Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nutrition Changes I Made on My Journey to Better Health & Some Random News

Well hello everyone! So like I mentioned before, I am hoping to start blogging a little more often to give you more to read every week. I got a lot of good ideas from the comments and also after talking to some of my friends. I have lots of posts in mind so keep tuning in because I’ll be blogging about all kinds of fun healthy living topics. And maybe, just maybe I’ll start including some pictures…fun and exciting right?

I thought I would start with some of the nutritional changes I made on my journey towards better health. I will be featuring three other posts on the topics of changes that include physical activity, stress management, and emotional health in upcoming posts. Before I get into that, I want to point out that these are the things that worked for me and won’t necessarily work for everyone.  I have a strong belief that each of us need to find healthy eating plans that work for us and that it is not a one plan works for all kind of thing.

Continuing on…. I will give you an overview of what I was doing prior to starting, what I started out doing, what tweaks I made along the way, what I currently am doing, and key learning points. Feel free to ask me any questions if something isn’t clear or you want more detail about something.

  • Prior to Starting: Before I made the commitment to work towards my better health journey nutritionally I was clueless as to what was healthy and what wasn’t. Basically I ate what I thought tasted good and I ate a lot of it. I also didn’t eat for long stretches of time and would then eat a whole bunch in one sitting. I ate a lot of fast food, prepackaged meals, and hardly any whole foods.  

  • What I Started Out Doing: I started out following the South Beach Diet. This was a good program for me to start with because it had structure to it. I liked the fact that I didn’t have to count calories because I had found in the past that made me feel a little crazy about food.  It was my stepping stone into finding that I liked to learn about how food works in the body and other concepts of nutrition. I followed the plan very to the letter until I had lost about 60lbs. I was eating 6 times a day and was following their recommendations for how to structure meals and snacks and what serving sizes where.

  • Tweaks I made along the way: Like I mentioned above I followed the South Beach Diet for the first 60lbs I lost. As I started learning more about nutrition, through reading everything and anything nutrition related, I started to wonder if the reduced level of carbohydrates was really healthy. Also, my fitness level had increased to the point where I was starting to have symptoms of early muscle fatigue because of lack of adequate carbohydrate replenishment between workouts. So I started to cut back a bit on the amount of protein I was consuming and added in additional servings of whole and minimally refined sources of carbohydrates.  This took a bit of experimenting to find a balance that worked for me but eventually I figured it out. During the experimenting period the weight loss part of my journey stalled out a bit but it was a very important part of the journey because I actually learned what exactly works for my body.

  • What I’m doing now: Well I’m eating 6 times a day still, which I love because I rarely feel like I’m starving. I strive to find balance in each meal I have and use snacks to fill in the rest. I balance my main meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) to include a lean protein source, either a whole grain or starchy vegetable serving, at least one serving of non-starchy vegetables, and either a serving of dairy or a serving of fruit.   I still don’t count calories really but I do pay attention a little more than I did to start with. For example, I make snack selections that clock in between 100 -200 calories. I also know overall that breakfast clocks in as my highest calorie meal, followed by lunch, and then dinner. But to give you what my calorie intake is each day is not something I can do off the top of my head. As far as what I’m eating I try to eat mostly whole foods, avoid added sugars, avoid overly processed products, avoid trans-fats, watch my sodium intake, eat many servings of veggies and fruits a day, get at least 2 servings of nonfat or low fat dairy, and stick to lean protein sources both in the form of vegetarian choices and meats. I follow a 90-10 principle which means I eat how it is listed above no less then 90% of the time and the other 10% allows for occasional indulgences. A large majority of my food is stuff I cook myself but I do go out to eat occasionally. One of these days I’ll post what a typical day looks like to give you an idea of what my food intake looks like.

  • Key Learning Points:  I learned the following key things about nutrition that work for me:  
    • Eating 6 times a day. Having only a few hours between when I eat works really well at keeping me feeling satisfied all day long. I find I am rarely famished which makes it a lot easier to make rational and healthy choices.
    • Balancing meals helps me feel satisfied and keeps me on track with proper nutrient intake.
    • Experimenting, although slowed the weight loss part of the journey for some time, was an important process for me to learn how to trust my body to tell me what it needs. I still continue to experiment because I know as time goes on nutritional needs can change.
    • I can have an occasional indulgence and not get thrown off my healthy path. I just jump right back to clean eating and go on with my day. 
    • Through the process I found passion for being creative with my cooking skills. I can cook some pretty awesome meals that even my friends who don’t eat the healthiest love.   
Like I mentioned above finding a healthy eating plan is an individualized process, and in my opinion there is no set plan out there that works for everyone. I think that is why there is so much conflicting information out there about nutrition, especially when it comes to results of studies about different things that relate to nutrition. To develop my plan taking the time to learn about the different core concepts of nutrition, keeping up with health related research, and reading the personal stories of others has been helpful. Taking information I gathered there and then trying out different strategies out is how I have developed what works for me. Below are some links of places I gather health related information, including information on nutrition, to help you get started on collecting your own. Note that I’m not posting blogs, you can find those listed on the left under My Must Reads Blog Roll.

Questions for you:
What does your healthy eating plan look like?
Do you experiment with your eating to find what works for you?
Is there a website or book you think I might want to check out?

Some random news to share with you while I have your attention. I received the steamer that I mentioned in my post here  so get ready for me to post a review and run my first ever giveaway soon.

Also, I received in the mail today my giveaway win of VitaMuffins from over at Cranky Fitness .Once I get a chance to try them out I’ll review them for you here. Big thanks to the people over at Cranky Fitness and to VitaMuffins!

Quote of the Day:
“We must eat to live, and not live to eat.” ~ Henry Fieding 


  1. I loved to read about your progression to healthy living and eating!

    I think your philosophy is great. No calorie counting, 100-200 calories snacks, and make your bfast the biggest meal of the day, and dinner the smallest. That's the way to go! That's what I do too, but I do have a problem with snacking too much at night (Nick snacks, which makes me want to snack). But I obviously don't go over my calorie needs, so I guess it's ok.

    Great resources. I'll let you know if I can come up with some more! Actually, is good, but you have limited access unless you are a member, but still very helpful

  2. I always find it interesting to see what works for some people and what doesn't. Looks like we are exact opposites! I tried the South Beach Diet, and couldn't follow it, but when I switched to calorie counting (as well as fat, protein, fiber and carbs) I found what worked for me!

  3. I loved reading this post. My husband swore by South Beach (well, more Atkins), but the fat content was too high for me.

    I have to watch my carbs because of my diabetes, but I definitely get my dairy in with cheese every day!

    I love the links you posted! :D

    Have a wonderful weekend! I'll be making peppermint marshmallows!

  4. Lots of great info and links! And our nutritional philosophies are very similar.

    And glad the muffins finally arrived!

  5. I started just trying to eat whole grain bread, brown rice, etc., instead of white, and less empty calories, more veggies. I've tried low fat, knew better than to try low carbs. At this point, I'm moderate everything, high fruits/veggies (still trying for more veggies, less fruit, but not very hard). I had to accept that I like salty fat, and though I don't eat outrageous amounts of it, I eat it often-smoked fish, full-fat cheese, nuts, etc.) This may be why I'm happy to eat every 5-6 hours, and this works well, as I don't want to spend any more time than necessary cooking and cleaning up. I exercise enough that I can get away with this, also I don't bother with sweets often, other than fruit and small amts of chocolate, though I do add sugar to some stuff I cook (veggies are often bitter). It works for me, and I don't feel deprived, so it seems sustainable.