Friday, November 21, 2014

Dear Frustrated: Part 2 (Revised)

{Again, this is a revised version of the words I wrote over a year and a half ago.  When it comes to eating, I have been in various stages of opposites in my life.  I have went from severely eating disordered, to dismissing the idea that food choices had anything at all to do with health, to making only the cleanest food choices possible, to where I am at now; which is trying to find a long-term balance that is healthy for me.  I am re-writing this and sharing it as much for me as I am for you.}

Dear Frustrated:

As promised in Dear Frustrated: Part 1 (Revised), I want to address healthy eating.  I will admit to you that I have struggled greatly with health in terms of food, and have only recently been able to truly understand its importance.  There are varying schools of thought on food and health, two of the most common being: 1) eat whatever you can and however much you can and work out and you will be fine and 2) exercise isn’t important as long as you diet.  I can tell you that both of those are not only wrong, but unhealthy.  What is the best is actually: 3) eat healthy and regularly perform varying forms of exercise including strength training, cardio, and gymnastic movements.

So what exactly does eating healthy mean?  I have already mentioned how much I loathe diets and how strongly I recommend you not follow them.  Then where does that leave you?  If you aren't following what some Hollywood Doctor has written in some flavor-of-the-month diet book, then how do you eat healthy?  If you aren't counting your calories, only eating fat-free products, or cutting your carbs and gluten and grain, how do you make wise food choices?  Trust me my dear frustrated friend, many people struggle to these questions.  I used to constantly get asked which plan I was on or which cook book I followed.  Once I was even asked what "The Healthy Living Plan" was.  Here is the truth:  I do not follow plans.  The best way to obtain and maintain health is to make wise and well informed choices, and to eat as clean as possible.

I, too, have battled with understanding how to make healthy choices.  I went from one extreme of starving my body, hating food, and throwing up every bite that passed my lips; to the other extreme of eating everything in sight, pretending I didn't mind being a "full-figured" woman.  On the underweight side of unhealthy, I practically dared people to try to make me eat or to keep me from purging.  On the obese side, I, more verbally, let others know that I didn't struggle with anorexia and bulimia and then get 'healthy' just to have to watch every bite I ate.  Honestly, both extremes were disordered, and unhealthy.

So when I decided to redirect my life toward more healthful living, I found myself a bit lost.  I wasn't sure how to use food as nourishment, and at the same time to gain health.  My only experience in manipulating food choices to lose weight was in a very extreme and unhealthy way.  I want to offer you some tips and information and advice that has been useful to me, and hopefully can be useful to you.  Please bear with me if I jump around – I want to be able to share as much good information with you as possible (and that information rarely moves from my brain to my fingertips in an orderly fashion).

Dear Frustrated: Part 2
Grilled shrimp and veggies with a whole grain roll.

 Read the book Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst .  Do it.  This book spoke to me in a huge way, and, most importantly, allowed me to look inward and upward when it came to food choices.

Learn and understand your specific struggle.  Is it sugar?  Potato chips?  Soda?  Processed food?  Aspartame?  Portion control?  My specific struggles have been sugar, soda, and portion control.

Dear Frustrated: Part 2

-  Don't fall for gimmicks (i.e.: fat-free, low-calorie, light, gluten-free, organic, or low-carb, natural).  Read and understand labels.  Organic can still be highly processed, gluten free can be full of junk.  “Natural” has not been given a standard definition by the FDA, so anyone can market their artificial food as natural and change their logo green and brown.   Cheese product is not real cheese.  Many times, if a product is advertised as "low in" or "free of" something, it has a high volume of sodium and/or sugar to make up for the tastiness that went missing with the calories/fat/carbs/etc.

- Pay attention to ingredients.  If the list of materials looks like a science experiment, DON'T put it in your body.  If you try to focus on eating more from the earth, and less processed foods, you will be able to ensure much higher quality in the calories you consume.

- Eat fresh (and I am not talking about Subway) and eat at home.  If the foods you choose have a long shelf-life, chances are they will cling to the inside of your body for just as long.  Think of processed, shelf-stable foods as "cellulite-makers".  It is safe to assume that everything at most restaurants is sodium-packed with double the amount of the bad stuff that you would expect.

