The way we eat

My facebook is blowing up y’all.  With statuses about nutrition, food, supplements – I don’t think I can make it a day without seeing a post of at least half a dozen people’s dinners.  From the looks of it – it seems to be something people care about.  After all, I do.

The biggest talk I see going on via facebook and in a lot of the fitness circles I run in as a personal trainer is centered around “eating clean.”  Maybe you’ve seen t-shirts repping the “eat clean” phrase (maybe coupled with “train dirty”).  I read and hear comments on a regular basis along the lines of

“It is so hard to try to eat clean…”

“I just eat really clean…”

“Do you have any ideas for clean meals?”

“___ is a great restaurant with a lot of clean options.”

Can I be honest…every time I hear “clean eating” or one of its forms I think: “hey, I eat clean too…I wash all my fruits and veggies…all clean!”

In all seriousness though, what in the world does clean eating mean?  Really…there is no ONE definition of clean eating.  You can google search it and come up with a number of different interpretations and takes on the topic and methodologies.  It is avoiding everything artificial?  Is it avoiding all processed foods?  Is it avoiding any kind of “treat” or sweet?  Does it include food combination principles?  Nutrient timing? Paying attention to macros and micros?  No wonder people break out into a cold sweat when they start entering the nutrition world.  I’m not surprised by people who try to follow strict rules that they found and then get so overwhelmed that they give up.  Now, I’m not saying that “clean eating” – however you define it – is bad, wrong, silly or whatnot.  I just think sometimes we spend way too much energy on trying to be perfect and get everything right.

I read somewhere…I don’t know where…but there is some blog out there I once happened upon and the author said something to the tune of “I follow an 80/20 rule.  I eat 80% of the time in my home where I control what I buy, eat and I take great care to do it well.  That means the other 20% I don’t worry about when I am out an about.”  That doesn’t mean binging on sliders and supersized meals when out and about…but it means we can cut ourselves a little slack and not beat ourselves up for not being perfect all the time.

Here’s my little secret – I eat whatever I want.  But here’s the thing – my wants have changed dramatically over time.  I really, truly, honestly, don’t desire fast food, or sheet cake, or a number of other things that we encounter every day.  Because I want my health and my fitness more.  However…when it comes to ice cream; I almost always want that more 😉  I evaluate my food choices and I eat what I want…and what I want is my food to line up with my desire to be healthy, fit, and active.  I want my food to fuel my body, to give me energy to play with my son, to allow me to run races or pay attention in an all day meeting.  My want for those things overrides my want for junk…usually.  I don’t stress about the “20%” that might not align so well.

I don’t pay attention to calories.  I don’t look at nutrients.  I don’t do much supplementation – I take a multivitamin, and when I was pregnant I took extra iron.  I eat real food.  Here’s my loose food philosophy:

– I pay extra for organic produce, meat and dairy when it is available…so mostly everything.  I know too much about GMOs, glyphosate (the active ingredient in round-up), and other chemical use to not try.  That said – a box of organic mac and cheese is still mac and cheese – it doesn’t make it magically “healthy” – so organic is NOT an excuse to eat whatever you want (though I do enjoy some mac and cheese now and then 😉

– I eat my fruits and veggies

– I eat meat (I only buy organic chicken from the store…no organic, no chicken; wild caught fish; I love it when the hubby gets a deer in the fall and we get our beef from the family), but not everyday…I LOVE beans for protein too – great northern beans, I’m looking at you!

– I don’t eat HFCS, colored dyes (except in sprinkles and an occasional gatorade), or trans fats (they still sneak in there if you read ingredients!).

– I pay more for cane sugar since beet sugar is most likely GMO.  I use real sugar, never artificial substitutes or honey.

– Whole grains for everything – I even bake with all whole wheat flour.

– And I eat ice cream almost every night…I will probably have to stop after I’m done nursing (or I’ll just have to have another baby) – you need extra calories (200ish) when pregnant and while nursing (500ish) – that’s my ice cream.

That’s about it.  Is it perfect?  No.  Is it doable? Yes.  Oh yeah…I love good chocolate.  And in the summers I get a cookie every Tuesday when I bake for the hubby’s softball team – the guys eat the rest.  I also drink whole milk – if raw delivery was convenient for me, I’d probably make the switch…hubby drinks 1%.  I currently love peas.  I grow a garden each summer…and try to prevent the deer from getting it all.  I love canning.  I make jam – it has too much sugar in it, but it is amazing.

