A few weeks ago I wrote a post about my intentions for 2013. In there I hinted about working on my diet and getting serious about eating for health, and I have finally had the time to sit down and write a bit about it.
My journey down the path of nutrition has been long and winding. It started out with counting calories like a mad woman when I was trying to lose the last of my pregnancy weight in 2007 and since then I have done a lot of research and experimenting with different "styles" of eating and daily nutrition. At first it was merely to lose weight, but as I have gotten older, my health has become more of a priority than what the scale says (although, I do like it when the scale has nice things to say...just being real here.) I have a long family history of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity on both my mother's and father's side of the family, and as I have progressed in my own understanding of how my body works and how food works in our bodies, I have come to realize that sometimes you just have to accept the hand of cards you are dealt and play from there. The difference between health and cards though, is if you get a bad hand in cards you just fold. If you get a bad hand in life you have to work harder.
I have always wondered why I struggled to lose those last 10-15 pounds when I exercise as much as I do. I would say, in general, I have had a pretty good daily diet over the last 3 years with a treat or three (or four) thrown in each week: lots of veggies, whole grains, fruits and protein. As I started getting into my 140.6 training last year I started to learn more about training our bodies to use fat for fuel and about how some people are more carbohydrate intolerant than others, and how often they go hand in hand. I actually did the Maffetone 2-week test last year, and it showed me that I am indeed the kind of person that cannot handle too many carbs, but despite what the test showed me, I don't think I was ready for a complete change. I spent the year doing tons of training and eating a typical healthy athlete's diet (lots of healthy carbs and lots of cereal) and stayed exactly the same weight all season even with 15-20 hours of training per week. Then after Cedar Point, I had a little bit of a nutritional meltdown and gained about 15 pounds between October and New Years of this year.
I'm not sure what it was, but at the beginning of this year I was just ready. Ready to make a real and lasting change and not just institute a quick fix (which clearly never worked for me anyway). I started listening to Vinnie Tortorich's Angriest Trainer podcast that was recommended by a few of my Rev3 teammates and twitter friends (@caratunkgirl, @tribirdie, @kristindeaton, and @chloeelfrink among others - thanks, ladies!), and realized I wasn't necessarily hearing anything I hadn't heard before, I was just ready to actually listen! I read Gary Taubes book, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It
and started January 1st cutting out all sugars and grains from my diet.
For me this whole process has been a total paradigm shift. It has changed the way I see food and what I think of myself and others in relationship to food and health. I see overweight people in a much different light. I realize that a lot of weight problems in this country are caused by bad information and not enough understanding of how our bodies work on an individual basis. I have come to realize that I cannot eat the way a lot of other people eat because of the way my body is. That is okay. Finally it is okay. I don't have to count calories, I can eat foods that taste good, I can enjoy life with a treat every now and then, but I cannot have a daily habit of eating sugar and grains. Carbs in the form of sugar and grains are definitely not my friend and don't do my body any good. Since January 1, I have lost 11 pounds, but more importantly I have gained such a wonderful understanding of my relationship with food and body issues. Am I excited to have lost some weight? Definitely, but beyond that I have feel I have finally found a way of eating that I can implement for the long haul. I have also been able to see and correct how I use food for stress relief, which has also been a huge gain for me. I am listening to what my body is telling me and after 38 years, I think I am kind of starting to get it!!
As far as training and training nutrition goes, that is an area I am still digging into. I don't think I am ready to go the route of using as few calories as possible or only fat calories during training and racing. I have never had issues with tummy trouble during racing, and as a coach I think there is some benefit to finding a balance between the two schools of thought. I am taking in carbs for my longer training sessions and will continue to do so. I am still doing a lot of research to figure out what is going to work best for me, and I'll try to post my findings for those of you who are interested.
And therein lies the heart of the issue. You have to do what works for you. It has taken me a long time to figure it out and I am still figuring it out. I hope that you can figure it out for yourself too!!