Oct 152010

I’ve been back from Italy for a month, and here’s a few observations:

  • My eating habits were altered as soon as I got to Italy.  I ate any whole, nutritious foods I wanted, plus any whole not-so-nutritious foods I wanted (croissants, a daily gelato, calorie-dense pastas), but I ate mindfully and avoided eating when full.
  • While in Italy, I also exercised a lot.  We walked over 5 miles per day, and many of those days included uphill hiking, walking with backpacks, or climbing over 500 stairs per day.
  • I drank over a liter of water per day, sometimes over two liters.
  • I also started drinking cafe lattes nearly every morning.
  • My sleep was decent, but it could have been better.  I was quickly worn out  from so much travel– we were on hours upon hours of trains every few days and my sleep was a bit less than it should have been.  Caffeine also takes a quick toll on me, and even decaf espresso still carries up to 15 mg of caffeine.
  • Conclusion:  My energy levels were pretty good for the first week, but the second leg of the trip was a little more lazy than the first.  Probably from a combination of all the above, plus the initial stress and excitement gave me an initial epinephrine push.
  • An interesting byproduct: I’d gained only 2 pounds.

When I got home, the weather in New York was similar to Italy’s climate.  Upper 70s in the day, with a random 80+ degree day here and there.  I welcomed my fresh fruits, yummy smoothies, and big salads.  All of the healthy, nutritious foods I consumed added up to a quick loss of those two new pounds, and it stayed that way for just under two weeks.

Now it’s a different story.

My energy levels have completely plummeted in the past three weeks.  I’ve attributed it to a drop in the temperature down to low 60s in the day, 50s at night, and general dreary weather.  Upon ditching the weather pretense and inspecting myself, I noticed poor, erratic sleeping (as I write at 3:22 AM), some levels of stress that I ought to control, and a complete lack of exercise.  Thinking about it more, I realized I had also started eating for the worse.

It’s funny how a daily routine like eating can be altered and habits can be quickly acquired.  I chastise myself for allowing it to happen, purely because of the way it makes me feel.  It’s odd how we really can control how we feel with diet and exercise.  Doctors, commercials, books… they all tout the same thing when you boil it all down:

Exercise and a healthy diet will make you feel better.

I need to drop the excuses that it’s just a correlation and accept that it’s a matter of causation.  Yet it’s so damn hard to change our ways, or to catch ourself when circumstances and excuses cause us to make poor decisions.

I kept eating larger portions this past month, and eating increasingly larger amounts of pasta, breads, and cheeses.  Despite being so aware of how these foods make my body and mind feel, I kept doing it because they taste good and I had my excuses.  The veggies in October are no longer as plentiful, this weather deserves a big bowl of pasta followed by a steaming cup of cocoa, a chocolate pastry will brighten my morning, just one or two (or eight?) Oreos aren’t really that much processed food… each excuse has only compounded the problem.  I’ve tried to subtly steer myself back with extra-veggie meals, but only every few days.

Worst of all, I’ve lost the habit of eating mindfully.  My plates of food have disappeared without me really tasting them, leaving me to wonder if I really ate the food or it magically disappeared.  I’ve also been eating in front of the TV now that prime time shows are back on.

It’s funny how eating a lot more calories, which are just units of energy, doesn’t necessarily give you more energy.  Sure, if you’re under-eating your body will shut down to a degree and eating more will boost your system back into gear.  But when you eat more than you need, it doesn’t give you extra energy.  Unless you harness that energy and put it to use with some exercise, it ends up weighing you down… literally.

I haven’t given my food the attention it deserves, and I need to change that.  I’m jumping back onto the mindful, cleaner eating bandwagon and giving it the thought it requires.  I didn’t deprive myself of the foods I crave, I just moderated them by having small amounts while having frequent, good, naturally lower calorie vegetable-based meals and a big glass of water.  I enjoyed the process, and I mostly enjoyed the levels of energy it gave me.  And while I don’t enjoy exercise until I’m into the routine and feel the endorphins running through my body, I need to fix that too.

It’ll be another process getting back into it all, but I know it’ll be for the better.

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