Archive for July 2011

We are not alone!

When you’re trying to change your eating habits, it’s common to feel like you’re doing it all by yourself. Eating a meal is something that most people do at least 3 times a day. And hopefully you’re spending at least a few minutes preparing that meal as well. That’s quite a bit of time out of every day that’s devoted to food. So do yourself a favor: make sure you have a partner in crime.

One of the biggest mistakes that I see my clients make is trying to eat differently than their family. While the spouse and/or kids are eating one thing, the client is making and eating something entirely different: the healthy food.

DON’T DO THIS. It sets you up as an outsider; it creates extra work; it allows the food that you don’t want to eat to still be in the house; it forces you to test your willpower over and over and over, setting you up for failure; it attaches a stigma to the food that you’re eating and makes good, healthy food look and feel like some sort of punishment (“I have to eat this while they get to eat that”).

You are not alone. And there’s no reason that your family and friends can’t eat healthy food too. In fact, if you really care about these people in your life, you want them to eat the food that will help them live longer and enjoy life more. Every time I hear about a client keeping Cheetos or Oreos in the house “for the kids” I want to slap them. Nobody wins in that situation.

So take control of the grocery shopping and the recipe planning. If your spouse doesn’t like the meals you prepare, tell them to fend for themselves. If your kids don’t like the food, too bad; they’re not paying the bills or cooking the meals. When they get hungry enough, they’ll try your delicious healthy cooking. And as far as guests, go, you wouldn’t expect a vegetarian to cook a chicken for you if you go to their house; so you shouldn’t be expected to cook food you wouldn’t normally eat. If your family cares about you, they will eventually learn how to support you.

Don’t be a martyr. You don’t have to separate yourself from the people in your life in order to eat healthy. In fact, you have a wonderful opportunity to create your own little healthy community, which will in turn support other healthy decisions you make.

So remember: what’s good for you is good for everyone else in your life. Rather than feeling like an outsider, think of yourself as an insider—and the more people you can bring in with you, the better off everyone will be.

Plan ahead to save the day

Yesterday I found myself in this situation: dinner time, with plenty of slow-carb approved food in the house, but nothing that could be prepared in the time available. I had 30 minutes to prepare and eat my dinner before leaving for work, and the meat and veggies that I could have eaten were in the freezer. Not enough time to thaw, cook, and eat before work.

I ate a grilled cheese sandwich.

Well, there’s a better solution than going for the quick and easy, carby dinner. And as usual, it involved planning ahead…but I’m not talking about simply remembering to take the meat out of the freezer earlier. I mean making sure that you have slow-carb meals prepared well in advance, and preferably frozen in individual portions. Like a Lean Cuisine that you cooked yourself.

I’ve always been an advocate of preparing meals in big batches and freezing them individually, so that you never find yourself in a tight spot like I did yesterday. Sure, it’s nice to have plenty of ingredients in the freezer, but if you don’t have time to prepare them, what good is it? Last summer, when I did my “No Convenience-Food Challenge,” the only reason it was possible was because every once in a while, I’d spend a little more time than usual cooking, and then I’d freeze the whole thing in individual-sized portions. Preparing meals this way means that when it’s time to eat, you can have a hot meal on your plate in less than 5 minutes. Faster than a grilled cheese sandwich.

And, lucky for us Slow-Carbers, it just so happens that a lot of easy-to-cook slow-carb meals are also easy to double (or triple, or quadruple), and they freeze really well. I’m thinking stir-fries, Indian cuisine, and Mexican cuisine.

So, next time you’re craving a tasty Asian stir-fry, substitute chickpeas for the more traditional rice, and double the recipe. The only other thing you’ll need is a large number of single-serving storage containers.

I’ll see you all at the Tupperware party. ;)

Are you gonna eat that?

