Cheat Days Vs. Healthy Eating Habits

The question came at me again. Often there are similar ones that arise in conversations  in regards to health and wellness.

“Do you allow yourself a cheat day/meal?”

If you don’t know what that means, in the fitness world it’s a day set aside where you eat whatever suits your fancy. Anything you’ve been craving or put off limits from yourself. It could be a meal or an all day eating frenzy depending on how deprived you feel.

The answer is a big “no”.

No, I don’t. Never have and don’t have any intention of starting.

I’ll tell you why. October marked my 8th year on my health and wellness journey.

8 years people. I’ve lost the weight of a hefty toddler child and about 5 pant sizes. In those years I not only lost fat but have built muscle and a strong physique that allows me to enjoy all my outdoor athletic sports and gives me a good deal of energy and strength for living life.

I’ve not gained it back or played yo yo dieting games.

As I’ve gotten deeper into endurances sports I’ve come to accept that my body will go through times of being leaner when I’m doing a lot of training and a bit softer when I’m not heavy training. I can fluctuate within 5-7 pounds and I’m ok with that.

Losing weight and keeping it off for a lifetime involves small, consistent, changes that turn into new habits. It’s really the only thing that works and you have to intentionally build on it every day.

The cheat day/meal thing

if you’ve followed me for awhile you know I’m “anti” diet and diet hype nonsense. I consider my take on things practical, livable and sustainable. When I started my journey one thing I set out for myself was that nothing was off limits or to be considered “Bad or good”.

For me, it took a ton of power away from food. Mentally, if I knew I could have “whatever” then I was less likely to think about it or “wish” I could have it.

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It’s amazing how that works.

Allowing myself a fun meal with my family and then resuming my normal eating took away feelings of “deprivation”.

Admit it, haven’t you at some point been dieting and everyone is eating and living the good life and you feel freaking miserable, left out, disgusted with yourself and well…fat?

Me too and enough of that already.

Having a fun meal or some birthday cake at a party didn’t undo all my efforts. I had mentally taken on living healthier and I loved being in control of my choices.

If I didn’t want cake, I didn’t eat it. If I did I was smart enough to know a small piece wouldn’t end my efforts.

On the other side, saving a day to eat all the things you’ve withheld from yourself or over eating can lead to you feeling bad (physically) and bad (mentally ) for over doing it.

Binge eating only feels good in that moment.

The power of your choices

Learning to change my lifestyle I also learned there was a tremendous amount of power I had in my choices of food I made.

It was rather freeing.

Making healthier choices began to get easier and the other foods that used to have a pull on me began to have less.

But sometimes… chocolate. Or French fries.

Let’s face it when you are trying to lose weight those cravings or desires don’t come in at your scheduled cheat day do they? And what if it’s cheat day and you don’t really feel like having it?

I found allowing myself a small amount of whatever I wanted set the craving aside and took it out of my mind.  I’m still like that. If there is a strong pull, almost a physical need, I listen to my body.

I can tell you if I want something particular the need is quenched and I’m on with life again.

It is powerful making choices for yourself. Choices that involve thinking and listening to your body.

Think of how mindlessly you can eat. Eek. Tell me you’ve had those moments, that I’m not alone!

You know.. maybe you aren’t truly hungry but you are stuffing food in ’cause it’s there? or you’re in the pantry at 10 at night trolling but you know you aren’t needing food? Or when you eat past what you need to feed your appetite?

Making smaller more mindful choices on a daily basis will lead to weight loss that lasts long term and not just a few weeks until you’re eager to get back to “normal”.

Practice makes perfect…er… perfect “ish”.

Ok so no one is perfect or nails the eating thing perfectly.  With time, consistency and practice the cool thing is it will start to become second nature.  As you teach yourself to balance all food groups and eat in a healthy manner with room for those treats and celebratory moments you will find yourself automatically making those good choices and passing on things that don’t support your health and fitness goals.

You won’t need a cheat day to enjoy life or the things you love. You won’t feel deprived as you work on building new habits and skills in your life. You will feel empowered by trusting yourself and making mindful choices.

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The ABC’s Of Building A Healthy Diet

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So it’s early afternoon and I’ve finally managed to escape to my fav coffee cave and write. WHY is it so hard to get it done sometimes? Not for lack of ideas or clever creativeness but some days are just hard to make it happen.

I’m making it happen today… doing it before you decide I’ve given up on this idea of writing.

I’m glaringly aware that my computer informs me today is November 2 and there are a few thoughts that accompany that awareness.

First, wow, October sailed by. Of course I ended the month like many playing dress up for Halloween and hanging with my kids getting free candy from people who had nothing better to do than sit in their driveways all evening 😉

Then of course, with the arrival of November there are thoughts of Thanksgiving now dancing in my head. There will be plotting and planning for all of the goodies that go with that day.

