Nutrition cues: Making ‘positive’ food choices

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.

My homemade granola bars make me smile.

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.

0 Comments on “Nutrition cues: Making ‘positive’ food choices

  1. Yes, yes, yes! I’m tired of hearing how you “shouldn’t” eat foods because they are bad for you, or how you “poison” yourself with them. What happened to enjoying good food just because *you like it*! Eating the bacon-cheeseburger every day is not a good choice for fueling all of my life’s passions (I mean, I REALLY like bacon cheeseburgers, but I know you can’t eat them every day). But once every other month, going out after a successful martial arts testing and enjoying one with friends (washed down by a milkshake) – well, I’m not choosing to eat it (or not eat it) from fear, but “damn that tastes good and I’m going to enjoy every bite!”

  2. Amy,I am thinking I know where you heard this presentation. Food consumption is not a Cookie cutter one size fits all. It is unique. My trainer readily admits to slamming down a PB&J sandwich on white bread before a race of a somewhat “long distance”. Yet he also is against eating these things in general. It’s knowing what works best for your body and when. I follow a “way of eating” now that has brought my bodyfat way down and enhanced my performance immensley. I also enjoy the healthy way I am eating so that helps too.When I feel the urge to eat something that is perhaps not the best thing for my body, I do because as Mary Sutton pointed out, I do not consume these things on a daily basis. While the sugars in watermelon and cantaloupe are not the best you can get from fruit,you are right they are fruit so they are better than cake. Hmmm… or are they? Haha I don’t mind someone with knowledge letting me know that if I am going to make the choice to eat fruit, why not pick the best ones for me (Honeydew, blueberries. etc.)I agree “Lethal” should not be used for effect. If you were at the presentation I was at(which my trainer put on),I wish you would have stayed. You might have heard other things that you agreed with. By the way…the traditonal Grovers Bacon Cheeseburger tradition is coming up and scheduled for soon after my marathon and yes…the trainer knows about it…and yes I will savor every bite too!

    • Bee, I am all for learning new things about nutrition and different approaches to how to help me get the most out of my body to do the things I love to do. I just see so many people talking about (and not necessarily practicing) absolutes that it really gives me pause and gives me the opportunity to see where I am putting ‘shoulds’ and restrictions and judgments in my own life including (and maybe especially) when it comes to eating.

  3. I would love your recipe for granola bars, they look great.

    • Hi Nancy:

      Here’s the recipe. I found it in Vegetarian Times.

      Chewy Granola Bars
      2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
      1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
      1/2 tsp. baking soda
      1/2 tsp. salt, divided
      2/3 cup chopped dried apricots
      1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
      1/2 cup chopped walnuts
      1 cup packed light brown sugar
      1/2 cup maple syrup
      1/2 cup almond butter
      1/4 cup vegetable oil
      2 large egg whites
      Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
      Combine oats, flour, baking soda and 1/4 tsp. salt in bowl. Stir in apricots, chocolate chips and walnuts.
      Beat brown sugar, maple syrup, almond butter, oil and egg whites with electric beater until smooth. Stir in oat mixture.
      Spread mixture in prepared baking dish, and pat down firmly. Sprinkle top with remaining salt. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until firm. Cool 20 minutes before slicing into bars. Unmold, and store in airtight container.

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