It’s been a little while since I’ve gotten on my high horse about avoiding convenience foods, pre-packaged foods, and processed foods. In fact, the “No Convenience Food Challenge” was over a year ago now. But the other day I found yet another good reason to read ingredient lists and avoid anything that doesn’t sound like real food.

Do you know what L-cystine is?

To be brief, it’s an amino acid that, in the world of processed food, is sometimes used as a leavening agent. You can find a short and relatively bland definition of L-cystine here:

What Wikipedia doesn’t mention outright (although there’s a little hint there) is that in the food industry, most L-cystine is derived from human hair.

So go ahead and take a look at the ingredients on the next loaf of bread you buy, or that pack of hamburger buns, or anything else you’ve got lying around that required a leavening agent to create (that is, the dough had to foam or rise). If you were eating a slice of bread, or a pancake made from a boxed mix and found an actual hair in it, would it gross you out a little? Why shouldn’t L-cystine do the same?

Personally, I prefer doughs and batters leavened with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), baking powder (baking soda mixed with an acid), or yeast.

When you give up responsibility for the preparation of your food, you also give up control over what goes into that food. I’m not suggesting you bake your own bread; simply that you take the time to read ingredient labels and make a conscious choice to only eat ingredients that you recognize as food.

Unless you think hair tastes good.

Back on track (mostly)

One month ago, I confessed that I hadn’t been doing much training for this marathon I signed up for. Turns out, that might have been just the motivation I needed to get started. I’ve actually been doing pretty well since then. For starters, I actually wrote a training plan.

So at least I have a plan now. I haven’t been following it exactly, but at least I’ve run a couple of times.

Here’s a quick list of the workouts I’ve done in the last 4 weeks. It’s not as impressive as I wanted it to be, but at least I feel like I’m making progress:

June 28: Swim. Not really part of the kettlebell/running plan, but still a good cardio workout.
June 29: Kettlebell snatches, 50 sets of 9. That’s 450 snatches in 25 minutes. Not bad.
June 30: Swim.
July 3: Run 6 miles, averaging 8:41 per mile. A little slow, but also the first time I’ve run over 4 miles in about 4 years. I’m happy; it was a good first week.

July 6: Kettlebell snatches, 30 sets of 9. I was going to go for all 80 sets, but my workout got interrupted partway through and I just didn’t get back to it.
July 8: Swim.
Not a good week; sandwiched between a holiday and a 3-day out-of-town trip, I only had 3 days to workout, while also cramming 5 days worth of clients into those same 3 days. Plus the 6-mile run left me sore for 4 days…not a good sign of things to come.

July 11: Kettlebell snatches, 60 set of 9, or 540 snatches in 30 minutes. Good stuff.
July 13: Run 7.21 miles, averaging 8:31 per mile. I’m really proud of this one, even though it should have been done the week before. That’s a fast pace for me, but it didn’t feel too hard.
July 16: Run 9.07 miles, averaging 8:46 per mile. Slow again, but I blame the heat (this was Saturday morning; it was already close to 85 degrees and too damn humid). But once again, I have to point out that this is the farthest I’ve run in 4 years. And I felt pretty good afterwards. I think the kettlebell routine is actually working. Never before in my life could I have just hopped off the couch and ran 9 miles.

This week:
July 18: Kettlebell snatches, 80 sets of 9. That’s 720 snatches in 40 minutes. I made it! This was my current kettlebell goal; I’ll probably try to hit it one more time, to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. But then it’s time to either pick up a heavier kettlebell and try it again, or change the routine from 15 seconds work/15 seconds rest, to 32 seconds work/32 seconds rest. I’ll probably go for the latter.
July 20: Kettlebell snatches, 20 sets of 9. Not enough rest after the last workout. My back and neck were bothering me, and I could feel a blister forming on one of my hands. Rather than try to push it, I set the kettlebell down. Better luck next time.

The plan is to go for another run on Saturday. Hopefully it won’t be too hot; the training plan calls for 11 miles. Sounds like a lot, but then, so did 9 miles.

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