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Getting Older - Better or Worse Than You'd Imagined?
Category: Happy Eating

How has your relationship with food changed as you've gotten older? How about your workouts? Your body image? Your weight/body comp? Is it what you've expected or were you surprised?†I ask because I kept waiting for this horrible bulging, sagging, metabolic breakdown to happen when I turned 30, and then 35, and then 40. Well, there's been no age-related calamity. I'm in better shape now than...dare I say, ever?

It's not that nothing has changed. I do think my metabolism has slowed, not because I'm older but because the intensity and duration of my workouts is not what it was. I see that as a good thing! The intensity and duration of my workouts used to be borderline psychotic and it was causing things to break - bones, tendons, immune system, sanity. I feel much better training smarter and recovering properly, but the flip side is that I can't snarf down 3,000 calories per day the way I used to. I actually...have to watch what I eat!

That was one of my biggest fears about getting older, that I'd have to knock off the gluttony and eat right, that I wouldn't be able to get away with what I used to. That one totally happened, but again I see it as a good thing. I used to engage in some messed up eating. For example, I'm in the middle of 10 days off work right now and eating better and cleaner than I probably would have if I were working. A few years ago, vacation meant food-a-palooza. I would buy all manner of fattening crap, disregard all diet rules, and eat myself into oblivion. EVERY. FREAKING. TIME. I would undo my hard work, gain weight, gain inches, lose all my definition, feel like complete crap about it, have trouble pulling it together again, and spend months dieting and exercising to undo the damage. Then the next vacation would roll around and I would DO IT AGAIN. That honestly amazed me. It's like I was possessed. I think it was related to the combination of strict dieting and hard training. I deprived myself of so much and trained so hard that when I let go, I really let go. Learning to enjoy moderation has been one of the greatest benefits of getting older.

My weight is lower now than it was 10 years ago. I'm a little leaner and smaller. I found old BFL-era measurements and my thighs and butt used to be 2 1/2" bigger than they are now?! That previous combination of heavy lifting and frequent overeating meant I carried more muscle and more fat than I really wanted, unless I was in the midst of some screwball "challenge" when I would eat clean and track everything on a really OCD level. I'd gut it out for however many weeks, snap the pictures, take the measurements, and then spend the next few weeks eating everything in sight and undoing all the hard work. I don't miss that on or off, all or nothing mindset. Lately, I prefer consistency and moderation. If I wouldn't want to do something every day from now on, I don't start it. So, there are no more crazy diets, strict rules, authorized food lists, cheat days, and†gaggy†meal replacements. Phooey on all that.†

I also don't judge myself as harshly. That running negative dialog†has been permanently switched off. Negativity can never make you happy. I used to think that if I just got frustrated enough, or disappointed enough, or hated myself enough, that it would prompt the physical changes I wanted. That is so not the way to go about it! I believed that if I accepted myself, I was accepting failure. Or at the very least fibbing on an epic level, because there was so much I wanted to change about myself. Well, you don't have to hate and verbally abuse yourself in order to change. Undermining my confidence all day long only set me back further.

Anyway, guess I'm feeling philosophical this morning!

How about you? Is getting older what you expected? How is your body/diet compared to younger years? What have you learned? I'd love to hear everybody's thoughts because I know there are lots of diet war veterans around here.

Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food
Category: Happy Eating

I just read a nutrition book that may have as much influence on my food philosophy as "In Defense of Food" "The Primal Blueprint" and "Naturally Thin," all of which changed my thinking in various ways. Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food by Catherine Shanahan†is a great read. It's almost like two books in one. The first part is a look at DNA and epigenetics, which is not as boring as it sounds. Epigenetics is the study of gene expression. ďEpigenetic researchers study how our own genes react to our behavior, and theyíve found that just about everything we eat, think, breathe, or do can, directly or indirectly, trickle down to touch the gene and affect its performance in some way...Ē Not only that, but it can affect our childrenís health, appearance, performance, and intelligence, because they receive our genetic material. Iíll admit that during much of this discussion I was thinking GET TO THE FOOD PART ALREADY, but you need the background science to fully appreciate the context of her nutrition recommendations. On the plus side, she uses lots of photos to illustrate her points, many of celebrities. So, I was able to follow along fairly happily.

The second part of the book deals with how our food supply has gone awry, how to avoid the pitfalls of modern cuisine, and how to embrace ďThe Four Pillars of World Cuisine: Foods that Program Your Body for Beauty, Brains, and Health.Ē She looks at the similarities between diets of healthy, long-lived traditional cultures. She covers good fats and bad, the cholesterol myth, sugar and the many and varied ways too much of it will age, pudge, and wreck you.†

What I love about her style is sheís entertaining and factual. Sheís a practicing physician who studied epigenetics and gene expression at Cornell. She doesnít come off like an extremist blogger trying to scare people into joining the cult. She can talk about the science and then translate it into real terms by sharing stories of her patients and their treatment. She gives numbers. ďIf someoneís fasting blood glucose is above this, I recommend that.Ē She had me digging around in a drawer at midnight to find my own numbers and compare them to what she was saying. Iím healthy, but Iíve realized I could be healthier and am inspired to make some changes. Note that Iím inspired to make changes, not frightened, or guilt-tripped, or pressured. Her explanations and reasoning are such that it just seems so natural and obvious.†

