- This was printed in July of 2013 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the eighth installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.
“What do you eat?” and “Are you on a diet?” are questions I often get when non-running
friends see my new training-for-a-marathon body.
I always say no, I’m not on a diet, because when I hear the word “diet” I think of weight
loss pills, shakes, cleanses, no-carb, low-fat shenanigans. My diet, in its true definition of
what I consume on a daily basis, is just healthy fuel for my body — and some treats to
keep my mind and soul happy.
My running friends and I, who may burn more than 1,000 calories during an average run,
joke, “That’s the benefit of being a distance runner, we can order the appetizer and the
entrée — and the dessert.”
I’m not a dietician or nutritionist, but I know how to eat healthfully — it’s all about
changing your mindset about food. Food is fuel for your body – you can’t put crappy fuel
into it and expect it to perform well.
Over the years I’ve “outlawed” some foods and beverages because there is just no reason
to put them in my body, or my kids’ bodies. Soda is one of the outlaws. In the same way
that most non-smokers look at a cigarette and associate it with cancer, I look at a soda
and think “diabetes.” I look at diet soda and think “cancer.” I look at Kool-Aid and think
“diabetes” and “artificial.”
Those word associations are powerful. I’m not going to pop open a can of cola, hand it
over to my 3-year-old, and say, “Here, drink some diabetes.”
My daughter saw an advertisement for watermelon flavored Kool-Aid in a magazine I
was reading and thought it looked yummy. I told her I’d make her some, and I puréed
some watermelon with water and served it to her. It was more delicious and more
nutritious than any mixture of artificial flavoring, artificial color, and sugar.
It’s that easy to make healthier choices and put better fuel into your body.
Cheetos and other artificial processed snacks with too much sodium, too many artificial
colors and flavors, and too many ingredients that I can’t pronounce are also outlawed at
Instead we snack on fruits and vegetables, whole grain crackers, and cheese. We dip them
in yogurt dressings and hummus.
My family’s dinner plates probably look different that many other family’s plates — they
are heaped with fruits and vegetables.
We eat a leafy green salad with various healthy toppings – albeit not-so-healthy dressings
– at least five nights a week. Sometimes I change it up with a fruit salad. Those salads
take up half of the plate. A quarter of the plate contains some sort of protein, usually fish
or chicken but sometimes other meats or beans. The last quarter of the plate holds a
starch, usually rice or pasta. I buy as many whole wheat and whole grain products as I
(If I’m “carbing-up” for a race or long run, I add an extra serving of rice or pasta or bread
to my plate.)
Sure, we’ll eat a nice juicy burger with a side of fries dipped in ranch. But that burger
patty will contain beef along with finely chopped carrots and celery, and it’ll sit atop a
whole-wheat bun, loaded with mushrooms, onions, lettuce, tomato, and avocado. The
“fries” are baked. The ranch dressing, well, it’s good for the soul. And right next to that
burger will be a huge romaine salad. Nutritious and delicious!
That being said, I’m not going to deny a craving. If I want some spicy boneless buffalo
chicken wings, I’m going to have them. Ice cream? Sure. And I’ve never, ever said ‘no’
to a brownie. I don’t worry about those treats because I’m a runner, I’ll burn them off
Even if you’re not a runner, I hope this column inspires a few – or even just one – healthy
dietary change in your life. Say ‘no’ to soda. Add a salad to your dinner. Try it every day
for one week and see how different your body feels.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Jazlyn’s favorite show, Dora the Explorer:
“The better you eat, the better you feel. It’s better to eat a healthy meal.”