here.
  • Promote increased energy levels. and increased bitchiness levels.
  • Promote healthy skin, nails and hair.  Only if I stop tanning, biting and dyeing.
  • Gain greater access to digestive enzymes locked away in whole produce through juicing.  Like in kale? Ew.
You can probably tell that I’m not a huge fan of “reboot diets” (which IMO is just a fancy word for detox). Running the risk of being called a hypocrite (since I eliminated sweets from my diet for a month…), I don’t think it’s ever necessary to eliminate entire food groups from your diet, barring an actual food allergy, in the name of “health” or “cleansing.”
Personally, I would go insane if I couldn’t eat cereal. I eat cereal every day. Unless we’re out of milk. And then I cry myself to sleep.
…………………………..
I’d love to hear your thoughts –
Which running jacket would you choose above?
Would you ever wear Skechers for running?
What do you think about reboot/cleansing/detox programs?

 

The Truth About Healthy Eating

19 Jul

This is not healthy eating.

{source}

As a person who is very interested in health and fitness, I read a lot of magazines, newspaper articles, and books about the topic and I frequent a health and fitness message board. I’m even contemplating going to back to school for a nutrition degree (but that’s a topic for another post).

While I don’t follow any strict eating regimen like Paleo or Clean Eating, I do make most of the decisions about what I eat following the mantra of Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” What that means for me is:

  • I eat real food, not “food products” as he calls them, as much as possible.
  • I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full (this is also the mentality behind Intuitive Eating).
  • I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.

This is what a typical day’s menu has looked like recently:

Pre-Workout (5:00 am)

1 slice of whole wheat bread with 1 tbsp creamy peanut butter (I don’t eat natural peanut butter because it’s more expensive and the partially hydrogenated oil in un-natural peanut butter is so negligible, they don’t even list trans fats on the nutrition facts.)

Breakfast (7:30)

1-2 cups of cereal (common varieties are Honey Bunches of Oats, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Kashi GoLean Crunch!) with ½ cup blueberries and 1.5% milk from Royal Crest Dairy

Caffeine Fix (9:00)

1 ½ cups iced coffee with 2 packets of artificial sweetener and 1-2 tbsp fat-free liquid crack (aka Coffeemate hazelnut creamer)

Morning Snack #1 (10:00)

Banana

Morning Snack #2 (11:00)

Light flavored yogurt

Lunch (12:00 pm)

1 portion of leftovers from dinner on a bed of spinach or a spinach salad/wrap with blueberries, dried (sweetened) cranberries, feta cheese, slivered almonds, low-sodium ham, and Kraft poppyseed dressing (my favorite salad EVER.)

Afternoon Snack #1 (2:00)

Apple

Afternoon Snack #2 (3:30)

6 generic Triscuits, 1 oz cheddar cheese

Dinner (6:30)

Since this varies a lot (and my other food is usually pretty much the same), I’ll give a few common ones:

  • Homemade pizza (whole wheat pocketless pitas with store-bought pizza sauce, turkey pepperoni, artichoke hearts, black olives, mushrooms, and part-skim mozzarella)
  • Elk burgers on whole wheat buns, baked sweet potato fries sprinkled with sea salt
  • Butternut squash and sage lasagna, garlic (white) bread, spinach salad

Late-night treat (2-3 times a month when training, 4-5 times a month in off season)

Glass of wine (or a serving of full-fat ice cream)

As you can see, I don’t eat perfectly. I would go crazy if I did. It’s too hard and too expensive to buy all of the “healthiest” versions of all foods (not to mention that sometimes the refined foods are simply more delicious). My main focus is on eating a lot of fruits and vegetables and buying the whole-grain/least processed version of everything that is reasonably priced and that I enjoy eating. (Eating healthy foods you don’t enjoy is not fun or sustainable.)

If you’re curious, I eat about 2,000-2,500 calories a day when training; 1,700-2,000 when I’m not.

Over the course of my informal research, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of misconceptions about healthy eating floating around in the general populace. Lies like “Eating healthy is expensive” and “You have to stop eating donuts for breakfast.” In general, generalizations are wrong. 🙂

To set the record straight, here is what my experience has been with eating healthily (but I am not a registered dietitian so take what I say with a grain of salt-free Mrs. Dash).

