The Great Diet Debate

Diets. Diets. Diets.

They abound everywhere, do they not ? There are the ones that seem to have been around forever, there are the ones that are major “companies” where you get support systems and eat their food, let’s not forget the current trendy ones all over internet, or ones that your neighbor is hawking.

All of them structured plans with the ultimate goal, to get you thinner, and more fat free.

In my past life when I participated in the diet games I’d find whatever might look promising in a magazine and give it a try…..for a week…or two… if I could grind it out that long.

You know what I finally realized ? I really HATED being told what I had to eat, when, and how much I could have. I HATED the idea that foods I loved were “off limit”. And I really HATED the whole feeling of deprivation and lack of fun that went along with it.

Why did something that was supposed to help me feel so…. life sucking ? Confining? Annoying?

I finally got it. I think it’s important to really understand yourself, how you roll, what makes you tick. Sometimes it might take awhile, but you get it.

I’m a total free spirit and a self confessed often rebel at heart…. no wonder conventional structured “diets” worked against everything in me.

I rebelled against being boxed into someone else’s food plan and ways of eating. I didn’t want to be nailed down to “a plan”.

When I decided to take control of my life and not be locked into a structured system of eating, here’s what I realized.

Taking away things I loved, or even things I randomly ate if I felt like it, made them way more powerful in my life than they needed to be ’cause it made me think of it more than I needed to… like “I can’t have these things…therefore…I want them”

Seriously, who wants to spend their mental energy thinking of food ?

That’s when I took my power back. That’s when I realized  I really was a grown up and declared nothing “off limit”. If I wanted a piece of chocolate, I’d eat it and move on. I trusted myself that I really wouldn’t eat a whole bag if I wanted a piece ( disclaimer… I never ate a whole bag of anything 😉 haha

I remember about a month in to my experiment. The fam wanted to go out for a burger. My previous “diet girl” mode would’ve been to scope out a salad, eat it, and feel deprived and left out. No… I got my burger…and fries… and enjoyed myself… and kept rolling with my plan. I got up the next morning, business as usual. No beating myself up or over crazy workouts to “compensate” for it (as if).

A couple months went by and I was losing weight AND happy at the same time ( what a concept) overall I was making good food choices, eating normally, and allowing occasional treats …. those are the things that allow you to still feel normal while your in the process of becoming more fat free 😉

Then, along the way, I came across this verse from a man named Paul, who was an apostle I the Bible.

It said “All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial”

That really resonated with me and my current thoughts on eating and losing weight. All food was permissible, it just wasn’t all beneficial for me to reach my health and fitness goals.

It’s still a reminder to me. I don’t like labeling foods “good” or “bad”.

However…… I choose to examine it in the context of is it beneficial for me? For my overall health? for my fitness goals? for how I feel ?

I’m not sure where you are on your fitness and health journey. Maybe your doing just fine or may these words might be helpful to you in your process to lose weight.

All (foods) are permissible, but not all (foods) are beneficial.  (mine)

Take your power back.

Daniel And The Vegetable Den

veggiesOk… I hear you now getting ready to correct me. You’re thinking… “wait a sec Cathie, wasn’t it Daniel and the LIONS den?”

And yeah, you’re right, and I haven’t forgotten the story I learned as a child. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a story from the Bible where Daniel was miraculously saved from being devoured  as lunch after being thrown to the lions by the King… good people then….

Now don’t start twitching and worrying that I’m gonna preach or anything… I mean… I COULD… but it’s not where I’m going here.  Regardless of your personal view on the Bible I think we can all agree it does contain vast amounts of historical information…. and if you dig… some interesting tidbits to make you think. Thinking… is good…..

For example… this particular passage I’m using is known to me and I’ve thought for awhile about doing a blog on it. Recently, it’s come home to me that this passage is pretty relevant for our health and wellness today… which is why I’m using it to bounce off of.

I’ll try and keep this brief…. King Nebuchadnezzar took over Jerusalem. He requested that some children of Israel be brought to him, both of nobility and royalty to be trained to serve in the Kings palace. He then assigned to them  a daily portion of his rich and dainty food and of the wine he drank. They were to be educated and nourished for three years before they’d serve in the palace.

