My Simple Health Plan

FIRST: Eat better. As a trend, habit, lifestyle, take the almond over the Oreo. The crisp and delicious organic apple over the boxed snack.

SECOND: Eat less. It’s fine to eliminate sugar and unnatural additives, but you’ve also got to eat less of what you do eat. I’m not sure I could OD on bananas or apples, but I’m certain I won’t lose weight eating the same amount of chicken, just because it’s organic and not deep-fried. Portion control is a thing. Just start smaller. The check-in. “Still hungry? How about an apple next?”

THIRD: More movement. 5 days a week is great, but I’ve got to up the intensity a bit too. And some days I’ll go for a second walk. Like yesterday, I walked 2 miles to dinner and back. It was still a nice dinner, but it gave me a little boost in both directions and made my Nike Fuelband do it’s GOAL dance.

I know how my body can feel. I am happy with the way it has responded to my renewed commitment to getting in shape.

Those are the large tectonic shifts I’m looking for. Add a few ongoing details like water as my main beverage, and nutritional supplements, and you’ve got my entire plan.

Oh wait, I got the message this afternoon while I was doing my cardio tennis workout. I was wondering what I was going to say to a friend about how it’s going. And I got the main message, my main goal of this whole process. (Pause, it’s a bit woo woo.)

I’m learning to listen to and respect my body in a new way. Where in the past I have been angry with myself, gotten down on my lack of willpower, I am turning that around to the positive side. My rational program is about loving myself more. Loving all the wild fluctuations I am, in my energy, my eating, my creative jolts, everything. And even my love handles. I’m loving them away, if I have any success with my self-directed plan, but I’m loving them even still.

I am not trying to diet my way into a more datable man. That’s an end goal, I have on my play, but it’s over all diet and not dieting that is the key to staying with my new agenda. And this isn’t a short-term program either. I’m not ever going back to lazy snacking and unhealthy weekend binges. Why would I?

I know how my body can feel. I am happy with the way it has responded to my renewed commitment to getting in shape. It’s not all going to drop off in 30 days. But I am creating a lifestyle and a habit of eating and exercising that will serve me well in to the second half of my life.

EASY. Eat better. Eat less. Exercise more. Drink water.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

You Can’t Out Exercise a Poor Diet

That’s what one of my first Twitter responses was to my launch of this fitness/wellness/health blog. I realized that getting my exercise in action was only half (maybe less) of the plan. And today, I’m wondering if my “rational” approach is still to soft. Hard to tell with less than 30-days under my belt. But the real awareness is this: food is huge. If you are eating crappy, as I was, you can run your ass off and you’re still going to be fat. UG!

Better food, less food, is my laid back nutrition plan.

Another friend today, said, “I started eating based on how I wanted to feel in 30 minutes. By keeping that in mind I could regulate what I was putting into my system.”

That’s the ticket.

I used to say all the time that I could care less about food. I wasn’t picky. (Except I really was.) I just needed to eat to live. I wasn’t a #foodie or all that interested in cooking or gourmet meals. That stuff actually bored me to tears.

But, I started working with a company that had a cooking app for they iPhone and I quickly realized how little I knew about food. And even the food I was eating, thinking very little about it, was actually harmful to me. What?

I think the first big AH HA was about tilapia. I used to eat a bit of it from my local grocer who did some creative things with corn-chip encrusting and all, things that made it very easy to prepare. Except, my foodie friend first pointed out to me, farm-raised tilapia is poison. I was both horrified and bummed out. It was such an easy meal for my kids.

So tilapia went on the do-not-eat list. Right next to any-food-from-a-box or bag, which included all forms of chips and snacks. What in the world was I supposed to eat. I remember learning about a little of this stuff and changing some of my family’s eating habits. Some, I say, because I still really loved Triscuits and corn chips. Nothing wrong with those, right? Um…

Today I know better. Even the seemingly benign Triscuit is loaded with crap. Even the wheat is crap. Yeah, nice that they switched to ‘sea salt’ as an ingredient, but it’s not enough. No Triscuits.

And more exercise, more frequently is my activity plan.

I’ve been fairly slow in my refactoring. I’ve taken out all the things I know are bad. I’ve kept a few marginal things (eggs, bacon) and tried to move my eating habits towards whole foods. And secondly, towards less food overall.

