Healthification of junk food

 

Healthified Junkfood:

I see it all around these crazy interwebs. Recipes for your favorite recipe but HEALTHY now or LOW CALORIE!! The ones that try to mimic some junkfood that you think that you shouldn’t eat.

There are a few varieties of this that you can find:

The recipes that try to reduce the calories by using artificial sweeteners and maybe ‘lite’ ingredients (which do have less calories but are usually laden with additives).

Or the “healthy” variety which use whole foods to recreate your ‘favorite’ food. I found a recipe the other day that was almost the same calorie count as the treat that was being substituted and yet a huge number of sugars because of the excessive use of dates in the recipe.

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You BETTER eat your Breakfast OR maybe you should skip it?

IMG_1107Nutrient timing is for the dogs…or is it?

This article is fantastic for breaking down some of the different aspects of nutrient timing. Some of the myths and some of the things you have heard your whole life: you better eat your breakfast!!!

What the article underscores is that if you are not an endurance athlete or a body builder, but just someone who is trying to maintain or lose weight in a sensible typical manner by eating whole, unprocessed foods and getting some exercise, you *really* don’t need to worry about nutrient timing. Whew…thats a relief!! BUT the article also underscores the need for you to experiment and figure out what works for you because ultimately…everyone is different.

I’m about to use myself as an example, which is not scientifically significant as I am a data point of one, but the truth of the matter is that no volume of scientific journal articles will really tell you about YOU and how YOUR body does best with its own food timing. Journal articles can give a place to start, but ultimately if eating a certain timed way makes you feel the best, chose the best food for your body the most frequently and supports your level of activity then that is the right meal timing strategy to chose. Some people need to eat more frequently, some need to eat less frequently. There really is no wrong or right about meal timing, but what ultimate nutrient timing is best for you is whatever timing strategy that supports you choosing healthy, whole, unprocessed meals majority of the time. As far as meal timing, I may not be the best case study as a former endurance athlete and currently in training for kettlebell sport. But one thing I can provide insight into is that at any given time what your body needs may change. You need to be always adjusting and challenging what works and what doesn’t work for YOUR body because ultimately it will give you the best feedback overall of what really is working.

Here is my story of exploring meal timing:

Back in 2000 I visited my first nutritionist because I realized I had gained some weight and needed to lose about 20lbs. First thing she did…put me on a 6 meals a day plan. One thing I found helpful about eating more frequently is that for me it helped me not eat so much at my main meals. I also started food logging. So…were lots of little meals the right choice? Or was logging my food? I don’t know but the combination did work for me at that time and I lost some weight.

Then I went to grad school and meal timing became somewhat non-existant. I don’t actually recall what I did most of the time. I just remember it being stressful. The last 10 months got extremely stressful and I gained 20lbs. No bueno. What ever I was doing, didn’t work  for me…at that time. This was most likely because the last 6 months I hardly exercised. Your body can’t distinguish between ‘good’ stress like exercise and bad stress like writing a dissertation. There is a limit to the amount of cortisol load from stress that a body can handle.  I was so stressed out I remember running a mile and it just being too freakin hard to do.

Then I graduated, moved and got into endurance sports, found a new nutritionist and got a little freakish about meal timing…exercised a lot…lost 18lbs of fat…gained 10lbs of muscle while endurance training. Since I was endurance training, nutrient timing IS suggested and it definitely worked for me…at that time.

 

Then in 2010 my body had enough of all this high volume endurance stuff and I got mysteriously sick, which was diagnosed as possible overtraining syndrome. After I got sick, I don’t remember what I did for food at that time, but it felt like I didn’t eat much but magically gained 15lbs. Guess what ever I was doing didn’t work for me…at that time. 

 

July of 2010 I discovered kettlebells and the next year I spent falling in love with kettlebells, training for my RKC certification and believing I was eating appropriately, but when it came down to it after 7 months of kettlebell training all I had to show for it was 4lbs of fat loss and 2lbs of lean muscle gain. At the time I was still in ‘endurance training’ mindset and still eating 5 meals a day because that was what I was used to doing. Since I was training pretty hard for the RKC my food intake supported all of my training so I got a lot stronger, but I had wanted to drop 15lbs I gained when I got sick in 2010. For me there was nothing magical about kettlebells and fat loss (and in truth 80% of fat loss is what you eat, not what you do) so all of my fussing about nutrient timing really wasn’t working for fat loss at that time.

 

July 2011 I joined Lean Eating over at Precision Nutrition and discovered a lot of new habits. I discovered that I was eating out of habit and not because I was hungry and I had this idea that being hungry was a bad thing.  I discovered I was eating because my scientific brain was telling me I *should* eat but not listening to my body of when I needed to eat. This lead to me taking out my morning snack and eating only 4x a day instead of 5x.  When I started to listen to what my body needed and not the idea of I needed a certain number of meals, I started to lose weight. Which worked for me at that time.  

