Food Training

The longer we have been on opposite teams with our bodies the more training we need to get up to speed. Sometimes training takes persistence. When you replace foods that don’t do your team any favors with those that will you might miss the tastes. We have been over-stimulating our buds with excessive amounts of salt and sugar. Usually added to foods that have lost their natural flavors through processing. At first foods might taste bland or just different. Trust and training will open you up to a much wider variety of flavors as you taste each food for what it is, not merely salty or sweet.

When I first started “Fat Flush”ing in 2002, I was used to fairly high sodium foods and sweetened sodas and desserts. (I didn’t necessarily recognize that the foods I was eating were so enhanced until I started eating new, more natural foods. The retraining started with unsweetened cranberry juice. It can be pretty intense both in taste and function so generally it’s diluted with water. To offset the tartness I also stirred in a packet of stevia. It’s a natural sweetener made from the stevia plant. Its pure form is actually sweeter than white sugar. Eventually I stopped adding stevia as well.

It certainly took some getting used to the taste, but the effects made me never want to go back. Cranberries are a natural diuretic meaning eating them cleanses the liver and keeps things moving along the same lines as the ever popular fiber. I dropped a bit of water weight right away, but mostly I Felt thinner. A bit like getting an oil change for your Mazda keeps your gas mileage in check, a clean liver keeps digestion efficient and your weight down. Having those toxins out of my liver makes me less bloated which means even that special time of the month is so much more comfortable. Bonus!

You don’t get the same effect with sweetened cranberry juice (found in all major grocery stores) or dried cranberries due to the sugar content. The sensitivities that most of us have to sugar counteract all the benefits of the cran. Back to basics. Natural is better here. (By the way… you can find the unsweetened cranberry juice at Trader Joe’s and the stevia is now available widely under the brand Truvia. Two cups of juice in a two quart pitcher. Fill it with water and add a packet. Done.)

I started cutting out sugar other places too. Stopped buying cookies and chips that took my taste buds to extremes. I could never leave chocolate behind entirely, but switched to the darkest I could find.

Its at this point when you need to listen to your body and trust its messages. Listen to how it reacts when you consume the healthy fare. At first my body craved the really salty/sweet stuff, but training through those cravings or replacing say… a soda with sparkling water and lemon squeeze got me through. Before long not only did my cravings subside, when I did eat the rich stuff I could feel my body react. Always undesirably. Over time I learned that in order to feel good all the time, I had to avoid that sugar all together and stick with what genuinely felt good. It didn’t happen over night, but I really do love that McD’s fries, Diet Coke and Oreos don’t even sound appealing. My standards for dessert have gone through the roof and only the highest quality darkest chocolate tastes good anymore. And anything less doesn’t satisfy anything, emotional or otherwise.

Replacing Not Depleting

This is not about deprivation! It’s not about cutting out calories just to “train” yourself to eat less. It doesn’t work and there is no health in that. Depletion is not the kind of training your body needs. It just needs to be rebooted so you can enjoy the healthy foods for what they offer. (more on "portion control" another day...)

Give and Take

Breakfast: Coffee, Michigan Ave-alanche (from Protein Bar)
Lunch: All Bran Cereal with Skim milk

Water and cranberry juice all day

Yoga: 90 minutes of lower body stretches, backbends and spine loosening postures

Protein Bar is a great quick-service restaurant in the West Loop in Chicago. Among all the yummy and good-for-you things they offer, their specialty is high-protein blended drinks and bowls. You will hear that I eat at Protein Bar quite a bit. The Michigan Ave-alanche is my favorite of their drinks. It’s loaded with protein and good fats from almonds and granola. Protein is key because it can raise your metabolism by 25% and gets your liver detoxifying. (Sidebar: One reason why eggs help cure a hangover. The protein kicks the liver into gear to get rid of all the toxins we clog it up with while boozing.)

All Bran Cereal is chuck full of fiber which moves everything along and milk does your body good. It’s a natural food with calcium and skim limits my fat intake.