BUT before Thanksgiving or anything else…. gulp.. this is the month of my duathlon. Actually 17 days out from this point. It’s hard to not see it staring me down but ready or not… it’s coming.

Ok.. more on that later….

November definitely makes me think about food. It makes me think of the seasonal tasty treats we get to enjoy and the traditions that go with them.

But today I’m thinking about food more along the lines of a healthy diet. What does that mean, exactly? And how do you build one if you don’t know much about it? Maybe you’ve been wanting to eat better but just aren’t sure what goes into a “healthier” daily diet.

Realistically, there’s no one way to eat that’s right for everyone. What works for you, might not work for me.

We’re individual and our likes and needs are varied and different.  Our likes can be based on not just our needs but cultural preferences too.  A person with health issues, like diabetes, may have to eat differently from someone who doesn’t.  So it’s rather broad to say there’s a standard healthy diet that fits everyone.

However, there are some definite building blocks that apply to all of us. With these building blocks you can shape and build your own nutritional plan that works for you.

What is a healthful diet?

it provides the proper combination of energy and nutrients to you each day. It has four characteristics.

It’s adequate, moderate, balanced, and varied.

No matter your age, health, fitness level or weight, if you keep these thoughts in mind you will be able to select foods that give you energy and provide good nutrition to you each day.

A healthy diet is adequate

An adequate diet provides enough of the energy, nutrients, fiber and crucial vitamins and minerals to maintain a persons health. A diet can be inadequate in one area or many areas of a persons daily needs.  For example, many people don’t eat enough vegetables and not consuming enough of the fiber and nutrients vegetables provide. Their intake of protein, carbs and fats may be more than adequate, often to many of these calories are consumed and the person is overweight because they eat more than exceeds their energy needs.

Under nutrition can also occur if there are several nutrients ignored for long periods of time.

Also a diet that is adequate for one person may not be adequate for another. As an athletic woman, my caloric needs on many days during the week are vastly different from a woman my age who is sedentary or lightly active. As individuals we would differ greatly in our activity level and our body fat and lean muscle mass making our requirements for fat, carbs, proteins and other nutrients very different.

A healthy diet is one of moderation

Moderation is one of the keys to a healthful diet and I believe one of the most important. Moderation refers to eating any food in moderate amounts, not to much or to little.  Eating to much or to little of any foods we cannot reach our health goals.

One example would be people who consume soft drinks. Loaded with empty, non-nutritious calories, it’s an easy way to pack on the pounds if many are consumed each day. Often I’ve seen individuals stop drinking soda and easily drop pounds.

Enjoy a variety of foods and treats, in moderation.

A healthy diet is balanced.

A balanced diet contains foods that provide the proper proportions of nutrients.  The body needs many types in varying amounts to maintain health.

A healthy diet is varied

Variety of course refers to eating many foods from all food groups on a regular basis. Often I have people say… “well, I don’t really like to eat….. ( some food)” and I remind them there are lots, and lots of other foods they can choose from that are healthy and provide good nutrients to their body.  When you eat a variety of foods it will increase the chance that you are consuming all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.   Also, when you eat a varied diet it keeps boredom from setting in which often cause many people to give up because they are tired of the same foods.  Enjoy so variety in your daily diet!

In summary…

A healthy daily diet provides adequate nutrients and it includes sweets, fats, salts, and alcohol in moderate amounts only. A healthy diet includes an appropriate balance of nutrients and a wide variety of foods.

Foods to include in your day would be:

Whole grains, a variety of veggies, fruits, dairy products and protein foods. It’s important to remember protein goes a long way in keeping you satisfied and preventing hunger as well as keeping your blood sugar stable through the day. Make sure you get adequate portions at each meal to feel full and avoid those feelings of “crashing”.

When it comes to vegetables, many people do not come close to getting enough in their daily diet. Learn to experiment with a few new ones each week. Learn different ways to cook them and be willing to explore new options for your health.

Filling your meals with whole foods (  foods as close to being real and not processed as possible) you will be able to meet the majority of your nutritional needs.

The extra stuff.

You need to limit the amount of empty calories you consume. empty calories refer to foods that provide few or no nutrients.  You should limit the number of empty calories you consume to a small amount that fits in with your daily requirements. all of which depend on your age, gender and level of activity.

Foods that contain the most empty calories are :

Cakes, cookies, pastries, doughnuts, soft drinks, fruit drinks, pizza, ice cream, hot dogs, fast foods etc. High sugar foods such as candies, desserts, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are all referred to as empty calorie. ( I know, you’re thinking, that’s all the fun stuff!)

These foods don’t have to be banned, they just shouldn’t be what your daily diet mainly consists of.

Building a healthy and nutritious food plan might take a little work and discipline but with time you will find you can not only eat well, but have some cake too 😉

Before you eat, think about what goes on your plate or in your cup or bowl.
This is a great visual on how to structure your meals.

