Labels…they’re not ALL bad

I’m in the middle of a huge training weekend, so I’m just going to leave you with a quick post today.

I cheated. I ate a doughnut. Two actually. It IS National Doughnut Day…and I am running 40mi this weekend. Those are not excuses. I refuse to feel guilty. The extra sugar did make my stomach feel terrible, and I could use a nap!
Lesson learned.

Back to today’s point…labels.

Everything has a label.

Produce has labels…do you know the difference? Here’s a quick cheat sheet:
Definitely avoid that last one…but these are not the labels I’m worried about.
Have you ever read the labels on prepared foods? That’s what I want you to start doing. If you don’t know what an ingredient is, look it up. Better yet, don’t buy it! I want you to decide which ingredients are unhealthy. But I’m going to give you two to start with.

Artificial sweeteners: Yup. Fake sugar. Do we eat fake food? Not any more. I’m not going to debate whether these products cause cancer or other health problems. I’m eliminating them because they are artificial by definition. Here’s where you’ll find them, but read food labels. All of these must be listed on the label per the FDA.

NutraSweet® and Equal® are brand names for aspartame.
Other artificial sweeteners on the market include sucralose (Splenda®), acesulfame K (Sweet One®, Sunett®), and saccharin (Sweet’N Low®, SugarTwin®).

Monosodium Glutamate: Good old MSG. It’s a “flavor enhancer.” More flavor can’t be bad! Here’s a thought…if your food tasted good to start with, why would you need to “enhance” it? You’ll likely find this in food items that should be avoided anyway…and almost anything with “cheese flavoring.” If you want the flavor of cheese, just eat cheese. Don’t eat cheese-flavored chips! Maybe if our taste buds weren’t overloaded by the amount of sugar we eat, we could taste the natural flavors without enhancing them.

Don’t get me started on sugar. Another day…

So that’s it. Just start reading labels. I find the food that tastes the best has the least amount of ingredients anyway. I just want you to know what you’re putting into your mouth.

On Tuesday, I’ll have a special post for runners…How to fuel on Real Food. Don’t miss it!

A Summer Challenge

It’s been forever. I know. As it is, I’m typing this with one hand. Don’t ask.

Tomorrow is June 1st. It finally feels like summer weather might stick around. School is out (or just about) and we’re deep into picnic and grilling season. Ah…the foods of summer…fresh fruits and veggies, farmer’s markets, and tasty beverages. Oh…and race season.

I love to eat as much as anyone…but hotdogs, potato salad, and apple pie go right to my you-know-what. I decided my food choices needed a revamp…and some of you thought that yours might need that too.

Here’s a snippet of where I’m coming from…
I’ve lost 50lbs since I started my journey, but plateaued about a year ago at what I thought was my “meant to be” weight. I was regularly training for yet another marathon, so I MUST be healthy. Hardly. They say “abs are born in the kitchen,” and they aren’t lying. And no…you can’t see mine…I’m still working on them. When I started training for ultras, I had to change some things. First, that processed fuel…that’s not going to work for me. And this “rungry” all the time…something’s not right. I was eating all the wrong things, and getting nowhere. I had zero energy. I wasn’t sure I could stay awake for 24hrs, forget running for that time…still untested…but approaching fast. Eek! Then I started eating better. And I lost 20lbs. And it stayed off!

Hence the #EatRealFood Summer Challenge. I’m doing this mostly for me. You’re welcome to follow along, and of course, try any of my suggestions. Some will pertain specifically to running, as that’s what I do, but most, if not all, can easily be applied to anyone. And please…share with me your ideas, wins, and losses. Post pictures of your food. Recipes. Anything.

This is not a diet!

*I am not a nutritionist. Please don’t send me your food journal and ask me what you’re doing wrong. Although I’m happy to suggest small changes that work for me, I cannot “advise” you in any way. I will offer suggestions from people who can, and their writings. I’ll reference those articles and books here on the blog and on twitter.

At first I thought this would be a 30 Day challenge, but my health, and yours, is more important than just 30 days. So I’m shooting for 90…June, July, and August, which should set us all up for fall racing. I certainly hope you’ll feel better as we go, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll drop a few pounds if that’s your goal.

I’ll post a challenge twice a week…something small, and something I’d like you to continue throughout the challenge. Sometimes it will be something to “do,” and sometimes just something to read or think about.

A few ground rules:

I will never ask you to do something I won’t do.
You can join in now, or at any point. I’ll make a tab on the blog where I list all the challenges.

You can stop at any time. There is no failure in this challenge. Making better food choices is always a win, no matter how small.

I will never ask you to throw out food, you’ve already purchased. You might re-think buying it again, but I don’t have the money to resupply my fridge and pantry either. Baby steps.

Please share any thoughts about the challenge, or what you’re finding on twitter using the hash tag #EatRealFood. Tag me @RisenBird. Or comment on the blog.

Challenge #1 is coming tomorrow. You can do this!