The Food Factor, Part 1: Your Diet = Your Resilience
It’s a clear-cut case: Exercise must supplement your other good physical energy habits if you expect to maintain grit and resilience in your life and career. In addition to keeping your weight in-check, your core strong, and your illnesses at bay, exercise is also the best inspiration for forming and following through with those other good habits. But even if you’ve ingrained a sufficient exercise regimen into your daily routine, your efforts can’t end there.
If exercise is your physical energy keystone, then your diet is the fuel that keeps your energy at an optimal level. You’ve heard it a thousand times: the foods you choose to eat are what compose your physical being. Choose poorly, and you’ll find that your mind and body will start to work against you. But have you ever taken these words seriously enough to apply them to your own body?
Whereas I am not certified to suggest a diet, I can empower you to make appropriate food choices. Your body is the very encasement of your physical energy, after all, and it deserves the best type of fuel. My colleague Gerry Sweetman illustrates this most eloquently in her article that asks, “Are you a workhorse or a racehorse?”
The general rule with diet is intentionality. Being intentional with your food choices (in addition to a little daily planning) is your best strategy for eating smartly. Here are some of the approaches that have worked for me, keeping my energy up and my resilience supreme.
Snacking can contribute to a healthy lifestyle, if you’re smart about it. That starts with planning your attack. First, stock up on healthy snacks at home (a favorite is carrots + celery + a high-protein dip like hummus.) Then, pack your day’s snack, and plan a time to consume it, thinking of it as an event. Take a 15-minute break at a specific time in the afternoon to mindfully enjoy the aromas, flavors and textures of your snack. It might sound ordinary, but these deliberate guidelines will enhance your enjoyment of healthy snacking, while the discipline will keep you from falling into old patterns and unhealthy traps. Other favorite snacks include portioned roasted nuts, a piece of fresh fruit, dried fruits, or dried edamame (which is tasty and loaded with protein).
The Vegetable Void
You don’t need me to tell you why vegetables are so important to eat. But we can all admit that it’s a challenge to consume the number of USDA-recommended servings of vegetables (5 or more per day, fruits included). The best way to make it happen is to be intentional about incorporating a colorful variety of vegetables into most meals.
For instance, you can start your day with 2 veggie servings before you even leave the house. Swap out that sugar-laden orange juice during breakfast for an 8-oz glass of dense vegetable juice, like low-sodium V8, which is composed of that rainbow of vegetables. To compensate for the boring low-sodium flavor, spruce it up. I like to transform my V8 into a “dirty virgin” by squeezing half a lime into it, and adding a spicy kick with a dash of cayenne pepper.
Lunchtime on the go can be another opportunity to consume your veggies and actually enjoy them. Embrace the ever-popular tossed salad with the absolute minimum time commitment. Forget the line at the salad bar, not to mention the questionable ingredients and the temptation of unhealthy toppings. Toss that salad yourself at home in minutes! It’s never been easier, since so many grocers sell fresh, pre-washed lettuce. Simply dress the lettuce with extra virgin olive oil, toss in a bit of salt and pepper, close the travel container and you’re off. Aside from the shopping, it’s truly a minute’s investment of time. If you have an extra minute or two, and want to transform your salad from simple to sublime, use a grater to shave a few strokes of Reggiano Parmigiana over the top. Include a few carrot sticks on the side (which can also be purchased cleaned and pre-cut), and you’ve added another veggie serving to your day.
Keep an eye open for part 2 of this article, which will explore some additional dietary facts and fun, helping you dial up your physical energy.