Yikes, dangerous title.
I’ve read a few articles this season about new year’s resolutions, and why we make them, why we fail, and how to succeed if you are a resolver. I have read that the number one reason people tend to fail at their resolutions is due to being overzealous in setting them. Individual resolutions may not be realistic, or you may set too many resolutions. A secondary reason resolutions fail is because resolvers aren’t zealous enough: resolutions are too vague (“I’m going to be healthier” or “I’m going to spend less money”). Naming specific, but achievable goals makes us more likely to succeed at incorporating change into our lifestyles, and adopting new habits. It’s not rocket science, it’s reality.
So for this year, I have two major resolutions on which I am beginning to work. They are related, and I hope will facilitate one another in some ways. I have slowly been whittling away at my diet as an elite athlete, and have made major improvements since I first started training, but this year I’m going to attempt to be bolder:
1) Reduce consumption of processed starches, sugars and dairy
This is absolutely not me turning to the Paleo Diet. Hi–I’m an elite endurance athlete–I need to eat some grain carbohydrates in order to stay alive (and happy). Nothing against any particular brand of diet or nutritional program, but I know that my personal happiness would not fare well under that plan. I love grains and beans way too much!
I’m looking more to reduce the presence of white sugar and white flour in my diet. I don’t think that denying myself all processed things all of the time is realistic, but I think creating a solid foundation of natural, whole foods–raw and/or organic when possible–is a compromise that I can live with while I continue to train and get stronger. I already maintain a low-fat diet, and I will be looking to continue that. However, there will be a significant change in my dairy consumption habits, in that I will be reducing dairy in my diet to organic skim milk (once daily) and an organic probiotic or yogurt (once daily). Removing cheese from my diet will be a big change (ha ha), though I don’t see myself going completely cold turkey on pizza.
In the meantime, my compromises allow brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread and pasta, and oats. Sugars will be the tougher battle, but fortunately for me I will still have my jar of raw honey (with which I have recently become quite smitten), and fresh and dried fruit.
As I take steps toward eliminating highly processed foods, I am reminded of a blog post written by my friend, and former teammate, Maria Stevens: “Sugar is an Addictive Drug” She makes a valid comparison between sugar and other addictive material… and in my own experience my own addiction is far too real. I am already finding that as I reduce the amount of sugar in my diet, I react almost immediately to the small amounts I do intake (a general feeling of discomfort, mild nausea). It is going to be challenging, but I am starting now with the goal of reducing, and working up to the possibility of eliminating at some point. Major offenders that are total no-nos are High Fructose and regular Corn Syrup. I am more open minded about things sweetened with cane sugar, molasses, maple syrup and honey. Though I realize that those too are not “naturally occurring”… just less evil somehow.
As a plus, paring down the processed foods in my diet will also help to cut down on things like food coloring, preservatives, and other additives. I don’t necessarily see those things as being helpful to my performance, so… why should I eat them?
2) Hydrate properly — or 2+ liters of fluid per day.
This one is what it is. I don’t drink enough fluids. I hate drinking water. Hate it. I like coffee, tea, juice and seltzer–just about anything else. But I hate drinking water. This is probably going to be more difficult for me than the diet shift, as I have resolved several times already to try and hydrate adequately and never have shifted my behavior pattern. I’m hoping that making it public will help to motivate me. I’m starting with 8oz. every morning upon waking and 8oz. every night before bed, and am going to fill in the rest from there.
So what does this mean? I’m never going to eat nachos or ice cream ever again? And what about alcohol? Most tasty beers don’t have many whole or nutritious parts to them. The answer is: of course I will have these things, and things like them, from time to time. Chances are my body will react to them more and more poorly as I move toward a cleaner whole foods diet, and that will in turn deter me from wanting to indulge. But I don’t deny that I love fatty, high-cholesterol, high-calorie things sometimes. I come from Wisconsin, the land of the fried cheese curd for God’s sake. But the bottom line is that I am willing to trade those things for a stronger, healthier body as I work toward 2012.
So there you have it, my cards are on the table for 2011. Watch out world.
Long Live the Dream,