The Next Challenge


Coming off the heels of my February Challenge with mixed results, I am struggling to find another challenge.  I have to say, my diet seems to be a bigger hurdle in my fitness rather than getting the workouts in.   But then, focusing on diet seems rather boring compared to cycling miles, especially when it comes to data visualization.

The Ultimate Challenge

Then, this evening I stumbled upon Outside magazine’s online site.  A headline in particular caught my attention for a couple of reasons.  First, it included a drive I have on my bucket list, a drive I would love to do in a 67 Hurst equipped Pontiac GTO, dark blue. Second, I have been reading a touching book by Bruce Weber called Life is a Wheel. And, third, I am desperate to do something insanely huge with my life to solve this midlife crisis I seem to be in.  You can see where this is going??

The headline was simple, profound, and eye catching.  Whoever wrote it knew what they were doing.  The headline was a simple question: “Why Drive Route 66 When You Can Bike It?

OMG! Its perfect!  The article was announcing the latest adventure documented and mapped by the Adventure Cycling Association.  The 2,493 mile route cover Los Angeles (well, Santa Monica) to Chicago.   I never knew there was a AAA-like Trip Tik for cyclists!!  Sell everything and let’s hit the road!

After spending a fair amount of time looking at the remarkable cross country routes, I am jazzed.  The TransAmerica Trail is very similar to the route Weber covers in his book. It was his story of life, the open road, and the spontaneous experiences combined with the pain of an insane challenge which intrigued me.   To do something similar is a personal accomplishment, something which I can only experience in my own way and own in my own way. The only question is, which do I do first, Route 66 or TransAmerica?

Coming Back to Reality

With my longest ride in over a year being 16.5 miles, suddenly 4,228 miles seems a bit of a stretch. Even the 400 mile average daily ride might push me farther than expected, even if it was all flat.

Coming back to reality and a challenge appropriate for the next two weeks (3.15), the diet challenge is more realistic.  In researching potential products for TrainingMetrix, I came across an article which discusses how to measure food quality.  They do this by assigning a weighting to each of the macro-nutrients, such as fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, etc.  The product is a food score, positive for good, negative is bad.   The staff at TrainingMetrix modified this theory and improved upon it in a product we call the Yum Score. You can test the food you eat by visiting the Yum Score Calculator (TMX has closed) at the corporate website.

But, this post isn’t about shameless self promotion of my company’s products.  Rather it is about my own journey of life, fitness, triathlon and everything in between.  Back to the challenge.  Using the Yum Score, I would like to challenge myself to eating better by maintaining a Yum Score of 4 or greater from 3/3 to 3/15.   This means low saturated, low sugar, and lots of fiber.

Well, I better go eat the last of that chocolate cake tonight.  The challenge begins tomorrow.

Eating to Entertain Oneself


Eating is an activity that can be used to fill time.  In fact, when eating goes beyond basic survival one must step back and take a hard look at the role of food in their life.

Eating to Fulfill

In this case, the person gorges them self in the extreme at every meal.  They do not pay attention to the amount of food they eat and their only consideration for what they eat is how it fulfills their emotional cravings.  In fact, when they are done eating this meal, they are already thinking about what the next meal will be.

While this sounds a bit crazy, it starts to make more sense when you realize that they are emotionally distraught, lack a formal job, and live in an environment that is both boring and toxic.  With these conditions in place, the only security one has is food.  Food goes from a survival need to one that fulfills the absence of everyday structure and emotional fulfillment.

My Personal Case

In my personal case, this all changed when I started my triathlon training.  Not only did I start exercising, but I soon realized that the food I was eating was not supplying my body with the right fuel. I was also eating so much that my body was burdened with digestion constantly, my stomach was stuffed and stretched at each meal.  Through baby steps, I eliminated fast food, sugar, and most other refined foods. Today, food is a tertiary thought since I eat to fuel and not eat to fulfill.  As a triathlete today, I look back and can’t help but be bewildered by my previous relationship with food.

Family and Lack of Routine

Visiting my family this Thanksgiving, I see my old self in each of them, two years ago before I started training.  They live in a small town where employment is difficult, they seldom exercise, and the only security in their life at the time is food.  This epidemic is so prevalent, that even the cat is obese!  Seeing them this way makes me very sad.

It is also very difficult to not get sucked into the emotional binge eating. I certainly have consumed more food than I typically do and my training has tapered off.  My routine has been interrupted and I can’t let their routine substitute for my own.  It has been tough and I am feeling the consequences for not being more disciplined with my eating habits.

Life Changing Event?

While I desperately want to help them, you can’t force someone to change when they can’t see the problem.  I hope that they encounter a life changing event that makes them wake-up, deal with their emotions and become more fit and loose some weight.

When you begin your triathlon training, please take a conscious look at your relationship with food.  It may not be as healthy as you think it is.

Thank you.

Halloween, Candy, and Depression


I think we all look forward to Halloween because it is not only a great time to dress up and have fun with friends, but the perfect opportunity to let the diet slip a little and have some candy.

I know, you do it too… I can’t be the only one sneaking a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup on Halloween.

Well, there is a great article on the BBC News that links processed foods to depression.  The article, Depression link to Processed Foods, discusses research conducted by a team at the University College London.

Of the two groups they studied, the group that ate more whole foods like vegetables, fish, and fruit were less 26% less likely to become depressed later on.  The group eating highly processed desserts, grains and dairy products were more likely to become depressed.

These results are not surprising and I agree 100%.  When I was an office potato, refined foods were my life, consuming mochas, soft drinks, fast food, sweets, and just about everything made with flour.   Shortly before I made the change to triathlete, I am sure I was a depressed person.

Now, my diet consists of fresh vegetables, whole grains and fruits.  I even eat as little red meat as possible.  I feel great and the added exercise and energy levels are a benefit too.

Since this past weekend was Halloween, I have to wonder how many people feel depressed in the weeks after.   We consume 23.8 pounds of candy annually (ref), and I will make the assumption that most of it is during the quarter of the year.

I only ate three snack size pieces; one Crunch, one Reese’s Pieces and one Milky Way.  I think that is all I need for the rest of the year.

How much candy did you eat?  Do you feel depressed, yet?

 

Sweetness Without the Sweet


One of the biggest changes I’ve made along the road from office potato to triathlete is cutting out sweets and other junk food from my diet.  Once I did, I instantly started dropping off weight, started feeling many times better, and had energy I never thought possible.

As I reflect on this change, I realized that the sweetness I was indulging myself in as an office potato was a false sweetness.  Candy bars and shakes, for instance, are artificially sweetened with sugar and high fructose corn syrup.  This sweetness was so overpowering, you could taste little else.

Now, I appreciate the more subtle sweetness of food. YES, foods without sugar have a sweetness all their own.

Ever tasted the sweetness of plain oatmeal?

How about the subtle sweetness of sprouted grains?

Or even the wonderfully tart sweetness of plain, unsweetened yogurt?

All of these have an amazingly subtle sweet flavor to them that artificially sweetened products can’t come close to.  It is almost as if I am tasting the very life that gives me energy.   If you consume sugar products, begin detox immediately and start to appreciate the sweetness of life.