Let food be thy medicine

Have you ever heard the claim that as long as you exercise you can eat what you want? I have heard people say this time and time again and my response to these claims is: “You can, however, you cannot outrun a bad diet!” to which most people don’t know what to say. So why negate all the hard work with putting junk in the trunk? The reason why we do it is because many of us have a skewed relationship with food in that we use it as therapy, as a trophy, as a friend, or the worst of all… as a reward.  Our relationship with exercise is also broken in that we treat it as a punishment, we feel that once the exercise is completed we will have a free ticket to reward ourselves and what better way than with indulgent food? The idea that exercise might be a tool in obtaining health and food might be a tool in fueling this exercise and recovery is foreign to many.
Why do I care so much about watching what I eat even when I am putting in the work? Wouldn’t I want to relax a bit and gobble down a tub of ice-cream after a long hike? I would, it would be so much easier, but I know better. In a nutshell, I strongly believe that it matters what we eat regardless of how active or inactive we are.
When you take a sedentary, sick and overweight person, your first instinct is to point out that the reason they are sick and overweight is because they don’t move. But make that person move and they will not heal. They might lose a few pounds, but they might not because they will probably compensate by eating more of the wrong foods. Why do I think that’s the case? Because there are plenty of active people who still get sick. You might not have heard of Bob Harper’s – the host of the Biggest Looser – heart attack, or maybe you have – in any case, wouldn’t you expect that the person who helps other people get in shape, be himself a picture of health? I would. He looks fit and trim, he is active – how is it that he has almost died from a heart attack? I have one word for you – DIET or the lack of proper diet.
I’m pretty sure most of us know at least one fit, active person who on the outside looks like a walking and talking health encyclopedia, but it’s only when they suffer from a heart attack, a stroke or other physical manifestations of sickness that we see there is something wrong on the inside and exercise alone is not able to prevent it.
This is why I feel so strongly about fueling myself properly even when I know I’m putting in the work by moving my body. I want it to receive the best fuel there is for any activity I perform and reward it with the best fuel for recovery. I don’t believe in punishing my body by putting junk into it just so that I can have a momentary taste buds pleasure – yes, it’s true: junk food tastes good – the companies making it made damn sure of it. That’s why it’s important that we reclaim our taste buds and relearn to like to eat real food.
Here is an example of 2 meals, evening and morning that I had on my last overnight hike to Cape Broyle:
After hiking a measly 7.5k to the campsite I made a pasta meal with dehydrated mushrooms and sweet potatoes. This is a complete meal with plenty of protein and carbs.
This pot is half full, so even though it doesn’t look like much this is actually quite a bit of food. Depending on your exertion level and how much you ate prior to the hike you might follow it with a snack. I did have a Larabar as this meal was low on fats, so Larabar filled the gap just perfectly with about 10g of fat.
This is the pasta I use for my hiking trip meals and for flavoring I use 10g of this soup mix. The reason I use this particular pasta is because it’s made out of beans so it contains both carbs and protein – I do not need to worry about adding a protein source to this meal. I also like it for its simple ingredients: beans! And as a bonus, it is very lightweight and takes literally a couple minutes to cook, especially if you pre-soak it. The flavor mix is optional but highly recommended as it thickens up the dish and contains only real ingredients. If I am out of this soup I will make my own spice mix (any Mrs. Dash, pepper, turmeric, smoked paprika, sumac, etc) and add some nutritional yeast to thicken and to give the meal a cheasy vegan kick.

The following day for breakfast I served quick oats with a crumbled Larabar and some dried apple slices:

I used about 40-50g of quick oats for their quick cooking time. Ideally, I would have some steel cut oats, but that would require 20 minutes of cooking, so not ideal for the trail. I was out of my homemade Larabar so I simply used the store bought one, which worked out fine because this meal was missing some fat. You could add nuts or hemp seeds instead of Larabar for fat, you could also jazz it up with all sorts of dehydrated fruit thrown in there for flavor.

 

You might be wondering about the color of my oats – the beautiful yellowish color comes from this Raw Plant Protein Powder by Vivo. It’s entirely up to you if you decide to pump up the protein by adding protein powder or not. If you decide you want to, you have to be careful which protein powder you chose, because they are not created equal. I have been experimenting with a few different brands of plant based protein and this one is quite tasty. I also like Garden of Life protein powders.

 

And the ingredients, as well as the macros, are quite spectacular if you ask me.

And voilà! It’s that simple. Putting this together pre-hike did not take very much time out of my day – I simply measured the servings and put them in plastic baggies. It was just a matter of having the right stuff in my pantry.

I will also point out that if I am going on an overnight hike, where cooking a meal is required, I don’t believe in snacking in between. Let’s face it, I am not exerting myself enough to justify extra food in between meals – I simply make my meals nutritiously dense enough that I only get hungry when it’s time to eat. If by any chance my meal does not satisfy my hunger, I will follow it with a snack. And if I am going on a day hike I do take a snack just in case but intend not to eat it and I will eat regular meals at home before leaving and upon my return. Snacking gets a bad rep in my books.

