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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Do what works for you

We need to be willing to climb the steps to a healthy lifestyle.
Lawrencetown Beach, NS, 2013.

Note to the reader: I am not a nutritionist, dietitian or doctor; if those "food matters" interest you, please seek professional advice, especially before you make any drastic changes to your diet. This post is a "relatively informed" personal essay, nothing more, nothing less.

This is a post I've wanted to write for quite a while, and this week, a post by fellow blogger Norma gave me the kick in the but* I needed!

When it comes to food and exercise, and if we ignore fad diets - which is most of them out there - sorry pals! - and focus instead on serious research, there are still all kinds of "rules" to follow.

For example:

  • You shall imperatively have breakfast
  • You shall not eat late in the evening
  • You shall eat every 3 hours
  • You shall not make any specific food a taboo
  • You shall drink at least 2 liters of water every day
  • You shall work out early in the day
  • Etc.

Do my homemade chocolate-raspberry mini-muffins
follow the rules?
I couldn't care less! They are ugly... but delicious, and small!
Having one is fine. As they say: all in moderation!

Some of those rules really do make sense. Any other come to mind? (Remember: we're not talking about the 800-calorie or 20 grams of carbs per day type of diets, but of replicated, serious, research results!)

Some of the sensible recommendations from the point form list above stem from studies that have shown how those strategies yield better results in terms of health, fitness and weight loss/weight maintenance.

However, I keep hearing conflicting evidence from a variety of fit/slim people. Some skip breakfast. Some only have 2 (big) meals a day. Some have not eaten ice cream in more than 10 years (what kind of superpower do they have?!?) And yet the results are there, convincing, and durable: a strong, lean, fit body (and a happy camper).

Who holds the truth?

For someone who's starting from square one, I do think it's wise to follow serious research-based recommendations. However, if you're already doing good with your health and fitness results, and feel that a little exception to the rules might work better for you, I say why not! As long as it's done with intelligence and not as an excuse to fall back into bad habits.

I, for example, have never been able to eliminate my evening snack. When I did I would wake up hungry, stomach growling and all, at 3 am! I eventually figured it would be much wiser to have my yogurt and almonds at 9:30 pm than in the middle of the night!

Among my friends, I also seem to be the only one person who needs to eat as soon as she gets up, even if it's 5 am and I'm going for a run (needless to say, I eat something light and small in those instances).

When I listen to my hunger throughout the day, I usually end up consuming most of my calories around 10:30 am. Talk about weird meal timing.

Lastly, I do half of my exercising in the evening because that's convenient for me, and because I'm full of energy at that time. Plus, I've noticed that being away from home during those "dangerous hours" helps me keep my eating clean!

I broke another rule when I spent about a year as a vegetarian, and probably did not pay enough attention to my iron intake (I'm lazy that way). I mostly looked at getting my B complex vitamins (from food sources, not pills), because I had read this could be an issue. Well, when I got tested after a year, my hemoglobin levels were still superb (which had always been the case - it just hadn't changed). I hear this is unusual, and my mindless approach wasn't very smart, so please use caution, but it just goes to show that what applies to most doesn't necessarily apply to all.

When we think of eating healthy, no matter what we do, the trick is to make each bite count, and to make sure caloric input/output ratio is balanced (that's often harder than it sounds!)

Eating out of hunger (as opposed to other unfulfilled needs), ingesting mostly nutritious foods, and having small portions, accompanied by a lot of water and regular exercise, is simple enough... but it works! (Your blood type has nothing to do with it!) If only we were committed enough to stick to it a good 90% of the time...

Now if you like to make your own rules, why not make healthy ones? One of mine is to include vegetables at all 6 meals of the day, including breakfast. But who really feels like having veggies in the morning?

Colorful enough... but really? At 7 in the morning?

It's easy if you have a juicer (or even a good blender). Veggie smoothies are an easy way to significantly increase the amount of greens, reds and oranges you get. I started with mixing a little bit of vegetables with fruit, milk and protein powder, but now the vegetables make about 50% of any given smoothie. Example:

Today's smoothie: romaine lettuce, tomato, red and yellow
bell pepper, watermelon, Greek yogurt,
(a tiny bit of) mandarin yogurt, protein powder,
skim milk, water. Result: surprisingly good!

Other vegetables that mix really well without adding a weird taste:

- zucchini
- cucumber
- Chinese bok choy
- carrot
- avocado
- (a little bit of) celery

To cover the occasional bitter taste, the best fruits are banana, watermelon or pineapple. Otherwise, berries are wonderful!

And now here's an example of a meal that would be nutritious and filling:

Nutrients + volume - calories = this plate!
Sauteed bok choy and kale (with a little bit of olive oil,
fresh garlic and salt), with a turkey breast. Yum.
I lost the weight I wanted to lose by eating that kind of stuff!

(Total contents: about 1 cup)

Other example of a meal (notice the small portions):
Indian butter chicken, eggplant ratatouille with chickpeas, 

and mashed sweet potatoes-turnip-eddoe with skim milk 
and a little bit of coconut oil and turmeric. Yum again!

Now, don't ruin your good meal planning by adding unhealthy + caloric drinks, desserts and snacks!

In the end, we got to remember one thing: you get from it what you put in it. Small changes in behavior will bring about small changes in outcome. Luckily, those changes can add up, and you can build a lot from baby steps. What are you starting today?

Off to the bus stop to get the kids!


  1. Yummy looking food photos - made me hungry! I too have to eat first thing in the AM and need a snack after supper. I have very vivid food dreams if not. Ask me about my chicken pregnancy dream sometime!

    1. I think you already told me about that chicken dream! LOL

      When pregnant I craved escargots with garlic butter, smoked salmon, and Gatorade. Weird! (Granted, I do like those things.)

  2. So yum! Those bell peppers, aw man! I haven't had bell peppers in forever because they're just so darn expensive and I eat them in 5 seconds flat!! It's like eating $3 per pepper, lol!! That turkey and kale looks BOMB too! At first I thought the turkey was salmon actually! These are dishes that I definitely chow down on, on the regular! :D

    1. I love bell peppers too! Would you be able to make them grow in your backyard or balcony? That would cut on the cost.

      And salmon, aaaahhhh... one of my favorites! I'll try to post a pic next time I have it! :-)

      We should plan a supper together one day... Oh wait, we're ONLY 3000 miles apart (as the crow flies)!!!

  3. Very well presented!!

    I break a lot of the rules.

    From what I have seen and what I know, humans can adapt to most any dietary system.

    As far as health, keep your weight low normal, be active, and make modifications depending on your genetics.

    That's my short course on wellness.

    1. And, as a couple smart people would say, if it doesn't work, modify the approach! ;-)

  4. Yikes! Must be California prices! Yesterday, I got a huge green for 89 cents and a red for $1.29.

    1. They're pretty expensive here too (Canada), but I still can't resist.

      I figure if I don't buy myself a coffee and a muffin, or beer, or cigarettes... I can very well buy myself some good produce. :-)

  5. Hi Julie, Well, you have good reasons for why you eat the way you do.

    When I remade my food formula. I threw out everyone's ideas and thought--when do I want to eat my food? When are times when I don't care so much? When are times when I really enjoy eating? What foods are easy ways to have lower calories? What high calorie foods are just more calories than they are worth? What little treats can I have that are fairly low calories? Just questions like these until a workable formula evolved that I really like. I think it must be individualized until the person who must live with the plan truly enjoys it--or it cannot last.<<Which is what you and I do. :D

    :-) Marion

  6. You asked yourself the right questions, Marion! The ultimate proof is the way we look and feel! :-)