Last night, I spoke with a friend of mine from college with whom I am starting to talk to again after nearly 15 years. Among the many things she shared is that she is currently undergoing hormone therapy to prepare for fertility treatment, as her and her husband have tried unsuccessfully for years to try to conceive naturally. I understand what and emotional psychological strain this can put on couples. My wife and I have other friends who have had to try to negotiate this within their marriages. I can not begin to imagine how exhausting it must be to deal with the scores of friends, relatives, co-workers and everyone in between asking you when you are going to start having children, unaware of the issues that you are dealing with in your personal lives. Or worse—knowing—and constantly checking to see how things are going.
She also told me that she has struggled with obesity her entire life and that her problems with her weight stem partly from poor eating habits and a perpetual love/hate relationship with exercise. I could not help to think that the latter defines me at various points throughout the year while I am training. Whenever friends who are overweight talk to me about food and exercise, I am very careful not to offer any advice unless it is clear that they are asking for it. But my friend did ask me if my family follows a specific diet. It is interesting to sit down and think about what types of food we eat.
Let me state the obvious: I am not a nutritionist, or a certified personal trainer, but someone who has spent a majority of their adult life seeking fun new ways to stay fit and expand my culinary palette to include more foods that are not only good for me (because of their antioxidant and nutritional value,) but taste good. I love food. I love eating. I admit it, I am a foodie. I am also very careful not to judge people who have unhealthy relationships with food. Two summers ago, my wife's cousin, a 19-year old college student who had been living with childhood obesity, moved in with us in an attempt to "get fit."
He was now on the verge of adulthood and a becoming a fine candidate for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. What I learned from coaching him was that he had no idea how to eat or get sufficient exercise. My wife and I had to completely reprogram his attitude about food—we performed a virtual lobotomy. When he arrived, he weighed in at 290 pounds. Over three months he took off 72 pounds by following a diet—prescribed by his hosts–and exercising regularly. More than a year out, he has kept off the weight, but still struggles from time to time with his diet and motivation to exercise. I secretly wish that I could somehow make a living teaching people how to live healthier lifestyles and help them lose weight. Training our cousin was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
So here is the family diet:
•H20, and plenty of it. Milk and juice. That is about it. Okay, sure, the grownups (if I can call myself that) imbibe in the the occasional vino and beer. After all, it was Benjamin Franklin who said "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." There is a difference between the size of juice glass we use and the one in which our cousin thought he should be drinking from. The first morning he woke up, he poured himself a gigantic 14-ounce glass of the Sunshine state's golden nectar. When my wife and I pour juice for our children, we water down the juice at a ratio of about 3:1. Juice is good, but it has A LOT of sugar in it and sugar equals calories and empty calories equal fat. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children only drink between four and six ounces of juice a day.
• NO processed foods. Zero.
• Healthy snack options for everyone. As many natural foods as possible.
• We eat balanced meals. We have plenty of vegetables for dinner We eat something green every night: peas, asparagus, artichokes, brussel sprouts, and usually have some fruit for dessert—pineapple, pomegranate, strawberries. If we are eating cake or ice cream—it is probably someone's birthday.
• Don't get me wrong—we eat pizza every once in a while, we eat cheeseburgers, we go out for ice cream. We just do not do it with great frequency—partly because of the financial consideration of taking five children out for ice cream.
Again, I am no expert, but I know that our bodies react both positively and negatively to the food we eat. Following my last triathlon of the season, I was on the road a lot running around to rehearsals and performances and I ate poorly. I tried to make sensible choices; fresh subs on whole grain, salads. But there is really no substitute for preparing your own food in your own home. I felt tired—partly because of the running around—but I could feel my body react to eating "fast food" on the run all week and the lack of exercise. My wife seems to remember some literature she read concerning the link between fertility and diet and exercise. I can not help to wonder if my friend's doctor had mentioned this to her as well.