Why “Eating Clean” Makes Me Angry

Eat clean, get leanYou might have noticed that I enjoy motivational fitness sayings. I post ones that really strike a chord with me here on the blog. I’ve noticed something though – if you look at fitness motivation often enough there is a phrase that pops up over and over: Eat Clean.

I get the idea. I understand that the fitness community is trying to find something motivational that works for everyone regardless of their diets. “Eat Clean” can cover Paleo, Atkins, Vegetarian, Vegan or whatever your plan is. Basically, eat the foods that fit your plan and stay away from those that don’t. In particular, of course, things like lean protein and vegetables seem to fit under “Eating Clean” and sugar, caffeine and white flour usually don’t. I also understand that there has been a lot of baggage tacked onto words like: “Healthy”, “Fit”, and most especially, “Good.” All of that totally makes sense to me.

I eat cleanSo, a few weeks back, I tried my own experiment with eating clean. My boyfriend Julian and I had gone up to my cabin. One of the things I love to do up there is try new recipes, as I typically have more time to play and experiment in the kitchen, (which is one of the many reasons I love being at the cabin.) Two of the recipes I wanted to try were for salads. One was for these: Avocado Egg Salad Lettuce Wraps and another was for a Thai Salad. I don’t have a link to the recipe, but here is one to the dressing.

Anyway… the salads were terrific and when we came home, I had a lot of leftovers, plus a whole refrigerator full of other fresh veggies. I decided to try eating clean for a week. It was both an experiment in changing my diet and a practical way to make sure all the delicious produce got eaten and didn’t go to waste. I thought I might try eating Vegetarian for a week.

Eat CleanBut then the words “eat clean” started getting in my brain. I decided that I would also give up dairy. I eat a lot of Vegan meals – why not a week of them? It wasn’t long before I also decided to give up caffeine, alcohol and sugar. It sounds extreme, but these aren’t things I have every day. Oh, I usually have a cup of coffee, but I am just as likely to have herbal tea instead. As for alcohol, I have a glass of wine or port occasionally, but it is easy enough for me to skip. Chocolate, which hits a couple of these categories, is another “couple of times a week” thing, but again, not essential. The tough one was dairy. I am fond of cheese as a midday protein snack, so I knew that would be a little bit of a struggle.

I’m telling you this not to brag, but rather to explain why I thought “eating clean” for a week would be a snap. I decided not to exclude eggs so I could still get that protein for breakfast, plus I had a whole fridge full of awesome food that I loved. My goal was simply to make sure I ate it all, and stayed away from some of the other things just for seven days. I mean, how hard could that be, right?

I lasted one day. And at the end of that day I was an angry, angry woman.

eat-cleanThe problem was that phrase, “Eat Clean.” I’m a person who likes rules. If I was going to do this, I needed to know what those rules meant to me. What about those eggs? I usually have locally raised organic eggs in the house, but it just so happened I had used those all up in the egg salad and now just had some plain old grocery store eggs. Were those clean? What about egg yolks? Should I do just the whites? What about my herbal tea? Could I use a name brand tea, or did I have to have the local peppermint tea? I like the peppermint, but is that the only one I could have? I said no sugar, but what about organic agave nectar or local honey?

how to eat cleanThen there was lunch. I realized my Thai salad dressing had sugar in it. It also had fish sauce. Is fish sauce clean? I didn’t have any more bacon for the avocado salad, and that was okay, but wait… should I eat eggs at two meals? Also, what about La Croix? At work our office fridge is stocked with it, and I enjoy a sparkling water at lunch. It doesn’t have the things I was avoiding, but was is clean?

This just kept happening over and over and over. I know the intent of the phrase is not to make people paranoid, but that is exactly what was happening to me. As the day progressed I went from confused, to frustrated, to grumpy to downright pissed off.

After eating my dinner in a huff, wondering how clean it was, a simple thought popped into my brain: I didn’t lose weight by limiting the kinds of foods I ate… so why in the world I am I doing it now? In fact, I know that one of the big reasons I was able to lose weight at all was because the only thing I limited was calories – not the type of food I ate. If I start putting arbitrary rules on myself, it isn’t long before my inner rebel comes out and goes crazy with demands and cravings… which was exactly what was happening.

Once that hit me, I walked back into the kitchen and poured myself a glass of port and grabbed a bit of dark chocolate. It was delicious. The anger disappeared like magic.

