Category Archives: nutrition

Skinny bitches, stick-figure Barbie dolls, and perfect bodies from the bottom to the top

So here’s Meghan Trainor, a relatively attractive 20-year-old, who caught lightning in a bottle comparing body types to musical terms.

In case you, like me, are clueless about pop culture, this cute little diddy is about how if you’re a girl, every inch of you is perfect from your bottom to your top. No matter what.

Unless, of course you’re a skinny bitch (referenced in the lyrics) or a stick-figure silicone Barbie doll. Those things are bad, you see. Mostly because Meghan’s mom told her that boys like a little more booty to hold at night. (Because this is smokin’ hot and not at all freakish.)

B-I-T-C-H.

So basically, it’s okay to be…curvy–but only in the right places–because it makes boys want to have sex with you. Full disclosure: as a former boy, I can safely say curviness isn’t required. The great philosopher Toby Ziegler was right about them…us.

Show the average teenage boy a lug wrench and his mind will turn to thoughts of lust.

Why would you base your approach to your body on the perceived preference of someone who can be distracted by thoughts of a lug wrench?

Wait a minute…you, a middle-aged dad, are cranky because of lyrics in a pop song? Here’s a link to the dictionary definition of irony. Most people got over this months ago. And I’m not on your lawn!

All well-made points. But so are these:

You don’t need to be a size-zero to be acceptable. That’s stupid. And yes, it’s foolish that plus-size is getting smaller all the time. And that women often pay more for it.  (Possible connection: the lower the number associated with plus size, the more clothes they can charge higher prices for.)

In fairness, Calvin Klein never called this model plus-size. But she wears plus-size sizes.

It’s even getting political, as the reaction to school lunch menus shows. (For the record, the quality of school lunches varies widely. Some of them seem to be pretty innovative to me. I mean, black bean and quinoa quesadilla? Sweet potato fries? Chili with cornbread and Italian roasted cauliflower? Seasoned black beans? Sign me up. Sounds better than the mushy vegetable medley we got when I was a kid.)

It has never been easier to exercise than now.  No matter what you like, there’s a fitness option available for you, from P90X to walking to Zumba. And it’s never been easier to eat right* than it is right now, either. Quinoa doesn’t have to be that yicky stuff.

Why not be okay with yourself because you have a plan and you’re working to that plan–to your plan? Why not learn that if you work at something, you’ll get results, whether that’s fitness or a sport or healthy eating or just going out and finding something fun to do?

Not every body is perfect. Some are unhealthy, whether they belong to overweight people or skinny bitches. Pretending that no matter what you do, it’s perfect doesn’t solve anything.

*–My diet is periodically atrocious, so yes, I am a giant (pun intended, get it?) hypocrite on this point.


About the Halloween leftovers

Sigh.

If you lead a Chris to candy, you don’t have to make him eat.

And if you’re like me, you’ll have a crapload of leftover candy tomorrow. And that crapload is the start of the fall and winter salute to sugar. Think of it–first you have the leftover Halloween candy. Then, boom, it’s Thanksgiving, which means pie. Then it’s Christmas party after Christmas party, followed by Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. Then there’s football parties, Girl Scout cookies, and St. Patrick’s Day, and finally Easter.

It’ll be May again before the glacier of bad food (well, good-tasting bad food) melts away.

What’s a guy or gal to do?

Here are some strategies for coping:

