The past few days have been really hectic because of traveling. Sherif and I went to the east coast to visit family and went to the beach on the Jersey shore last weekend, where we got an even deeper tan than we had from our last mini “beach” trip in Chicago! I am really proud and excited to say that Sherif and I made it a point to work out almost every day during our time away. On rainy or extremely hot days, I used the treadmill in my parents’ basement, and on nicer days, I ran outside. The other day, I got so excited when I was able to run almost 2 miles without stopping and without running out of breath! I could barely run a fourth of a mile without having to stop only a few months ago when I first started running!
In addition to running and making time to work out, I also recently started watching my portions carefully. When I travel and especially when I go home, I tend to get lazy about eating healthy. But not this time! I actually made it a point to be careful about the size of each meal, how hungry/full I felt before and after eating, and the nutritional content of each meal.
It’s really important to be aware of what you are feeding your body. Food does not only affect your physical health; since the body is but one aspect of us, who are also emotional and spiritual beings, food can also affect mood, sleep and energy levels. If one is eating too much, and therefore consuming more calories than he is burning, this leads to weight gain, lethargy and diseases. I believe strongly that a person needs to be aware of the origin, type and amount of food she is consuming. Does this mean that one should carry around a notebook and carefully calculate the number of calories consumed each day? While I don’t find this practice beneficial if done obsessively, I believe it is important to know roughly the amount of food your body requires to maintain a healthy weight and to be aware of roughly how many calories you are consuming daily. Counting exact calories and carrying around a calculator is too restrictive, and I also believe that it is important to listen to your body’s needs. But, being vigilant about controlling portions and avoiding high caloric intake in one meal (especially from excess carbs) is also vital to eating a balanced diet.
Keeping track of how many calories you consume becomes more tricky if you eat out frequently, because you don’t know what ingredients go into your meal and exactly how your food was prepared. But this is exactly why you should probably be more aware of your caloric intake while eating out! Some of you might be thinking, I know my body and I can sense what foods should be avoided. I try to order mostly salads and seafood when I go out to eat. Okay, that’s definitely a step in the right direction… But have you considered that a salad drenched with dressing from TGI Friday’s may have over 1,800 calories!? This CBS clip I came across the other day really shocked me; I can’t believe how much saturated fat, sodium and calories are in each of these meals -some of them seemingly harmless – from popular restaurants like Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang’s and California Pizza Kitchen:
There are different ways to keep track of one’s food intake. The most common way for people who are really paying attention is simply to count calories. However, the problem with this is that it only considers total food intake, without any regard to how this is broken down into protein, fat, as well as simple and complex carbohydrates… Additionally, another level of complexity arises when we consider how much we need in terms of the different food groups, vitamins and minerals, etc. How do you think about and measure these things?!
Currently, Sherif and I are thinking that a combination of all these considerations (with rough approximations) would be best. For example, one could get a rough idea of how many grams of fat/protein/carbs are in a palm-sized portion of different kinds of meat, fish and poultry, and how many total calories. The same can be done for veggies, meats etc… From this, we can estimate how many palm-sized portions of each food type we need on a given day, and simultaneously, make it a point to widen the variety as much as possible: for instance, when eating a salad, we can ensure that we are including veggies with a variety of different colors, which is a rough way to make sure we get a variety of vitamins and minerals. In this way, we would be making a visual assessment every time we sit down to eat. I think that, given the way the mind works, once we’ll have done this for a few weeks/months and it turns into habit, the visual assessment will be pretty much automatic, since it won’t involve a ton of numbers.