When the word “diet” is spoken, why is it that most of us immediately sense restriction, start feeling a bit uncomfortable, get emotions of guilt and in the end, overwhelm ourselves with all kinds of negative thoughts? “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle”, we hear – and while many of us might mean well, do we really employ this way of thinking? I believe it took me about three years (up until now) to really believe this and understand the meaning of that sentence. I always thought I had to be “perfect” at everything, better than everyone else. If not, punishment lay ahead. While I’ve also been on the horrific diet of tilapia and asparagus six times a day and restricted carbs beyond the ridiculous point while I was prepping for a show – I’ve come to realize you don’t have to go to these extremes to achieve, and more importantly, maintain, a great physique. What happens when you look at certain foods a certain way? oooh that food is BAD, oooh no that food is EVIL! that is going to make me fat! The brain sends a signal to your stomach and instantly you are starving, you crave sweets out of nowhere, and you just have to have it. Coincidence? I think not. I’ve had periods where I eat anything I want, and I never get cravings for sweets or candy. Why? Because I know I can have it anytime, anywhere. Where’s the fun in that?? See where I’m going.. like I described in my previous posts, it’s all about the mindset, and the body will follow.
As many of you know, I work as a chef and a wine consultant , and I write about food every day. Not just health food – but fattening, sugary”naughty” foods, paired with wine, beer and vodka, and I have to sometimes attend wine dinners where up to 12-15 courses are served with more wines than a regular person can imagine. Wine tastings are a weekly part of my job, to stay current on new (and old) releases, and I consult for restaurants and bars who need their cocktail lists updated. So how do I combine my love of fitness for my love of food and wine? I practice restraint, but not restriction. Just because a plate of food is placed in front of me, doesn’t mean I have to finish it, or eat everything that’s on it. I admit it’s more difficult when I open a bottle of wine – who can drink just one glass? Seriously… I also want to enjoy myself, so when I hear fitness people trying to teach their audience and clients to “push food around to make people believe they are eating”, that reminds me of someone who’s teaching anorectic behaviors. Life is to be enjoyed, but there are also realistic sacrifices that has to be made in order to achieve a fit body. Can you look get abs like Ava Cowan and Dana Linn Bailey by drinking wine every day and having pizza three times a week? Of course not. What do you want most? What is important to you right at this very minute? If the answer is pizza, there’s nothing wrong with that – I’ve made that many decision many times, but I also made a decision not to feel guilty about it when I did go and get that slice. That’s all!
In daily life, I try to vary my foods a lot, so the feeling of restriction does not occur. Luckily, my profession comes with a certain sense of creativity, access to and knowledge about ingredients and a natural interest in cooking. Instead of flavoring the food with butter and oil (mmmm….) I add fresh herbs and spices. I urge you all to expand your spice rack!! Beyond the old, boring “Mr. Dash” (oh the horror), garlic powder and lemon pepper. HOW DAMN BORING!! Why are people so afraid of sodium? I never restricted sodium my entire prep, until perhaps two-three days before I got on stage, and I looked like this:
Do I look bloated? LOL. Anyway, as a chef I use a lot of salt, as seasoned cooks believe (rightfully so) that salt brings out the flavor in food and some salt is also necessary for the body to run properly. It is also more satisfying to eat flavorful foods, rather than bland food, when perhaps you are restricting the amount you can eat, to begin with. My opinion is that if I can’t be stuffed at the end of a meal, let me at least enjoy it while it lasts, lol! 🙂
Anyway, back to my point about food choices; be inventive, read food magazines and articles, watch cooking shows and adapt regular recipes to fit your diet needs. There is no need to add butter, oil or full fat anything (although sometimes that is fun too) – but include items like exotic spices; Indian spices like garam masala, coriander and turmeric, African spices like berbere and raas al’hanout, Scandianvian spices of dill, caraway and anise seed, as well as any chopped, fresh herbs to add into your salad dressings to make the food “pop”.
There are also other proteins out there than egg whites, chicken and fish, people. How about lean meats like bison, elk, venison, octopus, scallops and squab? If you don’t know how to cook them, just look up an instructional video on Youtube, or ask me right here, and I will be happy to help out with a recipe and fabulous cooking method! It’s easy, you will be so happy you learned to make a new dish, and your palate will expand also. It’s a win win! Believe me, in the end you will feel like you are cheating – and hence, are able to stay on this “diet” for the rest of your life and maintain that fabulous body that you have worked so hard to get. I will post some more pictures in the weeks ahead, but for now, I leave you with a beautiful dish I made with venison, brussels sprouts and rosemary-roasted sweet potato “fries” (in the end I ended up eating a whole lot more vegetables than this – a food I never restrict or restrain from – but for a photo op this looks better 🙂 Who said “diet” foods are bland, boring and ugly to look at? While we may have found our “groove” in the gym already, our eating habits are always harder to conquer, because temptations exists around us 24/7… You can’t out train a bad diet – so be sure to pay extra attention to your diet in 2013! Stay tuned for more food tips and recipes!