I remember when I was in high school, when I would lie down I thought it was really cool that my stomach would sink down and my ribs and hip bones would protrude from my skin.
Now that I think about that, it actually sounds kind of disgusting. Who wants to be a “skinny minnie,” as many have dubbed me?
I get that an awful lot – “why do you work out? You’re already a ‘skinny minnie!'”
First of all, I don’t want to be a skinny minnie. And second of all, even if people didn’t think I look like a skinny minnie, that isn’t why I’d be working out!
Yes, I’ll admit that one of my reasons for working out and eating consciously is to improve my body composition. (i.e. So I can rock a bikini or skin tight dress) What woman doesn’t want to look good in what she wears?
But improved body composition does NOT mean being skinny! When you say skinny, images of Mary Kate & Ashley, Nicole Ritchie, and Twiggy run through my head. Ew. I don’t want to look like a drug addict. That is NOT the goal.
Hm…Jessica Biel maybe, and even Britney (during her sultry “I’m a Slave for You” days) maybe. I wouldn’t mind looking like them. Solid, fit, and like they could probably kick your ass.
Actually, I take that back. I don’t want to look like them. I want to look like me. But a solid, fit, I-could-kick-your-ass version of me. It’s ridiculous to want to look like this actress or that super-model. We all have different genetics, different body compositions. It is probably genetically impossible for my butt to look as good as Jessica Biel’s.
But I can admire their level of physical fitness and aspire to achieve my own pinnacle of physical fitness and health.
Anyway, body composition and overall health – that is what it’s about. In the words of James Ray, “Let health be the goal, and let fitness be the by-product.” Just try to get and stay healthy and happy, and it’ll manifest itself in your physical appearance.
When you start eating healthier and become more physically active, your body can’t help but conform. Eating right, working out, and other healthy habits – getting enough sleep, minimizing stress etc. – shouldn’t make you look like an Oleson twin.
Today I was in the gym and overheard a woman say, “People are more ‘into fitness’ here.”
What exactly does that mean – “into fitness”? As if it’s a hobby or a trend.
Yes, I can see that health and fitness has become much more mainstream these days. With all the focus on “low carb,” “low calorie,” “all natural,” etc., some might say that this is merely a trend, and it will pass. Like jelly shoes and leg warmers, it just might pass, only to come back again.
Remember when it was the “in” thing to roll down your socks into doughnut rolls? Or to frost the tips of your hair? One day people will say, “Rmember when it was cool to eat anything that said “No Trans Fats!”?
Yes, this emphasize on health and fitness just might go away one day. Maybe not completely, but it won’t be at the forefront like it is right now.
Does that mean that I have to follow the masses and forget about eating healthy, exercising, and making healthy choices?
No way! I’m grateful for this trend. It took the “coolness” that society has assigned to the fitness lifestyle to make me change my ways. I guess you could say I’m a conformist in that sense. But in this case, I don’t think it was a bad thing.
But when the coolness factor goes away, I hope I’ve learned enough and engrained enough into my lifestyle and habits to keep it going, even when commercials on TV aren’t claiming that your Fred Meyer butcher sells only hormone-free beef.
So when it’s cool to scarf down a Big Mac, large fries, and a Coke again, I plan to still be “into fitness.”
Do I eat healthy all the time? Let’s review my menu over the past few days, shall we?
Monday – Protein shake with soy milk, Vietnamese-stye chicken wrap from TJ’s, shrimp pasta spaghettini, chocolate lava cake
Tuesday – Protein shake with soy milk, won ton noodle soup, almonds and beef jerky, raw foods meal replacement bar, protein shake, recovery drink (during my workout), homemade turkey chilli
Wednesday – Protein shake with soy milk, veggies, buckwheat soba noodles, and beef brisket in miso broth, raw foods meal replacement bar, wild greens with turkey meatballs, cottage cheese and raspberries
So, let’s review: Do I always eat healthy? Hm…chocolate lava cake doesn’t strike me as very healthy.
Okay, I admit – to the average American, the above menu actually looks pretty damn healthy. In my previous life, the menu would probably have included a lot more fast food, creamy dishes, and various deep-fried edibles.
It took a few years, but I eventually stopped eating fast food multiple times a week, and took a more conscious approach to what I was eating.
My husband of course helped me along the way. He loves to research. It’s not only what he does as part of his day job, but what he does during his free time. He researches the latest in fitness trends, biomechanics, ways to grow his business, and nutrition and supplementation.
So, he’d come to me all excited about the latest findings he read about in some fancy study. It seems that nutritional best practices are always changing and are confusing as hell. One day eating starchy carbs post-workout is good, the next day it’s bad. One study concludes that red meat is a superior form of protein, the other concludes that its acidity is bad for you. One person says fruit smoothies are a good way to get your daily fruit servings, the other says there’s way too much sugar in them.
No wonder everyone is confused, including myself. After years of trying to keep up, I’ve come to the conclusion that while I’ll try to abide by the latest findings, I’ll always adhere to the following basic principles:
Eat small meals (aka “eating opportunities”) spread out throughout the day – about 3 hours apart – rather than 3 gigantic meals. (Helps maintain blood sugar levels and speeds up your metabolism.)
Eat whole, organic foods. The processed stuff contains way too many ingredients I can’t read. And if I can’t read it, chances are my body won’t know what to do with it.
Eat protein with every eating opportunity, preferably from a lean source such as chicken, fish, lean beef, etc. Balances out the carbs, regulating the blood sugar levels and helps build your lean body mass (i.e. your muscles – which are a fat burning machine!)
Drink tons and tons of water
Eat tons and tons of vegetables
Stay away from beverages that contain calories, especially those with high sugar content (JUST SAY NO TO SOFT DRINKS!). Drink fruit juices minimally, unless they’re straight from the fruit and contain some pulp in it for fiber.
Stay away from ANYTHING deep-fried or smothered in cream.
Reserve the right to violate any and all these rules 10% of the time.
What does that last one mean? It means that I’m human. I can’t be expected to eat healthy ALL the time. It would just be torcherous and inhumane to deprive me of my chocolate lava cake.
It means that I will adhere to these rules for about 38 of my 42 eating opportunities during the week, but I will let myself eat whatever the hell I want (in moderation of course) for the other four. It means that I will and should reward myself for a job well-done.
And it’s a give and take. If I’ve been doing really well with my workouts for the past few weeks, pushing myself hard and not skipping any workouts, I may cheat a little more. If I’ve been lazy, I’ll try to compensate by being better with my nutrition.
Oh, and vacations? Game over. But I will plan accordingly and be extremely meticulous with my workouts and nutrition for the weeks leading up to it. And I will also accept the consequences of my debauchery and detox when I get back.
So no, I don’t eat healthy all the time. Neither does my husband. (That chocolate lava cake came with two spoons.) And neither should you. You’ll be much more successful if you let yourself cheat once in a while.
Cheating can be a good thing – especially in the form of chocolate lava cake. Oh, and cheesecake ain’t bad either.