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.

 

 

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School Days And Healthy Lunches

Monday was a big milestone for many parents. It was the start of another school year. It meant sending kids off for the first time or maybe it meant moving them up to another level of education.

I’ve observed all of it in a different way.

This is the first year I don’t have a child to send off to school. I had to buy no supplies or sign endless miles of back to school paperwork. I didn’t think of back to school clothes or what I needed to have on hand for lunches.  My alarm didn’t go off getting me moving to make sure everyone would be up and on time for the bus. No teacher conferences or meetings that drone on forever.

Maybe, I should’ve shed a tear or two over it.  I’ve had children in school for more years than I can count now so I’m ready to move on.

I say all that… but…. my kids aren’t really done with their education. I had two head out for college. One, in his second year. The other, back to Freshman status again.

They bought their own supplies. They figured out what they wanted to wear to school. They are adults so they are responsible to sign off on their own paperwork. They get themselves going and figure out what time they need to leave.

It’s all very….. wonderful.

On the other side, my grandson started school. How can this be? This pains my heart as much as when my little ones went off to school. I watch my adult son now contend with all the years of schooling in front of him while I silently ponder, wasn’t it just yesterday, I was holding his little hand walking down the big hall way?

Ok before I go and get all crazy sappy on you…..

One thing that goes hand in hand with school no matter the age, is food. There will be lots of lunches packed and prepared in households with schools arrival.

Lunch boxes will be purchased with the anticipation of what will go in them. ( I can still remember that new plastic smell of a new lunch box)

Let’s take a moment to admire them all fresh, clean, and unscratched.

They will never be like that again once they leave your house 😉

It was a HUGE deal every year, my kids picking out their special lunch box.  Of course, by the time they hit high school, it was a bonus if they managed to toss a random assortment of food into a plastic bag before they flew out the door.

Needless to say, over the course of the years, with many kids, I had quite a few lunches at school with them. It was a treat to have your parent come eat with you… well.. for awhile.. until they wanted to pretend like they… had no parents.

The lunch selections that were revealed by their young peers were often, interesting.

There would be the standard cafeteria fare which my kids often begged to eat but were quickly disappointed when they had it.

My oldest pleaded with me to let him eat the spaghetti they were serving the next day.

He was in maybe 5th grade at the time.  Why not? I let him. I already knew what to expect when he came home that next day.

“That spaghetti was gross! It was nothing like yours! I’m never eating stuff at school again!”

I figured I’d let him make his own conclusions that the school spaghetti would be Chef-Boyardee from a can and not the homemade variety he only knew.

Many children come with a healthy balance of foods in their cute boxes or bags. The treats were often devoured first, followed by the second better option, with the healthier things being at the bottom of the consumed list.

I remember one child plopping down across from me ( they are always so excited when a parent is there… any parent… you automatically adopt a table load of kids 😛 ) she dumped her lunch on the table and it was nothing but a bag of various sweet items.

I tried not to look horrified. I may have failed miserably in the attempt.

I choked out… ” Wow, that’s an interesting lunch” to which the child smiled at me and said “I made it myself!”

I’d certainly hope so.  I wondered if the mom had any clue what her child had assembled for lunch that day.

With school beginning and lunches packed, as parents we will make efforts to offer our kids tasty, portable meals that will hopefully sustain them through a busy, active day.

With childhood obesity at an all time high, we need to be mindful of the foods we provide for our kids, in our home, as well as what they will take to school 5 days a week.

One of my sons teases me about being in school and that he was the kid dragging out a water bottle to drink while the other kids had “juice” boxes. ( Note, many of these are nothing more than sweetened drinks with a nod of “juice” in them) and he had cut up apples while no one else would eat fruit.

Of course he goes on to say I split Oreos in half… haha… he is the most… “dramatic” child I have.

I reminded him he got the whole Oreo 😉

Hey, all I can say is I tried as a parent to offer the best foods to them I could.

Our kids can only eat foods we provide for them. We are responsible for the foods we bring home to them. If there is limited junk/sweet/treat foods they won’t be able to eat them.  We need to stop thinking chips/cookies/donuts/muffins/crackers/sodas etc are a necessary food group. If we teach them that healthy whole foods are tasty from an early age they won’t have a problem taking them in lunches.