Better food, less food, is my laid back nutrition plan. With a multi-supplement for my overall nutrition. And more exercise, more frequently is my activity plan. I even have 3 X per week cardio workouts, aimed at increasing my MaxVO.

Again, all of that is fairly subtle. I’m not on some crash diet, or crash fitness/workout plan. I’ll know in several months (heading into Thanksgiving and Christmas) how my rational plan is working.

I know if things don’t improve in my overall fitness, I’ll have to step things up again. I suppose that might look like running more than walking. And maybe being a bit more restrictive on my intake. I’m happy today, and I’m making strides towards my life goal. And in this gentle way I’m stepping towards fitness rather than falling away from it. That’s the easy plan. Let’s see how it goes.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

references: 

image: triscuit, quinn dombrowski, creative commons usage

My Rational Approach to Diet and Fitness

Wellness is a lifelong quest. And fitness, or in my terms, feeling and looking more fit than I do now, is also a life goal. While I have struggled for a good portion of my adult life with weight gain, I decided at the beginning of this month to take on my health and fitness in the same way I have taken on some of my other challenges in life. I launched this blog as a way to share and track my own commitment and growth in this process.

Here’s what I told a fitness coach who reached out to me recently.

“At the moment, I’m going my own way, working with my emotions and eating, a bit organically, with some incidental support and lots of discipline and rational exercise and diet.”

At the heart of my plan is self-guided, self-exploratory awareness of what I eat, why I eat it, and how it makes me feel. As a result I’m also watching how I can reduce all forms of sugar intake. Add to that a goal of hitting my exercise goal 5-times a week.

It’s been a while since my last “check-in” and I know I’ve been challenged a bit lately with 100% adherence to my no-sugar October, but I’m positive and happy with how I’m progressing. I’m not weighing in all the time, because I can see how my weight can vary based on salt intake, water intake, and minor constipation, so that it can become more of a distraction than a motivational tool.

Are a few misses that happened over the last week.

  • 2 X big sugar intake choices
  • my son’s birthday cake
  • next day, a few spoons of ice cream and some chocolate bark
  • 2 X pizza – rather than something more healthy
  • 3 days of physical exercise rather than 5 (day 1 due to some business commitments and day 2 due to laziness)

In my rational process (meaning within reason, and not extreme) I can merely restart my program in the morning. Every morning.

When I slip, either by choice, or by craving, I can make a note of what’s going on. Did I decide to give in? Did I let the craving get too intense so I couldn’t control it? Or was I merely responding to bad choices and bad snack items in my sister’s house, where I’m house sitting for the week?

My goal, in this process, and recorded on this blog, is to take my own time, learn what I learn, and share what I understand as I go along.

The answers don’t really matter all that much to me today. This evening I made food for my daughter and son based on their desires and choices. And I had some lean chicken prepared by the local grocery store. Again, my goal is improvement and commitment to my growth (or in this case, reduction) in self-awareness and physical fitness. Ultimately I want to live a happier and fuller life by improving my fitness, getting my waistline back in line with my physical frame, and improving my energy and resilience during the course of any given day.

Today, Sunday, I napped when I could have walked. I took the path of leisure, even as I was writing and being very productive elsewhere. I didn’t walk. But I’m rested, happy, and only slightly bloated from the chocolate earlier. Or is that just guilt?

I got back on the horse the minute I took the last little piece of chocolate. I reset and reconnected with my goals. Water and sleep at a rational hour tonight. Tomorrow I get my kids up and off to school and I kick off another week of rational eating, rational exercise, and conscious explorations of both aspects of my new path towards health.

I’ve got a very good friend (my daily “hey” check-in) who is a life coach. And today I had a fitness coach hit me up due to a mutual friend. And while I value their expertise, my path is not about training harder, or even correctly. It’s not about amping up to go for my dreams. My goal, in this process, and recorded on this blog, is to take my own time, learn what I learn, and share what I understand as I go along.

Weeks 1 – 3 were awesome and clean. This last week was less perfect, but HAPPY. That’s the ultimate test of how I’m doing. If I’m suffering greatly as a result of the process, I’m not doing it right. If I’m learning and growing from my exploration of new ideas and new lessons that do connect with me, then I am going in the right direction. That’s the real goal, keep stepping in the right direction and making choices to step away from things that are less healthy.

