Jan 29, 2013

And So It Begins...Eating

First it was Coke Wars, now Curls is pretty much hogging the blog.  Fine with me, I'll go grab a bucket of mint chip ice cream and contemplate how to tweak that fireplace.  
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Why hello…Curls here!
A handful of posts ago, Beard shared my desire to get on the fitness bandwagon.  Time to share.
Rewind to roughly a decade ago.  I was a very disciplined runner back in the day.  I hit my mid-20’s and thought, “I gotta do something.”  A desk job wasn’t helping, so one day I just started running and watching what I ate.  I refused to call it a diet, instead focusing exclusively on portion control and working the four primary food groups into daily eating.  Both nutrition and exercise pistons were firing at precisely the same time.  I felt wonderful!  I exercised 6-days a week and got hooked on races.  I bit the marathon bug and on my second try qualified for the Boston Marathon and ran it the following spring.  I really surprised myself during that time and still look back at it as a pivotal moment for never, ever underestimating what is possible.  This running went on for years until injury started catching up with me.  I scaled back on mileage and decided I needed a break.  When I tried to aggressively get on board again, I ran into injury after injury that had me side-lined for 6-8 weeks each.  It was frustrating, not to mention very discouraging.  The running became more sporadic, less meaningful and fell off the radar altogether.  The end.  Or is it?

Fitness ails and alludes, yet a surprisingly high percentage of people will fully acknowledge that nutrition and exercise are integral to overall health (among a host of other factors which we shall explore at some later point).  Lots of us KNOW this, myself included.  So why is traction such a difficult thing to get a hold of?
Fast forward to now.  Coinciding with the break into the New Year, I decided to give it another go.  This wasn’t about resolutions.  It was about redemption.  What made this time different was my approach.  Reprogramming was in order.  The objective was rather basic - get fit!  And by “fit”, I mean more than losing weight.  This was to be a plan meant to stick for life.  I wanted to feel it in every sense – strength, endurance, and energy – to rediscover what I once loved.
Today, let’s focus on nutrition or, to put it quite literally, food.  If I had to pin-point, let the bold letters speak for themselves:
Eat food.  Duh.  Seriously though.  Real foods.  As in, those that existed well over 100 years ago.  Back to basics.  Cut the processed junk.  Read labels.  If you don’t recognize the ingredients listed, this should be a cue to cause for pause.  I’d be doing a disservice to us all if I didn’t mention that water is nature’s fruit juice – so, drink up!
Food is fuel.  Eating for pleasure is fun (and encouraged).  However, the human body is a complex machine.  It has needs.  You give it what it requires and watch the magic unfold.  This is as much physical as it is mental.  The pounds will drop.  The mind will be sharp as a tack.
Colorful plate.  I’ve always been a fruit girl.  The veggies were hit or miss.  The advice that so many experts push on striving for a multi-color meal is a very good idea.  Not only will you introduce a variety of vital nutrients into your body, but this will help reinforce the practice of well-balanced meals.  It’s a great visual self-check too.
Portion Power.  Know what a portion looks like.  This is easier said than done.  Again, read labels.  Strive to get to a point where you can start to “eyeball” and estimate what a true serving should look like.  The freedom and flexibility that arises out of this practice is priceless.
Train the mind and the body will follow.  This is key.  If your mind is not in it, your body will not follow.  Both pistons need to be firing, for this is as much about state of mind as it is body transformation.
The scale doesn’t lie.  You have to be honest with yourself and the best way to measure progress is to hop on that scale.  I like to get the news first thing in the morning.  It’s a reality check.  It’s also the most awesome “high five, pat on the back and virtual hug” in the world when you see your efforts paying off.
Treat yourself.  This isn’t just a courtesy point.  I mean it.  Just do so in moderation.  As in, not every day.  You deserve it.  You’ll appreciate those treats.  Pick your poison selectively.  My vice, as we well know, is my beloved Coca-Cola (regular, not the icky diet kind). 
Eat.  You gotta eat to lose weight.  Not eating enough will send your body into “starvation mode” and desperately clinging to whatever reserves you have.  You don’t want that.  Give your body what it needs (ahem, fuel).
Make it a priority.  Old habits are difficult to break.  New habits don’t always stick.  One month in and I still have to make a conscious effort each day to make the right decisions.  Is it getting easier?  You bet.  Is it easy?  Not necessarily.  But I made a promise to myself where commitment and discipline must coincide to achieve the results I want.  So far that strategy is working.
So, how am I measuring up on the food front? 
By nature, I’m a planner. 
What has worked extremely well for me is to plan my meals in advance.  My goal is to hit those four primary food groups each day.  So, when I head out for my weekly grocery runs, I have a list in hand.  I spend the most time in the produce section, grabbing a variety of fruits and veggies.  I’m mostly influenced by what’s in season, what’s on sale or what I haven’t had in a while.  I tend to grace the perimeter of the store – think produce, meat/cheese counter, and dairy refrigeration.  I dart into the aisles for the occasional spice, baking item or condiment to round out the load.  Some canned stuff makes it into my cart too – think black beans, tuna, and my beloved Coca-Cola (my treat!).  This practice is easy to follow and actually makes my entire week far easier in terms of deciding what to eat for breakfast, pack for lunches and make for dinners.  Believe it or not, this sets the pace for all the points I’ve listed above.  It really does start with what foods are brought into your home. 
I also wash, pre-cut and pack away any fruit and/or veggies, usually upon return from the grocery store.  The thought here is convenience.  If its “ready to eat”, guess what?  I’m more inclined to eat it.  Funny how that works. 
I make a concerted effort to work in protein.  In all seriousness that is my biggest weakness.  I believe the root of my problem resides in over-carbing it.  Not in the greasy, grimy, fatty carby kind of way.  But in the “not getting enough protein, so body still hungry, so eating too many carbs to try to compensate” kind of way.  So, keeping that in mind, I keep proteins a priority.  And this doesn’t mean just meat.  As a matter of fact, I only have meat maybe 2-3 times a week, tops.  So things like Greek yogurt, eggs and peanut butter are making more frequent appearances on my plate these days.
And I feel great.  I’ll get into how all this effects my exercise patterns in a future post, but I can tell you that I definitely feel different, more lively somehow.  My pants are also very loose, as in I’m gonna need a belt pretty darn soon.  The progress that I’ve seen in roughly a month’s time has surpassed what I had previously predicted.  That’s a nice surprise!
So, B&Per’s, what foodie advice do you have to offer?  Tales to tell?  Lessons learned to share?  Let’s discuss.  And, as always, thanks for reading.  You guys are the best!
 ~Curls