 

20120603-134028.jpgI have also experimented briefly with intermittent fasting (leangains) and what I found was that for me…chronically doing intermittent fasting was a really bad idea for me for a number of reasons.

     1) I was training in the morning before work so working out and then not eating to lunch really screwed up my system even my sleep!

     2). I couldn’t focus for the life of me in the morning.

     3). It threw me into a crazy afternoon carb craving and I started craving and eating things that didn’t support my goals.

This didn’t work for me…at that time.

Below is the nutritional hierarchy of importance of eating according to PN that you should focus on first before you even worry about meal timing. Once those are squared away and you are doing them consistently…meal timing is a piece of the puzzle to take into consideration, but for most of us it is best to first figure out the How, Why and What we are eating and then possibly start experimenting with the When afterwards with some personal experimentation.

Your nutritional hierarchy of importance

  1. How much are you eating?
    (Recommendation: Eat until satisfied, instead of stuffed, follow PN’s Calorie Control Guide .)
  2. How you are eating?
    (Recommendation: Eat slowly and mindfully, without distraction.)
  3. Why are you eating?
    (Hungry, bored, stressed, following peer pressure, social cues, triggered by hyper-rewarding foods?)
  4. What are you eating?
    (Recommendation: Minimally processed proteins, veggies, fruits, healthy starches, and healthy fats.)
  5. Are you doing #1 to #4 properly, consistently?
    (Recommendation: Shoot for 80% consistency with these items before moving on.)

And only then consider…

  1. When are you eating?
    (Now you can consider breakfast, late-night, during your workout, etc.)

For me I have settled into 4 meals/day. 3 main meals and then a snack in the afternoon. The snack tides me through my evening training so I feel fueled up and not hungry. This works for me…at this time.

That being said, I am challenged by the PN article to try something different. One thing I have learned is that I can’t abandon breakfast because I saw with my ‘leangains’ experiment that it wasn’t helpful for me to skip breakfast, but I’m wondering how my hunger/eating would change if I ate a heavier breakfast? I usually only consume 300-400 calories in the form of a protein shake. I wonder if I ate solid food and ate around 600-700 calories how I might feel differently throughout the day? I know on weekends when I have a big brunch I will eat brunch and then maybe dinner. This could be an interesting experiment…

What kinds of experiments do you think you would like to try?

Eating Breakfast?

Eating more (5-6) smaller meals a day?

Eating only 3 meals a day?

Skipping breakfast?

Challenge your assumptions and see if you can figure something new about how best your body runs. Give it a try for a month and then see if you see any positive changes.

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Clean Slate

goal picI love looking around the corner and seeing a new year creeping up on me. 2013 has been a pretty decent year, but most of the year was consumed with moving, new job, new city and learning to start over. I feel that 2014 will be about getting my feet under me, finding my grounding in a new city and finding my stride. But…I love the excitement of a new year. Lots of possibilities. Dreams of things that will change. Continue reading

Trying to be prepared

It’s been a wonderful weekend full of travel, fun, and friends so the last thing I really felt like doing when I got back to Vancouver is cook a bunch of food for the week.  I started to think about this week, I realized the week is full of evening commitments and general chaos and mayhem…but I knew I still needed to figure out what to eat for lunches and snacks or I’d end up eating out too much and resorting to protein ‘bars’. Protein bars are marginal choices when you are in a pinch…but too many of them are glorified candy bars and filled with all kinds of unpronounceable items, sugar alcohols, and really aren’t that great nutritionally. So in an effort to keep things as easy peasy as I could, I realized I really only needed to fix one dinner (and survive on the leftovers), something for lunch and make some snacks.

So my easy peasy go-tos are:
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Clean and put some fresh fruit in a bowl for snacks and munching

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Lunches this week will be salad with chicken, a few almonds, a little bit of goat cheese, a few tablespoons of pomegranates. I can easily eat this every day for lunch.

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Snacks each day:  2 hard boiled eggs and half of a yellow pepper

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And ‘cheater’ chicken as a friend of mine calls it. Sometimes you just have to resort to the rotisserie chicken as it is easy in a pinch. So I shred all the chicken for the week for my lunches and prepare my lunches the night before.

For dinner for the week I picked up some pasta sauce that doesn’t have any sugar in it and some hamburger. I’ll brown that up with some onions on Wed when I will eat at home and steam some veggies to go with it. On Wed, I’ll add a potato as it will be post workout…but on Thursday it won’t be…so I’ll have a double serving of kale or asparagus and mix it all together. I would have cooked up some spaghetti squash to serve the hamburger over…but alas…this girl didn’t prepare quite as she should have and let her spaghetti squash go bad and now I have no pretend ‘spaghetti’ for my spaghetti sauce…which really isn’t that big of a deal as I’m content dishing it up over veggies.

