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Month: January 2017

What matters is you

What matters is you

 

Which breakfast is right for you? Protein laden or carbohydrate stock up?

 

This morning, while reading the news, I came across a report advocating starting your day with carbohydrates.  It stated that carbohydrates at the beginning of your day would help keep you fuller longer, and more importantly, would help sustain stable blood sugar levels throughout the day.  I read through it and briefly considered how I felt eating carbohydrates at the beginning of my day.  I finished that article, and returned to the news feed.  Ironically, a few articles down the list, I caught one entitled with something touting the benefits of a protein rich start to your day.  And then I laughed.

It’s very easy to be swayed by what we see and read every day, especially what we see our neighbors, coworkers, family, and friends doing.  If something works for them, then it must work for us too, right?  Wrong.

You are not them, they are not you.  You are an individual.  You are unique.

Personally, I do awful on a carb heavy breakfast.  My mood swings back and forth, I get hypoglycemic episodes of crankiness and sleepiness.  It’s not pleasant.  My kids don’t thank me either!  My body likes running on protein, and sometimes fat.  I usually save my carbohydrate load for lunch or dinner.  I just feel better that way, and my day seems to run a little smoother.   If I just wait and eat it a little later, I am good to go.  Do I skip carbs altogether?  Definitely not.  I just choose the timing of my foods.

How about you?  Have you tried testing yourself to see how you operate best?

When my children were smaller, I realized quickly that they also do best with higher protein breakfasts.  Oatmeal, as satisfying as it may be initially, left them craving more food (and particularly sweets) within a short period of time.  I also noticed on those mornings they were more prone to arguing and fighting.  So several years ago we started the protein for breakfast rule.  And eventually it became the protein at every meal rule.  (They roll their eyes at me now when I say it, but they know the routine by now!)

This isn’t to say that you, too, will do best on a higher protein breakfast, let alone a higher protein diet.  The key here is getting to know yourself, your body.  If you listen, your body will tell you what you need to know.  It’s the learning how to listen that is the hardest part, but that comes in time.  Cutting out unnecessary sugars, additives, and preservatives has a lot to do with this.  Once you get those harmful chemical ingredients out of your system, your body breathes easier and begins to speak to you.  It responds to real food- sometimes well, sometimes not so well.  For me, it comes in the form of mood, body image, and energy.  I can tell now when something is not right.  But it took me time to learn the signals.  (And sometimes, I still struggle to see what exactly is going on!)

Consider a two week challenge.  Give yourself one week with a carbohydrate focused breakfast.  Try nourishing carbs, like gluten free oats, sweet potatoes, squash, fruits, or even quinoa.  (Remember, be respectful of what you already know your body can tolerate and what it cannot.)  Record your foods and your mood, energy, sleep quality, and bowel function in your food journal.  Following that time, give yourself one week of protein centered breakfasts.     Eggs, fish, steak, beef, … the choice is yours.  Again, record your findings in your food journal each day.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I feel after eating?
  • Am I ready for lunch at the usual time?  Early?  Late?
  • How do I feel at dinner time?
  • Do I want desserts after my meals?
  • Do I need a snack in the morning or afternoon?
  • What foods do I crave or want while eating this way?
  • Am I sleeping well at night?  Do I get tired earlier or wake up in the night?
  • In the morning, do I wake feeling refreshed or as if I need more sleep?
  • How do I feel during exercise?  Am I feeling low energy and short of breath or do I feel ready for round two?
  • How is my focus and concentration?
  • Do I have energy at work?
  • How does my body feel?
  • Do my muscles feel strong and supple or weak and flabby?
  • How is my digestion?  Increased gas?  Decreased?
  • Do I have regular bowel movements?

Be honest with your answers.  The only way to really get to know your body is with complete honesty.  Some of my favorite foods turned out to be not on my “good for me” list.  Initially, I felt defeated and frustrated.  I quickly found that I felt better without these foods in my diet, and more so, they were replaced with other foods I enjoyed just as well!  And knowing I am doing something that benefits my body, not causing it harm, is rewarding too.

Much of the struggle here is mindset.  Refocus your thoughts on the positive, the why’s, the gains, and you will soon lose your hangups about the perceived losses.  I think it is important to remember your individuality.  What’s more, it’s important to celebrate it.  You aren’t like any other, and you shouldn’t treat yourself as if you are.  You are special, and within yourself, you hold the key to what you need.  What is best for you may look like what is best for someone else, or it may not.  It really doesn’t matter.  What matters is you.  What you need, what you want, and getting you there.  What matters is you.

