My Eating Philosophy

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I never claim to be a food blogger, but I do think I fall into the realm of healthy living, as I mainly write about running.  However, proper nutrition and fueling is a huge part of being a successful long distance runner, and I can definitely tell a difference in my life and running when I’m not eating properly.  My first college degree was in dietetics, which I then followed up by heading to nursing school, so to say my educational background and interests are founded in health is a bit of an understatement.

With that background information, I thought that I would share my eating philosophy with you.  I know that many food bloggers and runners got started because they began with a weight loss journey, but that’s never been the situation for me.  I’ve been within the same weight range ever since I graduated from junior high school, and my weight has never been a problem.  How do I do it?  Well, I’m blessed with a beautiful metabolism (thanks mom!), a love for running and tasty, healthy food, and the following eating philosophy:

eat what I want, when I want

I was a pretty picky child when I was little, and I’m certain my diet consisted of vanilla yogurt, cucumbers, Honey Nut Cheerios, mustard sandwiches (yellow mustard on rye bread…delicious), apples, and milk.  For the most part, I don’t remember being hungry until I was 18 or so, but I ate when I was hungry and didn’t eat when I wasn’t.  This is still what I do, and it works well…and makes sense!  You don’t have to eat dinner just because it’s 6pm…eat when you’re hungry.  Eat until you’re full, but not stuffed.  Pay attention to the food you’re putting in your mouth!

Although I eat healthy in general and try to get in all my fruits and veggies, I don’t obsess over it…I like to eat fruits and veggies so getting them in isn’t hard.  That being said, I used to eat ice cream every single night, without fail.  I didn’t eat a huge bowl of it, but enough that I was satisfied and didn’t feel deprived.  The second you start feeling like you’re missing something is when you start to lose it.

eat REAL food

You know those quick and easy meals from the freezer section that you just pop in the microwave and eat four minutes later?  I’ve never had one.  Not even an Amy’s burrito.  I’ve had frozen pizza a couple times in my life, but it has always left something to be desired.  Why?  It’s not REAL food.  Food you make.  Food you can identify the ingredients in.  Something that doesn’t have an incredibly long shelf life.  That’s real food.

Most of my food comes from the produce aisle along with dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese!), grains (bread, which I want to try to make myself, tortillas, rice), peanut butter, and beans.  With other ingredients thrown in there depending on what I’m making.  Many of my foods are perishable as foods generally are!  Eating from the produce aisle (or Greek yogurt!) may be more expensive, but paying the grocer is better than paying the doctor.  And definitely cheaper in the long run.

eat a plant based diet

In Michael Pollan’s book, “In Defense of Food,” the main theme is “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”  While I’m not vegetarian, I’ve mentioned before that I rarely eat meat because raw meat kind of skeeves me out, so I don’t cook it for myself, but I’ll eat it if someone cooks it for me.  Since people rarely cook for me, I haven’t eaten much meat in the past year and a half since I moved out of my parents’ house.  Admittedly, meat tastes a lot different after eating it so little!  Chicken is much more bland than I ever remember it being.  While I’m not opposed to eat meat, I believe that eating plants and beans and such can lead to a very healthful diet.  I think that meat can be incorporated in a healthy way, but that diets should be more focused on plants.

And since I’m a runner, I should mention that carbs are your friend.  I could never go on a low carb diet!  The Atkins diet blows my mind, and I don’t think it’s healthy at all.  Bring on the bread!

never diet

I may be a rarity in the world because as a female, I’ve never dieted.  I was a teenage girl at some point in my life, so of course I had fleeting moments of “ugh, I wish I was skinnier!” but I never attempted to diet.  Or if I did, it lasted for about three hours until I was hungry again.  I give lots of credit to people who lose weight, and I’m lucky that I’ve always been at a healthy weight, but it’s aided in part because I follow a healthy diet most of the time.

To me, a “diet” is a terrible idea anyway, as people need to make lifestyle changes, not just a temporary fix.  You can’t diet for three months, lose the weight, and then go back to your old habits and expect to keep the weight off.  First of all, it’s about being healthy instead of just a number on a scale, and secondly, permanent changes need to be made.

