The food you shove in your mouth to satisfy your belly is only part of the equation.
Primary food. That’s the stuff you surround yourself with, such as your friends, your job, and your proximity to a brewery.
You can eat the healthiest food around, but if you’re surrounded by overbearing stress that upsets your sleep, then you won’t feel good at all, and you’ll probably feel snacky for some empty calories.
It’s really hard to be completely healthy if you hate your job. If your job is in control, instead of you being in control, then you really don’t call the shots, your job does, which makes it hard to have control over your food. If you’re stuck in front of a computer for hours, and you hate it, then you might feel sluggish--take control and grant yourself time to walk around for a break.
If you’re at home, and your job is sitting beside you on the couch, weighing you down, keeping your from relaxing, then you might be tempted to stress-eat some potato chips dipped in ice cream.
If your boss is an angry boob who drives you nuts, then you’ll probably find yourself stuffing your sorrows with those stale cookies that have been in the employee lounge for a week.
Most difficult, you’re on the road half the time, passing fast food after fast food, so you stop at the TGI Fridays for a basket of wings (and beer, of course). The “road” isn’t kind to people interested in being the boss of their food, rather than the other way around.
Friends and Family:
First, there’s the one we all deal with: the friend who really isn’t a friend but who finds his way into your life more so than your friend friends. Dump this dude, pronto. He’s nothing but a stress-inducing leach, slowly sucking your health away like a Browns fan on a Sunday afternoon.
Take a sec and re-evaluate your relationships. Do the joyous moments outweigh the crummy ones? Do you feel in control, or are you in the backseat, being driven wildly down a road you hoped to exit ten miles ago? Are you acting, or are you reacting?
Now, most of us have a responsibility to our families. We are bound by blood to make sure our families are healthy and happy. But again, if this is a drain, and you can actually distance yourself, then do it. You don’t have to abandon them completely, but you can try to slide in a few breaks here and there—something that will make the familial relationship healthy again.
Broccoli and apples and almonds are great, but without putting that stuff to work, you’re not getting the full benefit. Be Active!
Think about when you were younger, dudes. You were outside playing, riding your bike or running around the kickball field. During the winter, you did the same, but in the basement, breaking lamps and stepping on G. I. Joe figures.
Now, you sit at your computer, reading about daily events on your phone, while drinking a soda. F-that!
We need to get back into the rhythm of moving. Just cuz we’re 40 doesn’t mean we have to give into the stereotype of feeling old.
I hate when people say, “I’m getting old”—especially when they’re 35! You’re not old! You just quit moving around, so when you do move, it’s a shock to your system.
No doubt, finding time to move around, walk or run or swim, takes time, but it’s up to all of us to make the commitment. You want to feel stronger and look better? You’re gonna have to put that body to work.
It takes all three of these to be completely healthy. You need a diet of primarily whole foods, wholesome relationships, and a whole lot of moving around.
Of course, you don’t need to go all out, a hundred percent, on all of these at once, but start thinking about them, become aware of the different parts of health. Which one drags you down the most? Adjust one and see how it affects the others. Experiment.
And don’t try to perfect them all! That’s a one-way ticket to Doomsville.
Easy does it. Start taking those walking breaks from time to time. Don’t answer the call from Uncle Budinski, who you know is gonna ask you to pick up his dog treats for him. And check your work email at home a little less (and never after 8 PM!).
Structure your surroundings so that you’re in the driver’s seat. It’ll help that healthy food digest a whole lot better.
Oh, and chew your food dammit!
I’m a swimmer, not a runner. Well, I used to be a runner, but a while ago my knees started to get annoyed with my constant running. They weren’t a big fan of my empty-carb diet, like bread and pasta.
Pasta? Yep, pasta. Unless, you’re gonna eat whole wheat pasta, and let’s face it, you’re not.
Welcome to the world of inflammatory foods.
These foods can be a killer. Literally. Check out this simple illustration of anti-inflammatory and inflammatory foods.
Those roid-replacing energy drinks with the sweaty muscleman on the label are pure bunk. Inside that manufactured blue beverage are mind-blowing sugar levels that have a better chance of giving you diabetes than giving you a good time on your run.
You want some anti-inflammatory foods to toss down your gullet after the race? Try these options.
The night before? How about a lentil-based meal. Mix a bunch of broccoli in there and whatever else you want. What will I be eating? A sort of bean bowl with rice . . . kind of just made it up myself.
Whatever you do, just stay away from processed foods!
My cooking philosophy is that you need a snack and beer to keep you company while you cook. So, Chris grabs a couple of beers from the fridge, and we warm up the blender to make some hummus.
We snack and drink, as we toss leeks and tempeh and mushrooms and zucchini into a pot, and we let those sizzle into deliciousness.
Chris likes mushrooms, but he told me earlier that he’s not sure how to prepare them, so I’m showing him the simplest way: fry ‘em up. We’ll ultimately throw everything together on top of white bean pasta.
We’re also preparing a quick little dish of lentils and rice. I want to show Chris how easy they are to prepare. Add water, boil, and there’s a plate of protein-rich lentils that can be added to just about anything. I tell him to keep it on hand for the week, and he can add some chicken if he wants.
Everything that we’re cooking was purchased earlier in the day, during our trip to the grocery. Chris had contacted me about a VIP day with Working Class Vegan Man. He basically wants to know about the best foods for him and how to cook up some of the veggies he sees in the produce department.
