Okay, so the title to this post is misleading. I’m not really a vegetarian and I am not a proper source for info on how you should lose weight or proper nutrition. I simply want to share my food story with you. Running and eating are two activities that are married in my mind and will forever be together.
When I started running in 2008, I was super excited that I could “eat whatever I wanted.” I figured I was going to burn it off, so it was all good. During those months of hitting new mileage highs every weekend, I became known as the garbage disposal. When traveling for work, my boss would order a prime rib, only eat a portion of it, and say “Tiffany will finish the rest.” And I would. My co-worker told me that I could eat more than her 17 year old son. I wasn’t gaining weight, though, but I wasn’t losing any either. Also, running was new to me, so I didn’t think anything about how much of a struggle it was to recover from long runs or about my super unpredictable energy levels because, well, running was new to me. It was supposed to be difficult. So it was all good. Right?
I’d basically kept that same mentality until last fall when a friend, Javier, told us we should watch this food documentary, Food Matters. Javier has an amazing story of serious weight loss through diet and running. He ran his first ultra a couple months ago and finished 6th overall! I’ve often seen him as something of an extremist in his love for running and his super pure diet. But I know his transformation and amazing running achievements didn’t come by foolish decisions, so my husband and I listened to him and watched the documentary.
Half way through the film, which talked about how malnourished and nutrient deficient the average diet is, my husband and I were already reaching for our multi-vitamins. So, I started mentally reviewing what we ate the last week, hoping I’d come across some fresh food, but all I could remember was prepackaged goods like canned pasta sauce and noodles, and meals we ate out at restaurants, or worse, fast food.
The one thing that really hit me was realizing that not valuing food or what I put into my body was equivalent to a life sentence of sickness and disease. My youth and running were only going to “protect” me for so long. The problem was I felt that eating was just a chore. I had complained several times that I wished I didn’t HAVE to eat because it took too much time to stop and prepare something. AND, “healthy” food was a joke because it was so expensive. I wanted food to be quick, easy, and cheap. What a scary thought! That kind of thinking leads to pink slime.
Community Supported Agriculture
So, Jason and I immediately started making some small, manageable adjustments. We also signed up for a CSA box through Tanaka Farms, a local organic farm that delivers to Whole Foods were we can pick up once a week. It’s only $23 and we get 5-6 FRESH veggies and 3-4 FRESH fruits. (FRESH = recently harvested and retaining the majority of it’s nutritional value. NOT FRESH = 2 weeks old on a grocery store shelf with less than 40% of it’s nutritional value left.)
Our weekly CSA box has done more to change our habits and lifestyle than anything. Here’s why:
- It forced us to wash and prepare fresh food items when we brought them home. This is the paradigm shift I needed; learning to see food preparation as time well spent. We’ve gotten faster at prepping our food and learned a few tricks over time about how to keep them fresh, but at first this was a difficult adjustment.
- We have to eat our CSA box items for nearly EVERY MEAL if we want to get through it before MORE COMES! This leaves very little time and stomach space for the prepackaged foods that used to make up our main diet. This means LOTS of salad or vegetable soup. Without intending too, we’ve cut a lot of meat from our diet. If we do have it, it is more of a garnish than the main portion of the meal.
- We don’t get to choose what comes in the box. I’ve gotten veggies I didn’t recognize and wasn’t sure how to eat. But this is a GOOD thing! It has forced us to try new things and it’s giving us a healthier, more well-rounded diet. Now we know that we like beets, turnips, and kolhrabi! We never would’ve tried those things otherwise.
- An unlooked-for side effect of eating all this fresh food has been that we’ve lost some weight. I don’t mind sharing that I’ve gotten back in the 120’s, which is great for my 5’7″ frame. When I started training in 2008 I was in the high 140’s and maybe even 150. I won’t tell you how much Jason weighs now, but he says he’s close to his high school weight.
- Another unlooked-for side effect has been gained energy. I’m more clear-headed in the morning and I don’t get the 2:00 PM slump/fog at work that I was used too. I have a more sustainable alertness throughout the day and feel “lighter”, like I can be ready to run any time. I feel like my energy level is reliable and predictable. All this has helped my running.
- We eat out a lot less which saves us some cash but we are spending more on groceries. This is good, though, because it shows we value purchasing quality food and preparing it at home over the easier and often unhealthier alternative.
- The CSA box has helped us focus more on what we put in our body. It’s been a stepping-stone to making more adjustments to our diet. We don’t drink soft drinks anymore. I’ve replaced vegetable oil with coconut oil, white sugar with a xyla substitute that we rarely use anyway, honey with agave nectar, etc. We even make our own salad dressing now!
All this good stuff is made even better with the realization that I’m supporting a local family business and local agriculture.
Reality check, though.
We don’t have a perfectly healthy diet now. We still go for the occasional cheeseburger and I will ALWAYS LOVE BROWNIES! I still try new foods and beers when I travel and I don’t consider the calories. But I think that’s the key to why we’ve been able to come as far as we have in the past 4 or 5 months. We haven’t approached our food choices with a mentality of “can’t”. As the Hungry for Change documentary explains, the moment you tell yourself you CAN’T eat certain things anymore, you go crazy for it! Instead, we’ve just slowly, carefully and relentlessly ADDED good things to our diet. The continual addition of good things leaves increasingly less room for the bad things. Eventually we realized we no longer craved or wanted the bad things (like soda or french fries). We never told ourselves we couldn’t have those things, but now we’ve gone without them for long enough that we don’t like how we feel (lethargic, foggy, gassy) when we do have those things.
Our biggest victory has been the simple realization that we now CARE about what we eat, that it’s worth our time and money to select fresh foods that aren’t prepared by a microwave setting. This is a journey we’ve only just gotten started with, but, one small adjustment at a time, it has been a huge step in the right direction.
To see good food as a better investment than the clothes we wear or the house we live in used to seem bizarre to me. But if a house falls apart you can fix it and if you don’t like your clothes, you get new ones. If your body falls apart or you don’t like how you look, you can’t just buy a new body! So, put good things in your body so you can feel good no matter what you wear and have a long life no matter where you live!