Shift Your Thinking
Preface: I am not a certified nutritionist nor am I a certified personal trainer. The information contained herein are of my own personal experiences and understanding, in edition to what I have found to be successful for myself. It’s simply opinion.
Wow, it’s been a while. I told you I suck at the regular blogging thing but I have some musings that I hope will help others. Today I’d like to talk nutrition and exercise along with my own understandings of those two concepts that can sometimes be foreign to a lot of people.
The Set Up
Over the past weekend, I traveled to my old stomping grounds where I held my first job out of college, Edenton, North Carolina. My first art director and best friend still lives just outside of town, along the Chowan River. My friend, her husband and myself, often, launch her 18-foot boat and head out for a few hours of fishing or swimming when I’m in town for a visit.
Living in eastern North Carolina, however, during the summer, those plans change rapidly with the weather. The saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait twenty minutes” applies commonly in the state. This particular weekend, instead of cruising in the boat, we soon found ourselves at a neighborhood cookout.
The short of it, someone whom I have only recently met and who was obviously wearing beer goggles, called me sexy. For those who know me well, I am not called sexy nor do I get hit on… ever, at least not to my face. Besides, I couldn’t flirt my way out of a paper bag in a tornado if my life depended on it. It’s weird and awkward and all those uncomfortable feelings for me but this was beyond hilarious.
No one has ever been quite so forward with me in like manner. I can certainly appreciate that level of forthright, although, as this individual was in a severely drunken state, I didn’t take it too seriously. Sexy? Me? HA! Hardly. (On aside, I wish more people would be that forward. It makes life easier. If you like me/love me/think I’m cute, etc., tell me. I can’t read any subtly because I am terrible at it. I’m clueless 99.9% of the time.) This come-on, albeit unusual for me, left me thinking, what had changed in my life that this was suddenly a reality or had I done anything at all? Was it simply the beer goggles or was it my own physicality? Could it have been both? I imagine a combination of both, surely.
I’ve been working out regularly for some time; about three years of weight lifting and cycling. I started working out for two reasons; 1.) I needed to be on camera for my documentary and didn’t want to look cubby and 2.) I wanted to be mentally stronger. I needed to be. My nutrition has been on point for about a year or so and over time, I’ve become evermore cognizant of what I fuel my body with. That said, I do not weigh myself or measure my own body fat. I tailor my eating habits and exercise regimen to how I feel. I base it all on mental strength and how frequently I feel depressed or anxious. I think this has been the key for me. Mind you, I’m not “ripped,” “swole,” or any of those other fancy bodybuilding terms. I’m fit and getting fitter every day. Plus, I feel great and have zero mobility issues. I still battle depression once in a while. I still get anxious at times. I get nervous in unfamiliar situations and sometimes, certain conversations make me uncomfortable but I power through with honesty and, attempted, integrity. I find myself able to handle chaos and discomfort far better than ever before thus leading me to examine what changes lead to that mental stability that was so foreign to me for so long. For me, it simply gets down to food and supplementation.
The Common Man’s (Or Woman’s) Thinking
As much as I love Hollywood and the glitz and glamour of that culture, I find some of the myths associated do more harm than good. Advertising, movies, television, etc. place undue stress on our American society that women must be thin and men must be muscular. The reality is, that is insanely ridiculous and unrealistic for the common person. If that’s your industry and required, go for it unabashedly and props if you’re healthy along with it.
I, personally, don’t want to weigh 110 pounds, but I don’t judge anyone who chooses that as long as they take care of themselves. I’m a fit, 160 pounds of muscle with proper body fat percentages. The BMI charts tell me I’m a fat ass, and overweight but that chart and those numbers can kiss it. I’m healthy and happy. And….. apparently, now, sexy.
Along with these idealisms, there is an incredible amount of misinformation out in the world. The common man and woman’s thinking is, “If I workout then I’ll get fit” or “if I eat less and workout more, I’ll be thin.” In part, true. If you eat less and workout more, you’ll lose weight but you’ll be miserable and hungry. This is why so many people fail with “diets.” But let’s look at a similar, again common, thought pattern.
I hear, often, from those who wish to lose weight that they need to hit the gym but they eat garbage. They eat tons of processed, fast-burning carbohydrates, processed and refined sugars and they elect for sodas or teas over water and then wonder why the weight isn’t coming off. Now, I’m not one for body shaming. I believe one should be comfortable in their own skin, regardless of your shape. If you’re happy and you’re healthy, you do you and to hell with anyone else, including me and this article. I want you to be who YOU are comfortable with because that is what will ultimately make you happy.
Let’s Change the Pattern of Thinking
I hate the word “diet.” I wish it would die a slow, painful death and exit our vocabulary forever. It is the most damning and damaging word in the English language associated with health in my opinion. We hear it all our lives. “Healthy diet and exercise are important.” We know it. We hear it. But we don’t do it.
