The one I stole from Abbie…

One of my favourite blogs right now is Ready.Set.Fit! by my new friend and teammate Abbie. She’s a brilliant writer, hilarious and I would highly recommend that everyone read her blog (as soon as you’re done reading mine, of course :P)

Given that we are new friends we are going through the getting-to-know-you phase of our relationship. Given that we are both training for the WBFF Atlantic Championships in just 10 short weeks… most of what we know about each other somehow involves food or supplements. Mostly food.

I was reminded of some of our most recent text conversations when Abbie posted the gem, Foods I Used to Love but Now Hate (and Vice Versa) so I decided to write a companion piece with observations of my own changing tastebuds.

Like Abbie, I’m not a picky eater. Unlike her, I’ve never cared much about food. Sweets? Yes. Real food? Notsomuch. My family has always been really big on snack food. We ate relatively well at meals but there was always dessert, then snacks after dessert.

I vividly remember being a child and playing outside with my friends. I decided I wanted a Fruit Roll-Up so I went inside and asked my mother, who was napping with a migraine at the time, if I could have one. She didn’t reply so I bugged her incessantly until she replied “Eat the whole box, I don’t care.” So I did. That became a theme through the rest of my life which continues today. I have no ability to have some, put it away and enjoy a little more at another time. When I get something, I eat it all, even if that means eating a dozen cookies in one sitting. Or a cake. Or a litre of ice cream.

I never had that relationship with food though. More often than not I would get BORED of eating whatever dinner was on my plate before I got a chance to finish it. Food still bores me today so I don’t care if the food itself is boring. I think that is what has helped me with my competition diet.

In spite of that, I have had an opportunity to try a lot of new (healthy) foods through this process and figured out some of the things I thought I wouldn’t like and actually do and some of the foods I’m happier without that I used to love.

I will point out at this point that Abbie’s list of hates includes some of my most loved items (celery, mustard, chicken and lettuce) while her list of loves are some of my most hated (seasonings, eggplant, milk products). I’ve never really cared about alcohol so we do have that in common.

Things I always thought I loved but now I hate (as stolen from Abbie):

Salad dressing. I used to never eat salad without a pool of dressing at the bottom of the plate. Now I can’t stand it. Occasionally, I will throw on a splash of vinaigrette for a change (and I do love balsamic vinegar) but all-in-all I’m happier to just have vegetables.

Lobster. I will probably be publicly shamed in my community for admitting this but I don’t think I like lobster anymore. I recently picked up a lobster at the grocery store to have for dinner and I was quite excited because I hadn’t had one in a while. It wasn’t good. The meat sat heavy in my stomach and I just don’t care for the taste of it anymore.

Rice. I used to eat rice on its own as a meal. Just a big bowl of rice. It really doesn’t interest me anymore.

Pasta. See above.

Things I never knew I loved until now:

Mango. I had never tried a mango and I will admit that figuring out how to cut one was daunting but once I had one I realized I was missing an amazing fruit experience.

– Avocado. This was another situation where not having a sweet clue of how to cut it made me stay away. A friend of mine showed me how to cut an avocado one day while she was making a salad but it was another four years before I ever tried one. They’re pretty good!

– Tuna. My mother hates tuna and always reinforced a dislike of it into my mind, also. As a kid I didn’t have tuna salad sandwiches, I had salmon salad sandwiches. I still prefer canned salmon to canned tuna but I’ve grown to like it – especially mixed with avocado!

I’m sure there’s other things I could add to these lists. Ultimately though, make my food as boring as possible. Give me something plain and I’m a happy camper. I don’t need my food to be fancy, the fewer the ingredients the happier the Julia.

Thanks Abbie for the great idea and I look forward to stealing ideas from you in the future. (Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery or something like that… lol)

The one about carbs and the countdown…

There are a few choice phrases that I have thrown around a couple of times a week for the past month or so:

“Ugh, I feel awful.”

“I have zero energy.”

“I need a nap.”

“I want to eat all of the things.”

One thing all those phrases have in common? High-carb day.

Wait, what?! HIGH carb day?!

Typically, those would be the sentiments of fitness competitors in the midst of cutting back on their carbohydrates, longingly watching as their precious oats, sweet potatoes, quinoa and brown rice are diminished by yet another 1/4 cup.

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past couple of months is that I am a person that functions better on very few carbs. This wasn’t a complete surprise to me, to be honest.

Years ago (high school-era) I had a lot of issues with allergies. I was checked over by an allergist who found that I have a slew of environmental allergies but although digestion issues continued to plague me, I was not having an allergic reaction to any foods so we couldn’t quite pinpoint what the issue was.

