The Secret Is…. There Is No Secret

Please note that while I am a Certified Health Coach, you should always consult your own physician before making any lifestyle changes.  No single plan is perfect for everyone.

It is no secret that I have had a love/hate relationship with food for a long time.  During my younger years (especially while training as a nationally competitive figure skater) I became obsessed with my weight and how I looked in the mirror.  Sadly, it rolled over into my adults years.  It was only in the last few years that I began to gain confidence in how I looked and who I was.  Let me be the first to say that I really hope I can lay a better path for my daughter and show her that self worth doesn’t lie in the number on the scale.

I’ve spent many an evening researching which diet certain runners follow.  What do they eat?  How do they stay so thin?  What is the secret they use so that I can do the same?

The truth is, there is no secret.  The honest truth is, most diets don’t work.  Sure they might help you in the short term.  Cutting all carbs out for a few months will help you lose water weight and may kick start weight loss.  But what happens once you lose the weight and go back to your old ways?  The weight will slowly creep up.  Studies show that most people gain at least half of their weight back within 6 months and the rest within 2 years of following a diet.  Diets just plain don’t work.

The real trick to losing weight and maintaining, is through lifestyle change.  We need to change the way we look at food.  We need to change our relationship with food.  We need to stop announcing that we are going on a diet tomorrow or that we are never eating certain “bad” foods again.

Food plays a vital role in our lives on many levels.  It fuels our bodies and our workouts.  It makes us happy and tastes delicious.  It also is a very social aspect of our lives.  We meet at the table, we gather at restaurants with friends and family.  All of these things are important to us and our relationships.  We should never feel guilty about enjoying a meal whether it is alone or with someone else.

There are certain foods that do increase caloric burn or require more calories to digest.  There are also certain foods that are more likely to convert to fat.  However, eating a certain food group or eliminating all fats is not a longterm or sustainable plan for maintaining a healthy weight.  The secret to successful health is in your lifestyle.  We need to start thinking longterm.  We need to allow ourselves small indulgences.  If we cut out all treats, we will eventually go crazy and eat it all.  Willpower is not something any of us has in abundance.

Most healthy diets center around balance.  The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that we eat more fruits and veggies, consume at least half of our breads in the form of whole grains, cut out trans fats, and limit our intake of sodium.  We should also aim to eat more fish and seafood each week along with a low fat dairy product at most meals.

Secret

These are all very doable options.  Aiming to make your plate at each meal consist of at least half fruits and vegetables will help you consume more vital vitamins and minerals.  It will also aid in decreasing your caloric intake.

Most of us tend to eat more complex carbohydrates than necessary.  Imagine your plate and aim to only fill 1/4 of your plate or less with whole grains.  These are heart healthy and have been proven to help aid in weight loss.

We also tend to eat far more sodium than is needed.  Compare labels and choose items that are labeled as low or lower in sodium.

Make the other 1/4 of your plate consist of a protein.  Lean proteins such as boneless skinless chicken, cold water fish or shell fish, or a lean cut of grass fed beef will help aid in muscle repair.  Protein also helps with satiety after meals, helping you to feel fuller longer.

Secret3

There are so many great options for healthy proteins!

The best and most efficient way to maintain a healthy lifestyle is to eat less and exercise more.  Aim for a healthy balance in your diet and make exercise a daily part of your life.  Just 30 minutes, most days of the week, is all you have to make time for.  Try to find something you enjoy and that you can stick with longterm.  Exercise will help you to maintain a healthy weight, but only if you stick with it.  If you do something you don’t enjoy and stop once the weight is off, you will start to see yourself sliding back down that slippery slope.  Exercise should not be a punishment.  It should be something that you do for yourself, a gift towards better health.

Secret2

It makes me so happy that this kid loves fruit.  That was my pear and she stole it!

Eating well does not need to be an all or nothing experience.  Allow small indulgences.  Eat a balanced diet and you see and feel the difference.

How do you aim for a healthy lifestyle?  