Sounds simple. And the logic is simple. The process is what I’ll share here, in all it’s wavering progress.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

Oh yeah, and a few observations. The cake on Saturday led to my weakness for sweets on Sunday. Ack. And both times I ate pizza I was merely being lazy. And I noted the bloated feeling from the cheese, flour, and oil. Fats, fats, fats. I definitely feel a bit better in my body when I’m slightly hungry and not FULL.

image: daily steps, daily exercise, john mcelhenney, cc 2014

Friends Along the Path and Chocolate Birthday Cake

WHAT? It’s one of my closest friend’s birthdays. And though I don’t really want to break my sugar fast, I know I am about to. I’ve been drinking only water and eating rather purely, and here comes the chocolate mousse cake. Damn. Before I have a chance to object it’s in front of me with a handy spoon lovingly provided. People are either on the path with you or they are unaware of what you are working on in your life. It’s okay either way. But when the cake arrived, I could’ve made a stand, I could’ve refused and told the story of my new blog to this group of close friends, but… They’re already a bit overwhelmed by my social output, so I ate the cake. It was delicious. And the next morning I hopped back on my fast. Easy.

I want to acknowledge a few friends who are instrumental in my growth and progress. These folks lovingly push me to be better, eat better, live better. We need our friends on the path. That’s part of what this blog is about. Connecting each other on the journey to wellness and health. Here are my top champions and supporters.

My Friends Along the Path

+++ Andrew Long

A 15-year friend and brother. Andrew really pushed me over the line on several of the courses of action that led to this blog in the first place. He’s always challenging my eating habits, fitness, and general life plan. In fact, a conversation I had with Andrew actually kicked my ass into action, and this version of FitbyTech was launched within hours.

I was talking about a post I’d written on another blog, where I described myself as a car. Andrew was quick to ask, “What kind of car did you pick?”

“I’m my current car, a classic 10-year old BMW with a little body damage.”

And his gestalt came immediately. “John, I want to challenge you, once more to take charge of your body image. What would your life be like if you lost 50 lbs?”

“Um…” And I launched this site within a few hours. I had actually purchased the domain a year and a half earlier, again on the push from Andrew about eating healthy.

[Contact Andrew @ Ultralifecoach.com]

+++ Sharron Watts

Sometimes a partner can see things about you that you can’t see about yourself. Sharron showed me how it felt to be truly appreciated and cared for. She provides love, support, food, and encouragement. And she has been one of my staunchest reflectors. We’re both on this food-to-health path and Sharron is the person who turned me on to the Whole 30 concept. She’s also a blogger who digs into her feelings and shares the hard truths. And Sharron has always been able to call me out when I’m not being authentic. “Um, I’m not sure I’m following you on that statement. Can you say it again?”

+++ Nancy Eldridge

Sometimes in life, when things are really hard we need people to touch and heal us. Nancy and I have known each other for 20+ years and she has provided body work for me in all those years. As someone who really knows my body better than anyone else, Nancy has always been able to intuitively dig into both the muscle and sinew as well as the heart of what was going on for me. Her constant support has involved questions about yoga, nutrition, pure water consumption, and years of “touch” healing. Massage is one of the most amazing things you can do for your body. Nancy has always been able to pierce me and nurture me at the same time. To this day I still get massages and I think, “Wow, that was the best massage I’ve ever had.” That is amazing. [email Nancy]

Even though this blog is “byTech” it’s really about friends and countrymen. Without the social connection, I don’t think I would be as motivated. Of course the writing is the thing that will heal and change my life. As I grow and understand more about what makes my body tick, I’ll gain better discipline about how I train, feed, and heal myself.

There are always more friends on the path ahead.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

image: morning train in nyc, a friend, creative commons usage

Pancakes for Everyone Else But Me

I love pancakes. But I need the butter and syrup to make them extraordinary. So, today, at breakfast I made a smashing round of Pumpkin Spiced pancakes (organic ingredients only) and fed them to my kids. Yes we had the organic maple syrup. And I had two eggs over easy.

