Sunday, March 31, 2013

Nutrition for Health

A couple days ago one of our lectures here was called "Nutrition for Health." It was a two part series and it was really pretty good. I'm going to be completely honest with you- before I started this health retreat, I was very skeptical about what all I was going to actually learn. I know that I might look like someone who doesn't know a thing about health and how to be healthy, but the truth is that I know a LOT about it. I just don't apply it! And I don't think I'm the only person who feels this way. I know how to exercise, I know how to cook and eat healthy, and definitely know how to make smart choices. In fact, I think I could probably teach a damn class about health! So, this being said, I was so happy to have my ego crushed by the incredible speakers here. I have learned more in the past 4 days than I have since I started this journey.

Here's the thing: knowledge is available at our fingertips 24/7, but that knowledge is limited to how we tailor the search for that information. Having someone teach you from a non-biased point and without having the slightest idea of what you are already thinking the answer should be is both refreshing and surprising. That being said, let me jump into what I learned from this nutrition lecture.

 Firstly: so how does the "Hilton Head Health" food plan work? You stick to 1200 calories a day. I know this might sound like a bird's daily intake, I was very skeptical about this when I started, but hear me out :). You have 3 meals a day, right? Breakfast is from 7:30-9, 300 calories. A snack is at 10:30, 100 calories. Lunch is from 12-1:30, 300 calories. Afternoon snack at 3, 100 calories. Dinner is from 6-7, 300 calories. Then, one last 100 calorie snack at 8pm. Sounds pretty simple, huh? Honestly, I feel like I am always eating. They are keeping us pretty busy, but it seems like every 30 minutes we are trotting over to the mess hall for grub! The snacks are always the same selection: cottage cheese, fruit, raw veggies, yogurt, rice cakes, etc... That is actually getting kind of old, but I'm surviving. The meals are so well rounded and filling that you cannot tell you're only eating 300 calories. I've gotten tons of 300 calorie meal recipes here and I will be cooking them at home and sharing them with you when I get back.

What's surprising to me is that I am eating 1200 calories strictly all everyday and I am completely satisfied, no hunger headaches, no grumpiness... At home I will be at a point in the day where I know I have already consumed at least 1200 calories and I will get intense headaches and irritability will overcome me. Of course my first instinct is to blame it on hunger. If I can make it here, exercising 8 hours a day, I know I can survive at the office sitting on my ass for 9 hours straight on only 1200 calories.

Food items you do not see here: salt, sugar, soda, desserts of any kind, peanut butter (which I am missing so much more than I ever thought I could!!), anything fried. What you see a lot of: whole wheat products, lean protein, veggies, fruit, low and nonfat dairy, water.

The food pyramid they center their meals around is really good. The bottom tier is 5 servings/day of fruits and veggies. Next is 4-8 servings a day of whole grains, legumes, and starchy veggies. Next you have 2-3 servings of low fat dairy, 6-8 ounces of lean protein and fish. They highly suggest 2 servings of fish per week. The next tier is 2-5 servings of mono saturated fats and oils a day, such as olive oil. The top tier is 1/4-2 ounces of nuts and seeds a day.

To break this down a little bit more... They are big fans of the fruit and veggie rainbow. Eat a wide variety of different color veggies and fruits to get the variety of vitamins, minerals, fiber and put chemicals you need to stay healthy and fit. And when you think color, it's the color of the part you're eating. So a pear is considered white. For example: blue and purple help you maintain urinary tract health, memory function, healthy aging. Green: vision health, strong bones and teeth. White (pears, cauliflower): Heart health, cholesterol. Yellow/orange: heart health, vision health, healthy immune system. Red: heart health, memory function, urinary tract health. So I thought that was kind of cool.

