I admit it. I have a white bread/white pasta/white rice addiction.
Fortunately, I have an active job; for I fear that the 200-pound, food loving girl inside me would show up in front of my mirror otherwise. Unfortunately, being active is not always enough to counter a less than perfect diet. I actually remember a time about 10 years ago when I exclaimed to my then-roommate “I love being young – I can diet for one day and fit into my skinny jeans!” It takes a bit more than that these days.
Having just turned the corner from my 30th birthday, I have begun to notice that I am a bit “softer” than I'd like. I am thankful to have a partner that appreciates “curves” (the standards we set for ourselves ladies, are FAR too unattainable – but that's a discussion for another time); but I do find myself longing for my younger, firmer body. What to do, what to do?
I tried exercising MORE than I already do. I found my self with knee pain so bad I had to limp up the stairs at night, and was no further towards my firmer self. I tried drinking more water. This was just silly – I already drink upwards of 2 liters every day – more water just deprived me of sleep, as I had to pee many times in the night. I thought about “diets” but I knew that A. they are unhealthy, B. they don’t work and C. I love food way too much to stick to one. What to do?
I was struggling with this problem one evening when I sat down in one of my Early Chilhood Education classes – Health, Safety and NUTRITION. I don’t know why I hadn’t seen it – the answer had been staring me in the face for years. I suppose I thought I ate healthfully. I like fish and vegetables. I eat oatmeal and drink milk. I try to buy local, organic and in season whenever possible… and I’m a chef for crying out loud… I cook every day and try to make tasty, healthy foods. But I wasn’t seeing the big picture.
My teacher handed out a copy of the 2007 Canada Food Guide. When last I studied the Food Guide in university, it was a boring food pyramid that encouraged Canadians to take in too many calories, did not recognize or define age and sex groups adequately and did nothing to expose people to the variety of ethno-culturally diverse foods that are available in our great country. That has all changed. Take a look at it today and educate yourself and your family. It is attractive and easy to read and follow. It has breakdowns for caloric requirements by age and sex. It supports a very well-balanced way of eating heavy on the fruits and vegetables and encourages physical activity. Why aren’t we seeing this thing plastered in grocery stores, food courts, community centers and everywhere else around town? It could make a real difference to the lives of Canadians if we would just listen to what our government is telling us! (Did I just say that?)
After receiving the Food Guide, I brought it home and thought about it for a while. I knew I wasn’t living up to it and I thought “what would it hurt to give it a try?” So I printed up a checklist for my partner and I and posted it on the fridge. We both tracked our eating habits for a week and tried – seriously – to meet the criteria the Food Guide sets out. It is amazing what happened.
The first two days I was STUFFED to the gills by bedtime. My metabolism was shifting from a state of wondering when it was going to receive the next nutrient lacking meal to a place where it knew I would be feeding it something healthy every 2 to 3 hours. By the end of the third day, I had turned a corner. I felt good. I was enjoying eating more fruits and vegetables and learning that I didn’t have to eat bread and meat with every meal. I was sleeping better and was in a better mood all day long. By the end of the week I was proud of feeling healthy and actually craving vegetables. A couple of my clients said I looked great and my skin was glowing. And... I lost some squish.
The truth of life is that I back-slid after that high. I came down with a very bad cold and only wanted chicken soup and peanut butter sandwiches like “mom used to make.” I got busy and was forced to grab food on the go (and made poor choices to boot). And then I got sicker. Not with a cold, but with feeling tired and being grouchy, knowing that it was my own fault and that I had failed.
This week I got the checklist back out. For two days in a row I’ve eaten all my servings of fruits and veggies, had my dairy and a little lean meat. Like magic I feel better. I got out on my bike yesterday for the first time this season and my skin, hair and nails have never looked so good. I’m proud of myself.
Making the right choices and eating healthfully does take effort – you must take in a fruit or a vegetable at every meal or snack to hit the goal of 8 per day. Yes, I still indulge, but as a reward. I have a bag of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies in the cupboard, which I only dig into after I’ve had ALL my fruits and veggies for the day. The reward system works for me!
I implore you – take a look at the Canada Food Guide. Download it and the chart I’ve included below and post it on your fridge – see how you measure up. If there was ever a ‘diet’ worth trying, this is it. Who knew we could trust the government?
Thanks to my Health, Safety and Nutrition teacher, Sandra, who opened my eyes again to one of the most useful health and nutrition tools available to us – free and online – the Canada Food Guide.