 

Free yourself

Free yourself

Making dietary changes can be challenging.  We have been influenced to see dietary changes as restrictions, limitations.  So one of the questions I get asked frequently is how do I stay committed to the way I eat.  I think about this a lot, because there are many factors here.  But of them all, the main reason is because I don’t see the way I eat as being limited.

img_6102In the 80s we all were raised to believe that fat was bad and we needed to eat as little as possible.  I owe a lot of my passion in nutrition to my mother (thanks, mom!).  She is an amazing cook, very creative and always put great time and effort in to what we ate.  She showed me that cooking is one expression of love.  She became a vegetarian around my early teens, and it influenced my own perception of cooking greatly.  So while we ate mostly vegetarian, we still were eating along the recommended guidelines of low fat.  This played out as low fat, low calorie, high carbohydrate, and high sugar.  I remember a usual day’s meals in high school would include cereal for breakfast; a bagel, some pretzels and an apple for lunch; and then a homemade meal for dinner (think pasta, rice dishes and starchy casseroles).  And candy.  Or cookies.  Sweets were a staple for me, along with a hardy amount of diet coke.

Flash forward to my early adulthood, while I was raising my own daughters.  A typical day: bagel and coffee from Panera, sometimes with an egg;  big salad and bread for lunch, and something homemade for dinner, usually chicken or tofu.  Diet coke started in the morning and would continue throughout the day.  Not much change, except my sweet tooth had taken a greater hold on me and once I had eaten a solid breakfast and lunch, candy consumption was a free for all.  Eating foods with fat or high calories always made me feel guilty, whether they were natural fats or junk fats.  I made up for all of the junky snacks by eating lean meats and low fat options.  I never put butter on my bread and even tried salsa as a fat free salad dressing, thinking these contributions would surely add up (or not, so to speak)!

I liked the way I ate at the time, but it was laden with junk.  So many artificial sweeteners and preservatives, empty calories, no nutrition.  And I felt awful.  I would constantly be gaining and losing weight, my energy stunk, and I had almost daily headaches and migraines.  I was moody and emotionally all over the place.  I blamed much of this on being a young mother who was just overtired.  But the truth is, I was like this long before children.

So when I decided to make a change to eliminate grains, I had no idea the significance of what I had just done.  Trust me, I never considered it to be a lifelong move.  I thought I would just stop eating grains for a couple of weeks and see what happened.  And oh my, did something happen.  Almost immediately my headaches stopped, I lost the pudgy weight that annoyed me for so long, and my sleep improved.  But my mood!  I was happier, more stable, and a better, more enjoyable person to be around.   These things alone were enough to keep me going.  This “temporary” change was a huge turning point in my life.

Aside from the emotional changes I experienced, my diet was incredibly satisfying.  I had liked the way I ate before, but now I loved the way I was eating!  My need for sweets diminished rapidly.  I allowed myself to eat real cheese, drink real milk and cream in my coffee, whole eggs, and butter… and bacon!  I enjoyed the foods I was eating.  They weren’t just fillers anymore, they were nutrition that would fuel me for the rest of my day.  And the flavor!  Trust me, if you have gone from the low fat diet to one of real foods and flavors, you will understand exactly what I am talking about.  I felt like I had been eating styrofoam and paper my whole life, and now…?  Now I was eating like a queen!  So much rich flavor and incredible texture, and it was good for me!  I released myself from feeling guilty over eating foods that were supposed to be bad for me.  Being healthy is no longer a chore, it’s a luxury and one way I respect my body and myself.

By now you are probably wondering what a typical day’s meal looks like for me.  I usually start my day with 2-3 eggs.  If I have a particularly active day ahead, I’ll add some leftover protein and vegetables with it.  This morning it was 3 eggs and a banana.  And leftover pork roast.  I have my decaf coffee, too.  At home I don’t snack, but at work I usually take pumpkin or sunflower seeds, or a grass fed beef jerky.  Lunch is often leftover meat or fish with steamed vegetables.  Homemade mayonnaise and salsa is my current addiction, so it goes on everything.  And when I say vegetables, I mean a lot of vegetables!  Zucchini is a current favorite, but asparagus and tomato slices, or cucumbers and avocados.  I’ll eat some nuts or seeds or sometimes potato chips as an indulgence.  I do usually eat an afternoon snack, and it’s along the lines of a paleo bar or veggies and fats.  Dinner is our big meal.  Last night I enjoyed a grilled T-bone steak, roasted sweet potatoes and asparagus, with homemade black beans.  Frozen blueberries were my dessert!  My fats come from the meats as well as sauces and dressings I make.  I use avocado oil, olive oil, and home-rendered lard liberally.  Throughout the day, I always have my mineral water, along with herbal tea.

