Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Failure To Prepare, Is Preparing To Fail

I remember seeing online the phrase; "Muscles are torn in the gym, fed in the kitchen, and built in bed." This analogy has stuck with me through these last few weeks especially. Like all things in life, building lean muscle requires balance; you can't expect to look your best if you are not lifting heavy in the gym, eating the right things at the right times, and getting enough rest. They work hand in hand; you cannot just change your diet, not exercise and expect abs. On the contrary, you also can't train like a beast and eat whatever you want either and expect abs. Thankfully I removed fast food from my diet about four or five years ago now and haven't looked back. I had an epiphany one day and decided to just stop eating it, about a year later; I had a strong craving for a spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy's. I went in, ordered the spicy chicken sandwich with fries, and sat in my car unwrapping the contents of the greasy bag eager for that release of the craving; but it never happened. What happened was the opposite actually; what I tasted, was not what I remembered. It didn't satisfy me to the fact that I didn't even finish the sandwich, and threw the fries out with it. In that moment I was disappointed, but at the same time ecstatic that I wasn't missing out on anything special. My palate had changed without me even realizing it, and for the better! The more you eat fast food, the more you crave it. It is a potentially addictive substance, so if you eat fast food once a week or more, you may be addicted to it. If anyone remembers the documentary Supersize Me released in 2004; about the American film writer who from February 1 to March 2, 2003, he ate only McDonald's products. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, water, salads, coffee, snacks; all had to be derived from McDonalds. Even what you would call healthy options such as salads from these chain restaurants are not what they may seem. The Garden Fresh Chicken Caesar Salad from Burger King, still has almost 500 calories, 28 grams of fat, and nearly a day’s worth of sodium. So what do I not consider fast food? The closest I get to fast food would be Panera, Chipotle, (though with their outbreaks of outbreaks I have stayed away) and Five Guys. I mention these because I don't want you to get the wrong impression; I love food, and I indulge enough for the both of us, but I rather it be worth it. When I lived in my apartment in Hamden, CT (a couple years ago now) I got very involved with cooking and experimenting. If you look back in my Instagram feed (r_elia_ble) you will notice the majority of my posts were what I cooked for dinner that evening. Being a photographer, I found new ways to present the food in an artistic and aesthetically pleasing way; I fell in love with cooking. I experimented with new recipes daily, trying not to repeat; generally though they weren't excessive in being unhealthy. This is when I really started trading out ground beef in recipes like tacos, chili, and meatloaf for ground turkey or chicken and I didn't miss the ground beef at all. Don't confuse me with a red meat hating advocate however; considering filet mignon is probably my favorite dinner choice. When it comes to things like burgers and steak, I prefer beef; otherwise I always use ground turkey or chicken as a replacement. So if you remember in my last post; while talking about Eric and Nick's fitness journey I asked the question, "How could someone eat the same thing every day?" And here I am doing practically just that. The thing is, once I made the decision to train to compete; that didn't mean half-assed, typically I throw myself fully into whatever I am doing. For me, breakfast isn't breakfast unless it contains eggs; I have never been a big pancake, waffle, or oatmeal fan but an omelette? Now we are talking. But if some of you remember; I went just about six months eating oatmeal every morning. I did this because I knew I had to; while hiking the Appalachian Trail, you expend so many calories without being able to replace them as fast. I knew if I didn't want to wither away to nothing; I had to eat two packets of instant oatmeal (most days was maple brown sugar) with one packet of vanilla Carnation breakfast, and vanilla protein powder. The same attitude pertains to eating what I do for prep; pretty much every other night my mom sits and stares at me eating my plate of salad for dinner and asks, "do you really like salad?" No, I don't at all; it's not that I hate salad, I am indifferent to it. I eat it because I know I have to, every dinner is a salad for me and I've reached the point where I don't even think about it. When 7:00-7:30pm rolls around I know that I will be making a nice big salad, throwing some protein and beans on top and calling it a night. With that being said, I want to talk about the week prior to getting my meal plan; and what that meant for my favorite indulgences. I knew I wouldn't be able to have my favorite Indian dish; chicken tikka masala, a burger from Five Guys, Doritos, a burger from Plan B, wine, Pepe's pizza, or a kielbasa dish my mother makes with pierogies so what did I do? You guessed it, I had all of them; see my photo collage below of all of my favorites! It was a nice way to kick off my next challenge of clean eating. Luckily I started after the holidays which made things a lot easier, but I still had the thoughts of I rather sleep in, stay up late, sit and watch movies all day, eat a bag of Doritos and drink a bottle of wine; but that probably was not a good idea in the long run. It's hard to remember on a cold gloomy day that I need to run 1.5 miles instead of staying inside, warm and eating sugar cookies by the handful; but "discipline is choosing between what you want now, and what you want most." So how do you make things easier on yourself when preparing to meal prep? What I usually do is pick one day usually Sunday or Monday to go shopping at Big Y, Sams Club, and sometimes Stop & Shop; usually going to Sams Club first to get anything I need in bulk before more specialized items at the grocery stores. My staples are; chicken breasts, ground turkey, ground chicken, turkey sausages, sweet potatoes, lemons, limes, egg whites, oatmeal, and vegetables (my favorites are green beans, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini noodles, onions, peppers.) The things I pick up at the grocery stores are almond butter, basil, mint, brown rice pasta, (this stuff is amazing, I no longer see the need to eat regular pasta again) organic cranberry juice, and beans (black beans, pinto, chickpeas, black eyed peas, really any kind, haven't met a bean I don't like! After the shopping trip; I spend a few hours in the kitchen with Pandora playing on my phone, baking sweet potatoes, grilling and shredding chicken, steaming up vegetables, and singing and dancing of course. I actually thoroughly enjoy the processes of meal prepping since I love cooking, I love music, and I don't have a full time job that constricts me to needing everything packaged out for the week. Some kitchen gadgets I have learned to love are defiantly my food scale it makes weighing and portioning so easy, the food processor for shredding chicken, an indoor countertop grill/panini maker, the Vegetti, spice grinder, and my Fitbit. I mostly use my Fitbit to set alarms to remind me when to eat my meals, it may sound silly; but when you are out and about having fun, you may forget what time it is. It is nice to feel a little vibration on your wrist and know it's time to eat! Even with loving the process, I have run into some challenges and cravings; I eat five times a day, at specific times. This causes me to plan my daily activities around eating; If I know that I am going to be away from home for more than a couple hours I know I have to bring meals along with me. The first time I went out to play pool while on prep, I was nervous not only to bring food in, but to ask the employees if they would mind heating up for me. Right on the entry door it stated "no outside food or drink allowed." When my Fitbit buzzed, I went out to my car and debated just eating my meal cold; but that wasn't ideal.  