Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Goal #1: Jumpstart my fitness beginning with a Lenten diet

When I returned to blogging yesterday, I set 3 big, interconnected goals this year in hopes to keep myself honest toward achieving them as well as connecting with those who want to improve their health.  Perhaps you might be able to relate to the story about food I'm about to share.

Goal #1: Jumpstart my fitness this year beginning with a new diet during Lent.

My 2013 Lenten Diet: No fast food, no fatty food and no alcohol. 

How I established my eating habits

I'll elaborate on my goal shortly, but it's important I share with you how my health evolved over the years.

My friends know I eat fast and yes, I CAN eat.  This fella can inhale a FatMo's (local Nashville burger chain) Super Deluxe (triple patty cheeseburger with all of the toppings and over 27 oz. of beef) plues fries in 11 minutes.  I also won an eating bet finishing 20 White Castle hamburgers + 2 fries in one sitting without any side effects.  If you need proof of my eating ability, here it is:

Me and my competitor, Nick, at a White Castle in Minneapolis in 2009 about to challenge each other.

21 minutes later... I finished 20 White Castle burgers and 2 fries.  NO side effects!

And no, I've never been bulimic nor anorexic...seriously.  I wanted to keep everything in!  Since I was able to eat fast and beat the 20 minute timer your stomach sets until your brain tells you that you are full, I could pack it in and keep it.

I developed the habit of eating fast beginning in grade school when I had about 15 minutes to eat lunch, including the time to stand in line to let the cafeteria lunch ladies plop ladles of what appeared to be food, such as pizza boats, crater burgers and "pigs in a blanket" onto my multi-colored speckled tray.  In high school, we had an open campus for lunch and also had food trucks parked across the street from the main building.  I chose to visit the trucks frequently each week for lunch to eat 2 or 3 slices at a time.

By the time I started high school in 1992, I had a "normal" diet that included fast food almost daily and about 4-5 cans of pop (growing up in Kansas City, this is what we call it...but call it soda, soda pop, Coke, carbonated beverage or whatever floats your root beer float).  I remember standing on my scale at home one day seeing 178 lbs.  I hovered somewhere around 160-180 pounds for what I can recall from my junior and senior high school years.  Did I mention I'm 5'6"?  Yeah, that's a lot of weight to carry.

When I started college in 1995 to work on my childhood dream of earning a meteorology degree, I kept the same eating habits when I started coursework.  On a whim, I decided to start working out (regularly) for the first time.  I also chose to hire a personal trainer to give me help using equipment properly as well as giving me attainable goals at the gym and keeping me honest while doing sets and reps.  The first time I worked out, I won't forget starting on the elliptical trainer seeing my heart rate jump to almost 210 bpm and quickly became light-headed!  I know I gave my trainer, John, a little scare but he was there with me the whole time to make sure I was OK and I continued with my workout.  I did stick with the gym for about a year but gave it up since my college coursework and job were increasingly hogging up my schedule.

Letting a little more of my life elapse here, I ended up moving to Omaha, Nebraska, in 2003 to start my first job after college at KMTV-TV (CBS) as a morning meteorologist (even though I served on-air for about 6 years at KMIZ-TV (ABC) in Columbia, Missouri, while attending college.)  I was thinking about my family history of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and hypertension, after landing that Omaha job and decided to visit my doctor in 2004 to get a physical, including a lipid panel.   Whoa were my cholesterol numbers high; my total cholesterol was somewhere around 240 mg/dL.  (I wish I could tell you my HDL, LDL and triglycerides but I can't recall them here but trust me, they each were far from where they needed to be.)  THAT was the motivation to start riding a bicycle (since childhood) and I'll tell you my story in a future blog post.

Back to the Lenten Diet

Sandwich on whole multigrain, high fiber bread with (vegetable based) cheese substitute and an apple represent the core of my daily Lenten lunch.
I've been in a mental and physical slump this winter.  A new meteorologist, Natalie, who came on board in my office in December told me about her strict diet she sticks to every Lent.  She cuts out as many carbs and fat out of her diet during Lent and has been successful.  I'm not that strict about my diet but used her motivation to influence Goal #1 since I wanted to bike more and participate in big rides this year.

Again, Goal #1 for me (during Lent) consists of:
  1. No fast foods.
  2. No fatty (essentially fried) foods.
  3. No alcohol.
In order to achieve this goal, I started making my own lunch so I can control exactly what I was eating.  I also realized how much money I was throwing away eating out so much since I live alone.  For the bike commuting that I'm planning, having your food with you is a nice convenience, too, especially riding by a city park on a sunny 70 degree day.

This seems like a radical change to the generally poor diet I carried over from the holidays but here are some ways I've been able to stick to my goal, thanks to recent suggestions I've learned from others:
  • Fiber.  Lots of it and (if available) each time you eat whether at a meal or for a snack.
    • Apples, multigrain breads, multigrain breakfast cereals with 4g or more of fiber per serving have contributed to my success.
  • Snacking more often between meals.
    • Not chips, but apples, celery sticks, tree nuts, etc.
  • Drinking plenty of water, but also iced tea (unsweetened) or nonfat milk; no artificially sweetened soft drinks.
  • Using the Fooducate app to quickly scan and research all items you're thinking of buying at the grocery store.
    • If you use the app, most food items have an "A through F" rating to give you a quick idea about how healthy and tasty the item you're considering is.
    • If you don't have a smartphone, simply check your food labels.
  • Limit how much you eat later in the evening (mainly after 6 pm) since your metabolism is winding down for the day.

As of today, March 26, I'm still sticking to my diet and haven't had any urge to crash it.  As I said before, I'm not that strict about my Lenten diet but needed to make some necessary changes in order to make my start to fitness goals that much easier.  Shaving pounds off my body will only make bicycling easier, especially on hills.

Rest assured... I won't stay away from bad foods and my favorite microbrews but I won't be consuming them as often as before since I haven't kept them in my eating pattern and using my excuse of riding to negate some of the damage these foods can do.  I do need some room to reward myself once a week to do a little splurging, which is okay.

I'll blog about bike commuting tomorrow and share with you how I'm confident enough to pull this off in April through lots of planning.

Have a great Tuesday!


  1. Good for you! I've been hearing and watching God give me these little thwacks upside my head for years....your post is ANOTHER one. ouch! :) I went for a walk tonight. sigh. One step in front of the other, right? :) Mary Beth in Blair

  2. Thanks, Mary Beth!

    Even though I'm a serious cyclist, I don't want to come across as a fitness snob. I wanted to share my journey to (hopefully) inspire at least one person to change a habit (whether small or big) to improve their health. This may mean going out for a walk, a quick jog or a short bike ride. I'm glad you at least went out last night and I know it'll help once warmer weather finally stays! :-)