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Taking life seriously

3 May

Life is too important to be taken so seriously, I was thinking as I angrily ripped cilantro leaves from the stems so I could finish making this guacamole to eat with the plantain chips that just came out of the oven. That was the actual phrase running through my mind.

I was fuming about something that happened on a Facebook support group in which I was a member — until the thing happened and I promptly left that stupid group. Serves them right. See how they fare without me and my years of therapy-produced wisdom.

Cliff’s Notes version: In a group about Whole30 Reintroduction (where you begin to systematically add back into your diet foods that you had stopped eating during your Whole30) I posted a question about chocolate. My post was deleted because chocolate is a trigger for some people…who are learning to deal with their food-related issues and searching for the happy destiny known as “food freedom.”

What the ever-living you-know-what?

So I was in my kitchen, tearing cilantro with a bit more gusto than is required to remove the leaves from the stems, writing in my head the diatribe I wished to post on Facebook, and chuckling to myself about adding to the post a picture of a candy bar or a bag of kettle cooked potato chips. And of course the irony of the situation was not lost on me.

I keep going back to the quote I can’t find, the one that was maybe a Facebook post written by one of my friends and not an actual famous person. It was about what we choose to get angry about or the weight of the thing that brings us down and what that reveals about us.

I have a friend who is preparing for another round of chemo. I have another friend who is recovering from a surgery. On Saturday, a family I know will have a service of remembrance for their family member who died last weekend of suicide. And I was upset that my post about chocolate was deleted in a group (of strangers on a social media site) where I was asking for support.

I knew, the whole time this was happening today, that I was taking it all way too personally. Have you read don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements? Don’t take anything personally is one of the agreements. “When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering,” he writes.

You guys, some days it takes so little to upset me, while on other days I fly through life without having to take my frustrations out on a cilantro plant.

I will be better tomorrow, and the guacamole will be better tomorrow, too. That’s how it is with guacamole.

Sharing my (opinion about) food 

29 Apr

Last week someone attacked my food choices, and I gave him a piece of my mind.

I’m being dramatic, of course. I have a “friend” who has an anonymous profile on a dating site (because he’s married). Don’t worry, I’m never going to meet him. I don’t even know his name.

Anyway, I expressed to him that I was having a hard day. He said he was sorry and then asked if I had found anyone to date yet. I said, “I’m thinking about putting up a table at the Natural Grocers store advertising for a foodie runner boyfriend.” And he said, “Don’t even get me started about that whole natural food thing.”

I was already in a bad mood, so I picked a fight and said I didn’t feel like I should have to defend my nutritional choices. After we exchanged many more messages, he said, “Good day to you,” and I left it at that. Ever notice how “good day” sometimes sounds like “eff you”?

I apologized a few days later for overreacting.

Most of you know I did my first Whole30 in March. Because the Whole30 has some pretty strict rules, and because it also quite literally changes people’s lives and relationships with food, some followers have strong feelings about it. Want some proof? Just go on the Whole30 Support Facebook page and ask a question about eating non-compliant foods while doing a Whole30. It’s like lions attacking an old, wounded antelope.

Lately I’ve been exposed to strong beliefs about food, nutrition, and diets or programs. I guess I’ve put myself in the position to notice them more, so I’m also more aware of my own reactions when people comment about my choices. Like when someone turns up their nose at my “healthy” lunch or makes fun of the fact that I eat Brussels sprouts or kale almost every day — it chaps my hide a bit. Or when I overheard someone at the gym saying, “I could never do Whole30! You can’t eat whey protein!” and, though she was not talking to me and her comment was none of my damn business, I felt mildly peeved and admittedly scoffed at her. Sorry, Gym Lady.

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Brussels sprouts, blueberries, eggs, and bacon baby! Looks gross. Tastes good. 

As a personal trainer, I am often asked to share my opinion or give advice about food, diets, and nutritional programs. I have strong feelings about several of them — both good and bad feelings — but I have to be very careful about what I say because I am not a certified nutrionist. I really, really want to go on a rant about some of the ones that are supposed to be healthy and all-natural and supported by research, but I am not going to do that (unless you ask me in private, when I am not working as a trainer, and then gurrrrrl…).

