Friday, March 30, 2012

Clean Eating: What does it mean, really?

Warning: this got long. A bona fide rant!

A recent conversation with a friend reminded me of how jumbled around and mixed up it can be these to do something as simple as eat healthfully. Especially after reading In Defense of Food, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and What to Eat, I'm more aware of the many road blocks that stand between us and simply eating food. 

It's not hard to imagine why: in this age of extreme marketing combined with the strong influence of special interest groups on government policies, it's hard to tell what is real these days. After all, almost every type of food puts billions of dollars behind marketing campaigns to convince us that their food is superior and to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. In the background, they have influential lobbyists who work very hard (and successfully) to protect the profit-generating interests of the growers of the food that employs them. And that's just for real food. The companies that manufacture food in factories (the thought of which should disturb more of us than it does) labor on creating that sweet spot of flavor, fat, and sugar that will activate the addiction centers of our brain and send us back to the store for more of their most recent innovation, which is easy to spot because the packaging features our child's favorite cartoon character.

Add to that the stacks and stacks of diet books, pills, fitness programs with accompanying nutrition plans, and celebrity gurus all jockeying for position to convince us that they have the miracle cure, the secret, the ancient berry that has suddenly been discovered will end belly fat forever. We follow their rules but really we just end up lighter in the wallet than on the scale.

It's enough to make you decide to chuck it all and reach for the Ben and Jerry's. I mean seriously, it's depressing. It made me so frustrated and angry that I decided to stop trying to figure it all out and go rogue. I gave up reading labels and started "eating clean." Soon, I found that I wasn't the only one; there were scores of people eating clean. Only they weren't eating what I was eating. They were eating processed food that they called, "clean," and which usually had a celebrity backing it. Because, as soon as food companies got wind of the concept of clean eating, they naturally started creating food that they could market as "clean." 

So, we all have our own definition of clean eating. Here's mine: one ingredient.

If it has more than one ingredient, narrow your eyes and get skeptical. The only time when I can see a loophole is if you bake something using a bunch of one-ingredient foods, like a loaf of bread. But otherwise, I define eating clean as eating stuff that just is what it is.

It is spinach.  Some almonds. A strawberry. An apple. Oats. Eggs. Yogurt. Chicken. Turkey. Peppers. Tomatoes. Squash.

You get the idea.

Shakes? Not clean. Bars? Not clean. Even granola bars? Not even granola bars. Even organic granola bars with a picture of an animal on them? No. Not even if it comes in a brown package. If you break a seal to eat it, likely you are eating something that is not "clean."

But do you care? Here's the thing - no one says you have to eat clean. It's a choice, and it's a personal one. And, what you eat is completely customizable to you and only needs to be approved by you. I eat my own definition of clean most of the time because I like it.

But, I'm not perfect. I don't always shell out the extra money for organic, so some of my food has pesticides, my eggs aren't from necessarily happy chickens, and my milk comes from cows that live in cow prisons. Some people would say this is hypocritical. I say I have to draw the line somewhere and have made my peace with it. And, I'm a human and puppy-dog eyes work on me, so my child eats stuff that isn't always clean. I pick my battles and do the best I can. The times that I don't, I get a quick reminder of the value of clean eating because I feel sooooo much better when I stick to real food.

Here's the point of my rambling today: if you decide to eat clean, really eat clean. Don't fall for the marketing campaigns and the celebrity promises and the hype of products that tell you they are clean. Because, if they need to tell you that, it likely isn't! I care about you and want you to be successful in your health goals. So please, back away from the center of the grocery store.

Get out there and get healthy today, whether you eat my definition of clean, your own definition of clean, or downright dirty. Just use your head, and pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

3 Must-Haves For a Healthy Vacation

I'm on vacation! Woot! But you know I'm keeping it healthy. Here are three things I always pack to make sure that even when I'm traveling I can get out there and get healthy:

Have a great weekend; I'm off to run the trails of North Carolina!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Big Goal? Bite-size it!

I'm not training for anything specific right now, which is harder than I thought. After the last half marathon, I thought I'd enjoy a break from focused training and revel in being able to just workout without any specific goal in mind.

Whatever. Who was I kidding when I came up with that crazy idea?  I must have been on some kind of endorphin high or something.  No, me without a goal is like a fish out of water. I just flop around and make other people uncomfortable.

