Balance and quality.
However, it has taken me a good 3-4 years to learn this.
When you think about balance and your life, I think everyone wishes for more time to balance out all daily responsibilities. Of course, if there were more hours in the day we would also have a bit more time to squeeze in more "fun" activities as well.
As much as I stress the importance of eating wholesome and natural foods, with little to no ingredients, I certainly don't believe that everyone should live by a raw or organic diet. I don't think it is realistic for me to tell you not to eat low-fat yogurt, ice cream or pita chips (or any food for that matter) because they have ingredients. I believe balance is key when fueling your body for sport and for meeting recommendations to prevent and reduce risk from disease.
If you are aiming for a balanced diet, why not have a bowl of fruit with ice cream on top, yogurt w/ cereal on top or a plate of veggies with a few pita chips.
I have a feeling that many people don't even touch a veggie or piece of fruit between breakfast and lunch and between lunch and dinner, simply because there is the convenience of ingredient-filled food, alongside the desirable taste of many processed foods. And no, a sliced tomato and piece of iceberg lettuce in your chicken wrap does not technically count as a serving of veggies...not to mention a bowl of fruit loop cereal because it now contains fiber and includes "fruit" in the name.
When it comes to meeting realistic weight goals and maintaining a life of activity and weight maintenance, I believe we all should aim for balance in both our training/exercise routine and eating routine.
As an example, since I work with a lot of Ironman athletes, I find that many people get so accustomed to fueling long distance training (regardless if the fuel is healthy) and when the Ironman distance race is over, a big question-mark follows the phrase "now what, I don't want to get fat". Certainly, if you were 'rewarding' your Ironman training with donuts and pancakes you may find it difficult to maintain weight post Ironman. However, if your diet was balanced and portioned controlled prior to the Ironman, you should find an easy transition of enjoying a variety of healthy foods but in less quantity (aka decrease calories but enjoy the same healthy foods you were eating prior to and during your Ironman training).
It's very important to see food as fuel to give you energy to live an active life but more than anything, food gives your body vitamins and minerals to stay healthy....regardless if you are training for an Ironman or exercising for fun. Likewise, if you were training for a big event (Ironman or your first running race) which took you out of your comfort zone and required that you put in more hrs than normal of "training", there needs to be some sense of balance in your life and an understanding that training for a big race does not mean that you have to train like that for the rest of your life in order to maintain your weight.
Without discussing the importance of timing your nutrition with your training/exercise, I want to stress the importance of including a variety of foods, from all of the food groups (grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meats and beans, and oils) in an effort to meet vitamin, mineral and nutrient recommendations. However, with much of the population seeking ways to lose weight, maintain weight or live a healthier life, you are in no shortage of "diets" to follow in an effort to reach your weight goals.
A lot of people ask me about diets like the raw diet, thrive diet or paleo diet (as examples) and whether or not I feel the diet will help the individual reach weight/performance goals. I personally live by the "Marni" diet which means I know what my body needs and my diet helps me recover fast, improve performance, avoid sickness (and hopefully disease as I age) and feel satisfied throughout the day.
In my opinion, regardless if you choose a diet including meat or a vegetarian diet, vegan diet, semi-vegetarian diet or some other type of restricted diet, it is so important for your performance as an athlete (even if you are a newbie) or a fitness enthusiast/weight loss seeker, that you emphasize a balance of foods to ensure that you aren't neglecting key nutrients in the diet. Most people aren't going to make healthy transition overnight (nor are ready to make every change all at once) so as you try to achieve a more balanced life with your training and nutrition, realize that you will always have a "today" to work on your eating/exercise habits but waiting "until tomorrow" will not make it any easier to start a change. You must be patient and recognize the whats, why and hows of your individual exercise and eating routine.
When it comes down to it, if you don't take the time, on a daily basis, to address the strength's and weakness's in your diet (why you are hungry at 10am, why are you tired at 3pm, why do you eat late at night, why don't you eat breakfast, why aren't you getting stronger or faster.....) you will never understand how great it feels to live a healthy and balanced life. If you make unrealistic changes and set unrealistic goals, you will continue living a life of stress, guilt and unhappiness.
Life should be enjoyable.....do you go to sleep looking forward to tomorrow? Sure, work and other responsibilities in life can be a bit stressful but food and exercise can be fun and positive.....don't make fitness and a healthy diet the enemy.
Believe me, this balance thing doesn't happen overnight and it isn't a one-time deal. You always need to be conscious of your eating and training so that you make healthy habits that can be maintained for a lifetime.
So, as you are working towards a more balanced life, whether it is with your work, training, eating or with friends/family, enjoy some homemade granola bars!
What is your number one tip or suggestion when it comes to balance with training and/or eating?
Homemade walnut ginger granola bars
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup raisins (chopped)
1/4 cup cranberries (chopped)
1/8 cup sunflower seeds
2 cups instant oats
1 tbsp fresh ginger (shaved)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp all spice
1 tbsp flax seed
1 cap-full rum or almond extract
3 tbsp honey (or if not using molasses, use 4 tbsp honey)
1 tbsp blackstrap molasses (good source of Iron and Calcium for vegetarians!)
1. Stir ingredients well.
2. Spread on a non-stick pan sprayed with a little non stick spray.
3. Cook for 30-40 min (or until crisp and hard) in a 325 oven.
4. Brake the bars into squares or bars and store in a covered container.