Tag Archives: whole foods

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


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

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

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

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

image: sugar loops, vox efx, creative commons usage