Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Insight I'd Share with My Sixteen-Year Old Self

If I was given the chance to chat with my 16-year-old self (and if I could get her to listen and quit mooning over that cute boy in human anatomy), I would have a few pearls of wisdom to impart with said teenager. 

Eat breakfast: First, I'd pat her little round cheek and tell her to "Eat breakfast, honey" each and every day. And please, please, please whatever you do forget all those ideas from Fit for Life especially the one that talks about eating only fruit until noon. That one is setting you up for disaster. Especially when your fruit consists of just freshly-squeezed orange juice each morning. Honey, when that is the only thing you eat at 7AM that is why you start to feel shaky around 9AM and that is why you are simply RAVENOUS by 10 each morning. Then you are so famished by lunch you can barely think straight. The juice is not helping you. Feeling hungry like that is not helping you. Breakfast can really be a boon to you and not such a troublemaker. 

Here's a little breakfast rehab just for you and your particular little body. Eat breakfast within an hour of waking up each morning. Yes, the 7AM thing is a great idea. Now, eat a breakfast filled with some veggies, some fruit, even some good carbs and especially some good, good protein. Start your body and your brain off right for the day with things like:
  • eggs over easy with a bit of chunky, fresh salsa and some sliced avocado and a berry smoothie with raspberries, blueberries, almond milk, spinach and just a touch of agave nectar
  • pancakes made from almond flour with some almond butter and fresh fruit jam as well; eat some soft-boiled eggs and a grapefruit or a bowl of strawberries as accompaniment
  • some steel-cut oatmeal with egg whites cooked in it and some sliced apples, cinnamon, chopped pecans and a bit of agave nectar on top
  • veggie frittata muffins with broccoli, spinach, red peppers and onions
  • an omelet with green onions, red peppers, mushrooms and spinach with a bowl of fresh fruit
Are you getting the idea? Make sure that you eat early and often and don't skimp on the good stuff. Breakfast is going to make your day. Really. 

Eat a bit of protein at each meal: Since I know you are going to want a guideline here let's make it 2 oz. of protein. That's not a lot really. But it is a bit. And whatever bit of protein it is it needs to be a good bit, meaning lean proteins that are minimally processed like chicken, turkey, eggs and fish. Grill it, sautee it, bake it, poach it or boil it but get it. Just that little bit of protein is going to help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you smiling and sparkling all day long. 

Eat every 3 to 4 hours: Yes, eat a little bit every 3 or 4 hours. Have a mini-meal. I still want you to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner and eat a little snack between each of them like around 10AM and 3PM each day. Trust me, the food fairies will look fondly at you for taking care of yourself so well and your jeans will get looser not more snug. Just make sure each of those meals or snacks includes a bit of protein, some veggies and fruit, and some excellent fats. Your body will love you for it and you will love your body. Snacks could include
  • some grilled chicken and an apple
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs and some berries
  • a min turkey patty wrapped in lettuce and topped with avocado, a dash of lemon and some salt
  • apples with some almond butter or some raw almonds
  • a bit of grilled salmon over some spinach and tossed with lemon juice, olive oil and a bit of garlic
Like that. You want to eat fresh, whole foods and make them taste goooood. 

In your life, snacks are not optional, they are a necessity. 

Up the veggies and fruits: Veggies and fruits are your friends. Your very, very good friends. They love you and they will make you and your body very happy. That said, honey, you need to watch out for a few of them. 

In the vegetable department that would include carrots and corn. Somehow these are the go-to veggies for American society. (Peas are close third and should be watched as well) They are both high in natural sugars and really need to be watched by you. Just stay away from them overall. And explore the vast world of yummy vegetables like spinach, asparagus, broccoli, peppers, onions, squashes, tomatoes, etc. And just remember this little tip: nearly every veggie tastes like dynamite roasted in the oven with a little olive oil and celtic sea salt. Hmmmmmmm. 

In the fruit department, eat a varied and diverse selection of fruits, but be aware of the high-glycemic ones. They will not sit well with your very particular metabolism. The high-glycemic fruits include watermelon, cherries, grapes, oranges and dried fruit. Go to town on the fruits more ideally suited to you like: peaches, pears, plums, apples, kiwi, grapefruit and pineapple. Your body will love you for taking such good care of it. 

