Dietary Quality in 2016

Hold on. Put down those buttery-rich crackers! Wait a sec on that savory mac & cheese! Look away from the triple layer cake! Before you taste any of those things, eat some broccoli, some whole wheat toast, some whole milk yogurt, some berries, some clementines, some soup with baby kale and lentils. Good. Now, are you still hungry? The cake is all yours.. IF YOU CAN FIT IT IN!

I'm practicing this basic method of "crowding out," a term I learned from an herbalist that means I'm consuming so many healthy things that I really don't have time or room for other stuff. Except I always manage to fit in wine somehow.

In my last post, about plans for 2016, I mentioned wanting to work on my nutrition because it was kind of crap. I've done a lot of "healthy" diet programs over the years, including vegetarian, macrobiotic, gluten free, and paleo. Recently I started reading a new book: "Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance," by Matt Fitzgerald, and I'm completely taken with his explanation of eating for dietary quality. The whole idea, and I've heard this elsewhere, is to choose nutrient-dense foods whenever possible. I even found an app ($1.99) that I use to track my "Dietary Quality Score" every day. I love it! Rather than depriving myself of anything, or NEVER eating certain foods, I can choose to eat whatever I want--knowing that some foods will add to my score and some foods will subtract from it.

  • Eating vegetables will add to the DQS for the first 4 servings. Then they count for 0 (but don't reduce points). Fruits are similar.
  • Nuts & seeds add to your score up to a point, then you start losing points with subsequent servings. Same goes for whole grains, dairy (preferably whole), and high-quality meat and seafood.
  • In terms of alcohol, you get one point for the first drink, then lose 2 points for every drink thereafter.
  • Foods that will always lose points: refined grains, sweets, processed meats, fried foods.

For more info, please read the book! I have been tracking my DQS for about 6 weeks. First I did 4 weeks of trying to eat pretty well but not really having a goal other than trying it on. The last two weeks I've been trying to hit a certain score, so being a little stricter.

So how's it working? I've noticed a few effects:
  • I love vegetables! On many days I'll eat enough vegetables to scoop up all the possible points, then go on into zero-point territory. Making vegetables "pay" in terms of points is all I need to go veggie-heavy.
  • Fruits are harder. I make myself eat one piece of fruit a day, but it's not really my thing. Too fruity.
  • Whole grains and dairy are fairly easy. Matt Fitzgerald says there are so many whole grain versions of things available there is really no excuse for eating refined versions. And it's true! Did you know one can get whole wheat BREAD? And also PASTA that's whole wheat? Plus brown rice, whole wheat pitas, whole wheat English muffins, sprouted wraps, quinoa--it's really incredible what one can do with whole grains these days.
  • Meat & seafood is also a bit hard for me. I probably get most of my protein from beans or other plant-sources, as I've taught myself to work around meat or to treat it like a side dish and only have a little.
  • Best side effect so far—I've lost that gnawing incomplete feeling that I used to get, whether or not I'd just eaten something. Now that it's gone I theorize that deep down, my body has been starving for more nourishing foods. Even though I tried to fill that void with cheese and crackers and beer, those choices were not really feeding my body. I feel better now, more solidly fed, more solid in general.
Here are some favorite foods from this experiment so far:

Amy's Soup for lunch, which I doctor up with at least two servings of veggies (baby kale, chopped green beans, sliced carrots, sliced zucchini, sliced mushrooms, frozen carrot-corn-peas, canned beans) and sometimes some leftover brown rice or pieces of chicken. I never knew that an inspid watery can of soup could become a thick, rich, stew-ish medley that makes my tummy truly full and happy. Sorry about the "watery" thing Amy's--I do love your soups.

Pizza made with Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain wrap, tomato sauce, cheese, spinach, kalamata olives, feta

Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted English muffins toasted and topped with 2 scrambled eggs and a dab of butter

At a restaurant: grilled wild salmon over mixed salad--this is at least 6 points on one plate. (Try to ignore my partner's fried clams & tartar sauce.)

Whole grain rice cake with peanut butter or almond butter

Whole milk yogurt with mixed berries

Hummus with carrots and celery


Smoothie with frozen berry/kale mix, whey powder, whole milk yogurt, whole milk, and fresh ginger

Whole wheat pita with Moroccan spiced hummus, sweet potato, sprouts, tomato

Quinoa bowl with baked chicken breast, steamed broccoli, toasted pumpkin seeds, pomegranate, and candied pecans (Christmas gift--deduct for "sweets")

VT Dinners frozen meals include chicken enchilada (with corn tortilla), vegetable curry (with brown rice), and shepherd's pie (beef, potato, corn, vegetables)

Matt Fitzgerald also has co-authored the Racing Weight Cookbook, with a nice recipe for Thai Green Curry with Shrimp. Here are some of the ingredients:

A few days later I used the curry leftovers to bulk up a can of Amy's Thai Coconut soup, so good.

Grocery shopping is a fresh experience, as I embrace the produce section rather than avoiding it:

Even my birthday dinner, consisting of tenderloin, rapini, and a cauliflower gratin, was bursting with QUALITY.

How is your 2016 going so far? Did you know this about adding stuff to a regular can of soup?

Running Recap 2015, Goals 2016

Yesterday I went for my last run of 2015. Today I went for my first run of 2016. Just a mile each, but I love the successive feelings of culmination and new beginnings. Happy New Year!