Healthy tips/suggestions for lunches

~ If you want to send “juice” boxes, read the label to make sure they are juice or are labeled as such. Many proclaim to be but only offer a tiny percentage while the rest is sweetened water. If the first ingredient is “high fructose corn syrup” look for something else.

~ It really is ok for them to take water in their lunch too. You can buy small mini bottles to fit in boxes.

~ Offer whole grain breads over white bread.

~ Baby carrots or other veggies are often a fun snack. Include a small container with some dressing if your child likes that.

~ Prepare fruits or veggies to make them easier to eat.

~ Protein foods will keep their tummies full feeling. Cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs, yogurts all are good protein sources and easily portable.

~ Don’t underestimate the nutritional value of a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Peanut butter is nutritious, filling, and a great healthy eating option. It offers 8 grams of protein  for 2 tablespoons

~ Opt for whole wheat crackers and breads

~ Milk can be purchased at school which is often colder and more palatable than if it comes from home in a thermos or container. Yikes.. the days of warm milk….

~ Sweet treats are fun and kids enjoy them. Just limit the amount that goes into their lunches. Excessive treats take away from the actual idea of having “a” treat.

~ Consider making roll ups with turkey and cheese in whole grain tortillas instead of using bread.

~ Individual fruit cups are less perishable, look for ones without added sugar.

Our children have busy, active days at school learning, playing and constantly moving. Make sure the bulk of their calories are nutritious and filling to give them energy for their entire day.

Do you have any lunch box tips or tricks for healthier eating ?

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Weight Loss And Salads

Another came rolling through again. The obligatory salad post with some “diet” caption attached to it.

I see them often.

The person is usually getting on the diet wagon and where else do you start, but by eating salads, right?

Now hear me out.

I’m not knocking salads. I love them. They are often my lunch of choice because well, I simply enjoy eating veggies, they fill me up, don’t make me feel sleepy, and leave me feeling energetic.

Salads done right are a wonderful meal and offer endless amounts of creativity with them.

Sadly, some I see, I’m left thinking that the poor person will be starving soon ( no protein in salad) and often lacking a good variety of veggies in it.

We have also been conditioned to think of losing weight and getting healthy in forms of deprivation.

Nothing fun or tasty.

A boring iceberg salad mix with a few cherry tomatoes thrown in, a bit of cucumber, and maybe some shredded carrot.

Yay. Go to town on that.

After all to lose weight, you gotta suffer right? Be miserable? Hungry all the time?

No, not really. Not at all.

Well, what works then?

There are many things on the market promising weight loss. There are lots of “trendy” new diets you can commit to if that’s your thing.

None of them are magic. None of them have some super power over the other. Some offer restrictions, others take food groups away from you, some have you eating gobs of fat, some give you barely enough calories to operate on, some offer “meal replacements”… gosh the list can go on….

At the end of the day it’s simply science.

We lose weight when we take in less calories than our bodies need for daily functioning.

You could achieve it on an Oreo and milk diet although I wouldn’t recommend that…. mainly ’cause I’m not into Oreos  😉

You create a deficit  by calories and activity level and in a slow and steady way weight loss will occur.

You need to reduce your daily calories by about  350-500 a day to lose weight.

How the heck do I do that?

I’d say start with things that might not matter a lot or that you could easily reduce. Do you stop for some sugary drink at Starbucks or the local coffee shop?

Do you have any idea of the calorie, fat, or sugar content of it for the size you buy?

Go ahead… I’ll wait.

Google it up and look.

Are you shocked? Most people are.

How much sugar or creamer do you add to coffee?  How many sodas or sugar drinks do you consume? Alcohol?

I’d say the best thing to do is simply write down all you eat in a day for about a week.

Be honest. Don’t try and hide anything from yourself. This will give you a guide of what you eat.. the good and not so good.

This will be your starting place to look at where to weed out those 350-500 calories a day.

We often mindlessly stuff things into our mouths without recognizing that yeah, those calories do count.

