Archive | March, 2013

Outsmarting Yourself: Easier for some than others :)

29 Mar



Doesn't earn this

Doesn’t earn this

The mysterious relationship between the mind and body is one that humans have spent eternity trying to understand. We have clues, little insights, but when it comes down to it we really don’t have a clue what’s going on. Until the science of pathology catches up, we have to rely on relationships, studies, and the outcomes of behaviors observed in groups. Something one learns on the road to becoming a dietitian (or by flipping through any number of fitness-related magazines), is that when a person starts an exercise regime, one of the first things he/she often does is dramatically increase his/her calorie intake. Dramatically. Ran 3 miles? Great have an extra 2 slices of pizza. Shoveled the walkway? Fantastic, have a chocolate milkshake. Human beings are so stressed out that we love when things can be mindless and simple. So instead of paying attention to whether or not they are hungry, they assume they have “earned” whatever high-fat/ high-sugar/ high-carb/ high-garbage treat they plan on inhaling. It’s easy to look past the fact that a 3 mile run is most likely only burning around 300 calories, which doesn’t exactly cover the close to 800 calories two extra slices of pizza will give. Many dieters will kill themselves in the gym and make the mistake of thinking they’ve burned thousands of calories, but the body doesn’t really work that way. These dieters will become frustrated when the scale doesn’t budge, or (gasp) it creeps up as they continue their fitness plan.  The novice gym-goer needs very few extra calories to maintain peak energy and fuel workouts, and it’s more the quality of food rather than the quantity that will affect performance.

Of course as the genious dietitian that I am, I know all of this. I know that the brain is programmed to tell you after a workout that you’re twice as hungry as you normally would be. Yet I still fall for it. I’m not twice as hungry, I just have twice the appetite. Hunger and appetite are what my generation calls frenemies. They act like they are BFF, but hunger really doesn’t want anything to do with appetite, and appetite is always stealing the spotlight. Every night that I run (which has been three out of five nights this week, applause please!), I come home and eat a dinner that is far bigger than what it normally would be. Now, I have been eating much healthier lately, and so this meal is usually plant-based, with whole fruits, vegetables, and nuts, so I don’t feel guilty about it at all. The problem comes at work the next day. Girl Scout Cookies that I had long since forgotten about under my desk during this last month of cleaner eating are suddenly jumping up and down for some attention. You’ve been working out all week and you look great, have a few Thin Mints!  That’s fair, right? I ran three miles last night, my metabolism is probably still buzzing. Except it’s not. And neither is yours. This extended calorie burn exists only in our minds, and only affects our bellies. My challenge this past month was to eat cleaner. And I did it, and it’s been amazing. This month I have a much more difficult challenge, one I pose to everyone trying to be fit and eat healthy: DO BOTH. Growing up, I mastered working out/ fitness, and eating mildly healthy . In college I mastered eating and drinking everything in sight (hello 25 pounds!), and in my mid-twenties I’m trying to reach that perfect harmony of food and exercise. The knowledge that sometimes our brains work against us with false ideas of how much we need to eat can be our weapon. I won’t eat a treat because I’ve earned it, I’ll eat it because I’ve decided I really do want it in that moment, and it’s my splurge. I’m in charge of what I eat, and I’m wise enough to know that 20-45 minutes of daily activity coupled with a mostly sedentary remainder of the day does not warrant an ice cream sundae every night… But maybe every once in a while!


Did you hear that, weather? First day of SPRING

22 Mar



Just because Punxsutawney Phil and the weather can’t get their stories straight, doesn’t mean I can get my Spring on. Hence this wonderfully Springy dinner of asparagus topped with an egg. The extra little something that makes this dish absolutely pop is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It makes all the difference, and added a citrus-y pop to this hearty dish. And let’s be honest, is there anything that is not made better by a hit of egg yolk? I didn’t think so.

As I walked home in the bitter cold today, listening to NPR tell me about how the weather is not going to get much better, I could already picture how my night was going to go. It’s been a very similar story each night since I moved here. I’ll give you the highlights: warm sweatpants, couch, DVR. Just thinking about it was depressing. When did I become that person? I wondered. It’s almost scary how easily actions become habits. It’s even scarier how hard it is to break these habits. I came to the sad realization that if I waited for warm weather to arrive in order to come out of hibernation and be active, I could very well be waiting another month. I’ve allowed myself to make every possible excuse to sit on my butt each day after work, but enough is enough. I have made some incredible, life changing modifications to my eating routine, and now it’s time to dive back into something that used to be my favorite thing: fitness. It started today, with a very non-impressive, but statement-making run. As I was running on the treadmill, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they fixed the spin bikes in our gym; a sign! So while I wait for Mother Nature to get off her lazy ass, I’m going to get off of mine 🙂

Here is some Thursday food for thought: The NY Times reported on a study last year estimating that for every single hour of television watched after the age of 25, you take 28 minutes off of your life expectancy. Yikes! Keep that in mind during this last month of cold weather, and turn on some music instead of the TV, and feel free to cut a rug!

This weekend: I plan on hitting the farmer’s market to load up on some local produce. Spring’s fruits and veggies are on their way, and I plan on trying all new recipes this season. What spring fruit/vegetable are you looking forward to most in the coming months?

