The Clean Eating Experiment

It’s easy to determine if I’ve had a good training week or not. There are red and green boxes, sore muscles, and hours logged. Tangibles. It’s not quite as easy to talk about nutrition. If someone asked me how my week was, and I had just eaten an apple, I’d say great….if I has just finished off the doritos, I may second guess my choices.  

I’m no angel when it comes to food. I don’t deprive myself of anything, but have confidence I know what’s good and bad for me and tend to focus on the former.

Except for the past month. If I were being graded, I’d say my nutrition in March would result in a C. Minus. I’ve been struggling to make smart nutrition choices, and some nights been guilty of consuming three cadbury eggs, along with “loads of ketchup” potato chips. Gross (and delicious). I wondered to myself: Why do I even have this crap in my house!? I typically start my days off strong, fruit smoothie, eggs, salad, fish, vegetables and then….garbage, garbage, garbage! Sometimes the garbage starts earlier in the day…say around 3pm in the lunch room. This garbage consists of leftover meeting sandwiches, the boss’s jujubes, baked cookies and loaves from my coworkers. And on my worst days I realize that all of my meals have come through a window or out of a frozen tray. Disgusting.

If I was featured on one of those episodes of what I eat in a week, it would be shameful!(http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/what-the-world-eats-shocking-photos).

The sad thing is, I know better. I studied nutrition in school and one of my best friends is a nutritionist. I read about nutrition all the time and understand the importance of nutrients and vitamins found in whole foods. I’m also fully aware of  the empty calories / trans -fats / other harmful effects of processed, packaged foods. I know what is essential for a healthy body. Essential for an endurance athlete’s body.

But I suppose this is the part I don’t give myself enough credit for. That I’m not a real athlete. Not even a real runner. I’m an impostor trying to join the club.

The little voice in the back of my head pipes up: “Hey B. You’ve got an Ironman in 20 weeks. Now would be a good time to start believing you’re an athlete.”   

…..I’m an athlete. 

And I need to start fuelling like one. Despite my knowledge, it still felt overwhelming to start a new plan. There is so much talk about not eating carbs, fat, dairy, protein, but what’s left? Please don’t say legumes. And what’s all this talk about Paleo?

I don’t support diets, perhaps it’s because I haven’t been able to last for longer than 24 hours on one. Diets are so limiting and (in my extreme case) unsustainable….and I like so, so many food groups. I don’t crave sweet or salty or chocolate. I crave it ALL. And then I came across this book: 

eating clean for dummies

Don’t judge, I’m a HUGE fan of this line of books!

So, here goes my experiment. Clean eating. It’s a concept I can get behind. Removing the processed and fried foods from my life. Focusing on one-ingredient foods. Whole, fresh foods with ingredients I can pronounce and understand.

The simplest description of clean eating I’ve found is:  “If it had a mother, or grows in the ground, eat it.” Simple. Step two is focusing on non-GMO and organic. I was planning on starting with step one and buying organic when available. This plan reminds me of what I’ve been hearing for years….shop the parameter of my grocery store for the healthiest eating choices. I can get on board with that!

clean eating march 2015

My first round of grocery shopping, focusing on “Clean”

Eggs, nuts, fruits, vegetables, quinoa, lean meat, cheese and okay, okay! legumes. Fish, grains, whole grain pasta and bread and good god, did I read that right? Dark chocolate gets the green light.

So heres to trying something new (but with some concepts I’ve been practising for awhile now) and lasting at least 24 hours. I’m hoping that I can eat 90% clean for an entire week, and I started with a delicious salad from Pete’s! Here’s to the next (clean) week and the 20 weeks until the big race!    

salad - clean eating

My first trip to the gym in weeks was rewarded with healthy, clean greens.

 

    

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March

March.

I was so excited to turn the calendar page to March…with hopes of running outside on clear sidewalks, warmer temperatures and even a somewhat disillusioned thought that my bike may hit pavement – maybe once.  As you know, I struggle with February (See: Surviving February 2014) but February was a joy compared to this year’s setback. March.

Let’s start with my red boxes.

red boxes march

Ouch.

This isn’t for lack of ambition. I’ve been sick in some form or another since the start of March, from food poisoning, to this nasty cold that feels closer to flu then I’d like to admit. Midnight hacking, chills followed by fever and a general sense of just take me out back and end the misery. I think my dogs are sick of me at this point. Maybe not. Thank you Gus.

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And I can’t tell if this weather is making things better or worse. With more storm days then I’ve ever experienced in my life (and I’ve lived in Labrador!) with the non-stop snow, followed by the need to shovel and lack of sun…its been a doozy of a winter. (Bermuda feels like a very distant memory, let me tell you!)  We are all suffering with this cold, gray nonsense. Especially Tim, our primary snow clearer and dog walker. My hero…I have certainly not been able to pull my weight over the past 3 weeks.

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On Friday I woke up feeling moderate – a huge step up from the rest of the week. A 6.5/10, I’d say. I declared: “This is it, I’m done being sick!” My coworkers listened to my lingering hack and gave each other sideways glances, “Suuuuuure” they were all thinking. It was a bright and sunny day, and I really wanted to make weekend training plans. Sadly, my wishful thinking didn’t turn into reality. I made it through Tim’s 40th birthday on Saturday, well-drugged, while calling people by their wrong names. (Amazing)

Sunday I surrendered into my sickness (again) and rested.

Here I am on Monday, still sick, and in no form to train the way I should be – the way I need to be – for Ironman. I’m even feeling a little panicky about how far behind I’ve come. In February I was annoyed at myself for missing the pool swims and strength training sessions, but now into my fourth week of inadequate training I can’t blame anything but this never-ending sickness and wonder how I’m going to come back!

But I will. I know I need to rest and not focus on the miles I’m missing on the treadmill (currently there are no sidewalks or foot paths for running in Halifax), pool and trainer. I will ease my way back into training and begin again with a new focus. It’s hard when I see my friends training and making progress and I feel weak and feeble, with zero appetite. Tonight I am missing my 3rd indoor computrainer session from illness and in exchange I will likely be reading or returning to Netflix with my box of tissues tucked under my arm.

My training plan is there. I will be ready and more than willing to get back on track when I’m recovered. I made a perfect training week in February and I hope to replicate this often in the twenty weeks to Ironman.

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Do you think it’s too soon to start hoping for April?

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