Enough about food… After all I came along for the pictures…. and for the kiss-ass workout…. and for the wildlife…. and of course, there was fog.

 

This little precious baby bird was sitting right smack in the middle of the path! It was only by chance that he was not stepped on. Since I’m always with my head down looking at what I am stepping on (not keen on breaking a leg over sticking out roots) as I was approaching him I yelled out “OMG there is a bird on the path”, which I followed with “I’ll be here a moment”… After all, I came to take pictures….

 

He seemed to have been injured because he would not budge one bit. We gently relocated him (without actually touching him) so that somebody else would not step on him. Needless to say, on the way back the following day he was nowhere to be found and I don’t want to contemplate what might have happened to him.

It’s all about that light – it can make the least exciting subject look spectacular and fetching.

 

As usual, fog did not disappoint, but there are still ways to make it work 🙂
And this is how we hydrate – never carry all the water that you’ll need, there is plenty around you that you can make drinkable 🙂

Maybe it’s just me, but is he checking his watch as if to say “Hurry up!” 😉 ?

 

Speaking of making food work for you instead of against you – here is a little video for you. She touches on some very important points – definitely worth a watch.

 

Is hiking in the cards for me after all?

Exactly a year ago we were doing some car camping – after coming to the realization that I might not enjoy hiking/backpacking the way my partner does – I gave it one more try by switching gears a bit. He was resolved to the idea that I would never again accompany him on his hikes. It was a sad day, but he tried to accommodate and in an effort to keep some type of activity in common he offered to take me car camping to see if maybe I’d enjoy that better than hiking. I knew this was not something he was devoted to doing full time, but I appreciated the sentiment. So, on Labour Day Weekend of 2015 we went to La Manche Park to enjoy each other’s company. Long story short – I was one miserable creature – I failed yet again. Everything seemed to be an issue for me : the ground under the tent was slanty, it was cold, it rained quite a bit, I was chewing too much gum and that made me bloated… You name it, anything that could bother me, did – and it showed in my demeanour, I was awfully crooked the whole time. It was probably the last time I went out in the woods for any amount of time. I gave up trying because I simply did not enjoy myself and found all sorts of reasons to dislike it – it didn’t help that I was being accommodated in all sorts of ways – I just didn’t have it in me to let myself enjoy it. So I called it quits – that is, until now.    

My partner had organized a backpacking trip to the Outport Trail in Terra Nova National Park for this year’s Labour Day Weekend. I knew a couple of people had signed up and as the day approached I toyed with the idea of joining in as well. Why all of a sudden I’d sign up for a 50km hike, you ask? Well, I’ve been reevaluating everything I knew about myself, my attitude and most importantly I’ve been awfully jealous of all the photos I’ve been seeing my partner bring home after each and every hike! They were simply spectacular – I didn’t realize Newfoundland scenics could be this beautiful! Every sunset and sunrise, every coastal shot made me ache with longing- my inner photographer missed the time of photo taking trips, the joy of seeing a story unfold in front of me as I reviewed pictures I’d taken that day. Taking pictures of your surroundings and then going through the processing phase to arrive at the final product is such a rewarding act. You feel like a creator of sorts.

As the day of the trip approached I expressed the idea of joining in. My partner was a tad surprised (and probably a bit sceptical ) by my sudden interest but instead of dismissing it he embraced it and offered to do a couple of shakedown hikes to prep me and when the departure day came we packed up and left for Terra Nova.

I should mention that the 50km that we were originally planning to do consisted of: 16km to the first campsite in South Broad Cove to stay overnight, the following day we were going to continue for 8km into an area that was officially closed to hikers so it would have involved a lot of bushwhacking to get through the overgrown parts (think: no board walks and having to cross various streams) – the final destination that we were trying to reach was Park Harbour. The same day we’d turn around in Park Harbour to make it back to South Broad Cove to camp again and the following day return to our cars. I will spare you the mystery right now and let you know that I chickened out when we started on the overgrown section of the trail. We crossed couple of small streams and all I could think of was “We’ll have to cross all this again…” – that thought made me uneasy. I felt very shaky every time crossing the streams – the rocks that we were using to help us cross were very slippery and I remembered the last time I slipped and fell into a stream was not very pleasant.  So I pointed it out and just like that we turned around. On the way back we made it as far as Minchin’s Cove – 14km from the trail head – so a little bit back past South Broad Cove. All in all we hiked about  33km during the weekend.

 

At the start of the hike to South Broad Cove
At the start of the hike to South Broad Cove – this was it – I was going to jump right into a CPH with my two feet. Not a dip, but a full on jump. 