31 comments:

  1. Great advice! I always think labeling something as a "diet" puts more expectations on you from yourself and others. One bit of advice I have, though minor, is to watch your dairy intake. After watching the documentary "Forks over Knives" I have been extremely cognizant of my dairy intake. I love myself some greek yogurt, but now mix in almond milk for cereals, and limit my consumption of dairy items in general. The adult body doesn't need dairy, contrary to what the FDA says, and consistent with the Paleo diet (which I do not follow, but I believe has some valid points), it's not natural for humans to consume dairy past the point of when they would have been weaned from their mothers. Best of luck in getting back on the road!

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    1. I totally agree on the term "diet". For me, it screams "temporary". And that is so not what I'm aiming for here.

      I would describe my dairy intake as moderate, at best. I'm not a milk drinker, but cheese and yogurt are staples right now. I mostly rely on daily to enhance my protein supply.

      I'm familiar with "Forks over Knives" too. Gotta love all these food documentaries that seem to be growing in numbers, not to mention popularity. Good food for thought - pun totally intended!

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  2. Great advice, pretty simple. I love reading the variety on this blog and so glad Beard lets/makes you hi-jack the posts every now and then. (He's probably busy with the fireplace huh?!) Annnnyway, I have no advice to offer, just support. I look forward to the exercise post!

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    1. Thanks Angela!

      Hmmm...Beard, you readin' this? Take note. Ha!

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  3. Definitely agree with the need more protein thing. I need to get on that bandwagon!

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    1. It took me a while to realize how much of a problem a lack of sufficient protein intake really was for me. Put simply, it was a hinderance to progress. Now, with some effort, I feel fuller (for much longer), and also have some surprising energy. That energy directly influences my exercise patterns. That's the beauty in it!

