On a typical day I have two breakfasts. One is something small before my workout and the other is larger, after my workout, to refuel and sustain me for the rest of the morning (or at least the next few hours). My general breakfast of choice is oatmeal — the whole grain rolled oats kind that doesn’t have any other “stuff” in them. I cook up my oats, add a scoop of whey protein powder and then some combination of banana, raisins and nuts. If I had a particularly difficult workout, I might add some chocolate milk.
Recently I heard someone talk about nutrition and running and well, he basically dissed my breakfast and much of my way of eating. At least at the start. I didn’t stay to hear the entire presentation, which means I could have walked away with the wrong impression. I concede that’s a possibility. But he lost me when he used the word “lethal” to describe some sugars which occur in fruit. Um, it’s fruit.
I was discussing this premise with my friend Hitch who made the point that he hates the use of the word “diet.” To say “this is my diet” translates into “this is the food that I eat on a regular basis.” But typically, we equate “diet” with “deprivation.” Instead of talking about all the foods you eat, you talk about all the foods you don’t eat. Perhaps the reason why “diets” fail is that it’s all based in the negative. The focus is on what you’re excluding, what you “can’t have” or “shouldn’t have” instead of what you want to eat.
For the record, I have no problem with monitoring your sugar intake if that’s what makes you happy. If you like high protein diets or eat in the zone or follow the Paleo more power to you. Really. As I become more comfortable with the way in which food works for me, and it works for me in a variety of ways, I become less judgmental of the ways in which other people eat. What gets me so worked up is the notion that there is only one way to eat, that there are absolutes and “shoulds” around food.
Here’s the scenario:
I’m out with my friends. I end up eating three slices of pizza. Or an ice cream sundae. Or the gianormous frozen mango margarita. While I’m consuming it, I say something like, “I shouldn’t be eating this.” Perhaps I only say it to myself, but I definitely think how bad it is that I’m eating this “junk” food. Then, I start to think bad about myself. I get angry with myself. “Why did I eat that? I know I’m not supposed to. I suck.” And so goes the spiral.
I don’t need any help generating negative thoughts. My mind can do that all on its own, thank you very much. And so this year, I’m working toward a better thought process toward eating. Sometimes I eat to fuel my workouts or to help me recover. But I try now to always eat because it’s enjoyable. Too many things in life are merely a means to an end. If counting calories and calculating percentages of carbohydrates, protein and fat give you pleasure, if it’s something you enjoy and are passionate about, go for it. (Heck there are times when I find the nutrition numbers game fun myself!) But for me, the only hard fast rule is to check in with this:
Am I doing this out of fear or am I doing this out of passion?
If I’m eating or not eating something because I’m afraid — of gaining weight, of hurting my performance, of what other people will think of me — I’m probably not making the best decision for myself. If I’m doing something because I’m passionate about it, because it brings me joy, well then, those decisions are always in my best interest.