My choices are mine. I have made them based on the evidence I have gathered and deemed to be trustworthy. I assume that you have done the same, and I respect that even if I don’t agree with your choices. Just don’t dig on my Brussels sprouts, bitches, or we gon’ have words!

 

Remembering bits and pieces

26 Apr

I’m trying to lose weight. Fifteen pounds (as of today) to be exact. Usually I weigh myself on Thursdays. I use the scale at my gym, and I go there in the morning after I’ve used the bathroom (TMI) and before I’ve eaten breakfast. Today is Wednesday. I needed to weigh today because I can’t do it tomorrow.

Something has been off in my body and spirit for a week or so. I’ve had tummy troubles, and this morning I woke up with a terrible headache. Not that there are good headaches. Funny that I always feel the need to qualify my headaches so you know they are bad.

Anyway, headache. Didn’t want to get out of bed. Didn’t feel hungry or even want coffee, which is a sure sign that I’m in bad shape. Been feeling so, so, so very sad, and I don’t know why. Nothing has changed in my diet or my routine. I am not experiencing more stress. Yes, the weather has been rainy and cold and windy, but I live in North Dakota and it’s March.

So I was running late and I went to the gym, stripped off my coat and shoes, and stepped on the scale. I gained more than a pound this week. Last week I stayed exactly the same as the week before. Previously, I had been losing close to one pound per week.

I threw my coat and shoes back on and got in my car to drive to work, and I cried. Lip quivering tears with little whimpering sounds like kittens make. Over a weight gain. Really there has to be something more going on, because I’ve fallen into a funk and I can’t get out.

When I got to work and stepped out of my car, I was thinking, I wonder what would happen if I didn’t eat anything today.

Since I started feeling so low, I’ve had bits and pieces of a quote I believe I once read floating around in my head. It has to do with what gets us down — like you can tell a lot about a person by the things that get them down, or make them upset. I have been Googling the bits and pieces and can’t find it.

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This isn’t the one, but it’s good. And Einstein.

The quote itself doesn’t matter. What matters is that when I start crying about gaining (or not losing) weight and start thinking maybe I shouldn’t eat, it really makes me say, Geez, Wendi. Is that all it takes to get you down? Aren’t there more important matters in the world?

There are more important matters, and I have a lot to be grateful for, but at this very moment I know something is going on that needs my attention. There is a dis-ease in my body or spirit. Yesterday I thought about suicide — not making plans but just the thought that flies into and out of your head. It happens sometimes, and I know it’s important.

Instead of not eating, which I honestly don’t think I could EVER do, I decided to let go of two things today: the scale and tracking my food. It will be hard for me to do that, but ultimately I think it will help.

Thank you for reading this far. Please understand that I don’t want any advice about weight loss or mental health. I would, however, appreciate your support and understanding. Like, “I understand this feeling, Wendi. Is there anything I can do to help? Would you like a latte or a million dollars?” Like that.

 

Feeling a bit off

20 Apr

Here’s a confession of ignorance, or perhaps just some good old fashioned foolish optimism: When I was mid-way through Whole30, I really thought it would solve all of my problems. Well, all of my food-related and health problems.

It’s not that I had a lot of “problems” to begin with. I had been mostly grain- and dairy-free for a while before I started. Once a week I would treat myself to a sugary coffee drink as a reward after my long training run, and occasionally I would use the same sugary coffee drinks to cope with a bad day or celebrate a great day. I really didn’t need a reason, which is why I needed to get away from that addiction. 

As far as my health, I was in decent shape. I was about 15 pounds overweight, but I was active (low-intensity running and cycling 5-6 days a week). I didn’t have high blood pressure, wasn’t pre-diabetic, and don’t believe I was dealing with many of the issues associated with inflammation — as far as I know. I did get the mid-afternoon slump a lot, and that was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to kick the sugar habit.

