Eating for a Healthy Body

Though many people are surprised to find this out, I have not been thin as a rail all of my life.

My weight gain occurred in college. Instead of the freshman 15, I went all out and went home for the summer with the freshman 60. Astonishingly, I was pretty oblivious to my weight gain until I went on spring break. I pulled out all my clothes to go on vacation and found that NOTHING fit. It was completely depressing.

So I went home and dieted. It was 1989: the low-fat diet was the diet. A Type A personality, I went to extremes and cut out all fat in my diet. I exercised like crazy. When I went back to college I'd lost the weight and I looked great. However, I continued to eat a very restricted diet for many years after that, mostly because I was afraid of what might happen if I altered it.

When I became more involved in training and Pilates I found that my diet could not support my new activities. It was sorely lacking in protein and fat and was overloaded with carbs. I was scared to death to eat many foods that I had banned from my diet for years: nuts, cheese, peanut butter, avocados, just about any meat beyond chicken and, God forbid, some kind of dessert!

However, I knew that I could not build muscle and train my body the way that I wanted to without altering my diet.

So I did.

I ate my usual fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, but I slowly added everything else in. At first, I just added nuts. It had no adverse effects on my physique, so then I added meats and other foods. What a change for the better. Not only did my diet become more interesting and satisfying, I actually lost weight!

And my success emboldened me.

I no longer have restrictions on any foods. I simply exercise moderation. Shocking, right? Yes, I am American, but I've learned to exercise restraint. Of course I watch my overall intake of fat and calories, and I love finding healthy recipes, but I actually eat dessert, almost every night.

Before you decide to throw all caution to the wind and open a pint of Ben & Jerry's, let me be frank. I have become much more comfortable varying my diet and listening to what my body wants, but I am always thinking about what I put in it. I love good food, and I love going out to dinner, but I will not eat food that is not good for my body. I am very careful about the way that I prepare food, and if I am in a restaurant I never order items with heavy cream sauces, etc. You get the point.

So how did I learn to cook?

When we were dating, my husband and I took a couple of "cooking light" classes together, which was a fabulous experience. Not only did we have fun, but I learned how to cook without a cookbook, which is so much easier and faster than following recipes. Since then, though, I have also gotten great ideas and recipes from Shape magazine. I can't tell you how impressed I've been with their recipes, because they are easy, quick (usually less than 30 minutes to cook) and almost always very good. If you are looking for quick and healthy, I definitely suggest that you take a look at the recipe finder on their website.

Here are some of my favorites:
*Chicken curry with brown rice and peas
*Vegetarian chili with couscous
*Chicken sausage with kale
*King Mackerel or trout enchiladas

Now you have some great ideas that will inspire you to create healthy meals for yourself and your family. (Okay, maybe your kids won't eat them, but that's the subject of another post).

But where's the dessert?

I have to say that I strongly believe that stripping down a dessert too much in order to make it somehow healthy generally leaves one unsatisfied and in the pantry 30 minutes later looking for a "real dessert." However, a couple of months ago Shape published a recipe for brownies that was absolutely divine. It even passed my husband's taste test which, let me assure you, has absolutely no "health" filter on it. The last time I tried a "healthy" brownie recipe on him his remark after tasting it was, "Who wants to cap off their dinner with a great glass of Cabernet and a beet brownie?" Point taken.

The secret to this recipe is the Greek yogurt, a bit more appetizing than beets. I fully intended to share it with you, but Shape will not allow me to post it on my blog. I'm just not loving them nearly as much as I did when I started to write this post. What a bummer! Please do contact the editors and request that they post the recipe on their website, and if that doesn't yield a response, please contact me and I will e-mail it to you.

In the meantime, try these cookies. They were originally billed as Christmas cookies, but they are great year round. They are fudgy and rich tasting, without all of the calories. Be forewarned, though. They are chewy cookies, so if you are a crunch lover, they may not be for you: Fudgy Cherry-Pistachio Rounds

Enjoy cooking. Enjoy eating out. Enjoy food and all of the wonderful activities that surround it. Just do so in moderation. Yes, you can do it.

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