  • Get rid of the leftovers. If you have individually wrapped candy, take them to work, or church, or to an assisted-living facility. Find someone you know with discipline, who won’t blow through them in the next 15 minutes. Or throw them out, even.
  • Find an article of clothing you want to get into and magnet it to the fridge. Granted, there are drawbacks here. I’m a tall guy so those pants? They’ll look stupid hanging from the fridge. And sometimes the clothing is something that would show off your new, toned body in ways that aren’t appropriate for that particular room. So maybe post a picture of you in the skinny jeans. Or a picture of them from a website or catalog.
  • Stock healthy alternatives. This might work for you, but I struggle with it. I have healthy alternatives, but if there’s cake on the counter and broccoli in the fridge–well, you know what wins. Maybe you will do better than me. I challenge you.
  • Find someone to keep you honest. In Alcoholic Anonymous, you have a sponsor, someone you can turn to when the pressure gets too much. Find someone to fill that role, someone who can help you get past those moments of weakness.
  • Plan your moments of weakness. If you allow yourself, say, Thanksgiving Day to have whatever you want, it might help you get past the urge to go nuts the rest of the time. You can enjoy the food with everyone else, then get right back on board the next day.
  • Eat before you leave. If you’re going to a party where you know there will be good-tasting food that you’ll lose your discipline over, eat before you leave. That can help you regulate the amount you eat when you get there.
  • Be kind to yourself, but firm. If you stumble, if you fall off the wagon, it’s not the end of the world. Forgive yourself. Don’t beat yourself up. A day, or even a few days of cheating doesn’t undo a longer period of time of not cheating. But find a way to get back on the wagon and follow through. Use your accountability partner to help.

If you’ve successfully run this gauntlet before, what’s worked for you?


It’s not about weight

I don’t like The Biggest Loser. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a month or however long it is to do nothing but work out under the supervision of a successful personal trainer and eat right. I’d even be okay with Jillian yelling at me because it would kind of motivate me. (She’s not on any more, though.)

Yeah, bring it, Jillian.

But that show isn’t for me; it’s for people who are terrified to work out and who carry a ton of problems in addition to bad nutrition and a sedentary life style.

There’s a lot of problems with the program. Many of the contestants, without the structure of the ranch on which the compete or a fitness-industry job, gain a lot of the weight back. (In fairness, it looks like a lot of the winners have done okay, but not all.)

Which brings me to the topic of the post: It’s not about the weight.

A couple years ago, I did something called the Beachbody Ultimate Reset–three weeks of extreme clean eating. I learned a ton about eating well. And when I got done, I’d dropped 17 pounds to 219, the least I’d weighed since college. Since then, my weight has gradually crept up until I topped 250 this spring. It wasn’t the exercise that caused the weight gain. It was the food choices. For me, I knew I had to do better.

So I focused on the food. And for about 90 days, I was incredibly good. I’ve backslid a little since then, but by focusing on the choices I’ve made, rather than the weight, I’ve been able to fit back into the clothes I was wearing right after the reset. (Note: I did finally weigh myself and I weigh a little more than I did then, but I’ve also added muscle.)

When I had my physical this year, the doctor was on me about my weight. I contentedly told him that I was focusing on exercise and making better food choices, and that the weight would come. (He wasn’t impressed; I didn’t care.)

The trick isn’t to lose massive amounts of weight. It took a long time for you to get where you are–let it take time to get back. More important than the scale is your ability to create a plan that works for you and covers the ups and downs of daily life. It’s not how much weight you drop; it’s how you react to the holidays or to that stressful project that work (the one that had you single-handedly adding to the chocolate shortage). It’s how you handle a drive from work to an after-work activity when there are eleven trillion fast food options on the way. It’s about finding a way to work in an exercise program that works for you.

The weight is a symptom of your choices. It helps you keep score about your progress. But it’s not your success or your failure. It naturally follows what you choose to do.

 


A rotten day topped off by half a ton of m&ms

I ate them ALL.

There’s a lyric from an old eighties song that says She had a rotten day, so she hopes the deejay’s gonna play her favorite song.

We’ve all been there. Except at the end of the rotten day, you turn on your favorite station and find that the format changed and it’s now playing Korean love ballads. The song’s not available on Spotify and when you try to play it on YouTube, that little dot thing just spins like your dryer.

What do you do?

Personally, I’ve been known to inhale the entire candy aisle at Publix, but that’s just me. Or, if I’m looking to spend a little less, they serve you free chips and salsa at the bar at Chili’s. And unlike the candy aisle, you can get a vat of beer there, too.

Whatever it is, I do it. You do it. Everyone does it.

They’re called comfort foods for a reason and they typically aren’t leafy greens (though frozen blueberries can work in a pinch).