Based on the recommendation of the allergist, my parents then took me to a Naturopath to test for sensitivities that a traditional scratch test wouldn’t pick up. The process was somewhat tedious – beginning with an elimination diet that left me restricted to mostly rice and oranges for weeks.

Both my parents have severe food allergies (citrus fruits on one side, shellfish on the other) but the more common foods were quickly ruled out. Through the process of eating different things and monitoring my reaction to them the Naturopath determined that one of the major foods that I am sensitive to is yeast.

For years I experienced extreme lethargy, low energy and difficulty concentrating through the day. As it turned out, the culprit was bread (I wasn’t much of a beer drinker as a teen :P). Cutting foods with yeast out of my diet was life-changing. My head was suddenly less cloudy, my grades improved and I finished my last year of high school with honours for the first time since I started. All because I stopped having toast, sandwiches, pizza, etc.

Other foods that I am sensitive to include apples, olives (I have a reputation in my family for always throwing up after holiday dinners – olives, we later discovered, were behind it), lactose and most forms of alcohol. Removing these elements from my diet was somewhat easy and once they were gone I was amazed by how much better I felt. In some ways, I hadn’t even realized I didn’t feel well until I felt better.

That is the same experience I’m having with carbs right now. My previous meal plans have always included the brown rice, quinoas and sweet potatoes of the world and I always assumed that the way I felt after I ate them was just the way I was supposed to feel -I was just digesting, it was from my intense amount of training or even all in my head. I wasn’t losing weight or body fat, I felt bloated and too-full all the time and above all, I felt HUNGRY. Ravenously hungry. All the time. That lead to the half dozen times (which I’ve mentioned on here) that I found myself “off the wagon” and shoving my face full of whatever I could find.

Since the end of January my meal plan has changed and my only carbs are a 1/4 cup of oats right after my morning workout. I never realized how terrible I felt before until now because I feel great. I won’t deny craving junk food, or even having had slip ups out of boredom and over-accessibility, but my physical cravings are non-existent. I don’t spend all day thinking about eating, I’m satiated until my next meal.

Leg days are supposed to be my “high-carb” days where I incorporate those foods back into my diet and if I were to make a confession… I’ve only actually had one in four weeks. I feel like crap every time so I’d just rather not. I guess that makes me one of the few people that will happily clean their plate of vegetables and meat then ask if someone wants their potatoes.

Ultimately it comes down to how I feel – if I don’t feel good then I’m not going to do it. It’s a pretty simple way of looking at most “diets” that are marketed these days. If they make you feel bad then stop doing it. Just don’t take that advice when you’re in the gym, otherwise no one would ever do another burpie ever again… 😛

PS: Tomorrow marks 13 weeks until I hit the WBFF stage and I still have a lot of improvements left to make. Here’s hoping that being the anti-carb ends up being the best thing my stomach ever decided for me.

Product review: QuestBar

I the pleasure of once again volunteering at the OptiMYz Live Health Expo this year. (Check out last year’s fun here) Much like last year I found myself scoping the vendors out for products that I could review.

I had heard of Quest bars only because they’re the only type of pre-packaged protein bar that is allowed in my meal plan. Not really being the type to spend money (that I don’t really have) on a $3-$5 snack, I generally have opted for things like almonds and cottage cheese as reasonable protein snacks and avoided buying the Quest bars.

That being said, I happened upon a vendor from Nutrition Excellence at OptiMYz Live. The incredibly friendly sales rep, Joel, had brought along some of the brands that they represent and distribute around the country, including those from Quest Nutrition. The temptation to nab a couple of Quest bars was too strong and I ended up buying an entire box of 12 (various flavours) for $25.

I didn’t really know what to expect as I have eaten a lot of really crappy tasting protein bars in the past that did little for me nutrition-wise. These are fairly well known for being one of the few/only bars on the market that are low-carb, sugar-free, high-fibre, high-protein and gluten free. I also knew that Coach Krissy would never have allowed me to eat them (or would eat them herself) if they were the same filler-laden crap on grocery store shelves. That doesn’t say much for the taste though. If anything, the fact that they are “better” for you only seemed to make me think they’d taste like old socks.

Quite the contrary.

If there’s anything I regret is that I didn’t introduce these beauties into my diet sooner. They have become an amazing way to battle the mid-afternoon munchies and all day I look forward to having my 3 p.m. QuestBar!

It's a picture of a wrapper because the contents inside never stay in there long enough for a photo...

It’s a picture of a wrapper because the contents inside never stay in there long enough for a photo…

In case you can’t read that, the nutrition information is as follows:

Calories: 160
Fat: 5g
Carbs: 25g
Fibre: 17g
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 20g

So far I’ve tried the Chocolate Peanut Butter and Chocolate Brownie flavours, with Strawberry Cheesecake on deck for tomorrow. The only problem I would say is that I’m going to burn through them so quickly that it’s not terribly affordable for anyone on a budget to eat these consistently. Sad face.