- Don't worry about cutting out all carbohydrates.  Your body needs carbs to function, and if you are an athlete, you need extra.  I am not suggesting that you create all of your meals out of corn, white potatoes, and white bread.  But I am suggesting that it is okay to pair a sandwich (on whole grain bread) with sliced peppers and fresh fruit (instead of chips) for lunch.  If you would like a baked potato, fine; but maybe give a baked sweet potato a try instead – but pass on the corn for that meal.  You want to make spaghetti for dinner?  Go ahead, just use whole grain noodles (or even better, zucchini noodles) and skip the garlic bread.  It's all about wise options and moderation.
Dear Frustrated: Part 2
Grilled asparagus, whole grain noodles, and homemade veggie-packed spaghetti sauce.
- Fruit is good for you, darn it!  Fruit contains many vital nutrients and vitamins that your body craves, as well as providing you with hydration.  While I don’t recommend eating fruit right before bed because of the high level of natural sugar, enjoy it (in its’ recommended serving sizes) with breakfast and lunch.  Also, bananas are great for a post-workout recovery snack.

Dear Frustrated: Part 2

- Vegetables are also great for you.  Green leafy vegetables contain more of what your body is lacking than any other food.  If you hate vegetables and want to get healthy, you are just going to have to suck it up, my friend.  I might suggest (if you really truly can't stand them) finding one that you find at least bearable and cook it every different way possible.  My very favorite vegetables are asparagus, I eat them both several times a week and I bake, grill, steam and sauté them.

- Add protein into your diet.  Protein powder used to be my BFF; I would put it in coffee, whole grain cereal, milk, and smoothies.  As my doctor explained to me, it is pertinent to your body's metabolic health to have protein within an hour of waking.  This is true, but I have found that protein powder is best used as an emergency protein back-up (studies are finding that even the best of the protein powders are full of fake ingredients, artificial ingredients, and MSG).  Chicken and eggs are always going to be your best choice.

- Don’t go to bed hungry.  Everything the 90’s taught me about food made me afraid of going to bed with a full stomach.  This resulted in many years of restless nights and waking up grouchy with extremely low blood sugar.  Consuming protein before bed will keep you from crashing, will keep your metabolism up as you sleep, and will help your body to stay nourished.  As an added bonus, when I have protein before bed, I sleep more restfully and wake easier.

- Snack.  But know the difference between a snack and a treat.  Cookies, ice cream, pretzels, and cheese dip are not snacks – those are treats.  A snack, for me, is a serving of Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of homemade granola, a bowl of fresh fruit, fresh cut vegetables, natural cheese, a couple of hard boiled eggs, a glass of milk with protein powder, or almonds.  If you keep your body fueled, you will be less likely to crave naughty indulgences.

- Watch your portions.  I have always been a member of the "clean your plate club.”  But not just the member, the president.  Portion control has been a real struggle for me.  Sometimes I feel like years of binging and purging have left my body unable to tell me when it is full.  What helped me the most (aside from reading labels and measuring out each serving), was eating off of a small salad plate instead of a large dinner plate.  Even though I make the conscious choice to grab a smaller plate for myself, I feel like it tricks my brain by making it seeing a full plate.  During the first few weeks of this, I didn't allow myself seconds, and I found that I was crazy hungry because my body was so used to over-indulging.  But now that I am used to smaller portions, I am fully satiated at each meal.  I had to re-learn the difference between full and too full.
Dear Frustrated: Part 2
The bowl on the right is how much cereal I used to eat in the mornings.
The bowl on the left is my proper measured portion.
I now eat breakfast out of a small Pyrex bowl.

Dear Frustrated: Part 2
Don't expect others to give you proper portions.  These are BOTH mediums.

- Add veggies first when filling your plate, and eat them first!  This helps you to remember to eat more greens (and oranges and reds, etc.) instead of only adding them to your plate as an afterthought.  Most generally, half of my plate is vegetables.

- Fat is good for you, and will not make you gain weight.  Your brain needs fat to function, fat is necessary for healthy skin, your body is incapable of producing the essential linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid (EFAs) without fat in your diet, and fat plays a role in promoting proper eyesight.