What I’m really craving, most of the time is energy. The afternoon sag in my physical energy is more pronounced if I stayed up late the night before.

This is one of the lessons I’m learning about being a parent AND watching what I eat: I don’t have to force my regimen onto my kids. Sure, it’s easier if I start restricting everyone from sugar and processed foods, and I do, but there’s no reason for them to have pancakes.

When I am by myself (I’m a divorced father) I don’t keep tasty treats or fat-filled foods around the house. That has been my strategy for curbing my cravings and access to unhealthy food. However, there’s no real reason, other than *my* will power to keep those things out of the house. With kids you often have to put your “program” on the side, and still provide them with pancakes from time to time.

What I learned this morning (and have been learning the last two weeks since I started this blog) is I can make them whatever they want. And then I can make what I need. My willpower has firmed up. Perhaps it’s all about changing habits, and creating a brick wall of permission that allows me to cook tasty treats to perfection and then not even taste them

kirbylane-pancakesOur relationship to food is 100% personal. Emotions and cravings around food are more about us and what’s going on inside of us. Sure, if we’re craving salt, we might want to look at our electrolyte levels and make sure we are getting all the minerals and supplements we need. And in my newly restricted eating plan, I’m certain I can use a little support from a wide-spectrum multi-vitamin supplement.

I listen to my body and take note of my cravings. Then I have a number of choices: 1. do I give in to the craving and indulge; 2. is there some other activity I could do rather than eating (if it’s boredom or a craving that is not supported by actual hunger); 3. do I need to make sure that I stock up on some alternative foods for this particular craving.

I’ve been doing a bit of both since I rebooted. I noted my salt cravings and I stocked up on organic low-salt, sea salt almonds. I noted my desire for sweets and I made sure I have a variety of chilled apples to throw at the craving. And I also noted what times and emotional states usually resulted in these cravings.

So we grow and learn, and we make better choices for ourselves and for our children. Of course , my focus here is on *my* habits and my eating and exercise patterns.

Late night snacking. Even after a good and healthy meal, if I stay up until 1 in the morning, I’m going to require some additional fuel. Cravings begin for me around the 10:30 – 11:30 hour. I can go to bed early and wake up early without any cravings. Or, if I need to work on something, or if I’m inspired by something creative, I can use one of my healthy snacks. The best idea is going to bed around 10:30, when that’s an option.

Mid-afternoon cravings. Again this is often within a few hours of my lunch. And of course, if I had a high carb meal, or something with a bit of hidden sugar or artificial sweetener in it, the craving is likely to be for sweets. But what I’m really craving, most of the time is energy. The afternoon sag in my physical energy is more pronounced if I stayed up late the night before. However, I am most creative when I burn the candle on both ends a little bit, and the afternoon slump is a situation I have to deal with.

Again, I have options. I try for the healthiest first: 1. nuts; 2. fruit; 3. nap (when possible). Most of the time, however, when I’m in a high-focus work situation, I need coffee. A little 1% milk and coffee, no sweetener. I suppose I need to look at my coffee intake and how it jacks with my blood sugar and other pitfalls, but at the moment, I’m fine with my “jolt of the joe” habit. Something in my body is also craving the caffeine. As I’m brewing up the afternoon java supplement my brain gets excited and my mouth salivates. I’m addicted. And for now, I’m going to leave that off the table for adjustment or negotiation. [I know it’s an issue I will have to address in the near future. One step at a time. (grin)]  I am looking at milk alternatives, though.

Waking up and making several breakfasts for my kids is a pleasure not a chore. My son wanted scrambled eggs and bacon. So we grow and learn, and we make better choices for ourselves and for our children. Of course , my focus here is on *my* habits and my eating and exercise patterns. Still it’s good to know I am in control of my own cravings and desires even when I’m making delicious pancakes for one of my kids.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

image: pumpkin pancakes – kerbey lane cafe packaging, john mcelhenney, cc 2014

Dialing In The Perfect Snack

What’s the key to getting over your snacking requirements and cravings? I’ve been in search of the perfect snack, lately. Something that wouldn’t include any added sugar but might have natural sugar in it. (An apple, for example. But NOT peanut butter. Ick!)

So far I have a few snacks.

