Being My Own Nutritionist

A work in progress, with emphasis on the word 'progress'.

A work in progress, with emphasis on the word ‘progress’.

What is a nutrient? A nutrient is defined as: a substance that provides nourishment essential for the maintenance of life and growth. So, nutrition is therefore the process of obtaining or providing the food necessary for life or growth. But how do you distinguish between what is ‘essential’ or ‘necessary’ and what is not? Are Peanut Butter Oreos essential for life and growth? I wish they were but they are not! Is water essential for life and growth? Definitely. Something I feel passionately about is nutrition education; I think that doctors or nutritionists should partner with educators to introduce nutrition education into mainstream schooling. However, until that happens, it is our duty to educate ourselves.

Nutrition is scientific. There is a guideline on the back of your food containers that tells you your ‘Recommended Daily Amount’ of each vitamin and mineral as well as your recommended intake of calories, carbohydrates, fat, sugars, fiber, protein, etc. This guide can be altered based on whether you are looking to gain weight, maintain your weight, or lose weight. There may be some readers shaking their heads, and trust me, I know it is more complicated than this, but for now, let’s keep it simple. Foods have different compositions of each nutrient so you can customise your diet to ensure you are getting appropriate amounts of all of them. This is why fad diets don’t work. You are restricting yourself and maybe even eating something that your body isn’t used to, which can have all sorts of crazy effects on your body.

Have you ever heard of “Freelee: The Banana Girl?” This is a Youtube star who tells her followers to eat a diet solely consisting of bananas (and a limited selection of raw vegan foods). This girl is a fruitarian so she only eats fruit. She even puts bananas in a blender with water and calls it “banana milk.” Personally, I think she should be sectioned. If you are only eating fruit and working out a lot, you might look fantastic but your body will literally be surviving on a constant sugar rush. Fruit contains Fructose, which is a form of sugar that is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. I won’t bore you with the science but if you ask a nutritionist what they think of a diet solely consisting of bananas, they will probably laugh in your face.

So, let me be clear, I am not a nutritionist. There is so much I don’t know, but what I do know is that fad diets, restrictive diets, diets where you only eat bananas, are not maintainable. So, what do I eat as part of my ‘diet’? Right now, I’m eating lots of kale, spinach, green apples, cucumber, celery, oats, almond milk, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, coconut milk, lean meats, sweet potatoes, lemons, eggs, fish, rice and greek yoghurt. These are some of the foods that I buy and consume on a regular basis. But this changes all the time. Get the picture? It’s all about balance and variety. You can probably find something from every single food group in my kitchen. The paleo and primal lifestyles are the ones that have appealed to me the most because they are all about eating clean, non-processed foods. This just makes sense to me. When I first started making “clean” meals, I thought to myself, “this tastes and feels really healthy.”

Where do I learn about food? Honestly, I follow nutritionists, dieticians, personal trainers, and other professionals on Instagram and I look at photos of what they are eating. There are a couple of blogs I follow as well, for recipes and to see other people’s stories. It also helps that one of my good friends and colleagues, Karen from ‘Good Clean Chow,’ is a nutritionist and she is kind enough to share tips and info with me every now and then. I am constantly seeking information on the internet and Google-ing ingredients or foods I haven’t heard of before. As we all know, the internet is full of rubbish, so I try to get my information from responsible and credible sources. I am a young professional who doesn’t have the kind of budget to afford a nutritionist, a dietician, or a personal chef, so I spend a lot of time educating myself. My friends might tell you that I am obsessed with food and I am sure it can come across that way sometimes because I do talk about it a lot. But I want to make sure that I am feeding myself things that will benefit my body rather than harm it. As I mentioned in my previous post, there is the constant worry that I will get fat or unhealthy again, and I will do everything I possibly can to make sure that doesn’t happen, starting with what I eat. I am still a work in progress, and lately I feel I may have hit a wall, but as Karen reminded me the other day, sometimes you need to congratulate yourself on the progress you have made rather than beating yourself up about how far you still have to go.

