7/12/11

Learning the lingo


I have spent much of my adult life understanding food as fuel. At the age of 29, I know a lot more know than in years past but I have SO much more to learn. While I am fairly certain I am finished with higher learning (I don't see a PhD in my near future) I hope to never stop learning.
I am very passionate about food but I am confident in saying that I am not obsessed. Because I love stimulating my brain, I don't have the time or desire to devote all my energy to one obsession.
But for many people, nutrition can become an obsession and I believe that is far different than a passion. For some individuals, food and eating is the purpose of life and all activities and efforts are dedicated to food. People go to bed thinking about food and wake up thinking about food. It's a fear that people who constantly think about food are not truely living their life to the fullest. People often watch the clock not for when they get to leave work but rather for when they are "allowed" to eat. People over-analyze food and read food labels for the wrong reason. People gravitate towards fad diets, typically for the reason of changing body image, thinking that "off-limit" foods is practical lifestyle change. For many people see food as "good or bad" and have a very poor understanding of what it is the body needs to improve health and to fuel workouts. I suppose the confusion of nutrition is partly due to the overwhelming amount of experts (as I have mentioned many times in previous posts) as well as trying to change the diet without taking the time to identify the strengths and weakness's in their current diet. Once again, balance is out the door for many people believe in the "all or nothing" approach.

For many of us, we live a very active lifestyle and for the rest of the Trimarni readers, you are making the steps towards appreciating a more active lifestyle and I congratulate you in your lifelong journey. But when I think of my diet and what it supports, I am proud to say that I am a strong, smart and energetic woman, not just a triathlete. In the quest of developing a healthy relationship with food, I don't "eat healthy" but rather provide my body with foods that give me health...a reason to live life to the fullest and perform every day activities. So while I strive to eat in a way that reduces my risk for disease and improves my quality of life, I can truely appreciate the foods that I put in my body. Because my lifestyle is that of a triathlete, I know that by daily providing my body with foods that build strength, improve my immune system, improve brain functioning, improve the strength of my heart and keep me from being sick, I am going to be able to achieve my goals as a triathlete. For I am passionate about living a healthy and active lifestyle and being a triathlete is just an added bonus for me to set goals and to take part in new and exciting journeys.

Many people have asked me to provide my thoughts on the Paleo diet and I suppose that there is a blog post or article in the near future. Whereas last year it was the "gluten-free" diet, I believe that the Paleo diet is another fad diet for individuals to "clean up the diet". In my opinion, I see Paleo as low-carb/Atkins but with an allowance for fruits and veggies. I see many nutritional deficiencies and I fear the long-term effects for the health conscious individual. For athletes, I find it very unbalanced and impractical to support the metabolic processes that are necessary to provide and use energy.

Have you ever been in a conversation about dieting or food? I'm sure we all are use to the remarks after we participate in a triathlon (sprint to Ironman) or running race (5K to ultramarathon) but with nutrition, the topics are endless and the debates are almost never ending. People are always hearing new research and trying new things and I am sure everyone has at least one friend/acquaintance who has tried them all (diets). While giving your race report can be an enlightening and inspiring experience, nutrition talks are often stressful, sometimes leaving people angry.

As you attempt to change your life to eat, exercise and live in a more balanced manner, how do you feel when you have a conversation with someone who wants to tell you the good and the bad of everything related to food?

Not sure about you, but it leaves me absolutely exhausted. Whereas you may not have all the facts but more of the "experiences", it is my responsibility as a RD to have the facts in line. Because it is hard to keep up with research, I try to do my best to keep an open mind and to look at the bigger picture (ex. long term effects, nutrient deficiencies, loss in energy/performance), but it's even hard for someone like myself to chime-in on conversations when they deal with food. Sure, I have a lot to say but I would rather give my energy to Campy, Karel or to my workouts. Plus, I see the body as individualistic and nutrition is not one-size fits all. So while there may be components of "diets" that work for some people, it all comes down to how you view the food the comes into your life.

Because I love the feeling of helping people develop a healthy relationship with food and learning to eat for fuel to support lifestyle habits, I think it is necessary that we all learn the right food lingo in order to change the way that others (and you) view food. Because body-image is often the primary reason for dietary changes (remember, if a person is changing eating habits for HEALTH, there would be an emphasis on balance, portion control and emphasizing a plant-based, wholesome diet), it's very important that we start changing our vocabulary when it comes to food.

As you may have learned, I do not discuss "diets" nor do I use the word "diet" in the reference to something temporary. We are making choices on a daily basis until the day we are no longer alive on this Earth. We aim for progress, not perfection. I want to be sure that I give myself quality food until the day I die, because I never want to run out of energy or reduce my years that I can live my life to the fullest.

Also, we don't need to say "good" or "bad" food and we don't want to overuse the word "healthy" when it comes to processed food or analyzing the food in our current diet. While the FDA provides food that is safe and wholesome for our diet, it would be hard for us to create a grocery list of "wholesome" packaged foods. Therefore, we want to emphasize certain foods in our diet with little to no ingredients. This way, we don't need to fear food that provides more calories than others. Because if we emphasize foods with little to no ingredients, we know that the calories we are eating are providing our body with quality nutrients. So while whole grains and unsaturated fats may be higher in calories than fruits, veggies and quality protein, we don't want to avoid them just because they have "calories".

The 3 P's: Planning, preparing at home and portion control. Simple enough.

Lastly, remove the words fat and skinny from your vocabulary. Replace with strong or lean or perhaps over recommended body weight. In respecting the body we must talk to it nicely and above all, thank it for allowing us to make choices on a daily basis.