Learning how to fuel myself and others
February 12th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Learning how to fuel myself and others

Editor's Note: Adrienne LaGier from St. Leonard, Maryland, is one of seven CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program.  Each athlete receives all the tools necessary to train for and compete in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon this September, alongside Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  The seven athletes met up this past weekend in Atlanta for the official kickoff of the program.

One of my goals in completing this challenge is to create a new healthy lifestyle for myself, fiancé Chris, and the girls. Making exercise a priority is only half of the equation.

The other half is food.

How does this high school teacher/busy mom of busy twins/aspiring triathlete lose weight, resist temptation, and provide healthy meals for the family?

I'll start by taking some advice from CNN Fit Nation Triathlete alum Nina Lovel.

While being treated like rock stars in the Hawks suite, I had a chance to chat with Nina about food. She had brought me a bunch of her workout clothes from last year that no longer fit (thank you Nina!), and walked me through her weight loss journey. She lost 5 pounds right away (and so have I!), but then didn't lose any for awhile, even with long constant workouts. Her coach suggested she write down everything she ate, and once they analyzed the results, Nina got shocking news: She wasn't eating enough! Her coach told her if she wanted to lose weight, she was going to have to eat! Her body was in shut-down mode. She started purposefully eating and started dropping the pounds.

Nina Lesson #1 ? Don't be afraid of food – eat intentionally.

Ilana Katz, a nutritionist we met with during kickoff weekend, helped me realize that the carbs I've told myself for years are off limits (bagels, baked potatoes) can actually be my friend as I begin harder workouts. I need to consciously eat to fuel my workouts. Pick solids over liquids, replenish my salt supply, hydrate.

Ilana and Nina Lesson #2 : Eat every 3 hours

This will help stabilize my blood sugar and not make me want to stop at McDonald's on the way home from school. Or to make a plate of nachos before the girls get off the bus. So far, I've tried Ezekiel English Muffins with chocolate almond butter, apple slices with peanut butter, Greek yogurt, and the ultimate snack: a banana. These all seem to help curb my hunger and help me feel healthy and satisfied (and ready to work out!).

Lesson #3: The workout is the reward, not the food.

Friday night of Kick Off Weekend we went to Flip Burger for dinner. I obsessed over the menu in the week prior to the trip and rationalized that I "deserved" to drink the liquid nitrogen Nutella and burnt marshmallow shake as an appetizer with no guilt. I got to the hotel that night and regretted that shake a lot more than I thought I would. My body just didn't feel right. Saturday night, as we walked into the Hawks arena, all I could smell was wings, roasted peanuts, and nachos. I thought for sure that's what we'd be having in our private suite. When I opened the door and saw a fruit platter, salad, and grilled chicken instead, I had the physical reaction that I can only imagine an addict goes through. All I could think about was chicken wings. Where were they and how could I get them? Thank heavens for Nina. She doesn't know it, but she talked me down off the ledge. Clearly, I still need to work on this. I need to remember how I felt Friday after that shake and remind myself – it's not worth it.

Lesson #4: My students won't hate me if I start bringing in healthy food to deadline nights

The words "Deadline Night" in my journalism room brings about visions of Chinese feasts, McDonalds' Happy Meals, chips galore, and tons of chocolate. In other words, comfort food. It's the extra motivation teenagers need to stick around through the long haul; their "reward" for spending over 13 hours at school. Or so I've thought. But after reading CNN producer Matt Sloane's comments about why I was chosen, I realize I need to make better choices on the behalf of my students and think twice before I buy a ton of junk food as a "reward" for hard work. So, on February 23rd, we are having a healthy-food-centered deadline night, with everyone bringing in their favorite health-conscious food. I'm going to make Kale potato chips and we have big plans for spinach smoothies. Stay tuned.

Lessons Still Need to be Learned...

How to get my girls eating foods other than chicken nuggets, pizza, and cereal while not fighting me on every new food I try to introduce to them. While walking down Stone Mountain, Dr. Gupta told me his girls eat chicken nuggets too (man did that make me feel better). I love them for their ease - if we are trying to get out the door to piano lessons and we have 15 minutes to eat, 2 minutes in the microwave and we're done.

Do you have any suggestions on healthier, yet just as fast, alternatives to chicken nuggets?

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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.