  1. Organic almonds with sea salt or tamari
  2. Organic bananas
  3. Organic apples
  4. add any other organic fruit here, but I’ve started with those above

I was in the grocery store last night looking for “something else.” Um… Gotta go with the big “O” when possible.

I came home with some rice cakes (organic, nothing but rice and sea salt) and some peanut butter (organic, peanuts and sea salt only). And I think I can add one more item to the pre-workout lunch option.

I had looked at the leading brand of peanut butter, the one choosy mother’s supposedly choose.

leading-pb

Um, NO!

So I went for something a bit more unrefined.

my-pb

And I fell in love.

pb-done

Time now to go do what I love to do: play tennis.

I’m going to get better at this: finding things I like to eat that are healthier than what I have been eating. It’s a process. A step here, a label there, a few changes… This is a lifestyle change not a sprint.

And next I need to look at this new data on “fitness age” here: https://www.worldfitnesslevel.org/ I really like their idea of 4 X 4 interval training. I’m not sure I understand it all, but I do know my VO2 Max is not near where it needs to be. But my resting heart rate and blood pressure numbers are wonderful.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

image: today’s perfect lunch, john mcelhenney, cc 2014

Tiny Temptations and Big Picture Thinking

I stopped by the grocery store last night to pick up some sparkling water. It’s one of my vices. I love it. And as long as I get the unflavored versions, I’m good. (I hear the one with “natural flavor” added might be worse for us than we knew. And what IS allowable as “natural flavor” anyway.)

And as I was passing the nuts section, I was looking for something healthy and simple to add to my almonds. I use them when I notice a little blood sugar drop, or if I’m craving a salty snack.

And for a second, I was hovering over the Praline Glazed Pecans. I. Almost. Ate. One.

Not today, devil sugar. Today I am happy to grab a bottle of water and walk right past all your flashy wrappers and promise of minor insulin comas.

You know the simple little “sample” move. Might be illegal, or a nuisance. I’m not talking about grazing the bulk bins, I’m talking about getting ONE nut. One sugar covered nut. What could be the harm, right?

I stopped myself mid pluck. My internal voice spoke up, “Um, what’s the point? Sugar. Why? Looks good. Don’t. Okay.”

It was a quick dialogue and I’m sure I am no thinner this morning as a result of turning down a single sugary treat. BUT… It was the principle of the thing. I have committed to NO. And I’m sticking with it. It would’ve been easy to just have a single nut covered with crispy-sugary-toffee coating. I could have written it off as a little reward for my hard work.

I didn’t do it. I realized that I was rationalizing a little sugar intake. I was saying yes to a little slip. In the same way I’m not interested in beating myself up, I’m pretty flexible with myself, and my new plan. But this was different.

I wasn’t hungry. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t craving sugar or anything else. I was coming in to treat myself with something 100% healthy, a bottle of plain sparkling water. And along the way, I was enticed by EVIL SUGAR. Not covert sugar, but tasty, simple, “just one bite,” sugar.

Last night a little victory. Not a life or diet altering change. But a willful step towards my goal and a brief conscious examination of why I wanted the sugar.

My tiny victory was really a much larger victory. As I left the store, sans sugary snack, I passed by the Halloween hall of candy. My renewed and strengthened brain said, “GROSS.”

I’m not trying to create an adverse reaction to sugar, but I am trying to reprogram my body and brain to evaluate what my point is when I’m craving a sugary or salty snack. Am I sad, or stressed, or angry? Am I happy and wanting to celebrate with a piece of pie? NOPE. Not today, devil sugar. Today I am happy to grab a bottle of water and walk right past all your flashy wrappers and promise of minor insulin comas.

Last night a little victory. Not a life or diet altering change. But a willful step towards my goal and a brief conscious examination of why I wanted the sugar. I just wanted it. It looked tasty. It would be tasty. And… I didn’t need it. And the little permission might have set off a craving later in the night, when I got home for more sugar. In fact, I’m almost sure that would’ve been the case.

