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Chocolate, “clean eating”, and why people just need to chill out and embrace moderation

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Once again in an attempt to prove why we can’t have nice things, one of the other pieces of the article I quoted in my last post talked about how dark chocolate may not necessarily be all that great for you either. I am well known among my friends, family, co-workers, and fitness community for saying “I eat very healthy, but you’ll have to pry the chocolate out of my cold, dead, rotting fingers.”

And I am totally serious. 😀

Granted, on one hand, one must not overdose on anything–especially anything that’s sugary and calorically dense. But on the other, I can’t help but feel that there’s a great deal of scaremongering as click-bait to take advantage of people who are already neurotic about food. Every couple of days I get emails titled things like, “Why exercising makes you fat”, “Why drinking water makes you fat”, “Why cardio makes you fat”, and am expecting the next one to be titled, “Why merely breathing dooms you to be fat, you fatty fat fat person”.

Everyone!

Chill. The. Hell. Out.

There’s this unnecessary struggle in a culture that wants it both ways. We can’t be sedentary and consume twice as many calories as needed and expect to be healthy. At the same time, we can’t obsess over every crumb we put into our mouths until we develop an eating disorder. The phrase “clean eating” is constantly thrown around, but it’s become a nebulous term without a clear definition. People are told “Avoid processed food”, but technically nearly everything is processed to a certain extent, so that’s meaningless too. “Avoid chemicals”, some say, but once again, technically EVERYTHING is a chemical and is composed of chemicals so this is once again meaningless. “Appeal to nature” is a logical fallacy which is oft used by the health and fitness “experts” to scare you into buying their product, book, what-have-you. Don’t buy into it. Don’t try a fad diet or think that you have to eat in an unnatural, highly restricted, and limited way in order to be healthy. Use common sense and good judgment.

People fail at “diets” because they see them as the following:

  1. Torture
  2. Deprivation
  3. Restriction
  4. Temporary

“Clean eating” is about eating reasonably healthy 80-90% of the time and enjoying yourself the rest of the time. It’s about making changes in your habits you can feel comfortable and content maintaining for the rest of your life. People need to develop a healthy relationship with food and learn how to enjoy it in moderation without either feeling deprived or starved. Food is fuel, but it can be tasty fuel.

This is one of the many reasons why I tell people over and over again: any diet which vilifies any of the macronutrients: fats, carbs, or protein, avoid like the plague. All are required in your diet in varying amounts in order to have a balanced meal plan. So when you hear “Carbs are evil”, “fat makes you fat”, run, just run. Neither “advice” will help you to be healthy and will actually harm you in the long term.

And enjoy your chocolate (in moderation). 😛

Side note: one of the sanest reads I’ve found in a while on the subject is called The Lean Muscle Diet: A Customized Nutrition and Workout Plan–Eat the Foods You Love to Build the Body You Want and Keep It for Life! A lengthy title but a worthwhile read. Regardless of whether or not you are vegan or paleo (and the book discusses both), it’s invaluable. It discusses in depth how to eat for fitness in a sensible way that you can maintain indefinitely.

 

 

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Peanut butter: the root of all evil?

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After I posted this link from Shape.com about how peanut butter isn’t a health food on my Facebook page “If a geek can get fit, so can you”, there was a great deal of weeping and refusal to let anyone take away their tasty treat. As a lover of this substance myself, it occurred to me that there needed to a balanced follow-up to explain why peanut butter can and cannot be healthy.

Problem #1: most jarred varieties of peanut butter add all sorts of sugars and gunk to it. You’ll see things like honey, molasses, corn syrup, and all kinds of nonsense that peanut butter just doesn’t need. You don’t need to add all of these sugars to peanut butter and it tastes quite nice without it.

Solution: Read labels and only obtain peanut butter which at most has two ingredients: peanuts, and maybe salt.

Problem #2: While peanut butter can be a reasonable source of protein, 70% of its calories are from fat. Fat is 9 calories per gram, which makes peanut butter fairly intense in terms of calories. A serving of peanut butter is two tablespoons, which is around 200 calories. You can easily by not measuring accidentally eat an additional 200-300 calories per day from underestimating how much peanut butter you’re eating.

Solution #1: enjoy peanut butter in moderation, learn what a serving size looks like. A little bit won’t kill you. And if it fits your macros, all the better!

Solution #2: look up a product called PB2. It’s a powdered peanut butter that has had a lot of the fat extracted from it. I enjoy a tablespoon of it with my chocolate vegan Shakeology. It’s only 45 calories and adds an additional 5g of protein to my smoothie. Very tasty! 🙂

So in conclusion: enjoy your peanut butter, but know how much of it you’re eating and what’s in it other than just peanut butter.

 

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Don’t let the weekend jeopardize your fitness goals!

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From Monday to Friday, we have a routine due to our busy work lives and often it’s easiest to stay on track with our nutrition and exercise during that time. On weekends, it’s entirely too easy to slip up, binge on unhealthy foods at parties and gatherings, and throw out the rule book entirely.

