Hey Steph, What is Clean Eating?

Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or a personal trainer. I am only sharing the practices I am adopting at the advice of nutritionists and trainers to lose fat, become more fit, and feel healthy, and it’s working. Do your own research and consult your own peeps if you want to undertake a similar journey.

Disclaimer #2: What I write below is what I am aim to eat MOST OF THE TIME. It is not easy, and I struggle with it just about every friggin day. I don’t always get it right, but I keep coming back to it because, when I stick with it, it works for me.

So, I’ve written a few posts and talked a lot about clean eating but never really explained it. I’m sure there is a fancy pants explanation for it somewhere, but I’m going to give it to you in Steph-Talk. Clean eating is not eating crap: not processed crap, not sugary crap, not fake-food crap. Eating real friggin’ foods. Something that grew from the ground or used to make noises like “moo” or “cluck” or “glub” (that’s a FISH, for Pete’s sake! Don’t judge my animal noises!!!)

My diet consists of mainly lean, high quality meats (I shop largely at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, and buy meats without antibiotics, hormones, etc.), fresh fruits and veggies (organic and/or local whenever possible), legumes, and whole grains.These shopping choices support both my nutritional and environmental goals.

I am fairly judicious about my grains: I hardly ever eat pasta, even the whole wheat kind, which is very sad, but ultimately more doable than I imagined it would be. I eat sprouted grain bread (the brand name is Ezekiel bread), quinoa, and whole grain rice.

I don’t eat a whole lot of dairy, with the exception of Fage 2% greek yogurt, which I eat every day mixed with peanut butter.

CUT THE SUGAR, PEOPLE!!! By and large, sugar is the root of all diet evil. Read labels–so many things have sugar that you would not even expect. I don’t use or add sugar to anything, and I only eat 1 fruit per day because, even though fruit is delicious and packed with vitamins, it still contains sugar. Since I still have much fat to lose, I choose to cut my sugar down to the bare minimum. I don’t use sugar in my coffee. I don’t eat “no fat” foods because there is always something chemical-y added in to make up for the taste, and lots of times it’s sugar…which is FAR worse than fat. Lollipops are fat free, dammit, and we sure as hell shouldn’t be eating those!!!

I have two different “phases” of clean eating. Sometimes–especially after a week like this–I will go super strict for a week or two. No alcohol, no cheese, no splurges whatsoever. It hurts for a day or two, but it’s worth it to kick my sorry ass back into clean eating shape. Generally speaking, though, I allow myself a beer or glass of wine twice a week, and I have an itty-bitty serving of cheese twice a week.

But cheese is technically clean, Steph! Yes, I know it is, as long as it’s not one of the not-of-this-earth low-fat or fat-free varieties. However, cheese is also calorie dense and happens to be one of the most delicious foods ever to get in my gut. This presents a huge problem for me, because I will go cheese-crazy if given the opportunity. So, not only do I try to limit it to keep my cals in check, but I limit it because I know my weaknesses.

I also aim for one splurge meal a week, which (when I’m on my best behavior), I plan in advance and try to coordinate with birthdays, celebrations, other food-eating extravaganzas that appear on my calendar. In this meal, I eat pretty much anything I want. And then I’m done. Theoretically speaking.

Sometimes, the calendar screws with me and I have to make choices. Will I splurge at this party or that one? Sometimes, I fall of the wagon completely. As you know if you’ve read any other blogs or if you’ve read about me, you know I believe that it’s not the falling down but the staying down that makes us fail. So I keep climbing back on.

I haven’t mentioned portions yet, and I should because they’ll get ya every time. I have been amazed at how small I can make my portions and still feel satisfied. Note: I did not say “feel full”–I said, “feel satisfied.” This is a key difference, because I think many of us have gotten very used to feeling that we’re not done eating until we’re “full.” Not true. Eat enough to not feel hungry anymore. You have to do it to know the difference.

So, I usually start with about a 1 cup serving–no need to go crazy measuring, but measure once so you get a good idea of what a cup serving looks like in your bowl or on your plate and can eyeball it from there–and then I wait a few minutes. I drink some water. I wait a little longer. 90% of the time, I’m fine. But sometimes, when I’ve worked out very hard and my metabolism is firing like crazy, I’ll need another half cup or so to feel satisfied. I realize that in the past, even when I was eating clean foods, I was eating about twice as much as my body actually needed.