Another thing that was kind of like a slap in the face was the difference between "whole wheat" and "whole grain." when you think about it, it totally makes sense, but if you're in the store looking for a bread or pasta if you see whole grain you might not think twice about it! Well, it can be whole grain, but not wheat! Something to add to your shopping list so you know to be on the lookout for marketing tricks like that. I also learned to really pay attention to nutrition facts. I always look at them, but I have not been looking at them in the right way. So, you know it says "serving size" on there, but what you need to take into account is your "portion size." They're two totally different things. Think about what you will actually eat when you get it home. For example, I'm drinking a Mich Ultra right now and I just got punked! I saw that the calories are 95' so I just started drinking it without a second thought! I just looked again and in the fine print it says "per 12 ounces." there are 16 ounces in this bottle... That's the kind of thing that you have to be aware of. Everything that goes into your body is relevant.

Next we talked about trans fats. I am so glad we talked about this because I have never really understood them. Trans fats clog your arteries because they increase the bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower the good cholesterol (HDL). This is the opposite of saturated fats, which only increase LDL. Trans fats are pro-inflammatory, which is synonymous to giving your heart a big old bitch slap. They are mainly found in processed, packaged, fried, and convenience foods.

 The main catchphrase the speaker used was "unwise, better, best." This is all about looking at your food options and making the best decision. The fried chicken fingers and fries is obviously unwise. The grilled chicken Caesar salad is better, but the grilled fish and steamed veggies is best. Trust me, I know it's hard. So hard. For those of you struggling, the only advice I can really give you is to just tell yourself you want to do this. Without that internal motivation, nothing you do will ever make a lasting difference. Losing weight and keeping it off is the most ultimate sacrifice you can do for yourself. It is also the best. Do you want it or not?

There is so much trivial shit out there that we forget about the fundamentals of health. The speaker had hilarious stories about past guests. One guy came to camp wondering why they didn't have artichoke tea. Apparently there had been recent studies about the benefits of artichoke tea and it was current 15 minute craze.

You really have to challenge your habits and routines to make this work. Don't underestimate the power of habits. They are very powerful. Find a routine that works for you. One thing he said that really hit was that the things we do consistently are the things that determine the state of our health. For so long I thought that my occasional binges were the things that had gotten me to this point. Well, they obviously had a part, but the main thing was this the obliviousness to what all I'm actually consuming day in and day out. I know for a fact there have been weeks where I've consumed 3,000 calories each day. Did the one 2,000 calorie pizza binge have the biggest effect during those 3 weeks? No. It was the 21 days of 3,000 calories a day with no exercise.

A concept we discussed what "compressed morbidity." I had never heard of this. Basically, the whole idea is that the healthy live longer and die quicker, but the unhealthy die sooner but are sicker longer. I definitely want to live long and die fast. That was a startling concept.

It is also startling to realize how quickly the obesity epidemic has come on. It has doubled in the last 20 years. Something in the mid 80's really changed our environment. I was born in 1984, so this was the exact time of this change. We have to recognize the impact the environment has on our behavior. Nature's role is to find the easy way. Look at naturally flowing water for example: it flows down, not up! We have to go around this natural behavior to achieve the results we want. And with all the technology out there we have to work extra hard to be motivated to make up for lost energy. Look at fast food drive throughs! You can eat an entire day's worth of calories with literally NO energy expended. You drive to the window, talk for 3 seconds, flick your card out the window, and eat in the same seat without moving. Speaking of restaurants, did you know that they serve 4 times as much now as they did 50 years ago? Another "bobism" as we called them, since our speaker's name is Bob, was that at some point you have to become your own scientist. The impact food has on your health depends on the quantity and frequency it enters your body. Having broccoli every six months cannot help you at all, but eating it 3 times a week will. The myth is that you need this huge variety of foods, but the truth is that you need to consistently eat the same group of healthy foods, so you can occasionally treat yourself.

I also loved that this resort focused on the Mediterranean diet. Well, really it was more the Volumetrics diet, which is the Mediterranean diet without the oils. I will post more on these lectures until I've covered everything we went over. I hope you are learning from these entries. I was completely blown away with all the information we were given on this retreat. It totally met my expectations plus more.

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