Food and You – A Sound Relationship?

Before I go on about my relationship with food let me say that I am not a registered dietician or a nutritionist.  All the following verbiage is my opinion and not to be taken as fact.  If you have questions regarding diet and nutrition please contact your doctor.
My relationship with food has changed quite a bit over the past 37 years (yes I am 37 years of age) and I don’t know if this relationship will ever be status quo.  I enjoy eating.  I have a passion for cooking.  I love the idea of creating a meal that is both healthy and nutritious but also delicious.

This wasn’t always the case.  Food used to be something that I had to eat.  Food used to be something that I craved and would always give into those cravings.  As my training has changed and my body composition has changed so has my relationship with food.  Today I will say that my relationship is on solid footing but we are still getting to learn about each other.

Let’s start with the fact that I have moved to a plant-based diet.  I am not a vegan and will probably never be one because I drink HoneyMilk and well that’s milk.  That will prevent me from being vegan even if I switch all my bread intake to vegan bread.  All that being said the switch to a plant-based diet has been incredible for me.  I did not make this switch because I watched a documentary or I am a PETA activist.  In fact I made this switch as a way to test how my body responded to the elimination of meat.  No other reasons were involved.

In the 1.5 months that I have not had an ounce of meat I have lost 6 lbs.  I am faster, stronger, leaner and have more energy.  I don’t have cravings like I used to.  I don’t crash the way I did.  My body has responded to this change.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a reformed meat eater.  I do not profess that you should drop the knife and discard meat.  I am just saying that it works for me.  If you are eating meat, and this goes for all food, please make sure you are eating in proper portions.  That is the biggest obstacle most people face.

So my relationship with food is now viewed as a fuel for my training and racing.  Nutrition is no longer a word that I am scared of because it always sounded so hard.  The switch was easy.  The hardest part was the time it took for the first two or three visits to the grocery store.  I spent hours reading labels, but now I know what I want and I can get through the store in 30 minutes.

Does this mean that my relationship won’t change?  Of course not.  Today I learned about Heme Iron.  I had no clue what that was but a friend let me know that it is found in meat and that I might want to consider eating 6-8oz of red meat a week.  I haven’t had red meat in about a year so that isn’t going to happen, but there must be other ways to get Heme Iron into my system.  As it turns out if you are eating the proper way (6-8 servings of fruits and vegetables and lots of different sources) then your body is capable of abosorbing nonheme iron and it seems converting it into heme iron.  Nonheme iron absorption is significantly influenced by various food components. Meat proteins and vitamin C will improve the absorption of nonheme iron. Tannins, calcium, polyphenols, and phytates, can decrease absorption of nonheme iron.  Some proteins found in soybeans also inhibit nonheme iron absorption. It is most important to include foods that enhance nonheme iron absorption when daily iron intake is less than recommended, when iron losses are high (which may occur with heavy menstrual losses), when iron requirements are high (as in pregnancy), and when only vegetarian nonheme sources of iron are consumed.

So it seems that I don’t have to eat meat to get my heme iron so long as I continue to eat vitamin C, which is found in oranges, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, cantaloupe, papaya, kiwi, cauliflower and kale.  There is no reason  for me to eat meat to get my iron.  Just a little research proved that I am getting enough vitamin C to help in the absorption of nonheme iron.

Food is my friend and I embrace food.  I don’t look at food as anything more than another apparatus on my way to greatness in marathon and triathlon training and racing.  It is no different than my garmin watch or my Specialized bike.  Without those two items my training would be almost impossible.  Without the proper diet and nutrition training and racing would be impossible.

I am still tweaking and changing until I find that right combination, but I have to say I hope that never happens.  I enjoy playing with my food.  Playing with it in a way that it keeps my creativity in the kitchen flowing.  Creativity in the kitchen keeps Karen and myself happy.

For example, last night I made potstickers.  You may recall them from the Athlete’s Plate for Beth.  This time instead of just black beans and garbanzo beans I threw spinach and sweet potatoes into the food processor as well.  Lots of vitamins and nutrients added.  I then boiled them for a minute and into the pan they went.  They got very crispy and tasted even better than the first trial.

What is your relationship with food?  Do you view it as a way to cope with terrible weather?  A way to get through a stressed relationship?  A way to handle boredom?  Is food the fuel for your training and racing and another facet to reaching greatness?

Here is a pic of those potstickers from last night along with a spinach salad that consisted of spinach, mushrooms, green onions and tomatoes.  For dessert we had No Cream Almond/Vanilla Ice Cream with granola and dark chocolate chips
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  1. Big Daddy Diesel says:

    We are in the same AG

    I battle food alot, I like food and like to eat it, though so far this year, I have been a good boy

  2. ShutUpandRun says:

    My potstickers look amazing.

    My relationship with food changed about 15 years ago. I read a book that reminded me to not veiw food as the enemy – something to be rationed and deprived of, but a fuel source. I learned that I could trust my body. That it would tell me what it needed when it needed it, and my job was to listen and respond. That means eating when I'm hungry but also stopping when I'm full. I have also learned which foods make me feel the best. Naturally, it's the healthy stuff. Cutting out crap is easy when you see the direct connection between how you feel and act and what you eat. Simple; feel like crap, you probably ate like crap.

    To be honest I'm one of the few women I know who has a really heathy r/s with food. I'm proud of it.

    And you, sir, have made amazing strides in the past 1.5 years. I learn so much from you. I bet your dumps are much better too. That should be a marketing slogan for going plant-based: "Eat plants, take better dumps."

    I'm rambling.

  3. ShutUpandRun says:

    I meant to say "months" not years.

  4. She said I need a goal says:

    I love this post, I also love Beth's comment. I am working on my relationship with food.. it helps to have good examples around me. I love the Athlete's Plate!