1. I spend less money at the grocery store on healthy food than I did on processed crap.

On average, I spend $40-75 a week on groceries for 2 adults (not including condiments like ketchup and olive oil). I buy mostly produce (bananas, apples, oranges, spinach, potatoes, onions, green beans, asparagus, blueberries, zucchini, yellow squash, etc.). I also buy whole wheat pasta, whole wheat crackers, low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk (we get ours delivered), low-sodium deli meat (Boar’s Head), chicken when it’s on sale (for red meat, we eat elk that Travis shot), and whatever additional ingredients I need for the 3 dinner recipes I chose for the week.

My guess is that people think eating healthy is expensive because they don’t know to not buy certain produce when it’s out of season. I don’t spend $5 a pound on grapes, buy $6 pineapples, eat gold-plated raspberries, or spend $10 on a 2 oz bag of dried apricots. If you pay attention to prices and buy the cheap and in-season produce, eating healthy is actually very affordable. Vegetables are notoriously cheap almost year-round. You can’t buy a couple pounds of potatoes, onions, and carrots and tell me they were expensive.

Also, check out grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Sunflower Farmer’s Market that have bulk bins. I now buy tons of stuff from bulk bins that I would have bought at a regular grocery store and spend way less: flour, dried fruit, trail mix, popcorn kernels, couscous, granola, etc. Just recently, I bought 50 oz of flour for $1.50 and ½ lb of dried mango for $2.00.

I also think that people get hung up on the superfoods. These are a marketing ploy. Did you know that grapes have just as many antioxidants as acai berries? They’re also cheaper. I love this quote from the Cooking Light article called The Truth about Superfoods:

Almost everything in modern nutrition research suggests that your whole diet—which should be a varied one, containing lots of plants, with moderate amounts of total fat and salt—is the thing to focus on. Dark chocolate, edamame, and green tea do not a whole diet make.

I don’t follow food trends. I didn’t jump on the pomegranate or acai berry bandwagon and I won’t jump on any in the future. Usually, these products are overpriced and their health benefits, while real, are very comparable to benefits from other, more common (and cheaper) produce.

After reading In Defense of Food, I stopped giving certain vegetables the cold shoulder and adopted the opinion that if it grows on a plant or in the ground, it’s good for me. Vegetables like corn and russet potatoes have gotten a bad rap from the health nuts over the years because they supposedly don’t have much “nutritional value.” The truth is, corn is high in fiber and potassium and russet potatoes have fiber and protein. (Take that sweet potatoes!) Moreover, Michael Pollan makes the argument that we don’t know how different vitamins and minerals in natural foods work together. A less-processed, more-natural diet is always better. Choose the corn over vitamin-fortified, protein-injected health food.

2. I hardly ever get sick.

When I was in high school, I got sick all.the.time. Even through most of college, I got sick quite often. When I got married, learned/had a reason to cook and started eating things besides cereal and sandwiches, I started eating a lot more fruit and vegetables. I am now a believer that an apple a day keeps the doctor away: since moving out to Colorado on Labor Day weekend of 2007, I have only been sick twice. Once I had a cold and the other time, I contracted H1N1 (eeee…). I think that’s a pretty good track record.

If I start getting the feeling in my throat like I’m on the verge of getting a cold, I dial up the amount of fruit and vegetables I’m eating and try to get more sleep. I like to think I have staved off many a cold with this strategy.

3. I maintain my weight easily and happily.

I am not a carb-deprived, pill-popping, drooling-over-donuts-in-the-shop-window, I-can’t-eat-that-because-I’m-on-a-diet monster. I eat food. I love food. Even donuts. Especially donuts.

But there’s a balance. If you want to discover what that balance is, read Intuitive Eating. I cannot praise this book highly enough. It changed my eating life (it didn’t change my whole life — Jesus did that). Starting in high school, I had a friend who did not have a healthy relationship with food and it rubbed off on me. I used food as comfort, a reward, and an activity to do when I was bored. Over time, it morphed into the enemy that constantly whispered to me about how much I wanted it but couldn’t have it. I religiously watched what I ate, tracked every calorie, but then frequently overate, to the point where I was so full that all I wanted to do after eating was lie down.

Finally, I got sick and tired of counting calories and obsessing over everything I put in my mouth. I was sick of having food control me. I was sick of having no willpower. So I read Intuitive Eating for the second time in the fall of 2009 and actually did what it said. I let myself eat donuts, Twizzlers, ice cream, wine, and white bread (gasp!) when I wanted them, making sure to only eat when I was hungry and to stop when I was full.

At first, it was a little scary. What if I gain weight? But over time, I learned to eat what I wanted and to make sure I really wanted what I was eating. If something didn’t hit the spot, I didn’t eat it. If something had looked better than it tasted, I didn’t eat it. If I was comfortably full, I didn’t go for dessert anyway. I knew it I would enjoy it more if I wasn’t trying to squeeze it in between my spleen and liver.