Enter Daniel…. one of the youth chosen to serve. I like Daniel… he had a mind of his own… he knew what he needed to do……. “But Daniel determined in his heart that he would not defile himself by eating the King’s rich and dainty food and drinking the wine he drank. He requested the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself”

Again, on a historical level, you must understand to Daniel, eating and drinking certain foods defiled him because they didn’t follow the dietary rules given by the Lord.

Can we pause on these words…. “rich and dainty foods” Now I don’t know about you, but if I applied those words to foods today it would be those things that are high in fat, or sugars, tasty treats and would be foods that make me fat and pasty looking…not to mention leave me feeling sluggish. Oh, and then toss in the wine and you’ve got some serious feeding going on… and the potential for lots of calories….

So Daniel… gets all bold…. which I totally dig…. he makes the request not to eat it… but the poor steward is all worried  and flat out tells him…. “I fear (the king) should see your faces worse looking or more sad than youths of your age….then you would endanger my head”

Check Daniels response…. ” I beg you, for ten days and let us be given a vegetable diet and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the ones eating the kings food be observed and compared by you and deal with your servants according to what you see.”

Daniel is able to convince the steward to go along with their experiment.

So what is the result at the end of ten days ? “at the end of ten days it was seen that they were better looking and had taken on more flesh than the youths who ate the kings rich dainties. SO the steward took away their rich dainties and wine and gave them vegetables.”

Just let that breathe over you for a moment….. the other guys were living the good life getting all the royal tasty foods and wines… then thanks to David and his entourage …. they get assigned the veggie diet.

I’m wondering if there was some grumbling in the ranks…. veggies and water. Actually, I’m pretty sure Daniel did them a favor.

I guess I’ve related to this story because I know how I look and feel eating more veggies, fruit, and water vs. other foods that aren’t as nutrient dense. You feel good, you look better, you’re giving your body real nutrient rich foods that shows in your appearance.

Now Daniels choice was based on his religious convictions and from what I’ve read based on the Old Testament food guidelines he would’ve been able to eat foods, besides veggies, that fit those guidelines.  This could’ve included fruits and nuts among other things. I’m not going to launch into all the possible dynamics of what he may or may not have eaten… the point is…. abstaining from rich indulgent foods and eating foods that are as close to natural has a positive effect on your body.

Get this… when I started doing a little research there are actually diets called the “Daniel Diet” or “Daniel Fast”. I don’t endorse any “diet” however, pursuing an eating plan that encourages lots of good healthy food isn’t a bad thing. (just don’t get dogmatic on it).

A couple years ago I was invited to participate in fitness  challenge for 3 months. Part of it involved doing a particular eating plan for 30 days. This plan encouraged lots of veggies, fruits, nuts/berries and some meat. No grains, dairy, pastas, beans etc. I found it to be very restrictive.

On the good side, I learned to eat veggies at ALL my meals and to experiment with new ones. I  leaned out pretty fast in that month. I liked how I felt eating more veggies.

And heck what other kind of foods can you eat wheelbarrow loads of for minimal calories ?? 😉 I’ve learned to cook them in all kinds of ways as well as just eating them raw in salads

Maybe you are ready for  your own 10 day challenge. That’s short enough to try something new and good you, right ? To see how it makes you feel ? Or maybe an experiment just to get you used to eating more veggies… to get on the right path.. You have nothing to lose and only improved health to gain, isn’t it worth a shot ?

Cookie Cutter Diets Part 1

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As I shared with you in another post, one of the questions I get from seeking people is :

What do you eat?

They know I’ve been on this journey for a few years now and they are wondering what “formula” I use and would that be successful to help them achieve their fitness/health goals.

Overall, I think I eat fairly well, but will freely admit I haven’t “arrived” in a perfect nutritional way ( I still like my occasional treats 😉

I don’ t micro manage macros and micros and obsess over every single calorie. Personally, I find that really freeing, but it is a process I’ve learned for myself these past few years.

Now keep in mind, I certainly wouldn’t be offering them a horrible food plan. In fact, it would (overall)  probably be very beneficial to them. I have enough knowledge to help them figure out basic daily calorie needs and how to operate within that structure.

But here’s the deal. Just because what I’m doing works for me…. doesn’t mean it will work for every person who approaches me. I’ve really developed my own thing over time that allows me to live my life, and do my athletic(y) stuff too. I’ve gotten a pretty good balance of how much food I need to lose or maintain my weight and operate in those boundaries.

You know what that’s called? Sustainable.