  5. Morgan says:

    Great write up Jason, just passed it on to a friend that is currently switching from no meat as well. Keep the recipe's coming!!! While I'm not a vegan or vegetarian I don't eat a lot of meat in general and I have been loving learning about all the other options there are to incorporating enough proteins and what not into my diet from sites like yours. My relationship with food went from reckless and haphazard and is slowly transforming into healthy and balanced… but I am learning every day just like you.

  6. Jon says:

    Have you lost 6 pounds since giving up meat or because you have been upping the training volume? Or that cutting out meat has dropped your caloric intake? I learned through my two week cleanse that by simply cutting calories, that I lost a ton of weight, no matter what I ate.

    Curious, what are your main sources of plant based protein? I am always in the search for new protein sources.

  7. Jason says:

    Jon – I lost the majority of those 6 lbs right at the change before the training really ramped up. It feels like I am always eating now to make up for the calories being burned and I have maintained my weight right around 142-143 lbs.

    As for protein I eat nuts, avocados, soy, quinoa and whole wheat breat a lot. I have a PB&J with banana slices and pecans everyday of the week. I also incorporate avocados into almost all meals as well and quinoa is terrific. I just came across tempeh that I am going to incorporate as well.

  8. Emz says:

    define "sound".

    me and food —– we play a lot better together now than we did in years past but we our relationship still need a little tweaking every now and again. ;)

    great post. for. sure.

  9. misszippy says:

    I'd say that I have a good relationship with food. I honestly don't each much crap. I try to eat real foods and I believe that when you do that, you don't miss the other stuff. If I have a downfall, it's portion control and the occasional mindless eating session…but even then, it's at least something decent, like almonds. Most of the women I know who are athletes are very healthy eaters. Those who are not, not so much. I think it goes hand in hand.

  10. Aimee says:

    Great post! I became a vegetarian (although I still eat sushi on occasion) for health reasons. I was tired of feeling blah, tired, and bloated all of the time. When we switched to a more plant-based diet it was amazing. I loved it and have never looked back! My family is healthy and I am proud of the fact that my boys eat spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, quinoa, etc… when most of their friends have never heard of them.
    For me, I have a history of anemia, so I have to be really careful about getting enough iron. But, like you said, being aware of what foods you're eating together is the key.
    Jon's comment kindof gave me a chuckle b/c usually the first thing people ask when they find out I'm a vegetarian is "how do you get your protein?" I think you answered it really well!

  11. Kovas says:

    Nice explanation of your experiment of one.

  12. Caroline says:

    Ah food…since 2009 we have a terrible relationship…I have to follow a pretty strict boring diet because of health problems. I now view food as something on the to do list. I have to eat but I do not enjoy it anymore because it is the same every day.

  13. Jill says:

    Now where does chocolate come into play cuz my world can't exist without it!!! ;)

    Very nice post, thanks!! :)

  14. Silly Girl Running says:

    I truly enjoy a high quality dinner. But…unfortunately…during marathon training food is mostly fuel. To a point where I end up eating sandwiches for dinner. ;)

    Thanks for sharing this post!

  15. Caratunk Girl says:

    Me and food, we have a love affair. Seriously. I am slowly making the switch to plant-based diet. John is a carnivore, through and through…so that makes it kind of tough. Those pot stickers look amazing.

  16. CautiouslyAudacious says:

    It sounds like we have a lot of the same views on food! I have been vegetarian for over 8 years and lost 10lbs when that 1st happened. I am vegan only at home not when I eat out. Red meat always made me feel weighed down and blah so that was the 1st to go for me. I love the fact that I have become more creative with cooking and SPICES are now a normal part of recipes. All the colors of the rainbow is the key to a vegetarian diet VARIETY will keep you well nourished, I have never been anemic or lacking protein during my training. I'm gonna have to try the pot stickers!!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Great blog post Jason. We all have different reasons for going Vegetarian etc. but I think one thing we all experience is much better health from it. It amazes me how people think you won't get enough proteins, nutrients, vitamins, etc by going V. Meanwhile we get all we need and then some and are in the best shape of our lives.

    The key is to stop and educate yourself about what you are putting in your mouth. If you are into staying in shape, what you eat will play a major role.


    Be careful on that front if you start pushing to IM distances. Bree Wee (female pro) was meatless and noticed her performance suffered at the end of the race because of it. Not sure of the changes she made, but point is if you notice "bonk" as you start getting over 10 hours, remember this comment.

  19. Jason says:

    Bob – I appreciate your comments and will certainly remember it. I do have a hard time believing that being a vegetarian is what caused her to bonk. Just seems to not jive with all the information I have read in terms of eating properly and getting all your vitamins, nutrients and micronutrients. Certainly something to research in more depth though.

  20. Jim ... 50after40 says:

    Great post, and I love the line about food being fuel. I've thought about no-meat, but I'm too afraid to try it. I haven't totally ruled it out though.

    PS – it's great to know that you are 37, that way we'll always be in different age groups and I won't have to race your speedy a–! Have a great day!

  21. Black Knight says:

    Interesting post about food. This is an important topic, we need to learn always more.

  22. lindsay says:

    I need to improve my relationship… I know I feel better when I eat smart, yet I continue to dig myself a hole with (very) poor eating from time to time. Then I get mad/depressed with myself fr eating so bad! Really, I mostly need to improve my "impulse eating/shopping" and I'd be OK.

  23. Katie says:

    I think I am at the best point in my relationship with food right now. I've had issues in the past (haven't we all) and I've worked to improve it. There are definitely things I could do better now, but I am very satisfied with where I am.

    Just recently I way upped my veggie intake and I'm loving it :D

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