Another easy to cook up meal would be picking up some fresh fish and doing a quick pan fry up and serving over veggies.

It’s always good to have a few ‘go-to’ meals that are easy to throw together when life just gets TOO busy and maybe the planning for the week’s meals just didn’t quite come together. That’s life…and just happens sometimes.

…do it anyway

I would much rather be here!

Sigh…can’t live at the beach forever

What’s the saying? Feel the suck and do it anyway? I don’t quite recall, but that seems to be my workouts lately. After IGSF Worlds in Greece this year I decided to take about 5 weeks off and do non-kettlebell related workouts. Partly because I wanted to throw my kettlebells out the window at one point in my training, but mostly because I have either some awkward anatomy that makes where the bell hits on my left forearm hurt my wrist or I have a weird-o injury that flared up in about June of this year. My doctor has a theory involving weirdness of inner rotation of my shoulder and flared ribs due to laxity in my back that stems from some wicked tight hip flexors. (And imagine if I was still cycling and running like I used to when I was a triathlete training for a half ironman!).

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Aside

20131025-221540.jpg Change is sometimes hard. Moving is considered top 10 most difficult life changes for a person. Sometimes I laugh at myself because I tend to throw myself into new things, but forget I’m really not in love with huge amounts of change. Sometimes I’m not sure what came over me to pack my bags and move to a new country, but 6 months ago I did…and I moved to Canada for a new job. So far the job has been awesome…but I still am not doing amazing with the change. Between March and May after I moved…I gained 10 pounds. At first I wasn’t really that concerned about it as I figured once I got settled into my routine, things would be fine and the weight would come off. Then one day I realized I was 3 months out from IGSF worlds in October (Greece) and I was NOT going to make my weight category if something didn’t change…fast.

One thing I know about myself…I don’t lose weight very quickly. Even if I do everything ‘right’…I generally can’t get over 1lb/ week of weightloss. So when I was 3 months out from compeition and about 10lbs too heavy…I got very strict with everything I ate and did for exercise….and I did lose the weight and made weight just fine, but it makes me reflect on the whole thing and try to understand what happened in the first place so I don’t repeat myself. Because let’s face it…needing to lose weight really sucks.

Reflection:

The first two weeks after I had moved to Vancouver, I was living in a hotel…so I came up with many  excuses of not having an easy way to cook and have a home cooked meal.

But when I moved into my place…I just…didn’t want to. The reality is I hate cooking. It’s not that I don’t know HOW to cook…I was sent through 4-H for a good solid 6 years as a child, so I know to follow a recipe, I just don’t *like* to have to cook. Having a few degrees in Chemistry (which is sorta akin to cooking) you would think it’s an innate talent or something. Maybe that’s why my life in the lab was such a disaster in grad school.

But the biggest thing I have discovered on my weight loss journey and how to maintain my weight is that one of the KEY elements for my success is preparation. And part that is really vital is preparing lunch for the next day and preparing food for the week. (I also save more money this way too).

The reality of gaining those 10lbs was partly emotional eating…new place, new job, I became a stress case and stress eating is one of the biggest thing I have had to tame to keep my weight lower. But mostly it was because I wasn’t taking care of myself and preparing my food like I normally do. With the move, everything felt like MORE of a chore than it normally does. One of the things I learned early on in PN is you have to prepare for the week. Planning and pre-cooking is vital for success. For me I discovered that cooking 1x a week was a key element that helped me lose 20lbs. In the PN binder they give you ideas on how to do the 1x a week cook-up…but I’ve been trying to work out a way of how to express the ‘how to’s’ of it. So…I’m going to try to have a section on this blog on ‘once a week cooking’.

HOW to do it…the first few steps.

Step 1) Try to figure out how many meals you *need* to make. I live alone and take my lunch to work…and I’m pretty low-key on eating left overs. What I basically try to do is cook the bulk of the protein of my meals on the weekend and then will add 2-4 servings of steamed veggies for a meal or if my meal is post workout I’ll add in a starchy carb with the veggies. But I plan out the proteins I’m going to have (usually you want something that can be versicle…one day salad wraps, one day salad topper, one day dress it up differently) for the week.

Step 2) Typically I make 3-4 recipes of main dishes.

Step 3) Find recipes: Generally one for the crockpot, one for the oven and one for the top of the stove.

Step 4) Identify all recipes, put them into Evernote (best application EVER!).

Step 5) Create a shopping list on Evernote (love the little check off ability you can create in lists).

Step 6) Move things around on shopping list so that they resemble where in the store you will find things so that you don’t run around as you go through your list.

Step 7) Prior to going to the store, check to see what you already have on the list at home and check that off.

Step 8) Go to store and use cool shopping list you made on Evernote.