So, you see, making this switch was not about restricting myself.  Quite the opposite.  This change was a release from these limits.  I set myself free.  Free from feeling terrible, from constantly eating, from not being happy with myself.  I suddenly understood what it meant to take care of myself and moreover, what it meant to be healthy.  This physical self care rolls over into my emotional satisfaction.  And as I continue along my journey, I learn so much about what each of these foods offers me nutritionally.  Knowing what benefits I get from eating these already delicious foods only makes me feel more enthusiasm for eating them!  I will take my steak and bacon and butter over bread and pizza any day.  I have never felt such satisfaction from food in my life before now.  And as such, any temptation I may have to sway from this way of eating is completely fleeting and well, not tempting.

So the next time you are questioning yourself about making dietary changes, have an open mind.  Ask yourself if these are truly limitations and restrictions, or if it just might be something that sets you free.

My thoughts on Whole 30

My thoughts on Whole 30

Whole 30 is quite a popular program these days.  There is much to be said for it, and many people have seen good success while using it.  If you’re not familiar with the Whole 30, essentially you take 30 days and eat clean.  Really clean.  You will eliminate wheat, gluten, grains, dairy, sugar, soy and processed foods and additives.  It’s an excellent way of eating, really.  It’s very nourishing for your body and very gentle.  30 days allows your body time to eliminate toxins without having new ones being constantly added back in.  It’s actually a very ideal way to eat.

However, it is also very challenging for many people.  Every so often at work I am asked to lead a Whole 30 challenge.  After my first one, I hesitate to do it again.  People generally start full of enthusiasm and motivation, but it’s quickly thrown to the wayside and frustration sets in.  I thought I would talk about Whole 30 and the things I love and the things I struggle with regarding the program.

Let’s start with the positives.  It’s a great program for cleaning up your diet and your gut.  Its “no-nonsense-bare-bones-let’s-get-serious” attitude is a swift kick in the pants that a lot of us need.  There are no gimmicks, no food substitutes, no sales pitches.  This is real food, folks.  Honestly, it does not get more real than this.  To me, this is by far its strongest advantage.  The fact that this program is nothing but real food is refreshing, and it is something you can sustain long term.  The foods you eat on the Whole 30 are available to everyone, anywhere, at anytime.  It is not cost prohibitive, and there is still a great deal of flexibility in how and what you eat.

Going through the program encourages and allows you to assess food sensitivities, break unhealthy food addictions, form new habits, and normalize your taste preferences.  What do I mean by this?  Well, removing the common food allergen triggers gives your body a chance to calm down.  The foods removed through this challenge are the notorious inflammatory producers, so once your body passes a few days without them the inflammation begins to die down.  Remember our talks about inflammation?  If you need a reminder, check here: http://growingtheseed.com/inflammation-and-our-health/.  Many of the foods that we crave happen to be foods our body doesn’t handle well.  Ironic, isn’t it?  But if you find you are constantly thinking about a food (candy, cookies, salty junk food…), it’s a possibility that you may be sensitive to it.  Remove it from your daily diet, and your body slowly reclaims its natural dietary needs.  It’s not sidetracked by unnecessary junk foods that leave little room for the real thing.  And since these negative foods are not being eaten, this means you can discover new flavors and foods.  It’s amazing how wonderful food tastes when you have eliminated additives and excess amounts of sugar.

But, let’s remember that this is a “challenge.”  This program is not without its caveats.  The Whole 30 is an approach that yields great benefits and great results, but it is strict.  Some people do very well with strong restrictions.  But most of us need to ease in a little more gently.  Though I have eaten this way, for the most part, for a little over six years, I definitely did it in stages. Removing all of these foods is a shock to the system.  And this is a good deal of what the creators intended, but that is for physical benefit.  Mentally and emotionally the shock can be very unsettling.  Many people who have tried Whole 30 have succumbed to social pressures and the desire for emotional connection.  And that is valid.  Our need to identify and connect with our loved ones is a big deal.  Radically changing our diet can be very isolating.  Friends and family may be very supportive but not understand how to offer that support.  This wears on our mental wellbeing over time, and this is something that should be addressed throughout the program.  Aligning yourself with partners doing the challenge is one great way to bolster yourself, but perhaps ahead of the challenge strategize how you will want to handle future situations.  Have a plan at the ready.  Don’t allow yourself to be caught off guard.

Another complication I have witnessed with the Whole 30 is the fact that it is a 30 day challenge.  It’s finite, and it’s hard.  So what is our automatic response?  We look for the light at the end of the tunnel, which we equate with a return to normalcy.  But the intent of this program is to educate participants about their bodies, their dietary needs, and the changes they should make with regards to that.  This program is actually intended to be an introduction (or a refresher) to a cleaner way of eating and living.  But what I experienced in my coworkers and friends is more of a whiplash effect.  The first challenge we did at work, my teammates planned a party to celebrate the end.  This is a great idea!  Except for the part where the party centered around all of the foods eliminated by the challenge.  Even though many of them experienced weight loss, muscle gains, energy and stamina increases, and improved mental focus, they focused on getting to the finish line so they could go back to their former eating habits.  And the restrictive nature of the program led to a rebound binging effect.