Mind you, I’ve done many types of diets. I did the Paleo diet for a while. I’ve also done Ketogenic. Neither of these diets left me satisfied that I was doing right for my body and my nutritional needs. I learned a lot but that was it.
So instead of “dieting” to change our physique, we need to make smarter choices. It shouldn’t be about restriction. It should be about decision and making proper decisions. Many people don’t understand the food they eat and how it fuels the body. Sodas are full of chemicals that can lead to water retention whereas water is what most of your body is made of but all too often we reach for soda before water. I was guilty of this also. French fries fuel the body very differently than sweet potatoes, for example.
If a server places a plate of french fries and a burger on one side of you and a plate with a sweet potato and steak on the other, what decision should you make? Eating both isn’t an option in this scenario. Instead of going on what tastes good, say both meals are equally as good and flavorful, let’s look at the ways in which your body uses both meals.
The plate of fries and a burger contains processed carbohydrates commonly considered “fast-burning” carbohydrates. Setting aside the meat and any vegetable additions on the burger, at it’s base, it’s bread and russet potatoes. These fast-burning carbohydrates elevate your blood sugar levels and quickly exit leaving you sluggish and crashing, usually within an hour or so of eating. Your body, also, stores sugar as glycogen to burn at a later time. So, this meal is putting more glycogen in your fat stores but leaving you with little nutrition to satiate your appetite, meaning, you’ll be hungry, quicker, and you’ll eat more, sooner. This leads to overeating. Overeating leads to weight gain.
Now, let’s look at the other plate. There are no processed carbohydrates and no refined, added sugars; Sweet potato only with butter and cinnamon, no sugar. You have a rich protein source of balanced fats along with a slow-burning carbohydrate. These two simple foods tend to digest more slowly and fuel your body over a sustained period of time versus the quick high and crash of processed foods. Essentially, you don’t get hungry as quickly when you eat slow-burning foods and you don’t experience significant crashes because your body better regulates insulin production and glycogen storage. This applies to many differing foods and food groups.
Supplementation is where I go a bit over the top. I take 30+ pills a day but let’s not consider that as required or even appropriate. My supplementation schedule is meant to meet specific goals. But in essence, I really only need three supplements; a good multivitamin, fish oil, and protein.
Whey Protein will be listed as numero uno on many fitness websites as the best thing you can pump into your body if you want to be fit. I won’t get into the science of why. There are plenty of sites out there for that. I use Optimum Nutrition’s Whey Isolate Natural Protein. It’s the smoothest blending protein I have been able to find over the years and the flavor is unmatched. The Natural variety only comes in either chocolate or vanilla but the standard variety of ON’s whey comes in more diverse flavors. Either will be suitable. Simply look for 100% Whey.
A great multivitamin contains all the essential vitamins and nutrients needed to supplement you in the event you don’t have your eating habits under control and will aid in sustaining healthy habits along the way. I prefer Optimum Nutrition’s Opti-Women multivitamin (don’t worry, they make an Opti-Man blend also). I am not sponsored by nor do I receive compensation from Optimum Nutrition. I find their products to be the most balanced and I’ve had the most success with them.
Now to the fish oil. I refuse to take liquid form. That is, in my opinion, the quickest way to fall off this wagon. I also don’t care to eat fish (salmon is good but that’s it for me). It’s simply not good to me so I look for a blend of omegas. My preference is Vitamin Shoppe’s Omega 3-6-9.
All three of these supplements are, relatively, inexpensive. The protein and multi can be purchased from Bodybuilding.com or picked up at Vitamin Shoppe and/or GNC (sometimes).
Mind you, I am no doctor. I’m not a personal trainer or nutritionist. I’m not a bodybuilder or even that “ripped.” This knowledge is simply from my own research and understanding but it makes sense and I have had success with it. Ketogenic taught me the importance of reading and understanding nutrition labels, along with the difference between fiber carbs and sugar carbs, while Paleo taught me the value in whole, unprocessed foods. Keep it simple, stupid.
I still indulge in the occasional soda or beer. I don’t believe in restricting myself. If I want to stop at Wendy’s and grab a Baconator, I do. Sure, I gave up a lot in the process and had to change my thinking, but it has been worth it. I no longer drink sweet tea and being from the south, that might as well be blasphemy. I don’t order the combo meals anymore. A weird thing happened when I started fueling my body properly; I eat less because I get fuller, quicker. I’ve lost fat as a result, even though the scale numbers haven’t changed. I don’t crave french fries. I don’t crave heavily salted or fatty foods. I make smarter choices when I go out with friends and I get to eat bacon regularly (yeah, yeah, I know but it’s sooooo good and it fits the eating habits).
I’ll admit, getting started was tough. I failed many times. It took a crazy amount of time to reach that point but now that I’m there, I hope it never changes. I hope I continue to make smarter, healthier choices. I feel better and damnit, I’m finally sexy. Well, at least one person in the world thinks so.
Keep getting after it you magnificent, sexy beasts, no matter your body type! You do you and fuel yourself to take care of yourself!