Posts tagged food
Posts tagged food
There are days when I am an eat-o-saurus. Today is one of those days. Thank you back squats.
The faded sharpie-written number 2003 peeks out from my sweater sleeve along my forearm and an outline from the dark black stripe of K-tape is barely noticeable through the bright orange on my back. My turfed arena playground isn’t understood by most of my colleagues – so I’d have a hard time explaining my weekend of competitive combat… a Cold War team-reunited, battling against our own gym frienemies.
The 2 days involved everything from yolk carries and sled pulls, to Husafell stone holds and long lasting inversions. Our cars made a mini fortress surrounding an indoor battle ground… we looked like a sort of super strong homeless contingent; rolling out on folded refrigerator boxes and catching cat naps under stolen spots of shade. We woke up way to early. We laughed. We strategized. We nearly won one. This time we may have known more of what to expect, but the butterflies were just the same. Here is a short list of some newly discovered lessons learned:
Maybe it was the return of the neon wrist band… or what we’d like to call the “dreamcatcher…” but consistent finishes landed us in second place on the podium in the scaled division. We didn’t cheat range of motion. We didn’t yell at judges. We inducted a competition newbie. And, our tradition of celebration post-comp pizza continued.
The weekend moved to fast. It feels slow in the moment – 30 seconds of thrusters feel like eternity, but the 6 WODs disappeared into thin air and you want to go back and do it again - but perhaps that’s just my post-comp energy and glow working. In a blink, it’s back to business black. As I made my way to CrossFit this week, I worked out the kinks, pulled off the K-tape… The weekend wasn’t just about a win, it was a kick-start to my motivation, another reason to keep pushing forward. Inspiration in observing others – watching friends struggle - digging within myself. The quest continues. Pull-ups… watch out, I’m coming for you.
I’m coming up on two years of crossfit… between all the time and money invested, I think that on the whole, my moments of mayhem in the gym, on the race course and twisting in a room without mirrors has made me a better athlete and a better person. I’ve sort of grown into myself. If I were to look in the mirror, I’d see that behind the crazy hair and melty mascara, there is a more self-aware reflection… the mirrored image likely wouldn’t do the transformation justice. In all honesty, I’d never really dreamed of achieving even some of my successes or thought that in the process of finding strength, I’d also figure out food. I never anticipated that soul searching with the stars would teach me to quell fear or that I’d find inspiration in the folks that surround me daily at a gym. Over the last few years, I slowly figured myself out, trusted my gut and relied on my own intuition… life, in turn, pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Along the road, I’ve found that life is often fueled by change. Scary but true. As I look ahead toward new adventures, I’m excited at the world of possibilities… the promise of lots of laughs… the excitement of new experiences. But change isn’t always comfortable in the moment that it happens. It’s hard – perhaps that’s what makes it good. I believe that the quotes in the frames that are now boxed up on my living room floor talk about how things always happen for a reason and to just start somewhere. As life shifts, I’m closing the current chapter, taking a leap, and jumping into something new… starting somewhere.
Health and fitness is one of the most important things in my life. Yet, in the midst of a million exciting new changes, I find myself somehow triaging life duties… exercise being the first and biggest causality. Tending to the most needed items first – I’ve been picking sleep over strength. I’m proud of myself for managing to keep my diet in check, but not proud of the numbers on the board or my recent habit of self-judgment and comparison. It’s hard to see everyone PR and be happy for them while you struggle with the basics… while you yearn for the competition, camaraderie and available gym time that you watch them expend. As they get better, I feel more and more stalled. Stuck in a sort of in-between… unable to make workouts my world… but wanting to continue to excel. Instead, I’m caught balancing work and packing and soon school and life in general. I’m plagued by lack of sleep and super stress – each in itself is enough to destroy progress. A fact that I know well. It’s only been a week of irregularity, but I feel awkward and heavy… the loop around the building seems foreign and fierce. I’ve hit a plateau. I’m back at the beginning. The things that felt flawless a week ago now just feel broken and belabored.
In my non-gym life, I’m the luckiest girl in the world, but when it comes to my athleticism, I feel like everything is somehow cruelly unfair… and it bleeds over into the day-to-day. My confidence is faded. My realm feels rocked. I’ve come to the stark realization that I am not a super-hero; I am not genetically modified. The hour of the day that once set me free now feels suffocating; it leaves me breathless. But I know, it’s a double edged sword, a necessary evil.
