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March 4, 2013 / lynnettedobberpuhl

Re-Thinking Food

I am doing something very uncharacteristic of me. I have started a nutrition log. Normally, when I feel the need to improve my body, I work out a little harder or more often. If things have really started to get out of control, I’ll temporarily give up cookies and candy and try to get a little more fiber in my diet, but usually my dietary rules are to try to avoid fast food and show a little restraint around the sugars. However, the job I had (until last December) really cut into my workout time, and then I was sick a lot  this winter. Add to this a strained intercostal muscle I got from coughing, which won’t go away until I stop coughing, which I am starting to worry will never happen. It hurts like the blue blazes, and significantly dampens my desire to exercise or otherwise breathe deeply. Girl Scout cookie season has come and gone. As a result, I have been getting more cushy in a predictable way. Cushiness in sweaters in Minnesota is one thing, but we will be celebrating our survival of our oldest son’s K-12 experience (aka, his graduation) by taking the family on a trip to Hawaii in June and the idea of cameras and swimsuits converging upon me in my present state has me uneasy. Looking for help with discipline I decided to take advice from one of the fittest people I have ever met: Kevin Wells, an avid fitness and nutrition enthusiast who also happens to have diabetes. MyFitnessPal, he told me, was the tool to get.

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I have only used it a couple of days, but it is free and pretty helpful so far. It calculated the daily calorie intake needed to meet my goal (no surprise, 1200–it’s always 1200, isn’t it?) it offers a huge food catalog to choose from and lets me create my own items (good for the homemade stuff) so I can easily track how many calories I have eaten and gives me a countdown of how many  I have left. Someday when I start exercising again it will allow me to log that in so I can boost my daily calories available. I am a little obsessive with the app right now, as I get used to the practice of denying myself, and trying to get the most out of my caloric budget.

This has gotten me thinking about the food I have taken for granted. We have mountains of food at our disposal. Some of those mountains are what I think of as “throwaway” food, food that we consume for fleeting pleasure rather than nourishment. I have either piled these throwaway foods on top of what I consume or substituted them for the real thing (as if skipping lunch so I can eat a whole sleeve of thin mint cookies makes it a better idea.) When I use the MyFitnessPal app to plan for my daily intake, I see that I can get plenty of food even on reduced calories, if I work in enough vegetables and fruit. For me, doing this is as easy as making a conscious, if somewhat reluctant decision. Meanwhile, 868 million people, or one out of eight on our planet, is chronically undernourished because of 1.) scarcity of food due to famine or war and 2.) poverty combined with rising food prices (Reuters article using United Nations figures.) For me and for most people I know, the most difficult issues around food are understanding the nutrition labels and deciding whether to buy the store brand or name brand for better value. I don’t suggest we stop eating in solidarity with our hungry brothers and sisters or even give up all things sweet and fun in our diets, but I can say that the next time I am tempted to eat a half a box of “nothing but calories” I will stop and consider how insane that is when there are literally millions of people, including children, dizzy with hunger out there. One other thing I will do is to make sure a portion of my charitable giving goes to alleviate hunger. Locally, food shelves are happy to take non-perishables and even happier to take monetary donations. Most use special buying programs so they can stretch each dollar they receive. Globally, there are many charitable organizations focusing on hunger including The World Food Program, a program of the United Nations, or a personal favorite of mine, Feed My Starving Children, which packages nutritious dried meals for distribution to the hungry worldwide.

It is too easy to stop thinking about food when we get to the scale or the mirror. It isn’t enough to consider carbs and calories. I’ll probably never be thrilled with a photo of me in a swimsuit, but while I can always cover up a “not quite ready for beach body,” food as an issue of justice and compassion deserves our full attention.

What throwaway food hijacks your best laid nutritional plans?

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4 Comments

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  1. Carrie Rubin / Mar 4 2013 4:37 pm

    I have MyFitnessPal app as well as a Livestrong app, which is the one I usually use since I had that one first. I go in stages. Sometimes I’ll use it, and then I stop for a few weeks. But it can be an eye-opener. And I’m with you on the sobering statistics of hunger and poverty. So sad when most of us here have so much (though there are certainly people in the US who also go hungry). Your post is a nice reminder for us to all throw in a little something extra into the food-collection, food-drive bins at our grocery stores.

    • lynnettedobberpuhl / Mar 4 2013 4:54 pm

      I don’t see me using this forever, but MyFitnessPal is helping me restrain my appetites for now. You know, that, and the impoverished hungry. The good news is that there is enough food in this world to adequately feed everyone, it just needs to get to the people who need it. The bad news is that this makes the crap food binges that much worse.

  2. Rubyrosa / Mar 5 2013 10:25 pm

    I use Myfitnesspal too – I love it. I’m in Australia and the foods in the darabase are applicable for me too, so it’s easy. Hardest for me is nuts … I try to stop at just a few, but gee …. they’re so-o-o good – but just too moorish. I’m better off trying to dodge them altogether. Next hardest task is to correctly estimate the amount of calories I’ve burnt from exercise … I worry about getting that right, but it’s pretty evident on the scales if I don’t!

    • lynnettedobberpuhl / Mar 6 2013 8:54 am

      I love nuts too! Pisatchios and cashews are so yummy. I would get into trouble if I had cans and bags of them around, but I usually just get almonds in my homemade granola or measure a few pecans into my morning oatmeal. I suppose one could pre-portion nuts into baggies for snacks, but I haven’t tried that yet.

      I hear you on the exercise, our bodies vary so much that it can be hard to rely on what someone claims a person of a certain body weight should burn running a certain pace for a certain distance. What about BMI? What about changes in terrain? A person could go crazy. I have thought multiple times about getting a heart rate monitor but I am too cheap.

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