Most of all, I wanted to feel good about the food choices I was making and feel physically well, and Whole30 has certainly helped me accomplish that. For the last few days, however, I have been feeling overall yucky. I have an upset stomach, a low-grade headache, and very low energy. Generally I think gut issues are a sign that something is off in your system, but nothing has changed in my diet, environment, training/activity, or life. I just feel gross.

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this is not my tummy

I also feel disappointed because I thought my days of feeling like crap would be over once I started eating whole, real, unprocessed, delicious food all the time! I mean, I didn’t think I would never get sick, but I thought that putting good foods into my body would mean I would feel well. All the time. Is that dumb? 

I don’t know what is wrong, but I am sure it will pass. Right now though, even my Brussels sprouts and blueberries with eggs on top aren’t helping, and usually that dish completely makes my day.

Have you ever thought you found a magic cure and then discovered, much to your dismay, that there are no magic cures?

Loving and losing

16 Apr

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about my weight loss. A lot of friends and family did exactly what I asked — they told me “Yay!” — and helped me celebrate my accomplishment.

But one friend made a comment that caused me to ponder the reasons people lose or gain weight, and the reasons people decide to make those changes to their bodies. We can lose or gain for many reasons, positive and negative, and several factors might motivate us to make changes.

Later in the day, as I was writing and rewriting this post in my head, a friend said on Facebook that his wife had started a diet. A friend of theirs commented, “Tell your wife she is perfect just the way she is.”

And that set me off!

I want to propose the idea that it is possible to truly, deeply love yourself and your life, to be very happy and content, and still want to lose (or gain) weight. That decision need not come from self-loathing, a desire to conform to any real or perceived standards, or any other unhealthy attitudes toward one’s own body or food.

At times in my life, I have certainly hated my body and wished it would magically become smaller without me having to make any lifestyle changes, even though I knew that wish was ridiculous. It’s the dream of every person who has an addiction — to do whatever you want and not face any negative consequences.

Since I became an athlete and a personal trainer, I have had to confront and refine my ideas about body image, weight, health, and wellness. I know that weight loss is not always a reason for congratulations. I also have become very passionate about the fact that we feel comfortable saying, “You look great! Have you lost weight?” to friends and family, but when we notice someone has gained weight (and don’t lie, you notice) you don’t ask or wonder if that person is physically, spiritually, or emotionally well. We think loss is “good” and gain is “bad,” but both are usually more complex.

This time, I am working toward weight loss as part of a focus on overall wellness, but I also have a very specific and perhaps lofty goal: I want to take about 20-30 minutes off my marathon finish time. In case math isn’t your thing, that means I would need to run at least one minute per mile faster than I did at my best. A goal like mine requires attention to nutrition, sleep, stress, weight/mass, attitude, meditation (which I don’t do!), strength training, AND running. I’m 45 years old and I’ve only been running for only six years, so I have a lot of work to do!

hearthandsFor me, this weight loss is an act of self-care. I’m eating whole, real, delicious food that helps support my goals and activities. I feel strong and beautiful and capable. And I’m in love with my life, which is exactly why I believe I’m seeing improvements in my body and my training.

I believe you can love yourself and still want to change. Do you? I’d like to know.

Counting the fat

11 Apr

I have a lot of anxiety about food. Actually I have a lot of feelings about food, which is dumb because it’s food.

I did Whole30 in March, and I loved it. Whole30 helps you kick a sugar habit if you have one and moves you away from highly processed, nutrient-poor foods. It does other remarkable things, which you can certainly read about if you are interested. After I stopped craving lattes (like three or four days in) I felt better, had more energy, and lost weight – and I was eating a ton of food. Who wouldn’t love that?

You follow the Whole30 way for 30 days, and then you can continue if you want or move on to “reintroduction” or like “Whole30 life” and try adding grains, dairy, and legumes back into your diet. That’s my current stage. I have no desire to reintroduce dairy because I’ve found alternatives that I feel better about. I tried corn (CHIPS!) and that was fine, so I’ll have them from time to time and try not to get back to the point where I eat only chips and guacamole for dinner. And I also tried peanut butter, and that was an immediate disaster. So no more PB for me.