- Stay hydrated.  Your body needs fluids, just as much as it needs food, to properly function.  If you are appropriately hydrated, you will have more energy, feel hungry less often, your skin will appear brighter, your muscles will work better, and you will sleep better.  Though science isn’t exactly clear on how much water is enough, try to drink at least 64 oz. of water each day (and even more on the days you hit the gym).  Some studies suggest drinking as much as half of your body weight in ounces (i.e. if you weigh 200 lbs., you should drink 100 oz. of water daily).

- Have a cheat day.  I don't recommend cutting anything completely out of your diet, due to the risk of caving to your cravings and then binging – and  we all know that one bad meal can easily turn into one bad day into one by week into one bad month into one bad year.  But, if you are going to cheat, plan your cheat and measure your cheat.  Don’t sit with an open bag of sin-labeled-potato-chips in front of you if you know you are unable to stop at the recommended serving size.  Get your portion, and put it away until your next cheat day.

- Know your limits.  This is where the cheat day gets tricky.  I, personally, have what is called an addictive personality (thanks therapy).  I have a really hard time limiting the intake of something.  If I have one soda, I have to have three; if I have a bite of chocolate, I have to eat a pound; if I smoke one cigarette, I want to have an entire pack (thus, the reason I quit smoking over 6 years ago and haven't touched a cigarette since).... you get the picture.  I know and understand that my food weaknesses lie in sweets, artificial sweeteners, and soda.  When I first embarked on my journey, I gave up sweets completely because I personally had to.  I felt like I was going through drug withdrawal (which made me really consider the toxic and addictive qualities of sugar).  If you feel like you absolutely cannot say no to Teddy Grahams, Goldfish and fruit snacks; don’t buy them.  Trust me, your kids will survive, and you will all be healthier for it.  I stayed away from sweets for over nine months, and have only just recently been able to take a single bite of something sweet and then walk away (trust me, the second, third, and fourth bites taste just the same as the first... there really is no reason to have more than a little).

- Watch your alcohol intake.  I get it, your kid smeared shit on the bathroom wall and your heater stopped working and you burned dinner and your workday sucked; and all you want is to open a bottle of wine.  But part of my healthy living journey included cutting out alcohol.  I prefer sugary sweet drinks, such as margaritas and moscato.  Alcoholic beverages contain a ton of empty calories and extra sugar that you don’t need.

- Reconsider your coffee order.  I know that a super strong French vanilla latte makes the morning stress melt away.  But consider the amount of extra sugar (or artificial sweeteners in the icky sugar-free versions).  Try a better option, like raw honey, or raw stevia instead.

- Pray.  I have, on many occasions, prayed through a food craving.  At a dinner party once, the host literally waved a delicious-looking fruit-topped cake under my nose, knowing that I was on a mission to get healthy.  I excused myself, went to the bathroom, and prayed until I felt like I could re-join the party without indulging.

- Finally, and most importantly, keep a food journal.  Write down absolutely every single thing you eat and drink.  Don't count your calories, track your points, count your carbs, or calculate your fat grams (because, let's be honest, how long would you be able to keep up that tedious task anyway?).  Just write down everything you put in your mouth.  An example of what I would write for a meal would be: 1 glass of 2% milk, 1/2 grilled chicken breast, 1 whole grain roll with organic sweet cream butter, baked asparagus with Spike seasoning, small dinner salad with 2 TBSP Italian dressing.  The purpose isn't to count or track, the purpose is to create accountability and honesty.  Think of your food journal as the cop you always see on your way to work.  You want to speed, because you are running late, again, but you know better.  Same with your food journal.  I may want to eat an entire package of Double-Stuffed Oreos, but I'll be damned if I have to write that in my food journal.  Be honest with yourself when you write your entries.  Lying only cheats you.

Dear Frustrated: Part 2

I hope that these tips have given you helpful information.  I would love to hear any questions you might have, as well as be kept updated on your progress.  Stay tuned for the last installment of this series, where we will discuss my favorite thing of all, exercise!

Make healthy choices.  Love yourself.  And thank you for keeping me In Good Company.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. Just what I am needing at this point in my life. I had lost 60 pounds by eating healthy and exercising, and have somehow now let my weight creep back up 50 POUNDS. I am discouraged and feeling defeated. So thanks again for the great post!!!


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