Sliding Down the Slippery Slope

20 Mar


Don’t they just look so innocent? And haven’t you heard all of the wonderful things about dark chocolate, and almonds? What could be better than pairing them together with a dash of sea salt? Nothing. Or that would be the answer, if these puppies weren’t packing so much saturated fat… or if it were possible to eat one. Or two. Or three. Or five. Or eight. Sadly, these factors exist and so I’ve had to accept the harsh reality that for now, I can’t handle them being in my home. So naturally, I had to eat all of them, heartburn-be-damned, and destroy the evidence. Now all that is left is a delicious, chocolatey  memory of gluttony. In my former, less-than-healthy days of weight/food obsession, I would have spent the remainder of my night feeling guilty, worthless, and planning an oh-so-realistic 10 mile run for tomorrow. However, along with my healthier attitude towards whole, plant-based foods, comes an improved attitude towards food in general. That is not to say I will just give myself up to cravings and forget about all of my goals; it’s a slippery slope and I set out to make over my diet (and my life while I’m at it!). What I need is balance. I need to be able to eat well 96% of the time, so that the occasional overeating of dark chocolate covered almonds is something to laugh at, not something that keeps me up at night. It’s amazing to me that I know so many dietitians, and we all have many of the same struggles that everyone else has. One little slip-up can mean a day (or five) of terrible eating. Changing this behavior is not an overnight process for me. Every day I get better, and every day I feel better about the good choices I’ve made, and I feel less bad about the indulgences. But I don’t want to forget the bigger picture, and I don’t want to end up at the bottom of the slope wondering how the hell I slid so fast, and so I will keep striving to be better.

Clean Monday = Vegan Monday

19 Mar



No, I have not completely lost my mind. Actually, that’s debatable at this point, but in terms of my food, I’m trying to switch things up a little. Thanks to a certain someone, I watched a documentary called Forks over Knives, and ever since then I have been paying attention to what I eat, and how much of it is actually healthy, and how much of it is garbage. As a dietitian, I tend to give myself quite a bit of leeway because I happen to like healthy food. But liking/knowing of healthy food, and consuming healthy food are not the same. While this is an obvious fact, I some times behave as though buying healthy food and being in its proximity will somehow cause an osmotic reaction to occur. Not a whole lot of scientific evidence to back that up unfortunately. After paying close attention and doing a quick recap of my eating habits since I moved to DC, it became clear to me that I needed to change. It will take more studies and evidence to convince me that a vegan lifestyle is the only fool-proof option to avoid cardiac disease, but I do believe that the majority of people in this country could benefit from a decrease in animal product consumption. I am included in that majority, and my co-worker felt the same way. In short, we decided to make, not just an effort, but a commitment to eat a more plant-based diet.

She (Alison), had already flirted with this lifestyle before, and so she had some resources. For instance, she knew of a raw, vegan juice bar right near where we work and so we went there for lunch. I’ve never been very interested in that kind of “granola” lifestyle, but the food was delicious. Avocado, plantains, cauliflower, lots of greens; it was wonderful and so filling. It was also incredibly spicy and garlic-laden. I had indigestion the rest of the night, and vowed to eat about half as much next time we went.

On top of relying more on plants, I want to gradually exclude non-natural ingredients. Again, this is not something I’ve given that much thought to previously, even as a dietitian. A part of me feels that we could spend our whole life obsessing over whether or not the government is poisoning us with additives, or giving us cancer through high fructose corn syrup, or whatever is the next buzz topic, but what kind of life is that? The truth is we don’t know exactly what effect, if any, the “fake” food has on our bodies/health, and the point of life is to enjoy it while we’ve got it. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized: it doesn’t have to be an obsessive-compulsive life change, involving expensive trips to special food markets. If I buy mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, there are no labels to check. Ergo, if I make meals mostly around those fresh items, I will naturally cut most of the “fake” food away. And since I’ve made the decision to enjoy my life and not obsess, the few times I want to enjoy something not fresh or whole, I’ll eat it and just accept that it may have some of those nasty factory made ingredients in it. The key, for me, is to DRAMATICALLY reduce the amount of factory made food I am eating. I have the help of an equally committed coworker, and together we are navigating the vegan/vegetarianish waters, and so far I’m loving the results. Hydration and fiber are my friends, and we are getting along wonderfully. I have indulged on the weekends, but my fruit/vegetable intake is higher than ever. I used to make the excuse that without meat/dairy, I would feel sluggish and run down. So far, no sign of that. I’m taking care to include quite a bit of beans and nuts in my day, and I feel as rested as ever…. when I actually get the right amount of sleep! I’m excited to be on this new journey, and it will be interesting to see how I keep up this lifestyle long-term. For now, what a perfect kick-off to the Lenten season!

Remember me?

18 Mar

This blog-writing business is not as easy as it looks! It seems as soon as I found an outlet for my inner voice, she caught a cold. I found myself not writing things because I felt self-conscious. You know, about what all of my millions of fans might think about it…. Despite not having any fans. I immediately forgot why I wanted to do this in the first place, so that I could write a little something every day, hone my skills, spend my time thinking and writing about something that actually interests me. I hope to get back to that now. A good friend of mine received the exciting news today that she had been offered a position as a corporate wellness dietitian. I cried. I couldn’t be happier for this amazing person and I have no doubt she will blow the wellness world away. Yet, my heart hurt, because that’s exactly what I want to do. I want to walk into an office full of people who are actually excited about their work, and want to discuss the latest studies on nutrition and health. I want to be inspired by others and then turn around and pass that inspiration along. That is not going to happen as long as I work where I am now. That makes things pretty simple, doesn’t it? I have a real focus. I want to work with others to increase the overall health and wellness of this country. I want to give presentations, work with clients, give cooking demonstrations, lead grocery tours. There, I said it; I said it all. If for some reason I try my best and I can’t manage to get a job doing that, then I’ll work it out from there, but at some point I need to accept that sitting around wishing I had a job in wellness isn’t going to bring me any closer to that goal. I need to educate myself, motivate myself, and get out there so I can do something I love. I may change my mind at some point, and completely change directions but I know I want to move on from where I am, so it’s time to get to work. In the meantime, I plan on giving my own life a healthy overhaul, I can be my first client. Who wants to be next??