The individual I was with encouraged me to just ask, the worst they could say was no. So I did, and they were more than happy to heat my food up for me. This is where surrounding yourself with people who really care about you, and support what your doing makes your life a little bit easier. Now, I don't second guess loading two meals up in my 6pack mini meal bag and eating at the bowling ally, Barnes and Noble, the gas station, Panera, ice skating rink, or wherever that day takes me. Another obstacle I had to overcome was family dinners; every month we host a dinner for my whole family at my house to get together and spend time with one another outside of gathering for holidays. This meant all 22-24 of us would sit together at one table, and I wouldn't be eating what they were eating, or eating at all for that matter. Since most of the dinners take place in between my 4:00-4:30 meal and my 7:00-7:30 meal I wasn't even able to eat while they did. This didn't bother me in the slightest for the main fact that I am never hungry, I don't even know what hunger feels like anymore with how frequently I eat. If I had been starving; the smell of the garlic cheesy bread, the sight of my mom's lasagna, and the two bottles of wine my aunt brought would bother me (well the wine still bothered me nonetheless, but I opened it for them anyways!) I sat un-effected as they all ate, and then about an hour later I sat and ate my last meal while socializing and looking at old photographs. This month for family dinner I will be prepared in my own way; my mom told me how she was going to make chili and cornbread and I gave her the evil eye on the thought that I was going to miss out on chili. Back at the start of my decision to compete; I mentally made note that I would have a cheat day for Super Bowl because I love the game day food, also I would be cheating in March for my birthday; because well it's my birthday! As the weeks passed by, my investment in my commitment grew stronger; I decided I wasn't going to cheat for the Super Bowl (well not to an extreme extent.) I decided to make my own meal prep chili; measuring out the ground chicken, beans, and vegetables going in each portion, the part that I cheated was by adding a cup of organic tomato sauce to get that chili texture, and also dolloping plain Greek yogurt on top in exchange for my normal sour cream and Fritos! It was the best thing I have eaten in weeks, and I felt like I was indulging, when in reality it was still extremely healthy. I froze a portion for the end of the month, when we will be having another family dinner and I will be able to participate in the chili eating experience in my own way. Earlier in this post I may have sounded like Wonder Woman saying "I know I have to eat it so I do," but don't let that fool you and think you are a failure because you don't have that mindset. I still have the occasional cravings for red velvet cheesecake, (which I forgot to get prior to prep so it haunts me) chips or something salty and crunchy, ice cream/frozen yogurt, one night was even a Frosty from Wendy's which I can't even remember the last time I've had one of those, but I wanted one. The other craving is for variety, and just healthy food in general. My cravings are not just for sweets and junk food, but the freedom to just have a greek yogurt if I want one, or not having to weigh out my food in exact, eat some guacamole, having a glass of wine, or making a smoothie/protein shake at some time other than 8:30am. I really like trying to be as healthy as possible so after binging again after the show on some of my favorites; I see myself keeping a much more flexible meal plan throughout the week with having a cheat day to maintain a healthy physique with the balance of indulgence. I am still debating back and fourth with myself whether I will drink on my birthday; when Carmen my trainer told me no alcohol, I asked the question, "Not even tequila?! It comes from a plant." She replied, "Not a plant you will be eating." My birthday, March 31st is almost exactly two months before my show at the end of May, and I don't want the regret on stage of thinking I didn't give it my all because I wanted to have one good night drinking. The truth is sure you can choose to have a glass of wine every so often, or a shot of tequila or vodka; it's about balance right? Yes, but here is some food for thought; you can, but the girl next to you on stage didn't. How much do you want to invest yourself? I may part with the idea of drinking in exchange for something like I did on Super Bowl; my favorite kind of cake is funfetti and my mom makes it for me every year for my birthday. Instead, I may make protein pancakes with Greek yogurt mixed with vanilla protein powder and a little Nutella topped with some colored sprinkles as my "birthday cake" that way it isn't unhealthy, but it is an indulgence for the special occasion. The thought of a couple shots of tequila still isn't ruled out though. Another way I have tried to trick my mind with cooking was by finding recipes for oat and egg white pancakes, muffins, and waffles (basically they are all the same base with different executions.) I start with my normal portions of 1/3 cup of oatmeal which I pulse in the spice grinder to make it more the consistency of flour; next I add cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1/3 cup of BCAA water (I will get into this deeper in a blog post to come but basically it stands for branched-chain amino acid which are known as Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine and mine in particular is an artificial fruit punch flavor but when added to oatmeal, tea, basically anything that needs a little sweetness it makes it that much more indulgent feeling.) I usually cook this in the microwave for 20-40 seconds gradually adding portions of 3/4 cups of egg whites to thicken the "batter." Once it is of batter consistency, I either pour out pancakes, make a single large waffle, or around 3-4 muffins. Topping them all with some almond or sunflower seed butter and some coarse salt (note: the muffins I add a little baking powder to help rise.) They aren't the best things in the world, and would be much better with honey or Nutella on top; but they do the trick on Sunday morning when I feel like making something special and different. What are everyone's thoughts on my birthday should I drink or no?

