I have a confession to make. For the past month, I’ve been in rehab: food rehab, that is.
I’m learning how to eat all over again. Or, let’s just say, I’m learning how to eat. Period. Almost like a child in preschool, I’m learning about proper food portions, choices, and timing…slowly but surely. Next to a marathon, it is one of the best things I’ve committed to working on for my own good.
I WAS STARVING
I am what you call a perennial dieter. Since college, I stopped eating rice in an attempt to keep the weight off. Carbs came from whole wheat bread, oatmeal, cereals, and graham crackers. Protein was egg and chicken.
I didn’t have normal meals but I was grazing all throughout the day. “Good days” meant that I ate less than a thousand calories for the day. Breakfast for the past 5 years—yes, even when I started running—were 3 graham crackers and coffee while dinner was usually cereals and low-fat milk. Being low fat, I seriously thought I was eating well.
“Bad days” meant I munched on my favorite junk, which were Cheetoes, V-cut, and Poppycock (the list can go on and on). Needless to say, since I was always hungry, I would always “slip” by indulging in junk and I would try to make up for it some other day.
There were more bad days than good. My weight would fluctuate by 4 pounds every week. I maintained my weight by burning all the junk away with a long run over the weekend. It worked.
GAINING 6 POUNDS
All of this changed after my Hong Kong Marathon last February 2010. After running four 42ks in 5 months, I was aghast when I gained a whopping 6 pounds after the trip. For someone like me who takes my running seriously, this was huge. Remember that 1 pound is equal to 4 pounds impact on the knee. So, that’s an instant 24 pounds additional impact on my delicate knees! (Of course, the bulging belly and flabby arms didn’t look good in my Photovendo pics, too!)
From March to July, I significantly reduced my food intake and increased mileage, but still the numbers on the scale wouldn’t budge. If I starved myself even more, I was fearful of the consequences on my training. Worse, I was scared I’d collapse during a run.
How then could I lose weight considering the little that I ate while training for New York City Marathon this November? I was baffled. And, I felt helpless and frustrated.
Last month, I bumped into my good friend Harvie, a triathlete who recently graduated from his sports nutrition studies, and I told him about my predicament. He talked vaguely about fixing my diet and gradually introduced his idea of a wholesome, healthy diet that I could live with.
Week by week, he worked with me to remove one bad habit at a time. In hindsight, I realize that the slow process was necessary to ensure that this diet became a part of my lifestyle—not just another fad diet I was taking on to “drop 10 lbs. in 2 months.”
WEEK ONE: EAT MORE. This was a struggle for someone who equated “good eating with eating less.” It was a nightmare when Harvie asked me to stop counting calories and eating more. I felt guilty about feeling full. It was the first time since highschool (except when I was pregnant) that I tasted rice again!
WEEK TWO: CUT THE JUNK. I cut all junkfood out of my diet. What was most difficult was saying goodbye to Cheetos Jalapeno and potato chips. I was surprised when Harvie considered my daily breakfast of graham crackers as junk, too. Harvie said anything with a lot of processed ingredients in its packaging we were to consider J-U-N-K. So, I bid farewell to canned goods, cereals, and even whole wheat bread (Harvie switched me to brown rice.)
– Harvie taught me how to read the labels. The more stuff in it, the more reason to stay away –
– No more skipped meals. This is what dinner usually looks like now…and I am loving it –
WEEK THREE: EAT EVERY 2.5 HOURS. Harvie asked me to eat every 2 1/2 to 3 hours. I became more aware of what I eat and when I eat. Harvie changed my mindset about food; it was no longer something to be feared or rejected, but nutrition and fuel that should be mindfully consumed. I also started to feel hungry more often, which according to Harvie was a good thing; it meant my body was working like a machine, using my food as energy very efficiently.
– Harvie checks on my food journal every week. Food police, I tell you –
– Harvie asks me to take photos of my meals. He says this meal of brown rice and fish was too little and asked me to add eggs and veggies. You gotta love the guy for constantly reminding me to eat more –
To date, I’ve lost 4 of the 6 stubborn pounds I’ve been whining about for the past 6 months. I’ve lost a couple of inches too and the jeans have finally loosened its grip on my thighs. What’s amazing is that I lost this all while eating the most food I ever did in decades. (I still can’t wrap my brain around it!) Even better, I’m training hard for NYC Marathon and I feel stronger than I have ever been.
The reason why I posted about this a full month after I started working with Harvie was because I made myself a guinea pig before I told you all about it. Not only did I want to make sure it worked, but I wanted to make sure I could commit—not just to the diet—but to the entire lifestyle. Harvie also wanted to make sure I truly believed in it.
I am still a work in progress. I still have my slip-ups. There were more than a handful of days when I munched on those peanuts, indulged in way too much chips on my cheat days (I get to eat everything I want on Sundays), and lost my patience when the scale wouldn’t budge. There’s a lot of commitment, self-discipline, and hard work involved on a daily basis.
But, I do know that I can do this…and I will. I’m definitely committed to giving more respect to my body and giving it the chance to perform at the best level. How can I even consider going back to feeling weak and hungry all the time when I’ve literally had a taste of the good life?
NOTE: Expect more blogposts about healthy food and nutrition now that I’m no longer in starvation mode. There’s a whole new world of healthy yummy meals and recipes to explore.
If you wish to contact Harvie de Baron for consultation, email him at harviedebaron(at)gmail.com