The day started with me nosing through his kitchen cupboards.
“Here’s the game plan,” I told Chris, “We’ll first go through your kitchen, tossing out certain things and talking about what we can replace them with.”
“Fine, fine, but there is one thing you’re not tossing,” he replied.
I found later that I wasn’t going to be tossing the dark chocolate pecan cookies. I did, however, toss the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and the Cinnabon mix—and a can of allegedly low-sodium chicken-noodle soup, which was still overloaded with sodium. Those were no-brainers.
The point of spending some VIP time with Working Class Vegan Man is to learn, get some insight about what’s already in your cupboards and refrigerator, and what could go in those cupboards so you can have more energy, and how to prepare those foods you’ve just never known how to prepare.
I don’t intrude on your kitchen to make fun of you or to change your life. I’m not the boss of you.
There’s no need to clean or feel embarrassed about your kitchen before I arrive. I really don’t care what it looks like, so long as there’s beer in the fridge. (Kidding, kind of.)
There’s a box of Bisquick in the cupboard from the 90s? I don’t care. There’s a package of Ideal pasta shells from Bisson’s (a grocery that no longer exists)? I don’t care. There’s a jar of discolored Miracle Whip? I don’t care.
What I do care about is answering any health questions you have about food. I do care about helping you learn how to prepare a dish with mushrooms or broccoli or bok choy (whatever that is). I do care about suggesting ways to eat healthy while not spending too much. I do care about helping you fit a healthy diet into your lifestyle. I do care about helping you keep sweet dishes in your diet. I do care about making healthy eating cool.
“What do you do for breakfast?” I ask, after having gone through the cupboards and finding nothing breakfast-worthy.
Time Out: Working Class Vegan Man advice moment. Making granola at home is endlessly healthier for you than store-bought granola bars. It ain’t hard either. Buy some oats and nuts and dried fruit in bulk, mix in some maple syrup and coconut oil, toss it in the oven, and take it out of the oven. Then, eat the yum out of it. Not only is this method healthier, but it’s cheaper too.
After I raid Chris’ kitchen, we drive to his grocery, making sure to hit the produce first.
We earlier decided to cook a pasta dish. I had first suggested a chili, but Chris plainly informed me that it was 90 degrees outside.
The pasta gave freedom to go produce crazy. We got squash, broccoli, mushrooms, bok choy, and a leek (those last two were rung up as lettuce and green onion).
Confession: I did force a bunch of kale in the cart, saying we could use it as parsley, but it was a drop-dead failure on the dinner table. At the same time, I didn’t force the endives on him.
Snacks. This is an important one. How can we take the snacks you’re used to and give them a healthy twist? Rather than potato chips and dip, I suggest some tortilla chips and guacamole (homemade guac, which is the easiest thing in the world), or hummus (again, homemade, which is nearly as easy as homemade guac).
I’m not about to ween my client completely off sweets, so I offer the idea of a sweet hummus, but we also pick up a dark chocolate bar, 88%. (There really isn’t anything like needing that chocolate fix in the middle of the day and remembering that you have a candy bar ready for consumption.)
Some of our groceries were experimental, but mostly we buy with dinner in mind, and the next dinner, and the next dinner--cook once, eat twice mentality.
I spring two crazy must-haves on Chris: tahini and tempeh. We need tahini to make the hummus, but we need tempeh for educational purposes. Chris likes chicken, so I thought, just maybe, he’d like to try some tempeh.
What the heck is tempeh? Tempeh is basically a tasteless fermented soy thing that some people (like me) use to take the place of meat in dishes. It’s best to flavor it up some by marinating it in soy sauce or tamari and then searing it up in a pan, or you could just toss it in with the onions when you caramelize them.
After finding the tempeh and tahini, we race back to his kitchen, grab a couple of beers, and begin cooking up some tasty and healthy food to eat.
Our night ends at the dinner table, eating the food we cooked and talking about cheats to sneak a little health into Chris' life.
Since my day with WCVM, I find I’m less afraid of organic stuff and weird produce I can’t identify on sight. I made more hummus and guacamole, and even bought squash, green onion and mushrooms, without provocation, to make dinner for friends! I’m not sure I’m going to be buying more tempeh when healthy, organic chicken is readily available, easy to grill and delicious. Also, for an alleged ‘superfood,’ kale sure sucks.--Chris
I made those sweet potato fries. And the pickle. See the burger? I made that too. Eat up!
Cook once, eat burgers for days.
Recipe for your own burger
Here's the basics, but you can alter, add, or amend whatever you'd like.
First, take a small red onion, chop it up fine, and fry it up in some oil. I like adding something sweet, like a little maple syrup, to help caramelize the onions (but wait for the onions to brown some before you do this, if you dare). While that's gettin' good, mash up a can of black beans in a separate bowl with a fork or spoon or whatever you like to mash stuff with. Throw some minced garlic in with the onion for a couple minutes. Then, toss the onions and garlic in the bowl with the beans, add a tablespoon of sunflower seeds, a half cup of oatmeal (ground or not), and some salt and whatever herbs and whatnots you want to include. Turn that into a patty. If it's too dry, add some water (or soy sauce). Too wet, add some more oats. Toss those patties in an oiled pan, and fry 'em up. Keep in mind, you can add anything you want: grated carrots, zucchini, flax, nutritional yeast, liquid smoke, cacao powder, or coffee for all I care.