So, carrot, meet stick. I have my big overall goal of running a half marathon in under two hours, but that's a year away. My workouts are kind of lame without some kind of carrot, so I've been making some bite-sized goals to shake things up and keep my morning runs interesting.

This week, I set a goal to run through either two or three (depending on what I did the day before) of my 1-minute walk intervals during my stroller runs. It's not that big a deal, not too intimidating, and very achievable. The result is that I am building my endurance running with the stroller and picking up a little bit of speed. Next week, I'll probably work on speed exclusively and shave off a few seconds every day. Just a few, no need to get all crazy. After all, I'm supposed to be enjoying a training break, right?

You can apply this to your everyday workouts or nutrition goals too. Just set a bite-sized goal that you can achieve each day and make sure it is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. 

Other examples of bite-sized goals I've set for myself lately:

Big goal: stop drive-by nibbling. Bite-sized goal: I will not eat a spoonful of my son's cereal before I put it on the table today. No. I will not. Bad mommy!

Big goal: stretch and recover from exercise more consistently. Bite-sized goal: I will spend two minutes after my yoga workout stretching my hamstrings.

Big goal: improve my explosive strength. Bite-sized goal: when doing my morning Exercise TV workout, I will start the burpees during the explanation of how to do a burpee instead of standing there panting and watching the explanation of how to do a burpee when I know full well how to do it. The result so far: I'm doing more burpees and doing them a lot faster too!

The key is to make it something easy that you can do TODAY. Then, you're able to take little bites out of that big goal, and before you know it you're halfway there.

Get out there and get healthy today, even if you just take one bite. :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Now THIS is what I call school lunch!

Every day, I pack a lunch for my son to take to school. He gets some fruit (usually berries), a couple of carrot sticks, a piece of cheese, and half of a pb&j with some ground flax sprinkled inside. I only give him half a sandwich because I got so sick of throwing away what he didn't eat. It's not the most creative lunch, and I routinely try to shake it up with more variety, but by and large this is what he eats.

I was feeling pretty good about that.

Then I saw the lunch that my friend makes for her son. Her son who eats vegetables. Lots of them. Seriously, this lunch made ME hungry. I wish my kid would eat this! Take a lesson, friends, because Kenny's mom has got it going on.

Check out this lunch:

Yogurt, cheese stick, grape tomatoes, blueberries, carrots,
quorn veggie chicken patty and honey mustard dressing, and edamame.
First of all, I love the little silicone muffin liners! Colorful, reusable, and easy to keep it all organized. Then there is the sheer variety of food offered. And yes, HE EATS IT!

Genius. I'm so jealous. 

Get out there and get healthy today. Kenny is!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Restaurant Survival Guide! (Hint: Just Eat Veggies)

Eating in restaurants can be stressful when you're trying to lose or maintain your weight. Even when a menu advertises that something is "heart healthy," or "on the lighter side," I can't help but turn into a cynic. After all, restaurant food is loaded with fat so saying something is on the "lighter side" is a pretty relative term. 

That's why it pays off to be uber-practical when you're at a restaurant. This is not the time to splurge! Save splurges for when you prepare something for yourself that you know is going to be worth it, not for cheap restaurant food that is usually mass-produced and filled with sodium. When I visit a restaurant, I keep it really simple and usually just eat vegetables.

Most places can manage to not screw up a bowl of vegetables!

I had the lovely treat of having lunch with two of my best friends this week, and we headed to Jason's Deli, where I had never been before. They have a salad bar, which made me super happy because at a salad bar I can control what I eat. I ordered myself a plate (and checked out using their cool salad bar kiosk) and added on a side of roasted turkey. (Note: Jason's Deli has nutritional info on their website so you can log your meal but the info listed for the turkey is for a half portion. But they don't give you a half portion, do they? Double it if you order the turkey for your salad.)

Anywho, I headed to the salad bar and loaded up on the fresh stuff: spinach, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, cauliflower, peppers, red onions, and thanks to the great idea of my friend, some really pretty green peas. A nice big bowl of happiness!