So do an honest assessment with yourself if you want to see where you can reduce or cut out to help lower those calories while keeping the more nutritious foods in place.

Speaking of nutritious foods…..

Consider foods you like that are healthy and offer your body good nutrition. You know I don’t really like to label foods, but let’s be honest, there are many foods that offer more to our health, feeling good, being energetic and losing weight than others.

Whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean meats, dairy products all offer an abundance of goodies for us to choose from to plan our daily nutrition needs.

Vegetables and fruit… consider this…

On average, only 14 percent of American adults consume at least 2 servings of fruit and at least 3 servings of vegetables daily.

14%.

Sadly, in my communication with people I’m always staggered at the truth of that. The very idea of vegetables is something repugnant being offered to them.

You can eat a whole lot of veggies that fill you up, keep you feeling energetic, and come in really low on the calories.

They can be eaten raw or cooked in all kinds of ways that are delicious.

Here’s the deal… if you’ve trained yourself to eat not so nutritious foods, you can train yourself to eat foods that support good health and weight loss.

And you have trained yourself to eat and drink the way you do now…..

It just will take some time and intentional effort on your part…. you know… that habit thing I always blab about….

I was at a dinner party recently and the couple across from me were, well honestly, really over weight. The wife was telling me how she was trying to get him to eat vegetables and he was telling me about ones he had been “trying” and she said “I’m even trying to get him to eat brussel sprouts!”

I said “Oh, how are you preparing them?”  (Help me. I already knew the answer before it came)

“Oh, I boil them!” she said smiling at me

I tried to contain my face and not imagine them boiled and rolling around the plate like little green heads… boiling them is like the kiss of death. Boiling them is the reason people rebel against eating them 😉

I told her for a change, that would be tasty and healthy, to slice them up, toss them with a little olive oil, cracked pepper and sea salt then roast them till they started to get crispy.

Her hubby definitely perked up to that.

Seriously though. Learn to experiment with vegetables. Roasting brings out the best flavors in them. Some do better lightly steamed but most anything can be roasted.

Now about those salads….

 

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Pure deliciousness. Writing, iced coffee and this new amazing salad from a local fast food joint of all places.

 

 

Just a few tips on making a good salad for your meal.

~include a variety of colorful veggies. Peppers, radishes, tomatoes, avocado, red onion, broccoli, really anything can be added.

~ don’t be afraid of tossing some fruit in. Blueberries or strawberries can make a good addition to a green salad.

~ Don’t forget a healthy dose of protein… this keeps you from getting hungry soon. Feta cheese, grilled chicken, canned tuna, boiled eggs etc can be great options to add in.

~ healthy fats like avocados or walnuts are a good addition to your salad

~ go easy on salad dressings or this will negate all the good efforts of your salad. Be mindful of calories and fat and the fact a serving size is usually like 2 tablespoons… yeah.. go ahead and measure that out…  look for low calorie ones or better yet learn to whip up your own healthier alternatives.

I’ve found the more creative the mix of my salad, the less I really want any dressing or at best just a minimal amount.

So post those salad pics…..

Seriously, if you’re on the road to dropping some weight, good for you! Salads offer a fun, tasty and super healthy way to get there. Make them satisfying to your tastes and share your creativity. It’s ok to enjoy your fruits and veggies.

Keep in mind as well, a balanced nutrition plan, with a small daily reduction of calories,  will lead to weight loss and keep your energy level up in the process.

What is the way you find most successful to lose weight? Are you good at eating your fruits and veggies?

Understanding Emotional Eating

It’s 9:30 at night and you are for some reason, in the pantry studying the options, deciding what your poison will be. Cookies? Chips? Maybe the freezer is your thing… there are several varieties  of ice cream begging for attention.

You aren’t really hungry. Your stomach is quiet and you don’t have the physical signs of actually needing to eat food.

But there’s this driving urge in you….

And here you are… stalking the goods… out of what? Boredom? Loneliness? Anger? Hurt? Happy the day is over? Frustration? Hard day at work? Worry? Maybe you don’t even know.