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  4. Melissa1/30/2013

    Such a great post, thank you! As soon as I think "diet" I think deprivation and that just short circuits the whole process. I've come up with a few new "guidelines" to help get myself on track, establishing a few good habits before adding a few more...slow and steady wins the race sort of approach. One of my rules in December was no fast food, which meant no drive-thru quickie bites to eat because I'm rushing around. Yes, that egg sandwich is delicious, but I can whip up a quick serving of oatmeal at the office. Better for me and my wallet. Another guideline that I added around the new year was no eating after the kids are in bed. Dinner is it (and I'm very, very thankful for a stay-at-home-dad/husband who makes reasonably well-balanced and healthy dinners...most nights). Eating a sweet treat once the kids were finally (seriously...finally) asleep became a habit. I wasn't even tasting it anymore, which led me to wanting a second serving of sweetness. Not good. So I've made a conscious effort to cut that out and now enjoy a cup of tea or a cold glass of plain seltzer (can't stomach "flat" water...makes me feel sick to my stomach). I've also added no wine/beer on weeknights. As I see it, these are simple ways for me to reduce my empty calorie intake without going into total deprivation mode (which won't last for me). I now no longer even think about a snack after the kids are in bed and I've been managing to get in bed earlier (sleep is essential to maintaining a healty lifestyle).

    I like your style and am looking forward to more posts from Curls!

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    1. Congrats on your progress!

      It's been amazing to me how subtle changes can have such lasting impact. I firmly believe that the body will respond, given the right conditions. In the first week, I saw a whopping weight loss. Two weeks later, the scale stuck. I evaluated and decided that my body was fightin' it and I was gonna fight back. So I ever-so-slightly increased my running mileage and it was enough to challenge the situation. Got past it!

      I anticipate many more obstacles will arise. It's easy to want to give up, but I see this for what is really is, a learning and growth opportunity. If you pay attention to the small signs, the body is most certainly telling you something.

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  5. Good to see you hijacking here Curls... its always good to read another woman's perspective on healthy eating. I too am a perimeter shopper, and have found recently that if I shop at the local Korean grocery - I don't know what most of the stuff in the aisles is to tempt me - and the produce is so much fresher.

    I am not a big fruit eater - veg yes - fruit no - until recently...... I splurged with gift cards and coupons and bought a super duper high powered blender, and have been drinking a fruit smoothie in place of cereal for breakfast. My Current fav is - a big spoon of greek yogurt, a splash of milk, half a banana, a handful of frozen raspberries and mango, a kiwi and a small handful of almonds. YUM! getting my fruits in early is really helping me. I plan to branch out and add spinach and other greens as I gain confidence in my smoothie making skills!

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    1. Smoothies rock!

      One of my favorite concoctions is to fill a blender 2/3 of the way with desired fruit (I typically like bananas, strawberries, & blueberries), fill the rest of the way up with greens (my top choice is fresh spinach), cover with 3/4 cup of water, and then grace with a TB or two of flaxseed. Then blend...and enjoy.

      This was a Pinterest find and I'm tellin' you, it's delicious. I used to be skeptical of throwing greens into smoothies, but you cannot taste them. Consider me a convert on that front!

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    2. I love smoothies too- this recipe sounds good and I will try it! I like that it includes flax seeds- I find that when I get enough good fat- the omega 3 kind- I don't crave bad fat as much, and I promise you, good fat does not stick to me!!! I can eat lots of good fat and stay skinny but when I start eating animal fat (except fish), trans fat, etc. and I gain gain gain. Also, the only animal product I eat is fish, but I get lots of protein from things like quinoa, beans, tempeh, etc. I even try to include protein in my baked goods, subbing bad fats and simple carbs with chick peas, peanut butter, almond meal, etc. Just some other ideas for protein...

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    3. I totally agree that the more I stay away from the "bad" stuff, the less I crave it. A work in progress, I am.

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  6. Jeremy1/30/2013

    Curls,
    Great to hear from you on this topic. Last year Beard had a post about body mass index and it was the kick in the pants that I needed. I have always been a non-athlete but I decided that I needed to get in shape. So I did what any normal person would do, I set a goal and registered for a ½ marathon. I ran the ½ at the end of October and by then I had developed habits of running and eating right. It was a real paradigm shift for me to view food as fuel as opposed to enjoyment. I started training in June and the weight just came off. By October I was down 40lbs and 4 inches off my waist. Buying pants was never so much fun! Keep up the good work and thanks for the encouragement. PS . My treat is Mt. Dew….Nectar of the gods I tell you!

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    1. Way to go!

      I too consider myself a non-athlete. One of the most satisfying things in life is to genuinely surprise yourself. It is a GREAT feeling to reach a goal, once thought so out of reach, if not impossible.

      I find that healthy eating need not be non-enjoyable either. I'm still working through posing the kind of variety that works, but I've worked in some tasty meals that deliver that low-cal/fat punch. It's exploration at its finest...