I’ve worked out a healthier way of eating and living that is easy enough for me to keep at day in and day out. It allows me to eat overall healthy 90-95% of the time and still lets me have some of my fav treats when I want them ( like those Peanut M&M’s 😉 and I’ll tell you, the less you eat it, the less you want it. Your tastes really do start changing with a healthier diet.

As far as nutritionally from an athletic stand point, I’ve really had to teach/train myself more to take in adequate food for training because my needs really can vary day to day. Obviously, doing a 20+ mile run will require more than a 4 mile run. It really becomes a matter of learning to fine tune what each days needs are. And I’m pretty sure, you, my lovely reader, are no different.

So what would tips/suggestions or helpful advice would I offer up to someone asking ?

First, let’s start with this.  It’s important to really know and understand your goals. What are you wanting to achieve ? Have something clearly defined… write it down or post it where you can see it.

Is it primarily weight loss with the goal to improve your lab results? to lose fat, lower blood pressure, prevent disease, to have more energy, less aches and pains, and better quality of life ? To just… move better ?

Do you have a specific athletic goal in mind ? Training for a 5k, or maybe a longer race? Maybe you want to learn to run. It could be cycling or maybe a triathlon. It could be you’re wanting to get stronger, build some muscles.  Perhaps it’s just to get out and walk for a couple miles and not be out of breath doing it… or hurting and exhausted.

You might be at a place where your weight is managed but maybe you’re wanting to focus more on building and defining what you currently have. More aesthetics. You could be highly motivated and want to do figure competition.

Defining your goals are very important to help identify where you want to go before you just jump into a standard 1200 calorie per day diet ( please, please don’t do that.. we’ll talk more on that later)

There’s a reason I titled this  Cookie Cutter Diets our nutritional needs are not all alike! And depending on what our lives involve, those needs can change day to day.

I believe one of the keys to success is not just jumping into a horribly restrictive food plan, cutting out all things you love, and hoping to grind it out for maybe 2 weeks, getting frustrated you don’t see instant results, and then **with a sigh of relief** at the end of those weeks, you go back to what you know and what you’ve been comfortable in.

Once again you…. abandon your weight loss attempts and determine it’s to hard and you’ll never accomplish it.

BUT, if you make small gradual changes, and add slow and steady exercise that doesn’t kill you on day one, your chances of success greatly increase.

Now, you’re job is to determine what you want and how to go after it.

That’s your homework.

Think on it, and come back for the next part where we figure out what kind of calories you really DO need each day to reach your goals, and sustain them.

So Much Food. What To Eat ?

So today’s post is coming from questions I sometimes get… and there can be some interesting ones 😉 one that has come up several times is this :

In regards to health and wellness, it’s the “what do you eat / do for meals ?” question

Let me say first, what works for me, might not be the “thing” that works for you.

Also, on any given day what I eat depends on the training I’m doing. Obviously, my needs are greater with a 20+ mile run, versus a strength training day so my caloric intake can be quite different.

And the other thing…. it will also depend on our likes and dislikes and overall personal tastes. I don’t follow any current “trends” of don’t eat this or that. Unless you have a food allergy/health reason, eat the food. It disturbs me how many people today follow a certain trend without even knowing the why’s of doing it….

There are some things that I do which, I believe, are beneficial to everyone….

I rarely eat fast food. I don’t do a lot of processed, refined or fatty foods. I keep sugar to a minimum. I don’t drink alcohol or sugary drinks or fake sugars. I skip creamy stuff like mayo, spreads, and those sort of items. I prefer whole grain/brown foods over “white”.

I do drink a ton of water (’cause I really do like it and it’s the best thing for your body)

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Side note…. I don’t use bottles… I really run around with a big glass full of ice water.. it travels everywhere with me.

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One of my fav healthy breakfasts….

Fruits and veggies make up a large part of my daily nutrition. Not shown here are sweet potatoes. Such tasty little suckers. I often roast them with some olive oil for dinner, and use the cold ones with my breakfast or toss them in with my lunch salad. These are a great nutritional super food.

I believe dairy is important (especially for women) so I try and get in a couple glasses of milk a day and my Greek yogurt snacks 🙂

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seriously, the best. I also add a few roasted coconut almonds into it for a tasty midafternoon snack

Protein is very important with my training to make sure my muscles have enough to grow on =) I know it’s not currently trendy, but I love real milk. No apologies.