The next day a coworker, (who had no idea about my “eat clean” experiment,) placed an entire bag of York Peppermint mini patties and one full-sized patty on my desk. They are one of my absolute favorites. I assume she did want to work next to Grumpy McGrumpPants anymore.

I think that eating clean can work for a lot of people. I also think most people can just use the phrase as a simple shorthand reminder to eat well and not eat stuff that makes them feel bad. They don’t get as tied up in knots about it as I do.

As for me, over the past couple of weeks I have been trying a few different dietary things. I’ll write about them soon, but what I’ve found is that if I am going to be successful, I have to be myself. Manageable changes that aren’t too restrictive are fine, but I can’t try to live by impossible rules, even for a day.




My Two Journals

I have a confession. This isn’t my only journal. I have another.

My other journal.

My other journal. Not pictured: my coffee cup, which is usually nearby.

Back in April, Julian told me about a weight loss journal he had seen at the bookstore and was coveting. It was pretty cool, so we went out one night and picked it up. While we were at the store, a little blank white journal with birds on the cover caught my eye. I like birds, so I picked it up for myself.

I wasn’t sure what I would do with it at the time. I just love journals and I thought I would find a use for it. What I’ve been doing is writing in it almost every weekday morning. (Weekends are a bit hit or miss depending on what I have going on.) I write two pages. On the front I write about what’s going is going on with my health and fitness goals, and I break the back page up into categories: Weight, Food, Exercise, and Good Things I Did For Myself. I just recently added one more category: Sleep.

To anyone else, it would make seriously boring reading. I typically write while having my morning coffee; totally free form and stream of consciousness. Sentences are wonky and every page is full of grammatical and spelling errors – not because I don’t know how to write without spellcheck, but because I just don’t want to take the time. (“Training”, for example, is almost always spelled “traing,” because I don’t have time for the other “in”!) The goal here isn’t to have tome filled with brilliant thoughts to pass on to future generations to read, but instead to just get junk out of my head and onto a page.

The categories on the back pages help me track what’s going on. Writing them down helps keep me more accountable. Weight usually is just a number with a few words, like “where I want to be.” Exercise is where I jot down what I am working on. It isn’t detailed like a training log, it’s just the basics. Food is also just a few sentences – kind of a tally on how I am eating and how I am feeling about it. Good Things I Did For Myself is where I make a short bulleted list of good things that happened the day before. It could be related to fitness, or might be dinner with a girlfriend or sitting and reading a good book. It’s my little way of reminding myself to take care of my heart and mind, as well as my body. The most recent category, Sleep, just got added so I keep an eye on how I am feeling in comparison to the amount of sleep I get. I’ve been short on this one lately and it has been wearing me out. By adding it to my journal I am hoping to focus a little more on making sure I am getting the rest I need.

The difference between it and this blog is that I don’t care how repetitive I am, or how boring, or even how whiney I am in my little white book. Here I try to put ideas and discoveries – big things I am working on. My handwritten journal is for the minutia.

I do think it helps having it though. The accountability I mentioned is part of it, and also having a safe place to vent makes a difference. I started it almost by accident, but I’m really glad I did.



Dog Injuries and Walks Curtailed

My dog is injured.Dog Leash by Nicholas Hollows

Last Wednesday I awoke in the middle of the night to find my dog in distress. When I turned on the light he lept into my arms, crying and whimpering. Now, my dog is not allowed on the bed, he doesn’t vocalize and he certainly doesn’t cuddle. I knew there was something really, really wrong. It turned out to be a long light.

In the morning, after trip to the vet for x-rays and an exam, it turned out that he has a bulging disc. The prescription, for now, is ani-inflammatory meds, a pain killer and crate rest. No walks, no playing and no stairs for seven days. I’m incredibly grateful that Hermes didn’t have to have emergency surgery (something that felt like a very real possibility at 4:00 AM when he was panting and shaking so hard the bed moved,) but crate rest has been hard on both of us. Walking is what we do.

I can walk alone, of course. I got a solo walk in on Friday morning and another one this morning, (the weekend ended up being so busy I didn’t have time to workout at all,) but I really miss walking with my pooch. I feel safer with him along and, in general, it is just more fun checking out the city with my little pal. I will say that I can walk a lot faster without him (I sniff a lot less trees,) but I find myself less inclined to go out at all. That’s actually really bad, because walking really helps my stress levels, and those have been a bit rocky as of late.

