Warning: this post will get boring. Move on before it’s too late.
My birthday is next week. I know women are supposed to avoid saying personal numbers (age, weight, etc) or worse, lie about them but I have no issues with that, so this post will be full of them. This blog began as a journal, a means of keeping track of things I may forget in the future. I write a fair bit about food in general, but in the past few years the bulk of my reading has been about nutrition. As I try not to talk about things I haven’t experienced first-hand, I experiment on myself. I’m happy to report that my experiments are getting me somewhere I like!
I’ll be 34 next week and I must say I feel heaps better than I did 10 years ago. Today I stepped on the gym’s scale as most mornings and I saw a round number I haven’t seen in ages: 56.00. I increased my workout weight load without any problems and did a few extra finishers (burpees and neutral-grip chinups). Then I rode my bike back home, had a post-workout shake and a shower, and left to work feeling completely energised. I blame it on nutrition.
Now, before I go any further, I want to clarify that I know that weight is not the only measurement you should care about, if you care at all. Weight + body fat percentage makes more sense. Weight + body fat percentage + health + performance makes even more sense. The only reason I’m not keeping track of my fat percentage as often as before is that it’s bloody difficult to get an accurate reading. Electronic scales are very inaccurate, calipers are better but you need someone to help you out with hard-to-reach areas, and the best methods (under-water measurement and autopsy) are impractical.
If you asked me a while ago why I ate the way I did I would have told you “because I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life”. You would probably laugh because I was not overweight. But my inner self still felt like the fat kid my classmates used to make fun of and was a shame in Physical Education class, the same fat kid that turned into a fat teenager who lost and gained kilos on and off the bad way (with fad diets and crappy food in between).
Uni came with the unhealthiest habits I’ve had in my life. My ex-boyfriend used to work at Burger King… enough said. My weight oscillated between 60 and 62, I think, maybe 64 after I graduated. I was between 59 and 62 last winter (2010) but with a completely different body shape (hint: more muscle, less fat). When my ex and I broke up after 7.5 years of love/hate I was devastated (not only because of the break-up but because I quit the band we had both founded) and lost 7 kilos in a couple of weeks without even thinking about it, thanks to a massive “flush”. It was 2003 and I weighted 55. Of course I was skinny-fat and weak, so after recovering some emotional health I joined a gym to get stronger.
A few months into training I was already getting fitter and healthier. Then came taekwondo for a few years, the period I used to refer to as “the fittest” in my life. I was very lean, my legs were super strong (“iron leg” was my nickname). My weight oscillated between 59 and 61 with a fairly low fat percentage. My nutrition was way better than in the past but not optimal. Still, I was younger so my metabolism could deal with not-so-great food. When I began trekking with uni and work friends my knee problems became obvious. I was very stressed and ended up with gastritis as a result. Then I went to cooking school, stopped training temporarily when I broke my toe in a fight, got back to training, but stopped taekwondo for good when my instructor left the gym. I gained a bunch of kilos, then lost most of them back after resuming weight training and graduating from cooking school. Got married, kept lifting, did kung fu with Alvaro for a while. Then we left home.
My first year in Australia was all about discovery, especially food-wise. I tried everything I could (and blogged about it). But my knee and gastritis were giving me a hard time. I went to see a physio, did a bit of therapy but things weren’t improving that much. I read something about how diet could impact joint health and mentioned that to her… she didn’t think so. Instead, she asked for a second opinion to her colleague and he said I’d soon need surgery, and then again every few years until I died. Great! Time to stop seeing the physio!
What I read about joint health basically said that certain foods, like nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, capsicums), grains (especially those that contain gluten, like wheat), dairy, omega-6 rich foods (for instance vegetable oils) and sugars, cause inflammation. I started cutting them down and noticed an improvement in both the knee pain and gastritis. I was basically flirting with Primal/Paleo nutrition, only that I didn’t have the guts to cut all grains, legumes and dairy yet.
Then we moved in with our friends Bonnie and Neil. I was very stressed about sharing meals because we all had very different diets. But it turned out that going Paleo was the way to cover most of our health concerns. The knee pain is not gone but it’s been reduced to a minimum. What’s left is due to the damage that was already done. Gastritis is not a chronic issue anymore. My mood has improved, too. And the numbers on the scale (I know they’re not the ultimate indicator of health or fitness but can be one of several if used in context) have been going down. In summer 2010 I was between 57 and 59. Winter 2010: between 59 and 62. Summer 2011: between 58 and 60. Winter 2011 started at the same range and started to decrease after we moved. 2 weeks ago I hit 56.55. Today I’m at 56. The number makes me happy, yes, but what makes me happier is the fact that I’m healthy and strong, which means I can function better and my body is more prepared to deal with shit.
My training routine hasn’t changed that much. I’ve been doing a boxing class 2 times per week (used to be 3 but they cut out Sundays), lifting 3 times per week, sprinting once a week and yoga once a week. Everyone who has ever seen me eat knows that I eat a lot, and since we moved into the sharehouse our portions have increased in size (apparently we’re still in winter mode). As I have said before I have 10-20% of cheat meals, usually in the form of food blogger catch-ups, parties, dinners with limited choices, etc. I try to keep that number low because last time I had 3 days in a row of crap food and drinks the flu destroyed me. If you now ask me why I eat the way I do I’ll tell you “because it feels great”.
Next week I’ll be a year older. And also wiser and stronger.