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?