Welcome to Green Food and Running Shoes

This is a blog about how I completely transformed my body and my lifestyle without any diets, personal trainers, nutritionists, or surgery. I want to inspire other people who are on a pursuit of happiness and healthiness in their own lives, as well as offering some ‘foodspiration’ and ‘fitspiration’ to anyone who is interested. This first post is a brief history of my weight loss journey and a bit about how I got here.

The Beginning: A few years ago, I was a fat, sick, binge-drinking smoker who ate junk food and hated what she saw in the mirror. In the summer of 2009, my weight peaked at 210 lbs and I was buying size XXL clothes to try and hide how big I was. I made up excuses and did what every overweight person does and found ways to blame my situation rather than accepting the fact that it was completely my fault. You see, when you are overweight, the scariest part is facing reality and looking at yourself in the mirror for who you really are. When you admit that you have control over your body and what you eat, you then feel this sense of fear but also this great sense of empowerment. Once I admitted and accepted that I had control over my body and my weight, I began to make some changes. My moment of clarity was when I tried to go out for a run and couldn’t even make it to the end of the street and back. This was when I knew, I had to change.

One Step at a Time: Start Small. I started by increasing the amount of fibre in my diet and going to the gym to do about 30-45 minutes on the cross trainer about five days a week. I also started drinking more water and less soda and curbed my consumption of fast food. Through making these three simple, small changes, I was able to drop about 25 lbs in about two months.

Vegetables: One simple concept was a moment of complete enlightenment for me; there is an actual guide for your dietary needs. There are many diets and lifestyles out there; Atkins, Paleo, Primal, Vegan, Vegetarian, Raw Foods, Juicing, and the list goes on. All of these diets have one thing in common: eat more vegetables. Vegetables and nutrient-dense foods should make up the majority of your diet. It took me a long time to achieve this, and to be honest, I’m still working at it, but if you remember one thing, remember this. Green food is good food!

Clean Living: I quit smoking in 2010. I quit drinking soda and artificial drinks in 2013. I quit drinking coffee in 2014. Clean living is a lifestyle where you treat your body with respect and feed it things that are not filled with chemicals and damaging ingredients. Let me be very clear about something. I just ate Reese’s Pieces (my guilty pleasure)! I am not 100% clean but I hope that I can get as close to this goal as possible. I am so much closer to this goal than I was when I first started. My objective is not to buy any food in tins, cans, packets, tubes, or boxes. Most of my groceries are fresh produce, meat, eggs, fish, and foods that have not been processed.

Staying Active: When I started out, I couldn’t run a mile without stopping and gasping for breath. My first few trips to the gym in 2009 involved only the cross-trainer because that is all I could manage. When I took my first circuits class in 2010, I had to leave halfway through. In July 2012, I did my first Tough Mudder and in September 2014, I ran my first half marathon in 1:48. I had ZERO personal training. I figured it out on my own and I stayed committed and focused on my goal. I also walked everywhere and used minimal public transport. I try to exercise at least four times a week. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Today: Today, I am experimenting with the paleo and primal lifestyles because they are all about completely clean, unprocessed foods. I like trying new things but NOT “diets”! I do not believe in restricting myself. Restriction only leads to binging and guilt. I like a diet or lifestyle that I believe I can maintain in the long-term. I tried Crossfit last year but found it to be too risky in terms of injury. Right now, I am happy with Circuits, Spin Classes, weight lifting and running. I am considering employing a personal trainer to show me how to use weights properly and to help me rehabilitate my right shoulder injury. I am still working on curbing my treats (there are far too many…) and I am not ready to put on a bikini this summer. But hopefully, this blog will help me get to where I want to be.

You: I hope that you, the reader, enjoy reading this but most of all, I hope this blog helps you realise that you can achieve your own lifestyle goal if you want it badly enough. You all have a fire inside of you; a fierce determination waiting to be released. When you decide on a goal and you commit to it, amazing things can happen. Everybody has strength and courage inside, it is just a matter of finding them. This journey is not a straight path from point A to point B. This is a roller coaster of triumphs, failures, emotions, and challenges. There is no finish line but there are milestones along the way. This is a journey that we can continue for the rest of our lives. Let’s have fun while we are doing it.