Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Keeping it Real

I didn’t realize how badly I was eating until Fall of 2007. I wasn’t overweight and I thought I was eating healthy. I wanted a challenge so I decided to do a fitness competition. I had heard how bad the fitness diet was and I was afraid that I was going to be hungry and cranky all the time. The diet WAS hard but only because of the measuring and preplanning. The food portions were amazingly large. At the time I was working in an office and kept my Lean Cuisines and powerbars in the refrigerator in the break room. They were convenient and doesn’t “lean” mean healthy? They didn’t taste good and never filled me up but I thought I was being healthy. My first show was in 3 months and when I showed my consultant my diet journal she said “You have to cut all that crap out NOW if you want to be ready in 3 months.” I was shocked. I thought I was doing most things right. What she told me was to eat REAL food. If it swims in the water, flies in the sky, runs in a field, grows from the ground or falls from a tree, you can eat it. To my surprise, the portions got bigger and the food tasted better. She told me not eat anything that had an ingredient I needed a college degree to pronounce. I felt better, got leaner, and amazing wasn’t hungry. Eat REAL food. Who knew?

When you eat REAL food, your body knows what to do with it. It can optimally digest foods that are unprocessed and that will result in better body composition.

Now let’s talk about vegan and vegetarianism. If someone is vegan or vegetarian for ethical reasons, more power to them. I’m all for it. But if someone cuts out meat products to lose weight, it generally isn’t a good idea. Of the many acquaintances I have who do not eat meat, none of them only eat vegetables, fruits, and nuts. They tend to fill their plates with soysage hot dogs and tofurkey sandwiches. Their diets are overly starched with tons of bread, rice, pasta - and overly processed – full of fake soy based foods that their bodies don’t know how to digest. It would be healthier and would better help them reach their goals if they made a steak salad with organic dressing.

How do you know if something is natural if it doesn’t have a label? If something doesn’t have a label and you’re not sure if it’s natural, a good idea is to stay away from things that are white. White sugar, white flour – anything bleached has been stripped of its nutrients.

Another diet pitfall is processed or refined sugars and even artificial sweeteners. Now sugar should really be eliminated altogether, but for most people that just isn’t feasible (guilty.) The best form of sugar is raw honey, stevia, or natural sugars such as cane juice. If you use artificial sweeteners, use them sparingly because #1 most are highly chemical and processed and #2 if you use enough of it, your body will treat it as regular sugar. There are plenty of products out there sweetened with natural sugar and I personally think that it tastes better than products with corn syrup in them – from which we should run screaming. But there comes a time when you’re going to want something sweet. There’s nothing wrong with that in moderation but make good choices when you decide on your sweet. If you read the labels of so called “Diet” food, you’ll find many words that look like a bunch of letters put together. My advice is to find organic natural sweets. Compare the two labels: One is Edy’s Slow LIGHT churned vanilla bean ice cream and the other is Straus Family Organic creamery.

Edy's Slow Churned Light Vanilla Bean

INGREDIENTS: milk, skim milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, whey protein, egg yolks, tapioca maltodextrin, cellulose gum, mono and diglycerides, ground vanilla beans, guar gum, carrageenan, dextrose, vitamin A palmitate, natural flavor

Straus Family Organic Vanilla Bean

Ingredients: Organic cream, organic nonfat milk, organic sugar, organic egg yolk, organic vanilla extract, organic vanilla bean.

Not only are the ingredients recognizable and healthier in the organic ice cream but you will be satisfied quicker. Your body knows what it’s getting. I don’t know about you but with diet foods I never feel like I got enough whereas a couple of spoonfuls of rich, natural ice cream fulfills the need for something sweet. Be careful of marketing that will lead you to bad choices. When I see “Diet” or “Light” and especially “Fat free” I pretty much move on. If it says “Natural” or “Organic” I’ll at least read the label to see what’s really in it. One of the foods we were NEVER allowed to eat on the fitness diet was Dannon“Light and Fit” yogurt because the processed ingredients were so unhealthy, but we could eat Stoneyfield organic yogurt – even though it had more calories. The difference is the calories are useful and our bodies know what to do with them.

If you’re serious about eating natural you can take this a step further by doing things such as eating only grass fed beef. Animals are not meant to eat grains so when cheap grains are fed to cows, they develop ulcers. They are then medicated with hormones and antibiotics, which are then passed to the consumer when eaten.

The transition to real foods can take some time. At first, start paying attention to the ingredient list and what’s really in the food you’re eating. You don’t need to starve to eat right. Just eat foods that are real. And remember.. just because it is “diet” doesn’t mean that it’s “healthy.”