So, how do I start over? Push past? Rekindle my romance with workouts? How do I remind myself that it really isn’t about how much I can deadlift or if I can touch my toes to the bar… Even if everyone else is focused on the former, how do I zero in on having it be about building a better me, one day at a time. Maybe even one step at a time.
Today, I started just somewhere. Coaxing myself into the box. Forcing myself to approach the bar. Gutting through the wod with tears in my eyes. End goal: finish. That alone is sometimes harder than ever imagined. I’m trying to erase all expectations. Wage war on my brain; quiet the voice inside my head. Stop thinking. Stop judging. I need make peace with falling and failure and unfairness. I need to remind myself of the small successes… that in the last two years I’ve gotten faster. I can do a pull-up. I can climb a rope. I bend deeper and twist further. I trust myself.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I just have to convince myself to keep walking forward.
I consider myself an average Jane, PR girl by day, workout warrior by night. I play rec hockey, I throw weight around in a gym, I’ve never finished a race at a record breaking pace or done something unthinkable like an iron man… Sure, I’ve run with bricks and participated in 24-hour fun runs, but let’s be honest, I am not going to be an Olympian or a professional athlete any time soon. I do this for kicks. I find power in the challenge… it gives me a sort of high.
Through CrossFit and food and yoga and racing… I’ve built from within. It isn’t always about looks or even health; I’d say that mirrored images of me in a sports bra and shorts don’t do my personal transformation justice. They don’t show how powerful I feel. Change can be scary… I know that first hand, but the rewards of testing unknown waters can be exhilarating– proving to be completely worth the bumpy ride it takes to get there. I’ve learned to sometimes throw caution to the wind and trust my gut, try new things, go against the grain. Measuring success not by how I look, but how I feel… benchmark accomplishments achieved over time.
Anyone can do a nutrition program like this, anyone. Much like how anyone can sign-up for a race or step into a yoga studio. You just have to be ready to do something different. Test your personal limits and venture out of your comfort zone. Open your mind; erase any prior conceptions about fat or calories or food in general. Flip your thinking… You have to be willing to put aside what you think you know about food and what traditional media and packaging and ‘diets’ parle as fact.
Life is a human experiment. I view it as continual home improvement – be it physical or mental. We are each striving to be better people day in and day out. The only way to achieve new levels is by trying new things. Sure it’s hard… but, quoting A League of Their Own: the hard is what makes it great. If you can get through the hard, then you’re bound to learn something new. You will be forced to grow.
Read this book. Absorb, learn new things… and then go big or go home. Don’t do it half way. You’ll miss the point. If you hate it (or find it doesn’t work) after 8 weeks, go back to the life you lived before… or find the middle ground that works for you – but not before you give this a fighting chance… push yourself through the tough parts. Don’t cheat yourself out of the opportunity to try something different by assuming the outcome before you even get started. It’s like talking yourself out of a race or any adventure before even walking to the starting line or jumping on the plane.
We all think that we have exceptions, but when you start adding them up, you’ll have a list a mile long… over the past 60 days I’ve heard them all… “I could do that, buuuuttttt I can’t live without mystery item X.” Here comes the tough love. Yes, yes you can. You can live without pizza or cheese or ice cream… you can live without beer or chocolate… or whatever it is that tops that list. Those things aren’t foods that are necessary for survival… If I was suggesting someone live without water… well, then maybe that’d be different. Sometimes in life, I find that we make things too easy. We immediately satisfy our every need. The reason why I’ve slept in a van overnight and carried bricks through the Potomac river was to do something tough… put myself through a mini-mental and physical battle to see if I could survive. This is nothing different: a test of will and accountability.
Anyone can do anything for 60 days. In the grand scheme of things, two months isn’t long. It isn’t a lifetime commitment. You aren’t signing in blood on a dotted line.
Track everything. How you feel, what you eat, when you sleep. Daily. It’s an important benchmark you can come back to and adjust time and time again.
Real food can’t hurt you – yup, the things that don’t come in boxes, or shakes, or bar format… the things without food labels – so there is no harm in trying this. You will learn how to cook. You will find time. Promise.
You may not see the benefits until week 8, but they will eventually happen. You may go through withdrawal and you may get frustrated, but if you follow through you may find that in the end, you feel more energized, stronger, less irritable… in control, powerful. You’ll be a survivor of sorts. You may conquer your addiction to hidden sugar. You may recover faster. You may start reading labels. You may jump on a soap box and start questioning what is wrong with our food system.