You don’t have to deprive yourself, but you don’t have to kill your fitness goals entirely every weekend, either. Stay on track by remembering to drink plenty of water, eat lots of veggies, fruit, and whole grains, and when presented with options that are less than healthy either passing them up for healthy food instead, swapping them out with a healthier version, or picking one thing to eat in moderation and leave the rest.

I’m a firm believer in the 80-20 rule: eat healthy 80% of the time and 20% of the time allow for reasonable indulgences. Same holds true for weekend. Don’t do 80% unhealthy or worse yet, 100%! Remember your “whys” and your motivation for living a healthier life.

And then, have an ice cream sundae on occasion. 🙂

Happy weekend!

Desk jobs don’t have to mean death to your fitness goals

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It’s been published a lot lately that the longer you spend sitting down during your day, the more years are being taken off of your life. While this sounds utterly morbid and depressing, it’s not entirely out of your control.

A lot of us work 9-5 jobs sitting at desks, but we don’t all have to suffer from unnecessary weight gain and health issues as a result. Exercise and fitness is something a lot of people put off. In Stephen R Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he breaks up daily tasks into different quadrants: urgent and important, urgent and not important, not urgent but important, and neither urgent nor important.

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Exercise falls into quadrant two, “not urgent but important”. If you spend more time dealing with tasks that fit this category, you can prevent them from turning into “urgent and important” later. This should be common sense, but often times people confuse what is not important but urgent with what is important but not urgent. I highly recommend this book; it’s one of the best ones out there for getting your life into gear not matter what the topic.

“I don’t have time to workout.”

“I don’t have time at work to get up and stretch.”

“I don’t have time to eat healthy.”

…yes, yes, you do.

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Here are my suggestions to combat the 9-5 “desk death”:

  • Get your clean eating habits in gear. Too many offices surround themselves with junk food, and often the trap becomes that food is social. You don’t have to not be social, just be mindful of what you’re putting into your body.
  • Get up and walk around whenever you can. Grab water, grab tea. Will it mean more bathroom trips? Sure, but it beats not moving around much of the day and if you wear a Fitbit or Bodymedia device you WILL see the difference. When you walk, you burn 4-5 times more calories than sitting. When you stand, you burn twice as much as when sitting.
  • Do office workouts. There are lots of exercises you can do at your desk.
  • Go out for walks during your lunch break. Try to organize walks with other co-workers, if you can.
  • Stretch. Many of us have bad backs due to being slumped over at a keyboard all the time. Exercising and stretching has helped mine, and I am often working at my stiff neck and shoulders to prevent injury.
  • Park further away from the office and walk. Take public transportation whenever possible to maximize walking versus driving.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Get creative! Do squats in the bathroom stall. I do them, no joke!

And that’s the key–prevention. Too often people wait until there’s a visible sign of a problem in order to do something about their health. Fitting into clothing is one thing, but injuries and illnesses are another. Join up with Team Happy and Healthy and beat the 9-5 “desk death”!

 

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More clean eating tips – prepping in advance

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We all lead busy lives, most of us running around in the morning trying to get ready for work feeding pets, kids, selves, getting dressed, maybe squeezing in a workout, a shower…it all adds up. I’ve found that the best way to eat healthy on a regular basis AND save time is to have containers of food prepped that I can grab, mix and match, and have an instant meal. It also saves me time and money. Examples:

  • Salads bagged or in plastic containers. I get Olivia’s Organic Spring Mix with Herbs and put a paper towel on the bottom and around the lettuce so it stays fresh longer. I grab it and add it to sandwiches, wraps, or make side salads.
  • Bags of shredded carrots. Makes for extra flavor in wraps, sandwiches, and salads.
  • Sliced cucumbers! Great snacks, additions to salads and wraps, just grab and go. Same with carrots and celery.
  • Lean proteins cooked in advance and in tupperware containers or plastic baggies. I do this for veggie burgers, baked tofu, etc.
  • Cook foods like brown rice and quinoa in bulk, then add to meals later.
  • If you have a slow cooker, take advantage and make all sorts of soups, stews, etc.
  • For quick snacks on the go, smoothies, meal replacement and protein drinks are great! Just be mindful that not all protein powders and meal supplements are created equal, and a lot of them have unhealthy junk and fillers. Of all of them, my favorites and by far the healthiest are Shakeology, Vega, and Plant Fusion. I use a shaker cup and some chocolate vegan Shakeology, and instantly I get my chocolate fix too. 🙂
  • Consider buying containers that are pre-measured so you know how many servings of any one item is in any container. This is especially good for calorically dense foods such as quinoa, brown rice, potatoes, beans, lentils, etc. I purchased some on OpenSky recently.
  • Buy special containers for soups and salads. This container is in my collection and I also recommend this one.
  • Embrace leftovers! They make for great lunches later, dinners too.

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