Then I whipped out my secret weapon: a tablespoon from home. I keep a tablespoon in my purse so when I am eating out I can measure out my salad dressing either from the salad bar or from the "on the side" cup it comes in. In this case, I scooped out one tablespoon of light honey mustard dressing. It was actually too much dressing and I could have done with less but once it was on, there was no turning back. 

Once I added my turkey, I had myself a very nice lunch.

Ordering off the menu is the same deal: just ask for a salad without the meat or cheese. Just the veggies. No dried fruit, toasted almonds, gorgonzola crumbles, or tortilla strips. That translates to sugar, sugar, fat, fat. Look friends, this is not your last meal. It's lunch. You can deal.

Healthy Heather's quick tips for translating a menu:
1. The more ingredients menu item boasts, the more calories it has. If the description goes on and on with all the yummy stuff in the meal, cha-ching cha-ching cha-ching. (Not the good kind of cha-ching, either.) Keep it simple and stick with veggies and lean protein.

2Fat makes food taste yummy, and restaurants want their food to be super yummy so you'll come back and get more more more, so they put in a lot of fat. Remember, they're a business, not your friend. Keep it simple and stick with veggies and lean protein. Hmm, have I heard that somewhere before?

3. Bring a measuring spoon and USE IT. No one has to see you, and if they do then who cares? Since when is caring enough about your health to manage your food portions something to be ashamed of? They're the ones who should feel bad for treating their bodies like a garbage dump. Okay, that was kind of mean, but seriously, it's true.

Get out there and get healthy today, even if you have to pack your own utensils!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mardi Gras Half Marathon Recap!

I did it! The Mardi Gras Half Marathon was last weekend and it was such a great experience. My full recap will be in an upcoming GetFitPod blog, but here are the highlights:

1. The speed training paid off BIG TIME. For the month between the Tallahassee Half and this one, I really worked hard on getting faster. My main motivation? Not being embarrassed when I couldn't keep up with my sister! So I worked to consistently run a little faster every workout, which meant pushing that stroller up hills and down streets, shaving 5 seconds here, 15 seconds there, until I felt myself becoming more and more conditioned. It worked. On race day we kept to an easy 9:30 pace for most of the run and it felt easy. Yay!

2. Guess who beat their brother? My sister and I managed to eek out a bittersweet victory over our brother, which has been a goal of mine for a while. But, we can't enjoy it too much, because his loss was due to painful shoes that slowed him down. It was hard to lord our win over him when he was in so much pain. But we still managed to do it.

My brother and sister are awesome even when they're sweaty.

3. I have the best husband in the world. He has scarified a lot of time and been so flexible and accommodating to me as I train, and I am really lucky to have him! I think he's glad I don't have anything coming in the near future though. :)

More to come! 

Get out there and get healthy today!

Friday, March 2, 2012

9 months to take it off? Phsaw.

Okay, I'm pumped. I was just looking back through some pictures, getting all nostalgic for the days when I got to sleep all night long, and came across this pic of me right before the baby was born. I was buying the running shoes that I'd train in for the Mardi Gras Half Marathon, which I'll run on Sunday.

I remember that shirt. It was one of the only ones that would fit me! LOL

Today, I am packing and ready to head to my hometown to run with my brother and sister. Even though I already ran one half marathon last month, this one means a lot because it's the one I trained for with GetFitPod. I owe a huge thanks to Skip Orem and Coach Jonathan for inspiring (and asking) me to be the site's first GFP Hero and blog about my training! It really motivated me to get moving, lose the baby weight, and get back into racing form.

This is me today!

Yes I am in my bathroom. Isn't that where everyone goes to take camera pictures of themselves? :)

People say "nine months to put the weight on, nine months to take it off," but to those people I say WHATEV. Sure I've been working my tail off but four months after c-section I am back in gear and ready to roll.

How? Simple: clean eating and daily vigorous exercise. You can do it too! Get out there and get healthy today, even if you need a 13.1 mile carrot to do it!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I Saw it on Pinterest: Is it Food?

If I learn something on Pinterest, it's not a black hole of time, right? Please say yes. I loved this when I came across it. It made me laugh but it's also quite handy as these days, you might actually need it to navigate the grocery store!  And, to give credit where it is due, here is the location where it originated.  I think.


Also made me think of this hilarious flow chart, which made me realize that most of the time, no, I do not wear pants.

Get out there and get healthy today, even if you need a flow chart to do it.