This isn’t a fad diet or a juice fast. It isn’t a quick fix. It isn’t easy. But getting what you want never happens overnight. There isn’t a magic pill. If there was, we’d all already have taken it. Rewards come to those who put in effort – success is the sum of small actions repeated day in and day out over time.
60 days later… You may be surprised at what you find out about yourself.
It’s been 60 days… what happens now? The questions have already begun. I’m not quite sure how to write this post or where to start…
Two months have flown by… I went into this with no expectations. A simple self-experiment in personal discipline. I view food as something loaded with emotions and memories. I wasn’t afraid of giving things up or telling people no, but I was afraid of losing balance and the thrill of living life. I came out with an expanded appreciation for clean eating… a tad fired up about the food industry… a flipped workout/life schedule… more energy, focus, and a better understanding of myself. It wasn’t as bumpy as I expected…
Honestly, I don’t plan to fall face first into pizza or ice cream on Saturday. I didn’t eat them routinely before and at this point just don’t find them as appealing anymore. I know how stepping out of bounds will make me feel, which makes a lot of foods way less attractive. Yes, I will likely throw back a few of those ‘temptation’ M&Ms or maybe a good glass of red wine as my ‘I did it’ celebration, but, while I may joke about the amazing flavor of Klondike bars while in tears on a Saturday morning, I am well aware that my tastes have changed. It wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying as it would have been to Sarah 1.0 years ago. I plan to only occasionally indulge in things I love… choosing wisely, savoring them, and rightfully suffering the consequences of my decision.
I use the word balance often, I’m realizing perhaps too much. Balance in life, food… I’ve embraced it due to my yoga practice: looking inward… physically and mentally finding a sustainable happy place. But over the past few months I’ve come to appreciate a more back to basics strict approach, tough love if you will. I can see how 80/20 quickly degrades into 70/30 and 60/40 and how at that point it doesn’t matter at all… all of the little choices add up. Which ones are worth it? An M&M here, a beer there, just one piece of pizza… I can now understand that living in the middle will never get extreme results. You can never negate weekend drinking through non-drinking weeknights and workouts. What you put in always matters. There is no short cut. It’s true that each of us has to find a maintainable place… something that works for us individually and aligns with long-term goals. So over the past few months, I’ve become a little less about balance and a little more about choices… personally accountability for my food decisions, morning routine, sleep, workouts, work.
I will never eat processed foods, but I’m sure that I will occasionally drink, fall into a sexy square of dark chocolate and re-integrate fruit and nuts, but I now have a better understanding of why I want to fall face first into something and what eating 100 percent clean real food feels like. I’ve hit an optimal operating level… a life buzz if you will… and I plan to use it as a benchmark for resetting myself if needed. It’s something I can come back to time and time again.
I’m waiting to see how I handle the ‘binge’ from (and with) some of my nutrition program companions. I feel like I might be resentful or upset…or pressured to indulge… perhaps feeling like we did all of this for nothing, wondering what we have learned, wondering what it’s worth if we all turn around and eat like crap… why did we do it to begin with? I have to remember that this program is about self-discovery and growth and personal choices. It doesn’t matter what they choose, but instead, what I do… We each have our own journey. We each learned something different about ourselves. How did I change? What is my course of action?
I honestly didn’t see many results until around weeks 8 and now 9. Proving that I did eat pretty well before… but I’m finally starting to see some abs (okay minimal abs but promise they are there), I’m doing pull-ups, I’m sleeping, I’m recovering faster, I’m seeing power and core strength in full force at yoga… By choice, I’ve completely flipped my workout routine: morning WODs, full work days, cooking dinner and sometimes adding yoga or running at night. My stress level is at an all-time low. I’m not finding myself running home through a trail of tears. I’ve met new Crossfit companions and I’m back to having fun with workouts… I’ve broken through the plateau that has plagued me for months. Not all of these changes directly correlate to the nutrition program itself, but they are all side effects of longer lasting energy and educated life decisions. It’s hard to explain, but overall, I feel more in control, motivated and empowered.
Despite my occasional (and recently increasing) cravings, I plan to stay the course, continue eating according to the meal template. For me, I think one of the biggest takeaways was my revamping of snacks. As I mentioned, I will re-introduce some fruits and nuts because if the worst thing I do is eat a peach, so be it, but plan to eat them sparingly and not alone as a meal. I have an updated understanding of sugar and how much we are addicted to it without even realizing… it’s pre-packaged into almost everything we eat. I’m not a big believer in supplements and shakes, because they almost go against everything I’ve build over the past few months, but the time is right to add in a recovery shake post-workout, just to see what happens. I plan to keep tracking and keep everyone posted about the continued self-experiment.