Iodine And Your Thyroid Health

I stumbled over the article quite by accident doing research for a post I was working on.

“Female athletes at risk for iodine deficiencies”

What? And what the heck does iodine have to do with anything?

Ok. The facts I do know or am cognitively aware of regarding iodine.

It’s a mineral. Our bodies need it. Our bodies don’t make it. I understood our thyroids need it ( but didn’t know to what extent till I started this project) I knew historically way back in the day Morton’s Salt Company started putting iodine in salt and…well… boom. No more health issues.

That’s it to the whole iodine story. Right?  Nod your head. It’s all you knew about iodine too… admit it.

Ok as a female athlete, I  obviously perked up on that story and checked it out. I mean, come on, I don’t want to be deficient in anything.

Fair to say when you meet with your doctor for your yearly check in, iodine probably doesn’t come up on the list of labs he’s doing for you.

( and for the educational record, all of our excess iodine leaves our bodies by way of urination after our bodies have scooped up what they need that day. Unless you’re also an athlete, then it up’s the game even more as we lose it through sweating as well)

After reading the article, it had some questions at the end to answer. 5 to be exact. If you answered yes to even one you had the potential to be iodine deficient.

I answered “yes” to 3 out of 5.

( do I exercise regularly, do I use less or no salt on my food, do I use sea salt instead of table salt were my “yes” answers)

I have taught myself over the years to use more cracked pepper for seasoning on my food than salt.  I also started using sea salt several years ago because I liked that it took a little amount to season my food, meaning less sodium.

Here’s what I learned on that topic… sea salt, the fancy pink salt or any other non-table salts…. none of them are iodized.

This is what put me on the road to learning more about this mineral, how it works and the role it plays in our bodies as humans, but also the role it plays for athletes. AND to figure out if I had any type of deficiency based on my answers and my athletic lifestyle.

First, some facts.

Iodine is a highly water soluble trace element that is rare in the earths crust but fairly prevalent in it’ seas. It’s also referred to as the “forgotten mineral”, it simply gets little to no acknowledgement in todays health world.  It is used by nearly every tissue in the body . This mineral is necessary for total body health and proper metabolic function. It is largely stored in the thyroid, but adrenal glands, ovaries, breasts, thymus, brain, stomach, and pancreas all require iodine, but the thyroid takes the lions share. of your daily intake in order to create the hormones  that regulate metabolism, generate body heat, and keep all your tissues functioning properly.

Thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), are manufactured in the thyroid gland using iodine. Iodine consumed in the diet circulates in the bloodstream and is selectively taken up by the thyroid gland where, through a series of complex biochemical reactions, it is attached to tyrosine and eventually incorporated in the thyroid hormones T4 and T3.

These thyroid hormones are stored in the thyroid gland until a chemical signal from the pituitary gland, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), activates their release into circulation. Once in the cell, thyroid hormones help to regulate metabolism and create energy and body heat.

When the thyroid is low on iodine these hormones decrease which can lead to fatigue, cold hands and feet, weight gain, dry skin, weak nails, hair loss, muscle aches, depression, constipation, even cancer and miscarriage.

Women have a special problem being that estrogen inhibits the absorption of iodine and can put us at risk for deficiency.

Our bodies need it in relatively small amounts to function properly. However, this is a mineral we do not produce. Without proper iodine levels our thyroids cannot function properly as it feeds off this mineral. A long time ago, before you and I hit the earth, people had issues with goiters and other awful things because of a lack of iodine. Once that was figured out, those issues largely began to drop. In 1924 Mortons Salt company began iodizing table sale which virtually eliminated those health issues. Interestingly enough, hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are other common symptoms of deficiency. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of hypothyroidism world wide.

However, the numbers in current terms are rather staggering….. according to research iodine deficiency has increased fourfold over the past 40 years and 74% of adults may not get adequate amounts! With doctors suggesting people reduce salt for good health the main “source” of iodine, and salt only having a certain level of bioavailability from iodine, with overall healthier lifestyles there has become a greater increase of deficiencies.

The RDA ( recommended daily allowance, here in the USA) is 150 micrograms for men and women, 220 for pregnant women and 290 for women breastfeeding however these numbers seem to be outdated as this guideline is sufficient enough to prevent goiters  and mental retardation but doesn’t address other symptoms of the thyroid or active lifestyles where it could be depleted. Sort of like the RDA for Vitamin D to prevent rickets. There is a base amount to prevent that, but humans can handle more than the RDA level.

There  are suggestions from my research that although 150 micrograms is the barebones amount people need to prevent health problems, upwards of 1100 mcg’s are tolerable for adults.

