Friday, March 27, 2009

My thoughts on healthy eating (for what they're worth)

Since I started this space in January to track my training progress for my first marathon, I have also been reading a ton of blogs out there about running and fitness. In the process of reading and discovering more running blogs, I naturally came across a few really great health and nutrition blogs. Running and eating basically go hand in hand, so it's natural that most running bloggers also talk about the food they eat at some point. I have learned so much about how other runners eat, new health foods I might not have discovered on my own, natural and alternative food sources, but most importantly I realized that my crazy way of eating was shared by thousands of other women (and men) out there.

Lil Bit of Background
Before I immersed myself in this blogosphere I wasn't really surrounded by like-minded eaters. My family never ate particularly healthy growing up (not particularly unhealthy either), my boyfriend enjoys healthy food but doesn't naturally crave foods inherently healthy on a regular basis (he used to have an aversion to anything labeled organic because he thought it was "made of beans or somthing" Men!), my co-workers in the past have never generally eaten the way I do. So for me to stumble across an entire network of people just like me has been pretty enlightening.

Someday soon I will share more about me and my background. I think that will explain a bit more about my eating and exercise habits and patterns. But in light of yesterday's post, I wanted to comment briefly about how I qualify the foods I eat.

I used to count calories and log all of my food on MyFoodDiary.com. Before I started using this site and logging my food and exercises, I thought I was a supremely healthy eater, and I was partly right. But I wasn't paying enough attention to some things that were adding a ton of extra and unnecessary calories to my day (like dressings, sauces, methods of cooking).

This site is a fantastic resource and it truly helped me refine my eating habits. It taught me the right ways to eat healthy. It also helped me to examine everything that I ate, in turn revealing some of the uglier facets of my diet. I would say that going through this process (about 2.5 years ago) changed my life, changed my outlook on food, and helped me to become a smarter eater.

How I Eat Today
Now I don't count calories. Partly because of the fact that I run so much but mostly because MFD ingrained in me the correct way to eat/correct portion size/how much I can comfortably consume in a day.

In the past few years, I have been desperately trying to add more fresh fruit and veggies to my diet. I read somewhere that an easy way to do this is when you are at the grocery store, spend the majority of your time in the outer edges of the store rather than in the aisles where all the paakged and processed foods are. This seems counter-intuitive but I had never thought of it that way, and now I cannot shop without considering that. Try it! It really, really helps you think about what you're putting in your cart.

Generally, I pick up a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables and I incorporate these into all of my daily meals. For breakfast I usually eat oatmeal or cereal with fresh fruit and coffee. For lunch I usually have a veggie-packed salad, wrap or sandwich with a side of fruit or veggies. If I only pack a salad I try to add in some healthy carbs like whole wheat bread, brown rice or quinoa. For dinner, I try to cook something that we both will enjoy, that is also healthy and packed with fresh vegetables and a healthy meat. We rarely eat red meat or pork, we try to stick to ground turkey breast or ground chicken, or boneless skinless chicken breasts. For snacks during the day, I always have fresh fruit. I think I eat an apple every day, plus bananas, plums or whatever else is in season.

I also am getting more thorough about reading food labels and choosing items that I can actually read and understand the ingredient list. Although I am severely limited by budget these days, I spend a lot of time in the stores trying to find items that are as all natural and organic as possible and are also low in sodium. I cannot always afford organic, which is okay for me right now. I cannot get all of my gorceries at Whole Foods, so I shop smart at a few different stores and do what I can. I would like to be able to afford to eat organic produce and food exclusively, but right now that is not an option. So I focus on buying tons of fresh produce and purchasing organic when it is possible. The most important thing for me is to make sure that what I am consuming is made up of things that I don't find offensive and damaging to my body.

I do not diet, and I try not to limit myself too much. I actually think that diets in general are crap. My general rule is to be able to eat what I want one day a week. So if I want to share some french fries at happy hour on Friday, I will! Or if I want a cupcake or some greasy pizza, I can enjoy these things in moderation. I have gotten better at stopping myself from going overboard with junk foods, and the healthier I eat, the less I crave these things.

I think the number one mistake those who are trying to lose weight make is denying themselves the food that their bodies are craving. You have to learn to be an intuitive eater, but this does take time, so initially you're going to have to make some sacrifices. This doesn't mean when you're on a "diet" you're limited to 1000 calories a day and you can't touch sweets. If you love sweets and you're craving them, you're just going to eat more and more food until you satisfy that craving, which was probably worse than eating the sweets in the first place! Also, if you're working out alot, limiting your body the calories it needs will actually be counter-effective and will cause your metabolism to slow down rather than speed up.

The bottome line is that if you want to get healthier and lose weight, start exercising and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables! Crazy right? But it is literally that simple.

Americans tend to want someone to give them the answer, they want the easy way out, and they don't want to do any work to see results. So they turn to whatever fad diet is out there and might lose a few pounds, but end up gaining it right back. Eat fresh and natural foods rather than packaged processed ones, get active, and you WILL see results.

Challenges to Eating Healthy:
Living with my boyfriend has created some eating challenges for me. I went through a phase last year where I was doing a lot of baking for him (and for me because I love to bake) which meant that we had a ton of sweets around all the time. It is also challenging because when we're together I am more likely to cave in for the junk food, like pizza, chips or bar food. It's also sometimes hard to make a dinner that is healthy but one that he will also willingly eat (I think I have done pretty well with this, although I know he won't be sharing in my tofu dishes any time soon).

The people you're around can create huge nutrition barriers for you. My co-workers used to always tease me about the salads I brought for lunch, or the fact that I wouldn't go eat certain foods when we went out. My dad gives me speeches when I don't want any pork chops he's cooked when I come to visit. I have learned to just get over this because I know that the way I eat is the best (and healthiest) way for me. People are just different and everyone does things differently. If you let yourself succomb to the pressures of eating like everyone else, you will never reach your nutrition goals.

This brings me back to this blogosphere. The fact that I have not always been surrounded by healthy eaters has created a challenge for me. But connecting with all of you through this forum has made me realize that I am not a weirdo for eating the way I do. It's not crazy to crave health food stores and be super excited about Farmer's Market season. It's not insane to want to try out meat substitutes or soy milk or not wanting to eat a big hunk of meat at a barbeque (although I do love me some hamburgers and hot dogs). It's not weird to order a salad for lunch that GASP doesn't have any meat on it, or heaven forbid, I eat without dressing. It's not completely insane to want to buy organic even though sometimes it means shelling out a few more dollars. It's normal to care about how I fuel my body.

So thank you all for opening my eyes to this healthy network of those who are teaching me more every day about how to be a healthier and stronger woman. I have realized now that this is the one thing I truly love and am passionate about. Who knows where this will take me?

3 comments:

  1. I love reading about your healthy diet!! It is very motivating:)

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  2. It's normal to care about how I fuel my body.

    So true!! I have just started using The Daily Plate (a site like MFD) and it is really enlightening. My family always celebrated/rewarded everything with splurge-type foods, and it is SO hard to get out of that mindset. I am super excited that it is almost farmer's market season!!

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  3. [...]If you able to always stay on your healthy eating plan you’ll feel that eating healthy foods isn’t a diet but it’ll become your living habit[...]

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