So on Sunday the pictures of food end. Week 9 will come to a close. I will go back to life beyond the spreadsheet. I think I can check off all the things I promised when we began:
I’m jumping in head first… without a net… it doesn’t stop here, it’s about life beyond these past two months. Week-by-week I’ve built a foundation… now it’s time to mold what I’ve built into a sustainable lifestyle.
3/2/13: dinner - mahi mahi with spaghetti squash, coconut red curry and brussel sprouts @ Grillfish. Great restaurant find! Paleo date night made easy!
2/28/13: lunch - leftover pork loin, roasted carrots and broccolini. So tasty and salty!
1/27/13: dinner - roasted pork loin. Herb-encrusted roasted pork loin. I’m fancy! Plus broccolini and roasted carrots.
Over the past 7 weeks, I’d say we all (my collective nutrition challenge folks and I) were in a sort of rehab. We’ve carefully logged cravings and foods and sleep and workouts.
After looking back through my charts, I’d say my food cravings were pretty sporadic, chocolate here, a beer there, nothing extremely regular. I credit this to my pre-challenge eating. I was riding my bike quite well before this adventure began – doing this challenge officially, helped me prove that to myself. I had found the prescription that worked for me, a sort of routine or balance – not always giving into cravings, following the off-road guidelines closely, finding a place between operating optimally and living life. As part of this process, I’ve come to appreciate this back to basics clean and strict approach. It resets the system and while it might not be entirely sustainable forever, it has given birth to some new routines and I’ve come out physically stronger and more energized. Although, to be honest, I think a lot of my changes have been due to sleep and my new morning schedule.
As an aside, I feel that I need to address this word “habit” that seems to have been thrown around a lot in both our required educational reading and amongst us challenging. Working in a world of addiction and behavior change daily, I’d argue that some of our learned food behavior is not just a habit but more of an actual addiction – a la tobacco. For most of us, I’d say this is especially true for sugar. Habits don’t evoke headaches or mood swings. Those are withdrawal symptoms – as minimal as they might be. So, in the calculated tracking of our eating behaviors, we each found triggers, or cues that make us want to eat, be it sugar or breads or Twinkies.
Over the course of this self-experiment, we’ve learned to put space in-between ourselves and the “reward” in order to slowly break the connection between the activity and the food. This follows along the exact guidance that smokers are often giving when quitting. Foods aren’t just habits, they are often addictions, and scary as it may be, lots of foods are engineered to be addictive. It takes most smokers 8-11 quit attempts before they actually quit – so I anticipate that many of us with all fall back off the wagon once this is done… a drink here, a piece of sugar there. But, we’ve been given the tools and I plan to continually step back, re-evaluate, and then spend a few weeks resetting the system as needed.
I’d say that my willpower is pretty strong. I know how stepping out of bounds makes me feel, which makes a lot of foods way less tempting. I don’t ever really want to (or eat) the cake at work, I don’t feel pressured to snack on chips just because they are there, and while I may joke about the amazing flavor of chick-fil-a or Klondike bars, I’d say that 9 times out of 10, I probably wouldn’t eat them anyways. I’ve learned to occasionally indulge in the things I love, but also that tastes change – most foods (most) are not as tasty as you image or remember and eating them leaves you bummed out, still hungry, and feeling icky. Plus, once you realize the crapola that is actually put in food… okay, that’s a whole other post.
Also, I’ve toyed with this question before – what level of functional fitness makes me content? Facts: I’m 31. I’m not going to be an elite athlete. I eat very healthy. I know how a glass of deep red or a frothy mug blows up my tummy, but I also know that I only get the opportunity to live life once, so sometimes it’s worth it. So… if I ever land in Rome, I’m okay with the fact that I’m probably going to nosh on cheeses and breads, regardless of consequence. While I may not be able to comment on daily cravings, I will share a few personal enlightenments:
A lot of people ask me… so what exactly do you eat? The short answer: meat, seafood, eggs, lots of veggies, and the right fats. Yes, fat. I promise to come back and discuss that in another post, so sit tight.