There’s a problem with comfort foods and trying to change your body and accomplish things. Whatever things made your day stinky are now multiplied that you ate a bunch of stuff you swore you weren’t going to eat. This time…this time…you were going to do better.

And you couldn’t even manage that.

So what? Go to bed and know that there’s another day tomorrow. And if you screw that up, there’s another day after that.

If you’ve started to eat better, eventually, you’ll get back to that. And while you’re mowing through the m&ms, maybe get a book that helps you work through stress using better coping mechanisms.

Or try the frozen blueberries.


Hell is a place where you don’t need any help

One of the best things about the fitness and nutrition journey I’ve been on is the help I’ve gotten from other people. I have never, never asked someone a question about fitness and nutrition and had them blow me off. That include people I work out with. People who make money selling Beachbody products, certified personal trainers, and people I’ve met and talked to on trials.

In my opinion, one of the best things about getting fit and eating right–one of the best things about life in general–is that you need help. That’s the best because it gives you a chance to meet someone new, learn something, and come out of the encounter better than you were. It also allows someone to help another person.

Hell is not other people. It’s the place where other people don’t give a damn.

So if you’re reluctant to start a fitness or nutrition journey–or any other journey for that matter–because you can’t do it all yourself, that’s silly. You’re a starter. If you could do it all yourself, you wouldn’t be.

Sure, maybe you’re self-conscious. Maybe the last time you exercised was because your gym teacher made you. Maybe you’re the guy who pronounces quinoa as quinn-oh-uh. (I was.)

So what? Find people with a passion, ask them for help, and then take a chance.


If you have to have sweets, make your own

I made shortbread today–from a family recipe. The ingredients are simple: flour, confectionery sugar, and butter. As they shortbread baked it way to tasty goodness, I looked up the ingredients to Walker’s Shortbread and Keebler’s Sandies–without the pecans. To my surprise, while their ingredient lists were a bit longer than mine, they weren’t a lot longer.

I did the same thing, comparing Edwards frozen New York cheesecake to an awesome recipe I made last Christmas. Again, there were differences, but they weren’t as big as I imagined. And some of the ingredients I use for my cheesecake–cream cheese, sour cream, and graham crackers–each have ingredients of their own.

So while there are some differences, at least in those two products, they aren’t as big as I thought.

So why are you telling us to make our own? That’s a pain.

That’s precisely the reason I’m telling you to make your own. Because it’s a pain.

Unless you live out in the sticks, it’s relatively easy for you to get food that’s bad for you. Even my parents, who live in a place with no sidewalks and no municipal sewer and water are about a five-minute drive from places where they can buy packaged food. If you live in a place like that, you might have a taste for cheesecake. But when you get there and find out they don’t have that, you sub out and get ice cream or donuts instead.

Where I live, I can drive to Publix in about three minutes and they have cheesecake and everything under the sun. It’s easy to go grab a frozen cheesecake, or a bag of gum drops, or Doritos, or whatever else I might want.

Making it yourself is harder. It takes longer. Having to make it yourself does two things: it allows you to control the ingredients and it raises the bar. Maybe you want some something bad, but you don’t want it enough to make it. And if you do make it, maybe the quality of the ingredients you’ll use are better for you than the ones that get used at the factory.


Celebrate! Just celebrate!

I enjoy a lot of my workouts. Not all of them. But enough of them. Still, when it’s 5 am and I’m getting started or it feels like I’m running through a sauna and my shirt weighs 600 pounds, I don’t dig the experience.

A lot of the time, it’s just hard work.

And eating right can feel like a prison sentence. Seriously, when you’re sitting at the table with fruit, sometimes it doesn’t matter how sweet and glorious pineapple is–not when everyone’s having a big old slab of cheesecake with fluffy whipped cream on top.

That’s why it’s important to look for and celebrate your gains (or losses), even if they’re just small.

