6/17/11

Develop an appreciation

When I was in graduate school (Sept 2004-Dec 2005) I had the opportunity to take an elective course in my last semester. I choose Basic Nutrition...my first ever nutrition course. Although I spent much of my education on the physiology of exercise, specifically learning more than I could ever imagine in regards to glycolysis and the Krebs (Citric Acid) cycle, I never had the opportunity to learn about basic nutrition.

With only 3 months left in my graduate program, it only took one day in my undergraduate nutrition course to realize that I had a deep passion for nutrition. Having recently finished my first marathon in Jan 2005 (Miami Marathon, at which I qualified for the Boston Marathon), it became apparent that I was able to apply my extensive education of exercise physiology and sports nutrition to the basics of general nutrition and relate it all to my every day activities. As I progressed in volume with my training (soon-to-be Ironman finisher in Nov 2006 at IMFL), I quickly learned that it wasn't the component of sports nutrition that fueled my workouts but rather what I put in my body on a daily basis.

Nutrition can be a rather complex topic, especially with the media telling us what, how much and when to eat...all with conflicting messages often backed by little reputable scientific research.. Every day there are new recommendations, new diets, new "experts" and new risks. Even for someone like myself who likes to keep up with research, it can all be very confusing. Having spent the last 3 years in the dietetic world, however, I am proud to have resources like the American Dietetic Association, which provide evidenced-based research resources to help me better serve the population when I blog and write. Also, as I study for the RD exam, I am able to really understand the deeper meaning to metabolic process as well as having a good understanding for all things related to management, education, research, food science and food management - as it relates to dietetics and my RD exam. Nothing makes me happier than writing and experiencing my view points but as an professional it is important that I provide you (my readers) with practical and factual information. Perhaps the media involves too many "experts" who have little understanding (or appreciation) for research. For when it comes to important and life-changing topics such as exercise and nutrition, it is important that information provided to consumers is based on sound scientific data. As for the method and style of delivering the information, I suppose that is up to the professional and his/her personal philosophy.

When we are born, I would say that most of us are born rather healthy. Believe or not, the growing process is directly related to what we put in our body. Thinking back to your childhood, it is likely that the first few years of your life were filled with lots of wonderful nutrients in order to support the growing process. Perhaps there were a few food jags and the development of a few bad habits but overall, you often left the doctor's office with a lollipop or sticker because you were growing at a healthy rate and your mommy and/or daddy was taking great care of you...making sure that you ate the best foods in order to grow up healthy and strong. Aside from normal wear and tear on the body throughout the aging process, we begin to create added stress in life/work which lends to lack of sleep and poor nutrition choices (perhaps, not exactly in that order). Somehow we start life as an incredibly healthy being and somewhere down the line, we start to make choices that have a negative impact on our life. Months and years go by without us realizing the damaging things that we are doing to our body and suddenly, it is if one day we wake up and say "I'm fat, I need to diet" or "I'm so out of shape". Ouch - what a horrible way to talk to your body, especially since your body is working hard on a daily basis not to fail you. It is helping you cross finish lines, get to work on time and perform every day tasks....but out of the blue, it is just like that, that you hate your body for how it looks/feels TODAY. I believe that you are never too old/young to make heart-healthy choices and enjoy a healthy dose of exercise but when it comes to having an all-or-nothing approach to weight loss and training/exercise, it would be silly to think that we can possibly erase years and decades of unfavorable choices, in just one day.

Because the body relies on a multitude of vitamins and minerals to support body processes, my advice to you is to stop focusing on what you shouldn't be eating and focus more on what you can add to the diet. Without changing anything in your diet, try to add more wholesome foods like fruits and veggies, whole grains, legumes, oats and quality protein. Sure, you know to do this but there is so much added pressure on what you "CAN'T" eat. Take that pressure off and just add more foods that will make you feel good inside. If you can't stay away from the chips at lunch, how about having less chips and more veggies. If you love pasta or rice for dinner, topped with a few veggies, how about having the exact same meal (portioned controlled) but with a starter of a large, beautifully colored salad.

It's important that we develop a healthy relationship with food for it is in the nutrients in our daily diet that support our training/exercise routine and increase longevity. For when we develop an appreciation for the food in our diet, there comes a fantastic feeling of comfort that we are using every fueling opportunity to reduce risk for disease and provide adequate fuel into our muscles for upcoming activity. Eating should not involve guilt or restriction but rather balance. Creating a diet that works for you and your body, is a work in progress but you have to start somewhere.

Being honest, cabbage is a food that I would often overlook in the grocery store. I'd like to say that "I haven't yet learned to appreciate it". Karel showed me a super easy and yummy way to prepare cabbage and now I crave it once a week.

Simply cut up the cabbage (after removing the outside leaves) give a nice rinse and chop. Add to a large pot on medium heat, which contains 1-2 tbsp of olive oil with chopped green peppers, onions and chopped garlic (cook these ingredients in olive oil until slightly brown, before adding cabbage). Karel likes to add a handful of hashbrowns (notice the dark pieces in my pictures) to the mixture to provide a mix of textures. Cook on low heat (uncovered) for 15-20 minutes, or until cabbage is soft and slightly brown. Stir occasionally.

Did you know that cabbage is rich in anthocyanin polyphenols (giving it a beautiful red color) and is a super healthy cruciferous vegetable which may reduce risk of cancer? Cabbage is also an excellent source of vitamin K and C as well as a very good source of manganese, fiber, B6 (pyridoxine), folate and Omega 3's.

Garlic-y Cabbage