Dairy: Good, whole, full-fat, raw dairy full of nutrients and vitamins can work. My suggestion for you initially though is just stay away. Dairy is so ubiquitous in our society and so highly pasteurized, processed and denuded of its natural goodness that initially I think it is better to learn how to get along without it in your diet. And I'm still not sure if it causes problems for you or not. So, let's just say to stay away from dairy in general with the caveat that in the future you may include it on a limited basis if it comes in its raw and natural form. 

That means to learn how to bake and eat without it. For baking you can turn to things like grapeseed oil, coconut milk, fresh almond milk and such. Dairy is often accompanied by white flour in some form so sometimes it is easier to break the bonds to both of these foods together rather than exclude them separately. 

Grains: The area of most confusion in your older self and the least clarity. Here's the current thought though on grains. Eventually you may be able to work them back into your diet as a limited whole grain. For now though, I know you are obsessed with wanting to look differently and feel differently and the quickest path to that place is to cut grains from your life. I mean wheat in all its varied and crave-inducing forms: breads, bagels, pastries, pastas, crackers, cookies, cakes and pretzels. Just be done with the wheat wonders of the world. And their close cousins: rye, barley, oats, spelt, amaranth and the list goes on. Also white rice. 

Really, if you are going to eat any grains over the rest of your teenage life here are the ones I would recommend: brown rice and steel-cut oats. And I wouldn't be eating these every day. But both of these are acceptable once or twice a week. Maybe a 1/2 cup to a 1 cup at a time. Just watch carefully and closely how you feel over the next few days and make sure that they are not causing any negative emotional or physical issues for you. 

And give your older self some love for finally figuring out how to stop the sugar cravings in your life. Cut the grains. 

Other carbs: There are other carbs that fall somewhere between the line of veggies and grains. They are things like potatoes and yams and winter squashes. Really you can have some of each of them in moderation and even daily as long as you stay away from white potatoes. They are not your friend. Especially in their hydrogenated fat form sold at every fast food restaurant in the land as french fries. Just keep the white potatoes at bay. 

Do enjoy though baked red potatoes, yams and winter squashes. All are good with a little olive oil, some fresh herbs and a dash of salt. These foods will make your body sing with pleasure. 

Sugar: This is the one you've been the most vigilant about in your young life thinking that it causes you the most problems. Here's something to think about though---it is not the whole story. In your desire you eliminate sugar cravings from your life know that they don't just come from sugar. They are equally induced by white flour and a heavy grain diet. Stay away from all fake sugar substitutes like aspartame and Splenda (you will see it appear with a vengeance in your future). The fake sugar just like other future terms of trans fat and olestra are just fake and they give no love to your body and only contribute to its decline. When you do have sugar let it come in miniscule, organic forms to sweeten up a bit of dark chocolate or similar treat. And best of all, be on the look out for natural sweeteners like stevia and agave nectar to use in your baking. 

Boxed, bagged and canned: Here is one as a teenager that I think you may have a bit of trouble with. In our modern-day society, foods that come in a box, a bag or a can usually include something from this list: sugar, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, cottonseed and soybean oil, MSG, preservatives, and other food additives. Foods that come wrapped in these casings and with these little tagalong friends are foods that can be viewed as edible, food-like substances. They are not real food. And as such they should be closely monitored and virtually eliminated from your diet. They do not love you. And as such they do things to you that are not pretty. So, my suggestion is: just let them go. Say goodbye, mourn their parting, bid them adieu and release them from your cravings, your daily life, your palate. 

Trust me, with some of the deliciousness you will be consuming, your taste buds will have much to delight in. 

I know that is a pretty long list for any 16-year-old to absorb. Do your best. Read it over and ask me questions. Just remember that if you eat real, whole foods and balance each meal with some good protein, excellent fats and plenty of fruits and veggies you will have a great head start on all of this. 

And you'll be amazed at how much better your feel inside and how much better your look outside. This list is the key to good health, optimism and prosperity in your life. 

The secrets to your success. 

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