It worked. The first time I really noticed a change in my relationship to food was Thanksgiving of 2009. My parents were out in Colorado visiting and my mom and I had cooked up an entire Thanksgiving feast for the 4 of us with all of my favorites: stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, dinner rolls, jello salads. I ate until I was comfortably full and then did the unfathomable: decided to not eat pumpkin pie afterward. I knew that if I did, it would push me over the edge to being uncomfortably full. And I hate that feeling.

I felt like I was in a twilight zone as I decided to just have a cup of coffee. I had energy to do dishes and move around after the Thanksgiving meal. You mean I don’t have to feel like I’m exploding? It was revolutionary for me.

Fast forward 2 ½ years, I hardly ever feel uncomfortably full anymore. I still do slip up once in a while when there’s a particularly tempting meal or treat, but more often than not, I stop at a good point because I know that food won’t make me happy, even though according to David Kessler, my body’s wiring tells me it will.

4. I still eat donuts, ice cream and French fries — occasionally.

I couldn’t survive without them! I think this is the #1 biggest mistake people make on diets: they don’t let themselves eat anything that is considered “bad.” (This is one of main tenets of Intuitive Eating: there are no “good” or “bad” foods. There are no food police.) The #2 biggest mistake people make is not eating enough food when they’re trying to “eat healthy.” Eating healthy does not mean eating perfectly 100% of the time and it doesn’t mean always being hungry.

But that’s not to say I don’t exercise any self-restraint or discretion. Generally speaking, when I have a craving for empty-calorie deliciousness, I don’t go out right away and indulge. I let it simmer for a few days. Usually, I have an opportunity later on to go out for ice cream with my girlfriends or for a donut with Travis. Turn your splurges into social outings. With this approach, I splurge 2-4 times a month (and by splurge, I mean eat something that has low nutritional value and high calorie/fat content).

If I’m in need of a snack at 3:30 pm on a slow-moving Thursday afternoon, and the vending machine is my only option, I pick the healthiest thing I can enjoy eating. (Lucky for me, the vending machine here has Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips. Score!) Picking the healthiest thing, even though you don’t like it or it’s not really what you want, isn’t a good idea because it won’t leave you satisfied and you’ll want to eat something else (yet another idea from Intuitive Eating). If you’re thinking, Well heck, the only thing I’d enjoy eating is a candy bar, then get one. Just make sure it either has nuts in it (which will make it more filling) or it’s low in calories (so it won’t destroy your daily balance).

Eating healthy doesn’t require perfection. You don’t have to set up monstrous goals that require an all-or-nothing commitment. It’s a consistent effort to make smart choices. It’s maintaining a balance (get a shake or fries, not both). Often times, it’s choosing the lesser of two not-so-great options (they are not “evils”). In order to eat healthy for life, you need to be able to adapt and react to the different situations life throws at you. You can’t throw in the towel if you happen to eat 10 cookies in one sitting. Brush off the crumbs and make a better decision now.

 5. I still get to eat good food.

I honestly enjoy eating healthy. I love the foods I eat and I love the way I feel when I’m healthy. I love fruits and vegetables. I admit that it’s very convenient that I’m not a picky eater (except when it comes to meat) and that it would be harder for a picky eater to eat healthy. But it’s not impossible.

One thing I’ve done to broaden my horizon is to intentionally try new foods. I’ve discovered some things that I really like (eggplant, edamame, wheat berry, butternut squash, sage, couscous, pistachios) and other things that I don’t like (kale, brussel sprouts, mango, quinoa, shallots). Experiment. Try new foods and new ways of preparing familiar foods. Puree cauliflower and carrots and add them to soups, muffins, and pasta dishes. My general rule of thumb is to eat some fruit or vegetable at every meal and for at least two snacks a day.

All this is to say, people make healthy eating a lot harder than it has to be. If you’re currently not making the best food choices, don’t do a major overhaul. Start small, perhaps with cutting down on or eliminating the amount of liquid you’re drinking each day that isn’t water. Eat an apple with an ounce of cheese for a snack instead of a bag of chips. Learn what portion sizes look like. Find out the nutrition information for your “usual” and make a better choice. Bottom line is, figure out what works for you.

But don’t come to me complaining about how hard it is to eat healthy. Diets are hard. Restrictive eating guidelines are hard. Eating healthy is different. It may take a while to get the hang of it, but once you do, it’s the new normal. I will admit it takes consistent effort, but so does going to doctor’s appointments for diabetes and cholesterol meds. I’m just sayin’…

Do you find it hard to eat healthy? What food is your weakness?  Mine is carbs – I love me some cereal, bread and crackers.