Whatever the reason, it’s emotionally driven. You may be aware of it, or you may feel powerless against it. It may come on like a compelling urge and you act purely instinctively on it without pausing to think of what you are doing.

Many times, it may be completely mindless. Eating as you feed your mind food for your emotional needs.

Emotional eating is only a problem when it becomes a persons central response to  regulating their mood. It is a coping strategy.

What is emotional eating, exactly?

Stress eating. using food to make yourself feel better, eating to satisfy emotional needs rather than physical hunger.

Occasional eating for reasons other than hunger isn’t bad. Some degrees of emotional eating is normal. Food is typically the focus on holidays, celebrations, life events, funerals, weddings, etc.

However, if it is your “go to” , your primary coping mechanism, then there’s a problem.

You are in an unhealthy cycle where the real problem isn’t being addressed.

~ Emotional hunger can’t be filled with food.

~ Feels good in the moment but then you are left with guilt of eating whatever is bugging you.

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Identifying… are you an emotional eater?

Do you eat more when stressed?

Do you eat when you aren’t hungry or are full?

Do you eat to feel better? ( calm or soothe yourself)

Do you reward with food?

Do you regularly eat till you are stuffed?

Does food make you feel safe or like it’s a friend?

Do you feel powerless or out of control with it ?

Emotional eating craves specific comfort/ junk food or sugary snacks that provide an instant rush.

Mindless eating is not satisfied when full. Emotional hunger is not in the stomach. This also leads to negative feelings ( guilt, shame, regret) eating what you feel you shouldn’t have.

Food self soothes. Emotional eating is an attempt to manage moods with food.

Identifying triggers

it’s helpful to assess yourself and understand what can set you off. Situations, places, feelings, etc can cause you to reach for food.

Triggers wont always be negative but can be triggered by positive emotions too ( a reward for a goal, birthdays)

I mean really, who is ever actually hungry for birthday cake or some Christmas cookies? We eat it because it’s enjoyable and we are celebrating.

Common causes of emotional eating

Stress, stuffing emotions, boredom, loneliness, feelings of emptiness, social influences or even ingrained childhood habits can lead to overeating.  It’s important to find other ways to feed your feelings, alternate behaviors that have nothing to do with food.

If you don’t know how to manage your emotions in a way that doesn’t revolve around food you won’t be able to control your eating habits for long. Diets often fail because they offer logical nutrition advice – IF- you have conscious control over your eating habits.

They don’t/won’t work when emotions take over demanding a swift payoff of comfort foods. To stop emotionally eating you must learn new ways to fulfill yourself emotionally.

Understanding the cycle and triggers is a huge first step. You need to learn alternates to turn to and not food.

How to help yourself

Pause. Think. Reflect = different decision.

Can you wait?

While you wait…check in with how your feeling… what’s your emotional status?

Are you truly hungry? as in experiencing natural signals of hunger? Or is it your mind/emotions talking?

You’ve attempted resistance in the past with the belief that your willpower isn’t enough.

The truth is you have more power over your cravings than you believe.

Really.

By checking in with yourself, pausing, examining what it is you’re feeling you are more likely to make a different choice than just eating whatever you have in mind.

Learn to accept good and bad feelings. The root of emotional eating is feeling powerless over your emotions. You can’t deal with them so you avoid feelings with food.

Become a more mindful eater.

Mindful eating is a practice that develops your awareness of eating habits and your food.

Think about the foods you buy. Do you buy healthy foods? Do you buy trigger foods that will contribute to times of emotional eating? Think of what foods will nourish you.

Come to the table hungry. Not ravenous, but with your body giving you it’s natural signals it needs to eat.

Start with small amounts. I’m always amazed, really, at the small amount of food it takes to feed myself and deal with my hunger.

Learn to really appreciate your food. I make jokes to hubby about how amazing food tastes when I’m seriously hungry ( like after long workouts and I’m finally ready for food) not only does it taste awesome, it feels good going in ’cause I am really hungry. I have an appreciation for food with true hunger.

How it tastes and the satisfaction are so different than eating when you aren’t really hungry.

Bring all your senses with you to the table. Learn to smell, savor, and visually appreciate what you are eating.