Here’s a sample daily menu:

Breakfast:

  • Ezekiel bread with peanut butter (natural, no sugar or other crap added…ingredients only read “peanuts, salt”) and 1/2 sliced banana

Mid-morning snack:

  • 2% Fage greek yogurt (about 3/4c) with one tbsp dollop peanut butter mixed in

Lunch

  • 1 cup serving leftover chicken sausage, beans, and broccoli rabe

Afternoon Snack

  • raw carrots
  • about 1/4c raw organic almonds

Dinner

  • marinated grilled chicken breast with grilled veggies and a baked sweet potato

Regarding Beverages:

  • So many people drink their calories without even realizing it. Make sure you’re not unwittingly doing this. When there’s whipped cream, chocolate sauce, or vanilla syrup in it, it doesn’t STOP being full of sugar because it’s a drink! You might as well be eating a big honkin’ piece of red velvet cake.
  • I aim to drink a gallon of water or more a day. The rule of thumb I’ve heard from my trainers is to drink at least half your weight in ounces of water a day.
  • I also drink coffee with half and half in it, and nothing else. And I’m a girl who used to muck up her coffee with FIVE SPLENDA PACKETS (really!). So don’t go saying, “I could NEVER have my coffee with no sugar!” Because you could, if you decided you wanted to. And if you do want to, I suggest gradually cutting back the sugar, one teaspoon or packetful a week. It took me a little over a month to go from that much sweetener to none.
  • Sometimes I’ll have unsweetened iced green tea with dinner, or get myself an unsweetened iced passion tea from Starbuck’s. SOOOO good.

It’s a pretty common sense approach to eating. No measuring, no counting points or calories, no weird food combinations or whatever. Just eating real food in small portions to fuel your body right. Of all people, I know it’s easier said than done, but my point is that it’s not knowing what to eat that’s difficult; it’s actually eating that stuff–and that stuff only–most of the time.

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Dear Me, Stop Eating Crap.

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Oh look, it’s been like a month since my last post. Here’s the deal:

I. Am. An. Idiot.

There are no excuses. I was too busy to post for the first three weeks, and I was too ashamed to post last week. Because I’ve been eating like crap. One splurge led to another, then to another…until it was a complete free for all.

I stumbled at first, and then I pitched head long over the cliff. And now, I’m sick as a dog. Fever, chills, achy-ness all through my body, and it is 100% my fault.

A little more than midway through my eating spree this week, I started feeling lethargic and miserable. Tired, cranky, and so not awesome. I complained to my husband, who said, very simply and reasonably, “It’s your food, babe. We know that. It’s always the food.” I wanted to slap him, because I knew he was right. But let’s face it, I really wanted to slap myself.

Eating clean is hard. Eating clean forever is harder. Sometimes it feels really easy, but when there’s picnic after picnic, get togethers with friends, work-provided lunches and ice cream and cake, and everyone else is eating the good stuff, it gets easy to tell myself that it’s no big deal if I splurge (AGAIN. and AGAIN. and AGAIN.) And that’s just exactly what happened.

When I look back on the last week and what drove me to this most excruciating form of self-sabotage, I do realize that there was some stress with a few personal things happening, but nothing major. It came to this: I was 12 weeks in, feeling great, fitting into smaller clothes and realizing I could no longer wear other clothes that were ridiculously too big, BUT NO ONE WAS NOTICING!

I’ll tell you what people were noticing: my husband. Now, let meĀ  give him his due. He looks AMAZING. He’s getting super jacked, and since he only had a few pounds of fat to lose before leaning up, it’s more immediately noticeable. Rationally, I understand this. I have far more fat to lose so it is not as obvious. I got fat, and he didn’t.

But on an emotional level, I feel like it is so much harder for me given my relationship with food, and so easy for him. And when I know that I’ve lost much more than him, but his victories are so much more obvious.

Whine, whine, whine. Why is the validation of others so important to me? Well, it just is. It’s a nice reward for hard work, but I should know better than to let that control my actions. But I did.

I got discouraged. I got angry. I turned into a big, fat, stupid baby and fell back into my old “screw it” mentality. Screw it! I’ll eat some nachos. Screw it! I’ll eat some cheese. And some more cheese. Screw it! Here come the chips. Screw it! Now it’s the cookies.

I told you I’m an idiot.

And here’s the funny thing: just as I did this, during my week of disgusting loathesomeness, I had two genuine compliments come in from friends I really respect. One friend, who came into a 6am workout class behind me said that she barely recognized me from behind. She said that I looked amazing and like a completely different person. The second came from another friend who pulled me aside after my workout and told me I looked great and that it was obvious my hard work was paying off.

I felt like such an ass. Let’s face it, I am an ass.

So here I am. I fell off, and now it’s time to get back on. I’m sick, I’m tired, I’m miserable and I’m hating myself, and it’s all because of crappy food.

How many times do I have to learn this lesson? How many times am I going to let stupid excuses and feelings get in my way? It is my fault I look like this, and no amount of rationalizations is going to change that. Even when it feels like everyone else is going to 10 parties a week, and eating whatever they want, I know I can’t get away with that. I feel like crap when I do–it actually makes my physiologically sick–and I know what it feels like to be eating clean and firing on all cylinders, and I love it.

Today, I move on. Today, I stop the vicious misery cycle I’ve been on for a week (loathe self, eat, loathe self more, eat more, loathe self to a disgusting level, eat to a disgusting level….you get it) and keep pushing forward.