Keep in mind, as people often do, they buy into a thought that “if a little is good, a lot will be better”. Not true. Although toxicity is rare to much iodine can cause the thyroid to respond in negative ways. High levels of iodine can cause some of the same symptoms as deficiency , including goiter or thyroid gland inflammation. The thyroid is very sufficient in what it does and only needs so much to function properly.  To much can push it towards hypothyroid symptoms.

So, who’s at risk?

Back to my opening thought, my reasons for pursuing this topic. I’ve been blown away at the information on it, not only from my original intent of learning how it affects me as an athlete but the fact it’s a topic with a lot of information out there. In my research I’ve tried to steer clear of “extreme” thoughts and find common, intelligent information that consistently supports the topic.

As stated earlier, athletes are at higher risk for deficiency due to sweat losses, as well as the fact our bodies flush iodine through urination as well, A liter of sweat contains about 40 mcg’s of iodine which means we could easily lose up to that 150 mcg (baseline amount) without replenishing it through food sources, a multi vitamin, table salt, or a supplement, the chances of deficiency increase.

I had done my  own “sweat test” one day before a workout. I knew I lost a good deal of fluid but I had decided to do my own experiment for a post here on my blog.  I weighed in before and after, sans clothes, and charted my weight. In that particular workout I was a little over 3 lbs less when I finished… that was about 6 1/2 cups of fluid.  A liter contains 4.2 cups. That information alone tells me I could deplete myself considering it was almost a daily norm for me.

I learned that athletes performing at high intensity for prolonged periods of time, particularly in a humid environment, have significantly increased risk of becoming iodine deficient if they don’t pay special attention to replacing this important nutrient through diet, iodine-containing nutritional supplements, or iodized salt.

Looking at those questions on that little test, I fit a profile of an athlete who eats healthy, had already reduced salt, was using sea salt ( sparingly), exercised daily and sweated a lot. As I mentioned earlier, it came as a surprise to me that sea salt and all of it’s fancier counterparts are not iodized.

So what’s the verdict?

Without testing or overarching symptoms, you cannot diagnose you have a deficiency. An iodine loading test can be done to see how much iodine your body retains. Talking with your doctor would be the first and most important course of action if you are concerned over this.

As I obviously fall into a category that might plug me in as “potentially” deficit, I would first discuss any supplements and any testing with my doctor. On my own I will seek out natural food sources to support my iodine intake ( see some foods below).

The main thing I need to cautious over is the fact I am already hypothyroid. I  never really bring this up because well, I really don’t want to be defined by anything. I see my doctor yearly for labs, take my meds faithfully and on time every single day, and pretty much do my own thing and don’t think about it.  Athletically, I don’t feel it’s held me back in anyway.  From all I’ve learned though, taking on a supplement of any kind if you already have this condition could mess with your thyroid production. An supplement needs to be started with a small dosage to allow you time to adapt to it.

Eat healthy, it’s good for you regardless.

Below are some foods that naturally have iodine. By eating a iodine rich diet you should easily maintain a healthy level in your body. It should also be noted, if you take a multi vitamin, they have added the 150 mcgs in for you. But also as noted, that is a very bare bones minimum for a daily intake.

Iodized salt… just one gram can offer 77 micrograms of iodine.

Sea veggies. Seaweed offers the highest amount of iodine on the planet (obviously) Ok… I’m going to try dried seaweed although the idea is kinda making me gag… I’ll let you know…Just a small amount a day is all it takes to easily cover you. Literally,  a quarter serving provides 4500 micrograms of iodine

 

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I wasn’t smiling after I tried it… but I can say at least I tried it, right? It tasted like I had indeed been at the ocean and accidently got seaweed in my mouth. It tasted like salt water, and as I kept chewing I thought it tasted like fish. Gah. It was like the candy in Willy Wonka that kept changing flavors. I will not be able to eat this.  Ewww.

 

Other foods sources that are more normal 😉 are ….

baked potatoes, milk, codfish, shrimp, turkey breast, tuna fish, boiled eggs, greek yogurt, bananas, strawberries, cranberries, canned corn, cheddar cheese, green beans, pineapple, watercress, and white bread.

Of course you can get iodine with a multi vitamin and ramping up weekly intake of fish, milk, yogurt and other food sources from the list.

And finally….

There is a lot of information on this topic and interest in the “forgotten” mineral of iodine that you can continue to read on.

You are your own best advocate in regards to your health and well being. If you have questions or concerns on iodine deficiency, starting with your doctor would be the first consideration.

Of course, intentionally eating whole foods that offer rich iodine sources are the best way to give your body what it needs to function and be healthy.

 

 

Optimal Health

Optimal health. What comes to your mind when you hear those words? A certain image? Lifestyle? A look? Perhaps it’s what happens inside of you that you can’t see… like all systems working great. Is it the “perfect” picture of health? Energetic and vibrant looking? Rosy skin? Clear bright eyes? A lack of illness or disease? Strong with the ability to do all your daily tasks with energy?

