I think I’ve always had a secret love affair with food. When I was a kid, one of my goals in life at holiday gatherings was to try and out-eat my grandfather, an over 6-foot tall burly man boasting a rather large pot belly.
Would it surprise you to know that I would often hit my goal with gusto? Can you imagine an 8-year-old little girl going back for 3rd and 4th helpings of mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, turkey, veggies and fruit, and a few hours later requesting a turkey sandwich made from the leftovers? Or the multitude of candy cane cookies I’d shove into my mouth with no resistance and no remorse?
I absolutely love food, and until I hit my early 20’s, food was never an enemy of mine. Not until my slower metabolism (and lack of exercise) decided to fight back.
Through exercise, I’ve been able to lose 30+ lbs after each pregnancy, yet the call of chocolate cake and Bunny Tracks ice cream has always been a huge temptation for me. I’ve managed to incorporate whole foods and a lot of fruits and vegetables into my diet. We eat a lot of whole grains around here, and my family groans when they see anything related to fish on the menu, yet I stubbornly refuse to give up my addiction to sugary goodness.
I know I’m not alone in this.
So, before I go into what I’m learning about food by obtaining this group fitness certification, I do want to stress that I am NOT a dietician, nor a nutritionist, and once I pass this exam I won’t be able to give out advice on any diet plans or supplements or anything of that nature. I will refer you to someone much more qualified. I have my own views and opinions regarding food, though. I’ve always said that I believe MODERATION is the key to success. Not crazy diet schemes or living off of shakes day in and day out. Your body needs healthy foods to live, and you get back what you put in. My love of food is a work in progress for me. I love healthy foods, so it makes it easy- yet I also love the not so healthy foods too. I know those aren’t good for me, so I try and eat that stuff in moderation. I think if you completely deny yourself of any and all sweets all the time, you are prone to falling off the wagon and going totally overboard on them. So, if I eat healthily the majority of the day, I may eat a chocolate chip cookie after dinner and I won’t feel guilty about it. It’s never good to feel guilty, because no one should self-loathe themselves. It’s going to counteract all the hard work you’ve put into keeping yourself healthy. I think a lot of people too forget that eating healthy and exercise go hand-in-hand.
So, eating all that food as a kid- well, I managed to stay as skinny as a beanpole. I was in near-constant movement. When you eat food like carbohydrates, not all of it is used for energy. Some is stored as glycogen (a substance stored in bodily tissues) which is kept in the liver and muscle cells. When you exercise, the amount of glycogen that is stored can increase a ton, providing a rapid source of energy, yet when you don’t exercise and you eat more carbs than your body can use, your body will store the excess carbs as fat instead for long-term storage. This explains why as a child, I stayed so thin but ate like I hadn’t seen food before in my entire life. However, in my early 20’s, I barely worked out, and because I was consuming much more than I was working off (think tons of beer and wings at Hooters) I was gaining weight. In my early 20’s, I was 30 pounds heavier and was not feeling good at all. I was always tired, sick, drained and fatigued.
Working out helps to balance out what you eat. That chocolate chip cookie? Not too shabby, considering it might be 200+ calories, and going for a morning run pretty much erases that cookie from the night before. However, a cookie is one thing. 10 is another. And really, what’s in a cookie? Lots of sugar. Butter. Nothing redeeming for your body, and no real vitamins or minerals for your body to draw energy from.
Vitamins and minerals are essential. I’ve learned about a few of them from my textbooks, like:
K: Essential for blood-clotting functions; green leafy vegetables, fruit, dairy and grain products are good sources
D: Aids in bone and tooth formation, helps maintain heart action and nervous system function; found in fortified milk, sunlight, fish, eggs, butter and fortified margarine
B6: Helps build body tissue and aids in metabolism of protein; fish, poultry, lean meats, bananas, prunes, dried beans, avocados are all sources
Folate: Aids in genetic material development (think folic acid), involved in blood cell production; green, leafy vegetables, organ meats, dried peas, beans and lentils are all sources
E: Protects blood cells, body tissue, and essential fatty acids from destruction in the body; you can find E in fortified and multigrain cereals, nuts, wheat germ, vegetable oils, green leafy vegetables
Calcium: Strong bones, teeth, muscle tissue, regulates heart beat and muscle action, nerve function and blood clotting; get calcium from milk and milk products
Fluoride: Stimulates bone formation, inhibits or even reverses dental caries; drink fluorinated water, teas and eat marine fish
Iron: Hemoglobin formation; improves blood quality and increases resistance to stress and disease; eat meats, esp. organ meats and legumes
Potassium: Fluid balance, controls activity of heart muscle, nervous system and kidneys; eat lean meats, vegetables and fruits
I’ve noticed a difference in my body when I am consuming foods that contain these and other vitamins/minerals, and I’ve also noticed a difference when I don’t.
Something else I’ve done in the past to help me stay on track is The Daily Plate:
You can keep track of what you eat, calories, protein, fats, etc. from that food. While I don’t live by it, I’ve used it intermittently off and on over the course of my fitness journey to keep me honest with myself. If you’ve got some goals you want to reach, it can help you reach them- even keeping track of your exercise and an estimation of how many calories you’ve burned by doing it. Choose My Plate is another website that is listed as a go-to source in my workbooks:
I will always be a foodie. I love food too much and will never exist on carrot sticks and celery alone, but I can choose to live a life full of good healthy foods, with the occasional guilt-free chocolate chip cookie sprinkled in.