That’s really about it now.  I try not to stress too much – fruits and veggies, good protein, whole grains, and ice cream.  That’s my eating philosophy.  What’s yours?

moving forward…despite challenges

It’s been a while ya’ll.  A good while.  It has been a bit crazy around here lately, but we keep moving forward!  I mentioned briefly in my Grosse Ile Duathlon post that I was having some health issues.  So today I thought I’d share some thoughts on how you (I) move forward when life deals you a sucker punch that totally derails your plans and goals…particularly your fitness goals.

Six months ago today (May 4th to be exact)…I started having some intense chest pain.  Like some one was stabbing me in the chest repeatedly.  Out of the blue.  That evening marked the beginning of a long roller-coaster ride that I’m not sure I’m off yet.  Over the past six months I have had varying degrees and types of chest pain…back pain…left arm pain.  I have had numerous doctor appointments, and I’ll spare you the laundry list of tests that caused me to rack up some pricey bills (that thankfully we’ve been able to pay!).  Through a few months of visiting different doctors and specialists, they found…well…nothing.  I don’t know if ya’ll have had any similar experiences, but it kind of makes you feel like you are going crazy.   I was having pain that would drop me to the floor and leave me in tears, but they couldn’t find anything.  Really?

I began to wish that a test would show something – isn’t that horrible to hope they find something wrong with you instead of praising God that they didn’t?  I’ve reformed my ways.  About 8 weeks ago I caved and went to see a chiropractor – I’ve been a bit skeptical, but figured I didn’t have anything else to lose!  The complete verdict is still out, but I think it might be helping.  I still get pain, but the last couple of months it hasn’t been as intense.  I’m praying I can hop off this coaster soon!


In the middle of it all I have been skittish to do any high-intensity workouts…not knowing how my body will respond.  I did the duathlon in May, but outside of that I haven’t done a whole lot until recently.  It is more than a little frustrating.  I had planned on at least 3 triathlons/duathlons this summer plus road races…those went out the window.  Working out as normal…out the window.  I even gained five pounds.  Super frustrating.

So what is a person to do?  You keep moving forward.

My identity is not tied to my athletic or fitness abilities.  I am so much more than my race time or my accomplishments.  I get that is hard for many to grasp…it took me a long time to get there.  My identity used to be so tied and intertwined with my running abilities that it was hard to see who I was without it…but I am so much more and so are you.  Forward progress.

You find out what you can do.  For a month we went rock climbing at Planet Rock one to three times a week.  It was therapeutic for me and put my mind at ease more than any doctor appointment.  We used to climb.  A lot.  Back when we could climb free.  It can get really expensive to climb – we don’t have a grand to cough up for a year climbing gym membership, but Groupon helps us out sometimes!  So we bought month long groupon passes and climbed like crazy.  It was helpful to see I didn’t completely lose all my climbing skills – in fact I was climbing almost better than I ever have and I felt good about myself and my body.  It didn’t make the pain disappear. but it made some anxiety disappear (early on in the ordeal I had legit panic attacks every day for about a week – another story, another day).  Climbing helped.  It wasn’t on my list of goals for the year, but it was what I could do, and it helped.  Significantly.  Forward progress.

From climbing I tried cycling – I did some shorter easy to moderate rides.  I occasionally lifted weights.  It felt good.  Forward progress.

I can’t say that those things were always easy – and outside of the month of climbing, nothing was consistent.  I still had days where I felt like I was going to die any moment, and days where I felt completely normal.  I went on a weekend backpacking trip. It wasn’t anything extreme and I convinced myself something was wrong the last day when every hill we climbed gave me a headache, but I was okay.

The single thing I couldn’t bring myself to do was run.

Running…the one thing I was, at one point, rather good at…and the one thing I could still count on to boost my self esteem.  If I was feeling totally out of shape…I’d go for a run.  I was still better than the average person, so I couldn’t hate on myself too much.  But now, running terrified me.  It was the one thing that still made me feel like if I did it I would have a heart attack and die on the trail…so I avoided it like the plague.

There happened to be one week in the middle of August that I was feeling good and a friend asked me to run a race with her in November – a 15K in Chicago that we had run the year before.  I thought – I’m feeling good, I’ll be through all this by then, let’s go for it.  So I paid $60 to register.  We’ve already established the fact that I don’t throw away $60 on a race and I will run unless I absolutely can’t.  Well…the good feeling I had only lasted a week and back on the coaster I went.  Running = still a big scary monster.  I’m not going to give a whole race report in this post, but let’s just say I did run that race this morning and I did finish, but I did not do any training before hand.

I survived the 9.3 miles. Without training.