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Eggs are a perfect breakfast food for me. I also keep them hard boiled for afternoon snacks.  I eat the whole egg… the most important nutrients are contained in the yolk. I find protein does a much better job to keep me feeling satisfied and “level”.

I have no issues with “grains” and enjoy multi whole grain breads/bagels, oatmeal and some cereals.

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Keeping foods that are easy to quickly grab in your ‘fridge is a first step to making good snack choices =)

Basically, I try and eat, the majority of the time healthy foods. I don’t believe in eliminating food groups unless you have a valid health reason to do so.

Oh, and some treats are allowed and completely enjoyed at times =)

And of course, this is always a part of my day. Isn’t coffee a food group ??

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I’ll tell you this, of myself and people I know who have it going on nutritionally, they have a strong foundation in their daily diet of lots of fruits and veggies. These not only fill you up with less calories, the nutrients they deliver to your body contribute to your overall health,wellness and appearance.

If you don’t currently eat a lot of these tasty food items do this:

Start by eating more of what you like.
Try something new every day or two.
Cook veggies in different ways. I love roasting or sautéing mine
Experiment with new recipes to get more veggies in.
Do fruit salads instead of veggie salads in your meals.
Reach for these things as snack items…understand you must train yourself to do so.
Stop treating these foods like they are the enemy…they are health and wellness for you.

Oh, and if you can’t STAND a certain veggie/fruit… then.. don’t eat it! There’s a lot more out there to choose from.

Making slow shifts in your daily diet and replacing not so good foods with better choices will get you on a healthy lifestyle path =)

That Nutrition Thing

What came first? The chicken or the egg ?

I think it’s like asking in the health and fitness world, what came first?

The knowledge  your body needed movement and exercise for better health? Or that you needed to eat better and make intelligent food choices for better health ?

We all arrive in different ways. If you are gonna get out there and kick your butt in some hard physical activities , do you really wanna come back in and feed it garbage ?

Oh, in the beginning it might be like that. “I worked out today! I deserve this!” as the cheeseburger and fries go down… or the fancy sugary coffee drink or whatever your poison is. There’s a sense of entitlement.

It might take awhile, or not so long, for the shift to occur. To realize if you’re doing this hard work you don’t want to undermine your efforts. You start looking at things in a different light.

If your physical activities are really hard and demanding it doesn’t take long to understand that what you put in you IS fuel and you need a) enough fuel and b) the right kind of fuel to sustain your activity level.

Last year I picked up a sports nutrition book for endurance athletes to read and teach myself more of what I needed to do. Training for that 50K I knew I needed to really eat…. intentionally.

Let’s just say, there were a lot of days I wasn’t eating enough for what I was physically doing. It takes planning and forethought to consume foods to not only support your daily living and activities but also your purposeful exercise.

I’m learning. I’ve learned a lot and don’t think I’ve arrived at getting it right. It’s a constant work in progress.

Anyway on my journey of the foods I eat, salad has always been a standard for me. Not as a “diet” food. Not because I “had to”… I’m a weirdo… I just enjoy them.

Before I became somewhat knowledgeable of foods and nutritional content one of the food groups I enjoyed in my salad was…… Ranch… yes, Ranch dressing.

It is a food group, isn’t it ? 😉

Then I started getting smarter and realized I was killing and totally negating any positive effects of salad by the dressing on it. Now I was horrible about it, not like some salads I’ve seen where the lettuce is buried under a sea of white dressing, almost no longer visible….

Over time, I slowly weaned myself away from it. Oh, I have it occasionally ( I like it with my salad and pizza 😉 but this is rare for me.

Let me say this. I often eat salads. Most days of the week they are my lunch staple, because I really, honesty, enjoy them. And, you can seriously get all your daily servings of veggies in with it….. double win.

My salads are not just the standard lettuce, tomato, cucumber kind of salads. I throw all kinds of colorful veggies in, sometimes a fruit of some type, some nuts, seeds or other crunch along with some protein. I’ve learned to use spinach as my “lettuce”. It’s a creative venture for me each time 😛

Seriously, spinach is like a powerhouse of amazing, good for your nutrient rich stuff for almost zero calories. You wanna eat that stuff. Our store has been carrying locally grown and it’s spoiling me!

So I learned, if you add enough texture and variety of tastes and flavors to your salads, dressings are only needed in very minimal amounts.