Food.

21 Feb

It’s a powerful thing, isn’t it? It’s the thing that keeps us alive…but when we eat too much, it kills us (albeit indirectly). The stereotypical modern American lifestyle revolves around it. Every occasion is an occasion to eat. And eat, we do.

I have a hard time with food. Mostly because I have a hard time with my body image. I exercise and eat right for the health benefits, yes. But I would lying if I didn’t say that 95% of the reason I do those things is because I want to look a certain way.

That may come as a surprise to some since I’ve been fairly thin my whole life. Growing up, I had a fast metabolism and never worried about what I ate or how much. I just ate whatever I wanted. If I wanted a doughnut, I ate a doughnut. If I wanted a chocolate milk and PB&J on a bagel for lunch every day for months, I ate it. I was free from worry about food.

I envy those days. I want them back. My life now is consuming with thinking about food. Make sure I eat a certain number of calories, consume enough protein, don’t eat refined carbs, stay away from fried foods, and on and on and on.  

All self-imposed rules, might I add.

This issue is coming to the forefront now because I have been counting calories for the past 3 months. Counting calories was something I had steered clear of for several years after becoming a Christian because I felt like I couldn’t do it without my body and weight becoming idols. I even blogged about this very thing a little less than a year ago.

But somehow, this time I was able to convince myself that monitoring my calorie intake with a microscope was ok, that in fact, I was taking better care of my body by making sure I didn’t eat more calories than my body really needed. And I was making sure that I consumed enough protein (something my diet legitimately lacks, since I am not a meat lover).  

No matter how long I think about it or in what way I think about it, I can’t come up with a God-glorifying justification that I actually believe. I just don’t buy it. For me, this can’t be glorifying to God. How can it be? I’m living trapped in this fear of overeating and gaining weight. Other Christians may be able to diligently diet in faith. I am not one of them.

It’s sadly a truth I’ve known all along and tried to deny. I didn’t want that to be the truth because that meant I wasn’t glorifying God. Which meant that I shouldn’t be dieting. Which meant that I would gain weight. And that would be the most horrible thing in the world (I am being facetious). 

So after a few days of uncontrolled eating (and way too many sweets), I’ve admitted that not only is calorie counting not working (because it makes me feel either constantly deprived or anxious about eating), it’s wasting my life. The physical body I live in right now is not immortal. I won’t have this body in eternity. I will have a new body, a perfect body. A body that will no longer be my idol. Just think of all the prayers I could say or verses I could memorize if I channeled my obsessive energies there!

I admit that giving dieting up scares me. It is the area of my life that I control. If I count my calories, I get to decide how much I weigh and what my body looks like. If I let go and trust my body and God for natural cues, He gets to decide it. What if He decides to make me fat?!? is the thought that immediately runs through my mind.

FYI, I know that thought is stupid.

But it’s my fear that helps me see that not only does faith apply to this situation, it is necessary for success. I can’t conquer this alone. I need the Lord to help me. I need to trust that: 

1) He cares deeply about even this vain little trial. “I came that you may have life and have it abundantly,” Jesus said. 

2) He has equipped and will sustain me with everything I need to live a life that is glorifying to Him, weight issues included.

3) He will continue to love me unconditionally and perfectly through it all, even when I fail, sin and pity myself.

4) His definition of beauty is the one that matters and is valid. The world’s definition does not and is not.

5) I am fearfully and wonderfully made. That means that not only am I beautiful the way I am (because I reflect Christ in me) but my body is an amazing thing that baffles even the smartest scientists. It is an intelligent work of art and I need to respect it…by trusting it to know what it needs instead of using external cues to determine that.

I am re-reading the book Intuitive Eating. I liked the book when I read it before but I realize now that I was trapped in what they call the “One Last Diet” mentality, thinking that if I did just one more diet, I would finally reach the point where I was satisfied with my body and once I got there, I could then figure it all out.

Well, I still haven’t gotten there so I’m re-reading the book. I’m taking it seriously this time and fighting the urge to count calories. I am done with that!! (Feel free to ask me anytime if I stuck to that!) No more diets for me. This book isn’t necessarily biblical but it’s all about listening to your body, respecting it, and taking care of it–a lifestyle that I feel would honor and glorify God more than dieting does.

So there you have it. I plan to blog about how things are going. I’m sure that there will other random crap thrown in along with it but hopefully, this “journey” will benefit others as well.