I think one of the problems people have with dieting is that they think “diet food” (including fruits and vegetables) tastes bad.  All food, including the dreaded vegetables, can be made in delicious preparations, but people don’t know how to cook them.  So many people rely on take out and easy meals that they don’t know how to cook!  If people knew how to make healthy food that tastes good, they would probably eat it more.  Of course a burger and French fries will be satisfying (hello, fat!), but if you know how to cook beans and vegetables the right way, you’ll love them to.  I’ll even show you.

food is meant to be enjoyed

When I used to work 3-11pm, being able to eat dinner was a luxury, and even then I usually didn’t bring food I had to heat up because I didn’t want to waste two minutes microwaving my food…that’s precious time when you stand up and shove food down your throat in five minutes or less!  That’s no way to eat, my friends.  Because of this situation, I started taking hours to eat my breakfast and lunch.  Even though I ate by myself, I took my time and enjoyed what I was eating.  I think this is even more important when you’re with people, as food is more than just fuel, it’s an experience.  The ambiance in a restaurant can change the way you think about your food, and this should be considered when you’re eating at home too.  Don’t eat in the car or on your walk to work!  I know there clearly need to be exceptions to this, but if you take the time to think about what you’re eating, you’re more likely to make healthy choices and (more importantly) enjoy what you’re putting in your body.

That being said, I think it is so important to cook your own food.  Children are more likely to eat healthy food if they helped make it…it’s more exciting for them because they were a part of the process!  Same with adults.  You’ll appreciate your food much more if you make it yourself.  Also, if you make your own meals, you know what’s in it!  Who knows what is in those frozen meals, but if you make pasta, vegetables, and your own sauce…it’s up to you what you put in and you know exactly what you’re eating.  Knowledge is power.

and that’s a wrap

So there you have it.  How I think about what I eat and my eating habits.  It may not be perfect, and it may not be for you, but it works for me and I like it.  I think I enjoy a good mix of healthy eating and not restricting myself.  If you want to check out some food that I’ve made, head on over to my “Into My Kitchen” section for some good eats…or just come on over.  :)   Blogger dinner meet up may happen in February, you should join in!

So what do you think of my eating philosophy?  What changes would you make?  Feel free to share your thoughts on both my and your own eating philosophy!  I’d love to hear what you think!

What’s up with Weight Watchers?

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When I have some downtime at work (usually late afternoon when all burn care has been done), I peruse websites like the New York Times in order to attempt to keep myself knowledgeable about what is going on with the world since it’s so easy to live in a bubble.  One of my favorite sections of the NYT website is the Health, Fitness, and Nutrition section.  Articles related to health?  Why not.  Over the weekend, I came across an article about the Weight Watchers program, as they completed changed their point system and many people are up in arms about it. 

Check out the article, Weight Watchers Upends Its Points System, if you’re interested in reading.  For those of you who are not looking to click over, the main idea is that fruits and vegetables, which used to have point values assigned to them, now have no points, and many processed foods are given a higher point value.  I don’t know too much about the point system,  but the article says that overall, people are given more points to eat during the week as well, and that in trials of this new system, people lost the same, if not more weight than the old program.

From what I understand, the Weight Watchers system states that as long as you stay within your point range, you’ll lose weight no matter what you eat.  “A calorie is a calorie is a calorie” was the idea, and although most people in the healthy living blog world know this is not true, it is a system that worked for many.  Here are some quotes from the article, as well as my thoughts on them.

A 31-year-old teacher from Midtown Manhattan who had barely touched a banana in six years wanted to know if she could really consume them with impunity. A small-business owner from TriBeCa wondered whether she was being nudged to part with that second (or third) glass of wine.

When I used to work at a breakfast/lunch place as a waitress, and I always thought it was ridiculous when women would come in and pick the banana out of a fruit cup because it had too many calories.  Now, I would like to state that I’ve never had any problems with my weight, to which I consider myself lucky, but I also have been running since I was 12, and although people may not think I pay attention to what I eat…I do.  (Hard to tell when I buy bags of candy…oops.)  However, I eat a banana with breakfast every morning.  If a day goes by without a banana, I feel weird!  And about the wine…I don’t know how often this person is consuming two or three glasses of wine…but moderation, people!  Alcohol is what gets a lot of people in trouble, as many girls in college would comment that they wanted to lose weight, but they didn’t want to give up going out two (or three….or six) days per week.  Calories add up!