So I no longer really encourage a Whole 30 program, unless it’s for an individual who is close to this eating style already.  I prefer a more natural progression, eliminating one or two foods at a time and sustaining that for a good while.  Once that has been mastered, you can choose another one or two foods to remove.  Focusing on one or two removals at a time is not only more manageable, it allows you to see the exact effect the removed food(s) was having on you.  This makes a more lasting impression and inspires you to keep this change in your diet for the long haul.  And of course, if you’re keeping a food journal, you would have watched the evolution of this progress and only felt more inspired to keep your food journey going.

Big success is indeed flashy and eye catching, but small wins are pretty darn satisfying and more sustaining.  Keep sight of your health goals and focus on the outcome, not the path.  So be all for the 30 day challenge, but make it a 30 day challenge you can succeed with.   And when that 30 days is up, set yourself up for the next one!  And the next, and the next, and the next.  True success is a compilation of little wins and losses all along the way.  Keep that in mind, and remember that anytime you walk away knowing a little more about yourself than before, you have already won.

Resolve

Resolve

It’s the start of a new year, and for many that means new year’s resolutions.  I’ll admit, I love new year’s resolutions.  There is something so fresh and hopeful about a new year, it inspires us to turn a new leaf.  But we all know how easily we become disenchanted with these new goals, and then before long we’ve given up.  It’s happened to me, it’s happened to us all, but it doesn’t need to be this way.

Just as with anything, it’s all about perspective.

Positivity and hope get us started, but fear, frustration and doubt undermine our intentions.  So what’s the perspective I am talking about?  I’m talking about resolve.  When we start something new, we should resolve to see it through.  But here’s the part I want to clarify.  Sometimes when we start new ventures, we don’t know what we’ve gotten into until we are in it.  And sometimes those things turn out to be absolutely the wrong thing for us.  And that’s okay.  It really is.  In fact, it’s better than ok.  You see, learning what doesn’t work is just as valuable as finding what does.  That’s because we are still learning, and there’s nothing wrong about that!

I make goals all of the time.  Sometimes my first impression is right on the money, but more often than not, it’s not!  I learned long ago that it was my goals that were still important to me, not my means of reaching them.  Sometimes my plan is working, but I start to feel distracted or restless with it, so I change it.  I’ve learned enough by now to know that when I start feeling restless, there’s an underlying issue as to why.  Most of the time it’s as simple as making a few little changes to my routine, giving it a fresh new look.  But sometimes it signifies a deeper problem.  Sometimes, it’s a sign that my goal needs to be adjusted.

Notice I said adjusted, not abandoned.  Have you ever started something and realized you bit off more than you could chew?  Yeah, me too.  So many times I have started a new project only to find that my goals were not all that realistic to begin with!  I set high expectations for myself, and often they are a little too lofty.  And that’s okay, too.  Remember, it’s about resolve and flexibility.  Those two things sound funny in a sentence together, but I keep my resolve by being flexible.

But what happens if we indeed find that our original plan might not be a good fit?  How does resolve fit in there?  Well, the resolve is for our original GOAL, not our original PLAN.  Our goal is what we should commit to, not how we reach it.  So, if something’s not working, change it.  If it’s a weight loss goal and your planned six days of intense cardio is really not working out well for you, switch it up.  Try a new exercise routine.  Try weights.  Try interval training.  Be flexible.  Rearrange your thinking and allow room for change.  Resolve to keep trying.

We’re on the right track when we choose new goals at the start of a new time, be it a new year, a new month, a new week, a new season.  It’s natural to adopt change at these significant turning points in our lives.  These desires to change are a response to the natural rhythms of life.  If you know me, then you know I wholeheartedly support going with the flow of things.  And I think it’s clear that for many people, this innate tendency is still intact.  It is easy for us to start this mission, but it’s the continued dedication where we lose sight of the big picture.

So this new year, I want to challenge you.  Where is your resolve?  Go back to your goals, your hopes for this new year.  If they are truly something important to you, then you can achieve them.  Resolve to see them through.  But be gentle with yourself.  Allow yourself some room for flexibility.  If you run in to some problems, it’s not a sign that your goal is unattainable.  It’s simply a sign that you might need a new route.  So, stop what you’re doing and give it some thought.  Is there something else you could try?  Some other approach that you think might work for you?  The key is to keep on going.  Don’t stop your goals if you fall off the proverbial wagon.  Get right back to it the very same day, just try another approach.  After all, it doesn’t often help to keep banging our heads against a brick wall, now does it?  Why don’t you look for the door in the brick wall, instead?  I hear it’s easier, and from my experience it has turned out to be true.