Everything is great except for the situation that causes me anxiety. I also have been doing Weight Watchers for quite some time which means I track the points value of everything I eat and drink. On Whole30, I eat a lot of fat, and fat is a lot of points; thus, my anxiety. For example, I made this amazing butternut squash, kale, and bacon soup that has full fat coconut milk in it, and a bowl is 12 points. I eat about 30-37 points in a day, so I am going WAY over my points total every single day, especially on my long run training days when I have to replace 1,000 or more calories.

Herein lies the rub. (I think it’s the rub. I should really look up what the rub is.) If I ask the Whole30 people for advice, they will say, “EAT THE FAT!” and if I ask the Weight Watchers people for advice, they will say, “GO LOWFAT!”

I am not going to switch to low-fat or nonfat options. I think low-fat and nonfat are horrible. That’s my personal opinion and I’ll tell you why if you really care. And before you ask, YES, my cholesterol levels are awesome. And in case you’re wondering, YES, I have been losing weight. Plus I eat a ton of food. Really a ton of vegetables and fruits and meats (with some fat!) and nuts and eggs.

What this all means is that I have to deal with the anxiety that is all about the number – the points value – of food that I believe is better for me. When you are assigning a value to a food, and you are supposed to stay within a certain range of values, you can get really focused on the numbers.

I have also considered the possibility that I don’t need to count points at all anymore, and I could allow my (healthy awesome delicious) choices to free me. That’s probably what I should do, since anxiety sucks.

Have you faced a similar situation? I’d love to hear what you did!

Becoming THAT person

17 Mar

In a few days, I will wrap up my first Whole30. I have been eating better in the last few weeks than I ever have in my life. I eat delicious, nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods, and I eat A LOT of them. While I am not yet sleeping well (a benefit I hoped to enjoy), I have more energy and have lost several pounds and inches.

But I’ve become THAT food person.

On Sunday I cooked a fridge full of food for the upcoming week. I browned some ground turkey and added chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, cumin, salt, and pepper. I call it “chorizo” but of course that’s not what it is. I eat about an ounce of it almost every morning in an omelet with pumpkin seed pesto. I also browned some grass fed organic beef which I use in a variety of dishes, but my favorite is in soup with homemade bone broth, diced carrot, onion, and sweet potato, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The recipe is in “It Starts With Food.”

veggies

I parboiled diced white and red sweet potatoes (yams) and then sauteed them with some Brussels sprouts and kale, a recipe I recreated after having the Sweet Potato Hash at Common Roots Cafe in Minneapolis. They serve theirs with a carrot sauce. I roasted carrots with onion and garlic in olive oil and pureed that with a bit of vegetable stock, but it was so damn good that I just ate it like soup and forgot to drizzle it on top of my hash.

And finally, I spiralized a few sweet potatoes and sliced up a red cabbage because at least once a week I eat a Whole30 Meatless Power Bowl that I found on the Physical Kitchness blog. It is cabbage, avocado, and sweet potato with a soft boiled egg and a dressing made with apple cider vinegar, almond butter (I use the Natural Grocer’s brand that they make in-house because it has no added sugar), and some olive oil. It is the most divine meal you can imagine, and my only complaint is that it’s difficult to get all the good flavors on your fork at one time.

In the past, I would scoff when friends would post pictures of their stacks of “Sunday food prep” containers and brag about the meals they’d prepared. I would turn my nose up at anyone who lauded the health benefits of bone broth, gagging at the idea of drinking warm brown liquid that wasn’t coffee. And while I generally bought good quality foods, I thought organic and grass-fed were nothing more than marketing gimmicks.

Now I am that person who preps on Sunday and shops carefully, and I like this person. I try not to get all social media about it, because I know that I used to be so jealous of people who had the time, energy, and money to eat in a way I thought I could not. But if you want to talk about good food, or come and eat with me, I’m excited to share!