Trust. Train. You’ll see…


Real Food

It’s important to eat real, whole food as often as absolutely possible. We will never be able to know exactly what every food or combination of nutrients does for or against us. Nature works in complex ways. And because none of these nutrients exist in a bubble we can’t definitively test them.

Eggs are a perfect example. Science found the cholesterol in them, we all freaked out labeling them as artery clogging and birthing the egg white omelet and then … lo and behold we found the nutrient it contains to solve that issue. Naturally. It’s not an exact science we need to trust that we were built to work in harmony with the earth we were put on. The more we mess with that intension the greater risk we face of knocking our bodies out of sync. (Since the beginning of the Low-fat “health” craze, health disease statistics have actually risen. .. fyi)

By the same token, Fresh is mostly best. Holds the integrity of the food and everything in it. Frozen, similar concept.

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

I have recently finished reading a book that talks to this topic directly. Michael Pollan is a journalist with very distinct opinions about the position of traditional American agriculture and its influence on the way we eat. In Defense of Food speaks to this point of “nutritionism”, which Pollan defines as “the widely shared but unexamined assumption” that “foods are essentially the sum of their nutrient parts.” He is concerned that the more we try to pinpoint each nutrient and chemical in our natural foods and recreate it in our processed foods, the more we miss the point. Pollan seems to believe that the more we mess with nature the unhealthier we actually become.

I think that makes a lot of sense in part because I believe in the context in which I live. The environment that surrounds me and I are deeply intertwined. We were all intended to work together and as we progress through scientific breakthroughs for disease we need to continually take responsibility for our natural part in the equation. We have gotten lazy and tried to take the short cut to health relying on pills and supplements to nourish us.

Pollan speaks briefly to our culture of eating and compares it to others around the world. The French and Italians savor their meals and eat the same foods they have made for centuries. They are a healthier people for it. Somewhere along the lines the majority of Americans have gotten to appreciate food only when rich and glutinous. All along missing the joy in simple flavors brought together in beautiful harmony to form delicious meals.

There are so many factors that surround eating and Pollan touches on them with his personal style of political annoyance et al. The amount of time we spend eating, the effort and money we put into feeding ourselves and our move away from mealtime as family time and how all of this effects the changes in our diet and ultimately our health.

Personal “Nutritionism”

Certainly while I was dropping pounds I read all about which trendy miracle nutrient could make all my dreams come true. Fiber, B12, Omega-3s. All of them are essential and for years we didn’t think about them because we ate food where those things appeared naturally. We think about them so much more now because we have to add them back in our foods. We make meals practically out of thin air (mostly corn and soybeans as Pollan educates.) and so in order to try and meet the needs of our bodies we stick nutrients in things they don’t naturally appear in. Fiber in cereal bars, calcium in oj, omega-3 fats in bread.

I have to say eating those things was a great beginning for me. Jump started my efforts without changing my lifestyle of non-cooking too much. And as I continue my balancing act, I will have a place in my diet for some of those nutrients outside the foods they originated in. We are lucky to that point. We are able to take control of our diets with the knowledge of years of research and intellectual brain power. Always keeping in mind that it is not an exact science.

But now that I have grasp on the important things my body needs I am changing the way I get those things. It really is a lifestyle change to eat so many fruits and vegetables, but its important for my team. They take time to prepare, they cost money and they require a certain bit if creativity at times. But when I am filling up on such a variety of foods, my body and my psyche line up.

Give and Take

Breakfast: 2 eggs, some hashbrowns with Tabasco, rye toast with jam… coffee.
There is nothing too interesting about hashbrowns. Judging by the Norwood’s CafĂ©’s motif (including a signed and autographed picture of George W. sitting in the both behind me in late September 2001), I am guessing these used to be frozen, but are essentially real potatoes. I appreciate their lack of flavor. Potatoes don’t have much on their own so I know they haven’t been salted and are very lightly fried. Spicy foods raise your metabolism hence the Tabasco. Again there is plenty of sugar in the jam.. So moderation is key here.

Yoga: 30 minutes concentrating on stretches for comfort during meditation, shoulder stretches and brief spine loosening movements.