It is safe to say that I have three great loves in life:
But I find two of these loves are always butting heads. It’s hard to be a fit, healthy, fitness buff when I care so much about finding the best pancake in Toronto.
It used to be a lot easier. Like back when I lived in my small bachelorette apartment in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Sorry to Fredericton, but your restaurants suck. Even for New Brunswick.
So any great food I ate came out of my closet-sized kitchen. A place where I typically churned out easy healthy meals made for one. Having no friends meant I had no one to share great food with. Such as say, two dozen cookies.
Then I moved to the city. And there was so. much. food. Indian, Italian, Mexican, French, Greek, Raw, Vegan, Vegetarian, Meatitarian. Things I’d never heard of and only dreamed of.
I can walk down my street and pass a bakery on every other block. I can cross the street and get the world’s best homemade sausages. I never eat at the same restaurant twice, and yet I’ve barely made a dent in the 10,000 establishments my city has to offer. I spend my days reading restaurant reviews and drooling. Or exotic recipes featuring ingredients I can actually buy. Toronto sent my foodie head spinning and I am now more fascinated by food than ever.
On the flipside, I am also now a fitness professional. I am supposed to be the image of a healthy life. Low body fat, lean muscle, clean eats. I am always telling my clients to eat the freshest, healthiest foods. But then I have plans to go do something crazy like eat bacon covered in chocolate.
I have noticed that those who eat for fitness simply don’t care that much about food or cooking. That’s not to say they don’t care about eating what’s tasty. But they just don’t love it like us foodies do. They’re content eating cottage cheese and raw almonds for lunch because they care more about their fitness goals than what they eat.
But to me, food is more than just a way to fuel my body. It’s an experience. An art. Something to be sought out and assembled with care. Flavours, textures, emotions are all very important to me. It makes me feel like a fraud in the fitness industry. Because after my session of intervals and pyramid sets, I’m meeting up with my roommie to try the best cheeseburger in town. Or maybe whip up a batch of fish tacos.
A lot of people work out so they can eat what they want. I’ll admit, I sometimes do this too. If I know I’m going out drinking, then I make sure I get a long run in. But fitness doesn’t burn off everything. Burning 400 calories on the elliptical doesn’t make up for my 900 calorie monte cristo (wait – I still have to blog about that!). And as the old saying goes “You can’t out train a bad diet.”
I’m not saying healthy food can’t be delicious. Because I’ll be the first to tell you massaged kale salads are probably the best lunch ever. But I just can’t do fat-free muffins. Or make a pizza without the cheese. It’s wrong. And why eat food when it’s not the best that it can be?
Loving food at the level I do and maintaining a healthy bodyweight is hard. I don’t think anyone should pretend it’s easy. I also want to be a good role model for fitness. But I don’t feel like that’s possible when my favourite ingredient is butter.
I am still learning about creating a healthy balance with each passing day. If I had melt-in-your-mouth croissants for breakfast (ahem, like today), then I should probably prepare a protein and produce heavy lunch. But make sure that’s damn tasty too. Because we all know the healthiest stuff can be the tastiest stuff too.
So that is my tale of the Foodie and The Fitness Buff. Two loves that are always butting heads. Two loves that I refuse to choose over, but will never fully succumb to while the other still exists.
Thank god I still have writing ;)
I received a comment a while back that really made me stop and think. After blogging about some form of chocolate or peanut butter treat, someone said they never buy it because it’s one of their trigger foods.
For some reason, this comment resonated with me. The term “trigger food” is one I’ve used and see all the time. And yet, to have it used so commonly really stuck with me.
The idea of a trigger food is that it creates an uncontrollable urge to eat. The type of food is different for everyone. But I’m sure we can all relate to grabbing a small handful of chips. Then another. Then another. And without even thinking about it, half (or all!) the bag is gone.
Not a salt person? Ever have a chocolate bar disappear before having the intention to even eat it all?
A trigger food can mean different things to different people. For people with a history of binge eating, it can mean a lot. For people who are trying to lose weight, it can be the difference between a good day and a bad day.
I’m of the school of thought that there is no such thing as bad food. Just bad food choices. What I mean is that everything is okay in moderation. And yes, there is such as thing as too much of a good thing!
I hate to live in a world where cookies are absolutely off limits. Or crackers are something I’ll never allow myself to eat again. That is not a healthy way to live life, and it’s important to open ourselves up to indulgences every once in a while.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I do have trigger foods. Ones that I’ve more or less deemed completely off limits. Yes, even in my quest for balance there are some things I’ve taken an all-or-nothing attitude about. And in these cases, I really do believe it is for the sake of my mental sanity. For there are some foods, trigger foods, that I really do have no control over. Ones that will leave me feeling bad about and sorry for myself. Ones that I’m really better off just not having in my life. No matter how delicious.
First up, pretzels. In all forms.
Pretzels always sound good in theory. They’re fun to bake with. A nice addition to any trail mix. But I have absolutely no control over them. Soon after the bag is opened, I’ve devoured 1000 calories in a salty food devoid of any nutritional value.
I almost didn’t buy Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels because I knew they’d be a danger food. Sure enough, I munched on them until the bag was gone. Happy that I got to experience their deliciousness. But finishing a bag in three days is just not healthy or welcome for me. So long pretzels! (and good riddance)
Another one: small crackers.
I don’t buy them. I don’t know how to portion them. It irks me that most small crackers are 10 calories a piece. You see, I have a serious munching problem. When I’m in my kitchen, even if I’m not hungry, some food container is being opened to munch on. I’ve gotten smart about keeping carrot sticks around to do this with. Because it’s going to happen no matter what (I’ve tried many times to stop, all in vain). These days I’m all about the big crackers. Ones I can sit down and make an actual snack out of.
The absolute worst trigger food for me is cereal. Of all kinds. Granola, bran cereal, even puffed cereal. If it’s in my kitchen, I will eat it by the handful. Entire boxes have disappeared with nary a bowl or milk being involved.
I’ve tried numerous times, each time with fail, to kick my cereal habit. I’ve finally realized that it is just one of those foods that trigger an automated response from me. One I am not comfortable with. Thus, you will never find me in the cereal aisle. I know this sounds pretty depressing. It is sad to come to the realization that cereal is not good for your mental health.
I am however happy to report that I’ve overcome some trigger foods!
Me and trail mix used to have a rocky relationship. Now when I buy a big bag, I immediately portion it out into little baggies. For some reason my mind (and tastebuds) don’t like messing with those little baggies and it now goes untouched until intentional consumption. Same goes with other dried fruits and nuts.
The biggest success for me so far has come with chocolate.
I have memories of eating half a large chocolate Easter bunny in one sitting as a child. It’s one of those foods I just can’t get enough of. It’s taken some practice, but I can now have just a small square of chocolate, or a small amount of something like M&MS or Mini Eggs and feel completely satisfied.
This post is not supposed to be about deprivation. Believe me, I do allow myself “trigger foods” occasionally and thoughtfully enjoy them. But it’s about living day-to-day in a world where eating is often connected to a mental or emotional response. It’s about recognizing foods that make us feel bad, and deciding if they’re worth having around at all.
If anything, writing this post made me realize that my list of trigger foods is pretty small. Way smaller than it would have been when I set out to lose 30 lbs two and a half years ago. Maybe I will make amends with the remaining foods someday. But for now, I am completely content keeping them banned from my cupboards :)
Question of the Day: How do you feel about trigger foods? Too strict? Any that you don’t let in your house?
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