Collage of indulging in my favorites before competition season started
Weighing out some shredded buffalo chicken
Before competition prep; I started prepping my meals myself throughout the day and then eating whatever my mom made for dinner to ease into the process
Hunter shopping at Sams Club chilling with egg whites, frozen veggies, and glass storage
Kitchen essentials

Turkey kielbasa prep with vegetable mix, black beans, and brown rice pasta
What my meals for the day look like (with the exception of breakfast which is not pictured, and the fact that I get a 1/4 of an avocado not the whole one!)

This ground turkey and brown rice pasta is like a healthy hamburger helper!
Never miss an opportunity to hang with a friend while your on prep! This is Jillian and I at Panera

The oats and egg white muffins

January family dinner; this month I'll use the GoPro or nice camera so I can get everyone
Quick stop to eat meal #3
New essentials
Always out on the lookout for great seasonings, this Korean BBQ is one of my FAVORITES
When the refrigerator basically looks like a game of Tetris
One of my favorite things in the world is peanut butter, but this almond butter comes close in texture and taste
The life of a meal prepper
Making my "cheat meal chili"
Super Bowl 2016
The front bowl didn't have beans and had sweet potato, the rest in the back had beans no sweet potato (different meals require different things)
The amount of lemons and limes I go through in a week...(more than pictured)

Oat and egg white waffle

Asparagus, shredded buffalo chicken, and beans

This is not a paid endorsement, but my awesome 6pack meal bag makes meals on the go so easy

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