Saturday, April 25, 2009

Clean Eating

Have you become acquainted with Tosca Reno?

I first encountered Tosca when I was wedding dieting. One of my strategies was to buy a fitness magazine instead of an afternoon snack. Thus I discovered Oxygen Magazine, Clean Eating and Tosca Reno.

I like Tosca. She used her head and changed her life into what she wanted. She made her body into what she wanted, and she looks great. Her advice is no-nonsense and easy to adapt.

In a nutshell, she suggests a low-fat, low-sugar diet of whole foods including lots of whole grains and lean proteins from animal and veggie sources.

I love to exercise and I love to eat, but sometimes I'm lopsided and lumpy. One of the best things about long distance hiking is that a hiker needs to eat a lot. Much of that food is junk, junk food being dense with calories.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail was one of the most liberating experiences of my life as a woman: I could eat whatever I wanted and I just kept getting skinnier and more muscular. But best of all, I had no reason to feel guilty about scarfing down pints of ice cream and halves of pizzas. I needed the calories and I burned them in spades. For the first time in my life I could eat freely, openly and without remorse.

I was the trimmest I've ever been upon the completion of the AT. I loved being skinny, and I wanted to stay that way. Problem was, I was voracious. Though I was no longer burning thousands of calories a day, my appetite hadn't gotten the memo. Immediately, I joined Weight Watchers to try and maintain my weight.

The other problem was, I'd been conditioned since birth to eat dessert every night. Mmm, dessert! But Weight Watchers was great. These were my people! Every week someone had a story about brownie lust and whether or not they were seduced. I can relate to this, I thought. But the Points system was tedious, and it seemed like the regulars at the Monday night meeting weren't getting any smaller. And why, at 125 lbs, did they actually take me?

I decided to seek something more scientific and less trademarked. I turned to the nutritionist at my gym. Her approach was certainly more scientific. It required very specific portions of macro-nutrients and a tracking system that had me calculating how many calories in a spoonful of chocolate pudding came from fat, carbs, and protein. Way too tedious, and way too many fractions.

And not enough emotion. I needed someone who understood the call of the donut, and I wasn't sure that this nutritionist had actually ever been overweight. Truthfully, my head wasn't in the game.

I did love the personal trainer. She was impressed with my hiking legs and my trekking pole arms and shoulders. I liked her workouts. I liked being so fit that I could run my hometown jogging route faster and more easily than ever before. I loved doing back-to-back aerobics classes without getting tired.

Problem was, that kind of fitness is hard to maintain without exercising all day long. All of a sudden I was in frozen New England with a job, an annoying commute, and an increasingly uncomfortable lumpiness.

With my wedding date looming, I knew I had to do something. I had gained two sizes and felt awful. I signed up for the Self Challenge, read Skinny Bitch cover to cover, enlisted myself and friends in a Massachusetts public health program that encouraged exercise, signed up for a half marathon, and discovered Clean Eating. Suddenly I realized that it's just a head game. I knew I could walk 2,000 miles, and that that was just a mental problem. Why not apply the same strategy to the wedding diet?

My self-coaching changed from "How do you think you're going to get to Katahdin if you can't finish this run!?!?" to "Do you want to look like a brownie-butt, or do you want to look like some nice lean celery sticks with a couple of well-placed cherry tomatoes!??!"

Which is more or less what Tosca says. If you eat lumpy foods, you'll be lumpy.

This winter I read the Eat Clean workout guide, the Eat Clean Diet book, and I've been cooking up some great eats from the Eat Clean cookbook. Well, the buckwheat groats weren't too popular, even with my college co-op living and cooking, whole foods loving husband, but I liked them. You win some, you lose some.

I've built some killer arms and shoulders in the gym in the last few months. I ran a 10K at a pace faster than I've ever run before. My legs are strong and my waist is nice and trim. I feel great!

I'm not gonna lie - I've eaten a little more butter recently in anticipation of starting our hike. But I'm carrying less fat and less weight as a result of eating clean and exercising hard, all of which will make my hike easier.

I'm excited about eating clean again after the trail, and I'll certainly pick up where I left off with pumping iron. And I've marked my calendar for the sign-up date for a half-marathon in February! Watch out, Tosca!

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