Chalk up one for the plan. Score: ME-1, Devil Sugar-0. Yes, October is a great month to start my no-sugar regime. The perfect month, perhaps.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

image: my beverage of choice, john mcelhenney, cc 2014

Destination Me < Here < Now

Being aware of my hungers and cravings, or should I say, getting to recognize and pay attention to them, has been an eye-opening experience. A few of the things I’m getting in touch with

  • I eat when I’m bored
  • I crave sweets at odd times, but often late at night
  • The longer I stay up at night, the more opportunities I have to snack, and late-night snacks are always a bad idea
  • Calories are calories, but it’s harder to over eat on veggies and lean meats
  • By being a bit more conscious about having healthy snacks around can save me a lot of hassle

I’m listening to my own feelings around food and hunger. Sometimes when I have a craving (“I’d love some popcorn.”) I’m really just bored, and the snack is more of a form of entertainment. I don’t need to eat for fun any more. There are a lot better choices I can make for entertainment.

And on that late night snacking, there are a couple options.

  • Just say no (When my resolution is high, this is easy.)
  • Going to bed earlier (My body likes it, and I wake up earlier.)
  • Having a piece of fruit
  • Drinking a glass of water
  • Recognizing they “why” so I can address the need rather than the craving

This weekend I had a number of cravings and I don’t think I allowed any of them to talk me into a snack. I’ve been using almonds and honeycrisp apples as my go-to snacks. I know I need to add some variety, because I’m craving other things, and when my go-tos are not appetizing, I’m more at risk.

And just like emotional baggage, I’m ready to leave a good bit of it behind.

It’s all a kind of game. Like the board game Sorry. Either you are moving ahead towards the goal, or you’ve been slapped back a few spaces. And if I can get in the competitive spirit, even with myself alone, I can challenge myself to ignore the 1am sweet attack.

I had a bit of catsup on a french fry during the week, but I stopped after three bites. I knew there was sugar in it, I gave in for a few bites and then my resolve kicked back in. “This stuff is not that good. I’m just eating it out of habit.” And I stopped.

The drinking of water only has been easy. (Of course I love my coffee with a bit of 1% milk in the morning. But I really only dive after sugar and sweets occasionally, so the whole dropping sugar thing has been relatively easy.

My kids are hilarious. They cannot imagine why I’d declare October as my sugar-free month. “It’s simple,” I told them tonight as they were picking at a bag of early Halloween candy. “When I make a decision, that entire bag of candy is off-limits. It’s not even an option.”

I did have one Laughy Taffy on Saturday night, just because I’d been so good. It was okay, but not as tasty as I had imagined it would be. And I didn’t crave anything else. Again, my path is not just denial. I am okay with making a choice to eat something off the plan, and then jump right back on the plan.

I’m okay with me now, but I’d like to be on the lighter-side of my 50’s.

In my emotional body I know that overeating and eating crap has led me to my current weight. And since I was that swimmer in high school, I’ve rarely had any periods in my life when I was happy with my body. I’d like to get back to just being “okay” with me.

I’m okay with me now, but I’d like to be on the lighter-side of my 50’s. And I’d like a relationship with someone who is also in relatively good shape. I’m active and playing a lot of tennis, but I’m doing it carrying a lot of extra baggage. And just like emotional baggage, I’m ready to leave a good bit of it behind.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

Note: At this moment, it’s 7:40 on Monday night. I didn’t eat a very big meal. I’m hungry again. All I’ve got it my apples and almonds. (frown) I’d love to hear some other folk’s healthy snack ideas. And what do you use to kill a craving (salt or sugar)? And that bag of Halloween candy is starting to call to me.

image: my weekend scruffy tennis joy, john mcelhenney, cc 2014

My Chemical Romance – Sugar Sex Magic, Baby!

Blood sugar is the key. I know this. I don’t know enough about it to know how to manage it very well, but I get the concept. And I am acutely aware of the sugar cycle. If I have ONE sugary snack during the course of a day, my body then craves sugar for the rest of the day. I am guessing this is both chemical and mental. And I’m certain that it’s a bad cycle for me. Okay, so easy, right? Avoid sugar.

I probably had pancakes with plenty of syrup. And when the carbs and sugar ran out, boom I was sick.

Well, sometimes that’s easier said than done. When you look in your prepared foods around the house you’re going to find sugar added to most of it. Yuk. I was fond of a muesli mix from my local grocery brand. Fourth ingredient. Their granola under the same label, 2nd ingredient. If that’s not crap-tastic!