      Keep trekkin'!

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    2. Nice job Jeremy, keep on it.

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  7. Yes! My favorite snack is an apple and some nuts. It's the perfect balance of fruit, sweet, fiber, salty and protein. I like to throw in a couple dark chocolate m&m's and it makes me a happy snacker. The protein realization was huge for me, too. Carbs make me hungrier, crankier, and fatter. Period. You go, girl!

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    1. We'll try it...Curls, you take the apple and nuts, I got the choco M's covered.

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    2. While I should be looking at the ENTIRE nutrition label, the carb and protein #s are where my eyes typically land first. It's enlightening. Your snack of choice is chock full of flavor and crunch - a winner!

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  8. I dropped 25 lbs in 5 months and lots of inches doing The Pink Method. I love it! Healthy eating, and good workouts with a DVD that build in intensity over time. At 54 I've never felt stronger or healthier! I ran my first 5K last spring and ran a 5-miler with my 25 year old son and managed to keep up! Talk about adrenaline rush!

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  9. Woo hoo - good for you!

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  10. Anonymous1/31/2013

    Thanks, Curls for personally stepping into sensitive waters as you share your journey with us. It can be a rollercoaster of ups and downs~physically, emotionally, and even relationally, to make lifestyle changes (at least for me, that rings true). Question, how has your journey off and on the wagon affected your relationship with Beard?
    p.s. Beard~ mentioning grabbing a bucket of mint chocolate chip ice cream (i half giggled/half wanted to flash you a glare)?? I am wondering if you are helful on this journey:)........jordan

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    1. Great question!

      To be completely honest, a little bit. Beard and I first met through running circles. So yeah, fitting in a run together every now and then was definitely a hobby that we enjoyed doing together. A lot of that has gone to the wayside, notably because I either wasn't running at all or am simply not at a place where running with someone of his caliber would be uh,...tolerable. :) While brutally honest, I mean well when I say that, serious runner that he is.

      Beard is patient and supportive. He lives a fit lifestyle that is conducive with what I'm personally committing to in my own life. So that's a very good thing, to be in sync like that. It does change the dynamics in the relationship, for the better. I do think he's more aggressively optimisitc than I am, but I don't let that derail me from reality. Instead of coming back with a barrage of excuses, I try to explain why losing weight is so different from maintaining weight on an already fit body. Poor Beard has never had to fight that battle! I can't fault him for that, so it's my job to educate. But I do appreciate his "fight for it" attitude.

      P.S. to your P.S. Ha, ask Beard about my opinion on ice cream. I like it just fine, but I don't have these cravings people speak of - I could take it or leave it!

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    2. Curls doesn't care for ice cream, chocolate, bubble baths and BBQ meat. #giftsaredifficult

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    3. Whoa, whoa - I like a good shredded pork sandwich. Totally qualifies as BBQ.

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    4. What about chocolate covered bacon?

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    5. Hmmmphf. I'm a purist. Bacon can stand on its own, thank you very much!

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  11. Anonymous1/31/2013

    Keep it fun. Remember when we ran Boston together in 2007? We didn't run the race together but spent all the other time with a big group of friends. One of my favorite memories. It isn't exercising when you are having that much fun.

    Ice cream? Isn't that a reason to run? I seem to remember a "gotta have it" size ice cream at Mall of America. It was ALMOST too much to finish. Beard still laughs at me for that one.

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    1. Ah yes, Boston. Miles away, both literally and figuratively. We shall see if a return trip is even remotely possible someday. With a Dunkin' Donuts on every corner, I had to keep the ultimate focus while in Beantown.

      That is one of the greatest perks of running, the guilt-free eating! I had a thing for Bit O' Honey, Red Vines and Goetze's Caramel Creams at the time. Gotta have it - ha! But laying low on that stuff for a while now. Boo!

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  12. Anonymous2/01/2013

    Love your posts Curls. You're helping to keep me on track with exercise and eating healthier. I can so relate to the running and injury struggles. Your practical, no nonsense approach to nutrition is spot-on.

    I too struggle at times with protein. I love flax seeds in smoothies and have also like to add chia, hemp, or raw sunflower seeds. When I add 3 T. hemp to my oatmeal in the morning I'm good for hours.

    I see you occasionally in the halls here at the big mother ship. Next time I'm going to introduce myself!

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  13. Oh, do introduce yourself! The mother ship. That's funny!

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Thanks for the note, check back for my response!