Monday, September 13, 2010

Listen to Your Body

    On a recent trip to my parent's house, I was going through some of my old stuff.  I found a journal from my senior year in high school.  In this journal was a list of resolutions for the new year.  Check out the list from my 17-year-old self:

1.  Eat healthier foods--no pop
2.  Practice b-ball MORE!
3.  Exercise MORE!
4.  Keep priorities straight ALWAYS

     Interesting for a young girl, right?  What really surprised me was my focus on healthy eating and living; I really don't remember thinking about it at that age.  Clearly, though, I did.  I guess even then I knew how important it was to eat right and take care of your body.
     This got me pondering t the evolution of thinking I've had about how I define healthy. I was definitely on the right track at age 17 with the pop thing, but I'm sure my overall view of healthy eating involved counting fat grams with no thoughts about processed foods or putting toxins in my body.  Remember the days when low fat=healthy?  Gummy bears?  They're low fat!  They're good for you!
    Over the years I have tried numerous diets.  It's kind of ludicrous when I think about it.  Sometimes my motivation was to lose weight, other times I guess it was mainly curiosity.  Let's take a look at my diet days:

Body For Life:  My first year out of college, my roommate and I did this one together.  We couldn't resist those transformation pictures.  That could be us!  We'd get up early and do the weight-heavy workouts before going to work and tried to follow the 6-meals-a-day plan.  I loved the Sunday free day--eat whatever you want!  I'm not sure how long we hung with it, but I know we didn't make it through the whole program.

Calorie Restriction:  The next year I moved to Arizona.  My new roommate was ultra-fit and skinny and I always felt awful when I couldn't fit into her jeans.  I watched how she ate and figured it worked for her, so I might as well mimic her habits.  I'm ashamed to admit I started drinking Slim-Fast shakes for breakfast and sometimes also for lunch.  Then, a sensible dinner.  "Sensible" means a Lean Cuisine frozen dinner, right?  For me it did.  This plan just didn't work for me.  Clearly I wasn't getting enough fresh foods, but also I couldn't handle calorie restriction.  I'm just too hungry of a girl.  So I'd often binge snack between my shakes.  Not good.

The Atkins Diet:  The following summer I spent too much time eating out and not enough time in the gym and this resulted in an 8 pound weight gain.  I wanted to lose the weight quickly and knew several people who'd lost weight with the ever-popular Atkins Diet, so I gave it a try.  I stocked up on meat, eggs, and cheese and hoped for the best.  I lasted all of 2 days and I was done.  I was seriously a lethargic thug.  Not only do I like my carbs, it's clear my body needs them.  I have no idea how anyone does this diet for any length of time.  I ended up losing the weight the old-fashioned way:  lots of extra trips to the gym.

The Zone Diet:  This one came about a year and a half after the Atkins debacle.  I had a serious boyfriend, soon to be fiance (now husband), and we did this together.  I can't remember what spurred me to want to try it, but I don't think I was wanting to lose weight.  I may have just been intrigued.  Better than the Atkins try, I lasted 2 whole weeks on the Zone Diet.  I had to buy my first kitchen scale in order to carry out this diet--that should have been my first clue that this one wasn't going to last long-term.  I actually learned a lot from reading the book and started some good eating habits as a result of this diet, but trying to perfectly combine my foods was just too much for me.  Plus, I felt there were too many restrictions.  I mean, really, butternut squash and sweet potatoes on the unfavorable carbohydrate list?  Those are too good to restrict!

Vegan:  Shortly after my mom was diagnosed with cancer and I got serious about learning about nutrition, I tried to go vegan "cold turkey" (no pun intended). I was not ready for such a drastic change.  I did start trying more vegan dishes, but I quickly downgraded to vegetarian (see below).

Vegetarian:  Discouraged that the vegan diet was so difficult for me, I decided that I would go vegetarian and only eat cheese in moderation.  I stopped drinking cow's milk, but did continue to use butter some.  I didn't find this difficult.  The hardest thing was getting my husband to be supportive when I wanted to stop cooking meat for dinners.  He called all of my new dinners "great side dishes, but not a meal".  My vegetarianism lasted about 4 months.  Then, I got pregnant.  With pregnancy came horrible all-day sickness (can't accurately call it morning sickness in my case) and my eating was limited to what my body would allow.  Given that I couldn't tolerate important vegetarian protein sources, like beans, I started eating meat again.  That was almost three years ago and I haven't gone back to totally vegetarian since then.

That brings us to where I am today.  I have comfortably settled into a place where I have learned a few important lessons.  #1:  I don't want to be a dieter.  Diets suck.  #2:  There isn't a diet out there that will work for everyone.  Every body will respond differently to different eating patterns.
    I need to listen to my body and figure out what works for me.  This is what I have done and how I've gotten to the way I eat today.  I would describe my current "diet" (aka-the way I eat) as primarily whole foods and plant-based.  But I'm not a vegetarian or a vegan.  Sometimes I eat meat, sometimes I eat other animal products, but mostly in moderation.
   I believe my body knows what it needs.  If I am craving meat, I'll eat it because it may mean I need some iron, or B12, or whatever other nutrients you get from meat.  I have to be careful, though.  Sometimes my body tells me it is craving a Cinn-a-bun original, in which case I have to tell my body to take a hike, literally.
   Because I listen to my body, when I was craving some bacon the other day I was happy to buy this:

It had to be turkey bacon because I don't eat pigs. I watched a documentary about a pig farm a few years back and just can't do it, plus pigs eat their own poop.  Seriously.
    I know as far as meat goes, processed meat is about as bad as it gets.  So I was excited when I found this product--uncured, minimally processed.
   I used the bacon to make a BALT sandwich, Bacon, Avocado, Lettuce, & Tomato.  With a spread of grapeseed oil vegan mayo on toasted whole grain bread, it was just what I needed.  (Oh, the irony of using vegan mayo on a sandwich with bacon...)

The question is:  now that I've gotten my bacon fix, what am I going to do with the rest of the package?  Freeze it?  Because I listen to my body I know I will not be eating bacon sandwiches 5 days in a row in order to finish up the unused portion.

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