  • Do those pants fit differently? Is that shirt hanging a little differently?
  • When you went out for a walk, did you run a little bit? If you ran a little before, did you run a little more?
  • Was that thing that always totally kicked your butt a little easier this time?
  • Did someone say you look really good?
  • Do you notice a difference when you look in the mirror?
  • Did you say no to that sugary or fatty thing everyone else was eating?
  • Did you eat a good breakfast every day this week?
  • Did you substitute better items at snack team (even if they aren’t perfect)?
  • Did you make or try something good for you that tasted better than you ever expected?
  • Did you have a day from hell and forego the comfort food (even if it just happened once)?

If so…

Nice work!

And if you didn’t, that’s okay, too. There’s always tomorrow!


Six strategies for eating out

Eating out is a wonderful experience. Whether you’re sitting with friends or family enjoying the communal meal or hanging at the bar watching sports, it’s one of the great things about being alive where and when we are.

It can also be a killer for your nutritional goals, unless you think ahead and strategize before you arrive. Here are six tips to help you out:

Check out the nutritional information available online before you leave. A while back, we went to Chili’s, and while I wasn’t looking to be super healthy, I wanted to eat something reasonable and not spend a ton. A quick review of the menu brought me to the Margherita flat bread. How bad could it be? It’s flat bread with some pizza-like stuff on it, but no sausage or pepperoni. When I got home, I looked up the nutritional information and found my more-or-less healthy choice had 1400 calories. To put that in context, I could have had all but one of the dessert options and come away with fewer calories.

If you forget beforehand, you can use your smart phone to check the information once you get there. That didn’t work at Chili’s (and they didn’t have the nutritional information available at the restaurant; I checked). I couldn’t get past their mobile site, which didn’t have the nutrition information. (It’s available at their regular site.) When we went to Smokey Bones, their nutritional information was available in a mobile-friendly format. Boom, veggie burger selection (though I should’ve asked to skip the ketchup) with a side of broccoli. Mission accomplished.

Eat something before you leave. A while before we left, I had a serving of vanilla Shakeology (a meal-replacement shake), with the intent of just getting a relatively healthy appetizer. It turned out the appetizers weren’t all that healthy, but the veggie burger and broccoli met my dietary and budget needs.

If the nutrition information isn’t available and you want to make a good choice, make the best choice available that suits your taste. If you don’t want a side salad with dressing on the side, don’t get it. But most places will allow you to substitute a vegetable for fries. You can also forego dessert and skip the endless supply of chips and salsa.

Finally, periodically go out and get what you want, without worrying. Right now, I’m in a zone where I don’t feel deprived if I eat healthy. The veggie burger was fine. The broccoli was outstanding. I didn’t miss a big old juicy beef burger and the fries. The time will come, when I really want that stuff. You, too, probably. Give yourself the treat periodically, but make sure it’s a treat and not a habit.

Finally, work from where you are. I had the veggie burger and broccoli. Maybe that’s not you right now. Maybe you can skip dessert and the appetizer and feel like it’s a big gain. Scale your expectations to where you are. That said, over time, try to do better with your choices.

It would be great if every restaurant made it easy to eat yummy, healthful food. But that doesn’t happen. So do your best. And if you forget or slip, it’s not the end of the world. Just try to get better over time.


Four easy food substitutions to help with your nutritional goals

Fitness is only part of the battle. There’s a saying, almost a cliche, that says great abs aren’t made in the gym; they’re made in the kitchen. But trying to change everything about your diet in one shot isn’t likely to be sustainable.

It’s taken me years and I’m only now getting to where I want to be.

But if you want to take a gradual approach, here are some substitutions you can try to nudge the meter a little bit.