Remember that no one is perfect.  We all slip up.  Life is meant to be enjoyed!

 

 

My Favorite Things: Easy Weekly Shopping/Cooking

The reality of a healthy and fit life is that diet is key.  You can run or do cardio all you want but if you don’t put the right foods in your body, it is nearly impossible to maintain a healthy weight.  The biggest thing I hear from most clients is that eating healthy is too time consuming.  Sure driving through McDonalds or calling the delivery guy is a sure fire way to get easy food, but truth is there are some pretty simple changes you can make that will have dinner on the table pretty quickly.

The first thing I do every week is make a grocery list.  It looks a lot like the sample below.  I always write my grocery list out according to the store layout.  Typically you will enter at the produce department and then work your way through the meat department, the staples and finish with dairy.  By building your list accordingly you can map out in your mind what you need for meals for the week and not have to bounce around the store.  This can make the entire experience way more efficient.

Grocery List

The key to a healthy diet is to have the majority of your grocery list come from the outer edge of the grocery store.  If you picture the inner workings of the store, all of the fresh food is on the outside with cans, boxes, and other staples making up the innards.  Aim for most of your food to come from the outer areas.

I like to start my day off with a warm glass of lemon juice followed by a quick shot of cherry concentrate.  The lemon juice is a way to start off on a fresh detox and the cherries are a fantastic anti-inflammatory/heart healthy diet additive.  Skip the Advil and go for the cherries!

Second I stock up on veggies.  The best way to have a filling lunch is to go with either a nice big salad or a mostly clear soup.  Salads allow you a good helping of food with very few calories.  Pile your plate full of greens and other veggies and then add some protein that we will pick up in the meat department.  All of these yummy veggies can also be thrown into a nice easy soup.  Stick to clear soups for fewer calories.  Vegetables also make delicious and easy sides for weekly dinners as well as stir fries.  I also take my left over veggies from dinner and save them to put on top of salads for a little extra flavor.  Fruits and vegetables are also full of fiber which will keep you feeling full.

While in the meat department I also pick up a few pre-grilled chicken breasts that can be thrown on my salads.  The added protein keeps you feeling fuller longer and is essential for muscle repair.  Although a little pricier, I find this to be a nice and easy way to have lunch ready during the week.  I often grab a prebaked potato or even a twice baked potato for my husband and I to split for dinner.  Stock up on boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I go for antibiotic and hormone free) as well as lean cuts of grass fed steak, pork chops, and lean ground beef or turkey which is great for crockpot recipes.

Pick out staples from the center of the store that can be used for soups, stir fries, and the crockpot.  Try to be creative when it comes to dinner.  Italian night doesn’t have to mean spaghetti.  Try couscous or quinoa.  Keeping beans, broths and other canned veggies on hand means you can whip up a soup in no time.

Grocery2

Veggies in the freezer are an excellent option.  They are super nutritious and often come in easy microwaveable options.  All you need to do is grill a piece of meat, add a side and dinner is served.  Throw some veggies on the stove with some low sodium soy sauce and you have yourself a tasty stir fry to throw over some quinoa or rice.

As soon as I get home from the store I clean and put away all the produce so that it is ready to go.  If I don’t wash the apples right away I might pass over them when I am hungry for an easier option.  Use a day off to go get groceries, prep them and then while you are at it make a crockpot recipe right away.  Keep it in the freezer for dinner or multiple dinners later in the week.  If you are home all day Sunday with the family put a soup on the stove for later in the week.  Pull out lunch containers and make salads in advance so that you just have to grab one on the way out the door to work.

I know that it can seem like a lot of work when you have to schedule everything around work, family, and extra curricular activities but with a little practice and creativity this can become just another part of your routine.  Plus if you stick to this Sunday through Thursday you will feel so much better about a few meals out over the weekend.

What are you go to grocery staples or easy dinners?