Take small bites, chew well, and learn to eat slowly.  Doing so will let you really taste and enjoy your meal while allowing your stomach to register that it has had enough food.

Becoming a mindful eater also means staying connected with your feelings and how it impacts your choices in your day with food. It’s practice but with practice you can become more mindful of reasons why you eat when you aren’t hungry or feel like you’re emotions are driving you.

Some reflective thoughts….

I’ve shared several times in blogs my own awareness of coming out of a family of emotional eaters. I’ve talked about learning about myself and being mindful of it in my own life. Understanding that definitely helped me on my weight loss journey.

Sometimes I make very mindful choices that I want something, knowing full well, I don’t need it. Hubby wandered into the kitchen one night to find me perched on the counter top with a bag of chips, munching away.

I told him “I am fully cognizant I’m emotionally eating these right now” and the fact was, there had been some thing or another that had made me feel angst and I just wanted those stupid chips.

The thing about knowing and understanding it’s what I was doing? I ate some, reined myself in, and put them away.

I was mindful of my actions.

You might need time to get there. Maybe you’re at a point where somehow the bag disappears on you. Or maybe more cookies than you intended. Or a whole lotta ice cream vanishes. Or whatever your brand of poison is.

It might require work and effort on your part. It might be times of failure and times of success. The more you mentally engage with it, the closer you will get to not feeding your emotions.

This is such a big topic, you might find more on it in the future here. I think many struggle with it and it prevents the success they long for with weight loss. Gaining insight and understanding can help lead to success.

Do you have thoughts on this?

Have you struggled with emotional eating? Did you find ways to change it?  Do you struggle now? What has made you aware of it?

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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?

 

 

 

Goldilocks And Oatmeal

I thought we’d talk about food today.  I like eating it and I’m fairly sure you do too 😉 last week I did a blog on veggies so if you missed it check it out before you go ( Veggie Tales).

Like veggies, this other food gets a bad rap and many people don’t like it or have horrible childhood memories of  their mother forcing them to eat it.

This particular food  has interested me for awhile but I haven’t really investigated it much until recently.

Ok I know you’re sitting on the edge of your chair in eager anticipation wondering what it is…..

Oatmeal my friends. Oatmeal.

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This may or may not be my childhood picture 😉

 

Now stay with me… don’t get out of that chair and leave just yet. There’s a new kid on the oatmeal block called steel cut oats, and maybe like Goldilocks from the Three Bears story,  I’m in pursuit of the oatmeal ( or porridge 😉 that’s “just right”.

This isn’t your moms oatmeal you could paste walls with. I can say that ’cause I’ve had it too. Often it comes in little packages already loaded with sugar and you add hot water and stir till mush.  Oh I know they’ve upgraded to little cute containers now but the operations are still the same. Maybe you like the idea of oatmeal but you just can’t get past the gooey consistency of it.

Let’s talk about steel cut oats and the difference between them and rolled oats.

The difference between rolled and steel cut oats is that while both contain whole grain oats, they are processed differently. Rolled oats are steamed, rolled, steamed again and toasted, ending up as thin flakes. Steel cut oats are made from oat kernels that have been chopped into thick pieces.

Quick or instant oats are the most processed of the varieties. They are pre-cooked, dried, then rolled and pressed slightly thinner than rolled oats. They cook more quickly than rolled or steel cut but retain less of their texture and can cook up mushy.

Steel cut oats are oat groats that have been cut into 2 or 3 pieces for a relatively unprocessed product.

Nutritionally, steel cut oats are almost identical to old fashioned oats.  Regularly eating steel cut oats gives you the same health benefits as eating rolled oats.  A diet that includes oats may decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

So if all varieties offer up very close, similar nutrition, why eat steel cut oats?

What sets steel cut apart is how they compare on the glycemic index. ( this is how slow or fast foods process in the body which can cause blood sugar up’s and downs)

The less-processed steel-cut oats have a much lower glycemic load than higher-processed quick oats. Low-GI foods slow down the rate that glucose (sugar) gets introduced into your body, and in contrast, high-GI foods cause a spike in your blood sugar as well as insulin, causing you to crave more sugary foods when your glucose levels drop. The best option then are the steel-cut oats, with rolled oats a great second choice. They’ll keep you feeling fuller longer, which will keep your energy levels up and help you lose weight.

