Posted in exercise, food, know better do better, mindset, physical health

You can’t outrun a bad diet

The other day, I talked about how diet and exercise aren’t opposite sides of a balance, that each has its own unique benefits to health.

Even if we’re ignoring all health ramifications beyond weight, most people are still unlikely to “win” the diet versus exercise game.

I’ve worked with a lot of people over time, both one-on-one mentoring, in classes, as well as just casual conversations, and by far, the most common reason given for not exercising is not having enough time.

If you don’t have enough time to exercise at all, how are you going to have enough time to “work off” all of the extra food?

But what about the athletes? The people who are already making time to exercise? Especially the ones who are training for endurance races and the like?

The Climbing Daddy was recently diagnosed with a fatty liver. The two most common causes of a fatty liver are too much alcohol and too much sugar.

The Climbing Daddy has also done a handful of IronMans. For those who don’t know, an IronMan is a triathlon where participants first swim 2.4 miles, then bike 112 miles, then run a marathon (26.2 miles). They have 17 hours to complete it.

He happened to be wearing his finisher’s jacket at his appointment with the gastroenterologist. She had something to say about that.

“You cannot fix this even if you run three IronMan races. You have to fix your diet.”

When I gave the class at our Wellness Expo regarding sugar (recap still to be posted), there was a woman in the class who wanted a way out and asked about mitigating the effects of a high-sugar diet with exercise.

No matter how much exercise you do, your body has to process what you eat.

You can’t outrun a bad diet.



Posted in food, mindset, physical health

Labels that are not synonyms for healthy

Food production companies are looking to make money. They’ll put whatever is legal (and push that boundary) on the food packaging to get people to buy it.

The following are commonly used but not necessarily healthy.

  • all natural
  • organic
  • vegan
  • gluten-free
  • dairy-free
  • fat-free (or low fat)
  • sugar-free (or low sugar)
  • GMO-free
  • low-carb
  • whole wheat
  • high protein

This is not to say that these labels have no value—some of them do, particularly if you have food allergies or sensitivities or if you recognize that food shopping is a political act. But they’re not necessarily healthy.

I will do a post about each in the coming weeks, but for now, let these labels raise a red flag for you.

Posted in exercise, food, know better do better, mental health, mindset, physical health

Diet vs. exercise: the balance

The title is bait. They don’t balance. They’re not on opposing sides.

Exercise is not punishment for eating.

What you eat fuels you, affects your hormone balance and contributes to the maintenance and eventual regeneration of most cells. (Not all cells regenerate, and almost all body functions are controlled by hormones.)

I know a growing number of people who changed their diets (just to “healthier”—nothing extreme) and were shocked at how much more energy they had.

Yup. And it seems that until you do it, you don’t believe it, but the sugar, the highly-processed carbs, the alcohol, the fried and deep-fried—as a regular diet, they all have tangible negative effects on your body, in addition to the long-term ramifications.

Exercise stresses bones and muscles, which is a good thing! It helps them to become and stay strong. It maintains or improves cardiovascular health. It sometimes increases flexibility and/or balance (which are both important). It has profound impact on our brains, in terms of mood, of mental health, and of mental acuity. (We have better moods, better mental health, learn better, work better when we exercise regularly.)

So diet does things that exercise doesn’t, and exercise does things that diet doesn’t. Both are important.

Exercise can’t counteract all of the things that happen in our bodies when we eat a lot of junk.

Eat well. Exercise daily. You need them both.

Posted in about me, food, mindset

Food adjectives

We need to change some of our language surrounding food.

I do my best not to use the words “good” and “bad” when talking about food. Except when something doesn’t pass the sniff test. Then it’s bad.

“Good” could describe tastiness, it could describe healthiness, it could describe virtuousness.

We’ve made some unfortunate connections between those three things.

If it’s healthy, it’s not tasty, but it’s virtuous. If it’s tasty, it’s unhealthy and transgressive, unless it’s a reward, then it’s not transgressive…unless it’s too big a reward—then it’s transgressive again.

You know those things don’t inherently connect like that, right?

Let’s quickly pick apart those three things.


You like how it tastes or you don’t. (Or sort of do, or like it in small quantities, then that’s enough, or wherever it lands on the yummy continuum.) This is completely subjective.


It provides nutrients, vitamins, minerals, water that are necessary for optimal body functioning without providing too much (or any) of other substances that are unnecessary and/or toxic.

There is some variation in this because people have different sensitivities and allergies to foods, but there are some basic things that all bodies need.


This is a cultural thing and is completely tied to the first two, but only because we tied them together.

Because the virtue is tied in, when we want to rebel, we can eat a bunch of food that makes us feel physically sick but emotionally satisfied. We can do that often enough that we don’t feel physically sick any more when we do it, but the emotional ties are still there.

Because of all of this, and because of the additional boatloads of baggage emotionally connected to food, I do my best to be specific.

“This food is tasty.”

“I’d like to find something healthy.”

And I do my best to take the virtue out.

What I eat either moves me towards my goals or it doesn’t. Or it doesn’t but I’ve made a decision to let that go for whatever reason.

There’s no use in eating something and feeling guilty about it. Either eat it and enjoy it, or don’t eat it. But that’s starting a new thread for another day…

Posted in food, mindset, parenting

The smallest changes

My post about my son’s sweets-free birthday party yielded a lot of questions. I’ll field them in this and future posts. If you haven’t yet, or if you need a refresher, please see my disclaimer post before proceeding.

Before I was a parent, I was sure that “he only eats mac and cheese and chicken nuggets” was avoidable.

Now that I am a parent, I can say that the pickiness may or may not be avoidable (I didn’t avoid it, but I’m not sure that means it’s impossible), but the target food is not a given.

This is what we did.

