Monday, January 23, 2012

Friends, Not Food

I've been talking for a couple of days about wanting to do a post on my newfound realization that food is intended to be fuel for the body.  And the more I thought about it, the more it reminded me of this:

Remember: fish are friends, not food.  I'm not exactly sure why, but it totally reminded me of "food is fuel, not __________" (you fill in the blank).

I love Finding Nemo and have now used it as inspiration a couple of times.  For instance, my Road I.D. has this etched into it:

But yes: I have been meaning to talk about food as fuel for quite awhile now.  Today marks the start of week four of the Abs Diet, and it is amazing how different I feel already.

As a reminder, here is the diet in a nutshell:

  • Eat five or six small meals each day
  • Try to incorporate as many super foods as possible into each meal
It is not at all restrictive; in fact, several of the meals are - essentially - dessert.  I could drink one of the smoothies for every meal and be a happy girl!

Since I've been following this plan, it is amazing how healthy I feel.  I stay full for a really long time because I'm eating the proper nutrients, and I can tell when I didn't eat what I should have because my body tells me it's not satiated.  For instance, there have been a couple of times during my workout where I realize I shouldn't have skipped my afternoon snack - or that I should've eaten it later than 3:00 - because I was running on empty.

There is no way I would've been that in tune with my body even a month ago.

Another part of the diet is the free day.  While it seems counterintuitive to eat crap, David Zinczenko (creator of the Abs Diet and editor-in-chief of Men's Health) insists upon having one day per week where you throw out all the rules:
  • "It will help you to learn control.  If you can make it through six days of healthy eating and reward yourself for your effort, you'll develop mastery over the human desire for instant gratification."
  • "It'll help you change your body.  A successful diet plan is about how you eat most of the time, not how you eat all of the time.  It's about learning to eat healthier foods, not sacrificing tasty treats for the rest of your life.  And a high-calorie day of eating, now and then, can actually help you lose weight by revving up your metabolism."
The free day is very important to me, as much of my social activity revolves around food.  I like to eat and cook delicious things, my friends like to eat and cook delicious things, and we like to eat and cook delicious things together - or try out the fun local restaurants Des Moines has to offer.  

While I've definitely been taking advantage of the free days (usually Saturday afternoon/evening and Sunday evening), it's starting to kind of take a toll on me.  For instance, I did not do a very good job this weekend.  On Saturday, I ate a skillet of grease for brunch and then a bowl of ice cream in the afternoon - followed by wine in the evening.  On Sunday, I ate crab cakes with a cream sauce for dinner - with a glass and a half of wine.

Needless to say, I felt so gross this morning.  Yes, all of the food was delicious, but I'm not sure all of it was worth the icky feeling of today.  Perhaps I should stick to one free meal instead of a whole day of gluttony.

It's amazing how eating healthy can really, truly affect your sense of well-being and your ability to be "in tune" with your body.

I honestly feel so much better when I'm not eating junk.

And on that note, here was tonight's dinner:

Chili Mac, with Jack - courtesy of the Abs Diet.  It was so good, and the portions were huge!

And right now my stomach is trying to tell me it's hungry.  I might whip up half a smoothie so that I don't wake up in the middle of the night with a growling tummy.  My Fitness Pal is telling me I still have ample calories left for the day, so I'm going to go use 'em up!



  1. Great post, Emily!! I'm glad to hear this diet is going so well for you!

    Did you see Iowa Girl Eats post today about the quinoa pasta? I MUST find this pasta and try it!

    1. I KNOW! That meal looked to. die. for.

  2. i am a BIG fan of constantly eating as well and tend to gravitate toward mini meals. i like eating too much to only do it 3x a day! :)

    1. I agree 150% - and it's amazing how much better I feel with more smaller meals than fewer big meals!

  3. I really struggle with eating smaller meals more frequently although I know it's probably best for my metabolism. Recently, I've been sneaking tons of fruit into my diet and I'm finding that it's helping control my meal hunger levels and tide me over comfortably to my next meal.

    1. Apples have been absolute saviors for me. I don't know if it's the water content or the fiber, but they fill me up like crazy. I started a few years ago by making sure to incorporate carbs and proteins in each meal - like, 30 g carbs and 15 g protein (for example, an apple and two pieces of string cheese). That helped me plan my "meals" better, and the combo of carbs/protein really filled me up.

  4. Em, isn't it astounding - once we start listening to our bodies - that we've been schlepping around and living in these thing so long without ever really dialoging with it?! When I finished my Peace Corps service, the doctor who did my closing medial exam told me I was leaving better than I came in, which confirmed with some quantifiable data what I already knew. Once I could only afford local ingredients (and no fridge), my first response was to eat pizza and ice cream whenever I was in a city large enough to support such businesses - my "free days". This was fine at first, but after about 6 months of eating rice, beans, veggies, and fruit most days, my monthly pizza and ice cream meals started tearing me up from the inside. I realized dairy, gluten and too much processed sugar mess with my digestion and make me feel bloated, tired, and, as you say, gross, for a day or two. I spent 25 years not knowing that I was always a little "sick" from these foods (and, let's be honest, the quantity in which I conumed them) because I had them in my digestive tract them my entire life, believed they were good for me, and felt a little crappy ALL THE TIME thinking that's what "healthy" felt like. I got a lungful of clean air and realized I'd been breathing smog my whole life believing it was mountain fresh. Now that I have some disposable income and reliable electricity to power a big ol' fridge, I definitely eat more crap than I did when i was rural and poor, but I can appreciate the taste and be mindful of the quantity so as to respect my taste buds without forsaking the rest of me. It sounds like you're already finding that the temptation to inhale the smog, even under the title of a "free day," sounds less appetizing as your body becomes accustomed to feeling good and keeping lines of communication open with you. It's empowering to realize that we're the experts in our bodies, so while government nutritional recommendations, a restricted gluten or dairy diet, or the Abs Diet provide some good guidelines and reminders for how to treat our bodies, we can confidently say, "I'll try it and she (my body) will let me know what works for us because I know how to listen to her and make respectful adjustments" whew, long post heavy with excessive metaphors and personification...all signs that you got me fired up with this one :) Love your reflections, Em.

    1. Exactly! I loved reading this!!!

      And I loved the metaphors and personification - must be the English major in me. :)

      Where are you living these days? I would love to get together - I think we'd have a lot to catch up on!!!