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