  • Substitute real peanut butter for typical commercially available peanut butter. When you see the stirrable peanut butter and check the label, you know what’s in there? Peanuts and (in some cases) salt. When you look at a jar of Peter Pan, you know what’s in that? Peanuts, to be sure, but also sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt, and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil. Hydrogenated oils are trans fats. Publix has Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter, which consists of peanuts and a little salt. I’ve found the Smucker’s is often difficult to stir, though. The best pick for me is Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter. It’s relatively easy to stir and it’s a little cheaper than the Smucker’s (about $3.50 a jar).
  • Substitute brown rice pasta for regular. Regular pasta is super-refined. Most of the nutritional benefits have been stripped away. Whole grain pasta is better for you, but its texture isn’t what most people are used to. (Also, packaging can be misleading. Some of the whole-grain pasta isn’t completely whole-grain.) Brown rice pasta, in my experience, has the same texture you’re used to and is nutritionally superior. It’s more expensive at a regular grocery store (about $4 a pound at Publix), but you can get brown rice corkscrews and penne for $2 a pound a Trader Joe’s.
  • Substitute brown rice for white rice. White rice looks pretty, but it’s had a lot of nutritional value stripped away in the processing required for that prettiness. The bran layer is removed, which means it digests faster, which means your blood sugar is more likely to spike. Brown rice has more the 4 times that magnesium of white rice. Magnesium helps fight inflammation, which reduces chances of a host of maladies, including heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. White rice also has a higher glycemic index than brown rice (that is, it has more effect on your blood sugar level). And for me, it tastes pretty much the same, especially if you’re using it with other foods, such as in a burrito. And brown rice isn’t expensive at all.
  • Substitute almond milk for regular milk. Almond milk’s a nutritional gold mine with lots of antioxidants and vitamins. It’s also lower in calories. Although cow’s milk is higher in protein, almond milk is (surprisingly) higher in calcium. Almond milk is also great if you’re lactose intolerant. I’ve been using almond milk for a long time in nutritional shakes and I’ve started using it in cereal. For me, it’s fine, a little richer than skim and the taste doesn’t distract me from the cereal. (Note: If you have nut allergies, you might want to avoid almond milk.) Almond milk is available at Publix for about $3.35 for a half gallon, but is frequently a sale item.

As with all things involving food, your mileage may vary. These things worked for me without any downgrade in taste or the overall experience.

Have you made any healthy food substitutions?


And the food thing, too

Working out is easy for me. I mean, I want a hard work out, but I’ve been doing it long enough that it just happens. Food, on the other hand, is a different thing. I’m moving it the right direction, but with mixed results. The banana-egg pancakes came out pretty good, but I still haven’t mastered the cauliflower crust pizza.

When there’s something I’m not great at–something that requires a lot work and isn’t necessarily successful–I tend to avoid that thing. (Like, you know, almost everyone.)

I’m not making horrible decisions, mind you. No Quarter Pounders with Cheese. No pepperoni pizzas (and yes, I have finished off an entire thin-crust pepperoni pizza in one sitting, but not in a long time). I’ve been falling back on cereal–mostly the organic granola. But it’s got a lot of sugar in it.

This is an area where go in spurts. I went nuts earlier this year on roasted vegetables, until that played itself out. Just this past week, I did stir-fried veggies from a bag I got at Publix. Added some carrots and ate it over brown rice with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (yum). Today, I got ambitious and made quinoa and brown rice pasta salad with home made dressing and a mess of different veggies and some parmesan cheese. It turned out pretty good. (Then I roasted the leftovers.)

Yum. I hope.

By Monday, though, I’ll probably be back to the granola for dinner. (No green veggies in that.)

A couple of things of value here:

  1. Everyone has weaknesses. Everyone has places where they’d like to do better, but the passion’s not really there at the moment.
  2. If you got it, own it. I know I need to do better, but I also know it’s not happening all at once. The workouts didn’t happen all at once and the food won’t either.
  3. Take a chance and do something a little risky anyway. The salad could have been horrible. (I didn’t think so, but I’ve been wrong on food-related things before…) So what? It turned out good and I’ll eat it for a while.
  4. I may not make anything again for two weeks. That’s how it is. I’m better now than six months ago. Probably not as good as I’ll be six months from now.

The point is, I’m not getting all hyper intense about it. I’ll keep moving in the right direction, but I’ll probably never be that guy who spends hours throwing together an amazing meal. I’d much rather write, work out, or even take a nap.

But I will do better and move in the right direction. I have a pair of shorts I want to get into and I’m not quite there yet. My goal is for them to be too big for me.

Not overnight, though.

How about you? What do you struggle with? How are you changing it?