This also makes it great for diabetics who need to monitor their foods more closely.

Ok and another selling point ? As mentioned above, quick oats can be very mushy which causes many people to stay away or remember bad childhood experiences with them.

Steel cut oats look like chopped up rice, take the longest to cook, yet maintain a slightly chewy consistency, which I found out I really like. Once it’s cooked it still has shape to it.

I decided to try these oats in a quest for a food that would give me long lasting energy and not bother my tummy when I took off for long endurance workouts.

Anytime I’m going to be on the road for over an hour, especially an hour and a half or more, I know I need to get a “mini” meal in. I used to feel like I shouldn’t do that… like have a pre-meal and then come in hours later and eat… eat twice?!

Sigh. How crazy my thinking used to be.  Much like taking off on a trip in your car with almost no gas, it’s as crazy to think of hitting the road for miles on foot or bike and not be properly fueled.

A pre-meal is usually a couple hundred calories. My usual choice for breakfast involves plenty of protein and veggies. However, I need some solid carbs in my system more than protein before I do long endurance workouts ( remember boys and girls, carbs, are energy 😉 ) so I save the eggs for after my workouts.

I had tried a half a bagel but after I had been out for awhile felt like it was expanding  in my tummy. I tried various cereals. Some things worked better than others. I tried the standard banana but that was just teasing my stomach after it had been fasting all night.

I got quite good at going on empty but that only works so well before my performance starts to suffer.

I know my limits of what workout/distance  I can go empty on and what distance/workout I need a pre-meal.

Traditional steel cut oats take a long time to cook and there are lots of slow cooker recipes and tips to cook them. However, I found a faster cooking one in the store. These take about 4-5 minutes to cook.

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They have no added sugars so I can add what I want. Typically, it’s some dried low sugar Craisins, a few raw nuts (almonds or walnuts) a dusting of brown sugar for a bit of sweet, and some milk to blend it together.

It makes for a solid, hearty pre-breakfast for me before running or cycling…or both 😛

 

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I love the consistency as it definitely retains its shape and the texture is a bit chewy but it definitely takes it away from the mushy category.  Steel cut oats definitely shine in the texture and flavor departments.

One tip I’ve read to enhance the flavor is lightly toasting them before you cook. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to try that 😉

Once you cook your steel cut oats, the topping ideas are endless and you can be as creative or basic as you want.

Consider some of these choices:

Peanut butter, or almond butter.

Jelly, jam or apple sauce.

Yogurt or a splash of cream

Fresh or frozen blueberries, blackberries or raspberries.

Dried fruit like craisins, cherries, blueberries etc

Toasted chopped nuts like almonds, walnuts, or pecans

Flax seed or chia seeds

Toasted or raw coconut

The ideas are endless. Adding in healthy combinations gives you a solid meal to start your day and give you energy.

If you need a good energy source before a hard workout, this is a great source of long lasting carbs.

Now… I hope I’ve sold you on the idea of steel cut oats… forget the old mushy oatmeal idea and  be like Goldilocks and go experiment with the new kid on the block. You might find steel cut oats are “just right”.

You can thank me later 😉

 

Veggie Tales

I will admit this publicly. Maybe I shouldn’t.  You might be shocked.

But I’m semi-horrified when someone tells me they don’t eat veggies or don’t like them.

I’m like… “What did your mother DO to you??”

Oh, I get it. As parents we do try. I had one son who never really got into the veggie thing even though I fed him assortments of veggies as an infant (even then he wasn’t crazy over them) he has select ones he eats now, but at least he eats them.

As my kids grew up I made sure to present them with all varieties of food. I wanted them to at least try it before pronouncing they didn’t like it. I wasn’t a member of the “clean your plate” club like I grew up in but they did need to sample it.

My Mom used to delight in telling a story how I wanted scrambled eggs for breakfast but then changed my mind and didn’t want to eat them. When I stubbornly refused ( ah I was a bit head strong even then 😉 ) she evidently kept them around….

