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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Food As Fuel

I have heard for years that food should be viewed as "fuel" for the body.  While that is a very logical statement, when you're talking to a food addict, "fuel" isn't even on the radar.

To people who struggle with food issues, food can be:

  • comfort/solace (mashed potatoes, mac'n cheese?)
  • escape (hard to focus on feelings when knee-deep in Ben and Jerry's)
  • fun (thinking about, buying, preparing, decorating, arranging, eating, socializing)
  • a numbing agent (to dull feelings)
  • a sleep aid (carb coma, anyone?)
I don't think most folks with obesity issues are thinking "Hmmm, and what kind of fuel does my body need right now? Protein?  Perhaps a complex carb?"  If my experiences mirror those of others, we weren't really thinking at least for me, I wasn't in touch with my body and what it needed.  I wasn't in touch with my own heart and mind and what it needed, let alone the body.  In fact, the real me was lost deep underneath so much fat I was quite out of touch with anything my body was telling me.

Now as I start fine-tuning this process of getting fit, there are always new things to learn.  One I am working hard to understand is how my body uses food as fuel.  Questions I am trying to figure out include:
  • When should I eat the complex carbs (potato, brown rice, etc.)
  • How MUCH is okay per day?
  • When and how much protein? Fruits? Veggies?
  • Should I have whey protein before my workouts to fuel them, or during, or after? 
  • What about at night to help me sleep and help the body heal/build muscle?
There is an overwhelming amount of information out on the web and weeding through it I realize I need a guide...someone who's followed the path and figured a lot of this out already to help me cut through the b.s. and get to good. solid information.  (Thankfully, I have a friend who is helping me.)

But even then, there is trial and error because everyone's body is different and we all react differently.  Here are some basics I know:
  • If I try to work out without complex carbs in my system, I'm going to tank.  I knew this, and last night I just forgot to have a potato or brown rice.  I just had some chicken and an apple (it was late getting home from work.)  This morning, I was shaky, dizzy and had a hard time finishing 3 sets of exercises which I did last week rather easily.
  • If I don't have enough fat in my diet, I am hungry ALL the time and NOTHING will satisfy it.  If there is no fat in my day, I can pig out on nonfat dairy, veggies, chicken, fruit and almost immediately after eating them I'm STILL hungry.  Real hunger.  Stomach growling hunger.  But if I add some olive oil onto the salad, or stir some coconut oil into the smoothie...I feel much more satisfied.  
  • Timing matters.  WHEN I eat carbs really matters.  WHEN I eat oils, proteins, fruits, etc.  I haven't gotten any of it down to a science, but I'm going to start a journal and try to keep track at least of days that are hard, days I feel dizzy and reflect back on what was missing.
I guess the real bottom line is.......somewhere along the line, food has become fuel to me!  I am always asking "What's in it for me" before I eat.  Is there enough nutritional content, have I already had too much protein, can I add fats or not, etc. so I can be properly fueled.  Wow.  That's just crazy right there!  :-)

Don't get me wrong.  I love food.  Thinking about it, shopping for it, finding recipes, cooking it, sharing it, looking at tastes, textures, colors and presentation.  All of it.  But I do it all now with an eye on what I actually need rather than what I am compelled to have.  It's amazing.  

I'm discovering a freedom from worrying about food and getting food into its proper place - to fuel my body so I can go out and have energy to do all the things I had put on hold for decades.  



  1. Cool! I'm researching food too! I understand some things, like what it feels like when I need protein, but now I'm studying food for the reactions that help you heal. Timely article, because I'm just making headway and had my first (nearly) pain-free week!

    PS Skim milk at night helps release stored lactic acid in the muscles, allowing them to relax and heal from a workout. Makes me sleep better too! Stay away from potent proteins at night though unless you are missing vivid dreams.

  2. I used to eat one up fat free yogurt with a fruit as my evening snack and slept like a baby. I'd also cut out flour and sugar during that time.

    The milk thing makes sense, i.e, "warm milk" was a remedy years ago. I wonder why we stopped doing that? Does it taste gross? lol


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