Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fit Foods

So, I have mentioned my eating habits on a couple of occasions so far in this blog. I keep meaning to write down a few of my thoughts on food and the impact it can have on a fit lifestyle, in more detail... so here it is, i'm doing it finally:

Over the past few months my diet has consisted of much different foods than it would typically, due to the increased (extreme amount of) running. To maintain energy with endurance activities like running, swimming, biking, and hiking, complex carbohydrates are super important. I keep hearing myself say things like, "Oh, I have been eating whatever I want" which is so not true, although if I did eat whatever I wanted, it would include a lot of the foods I have been consuming recently like potatoes, rice, pasta, and bread (specifically tortillas). I rarely let myself have these types of food in general so when I do eat them it feels like a very special treat.

For the past two(ish) years I have loosely followed a paleo-like diet regimen. Which means I avoid all grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, and alcohol. I originally made the decision to eat this way around the beginning of 2013 when my best friend Micaela convinced me of its effectiveness in improving the amount of energy available throughout the day, and the overall "feel good" factor it provided to her. Within a month I had lost about 10 lbs which was bit unexpected, but an added bonus to the incredible yet kind of indescribable improvement in the way my body felt.

To back up a little... You should know that I have always been just kind of weird about food. I have gone through a million different phases of excluding certain foods, trying different types of diets, and really just being kind of picky. I was vegetarian for awhile. At another point I did not eat red meat. Then, I began just excluding pork. I have completely eliminated dairy for periods. I have tried eating only small snacks and no full meals. I have been all over the place for years... A good friend of mine said to me as her wedding, which I served as a bridesmaid in, approached, "I'm not sure what food you aren't eating right now... will this menu be okay for you?" Honestly, I am not sure where my weirdness about food comes from (probably my mother haha), but it's a thing in my life.

So, now that I am a grown up, excluding the past few months (again because of the half training), but since I moved to Chicago there are a few simple principles I try to stick to with regard to eating behavior and what I put into my body:

1. I think this seems like a no-brainer but, don't put anything in your body unless you know what it is. AKA: read the label. If you aren't sure what one of the ingredients is, you are not qualified to consume it. I also adhere to this concept when it comes to medications. I am not a doctor or a pharmacist and therefore I don't know what certain drugs do, unless I take the time to research it, so it does not make the cut.

2. Before I make a trip to the grocery store, I take a peek at pinterest and choose one primary recipe I can make enough of to last most of the week. (Side note: I grocery shop about once per week because most of the ingredients I use are fresh rather than canned or frozen, so they will typically go bad if I wait longer.) I make the one main meal, and then buy other things to fill in the gaps so I don't get sick of eating just one thing. Also, I will usually buy more of the specific ingredients for the recipe I choose and then use them sporadically in other meals that week. For example: If I'm making carnitas tacos I will buy extra bell peppers, jalapenos, and avocados and then saute the veggies with eggs later in the week. I do my best to be creative with the main meal and vary it substantially from week-to-week so new veggies and different meats are incorporated. Plus, if I eat the same thing(ish) for an entire week I am ready for a major change by the next week. Furthermore, when I shop I do not buy snack foods because if I have them at home, I will eat them... Out of sight, out of mind. Obviously, I do crave a sweet or salty treat every so often, and in that case (if I deserve it) I will stop at Walgreens and pick up just that one thing.

3. As is probably obvious from #2, I don't eat out often. I do my best to make my own meals so I know what I am taking in. However, I do try have a social life (although it's settled down quite a bit recently because I am so busy being an!) and eating out with friends is fun. Therefore, when I do eat at a restaurant, I eat what I feel like eating. I don't worry about whether there is dairy in the soup du jour... I am out to eat! I'll eat what I want! Life is too short to order a bowl of lettuce and cucumbers with no dressing... and then pay $12 for it.

4. In my world, there is no such thing as portion control until about 4pm. I will eat until I am satisfied if it's breakfast or lunch. In fact, I strive to make lunch the largest meal in my day rather than dinner. As I said before I choose to follow a "paleo-like" diet. That being said, I do typically eat oatmeal or cereal for breakfast, or sometimes a piece of whole-grain toast. I let this stand alone as my grains for the day as these foods are helpful in getting my digestive system running well in the morning, if you know what I mean (coffee does its part too). Warning, explicit sentence to follow: A good day starts with a good poop.

5. Kombucha. 'Nuff said... Unless you don't know what kombucha is... and in that case I can say more. To be quite honest, I don't know that I fully understand this miracle beverage. Nonetheless, I love it and it makes me feel great all around. It is a probiotic so it too, contributes to a healthy digestive system. It contains antioxidants which take care of the free radicals roaming about in your body, improving immunity to viruses and bacteria, and polyphenols which are now thought to play a preventative role in degenerative diseases like cancer. To learn more you can simply google "kombucha" or click here: Heath Benefits of Kombucha. One issue with this all healing elixir is the cost. At $3.50-$4 a bottle, it became an expensive habit for me (a bottle a day), so I learned to brew it myself. More on that another time.

6. While I do not buy snack food like chips, or crackers, or cookies, I am the poster child for hanger. The moment I feel myself start to feel hungry, I know I do not have much time before things start to go terribly wrong. Patrick has had the misfortune of being present for an episode or two, and he will tell you, it's not pretty. Poor guy has resolved to presenting me with food at the slightest inclination of irritation. Therefore, I keep a bar or a piece of fruit on hand AT ALL TIMES. My favorite bar to be eaten even without the promise of a workout in the near future, is Kind. I have heard of every single ingredient, and they do a great job of holding me over until the next meal.

7. Finally, as cliche as it may be, everything in moderation. If you know me, you know I love popcorn, I love ice cream, I love chocolate. If I am watching sports I will have a beer, and I am no stranger to a large glass of red wine. The way my life is currently structured with so much work, school, and fitness, those sugar, or salt, or alcohol filled indulgences don't play a huge role. Therefore, if I want one of them, I feel like I have earned it. I think the key here is being honest with yourself about when you are really deserving of a treat, and when you are making excuses to satisfy a craving.

I believe there is as much of a psychological component to eating behaviors as there is to a physically active lifestyle. You have to firmly resolve to make positive choices when it comes to food, and you have to believe in those choices. The way I eat is a major reflection of the lifestyle I have decided to lead. I want to use my body as a tool in the activities I enjoy. If my digestive system was backed up with artificial this, and preservative that, my guess is yoga would be the last thing I felt like doing at the end of the day. For me, what I eat is a conscious choice at each and every bite. That way, I can credit myself alone for filling healthy and happy.

I think I may start posting recipes sporadically, especially if anyone expresses interest, so keep an eye out for that. As always, comments, suggestions, are arguments are welcomed and encouraged! Have a good week.

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