I don’t think I’m scared of running anymore.  It is just hard.  Was my time awesome?  No.  Was it good enough?  Yes.  I’m content, because I’m more than that time.  I’m a fighter that conquers fears.  I press forward to regain fitness, to regain health and to thrive.  I will probably have more not-so-awesome days…but I’m not going to let them hold me back.  I’m making forward progress.

I won’t complete 12 races including 3 tri’s/du’s this year.  I won’t run as fast as I did last year…and I could beat myself up over it.  But I won’t.  Because it doesn’t define me and I am moving forward despite the challenges.  That’s more important than hitting specific numbers.  I’m not giving up; I’m simply readjusting and moving forward in the ways that I am able.

I pray that wherever you are at, with whatever is holding you back or derailing you, that you can still make small steps today.  Celebrate the small victories and keep pressing forward!

Taking it to the Road

I used to be one of those drivers.  One of the ones that saw cyclists biking on the road when there was a sidewalk six feet over and started mentally telling them to get off the road and over to where they belong.

That was before I started cycling.

I see the driving/cycling world now in a whole new light.  I got a road bike last year – not a top of the line road bike, but a used decent road bike so I wouldn’t have to compete in triathlons/duathlons in my mountain bike any more – after three of them and with plenty of plans for more it was time.  The first time I decided I was going to ride to work – a short five miles – I was still of the thought that cyclists should ride on the sidewalk.  I quickly learned the error of my thinking and began to mentally apologize to all the cyclists I silently berated over time.  Thankfully I wasn’t one of *those* drivers who actually yelled at cyclists…I’ll get to that.  So without further ado here are some reasons why I, and many others, cycle on the road as opposed to the sidewalk, in case you were once like me wondering WHY?:

1. It is MUCH safer!  Period.  From the research I have found, the risk of an accident while riding on the sidewalk is 2-9 times higher than when you cycle on the road.  A couple reasons for this: one, drivers are not looking for fast traffic coming down the sidewalk when they pull up to intersections (even when you have a “walk” symbol) or the end of a driveway.  They typically don’t do what they should, that is to pull up to the sidewalk, look both ways and then proceed further out to get a better view before turning.  If you are on the sidewalk you are more likely to get hit.  You’ll also not be seen by drivers turning from the road into driveways or onto other roads.  Number two, you are putting yourself and pedestrians at risk of danger.  If there are pedestrians on the sidewalk, which there usually are during the summer months, you should be cycling at pedestrian pace and if I’m trying to get somewhere on my bike it is because I can go faster than I can on foot.  It is dangerous to fly by pedestrians who are walking/running, especially if you have to weave in and out of multiple people.

2. Sidewalks, at least around my neck of the woods, are inconsistent.  They start, they stop, they cross the road, they are often in conditions much worse than the roads I’m riding on (and Michigan roads can be BAD).  There is no way for me to get to my job, five miles away, using exclusively sidewalks.  Its dangerous to have to suddenly dash into the roadway from a sidewalk that abruptly ends.  Not to mention I don’t wan to incur damage to my bike from poorly maintained sidewalks.

3. In some places, riding on sidewalks is illegal because they are for pedestrians.  Not in my area, but there are reasons why it is illegal in many places.

4. I know many drivers get upset that we don’t hug the shoulder, but there are reasons for that too.  If we hug the shoulder we risk riding on debris that can cause blow outs AND hugging the shoulder enables you to buzz by super close.  We appreciate it if you give us  a bit of room, so we will ride to the left a little bit into the lane so you have to acknowledge us and give us the safe space we need.  I know you are usually driving faster than us and it can be annoying to have to move over a couple feet, I get it, but usually it isn’t that big of a deal to get by us.  If there is a lot of traffic we’ll try to be as courteous as possible and find a place to move over for a moment to give you a little extra room so you can get by, but if there isn’t an opportunity for a moment, please have a little patience.  You’ll get by us faster than you will that reallyyyy slow moving car that annoys you and you just can’t get by during rush hour.

So there you have it.  A few good reasons why I won’t be moving over to the sidewalk when I’m biking to work or out for a workout.  Maybe if I’m on my mountain bike heading the quarter mile into town to the farmers market I’ll use the sidewalk, but if I’m on my road bike to get somewhere, I’ll see you on the road!

PS.  No amount of rude yelling at me from out your car window will make me get onto the sidewalk.  It is just impolite and I’ll simply think you are a big ol’ meanie that should try to be in my cycling shoes just once.

PSS.  I try to use a bit of common sense as well and recognize there are some (or a lot) of roads around here that just aren’t good for cycling because they are narrow, super congested, etc.  I’ll avoid them for your sake as well as mine.

PSSS.  I know cyclists have a responsibility to obey laws and such and some don’t…but that is a different topic itself.