He seems to be doing better. Everyday he gets a little bit more like himself. His ears are perking up again and he is starting to wag his tail more. He’s actually sniffing around again when I take him out in the yard – the night it happened, he just sat in the driveway and leaned against me. My little hound never gives up a chance to sniff around! Theoretically, his crate rest restrictions end Thursday, but I will still want to take it easy with him. There are worst case scenarios with this, and it involves paralyzation, so we’ll be easing into our routines again slowly.

I can’t wait to have my buddy back at full strength again.


Photo by: Nicholas Hollows


The Recap

Horizon Blue Skies by Andre EleazerSorry I have been a bit MIA as of late. Last week I was traveling for work, and while on the road, I received some news that broke my heart. Being out-of-town and getting bad news is a special kind of salt in the wound. I grant you, there probably wasn’t a dang thing I could have done if I was here, but being hundreds of miles away from people you love at times like that sucks. It just does.

Anyway, between travel and work waiting for me when I got back, I’ve been a bit off my game. It doesn’t mean things haven’t been going on, I just haven’t had time to write about them. I thought I would write a quick “catch up” post on a handful of things and then over the next few days fill you in on some of the bigger things I’ve been musing on while driving state to state.

Work Outs


Working out on the road brings a special set of challenges. I was lucky the hotel that my trade show was at had both a pool and a fitness center. The pool was lovely, and one glorious night, I had it to myself for over a half of an hour. I love to swim, so it was a special treat, and chlorinated water does a good job of masking tears.

Unfortunately, the fitness center sucked. It was tiny… and hot… and smelled like other people. It only had five pieces of equipment and only one of them was a treadmill. I’m not a big fan of treadmills, but they aren’t bad in a pinch. The only good thing was that it was open 24 hours, so as the other guests and I scheduled our treadmill time around each other, we could work out at 3:00am if needed. (No, I didn’t end up working out at 3:00am – but I could have!)

The fitness center did not have a weight set, however, and that was a bit disappointing. I brought my resistance bands (which are easy to throw in a suitcase) but as hard as I try, I just don’t like them as much as good old-fashioned weights.


This is where I screwed up. Instead of using the lone treadmill in the sweatbox, I should have gone for a run. I brought my shoes. The problem was that I was fooled by the geography. A lot of the convention center/hotels that I go to for trade shows are located for convenience, not sightseeing. So, most of them are right off the expressway and usually located in an area that isn’t pedestrian friendly. Sure enough, this one looked like it was the same way – on a busy street right at the intersection of a couple of expressways. What I didn’t realize until the last day (when I took a client to dinner,) was that a short hop over was a beautiful area for walking or running! I’ve decided that next time I am in a new area I am going to do some pre-scouting on Google maps followed up by chatting with the locals. In this case, either of those two things would have done the trick.

On the upside, back in my hometown I did find a new park to run in before I left. That is to say, it isn’t a “new” park, just a new one to me. We’ll call this one Big River Park.  Big River is a great place to run! I had been there before a couple times before for various functions, but never walked the length of it. It has wide trails that are long and is perfect for running. It’s away from traffic and well shaded, two other features that I liked. I’ve run there twice recently, and I will be back again.

Other Fitness-y Kind of Stuff

Sunday I was lucky enough to be able to sneak away for a day and head up to my cabin. I went up with one thing on my mind – getting out the kayak. It was a breezy day, making it a bit more of a work out than either of the other times I have had it out, but still marvelous! I got to see a little water snake and some fish on their beds. I love that.

I’ve also started on my boxing DVD, but that will be a post of its own. All I have to say for right now is that it is so. much. fun! I actually find myself hoping I can get home a little early tonight so I can keep at it. How great is that?


Photo credit: Andre Eleazer

A Right Hook

Pin Glove Boxing by TracyThe other day I bought a Women’s Boxing DVD.

I won’t say which one because this isn’t a review and I haven’t had time to really get into it yet. This is more about why I wanted to buy a boxing DVD in the first place. It’s simple really, I want to learn how to box.

I’ve always enjoyed watching boxing matches – particularly during the Olympics. This tends to surprise people who know me, but nonetheless, I have always admired the sport. My admiration, however, never really slipped into ambition for myself. Well okay, when I saw “Million Dollar Baby” I might have had a few thoughts along that line, but who didn’t?

Lately, as I have been thinking about working out and practical ways to build my muscles, I started thinking about boxing. The truth is, when I am thinking about it, I’m not thinking about getting in the ring and actually duking it out with some other gal, what I am thinking about is learning how to hit.