For now, I want to address the often immediate follow-up question which usually asks… is eating that much meat good for you? My first answer is that I don’t only eat meat – I eat meat, paired with a plate full of veggies. I’d prefer to say that I eat real food, the stuff that lurks around the edges of the grocery store. My second is that, there are a lot of misperceptions surrounding proteins like meat, seafood and eggs. All three are dense protein sources that are needed for growth and repair of skin, hair, tendons, ligaments and muscles – they aid in recovery from general activity and exercise and are used to produce hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters and antibodies. Proteins are also the most filling/satisfying (or satiating) of all the macronutrients. An easier way of saying this is that when you eat and digest complete proteins (like meat, seafood, and eggs), the tummy stops feeling hungry because the body is well-nourished, thus, you stop eating. The three form a sort of trifecta that is rich in nutrients and leave you satisfied and well-nourished.
On a personal note, I’ve always been a steak kid. Sitting on the deck with friends and family grilling adventures are some of my favorite memories. I crave summer for that reason alone. While I’ve always eaten meat, over the course of this challenge, I’ve recognized two specific things related to my own protein consumption:
1. When I’m really hungry… I mean like when my gas tank is on “E” and I haven’t eaten in a while, (think post long crossfit wod or yoga session or long day at the office), what I really crave is meat. Not pasta or junk food or sports drinks. Fueling the body with complete proteins makes me feel full and energized longer – like a slow burning fire. Yes, food is fuel!
2. I don’t snack very often, (the side effect of eating a templated plate of food) but when I do, I now build my snacks in this order: protein, protein + veggie, protein + veggie + fat. Essential, you can never go protein-less. If you don’t have the protein, you aren’t allowed to have the rest of the snack. This small adjustment has made a world of difference for my eating routine. I’m no longer mindlessly tossing back a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts and then still feeling hungry an hour later. Instead, the calculated building of the snack helps make me think about what I’m eating, and most times, I end up eating only the protein and then feeling full. Try it – it’s pretty cool.
Back to the question of meat. Sadly, the flip side of the issue is that some meat can be bad for you. Not because it’s meat, but because of how the meat is processed. I’ve touched on this before, and read countless articles about the issues with the food industry – as a society we’ve built a messy web of commercialized food and the mass media has perpetuated a whole host of food untruths – making it very confusing as to what is healthy and what isn’t. The world in which we live values profit and convenience over public health and in that model, meat and other proteins are not all created equal. The way animals were raised and the food they were fed plays a big part in their quality and health impact on the body – as the folks from Whole9 would offer: You are what you eat eats.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of meat, fish and eggs in the U.S. don’t come from health-conscious small-scale farms, instead a full 99 percent of our farm animals are raised and slaughtered in an assembly-line fashion. This is where things get very unhealthy. The conditions under which the factory farmed animals are kept and the food that they are fed makes the meat of these animals less micronutrient-rich and contaminated with… yup… pesticides, hormones… all of the things that we work so hard to keep out of the body by avoiding processed foods.
It’s understood that it isn’t always possible to get farm fresh meats, because well, they just aren’t always available. Not everyone can order a cow or buy meat from a local farmers market – even though most of us wish we could. So for now, we are obligated to buy the meat that is available at the local grocery store. That meat, more often than not, is factory-farmed. In order to mitigate the negative health effects, it’s best to buy leaner cuts and remove the fat (not because its fat, but because the fat is where the pesticides and hormones are often stored by the animal). Also, walk right past the deli counter. Processed meats like bacon (unless it is EPIC bacon), sausage and deli meat may be convenient, but they often contain a host of toxic byproducts.
Buyer beware - there are a lot of grossly overused terms in food marketing, one being “natural” – while the word may imply that the food is minimally processed, there is no legal standard. Words like “organic” and “healthy” or even “sugar-free” are often spin. Fillers, sugar substitutes, soy and a host of other ingredients are sneakily inserted into foods where they don’t belong. The key is to read the labels, ask questions, and demand that the food you are getting is exactly what you expect it to be. Vote with your dollar. Support local farmers and butchers. The hope is that if we continue to support local, humane, ethical and responsible farming, we might be able to… get back to the start. Where we didn’t have to worry about if meat is really meat or if eggs come from real chickens. When protein is healthy filled with nutrients because it wasn’t filled with all the fake stuff. After a few years of eating quality meat, you’ll be able to tell the difference… trust me.
So… sorry vegetarians… it’s almost summer, so invite me over and throw some steaks on the grill… meat isn’t as bad as you might think.