March 2018

Food as Fuel

Author: Becca Edwards

When someone wants to lose weight, food is the first to go. The word “diet” has become synonymous with restricted food or reduced calories, when the true definition of the word is “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” What if we viewed the word “diet” for what it really means: a food plan? And what if we could lose the weight, by eating more? We can achieve both when we see food as fuel.

Oftentimes when someone tells me, “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I eat healthy, but I can’t seem to lose weight,” I reply, “Well, let’s talk about what you typically eat in a day, starting with breakfast.” Most of the time, the response is, “Like I said, healthy. You know, yogurt with granola and berries, maybe honey.”

Excluding the honey, if this breakfast used Greek yogurt, the nutritional profile would be approximately: 31 grams of sugar, 60 carbs, 321 calories, and only eight grams of protein. A chocolate iced glazed doughnut from Krispy Kreme contains 20 grams of sugar, 33 carbs, 240 calories and three grams of protein. Comparing apples to apples, or rather breakfast to breakfast, the doughnut has less sugar, carbs, and calories than the “healthy” breakfast.

Now, I’m not suggesting you should start eating doughnuts for breakfast, but I do want you to take a hard look at what you are eating. How many times a day do you eat vegetables? And canned vegetables do not count. I mean legit, as in from the produce aisle, vegetables. How many times a day do you eat something prepackaged? There’s no judgment here, but if you are eating more food that comes in a box, bag or can than whole foods, it is time to get real—and eat real food.

I often talk to my clients about being “veggie-forward”—or using vegetables as the basis for all meals—and then adding a palm-sized portion of a lean protein as needed. Veggie-forward eating accomplishes two important things. First, because vegetables are typically low in calories, you do not have to worry about calorie-counting. Calorie-counting can be stressful for many people, especially when trying to lose weight. This can be counterproductive, as stress produces cortisol, which, in turn, creates belly fat. And stress can lead to overeating or making poor food decisions out of rebellion. Secondly, vegetables are nutritious. This is not an earth-shattering revelation, I know, but we often forget how crucial good nutrition is to our overall well-being. Many times, we eat something because “we deserve it” or “we need something crunchy” or “it’s that time of the month.” This mindset overlooks the fact that the true purpose of food is to nourish our bodies—to be fuel. The adage “You are what you eat” is true. Food should not be a reward. Reward yourself with a bubble bath or massage. And every time you sit down to chomp down, make sure the first thing on your napkin, plate or palm is a vegetable. Check out this sample meal plan:

Meal Plan
Breakfast – 1 big handful of spinach sautéed in 1 teaspoon of coconut oil – 1-2 eggs scrambled (with spinach) – 1/4 cup blueberries – Tea or coffee with liquid stevia and non-dairy milk

Optional Snack – 1 handful of sugar snap peas or celery stalks – 1 tablespoon of hummus

Lunch – 1 small side salad with grilled salmon – 1/2 cooked sweet potato sprinkled with Himalayan sea salt and nutritional yeast

Optional Snack – 1-2 mini cucumbers or a handful of mini peppers

Dinner – 1 cup of curry butternut squash soup with a few crushed cashews – 1/2 an artichoke with balsamic vinegar and minced herbs as a dipping sauce

Optional “Faux Drink” – Combine in a quart-sized container 1 bottle of kombucha and 2 cans of club soda and a few dashes of no-sugar-added bitters.

Optional Dessert – 1 date stuffed with almond butter

Fitness and Food
Now that you have the food down, let’s talk about supporting your weight loss journey with exercise. The concept of calories in versus calories out does still carry some weight. Inasmuch, an interesting phenomenon happens when you eat well: You want to exercise. The more you expand and hone your fitness plan, the more you want to eat healthy and, thus, a great symbiotic relationship begins. Also, with proper nutrition, you will be able to do things you never thought possible. For example, if you ate that doughnut before yoga class, chances are you will not want to try the arm balance side crow because your stomach feels like there’s a brick in it. But, because eggs are easily digested, if you ate the spinach scramble, you will feel lithe and limber and ready to rock any pose.

Diving a little deeper and really seeing food as fuel, vegetables are a big component of sports nutrition. Beets, for example, quicken your muscle recovery after a tough workout. One hour before your workouts, eat a balanced, veggie-forward meal. After your workout, replenish and rehydrate with a fresh vegetable juice like beet and fresh lemon or water with cucumber slices and mint. As for a solid workout plan, keep it simple and remember 3-2-1.

3-2-1 Fitness Plan
Strenuous Exercise: 3 days a week for 30-45 minutes
Moderate Exercise: 2 days a week for 1-2 hours
Easy Exercise: 1 day a week for 1-2 hours

Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer, and owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE (

Curry Butternut Squash Soup
Ingredients – 1 whole butternut squash – 2 tablespoons (or more) curry powder – 1 Vidalia onion – 1 tablespoon fresh garlic – 1 tablespoon coconut oil – 1 cup no-sugar-added, non-dairy milk like coconut, pea or cashew – A few sprigs of cilantro – salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Wrap the butternut squash in tinfoil and bake until soft (approximately two hours). Let cool and then scoop out the butternut squash and place in a blender. Sauté the onion and garlic in the coconut oil. Once cooked, add to the blender with seasoning and no-sugar-added, non-dairy milk. Blend until smooth. Serve with cilantro garnish.

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