Thursday, January 17, 2013

An Experiential Philosophy on Food

I'm going to confess that one reason for getting a turtle was to encourage the presence of vegetables in my house. Healthy eating is usually on my mind, but sometimes I struggle to put it into practice.

Last weekend, a younger girl that I had only met a week prior asked me about my eating habits. This is how the conversation went:

New friend: "Do you have a high metabolism?"

Me: "I walk and work a lot, and I eat small meals throughout the day."

New friend (looks at my plate of tofu and rice): "You're really skinny. Do you eat enough?"

Me: "I don't know."

"Don't take this wrong way, but are you bulimic?"

"No, but thanks for asking!"

"Oh good, 'cause that can be really bad for your teeth!"

(offers me her peanut M&Ms)

I was a little shocked that she was so bold to ask me if I had an eating disorder, but in a way, it felt good to know that she was concerned and cared for my health. It's true that I eat less now than I did at other times in my life. And that my weight is similar to that of my freshman year in high school (at the same height), which would be good for competitive running but maybe not for an adult woman's lifestyle.

Energy-wise, I feel okay. I eat when I'm hungry and stop when I feel full, rarely eating to the point of discomfort. I get migraine headaches (usually once a month). I sleep well (at least 8 hours a night).

My exercise routine consists of a 10-minute walk each way to and from work, usually brisk (because I am  late-- or cold, during winter months). I travel up and down at least 5 flights of stairs per day. Occasionally I go jogging, but it's hard to enjoy the time navigating busy city streets or side-stepping dog-walkers in the nearest park.

I drink water (Brita-filtered) throughout the day, usually trying to finish one water bottle at work and drinking a couple more cups at home.

Snacks include mixed nuts (peanuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews), whole wheat crackers, bananas, granola bars, yogurt, or occasionally Cheezits/chips. I'm not afraid of some fat, keeping cheese and ice cream in stock most of the time.

I cook dinner two to three times per week: chicken, fish or ground beef; rice, bread, or pasta; frozen or fresh veggies, salad and/or fruit. Canned soup or leftovers (often from large family meals) substitute other nights. Lunches are usually leftovers, or a semi-balanced combination of snack food. I've been on a soup kick this winter and so far have cooked my own Russian Borscht (beet soup) and chicken and white bean soup.

Maybe I don't get enough protein? As a former college athlete, I became familiar with the meaning of "Muscle weighs more than fat," spending hours in the weight room each week with track and field teammates. My weight was normal, even a little high for my preference and training goals. But my core, legs and arms were strong! As I look back at photos from that time, there is a noticeable difference in size.

I imagine that since graduating and entering the workforce, my unused muscle was converted to energy. My work schedule often left me too tired to exercise, or else I was walking/biking enough during commutes to suffice. Financial concerns have kept me from buying too much food at one time, so I reasoned it was practical for me to not attempt a routine too vigorous to necessitate expensive grocery bills. I thought I was striking a good balance between my energy input and output, but a few recent comments from friends and family have left me wondering if my eating habits could benefit from some intentional changes:

-consistent, protein-filled breakfasts (eggs, nuts, peanut butter or milk)
-more fruit, vegetables and dairy each day
-iron-rich foods or supplements

Just kidding about that last one, but I am indulging in a bag of powdered Little Debbie minis this week, just to celebrate that I eat to live, and that I am not in fact bulimic.

What are your nutrition goals for 2013? What changes have you noticed in your energy level?

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