Step 9) Clean kitchen, make sure all pots and pans are clean, make sure dishwasher is clean and unloaded, pull all the ingredients out and place them all together in little areas on your counter top.

Generally this is MY GOAL: get things assembled and into the stove/crockpot and have any stoeve top cooking finished in less than 2 hours of prep time. This also includes chopping up veggies to go with my snacks during the week and getting the veggies chopped and prepped for salads for lunches for the week.

I’m going to cook tomorrow so I’m not going to pull everything out at the moment, but I did pull out the spices and got the kitchen cleaned up and ‘ready’ for tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be a little different than usual as I am making two crock pot recipes so the overall goal is that my total prep time will only be a total of two hours divided over the day. I will be timing myself.

Here are the recipes I am making tomorrow (Fair warning, this series of recipes calls for a lot of different spices. So if you don’t have a big spice rack…it could be an expensive shopping trip!)

Since I am planning to move my workouts next week to the mornings, my breakfast meal needs to have some starchy carbs in them since it will be post workout:

So for breakkie: Sweet Potato, Egg and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

For my proteins for lunch or dinner:
My afternoon snack for the week (with some veggies to chomp on also):
Tomorrow I will discuss how to think about doing all of this at once. It takes a little planning, but it’s totally worth it!

Bacon and wine

20131020-224103.jpgI owe this blog an update on IGSF Worlds that was in Athens, Greece two weeks ago…but I need to save that for another day at the moment.

Since Worlds has been over for the past two weeks I have not been on a DIEt. I have another post coming on being on a DIEt, but think of every bad thing related to DIEt and DIEting and that was my most recent experience with needing to lose 10lbs for Worlds.

But that is not my point at the moment. Needing to lose 10lbs for IGSF Worlds was necessity and very specific and being restrictive I knew would last for an extremely short amount of time. But life is not confined in those types of little boxes and now that I have relaxed what I eat and when I eat it.

You see…I believe in moderation. Since I had something very specific, like a timeline for weigh-ins for IGSF Worlds…I was extremely strict with my diet. And I was OK with that. There was an end point for that DIEt. (and yes…i am emphasizing DIE in DIEt…because it is no fun). It was specific. It was measurable. But it wasn’t fun. There was minimal sugar, no alcohol, regimented food intake, lower carbs, and in general…food was a chore. The reason I say it was a chore was because it was all about macros and carb counts and calorie counts. I pulled out my body bugg and checked my calorie expenditure and tracked my stepps taken. Did it work? yes. Did I make weight? Yes. But it isn’t living. In the sense of Throeau: “I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow out of life…”.

Food is an interesting, emotionally charged issue. We commune with people when we eat with them. We break bread. Food gives us neurotransmitter uplifts like serotonin that makes us feel good about what we are eating…hence we find comfort in our food. And this is not a bad thing when taken in moderation. But finding that moderation is not an easy challenge. I want to find a balance in my life where I can drink some wine, eat some bacon, enjoy a sweet or three and be comfortable with the choice. Too often we berate ourselves for every little food choice  that we deem ‘not good’. But the reality is…it is ALL good…but sometimes it is just too much. But sometimes you just eat bacon and wine for dinner and call it ‘good’.

How do we get to a homeostasis with our body that both supports a weight that is healthy as WELL as a way to live and chose food that we LOVE. And a way to LOVE our body in a manner that allows for the times when it jiggles just a little too much and might not be some Photoshopped image that we have to compare our self to…but we understand that fitness and fatness are a continuum and some days we get it right and some days we realize that maybe we need to pay a little more to eating more veggies and getting more exercise.

Here is a secret…and it shouldn’t be a secret. If 80% of the time you make really, really good food choices…the other 20% of the time (which amounts to 2-4 meals/week)…you can do whatever you want as long as you don’t go super crazy. But what I want every client to learn is how to fully be present and fully  enjoy that 20%.  I don’t want that 20% to be ‘ooops’…I want them to be: I ate this amazing meal with my significant other or with a close friend and I discovered this amazing restaurant that made the most amazing dinner and desert and I ate it…enjoyed it…didn’t over eat…but savored every moment of it…and then the next day thought about how wonderful the evening was because I didn’t feel guilty about the food I ate and loved every moment with the person I was sharing that moment with and today…I’m back on track…(because I never was OFF track with a dinner like that) and happily eating food that helps me achieve the goals I want and nourishes my body the way that it needs.

I don’t want to be at war with the food that I eat and I don’t think the clients that I coach should be that way either. If I can teach them how to find balance…then I’ve done my job. Life is too short to eat 10 cups of cabbage in one sitting and call it  a sane eating plan. Finding a balance where we can find a healthy weight and a way to eat and approach food that is sane…and sensible and supports a healthy weight and % bodyfat…now THAT is my goal with my clients.

And for the record…all I ate for dinner tonight was bacon and wine…and it was GOOD…and I don’t feel guilty.