First, as a little shout-out, baby-led weaning is amazing and I highly recommend it for so so many reasons. Maybe I’ll write a post about it one day.

Anyway, once the boy started eating solid food, he ate lots and lots of produce: apple, avocado, banana, sweet potato, watermelon. For a while, he would request onions (pronounced “om-yoms”) (for the record, they were fried onions, not raw). He’d eat beans. (He loved plain chickpeas for a long time.) Hummus. Occasionally cheese. Plain, full-fat yogurt. We offered very few processed carbs—no cookies, crackers, bread. Occasional noodles. Rarely cereal. He was almost 18 months before he had anything sweetened.

As he became able to eat more things, more veggies and fruits were part of the rotation, and we added nuts.

When he wanted a snack, he’d ask for a clementine or grapes or cherry tomatoes.

When he started preschool, they had two snack times during the day, and snacks were provided. They often had fruit or sometimes string cheese. They also had graham crackers, animal crackers, granola bars, Go-Gurt.

We had no food changes at home.

Within the first three months of school, he stopped asking for fruit at home. Instead, he asked for crackers or cookies (which were not available). When we went shopping, he asked for pink yogurt.

So we started packing snacks. He would take fruit or applesauce. He rarely complained. He ate his snacks. And his eating at home returned to normal.

That one small change—having processed carb snacks a few days a week at school—derailed his eating habits.

Because processed carbs are delicious.

He’s seven now and will still eat fruit voraciously. Grapes, strawberries, blueberries are often his favorites. He takes an apple or some clementines for school snack every day. We make popsicles with a banana base and some other added fruit(s), and he’ll eat them for breakfast, for snacks, for dessert. (He understands why in this context, popsicles are OK to eat for breakfast.)

Veggies he does pretty well with, though not as well as when he was younger. He likes peas, carrots, tomatoes, chard, broccoli sometimes, onions in certain contexts, cabbage sometimes, green beans but only in Ethiopian food (kids are weird). He has a salad most nights with dinner with balsamic dressing.

We’ll see where it goes, but we know that too much processed food yields desire for more processed food, and we keep it to a minimum. It’s not banned. It’s not even labeled as negative. It’s just not food we keep in the house, typically, so it’s not what we eat on a regular basis. We have conversations about why.

Also, he helps prepare food (which makes him more inclined to at least try it). He’s involved in meal planning and food shopping. We have a garden that he helps tend. All of these things contribute to his appreciation of fruits and veggies.

And on we go.

Posted in food, gifts, mindset, parenting

A sweets-free birthday party

My son turned 7 last week, was able to take a birthday snack to school, and had a party with some of his friends over the weekend.

For school, he took what he was calling “fruit cupcakes.” Grapes, strawberries, and apple slices in paper cups. I believe he called them cupcakes because we were going to put the fruit in muffin tins, but I realized that passing out fruit in cupcake wrappers would be much harder than just putting it in small paper cups.

I asked him, his dad (who was there for birthday snack), and his teacher how the other kids liked his birthday snack. All of them said the same thing: most of the kids liked it.

“Almost all of the kids loved having the fruit. Some even asked for more! I think one student said ‘no thank you’ and two others picked out something they didn’t care for.”

This is the fourth year he’s been given the opportunity to choose what he wanted to serve to eat at his party.

I wrote down what he asked for the first year (his third birthday): peanut butter on pita bread, apple chips, cherry tomatoes, raspberries, coconut chips. So that’s what we served.

I know the next two years, we had customized cookies but otherwise no sweets.

This year, he asked for watermelon cake*. There were also grapes, apple chips**, pretzel sticks, and, because we had a giant Costco bag only partially eaten, popcorn. We made popsicles (bananas and blueberries) but forgot to serve them. We had water to drink.

First: serving water was easy. We had activities in the yard planned, starting with an obstacle course, and it turned out to be in the high 80s that afternoon. Water was necessary.

The kids ate without saying anything one way or the other about what was served. Ate, talked, joked, like kids do at kid birthday parties.

I asked parents later if their kids had said anything—positive or negative—because I was writing a blog post about it and wanted it to be as accurate as possible. One said that her daughter loved the watermelon cake. Everyone else said they didn’t say anything.

One of the activities he really wanted was a piñata. Easy enough.

For holidays where he gets a lot of candy (Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter), he keeps a piece or two and trades the rest in for a toy. I didn’t think it would be right to have him trade in his birthday candy, so instead, we stuffed the piñata with LEGO. We bought a couple of boxes of just pieces, and when the piñata broke, kids could grab pieces and start to build. They took home with them whatever they built. It was a big hit!

His birthday party had no added sugar.

He was happy. Other kids were happy.

For his birthday proper, he chose to have pizza and cupcakes, so we had pizza and cupcakes that evening.

For his parties, I’ve had a couple of parents say thank you, and tell me that their kids don’t go to many parties because it’s all junk food and they don’t want their kids eating that much of it. (This is not the majority, for sure, but it’s more than one.)

I’ve had other people (who were not actually involved in any of these events, just knew about them) tell me that I’m depriving my son of his childhood.

Seriously? Childhood is comprised only of out-of-control junk food eating? Methinks maybe some people were projecting. Or defensive. Or both.

It’s possible to celebrate and be happy and have fun without loading up on junk. And, as a result, teach our kids that they can celebrate and be happy and have fun without loading up on junk. Or maybe learn it from them.

Why not?


*I used glasses with different mouth sizes to cut the circles. For the little pieces around the edges, I have a set of tiny cookie cutters.

**With a mandolin and a dehydrator, apple chips are easy to make, and they’re so tasty! We just slice them thin (don’t bother coring or seeding–most of the seeds fall out anyway) and dry for 8 hours. No additions necessary.