Food For Fuel

*This post was originally published 10-11-13.  It has been transferred from my original site to my new and improved one!*

Since I plan on focusing on food, recipes, and eating healthy on this blog, I figure I should fill you in on my philosophy on food and eating.  Now, I could ramble on for days about the tragedy of the the way Americans eat and how our culture breeds heart-clogged nutritional ignorance….. But I won’t. You’re welcome.  Instead, I’ll use myself as an example for how (and how NOT) to fuel and nourish your body for optimal health and happiness.

Looking at me over a year ago, you would have found a busy, busy working girl in a face-paced, gigantic corporate company.  I worked crazy hours, was always “swamped”, and never ever got enough sleep.  I also thought I was doing OK in the nutrition department.  I’ve always been thin but I was especially skinny after magically shedding the few beer pounds I gained in my two year stint in college.  This success, I thought, was due to the wonderful, up-and-coming market of “diet” foods.  A typical day of food consisted of a Diet Coke and Special K in the morning, another Diet Coke and a Weight Watcher’s “Smart Ones” frozen meal for lunch, and whatever struck my fancy in the mall food court- usually Sbarro’s cheese strombolli, with a large Diet Coke.  And if I needed a snack it was almost always a Fiber One bar.  90 calories can’t be bad for you right?  And there were sometimes veggies in those frozen meals…..  Oh how very wrong I was.  Anyone who knew me during that time period could tell you that I was always always ALWAYS sick.  Seriously all the time.  In fact, a girl that had been working for me for a few months said “You’ve been sick since I started working here.”  Man, what a problem.  And I thought for sure it was because I was face-to-face with a large amount of people or selling/ touching bras and panties all day (I worked at a lingerie store.. Not just a creep).  In part, it probably was.  But the real problem was that I was not fueling my body, I was simply filling it.  I wasn’t eating and sleeping right.  Working out? Who has time for that when you’re working all day?!  I was truly running myself into the ground.

Myt turn around point was making the decision that it was time to start treating myself right.  I quit the stressful job, did some serious long-term thinking, and started making the move towards being good to myself.  I moved back in with my parents and was inspired by the fully-stocked fridge and larger, more effective kitchen.  After being in college and living in dorms and apartments, I hadn’t had the luxury of a “real” kitchen in quite a while.  I also surrounded myself with positive people (namely, my parents) who encouraged me and cared about my well-being.  And then I got cooking.  Really cooking.  No more Stouffer’s mac and cheese family sized pans all week.  I started packing a lunch with homemade sandwiches or salads, veggies and hummus, and cottage cheese.  The effect was almost immediate.  I still worked and was relatively busy, so where did all of this energy come from?  It certainly wasn’t from the Diet Coke that I had cut down to one can a day.  And what happened to that constant, miserable, disgusting runny nose?  GONE! It has been nearly 18 months since I’ve been sick.  I’ve had a few headaches and sniffles don’t get me wrong, but the last time I had a fever (a previously frequent occurrence)…?  Gosh, I don’t even know.  I feel fantastic. While there were a lot of changes in my life, but by far the most impactful one was the change in my self-attitude and desire to make myself happy.  I think I have pretty much accomplished this through my diet, activity levels, and stress-management.  SO.  Blah blah blah… What’s my point?  Here are my key thoughts on food and diet.  This is not an all-encompassing list but a few of the basics I try to apply to my everyday life.

1.  EAT. A lot.  I used to think that the only way to maintain my already thin physique was to starve and deprive myself.  No wonder I was so miserable… (haha)  I know better now.   I eat every couple of hours. Or more!  But I always eat small, healthy, yummy snacks.  In fact, my friends at school and work love to tease me for my humongous backpack filled with snacks.  Apples, mandarin oranges, pre-measured out baggies of pretzels or nuts, carrot sticks, low-fat cottage cheese, protein bars…. Lots and lots of snacks.

2.  If you aren’t sure what’s in it, or how to pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it.  Disregard this for the word quinoa.  No one knows how to pronounce it but I promise it’s healthy :).  Anyways… Pre-packaged food with crazy lists of ingredients are every bit as bad for you as high-calorie, fatty foods.  Your body can’t process these foreign chemicals and instead stores them in fat cells.  Meaning you A. have more fat, and B. feel like crap when you burn fat because the chemicals are released.  So pick foods that are whole (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins) and skip things that say “Diet” or boast shockingly low calorie counts- they’re just fillers and will make you hungrier later.

3.  Plan ahead!  I cannot stress enough how important it is to put just a little thought into what you’re going to eat tomorrow or the rest of the week.  We’re all busy, I get it.  But a few hours on Sunday is all it takes to wash and chop your veggies, boil some rice and eggs, and steam/ grill your proteins.  You’re going to have to do this anyways, so why not do it ahead of time instead of when you’re running late for work or tired after a long day?  Plus, when you have a healthy snack or meal ready to go, you’re less likely to stop at the vending machine and grab something less nutritious and satisfying.  It. Is. Worth. It.  Seriously, it is.  You may just have to take my word for it.

4.  Learn to cook.  At least a little…  We’re not all cut out to be professional chefs but knowing what basic flavors pair well together or how to get a good sear on a piece of meat can make all the difference.  If you can make something delicious at home, why would you go out to a restaurant or your grocer’s freezer section and eat an unknown amount of ingredients for a much larger amount of money?  You’ll find that you just won’t.  Plus then you can post foodie pics on Instagram and soak in the “Ooohh”s and “Aahhh”s of your peers. 🙂 What?? Me…? No way.

5.  Don’t listen to me.  Ok, I want you to listen to me a little.  Or at least keep reading my blog… And tell all your friends about it, etc….  But the only one who can tell you if you’re eating the right things is YOU.  Eat when you feel hungry and stop when you feel just full.  Eat what makes you feel good all day and not for one minute.  You’ll know it when you feel it.  Listen to YOUR body.

So that’s my schpeal on food.  Now that you’ve been fully lectured I’d say it’s about time for some fun recipes and yummy foods.  Yeah?  Ok. Next post is all about the yummies I promise!

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