As I’ve noted before there are a lot of buzz words out there today that “health” companies use to make their product sound more appealing to potential customers, to sell you on it.  Usually the words are descriptive and designed to make you think that by taking/using their product this very thing will be given to you.

Magically. No effort.

The marketing of these products is nothing less than impressive, but the times I’m choking and rolling my eyes over some of the claims….

Keep in mind these company claims are in turn, regurgitated by the sales people who largely don’t really know what they are talking about either. It has been interesting to note the fine print showing up on many labels now that these products aren’t FDA approved or endorsed.

Ok  I digress… but my current thought was generated from the catch phrase on some products promising this ….

Optimal health

First of all, what does optimal mean ? Webster defines it as most desirable or satisfactory.

Health is defined as the condition of being well and free from disease.

So optimal health could be defined as a desirable and satisfactory state of being well physically ( and mentally) and free from disease or illness.

Sounds good, right ?

Isn’t that something we all desire and should seek to keep? Or if we have health issues shouldn’t they ( if possible) be something we strive to improve or reverse? There are many conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, blood sugar issues etc that can be changed or reversed with improved health.

But here’s where I get tripped up… every. single. time.

Why am I going to take a man made product to help me achieve optimal health? Why am I going to spend my money on a product when I could buy healthy food with it?

It does amaze me that people are willing to do so many things other than what they really should be doing which is focusing on eating real, whole foods and making changes in their nutrition and exercise program.

A focus on better food quality will go a long way to achieving optimal health.  That will show up inside and out on you.

So how does one achieve optimal health?

First, it has to be something we desire and intentionally pursue. It will require consciously choosing a different lifestyle. You will have to be purposeful in your choices and decisions.

Learn to move more. Our bodies need exercise and are made to move. Active, vigorous movement allows our blood and lymphatic system to flow the way it’s designed to.  Not only that exercise benefits our mental well being as much as our physical. Exercise is good for lots of reasons but that’s not my focus today 😉

Food. Obviously, your diet should be loaded with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. They should be present at all your meals.  I don’t think I can stress enough the huge benefits of adequate fresh produce. To me, optimal health is achieved with good quantities of  produce.  Your daily food intake should also include whole grains, lean meats and dairy products.

It should be light on empty calorie foods that offer not a lot in the nutritional category. This includes of course, sugary drinks, alcohol, refined processed foods like cookies, crackers, chips, sweet breads, fast foods, salted foods etc.

Water. Our bodies are made up of a lot of water. Water transports waste from our bodies and hydrates us. Water is essential for our health. It helps our skin do it’s job of regulating body temperature through sweating, water is essential for circulation of nutrients through the body, it aids in digestion and creates saliva. Drink your water.

Your mind. Read. Learn to play an instrument. Take up a new hobby. Go back to school or take a class on something that interests you. Be willing to learn and grow your mind.  Find something that interests you and become an expert on it.

Your soul.  Whatever nourishes your soul, find time for it. Prayer, meditation, scripture reading, devotionals, whatever your personal preference is, find something that feeds your inner being.

Optimal health has the potential to be achieved with a balanced lifestyle that feeds the body, soul and mind. It will also vary from person to person as to what needs to be addressed to reach that goal. It requires us to be intentional in the pursuing and maintaining of it but it will be well worth our efforts.

 

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Food Vs. Supplements

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Commercials. If there’s one thing they are designed for it’s to sell you on the product at hand.  To convince you that your life will be better with it. They want to make you spend your money on it.

You name it, nothing seems to be off limits anymore. One has caught my eye several times for an anti-aging skin care product… not because I put much stock in products that promote that. The cream supposedly has blackberry extracts to contribute to keeping a young look.

Of course my first thought was… why not just eat those suckers instead of using a cream that may have a touch of blackberry extract in it? They are a staple in my food consumption almost every day… I think it’s better eating them than slathering them on my eyes…

Blackberries are loaded with Vitamin C with a serving at 3.5 oz, offering 35% of the daily allowance, that serving is only 43 calories, and they are an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fiber. A serving offers 5.3 grams of fiber. This humble fruit is also loaded with all kinds of vitamins and minerals and antioxidant properties. These antioxidant compounds protect against aging, inflammation, cancer and other neurological diseases…their dark color is a sign of their high antioxidant content.

Now back to the skin care with blackberries being marketed as an anti-aging cream.

If blackberries are loaded with so many good things in such a tiny package, and are a huge anti-aging food, you should be eating them up and not just slathering a bit of cream on your skin that may have miniscule amounts in it.

You’ve heard that saying you are what you eat? Nourish your body from the inside out.

There’s a huge market right now for supplements and health products on the market. They all offer a replacement option to the actual thing… real food.