Okay, so it’s important that I am aware of all my sugar intake. I’ve started calling it “conscious sugar.” As in, I’m conscious that I’m eating sugar and I am making a decision to eat it or not to eat it. The hidden sugar in my diet is under surveillance and attack. I’m on a jihad against sugar in all forms.

sugar-applejuiceGuess what, it’s in a lot of whole foods too. A friend and I were talking about fruit and he said, “You know if you drink a glass of apple juice, you’re consuming about 5 tablespoons of sugar.” What? That’s not good. “But, when you eat the actual apple, the parts of the skin and the fiber slow down the metabolism and allow it to be absorbed in a more healthy way.” Still sugar, but not concentrated or massive amounts. As much as I love my honeycrisp for dessert right now, I can’t imagine eating five of them in a row. Besides these honkers are beasts that weigh in at nearly a pound each.

Orange juice is even worse. The “not from concentrate” versions are really no better for you. And that little swig of OJ in the morning, that I used to use as a wakeup jolt, a really bad idea for me.

What happens inside my body, in my blood, when I eat or drink sugar is not good. What happens afterwards, when I feel a little high and then a huge energy drop, is also toxic to my health and my fitness plan. Time to watch for sugar and hidden sugar and root it out.

We didn’t learn how to eat healthy in our family of origin. While my mom is a great cook, she’s also a bit on the round and jolly side. And it’s okay with her if I’m on the round and jolly side with her. That’s the household I grew up in. And she’s preparing whole meals. She’s working to be healthier, but she’s not shying away from the dairy and oils. And she does love the desserts. A dinner without dessert is an anomaly. Whereas, I think it should be an exception. That’s how I grew up.

I remember weekends where I would be playing tennis and the bottom of my energy would drop out. Not in a natural way, but like being dropped off a cliff. I know this was blood sugar stuff. I probably had pancakes with plenty of syrup. And when the carbs and sugar ran out, boom I was sick.

I know this about myself NOW, but as a kid, you have very little understanding or say in these kind of things. As I’ve grown into a middle-aged man, I still don’t have many of the answers. What I know is, sugar is bad. And managing sugar is an important part of my health plan.

I can study that old sugar thing too. I remember a book called Sugar Blues. And today I think there’s a new classic, The Blood Sugar Solution, by Dr. Mark Hyman.

Be sweet but kill the sweeteners.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

reference: sugar stacks – how much sugar is in foods and drinks

image: sugar loops, vox efx, creative commons usage

An Animal Hunger

Today I noticed an interesting feeling. I was depositing a check at the bank, the same bank I was at last Saturday when my life was falling apart. And there was the same Yoghurt shop and the same temptation. But I had a different reaction today.

I was finished with my deposit and as I was walking out of the bank I noticed how hungry I was. And this hunger was sort of interesting. It was like the opposite of bloating. I was sort of like a lean animal in look of a meal. And I noticed my craving to have some yoghurt, but my body and my hunger was for something more substantial. I wondered to myself, maybe this is genuine hunger rather than a craving.

I’m going to look at what’s going on in my animal body and my emotional body before I make a decision one way or another.

Something else was pretty interesting as well. I liked the lean feeling I had in my stomach. I was hungry, I could tell I was hungry, and in turning away from the frozen treat, I was turning towards the hunger and the real craving for food, the healthier the better. And I imagined this good feeling, this lean feeling, could also be something a person could become addicted to. Like, instead of craving yogurt you crave the empty feeling of being hungry. Again, like an animal in the hunt for a meal.

How much of our daily eating is due to a craving or unhealthy imbalance of nutrition, and how much of it is habit. I have been in the habit of eating poorly. I like the feeling of my body eating well. And tonight as I ate a lean meat and vegetables only dinner, I liked how I was feeling. I even liked how I was thinking.

Sure, I’d like the occasional sweet. But for the rest of October, anytime I make that choice I’m going to look at what’s going on in my animal body and my emotional body before I make a decision one way or another.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

image: eat healthy, creative commons usage

Inspiration: I found this post on JLo a bit inspirational about her “veggie” diet and how it made her feel.

“I was so used to just eating the way I grew up.”
JLo’s Abs on Huffington Post