[This is Post 4 about my mid-life training program. For backstory, see Post 1,
Post 2 and Post 3.]
Today, Iâ€™m going to have my cake and eat it too. Itâ€™s my birthday. I deserve it.
This seems reasonable, don’t you think? The thing is I’m a little hard on myself. I’m not a recovering alcoholic but I imagine that every single day of sobriety is a huge achievement for a recovering alcoholic. I mean no disrespect for alcoholics, just the opposite, but on my training program, which involves a significant nutrition component, I view my good eating habits similar to sobriety. (Again, I know the stakes aren’t on the same level.) I’m hard on myself when I screw up. I’m so hard on myself that most of the time, eating the cake is not worth it.
So my trainer, Steve Bechtel, from Elemental Training Center, is helping me â€œbudget itâ€ into my training. The cost to me for indulging in a huge piece of cake today, as well as a glass or two of Merlot? An extra 6 miles this week.
Now, onto what this post is really about. Here I’ll share some of the changes I’ve made to my diet that have no doubt helped me lose 14 pounds and 7% body fat in 3 months. Yes, I’ve worked my butt off with the workouts, but I’ve also made some basic changes to what I eat.
The most significant change I’ve made to my diet is that most days I limit my total caloric intake to 10% of my body weight. I’ve cut out all bad carbs, and even some of the excess good carbs I used to enjoy, and added more protein to my diet. The latter makes me feel fuller so has the added benefit of keeping me from overeating or giving in to cravings for not-so-good snacks.
Specific changes I’ve made include the following:
Breakfast: Instead of my usual 2 pieces of peanut butter and jelly toast, I now have either 2 boiled eggs OR 1 boiled egg and Â½ cup of Grape Nuts cereal w/1 pack of Equal and Skim Milk for breakfast.
Lunch: I typically have a big salad, sometimes two bowls’ worth, of mixed greens, with craisins, sunflower nuts and grated parmesan cheese + Ranch dressing or Italian dressing. (Regular, not non-fat variety). Sometimes Iâ€™ll add some lunch meat or a piece of cheese to this. Or, I’ll have a Hebrew National hotdog. With no bun. I know this doesnâ€™t have a lot of nutritional value but I love Hebrew hotdogs and it’s bbq season and it’s a protein source.
Dinner: Lean meat on the grill (sometimes 1-1/2 servings). Usually lean pork, hamburgers, chicken breast or steak, with 1-2 vegetables, usually asparagus, broccoli, corn or a combo of two of these. I cut out the bread or potato or rice altogether. I think the latter has helped a lot.
Snacks: 14 almonds (seasoned or raw), usually in the morning or/and in the afternoon, 1-2 pieces of jerky, usually in the morning and/or again in the afternoon, plus an apple or pear at some point in the day. Another favorite is fresh pineapple chunks mixed with some cottage cheese.
Dessert: Watermelon, cherries or, my favorite healthy dessert: a pear eaten with some aged cheddar.
Bedtime Snack, if I have a craving for one: microwave popcorn (PopSecret, Homestyle,1 serving size=4 cups of popped corn, which is plenty.) I also like the â€œPure Proteinâ€ bars, which are 180 calories each, and have equal parts protein and carbohydrates. Itâ€™s an indulgence that makes me think I’m eating a candy bar and therefore works as a “treat,” although I realize itâ€™s not as valuable as something more naturally rich in protein and carbohydrates.
Drinks: I gave up soda pop, cold turkey, back in 1992 so that makes it easy. I drink coffee, tea and lots of water. I treat myself to a small glass of Merlot once in a while, as well.
Other things to note: I also gave up French fries, ice cream and chips. I didn’t eat a lot of these things before, but giving them up collectively is without a doubt helping the cause. : >
The tip from Steve that Iâ€™ll share today is that we can help achieve our fitness goals by being decisive. When we make a decision, we commit to something. Weâ€™ve resolved to take a particular course, and in doing so, all other choices are no longer on the table.
I travel a fair amount, and when Iâ€™m traveling, I find it is harder to eat healthy than it is to get my workouts in.
The food/snack purchase decision I make at our first stop at the convenience store will set the tone for the rest of the day. Energy bar or almonds? Yep. Snickers or Doritos? Nope. Once I make the decision it’s easy. It’s making that decision that’s hard for me. It can be torturous. I want the Snickers so bad sometimesâ€¦or the chipsâ€¦
Same goes for when I’m working from home and I find myself hungry and wandering into the kitchen. I’ve recently moved our loaf of bread, cookies and other snacks I can’t deprive our young sons of, to drawers, and replaced their countertop positions with almonds, raisins, jerky and fruit. This action alone has made it easier for me to make the right nutrition decisions that bring me closer to my goal.
I’m far from an expert. I have a long way to go, but the above are changes I’ve made that have significantly helped me lose weight and fat, and feel better, while not feeling deprived during the last three months.
And since it’s my 41st birthday, it’s a good time to reflect on how far I’ve come since 1 year ago. When I turned 40, I was regretful when I reflected on my fitness and health level. My fitness level was at its worst, and lowest 12 months ago. (During the surprise 40th birthday party my friends and family threw for me, I silently resolved that during my 40th year I was going to make a change and get back into better health and fitness.) It wasn’t until 9 months after that (3 months ago) that I finally took action and hired Steve as my personal trainer and joined Elemental Training Center. I’m so glad I did. I can’t recommend enough hiring a personal trainer. If you’ve been in a rut for awhile, there’s no better way to make a bold change for the better than to hire a trainer who will drive you hard and keep you accountable. (Email Steve for information, or email me if you’d like to hear more about my experience.)
I also realize that this fitness journey I’ve embarked upon is changing. During the last three months, the workouts have been hard, as I was an unfit person…but the results and benefits were significant and probably came easier. From here on out, it will likely be the reverse. I’m in much better shape now, so I suspect melting the fat off might be a little harder. Either way, I’m staying the course. I’ll keep working hard at it.
… Starting tomorrow. Right now I have a birthday to celebrate.
(And by the way, the 12-mile hike I did to cover the “6 extra miles” Steve prescribed to offset my birthday indulgences was more of a reward than a cost. The views along the Switchbacks/Loop Road are phenomenal. The lakes are full and blue, the country is green, the peaks still have snow on them, and there are lots of wildflowers. Add to that I only saw 4 cars in 12 miles. The latter was probably a product of my starting early in the morning.)