Vitamins. Minerals. Health aids. Probiotics. Protein powders. Colorful drinks. Meal “replacements”.

That’s my favorite. I don’t want a meal “replacement”.

I want real food, thank you.

This, that and the other. So many things vying for your attention and your money… mainly…. your money.

A quick stroll down the health and supplement aisle will have you believing you need these products to be healthy because well, you know, eating balanced, nutritious food just isn’t enough to keep you healthy, vital and energetic. Certainly you are lacking something…so take a supplement. Use our drink. Take this pill.

We’ve had this pushed at us for so long, we’ve started to buy into it…literally.

One of the biggest markets right now has to be with protein/supplements/shakes/add in’s etc.

Often people purchase thinking they need it, especially if they are spending time in the gym. I mean, isn’t that just a part of it? Like lifting, sweating, making gains.. you MUST be chugging down protein?

OK first… a quick look at what whey protein is

Milk is made up of two proteins, casein and whey.

Whey protein can be separated from the casein in milk or formed as a by-product of cheese making. Whey protein is considered a complete protein as it contains all 9 essential amino acids. It is low in lactose content.

This is what you see mostly in the aisles of stores.

Whey protein is used for weight loss and to help protect and build muscles.

If you use it, it should in balance too. Over doing on protein supplements can cause health issues such as stomach pains, cramps, reduced appetite, nausea, headache and fatigue.

A friend recently sent me a story of a young woman who was training and working on building her body for fitness competitions.  She evidently lived on a pretty steady diet of protein supplements/drinks/high protein diet etc.

She was found unresponsive in her home and later died. Evidently she had a rare genetic disorder that stopped her body from breaking down protein properly. This caused ammonia to build up in her blood and an accumulation of fluid in her brain.  Unfortunately, this isn’t really tested for and only found after her death.

I know you’re sitting there thinking… “well, this is a rare thing so… people don’t need to really worry about this” …

the fact is, to much of anything isn’t good for us. Our body can only use and process so much protein at a time before the rest of it’s washed out. Excess protein will not make us have more muscles or achieve a better level of fitness.

I love protein and it definitely keeps me satisfied and from feeling hungry. I know it feeds my muscles and helps them to get stronger, and even grow a little. My protein comes from food sources, although, after long endurance workouts when my appetite is not there, I will use one for recovery just to get some carbs and protein in until my appetite returns.

People are “sold” on the idea that food isn’t enough. Or if a supplement/vitamin/ drink is good, more should be better.

We are bombarded with products in the store, online, and even what our neighbor is pedaling that is supposed to help us fix all of our ills ( which we don’t even know we have till we get the product to miraculously cure them all)  There are a few out there that are promising to “cure’ more and more things. Just note, I’ve seen new fine print that says it’s not FDA approved and that its not to prevent, cure or treat diseases)

Once again I’ll say this, our bodies are made in a beautiful balanced way, needing just a certain amount of vitamins and minerals for optimal health. To much of one thing could be enough to make you sick or throw off another vitamin or mineral in your body.

And don’t be lead astray by companies trying to sell you on the idea you’re “lacking” something and need to take their product. The only way you know you’re deficient in something is usually through the doctor after having lab work done. And if you are worried about something, talk to your health care professional!

Case in point… last year my husband had labs done and was found to be deficient in Vitamin D. Yes, he has been using a supplement with his nutrition to get his levels where they need to be.

Don’t be led astray that you “need” something without any evidence for it.

So here’s the deal…

good quality, nutritious food IS enough.

It is enough to give your body daily fuel, sustain it for workouts, your daily activities, and help you build a stronger more fit body if that’s your goal.

When you cut out non-essential foods that don’t contribute to your health and fitness goals and focus on eating nutritionally balanced foods, your body will respond, especially when you add in a good healthy dose of exercise.

So many of the problems we deal with today can be improved on with better nutrition, getting the non-essential foods and drinks out, exercising more and maintaining a healthy weight.

You don’t need supplements, shakes, drinks, potions or anything else to build a healthy body. We need to be careful about extra things we put in it lest we throw off the perfect, beautiful, balance that its naturally made to operate in.

Do you or have you used supplements ? Do you feel they helped you?  Have you ever felt like you just had to go along with what was currently popular?

The Athletes Body And Food

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“With all of the exercise you do, I guess you can eat whatever you want?”

This is one of  several questions I  often get asked and the answer is, no, I don’t eat whatever I want.

I’ve tried these past few years to build a different relationship with food. Specifically, food in regards to exercise.  Maybe you need to build a different relationship too or maybe you’ve hit a balance with it.

The question I’m asked of course, is merely inquiring.

If I’m investing so much physical energy I should certainly be able to eat whatever I want. This naturally means freedom to eat all perceived “off limits” foods since I will burn them off.

