Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Healthy attitude

I stepped on the scale this morning, and I was happy to discover that one of my favorite mother runners was right. My little 5-pound present was, at least, in part water weight. I was down three pounds and back below my "panic" number.

The shock of the scale last week was enough to throw me into full "diet" mode (though I hate to use the term). I have been snacking on carrots, savoring sugar-free pudding cups and counting out Garden of Eatin' Sprouted blue corn chips. My egg scrambles feature Southwest Egg Beaters and my toast is not the Ezekiel flax I've grown to love but Healthy Life 35-calorie wheat.

My food diary feels reminiscent of my Weight Watchers days and old feelings of control and willpower are resurfacing. My mood is positive, and I feel "on track."

But as I settle into lose mode post-marathon, the thing I struggle with the most is not passing up copious amounts of Halloween treats but whether my efforts are making me healthier. I find myself questioning the foods that I relied on to help me achieve a healthy lifestyle - if that's what I've done. The ingredients in my light bread are lengthy and hard to pronounce. The sugar-free Jell-O, a low-calorie, portion-controlled treat, features its own long list of hard to pronounce words on the packaging and hydrogenated oil. The best of the bunch is the Egg Beaters, which has actual nutritional value - providing 4 grams of protein and a small amount of some vitamins.

Looking for inspiration and guidance, more and more I've been comparing my meals to those of other healthy living bloggers but some seem to eat a diet that is vegetable and nut butter heavy and carbohydrate and meat light, with the complementary pumpkin ale on the side and calcium "chocolate" disk for dessert. Soy is the bee's knees, for beverages and burgers. Nonetheless, I've whipped up extravagant batches of oatmeal, done Meatless Mondays and tried as many nut butters as my limited access and budget allows.

My perception of the HLB diet, I've learned, isn't conducive to weight loss, though. I can't eat 500-calorie bowls of oatmeal, and I don't have time to put together ginormous salads before heading to work. Furthermore, some of them have been accused of restriction and disordered eating - definitely not healthy things.

To look elsewhere - Twitter, Facebook, friends, websites - one is bombarded with things labeled healthy. There's gluten free products, protein-packed goodies. Dr. Oz touts a raspberry pill, and fitness gurus such as Jillian Michaels have their faces on diet supplements. My trainer for BODYPUMP, a role model for health, is a representative for AdvoCare. Books promote eating plant-based, others meat heavy. Seeds are OK but peanuts aren't.

The more I look, consider, think ... the more I get confused. The more this post rambles, gets rewritten, deleted. There might be a larger consensus on what constitutes unhealthy or bad ways to lose weight but the best way to live is a gray area. One isn't inherently healthier for snacking on almonds over peanuts. Granola topped Greek yogurt isn't better if there's 30 grams of sugar. There isn't necessarily an advantage to drinking a smoothie for breakfast rather than eating an egg white scramble with sliced tomatoes on the side.

Healthy has to be a personal definition. It's something that cannot only be defined by ideals but lifestyle and finances.

As I continue to monitor my weight and habits to avoid the winter bulge, I've decided that I'm not going to get caught up in defining the things I'm doing as healthy or unhealthy. Good or bad. Right or wrong. I'm going to make decisions on how I feel.

What does healthy mean to you?


  1. I struggle with the "healthy" eating. I grew up on processed food. My mom never cooked from scratch. I have learned to keep my weight in balance by still eating these foods. This past summer I really worked to eat more natural food and didn't find it too difficult. However, since getting pregnant, I find myself gravitating toward those foods with lengthy labels. I just see it as a process.

  2. What an interesting post! As an aspiring follower of the great advice "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants", but also someone who grew up in the Midwest in the 70's -- cream of mushroom soup, anyone? -- I sympathize with you. And I confess that I read your WIAW posts with an occasional thought of "My, I wonder what the ingredient list for THAT looks like?" !

    Try new things, especially things that involve eating mostly real, whole foods, and mostly plants. See what you like. What makes you feel good (in body and in mind). What is practical and manageable with your time and budget. There's no one right answer here. We eliminated gluten 8 months ago to see if it helped our older son's behavior. As it turned out, not only did it help him, but my husband is less crabby and feels more well fed without it. (Makes no difference to me, so I eat delicious bakery rolls once or twice a week at work now where my kids can't see me!)

    If you want to read an interesting classic (i.e. 40 years ago!) description of a family's transition to eating whole foods (and, incidentally, vegetarian), read the introduction to Laurel's Kitchen. It's a gentle, entertaining story and describes much of the confusion and uncertainty that you describe. I enjoyed it, though we are by no means vegetarian at our house.

    Good luck to you in your search for good, whole foods that fuel your body and mind! Can't wait to read all about it!

  3. I've gotten really into plant based diets this year, and the frustrating part is that the more I read about nutrition , the more guilt I feel when I eat certain food groups. If it isn't one thing, it's another. I think people should definitely be open to different ways of eating, and then let your body decide. Do you feel good? Are your dr check ups all in the healthy range? Then keep doing what your doing. If not, change up your diet. Your post sums up the way I've been feeling for the past few months.

  4. I think everyone's idea of healthy food is totally skewed. My idea of healthy is everything in moderation. Sometimes easier said than done, especially with leftover Halloween candy calling my name.

    At our house we try to eat real food. Other than graham crackers, bread and PB, I shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Whole foods that are not processed, do not have high fructose corn syrup in them. When I do buy the previously mentioned items, I read every label to make sure I can pronounce all ingredients.

    I try to listen to my body. Eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full.

    1. Couldn't have said it better myself. Finding that moderation is so tough though.

      I really do think for me, sugar is my kryptonite. I'm amazed at how strongly your body gets addicted to it, I see it with my daughter. We've had to wean her off the Halloween candy because it was all she kept asking for every time we would get home.

      I'm also trying to ask myself before I eat anything, "Would I eat this if Brielle were here? Would I be ok with sharing some with her?"

  5. oh i'm so glad to hear that !! (both that it was water weight and that i'm one of your favorite mother runners ;))

    i think eating "healthy" is one of the hardest things out there. at our house, we generally eat "real foods" and cook a lot. we tend to eat seasonally and organic, but we are not obsessive. we eat a lot of fruits, veggies whole grains and proteins, but we will also eat full fat cheese, white bread, and real ice cream. (and beer and wine!). i think we do what works for us - to keep us happy and as healthy as we can be. it's been even harder with a picky toddler, but we're doing our best.

  6. I always gain weight the week post a really long run/marathon. I always say it's my body going into extreme recovery mode or thinking that I am going to stress it like I did running a marathon. A couple of days later or a week, my weight returns back to normal. I totally agree with you on healthy living blogs. I read them and think to myself that i would be STARVING if I ate what they did on a regular basis. The plates are tiny, their bowls are super small. In our house, healthy eating is enjoying the meals we cook, eating fish and eating dessert in moderation. I tend to make our own desserts because they are at least a bit better than the processed stuff.

  7. This is a good post - and I think the idea of health definitely extends far beyond just the notion of weight gain/loss. Last year my husband and I decided to switch to a more plant-based diet for a variety of personal reasons, and I can say that we have benefited from this change in many ways. We had already been eating a mostly vegetarian and whole-food centered diet for awhile so the shift didn't feel difficult – however, while it works for us at this time in our lives, everyone is different. I think you said it best with "healthy has to be a personal definition." I wouldn't expect everyone to subscribe to what we do, just as I would hope people would also be accepting of how we choose to live.