This season, I finally decided to consult a nutrition expert to see if my diet was really as fabulous as I believed it was. I did this for two reasons. The first was to see if I was squeezing every food-related training advantage I could out of my diet. The second was the desire to lose some weight, and not just for vanity’s sake, I would benefit from an improved power to weight ratio. It is much easier to alter this ratio by reducing weight than busting ass to try and increase power, which at my level can take years to alter by a miniscule amount. Everyone knows that food affects not only our weight, but also our body’s ability to grow and repair muscle, and our immunity. The highest quality diet should be on all of our to-do lists, but somehow this to-do list is completely eclipsed by our want-to-do list, and the former list is often not as fun or desirable as the latter. I was concerned with improving my health, but was a naturopathic doctor going to be the answer?
I have never really been confident in my eating habits. I do know I have done a lot of things wrong in trying to lose weight, without success. I remember the weird fasting that one eastern bloc coach would advocate, the diet pills we all tried together one New Mexico training camp (and nearly killed each other due to the crazy mood swings), and the numerous famous diet plans (raw food, food combining, the Zone). It is amazing how vulnerable to dumb television and magazine advertising otherwise intelligent athletes can be. It is sometimes tough being in a power to weight ratio sport where uber-fitness and efficiency creates a situation where tons of riding doesn’t add up to tons of ice cream, and lighter weight is often equated to faster speed.
Like most active people, I am healthy, and at a healthy weight that accurately balances my input and output. Most of the time I don’t really worry about my weight as I have already done the eating disorder thing back when I was running. When I began as a cyclist I was just too heavy, and really couldn’t lose weight because my body was a mess. I have found that over the years I have improved my eating habits a lot, and now don’t worry so much about my weight, and instead focus on my recovery from training. However, for big events, I want to be lighter and I also want to be able to maintain my health and strength during the season..
Initially, I had my doubts about a naturopath ? would it be legit, or just the no- dairy-no ?animal- products- no- leather -shoes ? no food- that- tastes- good kind of quackery that really I wasn’t willing to hear? Despite my hesitation, I went, and at our first appointment, my first impression of the naturopath was ?wow is she ever healthy, glowing and radiant looking?. I can’t say that all naturopaths look this way, but this fit, athletic, ball of energy lady was definitely the kind of endorsement you want for taking her advice. I mean, there is a reason most people endorsing fad diets aren’t athletic looking ? at all!
She asked lots of bodily function questions, questions on my habits, and basic questions about my overall health. After that was covered, she asked lots of questions regarding my drug consumption (not even recreationally), how much alcohol do I consume (as much good red wine as I can afford/tolerate) and how do I feel (at the moment a headache from too much wine last night, but mostly good). Basically she identified some non-healthful behavior patterns for me to address. Sherlock Naturopath discovered the triple Americano with half and half (sometime multiple per day) and flagged that, along with the cheese, cookies, and ice cream.
The next step was to go home and write down every drop and crumb for four days, keeping track of the portions and volumes. It really didn’t affect my behavior, even though I thought it might. I would eat a cookie and then go ?Doh!? before I dutifully recorded it in the log. I felt confident of a good score on my log, thinking all the fruits and vegetables were pretty impressive.
My results were astonishing. I realized that my food intake was quite high overall, more than I thought. It was fine for the days I am training hard, but if I ever went back to normal (ie off season laziness like at the moment) I was eating too much food. Second, I was shocked to discover that 40% of my calories came from fat, most of which was saturated (read: cheese and half and half). I am like the anti-low fat kind of girl, thinking that by avoiding the low fat options and allowing fat in my diet I was balanced. Unfortunately, this is the road to heart disease and stroke so changes were required. The good news is that I did have lots of vitamins and fibre because of the fruits and vegetables, so only small changes were required..
After only a few months, I am really starting to see how much difference a good diet really makes. Health and weight control is determined by the food you eat. I have never been healthier and have never felt better because of the changes I have made. Given that all the energy and building blocks in our food determine our immunity, vitality and wellness, it makes sense that this kind of doctor can identify health issues by examining our diet. I think that the diet changes I made will help to keep me healthier, and likely leaner, well past my athletic career. I think that anyone would benefit from facing the reality presented by a naturopath? but, as I found, even scrutiny from a doctor can’t stop you from eating the bad stuff. However, it might curb your behavior, or give you new and creative reasons for advocating chocolate as an antioxidant.