For my own reference if nothing else, here's a recap of running in 2015 and plans for the coming year. I wrote the goals below a year ago--updates added in bold.

2015 Goals (with comments!):

Continue with usual shorter races (four 5ks and two holiday runs) I only did one 5k and one holiday run, but for good reasons--more below
Try a new distance: 10k? 50k? Yes! I managed to run 50k during a 6-hour race
More snowshoeing in the winter months FAILED. I forgive myself though.
More fun runs in summer months YES! I also switched to the trail option and love it
Half Marathon (probably the same one in May) YES! Slower this year but that's OK.
Streak from Memorial Day-July 4  Made it. I streaked 10 more days after that, meaning daily runs of at least a mile from 5/24-7/14
November Pile on the Miles So-so. I got up to 69 miles but had foot issues after a 6-hour race. Did not make 101 mile goal.
Get a couple of 100+ mile months  I got in 3: March, April, and June. High five!
Learn more about using heart monitor FAILED, due to both my heart monitors not working
Try some trail running, get more confident on hills YES! I had a great year for hills and transitioned to mostly trails during the summer
change hydration system (handheld? I still hate my waistpack) YES! I like my UD handheld and rigged up another water bottle with duct tape that's almost as good. My back and pelvis thank me.
pay more attention to nutrition, both while running and with everyday food  FAILED. This will be big on my list for 2016. I feel like my nutrition in 2015 was pretty poor, mostly just being uninspired and/or waiting until I was too hungry and then making poor decisions

How about some data!?

Distance chart—besides three 100+ mile months there were a total of 7 months where I ran over 75 miles. That seems like a comfortable active baseline to maintain this coming year.

Total data collected by my Garmin for 2015: I covered 905 miles in over 179 hours (over a solid week of running), with elevation gain of almost 75,000 feet.

For comparison, here's the same set of data for 2014. I ran almost as far (875 miles), but with much less elevation. I was also faster (I put the difference down mainly to running flat roads instead of hilly trails).

Next, here's my race data (I'm also adding to my Running List page):

Mother's day half marathon 2:01  (about 5 minutes slower than last year)
Bill Power Memorial Firecracker 4-miler 30:56 (ONE SECOND slower than last year)
6 hours in Paradise: 24 miles in 5:33 
Maple 5k 23:25 (45 seconds FASTER than last year)
Hamsterwheel 6-hour race: 31.2 miles in 5:54 (11:17 average pace)

I'm seeing two main things happening here--fewer 5ks, and a NEW kind of race, the 6-hour/ultra. I've written about my fascination with ultrarunning already. I think that... I find running longer, slower, trail-based distances more enjoyable than running 23 minutes all out. 5ks are acutely uncomfortable. It's possible that I prefer the long game of hanging in for an effort of 6-ish hours, something that is more chronically uncomfortable. A long race is more chess-like, with more feeling of community (because you get to know people over all that time), more zen, and much more feeling of accomplishment.

About that lost holiday race, I'm pleased to say I didn't run it because I was busy co-directing it! A runner-mom friend and I took over the classic Brattleboro 3-mile Thanksgiving Turkey Trot from the long-standing directors about 7 weeks before the race. It seemed like short notice but we pulled it off and even managed to add a food donation aspect. I'm already excited for next year!

2016 Goals:

Jan-Feb: build up mileage again, slowly. Aim for at least 20 miles a week by end of February
Mar-Apr-May: Follow same half-marathon training plan as last year
May 9, Mother's day: HALF MARATHON!
May-June: Switch to trails/hills and increase mileage a reasonable amount. Start fun run season. And streak!
June 18, 2016: Vegan Power 50k in Pittsfield, MA (registered!)
June-July: As much trail-running as possible, maintain higher mileage & hills
July 4, 2016: Bill Powers Memorial Firecracker 4-miler
August 6, 2016: Moosalamoo 36-miler? or 14-miler? (not yet registered)
August-Sep: Keep it up! Fun runs end around late August
Late Sept: Pisgah 50k? (not yet registered)
Late Sept: Maple 5k
Fall 2016: Something else? I'd love to do another 6-hour race at some point.
November 2016: Co-direct the Thanksgiving Morning Turkey Trot--year 2!

NUTRITION: A main goal for 2016 is to dial in my healthy eating. I tend to let this go and it's just silly. A stupid part of me thinks it's selfish to eat healthy food—the expensive raspberries go to my children, and I just eat fries or crackers. This year I want that to STOP. I have been reading Matt Fitzgerald and started experimenting with his Dietary Quality Score system. I'll post more as I figure it out!

JOURNALING: I used my Believe Training Journal by Lauren Fleshman and Roisin McGettigan-Dumas to record runs, thoughts, events, and dinners every single week. I want to continue this year. It's a great tool for tracking both physical performance and mental space & aspirations. I highly recommend it for runners. It's not just a weekly diary to fill in, there are also short articles, training suggestions, check-in pages, goal-setting tools, race-planning calendars... It's awesome.

OTHER: Other running "goals" are more of a gear wish list—it would be great to get some sunglasses for running, a heart rate monitor that works, a reflective vest that fits, maybe a hydration pack.

Last year's Believe journal is full—ready to crack open the Lavender edition for 2016!