Diet and Exercise: Finding the healthiest me

Losing the Poutine Fifteen

Over the past 8 months, I have been struggling to regain my college physique. (Too much Boreale and poutine in Montreal, I suppose). Now that I have (almost) gotten back to my college weight, I’m discovering how difficult it can be to maintain the weight and physique I want.

In college, I used to eat whatever I wanted and not have to worry about weight gain. True, I was also fairly active – horseback riding, playing various sports and being generally rambunctious (not that much has changed) – but I never had to think about the food or drink that I consumed. When I started college, I didn’t even know the difference between a carbohydrate and a calorie. Oh, how things have changed!

Making the Change

Back in September when I started this journey, I was under the misconception that it would only take a little bit of diet and exercise to return to my previous weight, and then I could go back to eating whatever I wanted. (Yes, it took me nearly 8 months to lose 10 pounds). Now that I’ve spent the last 8 months altering my diet, counting calories, avoiding sugars and starches and exercising regularly, I can’t really imagine going back to the way I lived before. True, it’s still difficult not to serve up that second plate at Thanksgiving dinner, but I have experienced a few – I would consider miraculous – changes that curb my appetite.

Noticeable Changes from Eating Healthier

First, the less I eat of fatty, starchy foods, the less tolerance I have for them and the less I want to eat them (thinking I want to eat them is an entirely different story, however).

Second, the more vegetables I eat, the healthier I feel overall, the more I enjoy their taste (I barely put any dressing on my salads now) and the less bloated/acid reflux-y I feel. As a side note, vegetables have very few calories in them. One pickle spear is only about 5 calories, and a whole head of iceberg lettuce is 90 calories.

Third – and this one I find to be most incredible – the less I eat of foods overloaded in fats, starches, sugars, grease and other equally unhealthy additives, the more nuanced my sense of taste becomes. Maybe it’s because my taste buds are no longer overwhelmed by one taste, but I’ve noticed a definite increase in the flavors I can detect in my meal.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve also been dabbling in vegetarianism. And, surprisingly, the less meat I eat, the less I crave sugars, and the less I crave meat. Course, I’ve been careful to include plenty of other proteins in my diet – particularly beans and quinoa, and I’m not saying I’m going to be a vegetarian forever, it’s just nice not to have that heavy feeling in your stomach after a meal.

What Tastes Good?

What I’m getting at here is that the foods I used to love, I no longer enjoy, and I think it’s for the better. Whenever I tell this to friends, they respond with a frown and say, “Well isn’t that sad?” But my honest-to-goodness opinion is, no, it’s not sad at all. Think about it, how many times have you said, “If I could make myself not like [insert favorite fattening food here], I would.”

Do I miss those foods? No, not really. Instead, I experiment with spices and herbs to create meals with plenty of flavor to roll around on my taste buds.  I eat slowly and enjoy every bite. To me, cooking is another way to express my creativity, and I challenge myself to make healthy, delicious, beautiful meals even if I’m only cooking for one.

Painless Lifestyle Change

Bottom line is, getting healthy and staying healthy is a lifestyle change. But it doesn’t have to mean a lifetime sentence to rabbit food and treadmills. It just means letting go of the idea of “tasty foods” and instead learning to be creative with healthier options.

Interesting Link : Diet Tips from Ultrarunner and Vegan Scott Jurek

Goal 1: Establishing a Fitness Program

TO TACKLE MY HEALTH & FITNESS GOALS I’ve decided to pursue a couple of things:

First, I am going to further my practice of yoga by attending at least one class a week, culminating in a teacher training course in mid June. This is something I’ve been considering doing ever since I began attending regular yoga classes in Montreal a year ago, and besides the benefits to my physical health, teaching yoga will help me grow spiritually as well.

Second, I plan to take up kickboxing, a sport in which I’ve always been interested – mostly because other martial arts I’ve tried move too slowly for me (I’m too ADD to try to perfect one move for the duration of an entire class). Not to mention, kickboxing is great for losing weight! Because of the interval-style training and the fast-paced competitive environment, you can burn between 600-800 calories in just one hour.

I bought a Groupon for ATA Martial Arts Kickboxing classes, and attended my first class last week. Loud pump-up music blared during our class with buzzers, bells, and countdowns played over it to signify when to change exercises. I learned some new exercises with nothing but a band, and I got to beat the sh*t out of a punching bag. What more could you want in a workout? The next day, though, I felt like I was 80 years old. Well, no pain, no gain, right?

As a side note, for those of you interested in trying it out but afraid to be the uncoordinated or unathletic one, the majority of my classmates were actually middle-aged women trying to get in shape. So don’t be intimidated! Go sign up. has all kinds of deals running all the time.

Additionally, I’m finally taking care of my knee issues by going to physical therapy once a week so they can teach me exercises that will strengthen my knees and the muscles around them. They also give me lots of free things like exercise bands and pieces of styrofoam to roll around on (no really, this thing gives a killer massage). Once my knees get the OK from PT, I’d also like to start running again, and maybe even run a couple 5Ks. I’ve found that whenever I have a goal to work towards (even a small one), doing the work doesn’t seem nearly as daunting.

FOR ME, EATING WELL IS MORE DIFFICULT than keeping up a fitness routine. Ever since I started counting calories this past Christmas, I’ve been on a roller coaster of resolve. While I’ve been able to gradually change what I eat, I still find it difficult to control how much of it I eat. It’s all the snacking that gets me. I’d like to think that it’s our snacking culture that is the (or one of the) true culprit in American obesity.

When I studied abroad in France, my host mom asked me once why I was eating in the middle of the day. “It’s not meal time,” she said. This apparently makes sense to the rest of the world, but not here in the US of A. To be fair, I think that healthy snacks eaten at specific times of the day to ward off hunger are a good thing. For example, lately I’ve planned two healthy snacks (I love SlimFast snack bars – they taste like candy bars!) between breakfast at 7:30 and lunch at 1:30. This has prevented me from, say, buying a candy bar and a soda from the vending machine to try to assuage my hunger. And I eat them only when I am starting to feel hungry, not because I feel like eating.

IT’S THIS MINDLESS SNACKING THAT WE NEED TO AVOID. When I began tracking my meals, I became much more aware of how much each food is “worth” so to speak. Here’s a little list I came up with to help put things into perspective.

Foods that have 100 calories (aka 15 minutes on the treadmill):

  • 1 medium-sized banana
  • 1 average-sized (non specialty) slice of bread
  • 1 packet of mayo
  • 3-4 large tomatoes
  • 1 8 oz glass of 1% milk
  • 1 10 oz can of beets
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 1 1/2 Tagalong Girl Scout cookies
  • 1 1/4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce
  • 1 shot of tequila
  • 4 Tostitos Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips
  • 1 slice of sandwich cheese

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