I think food is fantastic. It nourishes, heals, comforts, satisfies and builds. Food is the focal point of most gatherings (holidays, dates, meetings). As anyone who has ever hosted a party at their house will know, the kitchen usually is the busiest room in the place.
I have a problem with food.
I last played competitive rugby at around 190-195 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal while in Atlanta. From the outside, I looked awesome. But structurally, I was a nightmare. I retired after winning our second national championship and immediately went into rest and recovery mode. Only it was mostly rest. And eating. Little more rest you say? Don’t mind if I do. What’s that? Eat while you’re resting? Good call. Long story short, I was on vacation for a while. My rationale was solid; I had just played rugby in a professional environment for 41 of the last 48 months and my body was smoked. I needed a break. Hell, I DESERVED a break. And a whole pizza.
I would do the occasional workout but body weight squats and pull-ups 1x every two weeks wasn’t getting it done. This continued for several months until I looked in the mirror and didn’t see the young man I used to know. I stepped on the scale but I already knew the answer. I was 218 pounds. If you had asked me years ago would I ever be almost 220 lbs., I would have said “I wish!” Putting on strong, healthy muscle weight has been my goal since I was 16. This was not THAT type of weight. It was a bigger stomach, thinner arms and legs, less definition and perhaps most importantly, a rejection of my current vessel.
My friends didn’t say anything derogatory to me, but I found myself taking the offensive and declaring my current weight as a joke while making fun of how old and washed up I was. You see, I prided myself on my fitness, strength and athleticism (rugby). It was my IDENTITY. I couldn’t cope with the idea of never playing ball again because that was so ingrained with my projection of self that I had no exit strategy. My retreat became making fun of myself, living in denial about my current situation and eating. A lot.
Before you envision the scene from Monty Python about Mr. Creosote (terrible link here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXH_12QWWg8 ) It’s not like I was crushing 5 burgers in a sitting! I didn’t immediately turn into Cookie Monster, but I had programmed myself to eat whatever I wanted because I would burn it all off at the next practice/gym/games. My net gain was negligible, it was analogous to making a $1,000,000 and spending $1,000,000. The quality of the food (fruit and veg vs processed crap) dropped a bit as well so when coupled with my sudden cessation of activity, the results were compounded. Next thing you know…. 218#.
So what did I do?
I started working out a lot more. I lifted 4-6 days a week for months and while it certainly helped improve my mental state, the weight wasn’t falling off the way I had expected. I love working out, but running a new business, coaching full time, being a husband, preparing for a baby (blah excuses blah) ate up a lot of my time. I wasn’t seeing the permanent results that I assumed were just around the corner so I cut back on the gym time. You ready for my next rationalization? I could better use that time to serve my family, patients, business…That I was acting SELFISHLY to spend all my time at the gym! “Yeah, if I don’t work out that is like 10 extra hours I can do X, Y and Z”… Long story short, I believed my own lies.
I was frustrated, depressed and unsatisfied with myself. I didn’t want my son to be raised by a man who only referenced the glory days but someone who could still hack it when my pup becomes a teenager. I wanted Blaise to have a dad who RESPECTED his body and someone who led by example. Whether it is financial stewardship, physical health, manners, work ethic, you name it, don’t we all want that for our kids? So, I did the math (intake vs output) and the results were clear. I need to be MORE ACTIVE but most importantly, EAT LESS FOOD. Pure and simple, eat less food. So easy right? Just eat less food. Well, that was hard.
So, I started doing meal replacements. Not any fancy 20 week program, not a protein bar followed by 18 hours of fasting, not a bacon and nut diet, and no I didn’t eat cabbage for 10 days straight. My problem was an unhealthy relationship with food, not with a lack of cabbage in my life. I started making smoothies that carry me through the day. I stopped eating my usual breakfast (a delicious 2 fried egg, toasted everything bagel, cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and salami breakfast sandwich) and instead drink 2 glasses of water, eat some fruit and (wo)man up until I NEED to eat, not when I WANT to eat.
Is it easy? No.
Is it necessary? Yes.
Today I am 191 pounds. I haven’t been that light since I was 25 years old. It isn’t the same body I had years ago and that is something I’m learning to love. I put a lot of miles on my body and in that time, my frame did whatever I asked of it. That being said, I made more withdrawals then I did deposits to the ol’ health bank account. I have started to reconcile my accounts so that I live more of my life in the black than the red. One of my very best friends and training partners, Vince Colella, once told me “It is harder to GET in shape than it is to STAY in shape”. He was right and I learned my lesson.
