July 7th, 2011
09:43 AM ET
Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D., is the Food and Nutrition Director at Health magazine. She is also the co-author, along with Ellen Kunes, of The New York Times bestselling book, "The CarbLovers Diet," published in August 2010. Largeman-Roth is the team dietitian for the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge.
In four short weeks, on August 7, the CNN Fit Nation 6-Pack will be taking a bracing leap into the Hudson River to begin one of the most memorable days of their lives. All of the incredible work they’ve put into their training and nutrition over the past six months will be put to the test as they begin their 1-mile (1500m) swim, followed by a 24.8-mile (40k) bike, and then finally a 6.2-mile (10k) run.
After all the mud, sweat, and tears, I’m sure that at this point in their journey many of them are looking forward to the day after the Nautica New York City Triathlon as much as they’re anticipating the race itself. And let’s be honest, we’ve all felt this way before. I trained hardcore for about five months before my wedding, but I didn’t keep up with the intensity after I returned from my honeymoon. And most of us have cut back on booze and sweets in order to look trim for a wedding, a reunion, or another big life event.
Unless you’re an elite athlete, keeping up with a grueling training schedule, plus a restricted diet year-round is unrealistic for most people. Even Hollywood types are notorious for eating and exercising differently when they’re taping from when they have downtime. So where do you find that happy middle? The place where you’re eating for health and energy on a daily basis, not necessarily for endurance or quick energy to get you through a workout?
It’s all about making healthy eating part of your lifestyle—and yes, that means for life! But listen folks, eating right is so much more than steamed broccoli and flavorless chicken breasts. These days it’s all about flavor and variety, and includes foods like chocolate and pancetta, and yes (I’m talking to you, Nina!), even glasses of wine.
Here are some tips for staying on the healthy path once race day (or your wedding, reunion, photo shoot, job interview, hot date, etc.) has come and gone:
1. Live by the 90/10 rule. Ninety percent of the food and beverages you consume should be healthy. Have fun with the other 10 percent! And just because you have a rich, decadent birthday dinner doesn’t mean you’ve suddenly fallen off the health wagon. You’re being a normal human being! I like to look at every morning as another chance to treat my body right.
2. Befriend other healthy-minded folks. It can be as simple as following healthy eating aficionados on Twitter (check out my tweets @feedthebelly and Health magazine’s posts @goodhealth), or starting a group at work to share healthy lunches. You’ll learn from others and they’ll learn from you. I love hearing about how other folks use quinoa, or how they prep their healthy meals in advance so they always have go-to eats in the fridge.
3. No one can live by brown rice alone. You need to get adventurous to make eating healthy interesting, so explore your local farmers’ market, snoop around international food stores, try cuisines you’ve never had before, and experiment with new ingredients. Check out myrecipes.com for inspiration.
4. Join a CSA. You may have seen sign ups for these in your local community and wondered what they’re all about. Community Supported Agriculture is a system where you can support your local farmers by buying food directly from them. You sign up for a share or sometimes a half share, and then pick up weekly boxes filled with seasonal produce, and sometimes also flowers, eggs, and other goodies. Not only will you save money on groceries, it’s fun to come up with things to do with squash blossoms and fresh fava beans, and it will definitely get you eating more fruits and vegetables, which is important for long term health.
5. The more, the merrier. Sometimes when you make a change for the better, your spouse, children, or friends feel like you’re leaving them behind. It can be tricky to introduce your new healthy lifestyle to them in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re cramming it down their throats! Try to involve them as much as possible in the changes you’re making, and hopefully they’ll come along for the ride. They may not be as jazzed as you are about trading in their instant mac and cheese for a bulgur and garbanzo bean salad, but smaller changes like using ground bison for burgers instead of ground chuck, might help win them over. Knowing that the people you love are supporting you in your quest to live a healthy life will help keep you motivated to stay on the path.
Good luck! And I’ll be right out there on race day with my big 8-months pregnant belly cheering on the 6-Pack and my husband Jon.
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.