Of course the game changer for me if you’ve read previous posts, is the fact I’ve set nothing “off limits” so I don’t necessarily feel the need to eat forbidden foods because I’m exercising.

I know it’s there, if I want it.

Since I started on my athletic journey a few years ago, I’ve made it a point to never treat exercise like a free card to eat poorly. I guess the idea of pouring myself out, working hard, and then coming in and wolfing down a donut and chocolate milk ( although chocolate milk can make a good recovery drink 😉 ) seemed rather, pointless and negating to all I had just done. Not only that, if I was training to get strong and healthy why wouldn’t I feed my body good stuff ?

So I learned to train my thinking, essentially reshape, another aspect of my relationship with food.

Our food relationship

I wrote about that in a post recently. Our relationship with food. We all have one. For many of us we will need to continue to define this relationship in regards to our athletic activities. We cannot treat it as a free card to eat extra or eat badly.

About eating extra…..

there’s a bit of a disclaimer to that. When my training has kicked up and I have days that I’m heavily invested on a physical level I know my calories will need to increase to support what I’m doing. This is where learning about my body, listening to it, and feeding it accordingly come into play. This isn’t eating extra just because I feel like it. Learning to support my body depending on my physical output that day is very different.

Same goes for you. If you are involved in physical activities, listen to your body, know your needs and eat to sustain your body for what you do. Eat accordingly on days you invest more physical energy and be more conservative on your non-exercise days or light training days.

Don’t use food as a reward for exercise

Yeah, I’m going there. I honestly cringe when I see posts or hear someone talk about getting to eat because they exercised.

Stop it.

Food and exercise both nurture your body. You don’t have to earn your food. On the flip side, you don’t have to abuse your body ’cause you had a burger and fries for lunch and feel you have to “work it off”.  As if.

Food isn’t a reward and you aren’t a dog being thrown a treat because you worked out.

Food is fuel for your activities

When our relationship with food is in a place of understanding that it not only nurtures us, but fuels our activities we can look at it in a different way. If we want to perform well we can’t expect our bodies to operate on food that isn’t optimal. It can shift from a mentality of  ” eating what you want” to “eating food that rebuilds your body and gives you energy”.

By all means, eat enough

Long endurance training sessions can seemingly kick my appetite in over drive for not only that day, but sometimes the next as well. I’ve learned to eat healthy foods to satisfy my appetite. Again, I listen to my body and feed it as needed. I try and eat enough, but not to much.

Listen to your body. Learn to feed it what it needs after your training. Focus on healthy foods to support recovery.

I will admit after heavy endurance sessions, food is often not on my mind as those workouts tend to kill my appetite for awhile. Intellectually, I know I need to get something in me.  I’ve learned I can at least get some protein and carbs in with milk in a protein drink, I also add a banana as well, this gives me a good blend of carbs and protein for recovery.

Eat what you like that satisfies you and gives your body what it needs for repair and restoration post workout.

Keep in mind that the goal is about caring for yourself, before and after exercise. Food should be used to maintain your health and wellness, but hey, if you need some chocolate in there at some point, go for that too 😉

How have you viewed exercise and food? Do you or have you, used it as a reason to eat more or eat lesser quality food? Do you think exercise is a reason to eat “whatever” you want? Have you changed your thinking on that? How did it help you?

 

The Dangerous Game Of Off Limits Foods

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Just let the quote I have posted breathe over you for a few minutes. Think about it.  Can you relate on some level whether it’s now or at some point on your health journey ? It resonated deeply with me the first time I read it.

It’s a thought that permeates our society right now. An out of control, crazy way of thinking.

And it’s designed to have failure as the ultimate outcome.

“Good foods/bad foods”, ” Eliminate food groups”, “Sugar is like cocaine”, “Carbs are bad”. “Fat is bad”…..

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Every single one of those thoughts can potentially set you up for failure when it comes to eating and nourishing your body.  Setting up negative thoughts is exactly why so many people struggle with their relationship with food.

You may not like to think of it that way, but you do. We all do.

Those relationships can look really different for all of us.

Food can represent a power struggle in both directions. To one extreme it can result in eating disorders like anorexia… withholding food.

It can go the other direction which is bulimia, a complete out of control power with food.

It can also be the act of just over eating. Eating more than our bodies need for nourishment and health which leads to being overweight. Eating to feed a deeper need than physical hunger…  like emotional eating.

Our relationship with food can become rigid where everything is monitored that is taken in. Food becomes a task master to keep after and keep under a tight rein. It’s thought of constantly.

Or we may be fortunate to have developed a healthy relationship with it naturally on our own, or through our own health journey and arriving there through life experiences.

When we begin to set foods apart, good or bad,  putting them in an off limits category, and tell ourselves we can’t have them or that they are bad we start to give food a lot more power than it needs to have.

A part of learning and building new habits is to keep food in a “neutral zone”.