This issue I’m highlighting is the nutritional aspect of my body reclaiming project. The next installment will feature my workout philosophy. This old dog is learning some new tricks and I am excited to share them with you. If you like what you hear, share it with someone else who needs to hear this message as well.
The philosophy of a smoothie is that it should be healthier than whatever else you were going to eat in its place. A 5 banana, chocolate protein powder, peanut butter infused, whole milk smoothie is only healthier than nachos and beer, 10 slices of pizza or a carton of ice cream. A smoothie is not healthy because you can drink it, it is healthy because of the contents! If you are stuck in cheesecake for breakfast mode (not a joke, my first patient ever used to do this) then yeah, the above mentioned smoothie is a better option. Is it the best? Of course not. But, if that is where you’re at today, you need to get the ball rolling any way you can.
I’m going to lay out some of my favorite smoothie ingredients and let you decide how you want to mix it up. I wrote a longer post about this last year titled: “Shake It Off” (http://www.foundationmi.com/blog/archives/12-2015) but it fell short to provide real recipes.
I use a ninja blender, but for those fancy pants out there, a vitamix is the best blender on the market ( @ $700, it’d better be!) You have no limit on what that thing can chop up. However, this recipe will be written with mere mortal blenders in mind.
Choose your base: A base is the liquid conduit for which the mixing will take place. An edible canvas, if you will! You will add these last, letting them fill in the cracks between the rest of the ingredients. You will have enough liquidity as long as you leave some space to let the base fill in the cracks.
Pros: Gives whatever your drinking a tropical and overwhelming feel. Dominant flavor. Cheap.
Cons: Lots of sugars, processed/concentrate isn’t the best form of nutrients. Doesn’t allow for subtlety in flavors.
Pros: So very good for your nervous system. Thick and rich.
Cons: Subtle flavors. Not cheap.
Pros: Non-dairy source of protein (1 gram for every 4 ounces, not bad). Fresh for weeks.
Cons: Subtle taste.
Pros: God’s premier choice of liquid. 70% of the Earth is covered in it.
Cons: Not a ton of taste, you know, cuz its water.
The Staples. (50-60%)
Baby Leaf Spinach, Kale, Avocado, and Cherry Tomatoes. These 4 consistently account for the majority of most every smoothie I make. Why these four? I have a multitude of reasons. 1) they are hard to consume in other forms, 2) they provide unique necessary nutrients 3) they are accessible and available and finally, 4) they play well with others. Don’t fight me on this one, I promise you I am correct.
The Fun Stuff (30-40%)
Fruits, or as I like to call it, the delicious tarp I lay over my veggies. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, bananas are your best friends in all of this. If you decide to go off page and not include a banana in your smoothie, you are going AMA (Against Medical Advice) J
Fresh fruits are always best but are hard to maintain a significant supply. I buy fresh frozen from Costco because they are organic, GMO free and maintain the highest level of nutrient density. Here is your shopping list of frozen fruits: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, mango, and pineapple. Skip the cheaper tropical fruit variety, it is mostly strawberries, apple and grape which the latter two don’t mix well in a smoothie. The flavors run together to the point where you can’t distinguish any particular taste, simply that it tastes sweet.
The fresh fruits I like to buy are Kiwi, Papaya, Blackberries (not the phone) and Tangerines. These provide a new and fresh taste to a sometimes monotonous meal and with the exception of the papaya and tangerine, you can just throw them in with no additional work.
Wild Cards? Yea, we got those. (0-10%)
So you’re bored with your current recipe? Want a little something of the beaten path? Oh, I’ve got you covered. In no particular order, try these out: beets, sweet potato, butternut squash, ugly fruit, Greek yogurt, protein powder, peanut butter, chocolate sauce, almonds, honey, Swiss chard, cucumber, lemon, lime, and even ginger. There is no template for success here and I really can’t even give you a quantity because you are in uncharted territory. I have made some mistakes but at the end of the day, the worst thing that will happen is you simply don’t like the flavor. Document your smoothie tragedies, learn from them and move on.
Smoothies are not the end all, be all but for me. They have been the kick in the pants I needed to regain my health, my happiness and my power. I hope this article gives you hope, empowers you to make changes and provides a tangible road map to success.
All the best health!
Dr. Zach and the Foundation Team.