The biggest change: All fruits and most vegetables are point-free (or free of PointsPlus, as the new program is called). Processed foods, meanwhile, generally have higher point values, which roughly translates to: should be eaten less.  In the new system, oranges are free, but eight ounces of orange juice cost three points.

Some describe the new program as “Michael Pollan meets Weight Watchers,” which, as far as I’m concerned, sounds like a great idea.  When people ask me about juice, I respond by saying, “juice = soda.”  You’re much better off eating an orange and getting the fiber than drinking orange juice.  I grew up drinking milk, and I rarely remember drinking juice.  (Don’t get me started on children’s nutrition…)  That being said, my dad drinks a small glass of orange juice each and every day.  Key word:  SMALL.  None of these 16 oz. glasses that some people pour for themselves.

“I don’t want to be forced to choose veggies. I do NOT like veggies or fruit,” one member wrote in an online discussion on the Weight Watchers Web site. “I feel like I am being forced to ‘diet,’ and that is what I DO NOT WANT.”

This comment is what first sparked me to write about this article.  Since when is eating healthy considered to be dieting?  If that’s the case, then I’ve been on a diet my entire life.  I would never consider myself to be on a diet…if I ever thought I should diet, it lasted for about six hours.  If this person isn’t eating fruits or vegetables, what are they eating?  And why don’t they like them?  There are ways to make produce delicious so people who previously thought they didn’t like them…will like them!  (That being said, I hate peas and cauliflower…but I do good otherwise!)  I believe that most people in America don’t know how to cook, especially healthy food, so they don’t eat it.  Also, isn’t WW a diet?  Sure, you can eat what you want, but you’re limiting your intake based on certain numbers.  Also, as I said above, a calorie is not just a calorie.

…points or no points, even fruits and vegetables had their limits. One Weight Watchers credo, she said — to eat until satisfied, not stuffed — remained firmly in place.

I suppose people are envisioning people eating wheelbarrows of fruit…because they now can!  Well, that’s silly.  The idea behind life in general is to eat until you’re satisfied…not stuffed, which is clearly what America struggles with.  That, and eating foods that are highly caloric and therefore don’t fill them without eating a lot of it.  While I have no scientific evidence to back this up…I’m pretty sure no one is overweight from eating too many fruits and vegetables.  Just saying.

my overall thoughts

I applaud Weight Watchers for attempting to get people to focus more on eating fruits and vegetables (less processed foods in general) rather than packaged foods.  I’ve never eaten a frozen dinner in my life (outside of a couple frozen pizzas which left much to be desired), and I think it’s important for people to learn to eat healthy rather than simply looking at points.  It’s about a bigger picture, although I applaud anyone who tries to reach a healthy weight.  Like I said before, I’ve never been in a position where I had to diet to maintain a healthy weight, and I can only imagine how difficult it could be.  However, I also watch what I eat, eat healthy, and keep my treats in moderation.  (Except around the holidays…CHRISTMAS COOKIES!!)  I’ll be interested to see how people react to this overall and what results the over one million people who use Weight Watchers will see.  Hopefully a turn for the better.  :)

What’s your opinion on the change in the point system?  Do you think it will lead to a healthier America?  I know I’m preaching to the choir in a sense, but I’m interested to hear what you think!

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We all know that being active is part of a healthy lifestyle, and I’ve been doing my part to get in some chilly runs!  Monday after work, it was snowing, so I got to do a snow run in Central Park!  It was fabulous and I could count the number of other runners on one hand.  :)   So peaceful, I love it!  No matter how tired  my legs are after work, I love getting out there, especially when the snow is falling in the park…just like a movie!  Short and sweet:

Monday, December 13
3.73 miles in 30:22, avg pace of 8:08

Last night was a run with the Sasquatch crew…I missed them at the start due to some timing issues, but I ran into the along the east side and got to finish up a cold run with them.  Fabulous.  The temperature read 21 degrees…that’s kinda chilly!  The key to staying warm is to keep moving…the second you stop, you’ll be cold!

Tuesday, December 14
7.17 miles in 57:04, avg pace of 7:58

Sounds good to me.  Off to do some Christmas shopping…Thanks for reading!

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