Food is food.

Don’t demonize it or put yourself on some restrictive way of living so all you do is think of those “forbidden” foods.

Do you see the danger of giving certain foods so much power in your life ? It’s designed to keep you from being successful.

Why?

You restrict foods, take them away, label them as bad, or you decide food group “x” isn’t something you are going to eat anymore ’cause that’s the current hyped up trend going on ( not that you have any health issues dictating it) but you’re participating in it.

You really love those foods and will miss them … where do you think your mind will be ?

Exactly.

Smack on the things you’ve set up as “off limits” which will only continue to warp your relationship with food and it’s a dangerous process.

I guess I fall in the camp of figuring out my relationship with food on my journey of health and fitness.

I shared in another blog that I grew up in a family of emotional eaters. I was one too and figured it out as I grew in my understanding of my relationship with food. I’d say I largely have it under control, although there are moments I am aware I’m eating for a reason other than hunger.

I tried many “diets” through my life. Ultimately, all I could wait for was for it to be over and get back to “normal”. ( I see you nodding your head. You know what I mean). Good times.

I’d say THE single biggest factor in my success ( I’m 8 years out now so I think I can address this)

I put nothing “off limits”.  Nothing.

You know what that did? It took all power out of anything that may have been forbidden.

I know what you’re thinking…. “Oh, then you probably just went off the wagon all the time”

No. I didn’t. I’m a big girl and certainly have the ability to control what I stuff in my mouth. But it did keep me from over thinking on food.

If my family went to get a burger ( which was an occasional treat) I wanted to enjoy it with them and not sit there forlornly eating a tub of pale iceberg lettuce with two tomatoes in it.

You might think that would send me off the deep end. Like… throw in the towel. Not at all. I continued my commitment to what I was doing. My daily focus on food was to eat well, eat moderate, and allow some treats to be factored in on my weight loss journey.

Now hear me. Although I don’t like to label foods, we can agree that there are some that aren’t the best for our health goals or the best to eat on a frequent basis. I kept that in mind too.

Fried/processed foods, drive thru meals, sugar, alcohol, simple carbs like cookies, cake, chips, candy, sodas, sugar drinks etc. can be tasty treats but must be handled with moderation.

I wasn’t to crazy at all about the idea of giving up chocolate to lose weight! I learned that a small amount, savored, often was enough to satisfy me. I didn’t need to just keep consuming it because it was there.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. The most successful people I know have done it with a non-restrictive balance in their lives.

Do I have trigger foods?

You bet I do. I know that it’s just not a smart move to bring home any type of kettle potato chip unless I’ve got people there eating them with me. 😛

It’s been a learning process.

Learning to trust myself with food. I don’t have to eat it because it’s there or have a “last supper” mentality and consume it all because I may never get it again.

Learning to listen to my body and it’s natural signals.

Learning to not be horribly restrictive to prevent the caving in and eating whatever because I felt deprived.

Learning to make better choices that supported my overall health and fitness goals.

I have learned….

to know my body and what makes me feel good and energetic.

I feel better eating lots of veggies and fruit. I have learned some foods just make me feel more sluggish or bloated and I’d rather pass on them. Lean meats, veggies, and good whole grain carbs keep me energetic and decently lean.

Those foods that used to have a pull on me don’t so much anymore. Healthy eating is natural and comfortable to me now.

I’ve learned to be patient with myself. Some days just might not be that great and it’s ok if I get up and keep going. The “not so great days” though have become less and less as this has become my lifestyle and I’ve built permanent habits.

Forward, slow, steady progress is the best kind of progress. It lasts.

I’ve learned a lot about nutrition. I eat adequate, good food to nourish my body three times a day and I don’t really think about food much anymore… except when my tummy is yelling at me 😉

I’ve learned life is a beautiful journey and it will have birthdays, and holidays and celebrations and food is a big part of those things. Finding balance and being able to enjoy those times is one of the best things about not having “off limits” foods. I have learned I can have my treats and it doesn’t undo all of my hard work. The best part? Not having that self-imposed “guilt” that used to come with it.

I don’t know where you are on your journey of health and fitness. If you struggle with food and are trying to understand your relationship with it, I hope that you at least begin to not cast foods into off limits groups. I hope you give yourself the freedom to eat well, to learn about yourself in the journey, and that you will find perfect balance in your personal relationship with food.

In summary

Know your relationship with food.

Don’t categorize food. Food, is simply, food.

Learn to know your body and listen to it.

Nourish it with healthy foods the majority of time and allow occasional treats.

Trust yourself.

Don’t practice a restrictive lifestyle.

Walk the road you are on. Slow and steady will last a lifetime.

Don’t quit.

Where are you on your journey? Do you feel like you have balance in your relationship with food? Have you set foods up as good or bad and then changed your thinking ? How did that help you?