I just really want to know how to throw a punch. Is that strange? I’m not a fighter, I’m basically a pacifist. I freeze at the site of danger. I hate conflict – even seeing other people in an argument makes me very, very uncomfortable. But wanting to throw a punch isn’t about me wanting to “knock someone’s lights out” it’s more about just wanting to know how it’s done. I want to learn the technique.

I could be wrong, but I feel like men are given lessons as they grow up on how to fight. Sooner or later most boys get into some kind of scrap, or even if they don’t, I feel like they talk about it a lot. The girls I grew up with weren’t like that. Oh, I knew a couple of gals who fought, but it wasn’t like I learned anything about fighting from them. I’ve never taken a kickboxing or self-defense class, and I admit, I am curious.

Now, I know this is just a workout DVD. It isn’t like it came with a heavy bag. I expect from what I have seen of it so far, it will be similar to taking a kick class – but without the one-on-one coaching. But still… it’s a start – a fun one! And who knows, in the fall (when my schedule lightens up) perhaps I will take the next step and take a class or two. Julien asked me if I would consider taking a martial arts course. I also know a former MMA fighter who now coaches who might be open to some training sessions.

Nothing is set in stone so far. For now, I am going to enjoy my DVD and see what it feels like. It’s all part of being open to trying new and fun things!


Photo credit: Tracy

Then, Now and the Future

Joy changes the landscape. My old life began to loosen around me like somebody else’s shell. I felt naked, exposed. I had flashes of ecstasy, but pain was more available to me. And not just physical pain either. I was swept with waves of remorse. And alarmingly, I also felt the stirrings of ambition.

– Benjamin Cheever, Strides (Holtzbrinck Publishers, 2007)

Another quote from Strides that got me. I understand this so well.

the path to the blue by Brian Smithson

My old life has loosened around me. I am no longer the woman that I was. I don’t blame her. I am not angry at her or upset about the woman I was, though I admit to feeling some remorse. How would my life have been different if I had addressed my weight earlier? I will never actually know, of course, but I am sure that having more energy, feeling more confident and more likely to take risks would have changed things for me, but (fortunately) there are no rear-view crystal balls. Life is what it is. I am at the place I am at today because things lined up for me. I had the right motivation (my mother’s health) and the right tools (I couldn’t have done it without the My Fitness Pal app) and I had a wonderful support network. I also had the time. I’ve read that the human mind can only focus on a few things at once. I started this at a point where I had the capacity to do it – not everyone has that luxury.

I am also feeling the stirrings of ambition. It is not enough to have hit my secret magic weight goal. Now I want to stop concentrating on keeping the numbers on the scale going down, and instead concentrate on the numbers on my barbells going up. I want to see the numbers on my running app go up in length and my speed get faster. It’s a whole new set of numbers!

I am focusing on being able to do the things I want to do – I want a practical body. By that I mean I want strong arms and shoulders to I can carry things and rock out in the kayak. I want to keep running so I build my stamina and endurance. I’ve been an asthmatic all my life, and for the first time, I can really exercise without being out of breath. I want to build on it. I want to run around and play with my nieces and my dog, and not feel like they are going to wear me out in just a few minutes!

So there you have it – that’s my goal: keep the weight I have lost off for a year and build up my strength and endurance. That seems pretty simple.

Photo credit: Brian Smithson

A Good Reminder

A Short Workout

I’ve posted this before, but I love this so much. I swear I need to write it in Sharpie on my arm so I will constantly see it. I know I am guilty of the “not enough time” syndrome. It is true, sometimes I don’t have a lot of extra time… but not having a lot of time, doesn’t mean I don’t have any time.

Here are a few things I am trying:

  • More “Real Life” exercise. I am trying to lift more and move more in my day-to-day life. I am trying to carry heavy things when I can – like carrying a basket rather than pushing a cart at the grocery store. I’m doing quick runs up and down my stairs to the second floor, a good workout which really only takes a few minutes. I am going for extra walks on my lunch hour when I can, which has the added benefit of getting me out of the office. I’m trying to find small, but valuable workouts that I can do – even when I am really busy.
  • Scheduling time. I am putting time to run and lift weights on my calendar. No more “when I have time” – I am making time!
  • Doing more challenges. I am in the middle of two challenges: Burpees and Squats. Having concrete goals helps a lot.

Every little makes a difference. When I am tired I remind myself: I work out because I love my body, not because I hate it. I can do this!