Healthy living vs. food blogging
Food blogging is hazardous in its own unique way. If you have spent any time at all on this website, you have probably realized that I like to eat. A LOT. I also brew beer to subsidize my beer-drinking hobby. I live in Wisconsin, after all, where the official pastime IS drinking beer (diluted with cheese curds and bratwurst, of course).
So…how do Phil and I do all of that and stay (relatively) thin? If you got a load of the picture above, you probably know where this is going. Some combination of crazy exercise regime and rabbit food, right? Stay with me!
Lowering calorie intake
The first big part of that equation is keeping our calorie intake fairly low. I try to cook really tasty food without using a ton of butter or other fat. Don’t get me wrong: fat has its place—there are instances in which taking out the fat has a huge (negative) impact on flavor but only minimal health benefit. In these cases, I choose to leave the fat in and simply eat a smaller portion—OR work out harder.
Next, I make one meal per week that does not have any meat. This might be commonplace in your family (OR, you might be vegetarian altogether!), but the Franks are staunch meat-and-potatoes folk. For this reason, I don’t TELL Phil what I have in mind for dinner on meatless nights (or even mention that meatless nights are a thing).
Unfortunately, he almost always asks. The conversation will go something like this:
- Phil: “What’s for dinner?”
- Me [shooting a sidelong glance]: “Curry.”
- Phil: “What KIND of curry?”
- Me: “Red.”
- Phil: “What’s in it?”
- Me [bracing]: “Lots of vegetables.”
- Phil: “But what’s in it for PROTEIN?”
- Me: “Chickpeas.”
- Phil: “But wouldn’t it be better with some MEAT?”
- Me [babbling]: “Yes, but I’m trying to cut calories out of our diet, so I’m trying to cook without meat ONE night per week.”
- [Oops. The cat’s out of the bag.]
I also try to make sure that we all eat enough veggies: this is a constant struggle in the Frank family, and is always accompanied by much eye-rolling and negotiating. A do-it-yourself salad bar is—so far—the best veggie delivery method that I have found (more on that adventure here). Growing up, my mom would simply hide the objectionable food substance in cheese. Unfortunately, I’ve tried this strategy with our kids only to discover that the youngest doesn’t LIKE cheese. (Except when it’s MAC & CHEESE, so—it’s complicated.)
Balancing healthy food with the occasional naughty indulgence
I cook healthy meals during the week, and then we have naughtier food on the weekend. Lately, we've been on a comfort food kick, with grilled cheese sandwiches, patty melts, and mac & cheese. These are treats that we look forward to—like a reward for working hard and being good during the week.
Yes, having an exercise regime IS important
The other half of the equation is exercise.
Phil and I try to work out in some fashion for a minimum of 30 minutes every day. This goal may seem ambitious, but it ensures that if we fall short by a day or even 2, we're still exceeding recommendations (the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week: that works out to 30 minutes, 5x per week). We try to mix up high-impact, low-impact, and strength training. A typical workout could involve walking, working out with resistance bands, running, or any combination of these.
When there’s ice outside (like right now), I stay inside. My favorite indoor workout involves 30 minutes to an hour on the running machine while I watch cooking shows or a movie. During the warmer months, I take my runs outdoors. I like to make things interesting by challenging myself to run one or two races each year. So far I’m up to 10K, but I’d like to train for a half marathon. I can’t imagine doing a full marathon, but—who knows?
A few years ago, I was going through some major life events at the time and wanted to turn over a new leaf. Since part of this new chapter involved diving headlong into hard-core home cooking, the other side of the coin was to get fit so that I could enjoy the food I was making—without packing the consequences onto my butt. So I started running. Seems simple, right? Just put on your shoes and go? Nope...turns out that you have to learn the proper technique or risk hurting yourself or burning out. So, I completed the couch-to-5K program, which baby steps you through the basics of running, gradually building up your endurance until you can go 3.12 miles without stopping.
My first 5K was in October of 2012. I am NOT a fast runner, so I compete against myself in these races by always pushing for my best time. But it does give me something to shoot for—not to mention that the race itself is always an adrenaline rush. I've also become addicted to bling, like the pirate medal in the picture above. ARRRGH!
I don’t always feel like running, though. Sometimes my knees or ankles complain, so I’ll go for a long walk in the nearby conservancy—maybe even traipse off into the woods in search of morels (I’ve found ONE). The important part is to identify what kind of exercise works best for you, and then DO it. Consistently. Even if it's just taking a walk every night after dinner. Maybe getting in the habit of taking parking spaces that are further away than you'd normally park...or taking the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator. Your body will thank you.
Changing your mindset about exercise
I try not to think of working out as a punishment. “I ate all of that really-fattening-thing, so I’d better run for an hour.” NO. For me, that's the wrong mindset. Instead, I look forward to eating really-fattening-thing(s) as a REWARD for a good week of working out. With this in mind, I work out extra hard.
Other motivators help too, like fitbits to monitor your steps (beat yesterday's count!), workout buddies to build in some accountability, maybe even a trip after several good months of healthy living.
This is the first year that Phil and I can remember coming out of our usual holiday hedonism without having put on a few extra pounds. We credit it to our new healthy living policy of eating healthy on weekdays and staying active.
After all, I find that naughty food is always SO much more enjoyable when I’ve earned it.