The diet sheís recommending is quite similar to primal, but without all the dogma. She doesnít care if you eat bread. Get it sprouted if at all possible and donít eat too much of it. Dairy? Fine, beneficial even. Just make sure itís organic and full fat. Fruit? Go for it, but quantity matters. If you have high blood sugar, heart disease, or are overweight, you need to moderate your overall carb intake, so you canít be wolfing down whole watermelons and drinking orange juice out of the carton. Fat? She says, ďNature doesnít make bad fat, factories do.Ē So, have your cheese, butter, bacon grease, avocado, and coconut oil. Stay the hell away from I Canít Believe Itís Not Butter Spray and chemically extracted vegetable oil. Donít buy low fat or non-fat anything. In fact, beware the processed people chow!†

Iím going to share a couple paragraphs of her writing so you can see what I mean about her style. Thereís an awesome part of the book where she describes The Dog Food Aisle. I have to mention the fact that my dog is not allowed to eat grocery store dog food. I buy her the natural high protein grain free kind with salmon and duck. And yet I will buy myself Cheerios and Ritz crackers. Disconnect much? LOL

The Dog Food Aisle

Take a look at the back of a bag of dog or cat food, and here are the ingredients youíll see: corn meal, soy meal (occasionally) wheat, partially hydrogenated soy or corn or other vegetable oil, meat and protein meal, and a few synthetic vitamins. But guess what? The animal pushing the shopping cart is buying foods with the same list of ingredients for himself. The main difference between donuts, breads, and Cheerios are the quantities of hydrogenated oil and sugar. Cheerios, in turn, are nearly identical to Ramen noodles. Throw on a little salt and youíve got snack chips. Add tomato flakes and bump up the protein powder and--bam!--itís Hamburger Helper with Noodles! Add a pinch of meat byproducts, take away some tomato powder, and weíre in the pet food aisle again holding a 20-pound bag of grade A Puppy Chow.

We already know why manufacturers make food this way: Itís cheap and convenient to reformulate the basic ingredients of protein, starch, and fat (there are those words again!) into a variety of shapes and textures, coat them in sugars and artificial flavor enhancers, and ship them just about anywhere. Thatís why they make it. But why would we eat it? Same reason: Itís cheap and convenient.

Now I see the entire center portion of the grocery store as cheap generic people chow, one step away from cheap generic puppy chow. She has very effectively motivated me to get my ass back out to the periphery of the store where they keep the organic produce, full fat Greek yogurt, grass fed bison, and organic uncured bacon, you know, the FOOD. She drove this point home to me in a way that all the other health nuts telling me to shop the periphery of the grocery store never have. She pulls similar stunts five or six times in every chapter, so that by the end of the book Iím thinking totally differently about food and the way I eat.

If youíre looking for a good read on health, genetics, nutrition, and traditional diets, check out Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food.

Sneaking Up on the Unicorn
Category: Happy Eating

I can't diet. I can't even think that I might diet, or my brain, which in the past I've subjected to true prolonged literal starvation, will FREAK OUT and trigger rebound eating, much like those guys who went nuts in that Minnesota Starvation Experiment. :-)

I can't start something temporary that I will eventually stop--a "cleanse," challenge, contest, deadline, jumpstart, induction, calorie counting, x-week program, any of that.†If I want to be leaner, the trick is to create a new normal.†The way I eat now results in my current level of leanness. If I want to be even leaner, then I need to permanently alter my habits and intake so that they support the new body composition. I need to enjoy it and I need to do it gradually. That way it sticks. I was joking that this mythical future leanness is like sneaking up on a unicorn. I can't stop pursuing it because, hey, it's a UNICORN. The key is to tippy-toe up on the mythical leanness. I don't want to lunge at it and scare it or it will run away.†

So, I really consider my current habits and look for places to make changes. Could I have one of those instead of two? Could I indulge in that less often? Could I sub an equally enjoyable but lower calorie (or healthier) alternative? Could I still have _____ but make the portion smaller? I am willing to try new things if they appeal to me. Like I tried intermittent fasting, originally with†Eat Stop Eat, but when 24 hour fasts became a drag, I tried just skipping breakfast. That went great for a long time, but when I started missing breakfast, I put it back and just go longer between meals and 12 hours overnight. That ended up being the new normal.

Basically, you bring something in (or take something out), see how it goes, and decide whether to keep that modification or not. Then you keep repeating the process until you have a new normal where you're happy, not freaking out, and easily maintaining the leaner body. This is a slow as mud process for me, but I'm already about as lean as I intend to get. My "normal" is pretty tight. If you're really loosey-goosey right now, changing a few of your most counterproductive habits can result in a satisfying drop without doing anything crazy. Just don't change too many things at once or totally cut out anything dear to you. Remember, the idea is for this to be your new everyday existence. You don't want it to be miserable.†

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