My Dream Running Diet

The last few days my posts have been about the dark side of running, you know the things that make running hard but also help you improve.  Things like lactic acid, tempo runs, and interval training.  Very few of us will come out and say, “Oh I love tempo runs”, or “I really enjoy a 30 minute interval session and how I feel like crying at the end.”  However, I did hear from a ton of people said that despite not really loving certain training runs they do love how they feel afterwards and the results they get out of their workouts.

I agreed with someone about dreading these workouts but loving the results and then said something to the extent of, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if chocolate chip cookies were part of becoming a faster runner?”  I chuckled and then mentioned this to my husband and we both had a good laugh.

If you know anything about me I have a major sweet tooth.  I always have.  Even as a figure skater I spent my whole life eating a very healthy and well rounded diet.  But I have never ever been able to stay away from desserts; namely baked goods.  When I took my first trip to New York City over eleven years ago a friend had planned our trip out and I was so thrilled that he had added in several of the best bakeries to get my fix.

This giant cookie pizza is what I showed up with on Mother's Day.

This giant cookie pizza is what I showed up with on Mother’s Day.

And I picked this cookie sandwich up on my walk yesterday because 1 cookie wasn't enough and the frosting was a must.

And I picked this cookie sandwich up on my walk yesterday because 1 cookie wasn’t enough and the frosting was a must.

So this had me thinking.  What if instead of bright green veggies, red fruits and green smoothies, the tables were turned and other foods helped make us better and faster runners?  Here is my other running world:

How about instead of ice baths you could just hit the frozen yogurt bar?  I mean, its cold right?!  Yogurt is also great for runners because it is full of calcium.  So if you are on board with my plan, you can also keep your bones healthy.

It would also be great if we could use red wine for its bright red qualities instead of taking anti-inflammatories.  They do say it is good for your heart!

While we are at it I wouldn’t mind if beer was part of a carb loading diet.  I am pretty sure I have used this technique as I enjoyed a flight at my favorite microbrewery up in Northern Michigan.  Just make sure you get plenty of rest afterwards before heading out for your run.  I certainly don’t recommend a beer and THEN a run.  Let’s not be ridiculous here!

This is my absolute favorite beer.  If you end up in Michigan don't forget to grab a Short's.

This is my absolute favorite beer. If you end up in Michigan don’t forget to grab a Short’s.

Carrots are packed with Vitamin A which is a must for runners.  So I would like to think that a slice of carrot cake or two can be a helpful aid for my running.  This is of course ONLY if it is covered with a nice slab of cream cheese frosting.  That counts as dairy right?!

Let’s talk about cinnamon.  It is a great anti-inflammatory and can help aid in your recovery.  Not only does it reduce inflammation but also eases muscle soreness.  Weren’t we just talking about D.O.M.S?  Obviously the best solution here would be cinnamon rolls (don’t forget that cream cheese frosting here either).  Funny enough, I had one just yesterday and remembered to take a picture before it was all gone.  I am hoping this aids my Achilles tendonitis….wink, wink.

Hanging my head.  Most of these photos are in my recent pictures on my phone!

Hanging my head. Most of these photos are in my recent pictures on my phone!

We have all been hearing for awhile that sweet potatoes are great for runners.  They are full of vitamins A and C as well as potassium and iron.  They are also packed with antioxidants.  So clearly a helping of sweet potato fries should be part of this new diet.  Clearly you will have to accompany this with a burger for a well rounded meal.   Think protein for muscle repair.

burgerandfries

The one thing I think that the elites really have nailed perfectly is the nap.  I told my husband we should all add this too.  He mentioned something about if we all had the luxury of adding it to our schedules.  But I stopped that nonsense and said we should tell our bosses it is a must for our training.  Hey I have a 10K coming up and this girl needs her runner’s rest!

Now this is where I am supposed to add a side note and make sure you know that I am not a nutritionist and that these are all recommendations.  I am pretty sure that by now you realize that I am most certainly not a professional and I don’t really recommend that you follow this diet to improve your running.  If you do follow this plan I would recommend avoiding the scale at all costs!

What foods would you add to your running diet in a perfect world?