All. day. long.

They made an appearance at lunch… to which I refused to eat them… they were again brought out later.

Isn’t that child abuse or something ?! I had to take her word for it as I guess the trauma of having to see eggs that were becoming older and older by the moment was somehow blocked from my mind.

It’s a miracle I still eat eggs.

Needless to say, I didn’t grow up being allowed to be a picky eater and I was offered a wide variety of foods. It’s pretty much how my kids have been raised.

So when I’m confronted with the revelation someone doesn’t eat them ( more common than you may know)  I’m honestly floored.

Upon deeper probing sometimes that person reveals that the only veggies they may have known come from a can or they would be so steamed/overcooked by mom they turned into mush.

ok… well maybe then I’d be down on veggies too.  I’ve been in numerous buffet or banquet lines where the veggies in the pan were loose memories of what they used to be.

But beautiful, colorful, fresh produce?

Crisp green veggies perfectly steamed or better yet, roasted? There is no comparison in how delicious they are.

Roasting veggies has to be by far, my favorite way to cook and eat them.

I can eat my body weight in roasted veggies.  You think I’m joking….

Roasting is such a simple quick way to prepare them while not killing off the nutritional value. I usually use some olive oil, lots of cracked pepper and some sea salt. Roast at about 450 and stir occasionally to let them crisp up.

Pure. Heaven.

Ok I’m giving you a cheat sheet for common ones so you have no excuse to not try them 😉

roasted veggie

Ok maybe you like steamed. Some veggies are lovely when steamed till crisp tender. Steaming also helps retain all of the vitamins and minerals present in them.

steaming pic
Some humor for you ’cause well.. it’s how I roll 😉

And to help you out… here’s a short list of steaming, boiling, and for the always handy micro 😉

veggie-cooking-cheat-sheet

And for the record, all of those will roast up quite nicely too.

One of my favorite roasted combos is sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts.

Ok… stop turning up your nose and making gagging noises.  I hear you.

Seriously, I’ve turned my kids into brussel sprout eaters by roasting them. If the only memories you have are of Sunday dinner and grandma cooking the life out of them and watching them roll around your plate…well.. leave those memories behind and get in the here and now.

The sweetness of the potatoes blends so wonderfully with the sprouts… yummy. Let them cook long enough to get crispy with the potatoes.

I have some friends who chop up a little bacon and cook them together. Now if you go this route be mindful your also adding additional fat to otherwise healthy veggies…but it is really good 😉

Roasted cauliflower is another favorite. In fact, I have to watch myself ’cause I’ll just nibble at it while I’m finishing dinner then wonder.. “didn’t I make more of this?” haha

It’s another kid favorite too. I’ve now gone to making two heads when I do it to ensure everyone can have what they want. Not only that, leftovers make great additions to my salad lunch the next day.

Ok maybe now I should try and sell you on WHY you should be consuming vast quantities of these.

benefits-of-specific-foods

Keep in mind, this is no where near a comprehensive chart.

Veggies not only fill you up for minimal calories, they deliver incredible health benefits to your body in the way of vitamins and minerals.

They can help protect/prevent many diseases.  You can eat wheelbarrow loads of them and not worry about calories.

They do amazing things for your skin, hair, and many offer anti-aging benefits as well as help keep you lean.

A diet high in veggies/fruits also ensures that your internal systems all work regularly and properly.

Eating plenty of veggies also gives you energy and keeps you from that sluggish feeling of to many higher carb foods in a meal.

Listen to me. Just eat your veggies.

Your body wants them. Your health will improve with them. It will help you lose weight. It will help with the appearance of your skin and hair. Oh yeah, and remember me mentioning many have anti-aging properties?

How many reasons do you need to eat them? All you need to do is be willing to be open to try some new things and experiment. If you make a valiant effort with something you don’t like, move on to the next one.

Has it ever made you wonder why there are sooooo many veggies and fruits? It’s because we were made to eat a whole lot of them AND they are amazingly good for us!

veggie tales clip

Do you have favorite veggies? How do you cook them? Share your veggie tales with me 😉