“You are eating too many carbs and not enough protein.” This comes from my trainer Quincy (with whom I’ve recently reunited after an 18 month hiatus – more on him in another post), who is telling me this as I’m huffing my way across the gym floor doing squats with a 30 pound bar across my shoulders. I started back with Quincy after hitting a weight loss plateau and a stubborn tummy pooch that refused to budge no matter what I did.
While In my mind I am forever 28 years old, let me tell you what’s not 28 — my metabolism. It is true what everyone says about your metabolism after age 35; all of the delicious crappy food and alcohol you used to consume with nary a care, will stick to your thighs like glue. I’m amazed at how much harder I have to work just to maintain my weight let alone lose weight. So I’ve finally accepted that I need a permanent lifestyle change to my diet. I’ve long since past the time in my life where I can eat or drink anything I want without consequence.
As a mother to a toddler I’ve been on a pretty aggressive kick to get ultra fit, improve my overall nutrition and hold back the hands of time. With the help of Weight Watchers I managed to lose all 45 pounds of the weight I gained while carrying D2 but I’ve still got an extra 15 pounds that’s plagued me for months now. About a month ago I decided I needed to amp things up a bit to bust my rut.
Quincy told me that there was no way I was going to shed the last 15 pounds unless I cleaned up my diet. He’s fond of saying “exercise is the wheel and your diet is the engine” for optimal fitness. Quincy’s of the school that espouses 60% of a lean, strong body comes from diet and 40% comes from exercise. Now, I’ve always considered myself a healthy eater. I shun pre-packaged food, don’t drink very much alcohol and eat lots of fruits and veggies every day. My downfall though is bread, sweets, the occasional pasta dish and fruits like grapes and bananas. In other words, I am a raging carboholic.
I’m a foodie and so oatmeal, egg whites, chicken breast and broccoli (a typical body-builder diet) every day weren’t going to cut it for me. I need my food to have lots of flavor and texture. I love to cook so I quickly did an Amazon search on Clean Eating and came across Tosca Reno, author, fitness model, motivational speaker and patron saint of the Clean Eating lifestyle. I bought two cook books immediately. Tosca’s The Eat Clean Diet Cookbook: Great Recipes that Keep You Lean and Clean Eating Magazine’s the The Best of Eating Clean Cookbook. Both are well-designed cookbooks with easy-to-follow directions and beautiful full-color photographs. Both cookbooks are also written with busy families in mind so there are plenty of crowd-pleasing favorites like turkey burgers in addition to more exotic dishes like Quinoa with Sun-dried Tomatoes. All the recipes have average prep times of 30 minutes or less.
What is Clean Eating? As laid out in her bestselling cookbook, Tosca Reno shares these lifestyle principles:
- Eat 5-6 small meals every day.
- Eat every 2-3 hours.
- Combine lean protein and complex carbs at every meal.
- Drink at leasts 2 liters, or 8 cups, of water each day.
- Never miss a meal, especially breakfast.
- Carry a co0ler loaded with Clean Eating foods to get through the day.
- Avoid all over-processed, refined foods, especially white flour and sugar.
- Avoid all saturated and trans fats.
- Consume adequate healthy fats (EFAs) each day.
- Avoid sugar-loaded colas and juices.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Avoid all calorie-dense foods containing no nutritional value.
- Depend on fresh fruits and vegetables for fiber, vitamins and enzymes.
- Stick to proper portion sizes and give up super sizing!
Not bad, right (well, maybe except the no alcohol part) ? So I’m going to give clean eating a shot for the next 30 days and I’ll try not to go on a Pop Tart binge report back. Last week I whipped up a tasty slow-cooker beef stew with fire-roasted tomatoes, black beans and butternut squash and it was fabulous. It was filling without weighing me down and it didn’t leave me feeling hungry like a pasta dish. I also tried out the Crock-Pot Porridge which is made from cracked wheat, steel-cut oats, rye flakes, brown rice and small handfuls of dried fruit. And if that sounds like a lot of fiber, you would be right. I was wary of how “grainy” this dish would taste but it turned out terrific. It had a rich, nutty taste with more complex flavors than my standard oatmeal. Bonus, the recipe made enough for several mornings so all I need to do is reheat in the morning and go.
On the menu this week? Egg White and Turkey Scramble (the protein to go with my AM carbs), Oven-Roasted Root Vegetables to serve as a side to my baked chicken. I’m also doing a grilled shrimp and asparagus dish that looks divine. What I love about everything I’ve cooked is that the ingredients were easy to find, cooking times were minimal and every recipe is loaded with flavor.
So far my foray into Clean Eating has been a good one and it seems like a good lifestyle change I can easily incorporate into my and my family’s routine. But with four business trips planned this month and a busy work calendar we’ll see how closely I can stick to this new way of eating. I think I’m up to the challenge.
What about you? How have you tried to incorporate healthier ways of eating into your own life? Have you noticed changes in your body or fitness level over the years? And if so, what have you done to keep fit while maintaining a busy lifestyle?
I feel you! Last Feb I set out to meet a fitness and weight loss goal, I’d packed on 15!!! lbs!!! Was the heaviest I’d ever been outside of being pregnant, and felt VERY uncomfortable. I did the 2 step approach, joined a Gym, and totally changed my eating habits. I used the 17 day diet as a guide, which is not (as it sounds) a quick weight loss program, at least not the way I did it. It suggests changing some eating patterns every 17 days as a way to “trick the metabolism, kind of like switching up your exercise regimen. I used it as a model to plan meals. It stresses lots of fish, almost no carbs (aside from fruit), limited cheese, and non-fat greek yogurt. The combo worked and the pounds came off (not at first, but eventually). When I hit my 42nd Birthday in August I was in the best shape of my life. Then I got sick, first a stomach bug, then pneumonia. Now I am out of the rigorous habit I was in, both at the gym, and in my eating habits, and I find it depressing that what took months to build, is so easy to lose. The weight hasn’t come back, but the muscles are gone (abs? gone, stamina? gone); and while I weigh the same, I actually weigh more because of the loss of muscle mass. It is highly frustrating that as we age the weight gain is easier and the deterioration twice as fast. What is good news is that there is such a thing as muscle memory, and so once you’ve had it, it is easier to get it back. I still credit training for Crew back in college (with you!) for building up the original muscles, I still have stronger different muscles in each arm. So, while I empathize with your pain, I also think you are giving D2 an excellent example!! What better thing can we do for our kids than show them, demonstrate to them, how to take care of our bodies, inside and out. Good for you! And Good Luck!
Kajsa – Ah, those days of 5am runs to the boathouse! I couldn’t have done those runs without you! You know, it really makes me thankful that my saving grace is that I’ve always been really athletic since my college days (actually since high school) so at least the working out part is easy for me. I like the idea of switching up the diet every 17 days or so. That’s a good idea. I think also the dirty little secret for women in our 40s is hormonal changes. Subtle but they have a huge impact on on our body composition. I’m looking forward to experimenting with my new clean eating lifestyle to see if I can stave off some of these changes. Will report back! Thanks for the well wishes!