 

Bikers convention at the trail head of the Outport Trail in Terra Nova National Park
This is right at the trail head – as we were approaching it we were passed by a group of very polite children on their bikes – they announced their arrival to get past us and even thanked us for moving out of the way – this was quite advanced for young children and a very pleasant surprise. Once we arrived at the trail head this is the picture we were greeted with and I came to a realization that it must have been some sort of bikers’ convention at the Outport Trail in Terra Nova National Park that we were not aware of or invited to 🙂

 

Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park
Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park – right before we arrived at our first campsite in South Broad Cove. This is exactly what I had in mind – finding these unsuspecting shots and making them into memory imprints for the future.  My partner would say something like “Wow, it looks like a totally different place!” and I would reply “That’s because it is, my love :)”

 

South Broad Cove, Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park
South Broad Cove, Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park – our tent on the platform in South Broad Cove. I must point out that there were not very many platforms around that campsite and he picked the site with a wooden platform. I didn’t really think much of it then, but now I’m thinking that this was one of many accommodations on this trip – there is no way I was going to have an uncomfortable slanty night on this platform 🙂 I actually managed to sleep very well – regardless of the fact that this area of Newfoundland has a real problem with bears. 

 

South Broad Cove, Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park
South Broad Cove, Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park – these pictures are not very representative of the weather we experienced during this backpacking trip. They give the deceiving impression of wonderful, warm, sunny day – the truth of the matter is that it rained quite a bit on the first couple of days and my feet were constantly wet due mostly to ever so present bogs along the way. I realized that I have a choice to focus on the positive moments rather than the negative ones, so as weather dictated I snapped the pictures every time the rainy clouds dissipated and voilà all you see are the bright, sunny, happy moments. When you decide to focus on the right moments life becomes so much more enjoyable and you no longer feel the cold, wet socks in your hiking shoes 🙂  

 

South Broad Cove, Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park
South Broad Cove, Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park – this is right across from where our tent was pitched on the platform and this is the direction we went the following morning to try to reach Park Harbour. You can see my partner in the background fetching water…

 

South Broad Cove, Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park
South Broad Cove, Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park – it was a slow going fire since all the wood was rather wet from the rain the previous day. We did manage to boil some water for some tetley tea. I should mention that I have gotten converted into a black tea drinker. It was such a treat to be able to have a hot cup of tea in the woods. I actually have forgotten to bring some tea with me (even though my kitchen cabinets are filled up to the brim with all sorts of teas). But we were lucky enough to find some tea from a local Café/Convenience Store located in the Terra Nova Park – graciously provided for free by the Café’s clerk. 

 

South Broad Cove, Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park
South Broad Cove, Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park – this was taken on the way back from the measly attempt to make it as far as Park Harbour. 

 

Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park
Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park – right before reaching South Broad Cove.

 

Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park
Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park – happily catching all the sun flares I could. 

 

Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park
South Broad Cove – clouds make a photo so much more interesting than clear sky – they create so much more detail. So don’t be fooled that you will get the best picture on a clear day. Don’t be afraid of clouds, unless of course they are rain clouds – but even then you’re bound to get bright moments that will create the most spectacular scenic pictures. 

 

Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park
Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park – even though I cut the trip short I considered this backpacking trip my best hiking experience due to this little spot. The two of us ended up back at this lovely campsite to stay overnight and then headed  back the next day with a little detour at Mt. Stamford. I felt like I had let down the other backpackers by not wanting to go through overgrown parts of the trail, but I felt awfully rewarded by experiencing this spot in all it’s glory. I have to add that the peacefulness of this place made it so much better to enjoy than the hustle and bustle of city life. There was absolutely no wind to speak of and we got beautiful light both at sunset and sunrise. 

 

Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park
Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park – this was on the opposite side of the trail – the water was so still and inviting I was seriously considering a dip. 

 

Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park
Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park – I could see myself retiring in a place like this, away from noise of everyday life.

 

Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park
Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park.

 

Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park
Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park – cemetery on the other side of the trail. 

 

Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park
Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park – this is just beyond the  campsite. I was surprised to see outhouses spread out all over the campsite equipped with everything you need – quite a luxury if you ask me. 

 

Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park
Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park – luckily we are both chasers of the light and we understand the importance of catching it just at the right time. In fact when the light comes out and shows the potential of making the most mundane objects appear beautiful we are quite willing to drop everything we are doing in the pursuit of the perfect shot…

 

Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park
Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park – these guillotine like objects are actually not for hanging people, even though they might come across as such. That was my first thought when I saw them for the first time – I figured they must be some left over devices from the middle ages or something. They are in fact for hanging bags of food to keep away from the campsite in case a bear stumbles upon it – this way if the food is hanging way up in the air the bear will not get to it very easily. It’s to protect your supply of food, but also to deter bears and other animals from getting too comfortable with people’s presence.  

 

Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park
Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park.

 

Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park
Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park.

 

Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park
Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park.

 

Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park
Minchins Cove, Terra Nova National Park.

The verdict is in and it’s a positive one – we are already planning the next backpacking adventure and I started reading the Appalachian Trail book my partner tried to get me to read so many times before. 

I’ve learned that – like with anything in life – attitude is everything and it can make you or break you. I learned that if I accept the small discomforts of the trail (like wet feet) I am more likely to come out the other end victorious and ready for the next best thing. Same as taking the picture when the light is right – I simply decided to enjoy the beauty of the trail and the company of a loved one – and I’m glad to say that I found my happy place on the trail. The food was right if not a tad too plentiful, the weight on my back was manageable and my shoes were 100 times better than what I was used to wearing before. Not counting a couple of minor breakdowns along the way and the fact that I made everybody turn around before we reached the end,  I still deem this expedition a success and one of many more to come.