I am willing to change my budget around to try and fit them in though because I might be obsessed. So many protein bars are either sickly sweet, leave an unpleasant aftertaste or just taste… old. QuestBars have a really rich taste that actually tastes like what it says on the package. It’s a soft bar that is practically melt in your mouth and it’s a really decent size so you can make it last for a while.

By far, one of the best purchases I’ve made in a while.

Here’s another couple of crappy photos from OptiMYz Live that I snapped with my terrible camera phone. You should probably just go buy some QuestBars instead though…

This was the cutest thing ever! This little kid was giving it as hard as he could, too!

This was the cutest thing ever! This little kid was giving it as hard as he could, too!

The one about December…

December has been an interesting and life-changing month, thus far.

First, to bring you all up to speed on everything that happened after my last post, I had another successful reassessment at the end of last month. I was down another 1% body fat and five inches, matching the previous month’s numbers. I’m really starting to see it in my clothes now, too. I haven’t necessarily had to buy new clothes but what I have is fitting so much better/looser. I’ve also started getting comments from people asking what I’m doing differently because the changes in my physique (particularly the most narrow point on my waist and my arms) have become noticeable to others.

And then came December…

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The one about an oops…

Shockingly, the oops isn’t that I ate my way through the weekend or skipped out on the gym. The oops is simply that I forgot to update last week! Oops!

For anyone who has been waiting with baited breath to find out if I got my Greek food… I did and it was delicious!

Having that small weekly goal was really what I needed to keep on track with my meal plan through the week. Every time I had a craving or just got bored and wanted to eat something I kept thinking about how I wouldn’t get my treat meal if I ruined it. I would ask myself if it was worth throwing a delicious meal away for something that I would only regret later.

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The one about the date…

Things have been tough, as you all know from my last update about Operation: Lean. It took me a few days to get myself sorted out and get back on track. Keeping on pace with my fitness goals was the easy part, I happily went to the gym every day and killed it no matter what I set out to do. Eating was another story.

I was kind of all over the place and once I started spiraling out of control it took some serious focus to get it back on track again. I managed though, with the help of an agreement between myself and my roommate.

I’m very much a goal/reward based individual. I need to be working towards something otherwise everything I’m doing just starts to seem a little pointless. The last couple of weeks I haven’t had any specific week-to-week goals, just the overall ones I was trying to achieve but I guess it just wasn’t enough.

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The one about a do-over…

I would like a Mulligan, please!

Take me back to last Monday and let me start again.

This past week I’ve experienced some very high-highs and very low-lows. I’ll get the good news out of the way first so you can all do a little mental pom-pom shake for me before I tell you how I managed to take what should have been an exciting moment and let my mind ruin it.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, Wednesday was my official check-in day. It went great (could have gone better) and I was mostly happy with my results. Down 5 pounds, 5 inches and 1% body fat. That means that my little slip up two weekends ago did make an impact but it didn’t destroy everything.

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The one when week three ended…

The past three weeks have absolutely flown by. I’ve gone from the week one baby giraffe to the week three fierce lioness and I can’t believe how super pumped I am every day I wake up to be working towards such an awesome goal. In some ways I feel privileged to have such a powerful motivator in my life as being able to watch my physique change from week to week. Seeing real results makes me want to push a little bit harder every day.

I definitely am starting to see some results, too. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I hate scales. I hate how the numbers, although mostly arbitrary and not at all indicative of body composition, have a negative stigma but mostly I hate the discouraging feeling I get when I don’t see the results in the numbers that I feel. I’ve been feeling really great over the last week and knew I wanted to take my body fat percentage before I have my “official” check-in next week and that meant hopping on the scale.

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The one at the end of week two…

Made it through another week of my road to the WBFF 2013 Atlantic Championships and I have nothing but good things to report.

My diet has been smooth sailing, I’ve had no problems staying on plan and my cravings for sweets have literally gone from uncontrollable to non-existent over the past two weeks. I’m never in a situation where I’m bored and feeling like I need a snack because I always know there’s another meal just around the corner so if I want to eat something I’ll cut up some cucumber or bell peppers and snack on that just to tide me over until I get to my next meal. (That’s happening right now actually, I’m munching on some green pepper because I know I have a full meal on the way in a half hour.)

It’s only been two weeks but I don’t think I’ve noticed any real changes as of yet. I should break down and weigh myself (I typically stay far away from scales) so that I can properly take my body fat percentage. I’m trying to get down to 15% body fat in increments of %5 at a time so I do need to keep an eye on how that is progressing, despite my reluctance to ever put any kind of focus on arbitrary numbers on a scale.

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