But, as mentioned, when you are on a health and fitness journey, you do begin to look critically at how and what you eat to support and sustain those goals.

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A sample of a lunch salad…lots of fresh spinach!

One of the main “suggestions” I offer to people who are wanting to lose weight, is to keep a record of what you eat for about a week, and really consider all the little “extras” you might consume but don’t consider empty calories piling into your days.

Things like an over abundance of salad dressing, mayo, and other creamy sauces and the like really do add up. When you can see from your food journal what your consumption of certain items are, you can then begin to examine what you don’t need or could eliminate to help you on your journey to shed weight and get healthier.

Small steps can lead to big, long term changes!

No, I’m Not Eating My Emotions

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Food. I like that stuff.

Now days, my food choices are vastly different than those pictured above.

I’ll freely admit that I’ve had to get it in it’s proper perspective over the last few years. Growing up food was the “thing” that you celebrated with, gathered on Sundays for, had extra helpings of, and most importantly, you always, always cleaned your plate. It didn’t really matter you weren’t hungry anymore…  just ignore your bodies natural signals of being full and clean your plate.

Happy, sad, angry, depressed, bored, restless, frustrated, holidays, bad weather, stressed, whatever……. all opportunities to eat.

My grandmother and mom were great cooks, and it needs to be mentioned, bakers too. I freely admit to being a baked good snob and can often pass on  store bought goodies and cake mix cakes and bagged cookies. I mean, no offense, but when you’ve had a made from scratch 3 layer German Chocolate cake, anything else is simply an imposter.

They ruined me.

I mean, not totally, ’cause I’m a pretty good baker myself and can make cakes that grown men offer marriage 😉 and my sons friends immediately sought to raid my cookie jar because ( according to them) I was the “only” mom who baked real cookies haha

So yeah, food, it was a big deal…. used on many levels in a completely improper way.  I hadn’t come to the knowledge (yet)  that food was to primarily be fuel for my body.  Not a sporting event.

As I got older, I realized that my family definitely was a family of “emotional eaters”. My grandmother was very over weight as was my mom.  Actually, if I’m being honest with you, they were considered obese. My brother struggled with his weight most of his life. I had steadily gained weight for a few years when I finally got the kick in the butt to make some changes before I might too have to deal with health issues that plagued my mom, grandmother and brother.  I had watched my family use food for comfort and a distraction from boredom for years but was fortunate to have my eyes opened to that.

I often referred to it as mindless eating.

It might look like this: constant grazing while cooking, continuing to eat and pick food from bowls after the meal was long over (and large seconds had been had) eating during the clean up process, basically just consuming food without any thought of what was being done…. or an awareness you’re eating when you aren’t even hungry.

I knew I needed to make myself intentionally mindful of this process to avoid the downfall of a lifetime of emotional eating.

It wasn’t easy. I became aware of the weak part of my days/nights where I’d look for food and not be hungry or when I thought about grabbing something ’cause I might feel stressed, angry, or bored.

Over the past few years I’ll say I think I’m pretty on top of it now…. and I’m very conscious when I let myself do it.

I remember one night after a rather stressful day my husband walked into the kitchen… I had a bag of BBQ chips out on the counter (for the record… I LOVE BBQ chips… but I’m pretty sure they have crack in them) and I was standing there just munching them down… I looked at him and said….

“I want you to know that I’m fully aware I’m totally emotionally eating right now”

I was being kinda silly about it but I was serious too. I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t need to eat them.

It’s a huge step to identify things in your life that are a stumbling block to your health and fitness goals. Once you know your triggers you can make those slow steady changes to freedom.

To break free you must first:

Be real with yourself. Stop making excuses for eating what you don’t need.

Call it what it is… emotional, mindless eating. An unnecessary and unhealthy habit.

Remove yourself from temptation. And that means…get outta the kitchen.

When it was evening and I had eaten and wasn’t hungry, I just brushed my teeth. I knew I wouldn’t get anything after going through that process.

Write down times you feel most vulnerable, or things that drive you to eat when you aren’t truly hungry. Doing this for a week or two will show you patterns that you can then use as a defense strategy.

You love your family… but look at ways you may be influenced to participate in doing this just because it’s always “what you’ve known”. You can still be a part of the fam without engaging in this 😉

Finally, be kind to yourself as you move through this. Awareness is the first huge step to success. Press on and use each day to move forward to freedom =)